Trump Pittsburgh visit: 11 Jewish leaders push back against president after synagogue shooting

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A group of Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh demanded Trump denounce white nationalism and stop targeting minorities before he visits.

More than 35,000 people have signed an open letter to President Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities after a mass shooting Saturday at a local synagogue left 11 dead.

Nevertheless, the White House announced Trump would travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, ignoring the letter as well as a plea from Pittsburgh’s mayor that the president at least refrain from visiting “while we are burying the dead.” The first of the funerals for the 11 shooting victims is expected to take place Tuesday.

The open letter, which was published and shared on Sunday, was written by 11 members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a national organization for progressive Jews focused on social justice, following what is being called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue also left several people injured, including law enforcement.

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Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear

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Billy Graham was a preacher man equally intent on saving souls and soliciting financial support for his ministry. His success at the former is not subject to proof and his success at the latter is unrivaled. He preached to millions on every ice-free continent and led many to his chosen messiah.

Graham also left behind a United States government in which religion plays a far greater role than before he intruded into politics in the 1950s. The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s feet.

Graham’s message was principally one of fear…fear of a wrathful god…

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Trump scraps endorsement event after black pastors object

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has cancelled a press conference in which his campaign said he would be endorsed by as many as 100 black evangelical religious leaders. Many of those invited to the event say they had no intention of endorsing the billionaire businessman and former reality television star.

Image: Daily Kos

“It’s a miscommunication,” said Darrell Scott, the senior pastor of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who has helped to arrange meetings between Trump and black pastors in recent months. Trump’s campaign “thought it was going to be a press conference for an endorsement when it wasn’t,” Scott said Sunday in an interview.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email that Trump would still be holding a private meeting with the group on Monday before departing for a rally in Georgia. She did not respond to additional questions about the cancellation.

 Trump has been courting the support of evangelical black clergy members as he works to broaden his appeal in a crowded Republican field. He has held several meetings with pastors from across the country in recent months.

His campaign issued a press release last week that read: “Mr. Trump will be joined by a coalition of 100 African-American evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP front-runner after a private meeting at Trump Tower.”

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Review: In ‘Between the World and Me,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates Delivers a Searing Dispatch to His Son

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10BOOK-blog427-v2Inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 classic “The Fire Next Time,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, “Between the World and Me,” is a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today. It takes the form of a letter from Mr. Coates to his 14-year-old son, Samori, and speaks of the perils of living in a country where unarmed black men and boys — Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter L. Scott, Freddie Gray — are dying at the hands of police officers, an America where just last month nine black worshipers were shot and killed in a Charleston, S.C., church by a young white man with apparent links to white supremacist groups online.

Mr. Coates’s expressionistic book is a sequel of sorts and a bookend to “The Beautiful Struggle,” his evocative 2008 memoir of growing up in Baltimore, the son of a Vietnam vet and former Black Panther — as compelling a portrait of a father-son relationship as Martin Amis’s “Experience” or Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Duke of Deception,” and a showcase for Mr. Coates’s emotional reach as a writer and his both lyric and gritty prose.

“Between the World and Me” (which takes its title from a Richard Wright poem) offers an abbreviated portrait of the author’s life at home, focusing mainly on the fear he felt growing up. Fear of the police, who he tells his son “have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body,” and who also possess a dominion of prerogatives that include “friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations.” And fear of the streets where members of crews — “young men who’d transmuted their fear into rage” — might “break your jaw, stomp your face, and shoot you down to feel that power, to revel in the might of their own bodies,” where death might “billow up like fog” on an ordinary afternoon.

The “need to be always on guard” was exhausting, “the slow siphoning of essence,” Mr. Coates writes. He “feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give police a reason.”

Mr. Coates — a national correspondent for The Atlantic — contrasts this world of the streets with the “other world” of suburbia, “organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and glens.” He associates this clichéd suburban idyll with what he calls “the Dream” — not the American dream of opportunity and a better life for one’s children; not Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of freedom and equality (which the Reverend King observed was “a dream deeply rooted in the American dream”), but instead, in Mr. Coates’s somewhat confusing use of the term, an exclusionary white dream rooted in a history of subjugation and privilege.

Those Dreamers, he contends, “have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world.”

There is a Manichaean tone to some of the passages in this book, and at times, a hazardous tendency to generalize. After Sept. 11, he writes that he could “see no difference between the officer” who had gunned down his Howard University schoolmate Prince Jones a year earlier — firing 16 shots at the unarmed young man, who was on his way to visit his fiancée — and the police and firefighters who lost their own lives in the terrorist attacks: “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”

This startling passage seems meant not to convey a contempt for the first responders on Sept. 11, but to underscore the depth of Mr. Coates’s emotion over the loss of his friend and his anger at police killings of unarmed black men — killings that represent to him larger historical forces at work in American society, in which black men and women were enslaved, their families and bodies broken, and in which terrible inequities continue to exist. Yet it could be easily taken out of context, and it distracts attention from Mr. Coates’s profoundly moving account of Prince Jones’s brief life, and the grief of his mother, a woman who had worked her way up from the “raw poverty of her youth” to become an eminent doctor, trying to provide her children with comfortable — and most of all, safe — lives, which, in Prince’s case, would be cavalierly taken away one night by a police officer later found guilty of negligence and excessive force.

Sometimes Mr. Coates can sound as though he’s ignoring changes that have taken place over the decades, telling his son that “you and I” belong to “that ‘below’ ” in the racial hierarchy of American society: “That was true in 1776. It is true today.” He writes that “the plunder of black life was drilled into this country in its infancy and reinforced across its history, so that plunder has become an heirloom, an intelligence, a sentience, a default setting to which, likely to the end of our days, we must invariably return.”

Such assertions skate over the very real — and still dismally insufficient — progress that has been made. After all, America has twice elected a black president. At other moments in this powerful and passionate book, Mr. Coates acknowledges such changes. In fact, his book often reads like an internal dialogue or debate.

He points out that his son has expectations, hopes — “your dreams, if you will” — that he did not have at his age, and that he, himself, does not know “what it means to grow up with a black president, social networks, omnipresent media, and black women everywhere in their natural hair.”

“The grandness of the world,” he tells Samori, sounding a more optimistic note, “the real world, the whole world, is a known thing for you.”

By Michiko Kakutani

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Disrespecting the Oval Office

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Just when you thought congressional Republicans’ disdain for President Barack Obama couldn’t be any more apparent, scores of GOP senators upset about the still-developing nuclear agreement with Iran took it to an unprecedented level last week: They went over Obama’s head. To Iran.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol's Senate studio on the possibility of arming the Ukrainians in their conflict with Russian-backed rebels, Feb. 5, 2015.

Image: Tom Williams CQ/Roll Call

Throughout history, Congress has sparred with the sitting president – though mainly on domestic policy matters. Foreign policy has traditionally been a White House-driven mission, with Congress weighing in officially when members’ role is specifically defined, and unofficially as critics or cheerleaders for executive branch policies being contemplated or implemented.

But at no time in history, lawmakers and experts say, have members of the legislative branch done something quite as audacious as 47 Republican senators recently did. Unhappy about what they believe will be a bad deal for the U.S. and its ally Israel, the lawmakers sent an open letter to the leaders of Iran, basically warning that any deal reached might have a short shelf life. In a brief (and academically sketchy, experts say) explainer of the U.S. Constitution, the senators informed Iran that any deal struck could be undone with the stroke of a pen by the next president.

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Idiosyncratic Terrorist Breaks Out on His Own in Sahara Bloodbath

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After years of trying to discipline him, the leaders of al-Qaida’s North African branch sent one final letter to their most difficult employee. In page after scathing page, they described how he didn’t answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders.

Moktar Belmoktar

Image: AP

Most of all, they claimed he had failed to carry out a single spectacular operation, despite the resources at his disposal.

The employee, international terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, responded the way talented employees with bruised egos have in corporations the world over: He quit and formed his own competing group. And within months, he carried out two lethal operations that killed 101 people in all: one of the largest hostage-takings in history at a BP-operated gas plant in Algeria in January, and simultaneous bombings at a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger just last week.

The letter, signed by the group’s 14-member Shura Council, or governing body, describes its relationship with Belmoktar as “a bleeding wound,” and criticizes his proposal to resign and start his own group.

“Your letter … contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering,” they write. “We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. … But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it.”

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Man named in ricin mailing case goes into hiding

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Miss ricin

Image: Rogelio V. Solis, AP

A Mississippi man whose home and business were searched as part of an investigation into poisoned letters sent to the president and others has dropped out of sight in order to escape the news media spotlight, but is cooperating with authorities, a friend and his attorney said.

Everett Dutschke, 45, had his home and former business in Tupelo, Miss., searched in connection with the letters, which allegedly contained ricin. They were sent last week to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and earlier to an 80-year-old Mississippi judge, Sadie Holland.

Charges were initially filed against an Elvis impersonator but then dropped. Attention then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect and the judge and senator.

Dutschke, who previously had kept in touch with reporters from The Associated Press, did not answer or return calls to his cellphone Thursday, a day investigators spent searching a different home where he had spent time a day earlier about 20 miles from Tupelo.

He just needed to get away from all the news media attention, his friend Kirk Kitchens told the AP. “I just helped him get out of the spotlight,” Kitchens said at his home in nearby Saltillo.

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