Bomb found at philanthropist George Soros’ suburban home
By JIM MUSTIAN
Tuesday, October 23
BEDFORD, N.Y. (AP) — A bomb was found in a mailbox at the suburban New York compound of George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist who has been the target of right-wing conspiracy theorists, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal investigators were reviewing surveillance video to determine whether the package had been sent through the mail or delivered some other way, officials said, adding it was also not clear if the parcel was addressed to Soros.
A security officer at the compound about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Manhattan became suspicious of the package Monday afternoon and placed it in a nearby wooded area before alerting the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, authorities said. Agents came out and safely detonated the device, which a federal law enforcement official said contained explosive powder.
“It was not a hoax device,” said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Another federal official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said the device resembled a pipe bomb and was inside a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. It was opened in a secure location just inside the gates, nowhere near Soros’ quarters, the official said.
The Bedford Police Department said the FBI’s terrorism task force was investigating.
The FBI’s New York field office said on Twitter that there was “no threat to public safety” but did not respond to messages seeking comment.
A message emailed to Soros’ foundation wasn’t immediately returned.
Soros, who made his fortune in hedge funds, frequently donates to liberal causes. Recently, conservative critics have accused him without evidence of secretly financing the caravan of Central American migrants making their way toward the U.S.
Soros, who is Jewish, has also been the target of anti-Semitic smears. Some have falsely accused him of being a Nazi collaborator during World War II, when he was a child in Hungary.
Activists frequently post on social media the addresses of his homes, sometimes along with threats.
Opinion: One Winner From Kavanaugh Hearing — Presumption of Innocence
By James Huffman
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But the controversy over his appointment to the Supreme Court will live on for decades. The only good news is that due process and the presumption of innocence lived on to see another day.
The battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation was, from start to finish, about political control of the Supreme Court. Democrats were incensed by the Republicans’ year-long refusal to act on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Donald Trump’s margin of Electoral College victory in the 2016 election was almost certainly a result of his promise to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed with only three Democratic votes. The battle lines were drawn.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, and even before Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced, Democrats stood in unison in opposition. For their part, Republicans were equally committed to confirmation come hell or high water. Only a handful of votes were ever in doubt, and those were generally understood to turn on political considerations.
A realist would say that this stark political division over judicial appointments is the way of the future. But even if that proves to be the case, it is worth reflecting on what, besides perceived political control of the courts, was at stake in the final Senate vote.
For most in the #MeToo movement it was about taking accusations of sexual harassment and assault seriously. Then it was about perceived lying, albeit about admittedly trivial things like high school yearbook entries and drinking (or were they sex?) games.
Then, after Kavanaugh emotionally defended himself, it was about judicial demeanor and partisanship (although Kavanaugh had only made clear the partisanship of others). Then, in the absence of any corroborating evidence of the original accusation, it was that the lingering suspicions hanging over the head of a confirmed Justice Kavanaugh would sully the reputation of the highest court in the land.
These were all legitimate concerns, but even sympathetic Republicans could not yield because an even more important value was at stake — the presumption of innocence. That is what decided the matter for Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and should have been decisive for every person committed to due process and equal justice under the law. To withhold confirmation on the basis of uncorroborated accusations, even if one believes Kavanaugh guilty as accused, would have been the most public rejection yet of this fundamental principle of justice and the rule of law.
In their own defense, those intending to vote no on Kavanaugh’s confirmation insisted that the presumption of innocence applies only in a criminal trial — that Kavanaugh was merely in a job interview. But by the time of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s accusation it was no longer a job interview. It was a makeshift trial of a man’s innocence or guilt without even a pretense of due process.
And even if it was only a job interview, due process and the presumption of innocence are not just technical requirements in formal judicial proceedings. They are fundamental values of American culture and constitutionalism.
A rejection of Kavanaugh on the purported basis of uncorroborated accusations, even if the votes were really about politics, would have constituted at the highest levels of American government a rejection of a principle upon which the liberties of every American depend. At the end of the day it was about our commitment as a people to due process and the rule of law. The choice was between politics, passion and practical considerations on the one hand and a most fundamental principle of our democratic republic on the other.
The real tragedy is that this painful choice was ever made necessary. The Senate Judiciary Committee could have investigated the accusation against Kavanaugh in confidence and without compromising Dr. Blasey-Ford’s request for public anonymity. But politics assured that the accusation was leaked and the result was an embarrassing and damaging spectacle of partisanship at the expense of due process.
Given that, Republicans (though many probably out of pure partisanship as well) made the right choice. We have Susan Collins to thank for that.
ABOUT THE WRITER
James Huffman is dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
WHY DO ONLY SOME LIVES MATTER?
By Robert C. Koehler
What would it take for everyone’s life to matter as much as Jamal Khashoggi’s?
I ask this question over at the edge of the news, looking for a doorway into the human conscience.
“The U.S. sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. In 2017, the U.S. cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals.”
This is from CBS News Moneywatch two weeks ago. No big deal, just a look at the U.S. weapons biz, which has been thrust into the national spotlight recently.
“Mr. Trump,” the story continues, “has dismissed the idea of suspending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to punish its crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, for any involvement in the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. ‘I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,’ Mr. Trump said this week… .”
And under the subhead “Bombs away,” the article informs us: “The current White House has shifted the type of weapons exports the U.S. favors. Prior to this year, aircraft was the largest component of U.S. arms sales, according to the Security Assistance Monitor. Under the first year of the Trump administration, sales of bombs and missiles dominated.”
This is a story about the infrastructure of killing and an economic system that, apparently, depends on doing so on a mass scale globally, which of course is known as waging war. War at a personal, specific level is always horrifying — as shocking and grotesquely wrong as Khashoggi’s murder. Why is it, then, that when you multiply these murders by a hundred or a thousand or a million, they become so much easier to talk about and write about and justify — with the focus on strategy, politics, economics and jobs — than is the murder of one man? Why is there not one word in this Moneywatch story as heart-stopping as “bone saw”?
I ask this in no way to belittle the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, but rather to belittle … no, to undo, to rip apart … what we call news. If it weren’t for news that normalizes and softens war, that turns it — here in the 21st century — into a spectator sport, the military industrialists and their political supplicants could not sell it to the public with such ease.
The United States had pretty much evolved beyond war by 1975, when its military pulled out of Vietnam. There followed a decade and a half of “Vietnam syndrome” — public disgust and distaste for mass murder, environmental devastation and spiritual suicide, of the sort we’d just been inflicting on Vietnam and on ourselves.
But because of the political and economic influence of the military industrial complex, “Vietnam syndrome” was unacceptable. The U.S. fought proxy wars for a decade and a half, particularly in Nicaragua (go, Contras!) and ended the draft (except for the poverty draft), which disentangled most Americans from a personal stake in future wars. Then — with the Cold War suddenly, unexpectedly over — war’s public relations unit had to find a new, more perfect enemy. It settled on our former ally, Saddam Hussein.
When the six-week-long Gulf War ended in February 1991, George H.W. Bush declared: “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” And indeed, that first Gulf War set the standard for the wars of the 21st century. They are, to the extent possible, reported as strategic spectacles waged from on high. Bombs away! No blood, no mess, no racism — just classified strategic objectives and a mission (never articulated) to fulfill.
And beyond America’s own wars, we have the Saudis and their allies and the war they are waging in Yemen, with our weapons, assistance and backing:
“The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes, tortured detainees, raped civilians and used child soldiers as young as 8 — actions that may amount to war crimes, United Nations investigators said in a report issued Tuesday.”
So the New York Times reported in August, in advance of a U.N. report on the war.
“The main cause of civilian casualties in the war,” the story continues, “… has been airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. It estimates that there have been 18,000 such strikes in little more than three years, inflicting a level of damage on civilians that ‘certainly contributed to Yemen’s dire economic and humanitarian situation.’
“The report, to be delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council next month, comes not long after a Saudi-coalition strike this month killed 40 children on a school bus.”
Eventually the story tosses in this little moral grenade:
“A report released by Human Rights Watch last week warned Britain, France and the United States that they risked complicity in unlawful attacks in Yemen by continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia.”
But none of this has the shock value of the torture and murder of a man at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, not even the murder of 40 children on a school bus. That public outrage over Khashoggi’s killing won’t go away — that it is disrupting the U.S.-Saudi alliance and possibly even threatening future arms sales — is absolutely appropriate. But I can’t help feeling eaten alive by the question it raises.
Why do only some lives matter?
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Harvard case could represent the end of race in college admissions
October 23, 2018
Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Sociology, Florida State University
Lara Perez-Felkner receives research funding from the National Science Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the ECMC Foundation.
Florida State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Four decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the admissions program at Harvard College as an “illuminating example” of how race could be used as one of several factors in college admissions.
“This kind of program treats each applicant as an individual in the admissions process,” the court noted of Harvard’s holistic admissions program in the 1978 affirmative action case known as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.
Holistic admissions is a comprehensive process where more than one reviewer considers factors beyond academic merit, including but not limited to race.
Ironically, the admissions program at Harvard College is now under fire in a federal district court in Boston.
Students for Fair Admissions, a group of Asian-American students, alleges they have been systematically discriminated against by Harvard’s holistic admissions policy. The group is led by a conservative activist named Edward Blum, who has also supported prior efforts to defeat affirmative action.
They claim Harvard discriminates against Asian-Americans by restricting the number of Asian-Americans admitted to the school despite their having higher test scores and better grades than other racial groups. They also allege that Asian-Americans were rated lower on personality traits.
Their case has the support of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The outcome of the case, which could be headed to the Supreme Court, could deal a death blow to race-conscious affirmative action in the United States. (More on race-neutral affirmative action below.)
This despite the fact that race-conscious affirmative action in the U.S. is not even six decades old, beginning with an executive order first signed in 1961 to ensure racial equality in hiring and employment. Yet, the race-conscious discrimination that led to those orders in the first place stretches back for centuries. It involves hundreds of years of the enslavement of Africans in what’s now known as America, and the taking of land from indigenous peoples.
As mentioned in a research article, I published as this month’s Harvard admissions trial began, the U.S. is not the only country that uses affirmative action to widen opportunity in higher education for historically oppressed groups, nor is it the first. India, which began the practice in during its founding in 1947, and South Africa, Israel and Brazil are among the other countries that employ the practice.
As an education researcher who focuses on inequality in how students attain higher education, I’m curious if the U.S. could become the first of these nations to scrap race-conscious affirmative action in its colleges, many of which have historically have been white bastions of privilege. My examination of the legal attacks on affirmative action in the U.S. shows that the policy is being gradually curtailed and its purpose narrowed.
The case for diversity
In 1996, a case known as Hopwood v. Texas ended social justice as a defensible argument for affirmative action – leaving only diversity as a legitimate aim.
The evidence supporting diversity has been overwhelming. This research has found that a racially diverse student body particularly benefits white students, who are acutely segregated in primary and secondary schools, more so than any other racial group.
Those studies, as well as other analysis, suggest that racial and ethnic diversity increases cognitive gains and real-world readiness for all students through increased engagement and critical thinking.
Despite the proven benefits of diversity, a ruling against Harvard has the potential to close the door on affirmative action in the U.S. for good. If the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, affirmative action is not likely to survive given that Justice Brett Kavanaugh – who leans against affirmative action – recently joined the court.
Merit and the limits of supposed objective measures
GPA and test scores are often presented as an objective and fair way to decide who gets admitted to a given college, but those things have been widely found to favor more well-off children.
For instance, students from more affluent and white families have higher test scores. This is largely because they have access to better resourced schools and college preparation. It also stems from the fact that their parents often have more financial and social resources that can be used to prepare them for college.
For this reason, many colleges look beyond test scores and grades and consider things such as personal essays and interviews. They look for things like leadership potential and intellectual curiosity that suggest the potential for success once students arrive on campus. Many employers and educators argue that measures like these more effectively predict success than test scores.
Measuring diversity through affirmative action
Colleges have also tried to employ racial quotas to make their campuses more reflective of society, but federal courts struck down the use of quotas in 1978 and formulas assigning admissions points to racial minorities in 2003. However, the court continued to uphold the merits of diversity in selective university admissions when race is one of a range of factors being considered.
These non-racial factors may favor rural states with fewer applicants, children and siblings of alumni, and applicants demonstrating athletic excellence with or resilience in the face of economic adversity.
Alternatives to race-conscious admissions
With a narrower ability to use race, “race-neutral” affirmative action emerged in the late 1990s and 2000s, after race-conscious affirmative action was banned in California in 1996, Texas in 1997, and Florida in 1999.
This new affirmative action took on the form of percentage plans in which a student’s high school rank could be used as a means to achieve diversity in the state’s public universities.
Interestingly, class rank is an effective stand-in for racial and socioeconomic diversity only if high schools are highly segregated by race and social class – that is, parental education, family income and family resources. In other words, the ability of colleges to achieve diversity depends on segregation in high schools.
Did these race-neutral approaches work? A variety of distinct and rigorous studies by interdisciplinary education scholars, economists and sociologists found that using social class instead of race was less effective than using race to achieve racial diversity.
There are two important findings related to the future of race-conscious affirmative action and specifically the Harvard case.
First, race-conscious affirmative action bans – even when replaced by class-conscious high school percentage rank plans – typically result in fewer black and Latino students at state flagship schools. How many fewer varies by study, racial or ethnic group, and by state.
Second, California’s top 4 percent high school percentage plan – still a form of affirmative action – was followed by enrollment gains for Asian students at most state public universities. This finding implies California’s class-based affirmative action benefits Asian students more than race-based affirmative action.
Taking race out of the equation would benefit Asian students at elite colleges as well, based on a simulation study done by Princeton researchers who found a 6 percentage-point gain in Asian-American students’ admissions to selective colleges.
By contrast, the simulation study found a less than a 1 percentage point difference for white students before and after race was taken out of consideration. Notably, Asian-American higher education scholars who focus on affirmative action co-authored and signed on to a brief filed in support of Harvard and race-conscious affirmative action this year. Asian-American and Asian Pacific American professional organizations also publicly announced support of race-conscious affirmative action after the most recent Supreme Court decision upholding it, in 2016.
Family background remains the greatest predictor of a student’s academic outcomes, above and beyond a student’s effort, skill and pursuit of excellence. This includes race, above and beyond class. Racial inequality in higher education persist. It hasn’t yet disappeared as some might argue.
And yet, research continues to find that diversity on campus enhances students’ learning, the quality of science and innovation and preparedness for life beyond the academy. And even if it didn’t, the meritocracy undergirding the American experiment requires opportunity and access for all, regardless of color.