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April 30 2016 12:56 PM

Watch Kenya Set Fire to 105 Tons of Elephant Ivory, One Ton of Rhino Horn

Kenya made a play for global attention to the continuing scourge of poaching by setting fire to huge piles of elephant ivory and a smaller pile of rhino horns. All in all, 11 pyres and finished ivory goods totaling some 105 tons of elephant ivory were set ablaze as well as one ton of rhino horn, representing around 8,000 dead animals. It marked the largest ever burning of an ivory stockpile. "Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said before lighting the first pyre.

The decision to burn so much ivory has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks. Some critics have said that the estimated $150 million that the ivory is worth could have been used to protect Kenya’s wildlife. But Kenya’s leaders have said that the whole point is to emphasize ivory should not have any commercial value.

Noted conservationist and politician Richard Leakey recently explained to Scientific American the logic behind the burn:

“My feeling is that many people who are buying this ivory in China and elsewhere simply don’t know what it is doing to elephants. Maybe they think that it is coming off elephants that have died of natural causes. When Kenya burns $100 million worth of ivory, they’ll say, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It will help open their eyes to what is actually happening.”

Kenya has been pushing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for a complete ban on ivory sales. Although selling African elephant ivory has been banned since 1989, some one-off sales are permitted allowing some countries to make money from the tusks of elephants that died from old age or had to be killed by park rangers, among other reasons.

Despite global condemnation of the ivory trade, demand for the product across Asia, particularly China, has not waned. More than 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2010, according to researchers. There are now fewer than 500,000 elephants in Africa, down from around 1.2 million in the 1970s. And the rhinos are in far worse shape with only around 30,000 across Africa.

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This picture shows stacks of ivory and rhinoceros horns burning at the Nairobi National Park on April 30, 2016.

TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

April 30 2016 10:48 AM

Trump to GOP: I Can Win Without Party Unity

Hundreds of protesters gathered to demonstrate against Donald Trump on Friday in what was the second day of protests in a row against the GOP frontrunner. The protesters blocked off the road to the hotel where the billionaire businessman was scheduled to speak so Trump was forced to leave his motorcade and walk through the side of a highway to get to a back entrance. "That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made," Trump said at the California Republican Convention in Burlingame, which is outside San Francisco. "It felt like I was crossing the border actually."

Clashes broke out amid the protesters, some of whom tried to rush the barriers that had been set up next to the hotel. Protesters reportedly threw rocks and eggs at police and Trump supporters say they were shoved and even spat on. The two days of protests are largely seen as a sign of just how rowdy the run-up to the June 7 California primary will be. The Golden State has rarely played an important role in the presidential selection process since it always votes so late in the game. This time around though it could very well be the state that puts Trump over the 1,237-delegate threshold he needs to clinch the nomination.

Once he actually made it inside, Trump called on Republicans to unite behind his candidacy in order to beat Hillary Clinton. “I think it’s going to come to an end very soon,” Trump said. “And really, I’m speaking to the people in this room, because there has to be unity in our party.” At the same time though, Trump made clear he is not going to change his rhetoric just because he is close to the nomination.

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Protesters clash with police during a rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Donald Trump was speaking in Burlingame, California on April 29, 2016.

Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

The GOP frontrunner made fun of his opponents and criticized those in the party who have opposed his candidacy. “Is he the dumbest human being on earth?” Trump asked about Karl Rove, a top adviser to former president George W. Bush. He also harshly criticized the party’s nominating process and accused his opponents of bribing delegates.

Trump at one point even seemed to mock conservatives who have expressed concern about the real estate mogul’s beliefs on key issues such as abortion. “Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares? We got to straighten out the country,” he said.

Trump’s words in California really serve as a summary of where the GOP frontrunner stands with the party. The New York Times explains:

Mr. Trump’s remarks offered a vivid illustration of the current state of his campaign: As he edges closer to the nomination, he is under pressure to curb his hard-edged language and exude a more statesmanlike demeanor. But the continuing attacks from other Republicans plainly rankle him, and he appears to have little appetite to make peace with his critics.
“Ideally we’re going to be together,” he said. But then he said: “I think we’re going to win even if we’re not together. There are some people I honestly don’t want their endorsement.”

He emphasized that last point later in his speech. “There should be and there has to be unity,” he said. But it’s hardly essential. “Would I win, can I win without it? I think so.”

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A banner hangs from inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Donald Trump was speaking in Burlingame, California on April 29, 2016.

JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

April 29 2016 6:50 PM

The Friday Slatest Newsletter

Today's biggest stories:

Have a good weekend out there.

April 29 2016 6:20 PM

Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: #NeverTrump Collapses

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

The news today was all about different Republicans wearily dropping their objections to Donald Trump becoming the party's nominee. Most prominent were Marco Rubio and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Rubio, who once sold #NeverTrump memorabilia on his website, said the real estate heir has a "valid" claim to the nomination; Pence tepidly endorsed Ted Cruz, but only after making sure to praise Trump. Meanwhile, the Washington Post spoke to a number of different establishment-ish figures who say that word on the street is that it's going to be Trump's nomination and everyone might as well get used to it.

Should this make us more concerned about the possibility of a Trump presidency? I don't think so, really—we already knew he was likely to be nominated, and the prominent Republicans acknowledging as much are doing so grudgingly at best. An enthusiastic, unified party may well eventually emerge to give Trump its strong backing in November, but that hasn't happened yet.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons

April 29 2016 5:34 PM

What You Need to Know About Britain’s Raging Anti-Semitism Scandal 

Britain is currently enmeshed in a scandal over members of the Labour Party making anti-Semitic comments. It’s a very complicated flap with a lot of characters and subplots. The following is an attempt to untangle the strands.  

Why are we here?

A Labour MP has been suspended from the party for comments that have been interpreted as anti-Semitic. This comes on the heels of a series of miniature crises over the issue of anti-Semitism that has wracked the party for the last month or so.

You said, “have been interpreted.” Does that mean you don’t think the comments were anti-Semitic?

No. I think they were.

OK, who said what when?

Well a lot of people said a lot of things at a lot of different times. But the MP who was suspended was Naseem “Naz” Shah. Her offending statements, made on Facebook, were ostensibly a critique of Israel but could also very easily be read as anti-Semitic.

What did she post?

In 2014, Shah posted a meme on her Facebook wall with a map of Israel superimposed on a map of the United States labeled “Solution for the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” Under the map was the solution: “Relocate Israel into the United States.” Shah’s accompanying message said “problem solved.” She also compared Israel to Nazi Germany, posting a meme with the quote “never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal” alongside the message “Apartheid Israel.”

What’s wrong with that?

Please don’t make me explain.

OK, fine. Has she apologized yet?

Yes.

So that’s it then?

No, no, no. Another Labour member stepped in to defend Shah, and made things much worse.

Agh, who is this “Another Labor member” and what did he say?

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London and a longtime friend and ally of the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was recently brought back into the party fold by Corbyn. He too was suspended from the party after saying this: "When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."

OK, seriously this time: What’s wrong with what he said? Isn’t that just, like, historical fact?

Uh, no. Saying that Hitler only went into an insane anti-Semitic fury after 1932 ignores Mein Kampf, and the Beer Hall Putsch, and basically many years spent espousing rabid anti-Semitism. In 1925’s Mein Kampf, in fact, Hitler wrote of his genocidal desires.

Also, Livingstone’s statement that Hitler was “supporting Zionism,” which Livingstone has defended as merely citing “facts,” is very factually wrong. According to an article Yale history professor Timothy Snyder wrote for the BBC, “[Hitler believed] that Zionism was one of many deliberately deceptive labels that Jews placed upon what he believed to be their endless striving for global power and the extermination of the human species.” So, nope, he was not a supporter of Zionism.

Where did Livingstone get that stuff from, then?

The premise of Livingstone’s myth seems to be based on a thing that actually happened, which was called the Transfer Agreement. That was a 1933 pact that allowed for certain types of emigration by Jews from Nazi Germany to British Palestine. The actual number of Jews that made it out of Germany as a result of the agreement is uncertain. Either way, Hitler’s feelings about the agreement were apparently mixed and the regime only viewed it as a way to try to negotiate the end to a Jewish boycott of the Nazi state that they feared would hurt their already fragile economy. And, anyway, there were other emigration plans for German Jews considered and approved by the Nazi regime, including one for immigration to Madagascar, but that doesn’t mean Hitler wasn’t a genocidal maniac and rabid anti-Semite from very early on who was actually secretly a Madagascan Zionist.

Good point. So: You said there were other incidents of recent Labour Party anti-Semitism? What were some of those?

Oy. Where to begin. Last month, a party official named Vicki Kirby was suspended after it was discovered that she had tweeted that Jews “have big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed.” (This, after she had been reinstated to the party, having been previously suspended in 2014 for suggesting that Hitler was a “Zionist God” and that ISIS should attack Israel.) Shortly after Kirby’s latest suspension, a Labour councilor and the former lord mayor of Bradford, Khadim Hussain, was suspended from the party after sharing a Facebook post that said “[y]our school education system only tells you about Anne Frank and the six million Zionists that were killed by Hitler.” Also, earlier in the month, prominent members of the party accused it of burying an investigation into anti-Semitism at Oxford University’s Labour Party group. And last year, a Labour Party councilor was suspended after accusing Israel of supporting ISIS. I think that’s it but could totally be missing something, because there’s a lot!

Yikes. Where is Corbyn in all of this?

Corbyn is facing an early leadership crisis and accusations that he has handled everything very poorly, especially ahead of crucial local elections for the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly, and more than 2,000 local council seats to be held on Thursday. He has, however, seemed to regain his footing by enacting the suspensions and announcing an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism within the party. Still, Labor is expected to do badly in the Scottish election, while likely winning a crucial mayoral election in London.

And the British people?

Anti-Semitism is not just a Labour problem. It’s a national problem, with anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in recent years. And in a 2015 YouGov survey, nearly 50 percent of respondents agreed with at least one of four anti-Semitic statements they were asked about. One in four polled said that Jews chased money more than other people, while 1 in 5 said British Jews weren’t as loyal to the U.K. because of their loyalty to Israel.

Ugh. So what’s going to happen to Livingstone, Shah, and Corbyn?

It’s uncertain. Corbyn, who won a surprise election as the leader of Britain’s main opposition party last year in a Bernie Sanders–style insurgency, has been battered in the British press and among members of his own party for failing to do enough to act against anti-Semitism. He will likely continue to face pressure to do more on the issue, but he’s got four years till he is scheduled to challenge current Prime Minister David Cameron in an election, barring a vote of no confidence or some other exceptional circumstance, so he may have some time to get his stuff together. If the party does poorly in the upcoming local elections, though, there’s speculation that he might face a party coup.

Corbyn’s friend, Livingstone, is probably reaching the end of his short-lived political comeback, considering he was only holding a party position and not elected office. Shah, meanwhile, issued multiple apologies saying she made the posts during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza “when emotions were running high,” and that the language she used was “wrong” and “hurtful.” But the pressure on Corbyn, who was heavily criticized for initially failing to act against Shah, to keep her out of the party will be great. Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who holds one of the top positions in the opposition party, had called on members of the party who have expressed anti-Semitic views to be banned for life. This was prior to the Shah incident, though, and ironically she had been serving as a parliamentary private secretary to him before being forced to resign from that post for this latest controversy.

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got. Hope it was helpful. And happy Passover!

What’s that?

April 29 2016 5:30 PM

Times Reporter Says U.S. Is Wrong About Critical Detail in Doctors Without Borders Report

The Pentagon has released a report about the October 2015 airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 people; the military says the strike was an extremely unfortunate accident and is punishing 16 individuals who were involved but not prosecuting any of them criminally. One fairly important assertion in the U.S.'s report is that the hospital "did not have an internationally-recognized symbol to identify it as a medical facility, such as a Red Cross or Red Crescent that was readily visible to the aircrew at night." But New York Times reporter Joseph Goldstein—who reported on the incident from Afghanistan—says that is not quite true:

Gawker notes that the U.S. report says there is footage of the attack taken from the AC-130U gunship (an airplane) that carried it out; such footage could conceivably answer the question of what was on the hospital's roof, but it has not been released.

April 29 2016 5:08 PM

Garland Watch: Supreme Court Nominee Mistaken for Robert Durst, Still Getting No Hearings

Merrick Garland had a busy week. Apart from meetings with senators and public appearances, the nominee was also mistaken for real estate heir and alleged murderer Robert Durst. On Wednesday morning, NBC News tweeted a story about Durst’s seven-year sentence on a weapons charge with a picture of Garland.

For what it’s worth, it happens to the best of us.

In non-shenanigans news, Garland had a joint meeting with Oklahoma Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe on Wednesday. The Republican duo met the nominee for almost 55 minutes, the New York Times reported. In that time, though, the topic of his nomination apparently was never discussed! “This was not some interview for a potential justice, so we didn't talk about issues and the topic never came up, quite frankly of the whole process,” Lankford said. Instead, the trio focused on Garland’s past support of the state of Oklahoma, including the work he did to help prosecute the Oklahoma City bombers. “[Garland] has tremendous memories of us and the people of Oklahoma and we have incredible gratitude of him,” Lankford said. Both Lankford and Inhofe are opposed to holding a Senate hearing on Garland’s nomination, although Inhofe supported Garland’s nomination for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1997.

It was reported this week, meanwhile, that Sen. Chuck Grassley—one of the GOP’s most vocal opponents of a Senate hearing on Garland—made some revealing comments about his motivations for the continued obstruction. In a conference call with the pro-life non-profit organization, Susan B. Anthony List, earlier this month, Grassley said, “I can’t overstate the importance of what’s at stake here… We know if another liberal is nominated to the court then even the reasonable restrictions on abortion that have been enacted into law—through the democratic process, I might say—these would be swept away.” Grassley had previously emphasized that his reasons for not giving Garland a hearing was the politicization of the court, not because he personally wanted a fifth vote to uphold abortion restrictions, which is clearly not a politicized motivation at all.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Grassley is the chair, was comparatively busier than last week—though that’s not saying much. On Tuesday, the committee held a hearing on the “need for timeliness and transparency” in providing benefits to the survivors of public safety officers who die in the line of duty. On Wednesday the committee commenced a hearing entitled, “Counterfeits and Their Impact on Consumer Health and Safety.” The committee concluded the week on Thursday with a bipartisan news conference announcing new provisions and cosponsors to the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which aims to reduce minimum federal sentences for drug and gun violations and to make those sentences retroactive. Next week on the agenda: More stuff that isn’t a hearing for Merrick Garland.

April 29 2016 4:44 PM

“Never Trump” Candidate Marco Rubio Says Trump Should Maybe Be the Republican Nominee

Remember Marco Rubio? Florida guy, good smile, willing to say just about anything in a tone of passionate conviction even if it completely contradicted something he'd said previously? You may recall that his campaign flamed out shortly after he called Donald Trump a con man, announced that Trump "will never be the nominee of the party of Lincoln and Reagan," implied Trump had an unusually small penis, and began selling "Never Trump" memorabilia on his website.

Wellllll, ol' Marco has been giving it some thought and it sounds like his new opinion is that Trump will, and perhaps even should, be the nominee of party of Lincoln, Reagan, and Strom Thurmond. On Friday, the Palm Beach Post says, Rubio told reporters that Trump's "performance has improved significantly" recently, and last week he said that Trump seemed likely to reach a 1,237-delegate first-ballot majority—then told a radio host that Trump would have a "valid" argument to be the nominee even if he didn't quite make it to that number:

I do think it's valid to argue to delegates, 'Look, let’s not divide the party. You have someone here who has all these votes, very close to get 1,237, let’s not ignore the will of the people or they’re going to be angry.' And delegates may decide on that reason that they decide to vote for Donald Trump.

Rubio also reiterated his previous stance that he'll support the Republican candidate regardless of who it ends up being. He did not comment on whether he has revised his beliefs about the size of Trump's penis.

April 29 2016 4:03 PM

This Week’s 2016 Twitter Power Rankings

Rectangles are sized by number of retweets. Click on a candidate to zoom in.
Interactive by Andrew Kahn

Hello and welcome to the final installment of Slatest’s 2016 Twitter Power Rankings. After eight months of obsessively tracking the candidates’ tweets, we’re going to bring our RT watch to an end this week—but not before we take a slightly longer view of how the campaign Twitter wars have played out.

First, though, let’s take one last look at our usual scorecards. Above, you’ll find our handy interactive of the past week’s worth of candidate tweets: how many each White House hopeful sent and how often they were retweeted and favorited, along with how each fared in the 140-character fight with their political rivals on both sides of the aisle. Below, you’ll find our tried-and-true method of ranking each candidate’s single most successful tweet of the past seven days.

The ground rules for the single-tweet rankings:

  • We defined a candidate’s most successful tweet as the one that received the most retweets.
  • Tweets that included a direct request for a retweet were ineligible for the traditional rankings because that’s cheating. RT if you agree! (Retweet-begging tweets, though, still appear in the interactive at the top.)
  • Only tweets from the preceding seven days were eligible. Since we published the weekly rankings every Friday, that meant any tweet sent in the seven days prior to when we hit the big red button at around 10 a.m. to cull all the data.

Without further ado:

1.) Donald Trump (Last week: 2)

2.) Bernie Sanders (1)

3.) Hillary Clinton (3)

4.) Ted Cruz (4)

5.) John Kasich (5)

Fittingly, Trump takes the top spot in both our overall and individual rankings this week. The GOP front-runner proved to be a force on social media early in the campaign, and never let up. When we started the rankings way back in August, Trump actually had 200,000 or so fewer followers than Clinton did. Fast-forward to today, though, and he has roughly 1.75 million more than his likely general election opponent (and nearly 6 million more than Sanders). Trump saw his total follower count nearly double over that same stretch, from slightly fewer than 4 million to 7.83 million as of Friday.

Why does that matter? Trump has had more success than any other candidate bending the news cycle to his will, and Twitter was often his preferred tool of choice. The celebrity billionaire was able to command the media’s attention with a single tweet—and even the occasional retweet. While his rivals often appeared to focus-group and workshop even the most basic of social media statements, Trump seemed to let his tweets fly without so much as a second thought. His brand of belligerent bluster and unapologetic self-promotion proved particularly well-suited to being delivered in 140-character bursts.

For an idea of just how much Trump dominated his rivals on Twitter, here is a graph looking back at the candidates’ RT successes each week. (Note: We stopped tracking a candidate once they dropped out of the race, so when you see someone disappear completely at a certain point, that’s why.) Trump—and we didn’t actually plan this, I swear!—is all that bright orange in the middle of the graph. (This is a stacked area chart, not a line chart, so it's the width of the shaded region—not the position of the line—that represents the number of RTs. The uppermost line in the chart corresponds to the total number of RTs for all candidates, which peaked in March.)

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And here’s what those same numbers look like as a proportional share of each week's total. (Same rules as above. It’s the width of the shaded regions that show each candidate's proportional take of RTs.)

160429_SLATEST_Chart-PercentRTs_sm

As you can see, most weeks Trump accounted for roughly as many retweets as all of his rivals did combined. On Twitter as on the trail, then, there was Trump and there was everyone else.

April 29 2016 3:28 PM

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Thinks Donald Trump is Perfect! (He Also Endorses Ted Cruz.)

It’s hard to think of a better encapsulation of #NeverTrump futility at this point than Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s presidential endorsement Friday. Sure, he endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz. But only after dishing out some effusive praise about the awesomeness that is Donald Trump. It was a pyrrhic endorsement that revealed a party establishment accepting its future.

Pence was in an interesting position. The conservative movement, of which Pence is a member, believes Cruz is its finest presidential vessel since Ronald Reagan. A loss in Indiana would nearly eliminate Cruz’s already-slim chances of keeping Trump below a first-ballot majority of delegates. Pence’s fellow conservative governors, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, were urging him to do the right thing. But unlike, say, Scott Walker, Pence is up for re-election this year. He has noticed that there are many Trump supporters in his state. If the polls are true, these Trump supporters even represent a slight plurality of Republican primary voters in Indiana! For Pence to do what Walker did—run around the state with Cruz trashing Trump at every turn in a critical state with all eyes watching—would risk turning off part of the base.

So Pence finally said, OK, sure, why not, I'll endorse Cruz. But you better not think I'll do it enthusiastically, OK?

“I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates in the field,” Pence said. “I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”

OK, OK. Ready to endorse Cruz now?

“I am also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stand for Hoosier jobs when we saw jobs of the Carrier company abruptly announce leaving Indiana. Not for another state, but for Mexico. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for his voice in the national debate.”

Just get it out already.

“I’ve come to my decision about who I’m supporting, and I’m not against anybody.”

But?

“But I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary.”

Finally! I’m exhausted.

It makes sense for vulnerable Republicans in blue states to run from Trump. Vulnerable Republicans in redder states like Indiana just need to do whatever it takes to get their bases out. And so we see mush like this.

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