Ask Polly’s Heather Havrilesky: ‘I feel connected to the people who write to me’


The advice columnist brings her wisdom off the web and into the bind pages of a collect of almost entirely new letters, How To Be A Person In the World

Heather Havrilesky is the advice columnist for people encountering doubt about the sorcery dwelling inside them. If this sounds corny and sentimental at first, that is because it is. While much of the modern advice material dispensing wisdom to readers takes the form of small and practical steps toward self-improvement, Havrilesky is an unapologetic evangelist for sentimentality and believing in our own enormous potential. She speaks in the language of the epic, the supernatural, and the celestial.

Since 2012, her weekly advice column, New York magazines Ask Polly, has broadcast these notions in human potential through letters tackling modernity most pressing existential crisis for a growing and devoted following. The column has provided reassurance to readers, but also instilled in them a sense of being responsible, to themselves and others, to use their potential wisely.

This week, Havrilesky brings Pollys wisdom off the web and into the bind pages of a collection of almost entirely new letters, How To Be A Person In the World: Ask Pollys Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life.

Havrilesky is not the most likely advice columnist, by her own admission. She is hardly a stoic observer, she does not consider herself to be much of an expert on how to feel. I find my own feelings very bewildering. I always have. I am a very moody person and have a very uneven experience of the world, she tells me over the phone from her home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughters.( As we talk, our conversation is occasionally punctuated by interruptions of her dispatching her husband to a parenting task and making sure that her puppy had not gotten into something poison .) I will never become a person who is not floored by her emotional experience.

But for the millennial women who make up the bulk of her audience, it is precisely those emotional experiences that have built her into something of a wise and occasionally profane aunt, in whom we find wisdom and hope for our own futures. Havrilesky, 46, regularly discloses her own encounters with her readers issues. Sometimes it comes as heart-wrenching recollections of events like the loss of her own parent to a grieving letter-writer( I wanted him to be alive, to eat a great snack, to read something funny for HIS sake) and sometimes light-hearted admissions that she too has struggled with obsessing over sons, a habit she compares to weaving a rich tapestry and then using it as a puppy bed.( I was a mind weaver of rich fucking tapestries, too, back in the working day, with some demure yet straight-talkin, slightly slimmer, slightly more hygienic version of my actual ego ). Regardless of the issue, Havrilesky makes clear that she too, has scalped in the game.

Empathizing so deeply with the impressions of others, somewhat miraculously, does not lessen the exhilaration that Havrilesky gets from engaging the despair and complexity of her readers problems. Its very easy to pick good letters because there are so many good ones. It really is an embarrassment of riches, she says a somewhat mystifying declaration that being bombarded with messy, often heartbreaking tales is an enviable position.

My nature is to be fascinated and curious and engaged and to feel connected to the people who write to me. I like hearing people problems. I love complicated problems. I love long-winded, difficult letters. I dont think everyone alive is like that, she says.

While most of the letters are new, the terrain covered in How To Be A Person In The World will be familiar to much of her readership and she repeats similar topics throughout the book: your impressions are valid but misguided in a very special style, your lack of romantic fulfillment is not a result of some inherent flaw of yours, all of your hurt is real, and all of your hurt is to be able to healed. These are affirmations worth recurring and so they are, but the prose in which Havrilesky plants them is plainspoken while still appealing to the grandness of the celestial and the gravity of the scriptural.

In the book, Havrilesky speaks frankly of evil and malice when responding to a woman grappling with her friends welcoming of the social return of a man whose sexual advances profoundly violated her borders , noting lines from a song called Devil Town by Daniel Johnston that reads: Oh lord, it truly brings me down about the devil township.

But the proverbial profane aunt has some fun, too. To a woman who is convinced she has a fundamental flaw she cant pinpoint that is driving romantic prospects away, Havrilesky points out in earnest, Every night you pray to the gods of rejection. Your prayer ritual involves replaying the past, loading one reel after another, footage of men who broke your heart, only to become comically exasperated when she afterward declares, YOU ARE CURRENTLY PRAYING AT THE ALTAR OF THE MOST TEDIOUS RELIGION IN THE UNIVERSE.

To a woman who confuses herself with fantasies about men rather than focusing on her own challenges, Havrilesky tells her what she plans to tell her own daughters when they start to place all of the magic outside of themselves and become similarly preoccupied: The world has told you lies about how small you are. You will look back on this time and say, I had it all, but I didnt even know it. I was at the centre for human rights, I could breathe in happiness, I could swim to the moon. I had everything I required.

I read this section aloud to Havrilesky in our call but make it merely to the end of the first sentence before bursting into tears. It was a mixture of sudden relief that my nagging suspicions that I am more than the world has allowed me to be were true after all combined with the sorrow over time lost living in the smallness of the lie. Havrilesky then began to cry herself, a few moments that might have been awkward for someone less tolerant of a fate that floors them with their emotions. Most people alive are not like that.

This sentiment more than any other is what echoes throughout the book, the untelling of the lies about our smallness. She proclaims life is full of twinkles and twinges, even amid poverty and ageing and death late in the book, sincere and corny as when she began. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside themselves, she reassures a letter-writer who hankers for a big, arousing love amid lukewarm interest from humen in an appeal for more brazen self-love modeled on Kanye Wests. It is these small reflections that Havrilesky watches us for what we are: not tiny corpuscles of illuminate in a dark sky but enormous sources of illuminate and energy in a brilliant cosmo. We have each other. We have worlds within us, me and you, she continues, unflinching as she delivers the message that every person carries their own peculiar magic whether they can see the enormousness of it or not.

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A guidebook to Trump-speak: think ‘bloke talking aloud in the pub’

3 days ago

From overly defensive Sigmar Gabriel to delusional Michael Gove, politicians are misreading the president-elects utterances

Taken literally, Donald Trumps latest believes about the world, as retailed to the British politician Michael Gove, are frightening for Europe, the EU and Nato. But considered dispassionately, his comments are the most recent example of Trump-speak, a loose, untutored language form that politicians and envoys must now quickly learn to decipher.

As has by now been well established, Trump-speak should be taken seriously, but not literally. Large pinches of salt, interspersed with reality checks and deep breaths, are involved. The hasty, too defensive reaction on Monday of Germanys deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, to Trumps suggestion the EU could disintegrate is not the way to run. Trump could and probably will say the exact opposite tomorrow.

Trump-speak is typically off the cuff, unconsidered, contradictory, strongly conveyed and essentially transitory. It mixes long-held beliefs and prejudices with barely grasped facts and dawning realities. Its like a bloke talking aloud in the pub who only read this stuff in the paper.

So, for example, Trump revealed to Gove that he has discovered matters were not going well in Afghanistan. I have just looked at something, he said. Oh, I should not show you it at all, because its secret but I have just taken a look at Afghanistan … And you ask yourself, Whats going on there? Well, yes actually, you do.

Trump-speak is a thought-stream , not a logical or rational process. It blithely blunders into sensitive issues. It wings it, blurts and stumbles. It induces stuff up as it goes along. And it typically absence solid conclusions, leading interlocutors nowhere. The crucial thing about Trump-speak is that it is rarely his last word.

Weighing Trump-speak for subtle diplomatic subtleties, calculated hints and cloaked policy switchings is a mugs game. Thus Goves gleeful declaration that Trump had bolstered Theresa May by promising a fast-track, post-Brexit trade deal with the US looks like delusional over-interpretation.

This is the same Trump who has failed so far to fix a date to meet Britains prime minister but who found time for Gove, sacked by May, and Ukips Nigel Farage. Trump says hes a big fan of the UK. But his Scottish golf course aside, Britains interests barely register on his radar.

The Chinese have a similar interpreting problem. They find Trump-speak on Taiwan to be deeply troubling. State media are talking angrily about nuclear war. On Monday, Beijing said it would take the gloves off if Trump persisted with his heretical ideas.

But the Chinese are misreading the subject. To the extent that Trump has considered the matter at all, he appears to position Taiwan in the context of unfair US-China trade. Despite asserting his right to do so, he did not gratify Taiwans president when she transited the US last week. He could be plotting recognition of an independent Taiwan. But probably not.

Likewise on Iran, Trump says Barack Obama cut a terrible nuclear deal in 2015. His statements have provoked intense speculation in Tehran about malign US aims and defiant, pre-emptive warnings by Iranian leaders. Their misstep is to take him at his Twitter word. What seems to concern Trump most is not Israels future security. Its the money the US repaid to Tehran as part of the deal.

In Trump-speak, Nato is both obsolete and important. US and Russian nuclear arsenals must be reduced substantially, although he has previously demanded a large US expansion. Angela Merkel, Germanys chancellor, is simultaneously fantastic and catastrophic.

Trump told Gove he was undecided about who he would support in Germanys September federal election raising the scandalising possibility that he might publicly take sides. And if in Germany, why not in France? Was Marine Le Pen, the Front Nationals presidential nominee, simply taking coffee at Trump Tower last week? Or was Trump conspiring with her? In the equivocal world of Trump-speak, anything is possible , nothing is certain.

Trump-speak says, repeatedly, that the US embassy in Israel will definitely move to Jerusalem until, suddenly this week, it is not up for discussion. It says the future prospects of North Korean nuclear missiles threatening the US mainland is not going to happen. Kim Jong-un, North Koreas paranoid dictator, thinks it will. So what next? Trump-speak is silent.

On Iraq, Trump is consistent but clueless. The 2003 invasion was the worst ever decision in history. US policy, he said, was akin to hurling boulders into a beehive. On Syria, Trump-speak is all over the place. The president-elect must have had a briefing, because he now favours security zones presumably, the safe havens plan favoured by Hillary Clinton.

It was terrible to shoot old ladies in Aleppo, Trump said on that, all can agree. But Trump says he trusts the shooter, Vladimir Putin, and looking ahead to doing great things with Russia. What this may mean is anybodys guess, although the Russian president likely has his own notions. A Nato pullback in eastern Europe for starters.

Trump-speak is whatever Trump believes US policy should be at any given moment. This is not inevitably how policy is or how it will be. Trump-speak is the exact opposite of George Orwells newspeak, which was all about thought control and limiting alternative ideas and choices. It is thus essentially chaotic.

Trump-speak is more akin to doublespeak. Working out what the next US president actually thinks, when he often appears not to know himself, is going to be a full-time job.

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Trouble in Venice: can this trendy LA enclave reconcile a deep divide?

4 days ago

As the neighborhood inundations with tech workers and new wealth, its homeless population holds rising and a political battle is raging over what to do

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It is less than a hundred yards from the hipster restaurants, cafe, and giant street art installations of Main Street in Venice, California, to a straggly line of industrial warehouses and storage facilities where a homeless encampment has sprawled over an entire city block.

Tents and shopping carts filled with garb and possessions obstruct sidewalks and parking spaces along 3rd Street and Rose Avenue and prompt unceasing complaints from nearby residents as well as stares of astonishment from tourists. The encampment, home to people with nowhere else to go, is a constant reminder that all is not well in one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in North America.

Outside in America about

Venice is the quintessential southern Calfornia beach community, an edgy, artsy pocket of the city of Los Angeles where industry, poverty and creativity have always procured a style to coexist. But it is also ground zero in a battle in which an unprecedented official effort to fight homelessness across Los Angeles is being met with growing skepticism, impatience, and, from time to time, outright hostility.

At public sessions, people are openly calling homeless residents lepers and likening Venice to Baghdad. Local elections being held tomorrow pit a popular incumbent city councilman, Mike Bonin, who has championed efforts to build new low-income housing and provide services to homeless person including showers, bathroom and storage space, against an energetic underdog, Mark Ryavec, who thinks the situation is spiraling out of control.

We see snowbirds in their RVs and young people from all over treat Venice as the campsite of America, Ryavec charged. I want to provide a bus fare to send them home, because theres no future for these people here.

The future certainly seems to belong to a new wave of highly paid tech employees, many of them working for Google or Snap, who have inundated into Venice now often nicknamed Silicon Beach and pushed rents and house prices through the roof.

Industrial warehouses have been transformed into luxury condos and shabby-chic restaurants. Abbot Kinney Boulevard, once a relative backwater where local restaurants struggled to obtain liquor licenses, has become one of the trendiest streets in the country, where coffee shop offer$ 6 lattes and tables at the hottest dinner places are booked out weeks in advance. Meanwhile, the homeless population maintains rising its closely connected to 1,000 people, by some estimates, and nearly 30,000 across the city of LA as a whole.

It is this stark contrast of extreme wealth and growing poverty that has pushed city and district leaders to take unprecedented action. After decades of doing little more than moving homeless people around and offering services so they dont starve or freeze to death, the political class is inducing the instance that aiming homelessness is both a moral and an economic imperative.

Michael Michael Munsterman from Oklahoma has been homeless in Venice, California, for six years. Photo: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Up to now, the electorate has been fully on board. An impressive 76 % of Los Angeles voters approved a bond measure last November to constructed 10,000 affordable housing divisions on 12 parcels of public land around the city, including one in Venice. The signs seem promising, too, for a countywide measure on tomorrows vote that would increase the sales tax by half a percentage point and raise more than $3.5 bn for homeless programs over the next decade.

In Venice, homeless residents surely feel the difference. Reynaldo, a 59 -year-old man who sleeps in a tent on 3rd Street, said he had friends who were being moved into housing and offered help by squads of social workers, mental health consultants and addiction specialists. He appreciated the free showers and noticed a far more conciliatory stance from police, who ride down 3rd Street every couple of hours during the day to make sure tents are packed away and not being used for drug-dealing or prostitution, but no longer conduct large-scale sweeps as they used to.

If youre polite and respectful to them, theyll be the same way to you, Reynaldo said.

Still, the political leadership is under pressure. On one side are residents who say they find homeless people urinating on their front lawn and allege, like Mark Ryavec, that the new city services are only depicting more homeless people in local communities. As Ryavec set it: I do not want to see the city of LA became the trailer park of last resort for everyone who has chosen either involuntarily or voluntarily to live in their vehicles.

And on the other side are advocates who have spent decades railing against what they see as an unnecessarily belligerent police presence and worry that the climate has not changed as much as the city asserts. Becky Dennison, director of the nonprofit Venice Community Housing, said the city was not doing nearly enough to slow gentrification. At the same time, she noted that the police continue to enforce a nighttime beach curfew, close the boardwalk to pedestrians at twilight and, under an regulation that came into impact last month, send people sleeping in their automobiles to one of just a handful of streets zoned exclusively for industrial use.

The idea that we are going to be able move people around and criminalize them doesnt cut it, Dennison said. We need to build and preserve affordable housing to protect the racial and economic diversity of Venice.

Josh Josh Corr from Las Vegas( left) and Laz from Miami( right) on Venice Beach, where they have been living for a year. Photo: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Such strong opinions have made for a vigorous and, at times, nasty political season. In the city council race, Ryavec has been accused, unfairly, of an association with Donald Trump because he briefly represented Trumps hotel interests as a lobbyist 26 years ago. He, in turn, has accused his challenger, sitting councilmember Mike Bonin, of working to cover up an MRSA infection outbreak at the 3rd Street encampment, an accusation that city and county health officials say has no basis in fact.

Much of the citys plan for Venice hinges on a new low-income housing facility now being developed on the site of a parking lot on Venice Boulevard.( It was one of the sites approved by voters in November .) But those schemes are under threat from yet another item on tomorrows election agenda a slow-growth vote initiative, championed by adversaries of mega-developments budding in Hollywood and elsewhere in Los Angeles.

If it passes, the initiative would freeze parts of the city planning process for two years and proscribe almost all the low-income housing developments, including the one in Venice. Its future prospects that both alarms and infuriates advocates of the homeless.

You cant complain for years and years that the city isnt doing something substantive about homelessness and then, when they do start acting, say youre against it, Becky Dennison said.

On the streets, people like Reynaldo are watching the battle unfold without too many expectations one route or the other. I merely live day to day, he said, and stay out of trouble.

This narrative was updated on 6 March to correct the location of Venices new low-income housing facility

Donald Trump says US could re-enter Paris climate deal

6 days ago

In ITV interview US president also says he would take tougher stand on Brexit than Theresa May

Make ‘feminism’ the word of the year until females feel safe

One week ago

As the jaunt of abusive humen continues and the world assures the power of women behind this cultural moment, we have to continue the hard work

This week a man attempted a terrorist attack in New York’s Port Authority subway station, but his bomb explosion early and the attacker was the only one seriously injured. Despite what Twitter would have you believe, New York- as it does- went on very much the same. People groused about metro delays and went on with their day .~ ATAGEND It was just one of many days that induced me proud to be a native New Yorker. We could all take a lesson from that sort of resilience and posture, to be honest: we won’t let terrible people attain us feel terrible. We will live our lives, and refuse to be terrorized.

On a happier note, though the outing of abusive humen continues, the world is starting to recognize the power of women behind this incredible culture moment: Merriam-Webster named “feminism” the word of 2017. Now we just have to continue to make it the movement of the year( and next year, and the next) until girls can start to feel safe in their own country.

Glass half full

The unthinkable happened and Doug Jones won the Alabama special election. It’s a low bar- getting excited over an accused child-molester and explicit racist losing- but in a time when wins are few and far between, I’ll take it.

What I’m RTing

Melissa Silverstein (@ melsil)

Hollywood, you are seriously so fucked up about women. Seem at the outfits. 2gQiTHN5JY

December 8, 2017

Adam Serwer

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Can Baltimore curtail police killings by defying Trump?

12 days ago

Kevin Cooper was killed by city police at age 14 in 2006, but his death has vanished into obscurity. Now theres hope for reform to prevent such cases if it can withstand Trumps insistence on law and order

Greta Carter-Willis has spent a lot of time praying, crying and thinking at the threshold between the kitchen and dining room of her south-west Baltimore home.

It was at that spot nearly 11 years ago that a Baltimore city police officer, barely a year out of the academy, shot and killed her 14-year-old son Kevin Cooper.

His body was laying right there, she said, gesturing. We can make little changes, paint, take the carpet up, but it still remains the same. I have to live with that mental vision in my mind all my life This is my home, I cant just up and move.

It was the sense of pain and injustice around that incident that brought Carter-Willis to the Baltimore federal courthouse on Thursday, to speak in favor of the agreement negotiated between the city, its police force, and the Department of Justice in the wake of the Freddie Gray case. The future of the agreement to reform the citys policing, known as a consent decree, was thrown into uncertainty Monday after attorney general Jeff Sessions released a memo asking to halt its implementation against the wishes of the city mayor, police commissioner and general public.

Despite a cold, driving rain, dozens of residents lined up for their three minutes to address the federal judge in the case and implore him not to delay the agreement, as the Trump administration requested earlier this week. Speakers represented faith groups, high school students, non-profits, law-enforcement and like Carter-Willis, mothers of those killed by police. And despite their disparate backgrounds, the overarching position of the city was clear: Justice delayed is justice denied, as more than one speaker quoted from the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

It was a must that I push my way down to that courthouse and let that federal judge know, please do not hold this consent decree, Carter-Willis told the Guardian. Its too late for my son, but it will help somebody elses child and it will make it better for the next generation and its a right step for this department. Its a right step for this city to have them be accountable to another agency. Because as long as theyre policing themselves, its not gonna get any better.

Late Friday, a federal judge agreed with Carter-Willis and the others who trudged out to throw their weight behind the agreement, tossing out Sessions request for more time. Still, the saga clearly indicates that project of cultivating progressive reform in police departments nationwide no longer has an eager partner in Washington DC.

Kevin Cooper at age 12. Photograph: Greta Carter-Willis

It was just a plastic dustpan

As is the case in many fatal police incidents, it was Carter-Willis herself who called 911 in 2006, hoping for some assistance as her son experienced an emotional disturbance. He had knocked over his TV during an argument, and tossed some clothes out the window. Normal teenager stuff, as Carter-Willis described it.

After a short chat with officers the situation had resolved enough that one of the responding officers left. The second, Roderick Mitter, stayed behind to finish up paperwork when tensions ratcheted back up.

The officer walked past and Kevin was mumbling, Carter-Willis said. The officer asks him what are you saying and he says Im not talking to you so he just kept walking.

As Carter-Willis tells it, the officer began following the teen through different rooms, jawing with the teen as both grew more and more agitated. She recalls asking the officer several times to leave her home.

In the kitchen, as the rankling grew louder, Cooper picked up a plastic dustpan. The kind you get at the 99 cent store, Carter-Willis said.

Her version and the police version begin to diverge here. Carter-Willis says her son was merely holding the dustpan; police say he assaulted the officer with it, breaking it over his head and lunging at him with the jagged plastic.

In either case what happened next is clear. Mitter maced Kevin, deemed it ineffective, drew his gun, and fired. The bullet, which penetrated the teens heart, likely killed him instantly, Carter-Willis would later learn.

From there, the aftermath was predictable. Police held a press conference that day and declared the shooting justified. The officer was not charged with a crime, and has since been promoted to detective. The city offered Carter-Willis a pittance of a settlement in a civil case that her family ultimately lost to the citys well-resourced lawyers. Years before Mike Brown and the rise of Black Lives Matter, cases like this often vanished into obscurity without attracting protests, headlines, national attention or trending hashtags.

They just discarded him like a bag of trash, like his life meant nothing, said Carter-Willis. But his life did mean something. It meant something to me, to the community. He was an uncle, a neighbor, a classmate.

Greta Carter-Wilis in her home at the location where her son, Kevin Cooper, was shot and killed by the Baltimore Police Department in 2006. Photograph: Jamiles Lartey for the Guardian

Grave concerns

Carter-Willis keeps a hatbox in her home jammed with press clippings, important documents and pictures related to her sons case. Among them, the full DOJs 2016 findings on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).

The report found broadly, a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct by city police, characterized by rank racial bias and warrantless targeting of black residents.

When the DoJ report came out, i started crying, Carter-Willis said. I felt vindicated with that report because you had outside ears, you had outside eyes to understand that what [black residents] are saying is really happening.

They werent talking about Kevin, she added, but they were.

In conjunction with that report the Obama DoJ, the city of Baltimore and its police department entered into negotiation for a consent decree, or a joint reform agreement enforceable by a federal judge. Similar agreements had been utilized in other problem departments like Los Angeles, New Orleans and Detroit to achieve reform after systemic use of force or discrimination issues were discovered. That agreement had already been signed by all parties before the Obama DoJ left power and was awaiting a public comment before it would, in all likelihood, have gone into effect later this year.

Enter the Trump Administration. Trump campaigned on a platform opposing virtually any scrutiny of law enforcement, and selected an attorney general in Jeff Sessions who most expected to embrace the same. Earlier this week, Sessions made good on that expectation, filing a memo to the Baltimore court charged with enforcing the consent decree there, asking for a 90-day pause to review and assess the agreement. The DoJ also asked the judge to postpone Thursdays public hearing, a request that was denied, setting the stage for Carter-Willis and nearly 50 other Baltimoreans to weigh in before the court.

John Gore, the head of the civil rights division for the DoJ, had a lonely job Thursday. Of the dozens of speakers, he was the only person to express any interest in slowing down or potentially not following through on the agreement, citing grave concerns.

Those concerns were not shared by Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh or police commissioner Kevin Davis, both of whom pledged to move ahead with the reforms with or without the DoJ. Both lamented however, that the speed of the roll-out and the public trust would both be hampered without federal involvement.

Paradoxically, Sessions was arguing that the federal government had no place in telling local law enforcement how to reform, and simultaneously, telling the officials in Baltimore that they were wrong about the path they laid out with the Obama administration in negotiating the consent decree.
Gores concerns were also not shared by any of the public who showed up to comment. Indeed the handful of voices who didnt support the consent decree at the public hearing did so because they found it not strong enough.

All this paperwork and all this stuff yall doing is just so they can get federal money to keep on doing what they are doing, said Marcella Hill with her voice breaking. Like Carter-Willis, Hills son was shot and killed by BPD. Nothing is going to change the attitude and the personality of [the police] until someone goes to jail.

The many fractures

On Friday, Justice James Bredar approved the agreement over the objections of the Department of Justice. It would be extraordinary for the court to permit one side to unilaterally amend an agreement already jointly reached and signed, the judge wrote. Now it is time to enter the decree and thereby require all involved to get to work on repairing the many fractures so poignantly revealed by the record.

Thats good news for advocates who want to see police reform initiatives struck in the Obama era survive the Trump administration. Many saw the DoJs attempt to wriggle out of the Baltimore consent decree as a trial balloon for trying to back out of older agreements that are already in place with other cities. But in what has become a minor theme of the Trump presidency, its possible, if not likely, that federal judge rulings like Bredars will stymie future attempts in place.

Generally speaking, to modify a consent decree you have to demonstrate that circumstances have changed, so I think a lot of judges are going to be skeptical if DoJ says Weve completed this review and turns out everything is fine in these departments, said Christy Lopez, a former DoJ official during the Obama administration and the leader of the team that produced the departments investigation into the Ferguson Police Department.

It may not be that blatant or easy but what this does signal, is that when monitors come in and say Hey, [the police department] is not there yet or Hey, they need to do this to make this thing work, DoJ is not going to have their back on that. DoJ is not going to be on the side of reform any more. And that can have a tremendous influence, Lopez told the Guardian.

Sessions has claimed that his department remains committed to reform in Baltimore and elsewhere, but the language used in the memo explicitly questions the role of the federal government in that reform, and seems to question the premise that many of the reforms rest on that systemic discrimination is endemic to certain departments.

The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe, the Sessions memo from Monday reads.

If they want to talk about actions of a few bad apples, then yes, it is clear that some police officers are more likely to use force and much more likely to commit misconduct than others, said Sam Sinyangwe, an activist and data scientist with Campaign Zero. Almost never are they held accountable though. We need to put in place systems and structures that can ensure accountability, and those are the types of things that these consent decrees are trying to produce, and that are now being undermined.

As for Carter-Willis, shes just glad judge Bredar heard her appeal and decided to move ahead. It would restore my trust, she paused, somewhat But im still going to be vigilant. Im still always going to be watching. Im still keeping an eye on them not just for my grandchildren, but for my great-grandchildren.

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Trying to atone, Georgetown University accused of excluding slave descendants

15 days ago

The descendants of 272 slaves sold in 1838 say they have been left out of the process, and told the schools chairman: Nothing about us without us

The president of a resulting university attempting atonement for profiting from 19 th century slaves was publicly confronted by their descendants on Thursday and told: Nothing about us without us.

John DeGioia, chairperson of Georgetown University in Washington, had just given a speech in which he pledged to make a formal apology for the 1838 sale of 272 slaves and give preference in admissions to their descendants.

But then a group of descendants, who complain that they have been left out of the process and rushed to the event after not receiving invitations, rose from their seats and joined DeGioia at the front of the universitys historic Gaston hall.

Polite but firm, Joe Stewart said he objected to an earlier comment by the Rev David Collins, chairperson of the universitys working group on the issue, that the faces of the slaves were invisible and would have to be imagined.

One of the working group said what was missing from this scenario was the faces of the slaves, Stewart told. Here are the faces. These are the faces. Here are the direct descendants of the 272.

Standing alongside him, Karran Harper Royal then read a joint declaration on behalf of the members of more than 300 descendants, who are located in Louisiana, Maryland and elsewhere.

Stewart thanked DeGioia and his squad for their efforts. But he continued: Our stance is that all of this evolved from the ache and suffering of the 272 people we talked about and we are those faces and our posture is: nothing about us without us.

If reconciliation is gonna take place as it has to, it needs to start at home and you dont start reconciling by alienating.

Stewart, a retired Kelloggs employee from Battle Creek, Michigan, added: We want a partnership. We are not interested in conflict, we are not talking reparations, were talking about how this university can be an asset to the world in healing some ache and healing racism that is just destroying our society, our one human family.

DeGioia stood with head bowed respectfully throughout the comments and joined in the applause of audience, then thanked Stewart for his attendance and trust. We know we cant do our best run alone, the president told, promising to engage the descendants in the design of a memorial and help them tracing long lost family members.

The incident was a stark reminder of the gap between reconciliation as an abstract notion and a flesh-and-blood reality. The presentation had included a glossy video with uplifting music celebrating the work of the 16 -member panel, whose report operates to 19,000 terms over 102 pages. Gaston Hall itself, with its elaborately painted walls, stained glass windows and wood cornicing is named after William Gaston, the colleges first student, who owned numerous slaves but also supported the abolition of slavery.

DeGioia met several families of descendants this summer. He said he accepted the panels call for the university, run by the Roman Catholic Jesuit order, to dedicate a full apology, and that this will draw upon the resources of our Catholic tradition and offer a mass of reconciliation in which we will seek forgiveness. He expressed hope this step could begin the journey of reconciliation, an ongoing journey.

The 18,000 -student university will create an institute to study the history of slavery and its legacies. A new department of African American studies will enroll its first students this autumn.

Georgetown will also rename two buildings, one after Isaac, the enslaved man whose name is the first mentioned in documents of the sale, the other for Anne Marie Becraft, a free African American woman who founded local schools for black girls in the Georgetown neighbourhood in 1827.

The builds had previously borne the name of presidents who supervised the 1838 marketing for $115,000, or approximately $3.3 m in todays dollars, to pay off debts. The 272 slaves were sent from Jesuit plantations in Maryland to Louisiana, where they labored under dreadful conditions, and families were broken up, according to the report.

DeGioia announced that the university will give their descendants the same admissions predilection as the children of faculty, staff and alumni. But he stopped short of promising the full scholarships that some have called for.

Even so, the measures go further than those taken by other American universities such as Harvard, Brown, Princeton and the University of North Carolina that are coming to terms with their past association with slavery.

The most common response that I received was, I had no idea the Jesuits had slaves, DeGioia told of the moment he announced his scheme a year ago. There is a disconnect between what is known and what is alive to us, alive in a way in which we understand ourselves, our history and our university.

He added: As their home communities and as individuals, we cannot do our best work if we refuse to take ownership of such a crucial component of our history.

The working group told all of the earliest buildings on campus were probably built with slave labor and the universitys reliance on slaves ran further than initially believed.

Royal, 53, an education advocate from New Orleans, welcomed the attention to the issue but felt excluded. Im fairly bittersweet, she said in an interview. Im glad something is happening but I look forward to something happening with us.

Fighting back tears, she added: We dont even have a seat up front. We were not invited, but we came anyway.

Royal told: An apology is absolutely meaningful but we really want to forge partnership agreements of working together towards mending and reconciliation. That must continue to be done with all of us as equals.

Sandra Green Thomas, a special projects director for the city of New Orleans, told of the report: It had a lot of very nice symbolic gestures in it but there were some things that I, including with regard to, and other descendants were go looking for that were absent.

I think its difficult for them to build conclusions about reconciliation and how best to reconcile with the group of people and organization when theyre not including the people who were affected by that organization and were, quite frankly, enslaved by that institution.

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Conspiracy theoreticians- in the Oval Office and out of it- await release of JFK files

16 days ago

Kennedy assassination documents are to be released on Thursday. The weary witnes of experts cannot dampen the ardor of the individuals who say Oswald didnt do it

” What happened in the window is not true ,” said Ron Washington, holding a publication containing grisly autopsy photographs of the 35 th president of the United States.” It was only a decoy. Here’s the evidence .”

John F Kennedy was killed on 22 November 1963, about 15 m( 50 ft) from where we were standing on Friday, underneath the sixth-floor window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired- or didn’t, depending on your point of view.

Washington has been on the occurrence for 27 years and comes to Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas to sell conspiracy theory literature to tourists outside the former Texas School Book Depository, which is now a JFK museum.

” I believe in the truth and evidence indicates, indicates, Oswald’s innocent ,” he said, gesturing towards the nearby grassy hill.” Try to understand that what happened in the window was only a decoy to draw the attention away from the gunman behind the fence .”

The imminent release of thousands of documents regarding the assassination is expected to shine at the least a faint light on the government’s investigations, possible its relation with Oswald and his foreign trip-ups, including a visit to Mexico City a few weeks before the shooting.

In 1992- the year after Oliver Stone’s JFK inspired fresh interest in the roles of US intelligence agencies in the case- Congress ordered the files to be released from the National Repository no later than 25 years from the date of the law’s enactment. That deadline is Thursday.

The Texas School Book Repository, from where Lee Oswald shot John Kennedy( window bottom right)- or not, as the case may be. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Thousands of documents were published online in July and historians and researchers eagerly await the final batch. Anyone foreseeing a stunning revelation can, however, expect to be disappointed. More likely are insights and background information that might help build a fuller picture of the actions, methods and knowledge of key protagonists and agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

” We would like greater detail associated with things that are relevant to President Kennedy’s life and would help us understand who his adversaries may have been and for what reason he would have been viewed as an adversary to powerful components within the national security establishment ,” said Alan Dale, an administrator for several assassination websites.

” A plenty of our focus for decades has been: who was Lee Oswald, what was he engaged in, what did he think he was engaged in, and is there any reason to be concerned that maybe the truth about his story has been concealed from all of us for all of these years ?”

This is not a community with much faith in governmental transparency at the best of hours, let alone in a government that, faced with a 25 -year deadline, has procrastinated until the last moments over the release of information on events that occurred 54 years ago.

” They invite the scepticism of anyone that’s serious about the historical experience of the United States ,” said Dan Hardway, a researcher for the 1977 US House select committee on assassinations,” which I think is much more serious than any wild conspiracy hypothesis. There are very serious scholars, very serious researchers that have real questions and they are questions that should be answered and for which there should be answers in the records.

” By repressing those things they invite continued scepticism which taints not just the JFK investigation but much of the stance towards government. How is democracy anything but a joke if it’s being run by people who don’t even let us know what they’re doing ?”

The wild card is the conspiracy theorist in the Oval Office. Donald Trump has the power to keep files secret for reasons of national security. His political career was energised by his fact-free assertion that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and so ineligible to be president. In May last year, he preposterously claimed that the father of a rival Republican, Ted Cruz, was insured with Oswald shortly before Kennedy’s death.

Trump tweeted on Saturday:” Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened .” That left open the possibility that the CIA and FBI could ask for some to be withheld or redacted. The National Archive did not respond to a request for comment.

” Trump’s tweet seems noncommittal ,” told Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which operates an extensive digital archive.” And it’s clear the CIA is lobbying him to withhold some files, including but not necessarily limited to CIA correspondence with the Assassination Records Review Board[ created in 1992 ]. I think it’s past time they just release these in full .”

Certain tax records are among the documents unlikely to see daylight, Bradford told, adding:” I’m also concerned about what might fall through the cracks among the voluminous define of currently redacted documents, including important reports related to CIA surveillance of Oswald in Mexico City- these might shed further light on what many believe to be phony planted proof implicating Castro .”

‘ There is no other gunman ‘

Hugh Aynesworth, a Dallas Morning News reporter at the time, was the only person to witness Kennedy’s assassination, Oswald’s arrest and his murder by Jack Ruby. He has dedicated much of his life to analyse the events, becoming a leading authority.

Over a plate of nachos at a Mexican restaurant a couple of miles north of the plaza, the 86 -year-old sighed when asked about the ongoing appeal of theories at the more lurid end of the spectrum.

” “Were not receiving” other gunman ,” he said.” I guarantee it. Who in the world would like to expose, quote,’ the real narrative’ more than me? I’ve been involved since the minute it happened, every step of the style .”

Lee Harvey Oswald, suspected assassin of President Kennedy, winces as he is shot to death by nightclub owned Jack Ruby on 24 November 1963. Photograph: Bob Jackson/ AP

This may be the final document dump but a sense of closure is too much to expect. Social media and the internet, Aynesworth said, have helped ga wild notions. He logs on to Facebook from time to time.

” I consider some of the strangest things on there ,” he said.” Things that I thought were solved in the 60 s, coming around again with another generation. It’s more fun to believe in conspiracies .”

The truth behind official obfuscation, Aynesworth believes, is prosaic:” It’s that old game, save your ass. You make mistakes hoping nobody’ll notification, and if you can throw out a document or two to make sure, you do it. It’s horrible but that’s the way government agencies work in most countries, some more than here, some less. It’s in their makeup: cover up, deny .”

Back at the plaza, as vehicles passed over two green Xs taped on Elm Street that unofficially mark the places where Kennedy was struck, Arthur Ramm, a 68 -year-old visiting from Newcastle for a guitar depict, listened to Washington’s spiel, has reviewed and considered the publication and took out his wallet.

” I think there’s too much controversy regarding all the evidence and it seems to me[ Oswald] might have been set up ,” he told.” But it’s pros and cons, you really have to gather everything in perspective and then make a decision. But I think he may have just been set up .”

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Trump praises Kim on Fox& Friends: ‘I want my people to do the same’

18 days ago

President called Northern korean leader a strong head and said Obama had been essentially ready to go to war with the country

An” antsy and ” Donald Trump reportedly attempted to bringing his summit with Kim Jong-un of North Korea forward by a day, asking aides after arriving in Singapore last Sunday:” We’re here now. Why can’t we just do it ?”

The one-day summit, aimed at reducing the threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, went ahead as planned on Tuesday. But on Thursday night, citing two people” familiar with preparations for the event “, the Washington Post said the president’s impatience and a “tense” personnel meeting with North Korean officials left” left some aides fearful that the entire summit might be in peril “.

In a Friday morning interview on the White House lawn with Fox& Friends, meanwhile, Trump risked provoking critics when he said the North Korean dictator was ” the strong head” of his country.

” He speaks and his people sit up at attention ,” Trump told.” I want my people to do the same .”

The president also claimed his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, had been” essentially ready to go to war with North Korea”, and claimed to have “solved” the problem of the nuclear menace from Pyongyang.

The Post quoth” people familiar with the talks” in reporting how Trump’s request to move the summit was parried by senior members of his government. “Ultimately,” the Post wrote,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders persuaded Trump to stick with the original scheme, arguing that the president and his team could use the time to prepare .”

” They also ,” the report said,” advised him that he might sacrifice wall-to-wall television coverage of his summit if he abruptly moved the long-planned date to Monday in Singapore, which would be Sunday night in the United States .”

On Friday Trump’s remarks- and a video statement issued later- had to compete for TV attention with the president’s fierce criticism of a Department of Justice report, the FBI and its former director James Comey; the jailing of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort; and the president’s announcement of tariffs against China, inspiring retaliatory measures from Beijing.

Trump’s preparation for the meeting with Kim was long a point of contention. In May, after North Korea criticised his vice-president, Mike Pence, Trump said the summit was cancelled. He later said his approach was not about preparation but” about position”, then told a press conference in Canada he would know ” within the first minute” if the summit would be a success. After satisfying Kim, he told reporters he and the dictator” got to know each other well in a very restricted period of time “.

The Trump-Kim summit has been widely criticised in the US, in most portion for the failure to secure written commitment to North Korean denuclearisation, which the Trump administration has repeatedly demanded. Trump told Fox on Friday” it’s in the agreement, it says’ he will denuclearise'” after a summit from which” we get everything “. Sanctions on North Korea would be” off when we’re sure there’s no more nuclear”, he said.

In fact, the agreement tells merely that North Korea” commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula “. Pompeo this week angrily told reporters the performance agreement did not contain all that was agreed in Singapore. In his video statement on Friday, Trump insisted:” This is the beginning of the process towards denuclearisation of North Korea.

” I sometimes tell,’ the de-nuking of North Korea’ and those are beautiful terms “.

Play Video

Northern korean TV airs awkward moment between Trump and military official- video

In Singapore, Trump also signalled a major concession to Pyongyang when he said he would cancel US-South Korean military exercises– to the astound of South Korea and the US defense department.

The Post report also said Trump laughingly praised North Korean state TV, joking” that even … Fox News was not as lavish in its praise “. Footage of the president saluting a Northern korean general has also been widely criticised, as has Trump’s apparent dismissal of human rights concerns. The chairman repeatedly praised the North Korean leader for being” tough “.

Trump told Fox on Friday:” He’s the head of a country, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone believe anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same .” He afterward told a reporter he had been “kidding”. The reporter didn’t” understand satire”, he said.

Speaking to Fox, Trump also said:” When I was talking to President Obama, he was essentially ready to go to war with North Korea. I did ask him:’ Have you spoken to him ?’ He goes:’ No .’ I told:’ You think it would be a good notion to speak to him, perhaps? OK ?'”

Speaking to reporters, Trump said Obama told him North Korea’s atomic weapon were the” most dangerous problem” facing the US.” I have solved that problem ,” Trump said.” Now we’re getting it memorialized and all but that problem is largely solved .”

He also said he had given Kim” a very direct number” which meant the despot could” call me if he has any difficulty “.

” People are shocked ,” the president told, boasting about talks that followed abuse and threats between Washington and Pyongyang.” They believed Trump was going to get in, he’s going to start throwing bombs all over the place. It’s actually the opposite .”

Asked about his reluctance to criticise Kim’s human rights record, he said:” You know why? Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon to destroy you and your family .”

Trump also told Fox of his request for the return of remains of” likely 7,500″ US soldiers killed in the Korean war, which he claimed was already making outcomes. He told again that “parents” of such soldiers had appealed to him.

The Korean war took place between 1950 and 1953, which would build the survival of any parents of soldiers killed in the war highly unlikely.

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Inside the sprawling, controversial $500 m Museum of the Bible

21 days ago

The museum conceived by the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission

It is a museum of biblical proportions- and it is stirring disputes to match.

Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible expense half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every poster, considering every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.

But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collection. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire chairwoman of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religion objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s place: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums- including the National Museum of Natural history, which has exhibits on dinosaurs and human evolution– and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.

The US Capitol is seen from the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC on Wednesday. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

Gaining a sneak preview the coming week amid workers in hard hats, the Guardian passed through giant bronze “Gutenberg Gates” that framed the entrance withhand-carved letters spelling out a Latin quote from Genesis( the gates even have their own Twitter account ). Inside the main atrium there is the obligatory gift shop, where cuddly animals are already on the shelves- presumably a reference to Noah’s Ark- and a “children’s experience” room where young Samsons can push column and stimulate them collapse.

Visitors- admission is free, though a donation of $15 is suggested- will each be given a digital guide on which new information is triggered each time they approach a gallery or artifact. High above them in the bright, airy atrium of what used to be a refrigerating warehouse and design centre is a 140 ft” digital ceiling” proving biblical images, including church frescos.

Upstairs, there is a floor devoted to the historical and cultural impact of the Bible, including on America, bound to be closely scrutinised for any hints of political bias. Among the Europeans who sailed across the Atlantic, a display panel says, were” many English dissenters trying religion freedom. Each group brought its own version of the Bible, and some professed intentions to convert Native Americans to Christian beliefs “.

The main lobby of the Museum of The Bible. Photo: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

There is a scale remake of the Liberty Bell , which is inscribed with scripture, and an account that many settlers seeking independence from Britain described inspiration from the Bible, especially Moses,” who led his people out of bondage to a land of autonomy “.

With independence and the presidency of George Washington, the tradition of swearing the oath of office on a Bible began. A surge of evangelical arrivals in the late 18 th century helped renew devotion to the Bible and ignite a campaign to abolish bondage, the narrative continues.” Southern slaveholders, however- some of them also involved in the revivals- interpreted the Bible as affirming slavery .” Each side in the civil war” espoused the Bible to justify its cause “.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are quoted and Charles Darwin gets a mention.” In 1925, John Scopes, a high school teacher in Tennessee, was charged with infringing a country statute that proscribed teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution ,” an exhibit countries, in a reference to the infamous” Monkey Trial“, which, it tells,” placed the Bible in the center of an intensive national debate between traditional and more progressive interpretings of the Bible and modern science “.

More unexpectedly, a display on the Bible’s influence around the world makes claims for links between science and the Bible and contains statues of Galileo Galilei, whose assert that the earth revolved around the sunlight was challenged by the church, Isaac Newton, a dedicated student of the Bible , and George Washington Carver, who rose from slavery to become a scientist, botanist and discoverer and considered the Bible as a guide to the natural world.

Likely to raise eyebrows, an info panel countries:” Are the Bible and science mutually exclusive? There is broad agreement today among historians that modern science owes a great deal to the biblical worldview. The notion that the natural world is orderly springs from the Bible. As the biochemist and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin said, the conviction that’ the universe is governed by a single God … seems to be the historical foundation for modern science ‘.”

A full-size jail cell allows visitors to reflect on the biblical roots of the western notion of justice. A heap of blackened and charred Bibles illustrates how the book has been burned, for example in China’s Cultural Revolution . Various multimedia displays depict the influence of the Bible on manner, movies, literature and the visual arts. A room with a giant wraparound screen called ” Bible Now” promises” a spectacular live-feed of global data “.

Upstairs, the floorspace is divided roughly proportionately between Old and New Testament. Merely the latter was available to view the coming week, and most striking was ” The World of Jesus of Nazareth”- an unapologetically Disney-style walk-through recreation of Nazareth two millennia ago, complete with stone walls, trees( each foliage made by hand ), dwellings with period cuisine on dining tables, heaps of grapes and baskets full of olives and even a temple. Three actors in period dres will interact with visitors.

Text from an architectural recreation of the publish bed of the first page of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible, near the entrance to the Museum of the Bible. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

The” History of the Bible” title is styled in an Indiana Jones typeface and is expected to house wide-ranging objects including Torah scrolls and 14 th-century illuminated manuscripts- but not the Qur’an or Book of Mormon. The museum has a long-term alliance with the Israel Antiquities Authority .

This week’s preview tour also included a ballroom and 472 -seat theatre( about to host the musical Amazing Grace ), two eateries named Manna and Milk and Honey, a glass-enclosed top floor with the opinions of the Mall and a rooftop garden to be given to biblical plants. Another attraction will be the amusement park-style” Washington Revelations” ride, which purportedly tricks a person’s mind into thinking they are flying over sites bearing scripture such as the US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and supreme court.

But preparations have been far away from smooth. In July this year, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a$ 3m fine and forfeit thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts that the US government alleged were intentionally mislabeled. The artifacts- including up to 300 small clay tablets, bearing inscriptions in the cuneiform script- were reportedly destined for the museum. Green admitted that Hobby Lobby” should have exerted more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled “.

An exhibit at the Museum of the Bible. Photo: Zach Gibson for the Guardian
Organisers contend that the museum is non-partisan , non-sectarian and educational rather than evangelical, appealing to people of all faiths or no religion.
Cary Summers ,~ ATAGEND its president, told:” We want this museum to be enriching and engaging to all people. To that aim, we have tapped many of the world’s resulting intellectuals with expertise across many topics and faith traditions, including those with Jewish, Protestant and Catholic proficiency and perspectives, to help us craft the storylines and narrative themes of this museum .”

But that is not how it began. According to media reports, its first nonprofit filing in 2010 declared that its mission was ” to bring to life the living word of God, to tell its compelling narrative of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible “.

By 2013, this had been watered down to:” We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible. We invite Biblical exploration through museum exhibits and scholarly pursuits .”

Green, the Washington Post reported , has promoted a public school curriculum based on the Bible as a factual historical text, while Summertimes consulted for the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which teaches creationism as fact, with exhibits depicting dinosaurs and humen living side by side on a 6,000 -year-old Earth.

Hobby Lobby calls itself a” biblically founded business” and is closed on Sundays. The Green family has been criticised for objecting to having to provide employees with contraceptives for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. In 2014 it was granted an exemption to the mandatory contraceptives by the supreme court, a landmark ruling that widened religious rights to some corporations.

Jacques Berlinerblau , a prof of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University in Washington, said Green” has a view of the role of religion in public life. Maybe people should know that before stepping in. The museum has to be very clear about its objectives. I think there’s a lot of misdirection and even duplicity regarding its goals and theological premises. There is something at the core of this museum that has to enshrine what evangelical Christians do .”

Berlinerblau, author of The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, set the museum’s place in the context of the rise of the conservative Christian motion over the past four decades; Vice-President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian , has been invited to the opening ceremony on 17 November. Nine in 10 members of Congress describe themselves as Christians, compared with seven in 10 American adults who say the same, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call.

” If you are building a $500 bn museum close to the most powerful deliberative body in the world, you have to understand the optics. This edifice could represent the coming out, again, of evangelical America. I can assure you the museum is going to become a convening platform for conservative Christian activism .”

Atheists, he added, would find the museum” laughable and deplorable “.

Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists , an activist group that promotes the separation of religion from government, told:” With many of these religion’ museums ‘, the tendency is to dress up evangelism and creed with a veneer of academia to lend an undeserved cape of neutrality.

” I don’t want to prematurely pass judgment on the museum without having find it, but based on previous statements by the Green family, it seems clear that there will be at least some editorialising in favour of the backers’ religion views, rather than a serious look at the historic accuracy( and lack thereof) of the Bible .”

Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition for America, added:” Steve Green perfectly has the right to open a Bible museum. That’s of no fear to us. What we would be worried about, as we’ve seen with the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is that he’ll try to get taxpayer money to pay for it.

” By claiming that the museum is intended to’ train’ rather than evangelise, it’s possible that Green is hoping the museum will become a field trip destination for public schools. That would be unconstitutional. Green was already fined$ 3m after he was caught illegally smuggling artifacts into the country for this museum. Hopefully, he learned his lesson .”

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