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Feb. 11 2016 5:12 PM

The Thursday Slatest Newsletter

The armed occupation of Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge is over: The four remaining holdouts at the refuge surrendered to the FBI today, although the last of them—an eccentric Ohio man named David Fry—only did so after a long, bizarre phone conversation with other anti-government individuals that was broadcast on a live-feed. In other news:


Have a good day out there.

Feb. 11 2016 3:51 PM

Israeli Legislator Argues With Straight Face That Palestine Can’t Exist Because There’s No P in Arabic

Place names are politically fraught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—see some Israeli leaders’ insistence on referring to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria” for example—but Israeli lawmaker Anat Berko’s new argument against Palestinian statehood is still pretty audacious.

On Wednesday, the minister of the Knesset from the ruling Likud party suggested that there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people because Arabic doesn’t have a letter P.


"I want to go back to history, what is our place here, about Jerusalem, about Palestine, when like we said, Arabic doesn't even have 'P,' so this loan-word also merits scrutiny," she said, according to Haaretz.

The remark came during a Knesset debate over a contentious proposal from opposition leader Isaac Herzog for Israel to unilaterally separate from the Palestinians in the absence of a two-state solution. Berko’s argument got an immediate response. "What? Did everyone hear this? Are you an idiot?" replied an MK from the opposition Meretz party. Arab lawmakers walked out in protest, reportedly muttering “P-P-P” under their breath.

Berko is correct that Arabic doesn’t have a P sound, but it does have an F sound, and the word for Palestine in Arabic is Falastin, also how most Hebrew-speakers pronounce it.

The New York Times notes that the statement has been widely mocked in the Hebrew and Arabic media, with some joking that by her logic, there’s no pizza in America because English doesn’t have the Hebrew letter Tzadik, to make a tza sound. Jews might also be in trouble since there’s no J in Hebrew.  

It might also blow Berko’s mind to learn that German, Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese people, among many others, don’t actually refer to themselves by those names. 

Feb. 11 2016 3:35 PM

Final Armed Oregon Holdout’s Concerns Included Abortion, Marijuana, UFOs

David Fry, the final holdout in the armed occupation of Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge, has surrendered to the FBI without incident. Fry only turned himself in, though, after a protracted phone conversation with other anti-government "patriot" types that one of them broadcast on a live-feed; this public conversation (and a similar one held the night before with the three other holdouts who surrendered Thursday morning) provided some insight into Fry's set of beliefs and interests.

Some involved fairly typical far-right-wing stuff:


Others less so:

Here's an earlier comment that's a little odd given that Fry was involved in armed protest against the concept of public preservation: 



Then there was this:

And this:


And so that's the guy that hundreds (I'm guessing) of law enforcement officials were waiting for because he refused to end the armed occupation of a bird sanctuary. USA! 

Feb. 11 2016 2:00 PM

Final Oregon Holdout Surrenders

Update, 2:10 p.m.: David Fry has surrendered into FBI custody without harming any agents or himself. The Malheur Wildlife Refuge is now back under public control after 41 days of occupation.

Original post, 1:30 p.m.: Three of the four armed protesters who'd remained at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge until Thursday morning have surrendered to the FBI, reports from Oregon say. The remaining occupier—an Ohio man named David Fry—was believed to have been prepared to leave the refuge with the others but is now refusing to do so and says he is suicidal. Fry is communicating by phone with other individuals in the anti-government movement (their call is being broadcast on a live-feed) who are trying unsuccessfully to persuade him to leave safely:


He's made a number of vague political statements and demands:

Evangelist Franklin Graham is also on the call:

The Oregonian is streaming tweets from reporters who are covering the story here.

Feb. 11 2016 1:30 PM

Why Bernie’s Post–New Hampshire Fundraising Haul Is a Really Big Deal

“I’m going to hold a fundraiser right here, right now, across America,” Bernie Sanders told his crowd of supporters at his New Hampshire victory party on Tuesday night, before reading out the address of his campaign website. “Please help us raise the funds we need—whether it’s 10 bucks, 20 bucks, or 50 bucks. Help us raise the money we need to take the fight to Nevada, South Carolina, and the states on Super Tuesday.”

Sanders supporters watching at home were listening. According to his staff, Bernie raised roughly $6.5 million between when the New Hampshire polls closed and 8 p.m. the following day—roughly double his previous 24-hour record, which he set directly after his historically narrow defeat in the Iowa caucus at the start of the month. When you combine just those two days with the staggering $20 million that he says he raised in January alone, Bernie brought in at least $29.5 million in the first six weeks of 2016—nearly as much as he did in the final three months of 2015, when he raised a personal record $33.6 million.*


His opponent, of course, is no slouch in the fundraising department. Hillary Clinton outraised Sanders by roughly $40 million last year, bringing in a total of $116 million in 2015. She also has a personal fortune to fall back on if things ever get tough, as she did back in the 2008 cycle when she gave her campaign more than $13 million. And, of course, she has the additional advantage of her aligned super PAC, Priorities USA, which raised $41 million last year, as well as the support of other outside groups with millions to burn. Clinton’s in no danger of running out of resources.

Those top-line numbers, though, obscure Bernie’s biggest strength: his small donor base. His campaign reported receiving more than 2.5 million donations from more than 1 million individuals in 2015, numbers he reached faster than Barack Obama did during his first presidential campaign in 2008. Those are accomplishments Sanders can—and does—tout on the stump as proof of his campaign’s strength and staying power, while also providing him the desired contrast with the large-donor political status quo he’s promising to overturn. He’s harnessed the power of the attention grabbing “money bombs” that lesser candidates used a decade ago, and folded it more fully into his message. As his campaign materials never hesitate to point out, his political operation is paid for by Bernie, “not the billionaires.”

As important as his narrative, though, is his financial reality. Sanders’ small-donor network serves as a near-renewable resource that he can continue to tap until his fans either can’t afford to give any more or they reach their maximum contribution limit of $2,700, whichever comes first. His campaign can solicit small donations in good times (when he wins a primary) and bad (when Clinton attacks), and in between. Clinton doesn’t have that same luxury since a significantly higher percentage of her donors have already given all that they legally can. Consider: 72 percent of Sanders’ donations last year were for $200 or less, compared to only 16 percent of Clinton’s. When Hillary wants an infusion of cash, her staff needs to find new donors, either through online outreach or by holding traditional fundraisers, both of which take time and money. When Bernie wants to make a splash, he just needs to step on stage and ask his existing ones.

*Correction, Feb. 11, 2016: An earlier version of this post misstated the year that Sanders set his current quarterly fundraising record. It was the fourth quarter of 2015, not 2016.

Feb. 11 2016 12:15 PM

El Chapo May Be Tried Artisanally in Brooklyn

Recently recaptured drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán "El Chapo" Loera will be tried in federal court in Brooklyn if he is successfully extradited from Mexico, the New York Times reports. The larger-than-life narcotics trafficker was captured in January in Sinaloa state but faces indictment in several U.S. jurisdictions including New York's Eastern District for selling heroin and cocaine that were not sustainably sourced.

While Guzmán has famously evaded authorities in Mexico for years, U.S. sources believe he will be motivated to remain in federal custody in Brooklyn because he would not be required to pay rent. Per the borough's constitution, Guzmán will be entitled to trial by a jury of his artistic peers in front of a judge, though some have criticized the idea that a single person can fairly be allowed to "judge" the validity of another person's lived experience.


Legal experts say that obstacles to obtaining a conviction will include "the difficulty of proving Guzmán's personal culpability in crimes actually carried out by others" and "all the strollers on the sidewalks."

Vice Media employees are expected to defend Guzmán at trial but to do so in such a way that you are not sure if they are serious. He will be prosecuted self-consciously by Lena Dunham.

Feb. 11 2016 10:42 AM

The Situation in Syria Cannot Be Solved 

The Geneva peace talks may have been the Obama administration’s last fleeting, unlikely chance to positively impact events on the ground in Syria, and they’ve now all but collapsed. Technically, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura says talks between the Syrian government and the opposition will resume on Feb. 25, but the opposition is rapidly losing ground around the key city of Aleppo in the face of sustained assault by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Hezbollah, Iranian militias, and punishing Russian airstrikes.

The rebel forces fighting a multifront battle in the city were losing numbers and morale even before the most recent government offensive on their main urban stronghold, which threatens to cut them and as many as 300,000 civilians off completely from aid and supplies coming in from Turkey. If the talks drag on for much longer, there might not be much of an opposition left to participate in them. Given that, Assad and Vladimir Putin have little incentive to call off the assault. As Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post writes, Assad has long argued that the war in Syria is one between his forces and “terrorists.” That wasn’t true at one point, but as he, with Russian help, continues to crush the non-Jihadist opposition, he’s rapidly making it so. Aleppo is starting to look like the last stand of the revolution against Assad that broke out in 2011.


The rebels, with good reason, feel betrayed, as the U.S. commitment to supporting them fades. (Russia, on Thursday, accused the U.S. of carrying out its own airstrikes near Aleppo, which the U.S. military denies.) The administration, also with good reason, has been wary about providing enough support to topple Assad’s government, fearing that it would create a chaotic power vacuum that would only benefit extremist groups, not unlike what’s happened in Libya since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi. The administration had been hoping against hope that a political settlement could end the violence between Assad and the opposition, help stem the epochal refugee crisis that’s straining the resources of Syria’s neighbors and threatening Europe’s political future, and get everyone on the same page for the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. It’s not going to happen that way.

So what’s next? It’s a cliché at this point to say that there are no good options in Syria, but even the bad options keep getting fewer and worse. Providing arms to the rebels on a major scale at this point would likely come too late to tip the balance of power, and the same factors that have made the U.S. reluctant to topple Assad since the beginning of the conflict are only more acute now. Some argue that to prevent a “new Srebrenica,” referring to the 1995 massacre in Bosnia, the time has come to enforce a no fly zone from Aleppo north to the Turkish border to protect civilians. This is not as simple as it sounds, even if the U.S. could force Russia to recognize it. Ground troops would likely be required to protect the zone from militia or government ground forces, there’s risk of the zone being occupied by ISIS or the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. The U.S. can simply continue supporting the Kurdish dominated rebel forces who have had success retaking territory from ISIS in eastern Syria, but that’s already provoking a diplomatic crisis with Turkey—whose support is vital on a number of fronts—and there are probably limits to how far Kurdish fighters can effectively hold territory in Sunni Arab areas.

Things have gotten to the point now that we’re likely to soon see prominent Western officials making the argument that it would be strategically wise and even more humane to let the Syrian government win rather than prolong the agonizing war with piecemeal support to the rebels. There’s some brutal realist logic to this, but allowing Assad’s forces, who’ve shown little reluctance to directly target civilians, to crush the remaining rebel strongholds, would be a humanitarian catastrophe even by Syria’s grim standards, create thousands more refugees, and likely drive more opposition fighters into the hands of ISIS and al-Nusra.

Of course, the other option, which maximalist hawks in the U.S. prefer, is to deploy a large number of U.S. ground troops. But the American public has no appetite for another such operation in the Middle East, and there’s little evidence from recent examples that the insertion of American boots on the ground into complex multisided sectarian conflicts does much good. The idea, floated by the Saudi government this week, of sending Saudi ground troops to Syria sounds promising only if you think the humanitarian catastrophe and utter chaos in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia has been bombing for the past year, is a good model.

The U.S. certainly could have handled things differently years and even months ago, but at this point, there is just no obvious course of action for U.S. policy toward Syria, and none of the options seem likely to prevent more years of fighting, more suffering, and more mass displacement. At the very least, it’s time to give up on the idea that getting everyone to the table in Geneva is the answer.  

Feb. 11 2016 9:11 AM

Cliven Bundy Arrested After Flying to Oregon

Rancher Cliven Bundy was arrested and jailed in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday night after flying to Oregon with the intention of traveling to the area of the dwindling occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, reports say. Bundy is charged with conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer for his actions in April 2014, when he led an armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada that was related to his refusal to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands. Two of Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan, were involved in leading the Oregon protest/occupation and were arrested in January.

From the Oregonian:

Ammon Bundy's lawyer, Mike Arnold, said Cliven Bundy was considering joining Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore at a news conference that had been planned Thursday morning in Portland to talk about the refuge takeover. [But] almost immediately after she arrived in Portland, Fiore started talking to the last occupiers by phone and left in a car for the six-hour drive to Burns to help work out their surrender.

The four holdout protesters who remain on the wildlife refuge spent Wednesday night live-streaming their surreal discussion about how to respond to the FBI agents who have moved on to the refuge grounds; the holdouts ultimately agreed to turn themselves in this morning but haven't done so yet.

Feb. 11 2016 6:00 AM

Tonight Is Bernie’s Chance to Convince Black and Hispanic Voters That He’s Their Guy

No rest for the weary. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will square off on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, only two days after Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary by more than 20 points. The PBS-hosted debate will take place in Wisconsin, but both candidates will be more focused on Nevada and South Carolina, which hold the next two Democratic nominating contests later this month.

Both of those states, as you may had heard by now, are expected to give Clinton a far friendlier welcome than she received in Iowa, where she squeaked out a historically small victory last week, and New Hampshire, where she received a historic shellacking this week. Nevada’s caucusgoers and South Carolina’s primary voters tend to be more moderate and far more racially diverse than either of the first two states on the calendar, making them the first significant test of Bernie’s ability to expand a base that skews white and liberal. Hillary, though, knows that a loss in either contest will raise serious concerns that her much-hyped firewall is no match for the Bern. Expect both candidates to step on stage on Thursday night prepared to talk more about immigration, police reform, and other issues that are particularly important to the Hispanic and black voters they now need.


Rhetorically, the shift poses a greater challenge for Sanders, given he prefers to stick to his script about economic inequality and class while Clinton is generally better versed in the language of identity politics. As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie has explained, Hillary’s cultural familiarity with the black community in particular represents a powerful electoral advantage—and her campaign has made no secret that she hopes to use it to rebound as the nominating fight heads south.  

But as much as Sanders has struggled to speak as fluently about race as he does about class, he has proved himself capable of listening and learning, as we saw this past summer in his response to the Black Lives Matter protests at his campaign stops. At first, he retreated to more familiar income inequality territory. Later, he started placing a greater emphasis on racial justice and hired a young black woman who has been involved in the criminal justice reform movement as his national spokeswoman. He’s also picked up the backing of a handful of influential black intellectuals, including Cornel West, who endorsed him this summer, and the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who said this week that he plans to vote for Sanders, albeit with reservations. Bernie continued his outreach efforts on Wednesday when he sat down with Al Sharpton at the same Harlem restaurant where the civil rights activist met with then-Sen. Barack Obama back in 2008.

I’m expecting Hillary to again hit Bernie on his spotty gun record, which could easily be framed in racial justice terms, and for Sanders to be forced to defend his part in a 2007 effort to kill a bipartisan immigration bill that he feared would depress wages for lower-income workers. Clinton, meanwhile, could be forced to discuss the awkward way she and her campaign handled the issue of race in her 2008 nominating fight with Obama, as well as her husband’s record as president, which included a crime bill in 1994 and welfare reform in 1996 that took a disproportionate toll on American minorities. (If moderators Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were looking for a way to relive the 1990s, they got it on Wednesday when Michelle Alexander published a blistering essay in the Nation that ran under the headline, “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”)

That’s not to suggest that a debate in Milwaukee between a white sexagenarian and a white septuagenarian will be all about race and ethnicity—it won’t. (I bet gender comes up too!) Clinton and Sanders will also try to hit their usual marks while framing the results of the past two contests in their own favor. But given what’s at stake in Nevada on Feb. 20 and South Carolina on Feb. 27, they’ll be eager to reintroduce themselves to demographics that weren’t very present in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary will start with the advantage. The question is whether she can keep it.

Feb. 10 2016 11:00 PM

Oregon Occupiers Live Stream Insane Final Stand as FBI Prepares Final Push Against Refuge

The FBI appears to be making a final push Wednesday to end the 40-day old occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. It’s not clear what exactly prompted the federal authorities to make a move on the four remaining occupiers, but the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, Greg Bretzing, released this statement on Wednesday:

“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully… However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area.”

The occupiers are currently live streaming their internal discussions on how to respond here (just as fair warning, some of the language is explict and the situation generally tense):

“FBI tactical teams had quietly moved into the refuge compound Tuesday night, entering the buildings undetected by the occupiers,” according to the Oregonian. “They apparently were in the buildings through the day Wednesday before agents moved against the encampment.” David Fry, 27, of Ohio, Jeff Banta of Elko, Nevada, and Sean and Sandy Anderson of Riggins, Idaho have remained at the refuge even after Ammon Bundy and others were arrested last month. The four face federal conspiracy charges for the participation in what they call a protest over government overreach on federal land.

Update, 11:15 p.m.: Slate's Jacob Brogan is following along to the occupiers' live stream here. Here's a sampling: