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‘Unorthodox’ Team Talks Cultural Impact Of Netflix Limited Series And Shining A Respectful Light On The Satmar Community Deadline Virtual House -…

Posted By on June 30, 2020

In the four-part limited seriesUnorthodox, show creator Anna Winger tells a story about a young woman from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn named Esty (Shira Haas), who leaves her arranged marriage and travels to Berlin, not to escape, but to find out who she really is. The series, which debuted in March, is inspired by Deborah Feldmans bestselling memoir and tells a very specific story. During a Q&A after a screening of the first episode at the Deadline Virtual House, Winger said that it has had a significant impact across the globe.

One thing that has been incredible is how people in so many parts of the world have responded to the show, said Winger. In particular, people in parts of the world we havent expected. She adds that the show has crossed over barriers of faith and culture in places as far as Saudia Arabia, India and Latin America. We never imagined we can connect in that way.

Winger was joined by actress Haas as well as series director Maria Schrader during one of two Deadline Virtual House panels for Unorthodox.The other featured costume designer Justine Seymour, composer Antonio Gambale, production designer Silke Fischer and cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler.

Speaking to the impact of the show, Schrader said We considered ourselves this small German showI was completely overwhelmed by all the reactions. Even though the director isnt on social media, Haas told her that she was getting thousands of messages a day praising the show.

A lot of my conversations with Maria was me convincing her that [the reactions] were true! said Haas. I had to give her proof! She added that if she could read all the messages she could, but it would take all day. I see a lot of them and I am very grateful.

Winger, Haas and Scharder spoke about merging Feldmans story and TV storytelling to bring an authentic nuance and respect to the Hasidic culture. This was also apparent in the music, production design and costume design.

Nothing has ever been done specifically on the Satmar community before we did so I had to be really vigilant about being respectful between the dress codes, said Seymour. From there, grew character development and a collaboration with the entire Unorthodox team.

Unorthodox was adapted by Winger and Alexa Karolinski. The series, which is shot in Yiddish and English, also stars Jeff Wilbusch and Amit Rahav. It is produced by Henning Kamm at REAL FILM Berlin and marks the first project produced by Wingers Studio Airlift.

Watch both panels in the video above.

Excerpt from:

'Unorthodox' Team Talks Cultural Impact Of Netflix Limited Series And Shining A Respectful Light On The Satmar Community Deadline Virtual House -...

Black Folks Have Good Reason Not To Trust A COVID Vaccine – The Shadow League

Posted By on June 30, 2020

The Makings of a Scapegoat

Recently it was announced that the first COVID-19 vaccine trials had begun taking place in South Africa and in Brazil, and I almost busted a gasket at the realization that Black people the world over had once again be used as medical buffers for White people.

The duping began very early in the coronavirus crisis, when memes and news articles from unreputable outlets seemed to proliferate the social media with articles claiming to quote an official regarding the immunity of Black people to COVID.

From there, the meandering rollercoaster of misinformation then tipped in the opposite direction, saying that Black people wereactually MOREsusceptible to COVID due to underlying conditions, such as heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes and smoking.

From the very beginning of the crisis, a student of history could see how the African American community would be hardest hit from a statistical perspective.

Back in March, The Shadow League published an article titled As Usual: Blacks on the Frontlines of COVID Fight. In the article I posit that the types of jobs the African American working-class have should also be taken into consideration regarding early high numbers among American Black folk.

To me, it seemed like a logical surmising of the statistics at hand. However, as is the case with almost every domestic malady in society, both contemporary and ongoing, the majority will scapegoat a vulnerable segment of the population and blame them.

As of March 26, there werehundreds of NYPD officers who tested positive for coronavirus.

As of today,there are dozens MTA workers who test positive, as well more educators. By fate, the grisly toll will only be revealed to us in the end. Because of occupation, because of strained finances and the lasting legacy ofmedical racism in Americamany Black and Brown people are at their wits end regarding what the future holds.

From the Romany or Gypsies arrival in Eurasian in the 14thcentury, to multiple Hasidic persecutions throughout the 9th century in Medieval Europe, and todays Black folks in America goes the privilege of being a Calvinismscapegoat for all the ills of the greaterpopulous.

During the 80s and late 90s, when the idiocy of calling it a gay disease became apparent in the increased deaths of Black and Brown heterosexual women and men, the powers that be then began framing it as a morality issues that placed the blame upon the victims instead of the poor public health response from the Oval Office.

In much the same manner, the resurging COVID numbers that began trickling upward early this month, news organization would show photographs and video of mostly young Black people gathered, partied and street raced in locations like Atlanta, Baton Rouge and Miami, Florida.

Famous White People With Big Opinions

Not long afterwards came, mostly from the right via VP Mike Pence, came the knee jerk reaction that Black people were being irresponsible and the demographic upon which vaccine testing should take place.

There is a void of information that has been swept clean by a black hole of ignorance powered by the presence of a veritable doofus in the White House. Naturally, people will want to try to fill that void with what they believe they know. Its a natural human inclination, really.

However, because shes a famous person, and notnecessarily because what shes saying has merit. (It does, by the way.) Heres what she said regarding demographics most in need for any eventual vaccine in an interview with TIME magazine earlier this month.

The first people that need this vaccine are the 60 million health care workers around the world. They deserve to get it before anybody else. Then you start tiering.After health care workers, Gates answered,In the U.S., that would be black people next, quite honestly, and many other people of color. They are having disproportionate effects from COVID-19.

Americas Medical Records

Indeed,its true that Black folk have beendisproportionately affected by the virus, but ghosts of an American medical history past that are calling out to me. Theyre reminding me of Tuskegee, electroshock treatments and brain surgery without anesthesia were common experiments. The horrific gynecological experiments of James Marion Sims on the living flesh of Black women and girls is the most recently revealed but by no means is it unique.

The lingering effects of age old medical racism that supposes Black people feel less pain than Whites, that closes hospitals in the hood, and in the fact that Black women die during child labor more often than White women.

Yes, Black people make up around 40% of coronavirus related deaths at this point, but with both Florida and Texas experiencing record numbers of COVID increase, and improved techniques to treat COVID, it is slightly alarming no one stopped and thought about how American history is the primary reason many Black folk would pass on any American COVID trials.

Our immune systems are no different than those of any of the over 33,000 new COVID cases reported this week, most of whom are from red states. Why dont they run trials in Florida, Texas or Georgia, instead of Detroit, as wasposed by the vice president?

Despite the news, the protests and the videos of Black folks in urban areas behaving as if COVID is a myth, none of this is our fault.

Coronavirus kills African Americans at twice the rate it kills Whites, this is true. But its through no lack of morality, intelligence or heartiness that this afflictionaffects us so, but through preexisting conditions like lack of medical insurance, lack of access to the best doctors, and a general disdain for Black life have far more to do with this grisly toll than anything else, in my opinion.

Again, the states that refused to accept the reality of COVID are largely White and conservative, with record daily numbers being recorded as I type. Wouldnt it just be plain logic to administer any vaccine trial in the current hot zones first rather than go for the easy, historically racist Lets test the n*ggers troupe?

I mean, numbers-wise, more white folks are gonna die of this than Black, despite our historic predisposition to it, because White folks love their rugged American individualism. Florida has had 141,075 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,419 deaths. Judging by the news from Florida, Texas and Arizona, all pro-Trump, these numbers are largely due to societal idiocy and the general absence of even the most rudimentary understanding of science by those in power.

How is that Black peoples fault? What part of that means we should willingly to submit to testing trials or mandatory vaccines?

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Black Folks Have Good Reason Not To Trust A COVID Vaccine - The Shadow League

Rabbi shares final message with east Cobb congregation before retirement –

Posted By on June 29, 2020

When Rabbi Steve Lebows farewell Shabbat to the Kol Emeth congregation was in the planning stages a few months ago, he never envisioned speaking to families seated in lawn chairs scattered throughout the Synagogues parking lot, with every person watching from behind a face mask.

If you want to make God laugh, all you have to do is tell him your plans, the 65-year-old rabbi joked as he walked among his flock before the outdoor service Friday night. My plan was to have a huge service and go out with a big bang, but thats apparently not what God intended.

Lebow, who has served this Marietta congregation for 34 years, is the longest-serving rabbi in the Atlanta area. He retires at the end of June.

I came here in 1986, and there were fewer than 40 families then, he said. Kol Emeth was Cobb Countys second synagogue, and the countys first Reform congregation, he said.

Over the decades, the congregation grew to nearly 1,000 members, he said. The reason I became a rabbi was to work with individuals, to help them find their own spirituality. When you are the rabbi of a very large congregation, much of what you do is corporate responsibilities of governance and fundraising, his least favorite aspect of the job, he said.

The rabbinate is the last profession for generalists, Lebow said. You have to be good with little children. You have to be good with older people. You have to be engaging with teenagers. You must be reachable to people who are married. You have to give good sermons. You have to give good classes. And theres not a single rabbi thats fantastic at everything, said Lebow, who remembered writing a letter applying to a Hebrew college to become a Reform rabbi when he was 8 years old. He still has the letter from the college, informing its youngest-ever applicant that he would first have to graduate college.

Friday nights more casual Shabbat accommodated far fewer families than he hoped for because of social distancing limits. Synagogue members were able to live-stream the service over the internet, so all families, friends and distant relatives could watch from the safety of their homes.

As Lebow walked among the gathering crowd, he had to look close at faces even though hes known many of them for years. Im trying to figure out who everybody is, because I cant recognize them with their masks on, he chuckled.

Sisters Melanie and Morgan and their cousin Sophia Verzosa, all of Marietta, gathered with their rabbi before the service for one last cheer as they had many years before.

We were maybe 2 or 3 when we started doing it, said Melanie, 18. After every service the three of us joined hands with him and we jumped and screamed Team Rabbi as loud as we could. We were being silly and admiring him a lot, she said. We had to do it one more time. We are really going to miss him. Weve known Rabbi Lebow just about our entire lives.

As Lebow eases into retirement, he said he wants to take karate classes and music lessons. I can play the guitar pretty well, but I want to play it really well, he said.

He will serve as rabbi in smaller congregations in Rome and Gainesville. Ill basically be the chief rabbi in North Georgia, he said.

Lebow believes he may have been the first rabbi locally to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony. He has also long fought for the exoneration of Leo Frank, a Jewish man convicted and later lynched in Marietta in 1915 over the death of a teenager in his factory.Many have said Franks trial was conducted unfairly and anti-Semitism played a role in his conviction and death.

Lebow will continue to conduct weddings and funerals for unaffiliated Jews, he said.

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Rabbi shares final message with east Cobb congregation before retirement -

The new holy water Alcohol We’ve gone from drinking to rubbing it on ourselves – The Times of Israel

Posted By on June 29, 2020

I am fascinated by how quickly people adapt their behaviors. The virus has made everyone nervous and willing to do almost anything to change, to get back to the old normal.

For those of us who are Orthodox, we are not about to give up going to minyan. It is engraved in our souls that we must go to shul from childhood until they put us in a box to take us to our graves.

The Bible teaches that praying in a Minyan is getting close to G-d. When we pray in a minyan, G-d does not judge us individually but collectively so that we become much more able to connect to G-d regardless of our sins.

So it was with great pleasure they reopened the synagogues. We only had to change a few minor behaviors. With the change in the behaviors, it was common sense that it was no more dangerous in the synagogue than on the bus or store.

Social distancing in the Synagogue now means that the formerly full synagogue is empty. No one can talk to each other, because no one sits next to each other, so there is no more talking in shul. This behavior of talking in shul was always a sore point in Orthodox shuls where many of the people who come to pray were disturbed by it. There were books written about and many of the bigwigs proclaimed that the reason for everything from the Mashiach not coming to everything negative that happens in the Jewish world, was caused by talking in shul. Well, if it was true or not, there is no more talking in shul, because you would have to yell to talk to someone

Even saying hello in the morning to everyone is frowned on by some people. Like everything else in Judaism, there is a reason for that as well. The Jewish law (Halacha) is that you are supposed to say hello to G-d first before you greet anyone else. Forget the fact that normally the only time you can say hello to anyone is the morning prayer (in the afternoon and evening people rush in and out of the synagogue like a race course). I have always had a problem with this one as I love to greet people with a rousing Boker Tov because there is also a teaching is that you are supposed to great everyone with a smile when you see them. So there is tension between these two teachings.

One of the more fun parts of the old ways were the kiddushes after praying on Saturday mornings and sometimes even Kiddush clubs.

What is a Kiddush club you ask? In between the two morning services (Shacharit and Mussaf), the Torah is read, then the Haftorah and a Rabbis speech. This usually takes at least 20 minutes. Enough time to go outside has some expensive alcohol (and the more expensive the betterthe older single malt scotch at least 18 years old and everyone tried to outdo each other with the most expensive price. Not that anyone can really taste much difference between the brandsof course no one admits this).

And it you didnt have a shot at the Kiddush club, there were usually plenty of bottles at the Kiddush itself. Enough to get good and drunk if you so desired. But all that is gone now. There are no kiddush clubs there are no Kiddushes. Only prayer and no talking. So no one can say that we in shul for any other reason except to connect with G-d.

But wait the Alcohol is not gone! Its just in a different form. The history of hand sanitizer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do note that, when it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus, if soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

And indeed, that is the primary ingredient in hand sanitizer: alcohol. Most hand sanitizers contain anywhere from 60% to 95% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol mixed with water and gels like glycol and glycerin in order to prevent drying out users skin. The resulting product is typically sold in a hand gel or liquid spray under brand names such as Purell or GermX.

But while alcohol has been in use as an antiseptic since the late-1800s least, the exact origins of hand sanitizer are up for debate.

One version of the story points to Lupe Hernandez, a nursing student in Bakersfield, California in 1966, as the inventor of hand sanitizer after combining alcohol and gel for use by doctors in situations where they dont have time to access soap and warm water before treating patients.

However, a recent investigation by the Smithsonian Institution historian Joyce Bedi was unable to turn up any trace of Hernandez, or any evidence of a U.S. patent for hand sanitizer under that name from the 1960s.

Theres also Sterillium, which the German company Hartmann claims was the worlds first marketable alcohol-based hand disinfectant when it hit European shelves in 1965. Its made with glycerin and 75% alcohol.

Still, others trace modern hand sanitizer back to Goldie and Jerry Lippman, the married couple that developed a waterless hand cleaner in 1946 for rubber plant workers who previously used harsh chemicals like kerosene and benzene to remove graphite and carbon black from their hands at the end of their shifts. The product, which they called Gojo (a portmanteau of their names) is a mix of petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and less than 5% alcohol thats still used today by auto mechanics and other workers to clean off substances like grease and oil.

The Lippmans mixed their first batches of Gojo in a washing machine in the basement of Goldies parents Akron, Ohio home, where the couple was living at the time, according to The New Yorker. They put the resulting product in pickle jars and sold it out of the trunk of their car.

Over the ensuing decades, Gojo continued selling their products as industrial cleaners. Then, in 1988, the company invented the hand gel Purell, which consists of 70% ethyl alcohol as its primary ingredient, along with propylene glycol. While Purell is now the worlds best-selling hand sanitizer, it took some time for stores to carry the product that most everyday customers werent really asking for. As such, Gojo did not release Purell onto the consumer market until 1997.

And like the Kiddush club, the more alcohol in the hand sanitizer the better, for killing germs. To watch people in shul take a hit every time they touch something or get called up for an Aliyah (being called to the Torah) is surreal. They feel it is a magic potion that will push off the virus and keep them safe. And they rub it on themselves as if it was holy water. I have no idea whether it will or not, I just couldnt help noticing that the alcohol is not gone, it is now just in another form!

Morty Applebaum had a very unpleasant appointment scheduled with an IRS auditor who had come to review his records. At one point the auditor exclaimed, Mr. Applabaum, we feel that it is a great privilege to be allowed to live and work in the USA. As a citizen you have an obligation to pay taxes, and we expect you to eagerly pay them with a smile.

Oy, thank God, said Morty with a sigh of relief. I thought you were going to want cash.

Yehuda Lave writes a daily (except on Shabbat and Hags) motivational Torah blog at YehudaLave.comLoving-kindness my specialty.Internationally Known Speaker and Lecturer and Author. Self Help through Bible and Psychology. Classes in controlling anger and finding Joy. Now living and working in Israel. Remember, it only takes a moment to change your life. Learn to have all the joy in your life that you deserve!!! There are great masters here to interpret Spirituality. Studied Kabbalah and being a good human being with Rabbi Plizken and Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, my Rabbi. Torah is the name of the game in Israel, with 3,500 years of mystics and scholars interpreting G-D's word. Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement


The new holy water Alcohol We've gone from drinking to rubbing it on ourselves - The Times of Israel

‘There is a sadness, but there’s also a joy’: Phoenix synagogue disbanding after 12 years – AZCentral

Posted By on June 28, 2020

Members of the Merkaz Ha-Iyr congregation.(Photo: David Schwartz/Special for The Republic)

After 12 years of providing an "inclusive" space to celebrate Judaism, Phoenix's Merkaz Ha-Iyrsynagogue is formally disbanding Tuesday.

Two members spoke to The Arizona Republic about their experience building the synagogue in 2008 and raising their children with its teachings, saying they feel nostalgic about its closure but grateful for the foundation it provided their families over the years.

Alan Bayless Feldman's family was among the congregation's founding members.

The 53-year-old told The Republic the founding memberswere looking for a synagogue that was "open-minded, friendly (and) progressive." That meant, for example, embracing interfaith families and welcoming single members without families of their own.

Bayless Feldman said they chose the name Merkaz Ha-Iyr because it translates to "Center of the City," and reflected their desire to foster a "progressive, inclusive synagogue in central Phoenix."

The synagogue was always a humble one, with the congregation initially renting space at a church near Central and Northern avenues to host its services.

Tracy Leonard-Warner, 48, also helped found the synagogue and served as its song leader. Additionally, she taught music, Hebrew and other classes in the synagogue's educational program for children.

Bayless Feldman said membership grew through word of mouth and social media, but that that the synagogue at most had about 50 families.

Leonard-Warner said the synagogue's relatively small size helped create a "tight-knit" community, with bonds that will last long after the congregation's disbandment.

Bayless Feldman agreed, saying what they built extends far beyond the walls of a rented room in a Christian church.

"Everybody just pulled together to create this synagogue, putting our hearts and souls into the effort to make it the kind of Jewish community we all wanted," Bayless Feldman said.

Five years after the synagogue's opening, its inaugural rabbi announced she was leaving the congregation to explore other opportunities on the east coast.

Bayless Feldman said there was talk at that time of disbanding, but that the synagogue's youngest members appealed to their parents and said they wanted Merkaz Ha-Iyr to continue.

Leonard-Warner said she and other parentswere "proud" that their children were so devoted to the synagogue they grew up in, and subsequently put all their effort into finding a rabbiwho was progressive, inclusive and welcoming.

They found it in Rabbi Erica Burech.

On top of having a new rabbi, the congregation also eventually found a new location Shadow Rock United Church of Christ near Eighth Avenue and Thunderbird Road.

The Shadow Rock United Church of Christ sanctuary during Shabbat services.(Photo: Tracy Leonard-Warner/Special for The Republic)

As the years went on, Bayless Feldman and Leonard-Warner said younger members left the congregation to pursue their adultlives and that the synagogue struggled to attract new families to maintain its membership.

Leonard-Warner added that it took a lot of volunteer power to run the synagogue's services and programs, and dwindling membership made that even more difficult.

Earlier this year, Burech announced she was leaving the synagogue. Merkaz President Andy Schwartz announced on May 20 that the board subsequently voted to dissolve the synagogue at the end of the fiscal year.

Leonard-Warner said though it felt like the right decision, it wasn't easy.

"There are emotions, it's sad but ... I think we're all very proud of what we were able to create for our families, and that really, I think was the focus of the congregation, was our kids," she said. "Now that they're kind of out of the house, I don't think we have that same passion that we did before."

Bayless Feldman said there seemed to be an agreement that the congregation had done what it set out to do and that it was a "good point to take steps in another direction."

"There is a sadness, but there's also a joy in looking back and feeling very good about what we created and what my family ultimately got to experience as part of the Merkaz Ha-Iyr Jewish community," he said.

Members of the Merkaz Ha-Iyr congregation form the Star of David with their hands.(Photo: David Schwartz/Special for The Republic)

Leonard-Warner said her two children have a firm foundation in their faith, which she credits to Merkaz Ha-Iyr. Her son is involved with Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University, and her daughter has also been involved with Jewish organizations and hopes to move to Israel for college and to complete military service.0

She said that because the congregation spent so much time building a "perfect" environment, she wants to take her time in finding a new spiritual home, though she acknowledged the ongoing pandemic may extend the length of the search.

And though they may not meet in a formal capacity any longer, both Leonard-Warner and Bayless Feldman said they hope to continue meeting for occasional Shabbat dinners or other Jewish celebrations.

"These are now lifetime friends and not just for our kids, but for us too," Leonard-Warner said. "We definitely gained new friends and families along the way, and like it or not, they're stuck with us."

Reach the reporter at bfrank@arizonarepublic.comor 602-444-8529.Follow her on Twitter @brieannafrank.

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'There is a sadness, but there's also a joy': Phoenix synagogue disbanding after 12 years - AZCentral

Charlotte synagogues call to remove memorial to Confederacys most prominent Jew – The Times of Israel

Posted By on June 28, 2020

JTA Amid the nationwide movement to take down memorials to Confederacy figures, two Charlotte synagogues are calling for the removal of a downtown monument to Judah Benjamin, a Jewish politician who served as a cabinet member for the Confederate government.

The names of the two synagogues, the Reform Temple Beth El and the Conservative Temple Israel, are featured on the gravestone-like monument, though the synagogues never approved of the memorial.

A joint letter from the presidents of both synagogue to their congregations published online last week explains that the memorial, installed in 1948, was the idea of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Both synagogues tried to prevent it but were overruled by local authorities.

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At the time of the monuments installation in 1948 the Daughters of the Confederacy were in an open dispute with the national and state-wide chapters advocating for the monument, while the local chapter leveled antisemitic attacks against our Jewish community. Both congregations removed their support for the monument and the rabbis called for it not to be erected. Unfortunately, the monument which contains both temples names was installed over the objections.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy donated the monument to the City of Charlotte, which resides in the 200 block of South Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte, precisely next to the recent Black Lives Matter art installations.

Our congregations leadership has tried to get the monument removed for many years. Every time we have tried, the citys lawyers have cited North Carolinas laws which prevent the removal of the monument and requires it to be relocated to a similarly prominent location. There has never been the will to change or challenge the laws. So, we are forced to once again ask the age-old Jewish question: If not now, when?

Temple Beth Els senior rabbi, Asher Knight, discussed the contentious history behind the monuments installation in a YouTube video uploaded last week. Knight echoed the letter in saying the two synagogues have tried unsuccessfully over the years to have the monument removed.

A large synagogue in Northern California recentlyremoved Benjamins name, along with some other prominent Jewish names, from a memorial in its religious school.

Continued here:

Charlotte synagogues call to remove memorial to Confederacys most prominent Jew - The Times of Israel

Doc who coined term flatten the curve opines on when US synagogues should open – The Times of Israel

Posted By on June 28, 2020

If youve ever heard the phrase flatten the curve, you have Dr. Howard Markel to thank. Following the 2002-2004 SARS pandemic, the George W. Bush administration contacted Markel to help establish national response guidelines for future global outbreaks.

The Jewish-American medical expert helped influence policies that remain in place for todays coronavirus response, but arguably Markels most popular legacy is the term flattening the curve. It means stretching the time frame of contagion to limit the number of cases and buy time for a response. Markel said he coined the phrase through an unlikely scenario.

I was having some very bad, gooey noodle dish, Markel said. One flat noodle was bigger [than the others]. It flattened the curve.

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Markel is the George E. Wantz, M.D. Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. The medical doctor has written extensively about infectious diseases in history including in his first book, Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892, as well as a subsequent book, When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed.

In a year-long effort for the Bush administration, Markel studied the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic, which is generally agreed to have come in two waves, with the second deadlier than the first. He focused on response measures called non-pharmaceutical interventions, or NPIs ways to isolate people such as social distancing and lockdowns.

Dr. Howard Markel advised president George W. Bushs administration on pandemic response. (Courtesy)

Studying 43 cities across the United States, he found that the most effective cities used NPIs earlier, implemented a layered system and acted over a longer period of time. However, 23 cities lifted their measures too early, and overall saw their cases rise.

Markels findings have been implemented not only in the US, but elsewhere in the world, including Mexico during its response to the 2009 avian flu pandemic.

Today, Markel is addressing the COVID-19 crisis through webinars, public interviews and op-eds. His ideas on NPIs have received praise from the Democratic governor of his home state of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. He said he speaks with Whitmer often and supports her policies. (He said the Trump administration has not contacted him.)

Whitmer recently extended Michigans state of emergency order until July 16, which allows the governor to moderate the states reopening. The aggressive measures we took at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have worked to flatten the curve, but there is still more to be done to prevent a second wave, Whitmer said in a press conference last week.

Markel recognizes that social distancing and lockdowns can have a disruptive effect on society and recent months have witnessed members of the public breaking quarantines by participating in mass protests.

Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, April 15, 2020 (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Earlier this year, anti-lockdown protestors held demonstrations, including inside the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, where armed demonstrators denounced Whitmer. More recently, people have taken to the streets for a different reason to protest police brutality and racism after the death of George Floyd.

The national mood seems reflected in a policy shift. While each state decides its own procedures and roll out, all 50 states are currently in some form of reopening, even as 27 states are recording new daily rises in cases, and some are reversing or pausing their plans, according to The New York Times. Houses of worship, including synagogues, have been the subject of heated debate ever since closures began.

Its a tough call but given how most states have gathering bans on 10 or more people, it seems that in person [prayer] at synagogues [is] not going to happen anytime soon, Markel said. Fortunately, we have such wonderful internet technologies like Zoom that allow us to connect and attendshul [synagogue] virtually if not actually.

When The Times of Israel asked Markel what would be a good reference point for the country to reopen, he replied, Thats the million-dollar question. We dont know. Yet he said that less than 50 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people seems like a good number, a good threshold.

COVID-19 is still circulating around the country, around the world, he said. Not everybody is getting tested There are still 320 million Americans who have not caught it yet, who are still susceptible. If you open up a state, and people go out when the virus is still circulating, theres a risk more people will get it.

Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta. (Courtesy)

A recent US opinion poll shows that most Americans are not ready to return to places of worship. Only 36 percent of Americans, including 40 percent of Americans who belong to a religious tradition, say they would feel comfortable attending an in-person worship service, according to an American Enterprise Institute survey released this week. According to Religion News, 56% of those who reported their congregations offered in-person worship in the past week still chose not to go.

But it is harder for congregations that strictly follow halacha, or Jewish law, and cannot use technology to offer an online Shabbat services, for example. National organizations such as the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel have released guidelines on reopening that stress the need for case-by-case decisions, but allow for reopening when the coronavirus outbreak is in abeyance.

In Georgia, which was among the earliest states to relax restrictions, a group of Atlanta-based Orthodox rabbis drafted an additional set of guidelines. As a result, some congregations in Atlanta have moved toward in-person worship.

Most of the Orthodox synagogues in Atlanta intend on having indoor services this coming Shabbat, Rabbi Yossi New, regional Chabad director of Georgia and head of Congregation Beth Tefillah, wrote in an email. Masks and social distancing will be required. The larger synagogues require pre-registration.

Rabbi Ilan Feldman of the Orthodox Congregation Beth Jacob told The Times of Israel in an email that we are back in the building, with social distancing, masks, other restrictions (bring your own siddur [prayer book], no bathroom access, doors propped open).

In contrast, The Temple, a historic Atlanta Reform synagogue, remains virtual, although it has a plan to gradually open up, with safety being a top priority, noted its senior rabbi, Peter Berg.

A socially-distant outdoor prayer quorum at Atlantas Congregation Beth Jacob allows the mourners kaddish to be said; the synagogues rabbi, Ilan Feldman, did not attend as members over the age of 65 were discouraged from attending. (Courtesy)

Whether looking to reopen or staying closed for now, rabbis often cited the halachic principle of pikuach nefesh, or the importance of saving a life above all else.

I think for synagogues all over the world, safety and health is the single No. 1 priority, Berg said, noting that at his synagogue, we have learned how to create a series of sacred constructs without having people gather in the synagogue in-person.

Rabbi Peter Burg of The Temple in Atlanta. (Courtesy)

Another state that reopened on the earlier side is Oklahoma, which is now seeing rising numbers of new coronavirus cases. Oklahoma made headlines on June 20 for a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa that contrasted with numerous public health guidelines. Oklahoma City rabbis have indicated that they are not rushing to reopen.

Oklahoma Citys Reform Temple Bnai Israel is keeping its services virtual. Its board has approved a reopening plan, and it is reintroducing programs for youth. Yet, Rabbi Vered Harris wrote in a recent email, We will continue to livestream our services with congregants participating from their homes, and we expect most of our congregation to stay on-line even when the sanctuary is open.

In a conversation last month, Oklahoma City Chabad Rabbi Ovadia Goldman said that he has allowed individuals to come in for a hot meal or a delivery while his center is closed, and he offers Shabbat kits for pick-up outside. Beyond that, he adopts a wait-and-see policy depending on data.

In Kansas, Rabbi Doug Alpert, president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City, has seen his Reform congregation of Kol Ami hold a recent outdoor service in solidarity with a peaceful protest supporting the African-American community. Otherwise, the congregation is staying virtual.

Kansas is the home state of two Baptist churches that successfully sued in federal court to hold in-person worship for gatherings beyond 10 people. Alpert described the position of these churches as ill-advised.

Rabbi Vered Harris of Oklahoma Citys Temple Bnai Israel, left, displays hand sanitizer used during a drive-thru Lag Bomer service with music director Linda Matorin Sweenie, May 2020. (Courtesy)

Atlanta-based The Temples Berg cited instances in other states when worshipers contracted the coronavirus after a church reopened. In Arkansas, 35 of 92 attendees at a rural church from March 6 to 11 became infected, and three died, according to the CDC.

It certainly seems were opening up far too quickly and I think there are going to be repercussions for it, Berg said. Theres no question we want to figure out how to do this, but it has to be done at the right pace, using the numbers and statistics provided by experts.

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Doc who coined term flatten the curve opines on when US synagogues should open - The Times of Israel

Jewish teens help successful effort to abolish Oaklands school police force – The Times of Israel

Posted By on June 28, 2020

J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA The school board in Oakland, California, has unanimously voted to abolish the districts police force in the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality with some urging by teens at a city synagogue.

A large contingent of young people from Temple Beth Abraham, a Conservative congregation, was involved in pushing the board to adopt what was called the George Floyd Resolution, named for the Black man whose death in May at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked the demonstrations.

The resolution, which was passed Wednesday, will reallocate funds to provide social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners and other mental or behavioral health professionals, as the budget supports, to meet the needs of students.

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It was created by the Black Organizing Project, an Oakland-based group that has fought to reform the citys school district policies around policing. The organization had been trying to eliminate the districts police force since 2011, but protests sparked by Floyds death injected new energy into the effort.

Several dozen teens and adults from Beth Abraham signed a June 14 letter to Jody London, the school board president and a member of the synagogue.

Oakland School Board president Jody London. (YouTube screenshot)

When someone dies in the Jewish community, we say, May their memory be for a blessing, the letter read. In this age of unrest following the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black people by the hands of police, there is heavy demand for not only holding cops accountable, but for defunding and divesting in policing as we know it today.

London met with the synagogues youth on Zoom a few days ago.

We just tried to stress that [the resolution is] very well-researched and there is a plan in place that [BOP] has been trying to do for so long, said Satya Zamudio, 15, a rising sophomore at Oakland Technical High School. It was really important to have this conversation with Jody. To just urge her to stand in solidarity with people of color and to really stress the point that Jews should be on the side of racial justice in this moment.

Maera Klein, 16, a rising junior at Berkeley High School, said, I really wanted to bring it to London from a Jewish lens, from within her synagogue, to show her that people from her own Jewish community care a lot about this issue. I would be super proud if my congregation had an influence on passing such a powerful resolution that would really change peoples learning experiences for the better.

The Oakland Unified School District Police Services Department was created in the 1950s, and out of approximately 1,000 districts in California, Oakland is one of 23 school districts that has its own police force. The department consists of 20 sworn personnel and 120 school site officers, according to

Londons position on the elimination of the school districts police force has changed over time.

In March, when the school board voted to make $18.8 million in budget cuts, London voted against cutting any positions from the districts police force in a 4-3 decision. Two months after that, members of the Black Organizing Project led protests in front of Londons home and those of other board members.

Illustrative: In this March 8, 2018 file photo, a student in Detroit, Michigan, goes through a metal detector and has her backpack checked as she enters her school. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Shortly afterward, London released a statement saying that she was planning to support the projects resolution.

It is critical that the $2.3 million budget of the [Oakland School Police Department] be strategically reinvested in support for the whole child and students with disabilities with an eye to supporting authentic students safety, she wrote.

Support for the resolution came from dozens of administrators in schools in the district and Oakland community organizations.

The resolutions origins, in part, come from data that the Black Organizing Project has compiled over the past five years. One of the findings is that while black students make up 26 percent of enrollment in the Oakland district, they represent 73% of the school police forces arrests a phenomenon that has been documented similarly nationwide.

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Jewish teens help successful effort to abolish Oaklands school police force - The Times of Israel

New rabbi in Long Beach brings challah bread and other food to charm the hearts of congregants –

Posted By on June 28, 2020

The very night Rebecca Novick and her husband, Avi, settled into their new home in Long Beach a little more than a week ago, they received a welcoming they did not expect: the young new rabbi in Long Beach, Benny Berlin, was at their front door with a traditional Shabbat dinner of chicken and pasta.

"It was really good," said Rebecca, a 32-year-old occupational therapist. "We were so touched by how warm and welcoming it all was.

Since, the Novicks' have decided to join the rabbi's synagogue, the Bach Jewish Center, on Edwards Boulevard. The visit is part of Berlin's strategy to broaden membership in synagogues.

"It was important," Berlin, 30, the former rabbi at Queens College, said last week, of his food delivery to the Novicks. "This kind of thing brings a feeling of home. When you bring a basket of food to someone, you are bringing the shul to their home. Berlin has also brought challah bread to the homes of other congregants.

Berlin took over the Bach Jewish Center June 1, and already the Novicks and one other couple have joined the 200-family congregation. Berlin said he sees his mission, and that of Bach Jewish Center, as focusing on attracting the young and young couples to worship. Avi Novick, a 33-year, is studying neurology. The Novicks have two young children.

The path Berlin took to the pulpit began on a trip he took to Israel while a college student. "I would say that was inspirational," he said of his tour of the Holy Land.

When he returned to Queens, Berlin began teaching Torah courses. His father owned a sushi restaurant, and would give his son a plate of sushi to take to his Torah students.

Bach Jewish Center was founded in 1946 and welcomes Orthodox, Coinservative and Reform Jews. The synagogue's focus is on youth and directing young people to follow Torah and live a Jewish life.

The Center says it wants young people to "embrace our rich Jewish heritage and gain the skills and self-confidence they need to become leaders of both the Jewish community and society at large."

The center has been holding services outdoors to protect worshippers from the coronavirus. They are six-feet apart.

"You can't ask for better ventilation," Berlin said.

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New rabbi in Long Beach brings challah bread and other food to charm the hearts of congregants -

The Evolution of All-American Terrorism – Reveal

Posted By on June 28, 2020

Speaker 1:Reveal is supported by Everlane. When you're staying at home for an extended period of time, 24/7 pajamas just won't cut it. Look and feel great at home with our comfortable, affordable, modern basics, like the organic cotton t-shirt and Perform legging. And right now, their popular 100% Human collection is donating all proceeds to Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund. Check out our collection at, plus you'll get free shipping on your first order. That's, Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson.Audio:Say his name!Audio:George Floyd!Audio:Say his name!Audio:George Floyd!Audio:Say his name!Audio:George Floyd!Al Letson:Over the past month, protests have helped give unprecedented attention to the issue of police brutality. But right-wing extremist are also trying to seize the moment. At a Black Lives Matter rally in Richmond, Virginia, a man claiming to be a KKK leader drove his truck into a group of protestors. In Oakland, a California man who follows the online boogaloo movement allegedly shot and killed a federal security officer.Megan Squire:They want to kick off chaos. They want to start the race war and so they're always waiting for some chaotic event to happen that'll help them kick this off.Al Letson:Megan Squire is a computer scientist who studies online extremism at Elon University in North Carolina. She's seen first hand how the recent wave of protests and counter-protests can get out of control. Someone protesting the removal of Confederate monuments recently punched her in the face. Megan says right-wing extremists are using what's in the news to spread their message.Megan Squire:They track pretty closely to whatever the news headlines are. And then what they do is provide their racist, anti-Semitic, fill-in-the-blank spin on that news.David Neiwert:All of these belief systems are like big funnels. They have a variety of ways of recruiting people into them.Al Letson:That's David Neiwert, a reporter with the non-profit newsroom Type Investigations. A few years ago, Reveal teamed up with Type to track every single domestic terror event from 2008 to 2016. It showed that law enforcement was focused on extremists acting in the name of Islam, but homegrown right-wing terror was a bigger threat by a nearly two-to-one margin.David Neiwert:We were trying to make the point that really right-wing extremism is the much bigger problem than Islamist extremism and that the government needs to be paying attention to it.Al Letson:Now we've updated the database to include attacks from 2017 to 2019. We found that white extremist terror has grown and become more lethal, responsible for almost the same number of deaths during the first three years of the Trump presidency as during all of the Obama years. Though right-wing extremists appear to target different groups, many are driven by the same ideology.David Neiwert:There's a very specific stripe of white nationalism that we're seeing run through, especially these more recent mass killings.Al Letson:Today we're going to connect the dots and show how one act of terror inspires another, thanks to online platforms, and we'll ask why law enforcement is still struggling to catch up. Reveal reporters Stan Alcorn and Priska Neely have been digging into this for months. Priska starts us off with a story of a man who witnessed the deadliest domestic terror attack from last year.Priska Neely:Guillermo Glenn is well-known in El Paso's Mexican-American community. He's 70 now and he's been a community organizer and labor rights activist for most of his life.Guillermo Glenn:We conducted a lot of protests. We blocked a bridge. We went to jail.Priska Neely:On August 3, 2019, he was just going about his weekend routine.Guillermo Glenn:It was a Saturday morning and around 10:00, so I had gone to Walmart to buy some pet food. I was way in the back and I heard this great big noise.Priska Neely:A warning: Guillermo is going to share graphic details about what happened that day.Guillermo Glenn:A large number of families, women and men were running towards me from the front of the building. Then I noticed at least one of the women was dripping blood. I said, "Well, there's something really wrong." I ran into the woman who was ... She had both her legs had received some type either shrapnel or bullet wounds and she was bleeding.Guillermo Glenn:So I stopped there to help her and I grabbed a first-aid kit and tried to at least tend to her wounds in her legs. One of the firemen or paramedic came and told, "You have to get her out. We're getting everybody out of the store." So we put her in one of those grocery baskets.Priska Neely:When he wheeled the woman to the front, he saw what had happened.Guillermo Glenn:Right at the front door there was a lot of blood. I knew then that there'd been a shooter. It was a very traumatic scene. I saw a body of a man with half his head shot off. There was a lady laying on the pavement across from where we were loading the people. I didn't know exactly who he'd taken out, but I didn't have that information that he was actually shooting Mexicans.Priska Neely:The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, drove roughly 10 hours from outside Dallas to the El Paso Walmart right near the Mexican border. Police say he opened fire. 23 people were killed and many were wounded. Then he drove off.Audio:... news, minutes later, Patrick Crusius stopped his car at an intersection near the Walmart. He came out with his hands raised in the air and stated out loud to the Texas Rangers, "I'm the shooter."Priska Neely:He's facing 90 federal charges, including 45 hate crimes. After Guillermo witnessed what happened that day, he got in his car and went to the restaurant where his friends always gather on Saturdays.Guillermo Glenn:Several of my friends came up and hugged me and say to, "Oh, you're okay. We're so glad. We've been looking for you. We thought you might be there." Then they showed me the manifesto.Priska Neely:The manifesto. Minutes before the attack, the shooter had posted a document filled with anti-immigrant rhetoric to the online message board 8chan. Some of Guillermo's friends showed him a copy.Guillermo Glenn:So I sat down. I had some food, had some my regular Saturday menudo. Then I finally realized what had happened, after I read the manifesto.Priska Neely:The Crusius manifesto reads kind of like a corporate web site. It has an About Me section and parts where he outlines his warped vision for America. He matter of factly explains how his attack will preserve a world where white people have the political and economic power. He says peaceful means will no longer achieve his goal.Priska Neely:Reporter David Neiwert says this alleged shooter is the quintessential Trump-era terrorist, a man largely radicalized online, entrenched in white nationalist ideology, and fueled by the belief that white men like himself are being replaced by Latino immigrants. Crusius wrote that the media would blame President Trump for inspiring him, but he claimed that his ideas predated the Trump campaign. Here's David:David Neiwert:Patrick Crusius especially was so filled with loathing for Latino people that he didn't see them as human.Priska Neely:When David reads the manifesto, he can immediately see the fingerprints of other white nationalists.David Neiwert:Here's how Crusius opens his manifesto: "In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion."Priska Neely:That opening line is a direct signal back to a previous act of terrorism, the shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand just months before. David says this is part of a trend. One terrorist inspires another and the cycle continues. Guillermo says he didn't understand all of the references at first, but it was clear to him that the manifesto had ties to a larger movement.Guillermo Glenn:I think he was trying to show that somebody had to take action and that really angered me at that point. Why would somebody come and shoot innocent people like that?Priska Neely:David say Crusius started doing online research because of the anger he felt over how the country was changing demographically.David Neiwert:But in the process of doing this research, he came across multiple white genocide theories, including the Great Replacement.Priska Neely:The Great Replacement, or replacement theory, unites many acts of hate that we see across the country, around the world.David Neiwert:That's this idea that comes of white nationalism that white Europeans face a global genocide at the hands of brown people and that they're being slowly rubbed out of existence.Priska Neely:Only a few terrorists in recent years have referenced replacement theory by name, but it's widely popular among right-wing extremists. It's linked to ideas that are many decades old, but one attack in Europe showed how those ideas can be weaponized.David Neiwert:Anders Breivik's terrorism attack in Oslo and Utya Island, Norway in 2011.Priska Neely:Breivik killed 77 people in a bombing and mass shooting. Before the attack, he sent out a 1,500-page manifesto about how he planned to lead white supremacists on a crusade against the, quote, "Islamification of Europe." Around the same time, a French writer named Renaud Camus refined and popularized the ideology in book. The title translates to The Great Replacement.David Neiwert:The Great Replacement essentially is this idea that brown people, particularly refugees and immigrants from Arab countries in Europe, are being deliberately brought into the country in order to replace white people as the chief demographic.Priska Neely:And the conspiracy theory claims all this is orchestrated by a cabal of nefarious globalists. That's code for Jews.Audio:You will not replace us!Audio:You will not replace us! You will not replace us! You will not replace us!Priska Neely:In August, 2017, white supremacists in the US took up this concept as a rallying cry at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.Audio:Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!Priska Neely:The next day, a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. This incident had an immediate impact on the public perception of terrorism, making it clear that white nationalists violence is a serious threat.Audio:Today the nightmare has hit home here in the city of Pittsburgh.Priska Neely:At a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, Robert Bowers is accused of killing 11 people.David Neiwert:He went to a Jewish synagogue because he was angry about the Latin-American caravans. The caravans had been in all the news in the weeks prior to that synagogue attack. He blamed Jews and went to a Jewish synagogue to take revenge for Latino immigration.Priska Neely:These are the ideologies that are zigzagging across the globe. In March, 2019, the gunman who live-streamed his mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand on Facebook also wrote a manifesto. The title: The Great Replacement. The New Zealand manifesto inspired the El Paso shooter to target the people he felt were replacing him. Recent manifestos and books put a new spin on violent, hateful acts, but David traces these sentiments back much further.David Neiwert:What's remarkable in a lot of ways when I read these manifestos is so many of them are expressing ideas that I read in the 1920s coming from eugenicists. Look, I would even take it back to the 1890s when we first started seeing the wave of lynchings in the South as a form of social control. This is very clearly a form of terrorism.Priska Neely:After the El Paso shooting, activist Guillermo Glenn says white supremacist ideology was barely part of the conversation. There were brief efforts to unite the community against hate, a few events held under the banner, El Paso Strong.Guillermo Glenn:The politicians, the businessmen, the mayor, everybody was pushing this idea that we had to survive, but they weren't really talking about who caused it or why.Priska Neely:Before we talked for this story, Guillermo says he didn't identify as part of this larger group of survivors that includes Jewish and Muslim communities.Guillermo Glenn:You say, well, it's the Jewish people that they attacked, it's the Muslim people that they attacked, and here on the border, of course, it's the Mexican- and Central-Americans. But nobody talks about what does the Great Replacement mean. Nobody put all these incidences together and say, hey, this is something that we should be aware of nationally.Priska Neely:And he says that's part of the failure, part of the reason these attacks keep happening.Al Letson:That story from Reveal's Priska Neely. As we've been saying, these extremist groups are using online communities to spread their messages and find new recruits. When we come back, we'll hear how it works.Josh Bates:It's a conditioning process; it's a grooming process, and I let myself fall into that.Al Letson:The evolution of the white supremacist internet, next on Reveal.Speaker 1:Reveal is supported by True Botanicals. Life is full of tough choices and trade-offs. Your beauty routine, what you put on your body every day shouldn't be one of them. True Botanicals uses the latest scientific advances and centuries-old botanical extracts to create all-natural formulas in their products like their hydrating face cleansers and face oils for aging, breakout-prone and sensitive skin, and nutrient-packed serum. You've got to try True Botanicals for yourself. Get 15% off your first purchase at That's Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. The FBI and academic researchers say there's no such thing as a terrorist profile. You can't tell who's going to become a terrorist with a personality test or a demographic checklist.Al Letson:But the young, white men who attacked the synagogues of Pittsburgh and Poway and the Walmart in El Paso, they had a lot in common. Not only were they motivated by the same conspiracy theory about white people being replaced, they developed those ideas in some of the same spaces online. Two of them even posted their manifestos to the same web site, 8chan.Al Letson:Now, you can't blame today's white supremacist terrorism on the internet, but you also can't understand it without talking about the way the white supremacist movement uses the internet and how that's changed over the last decade. Reveal's Stan Alcorn is going to tell that story through the eyes of a man who lived it. Here's Stan:Stan Alcorn:Josh Bates' decade as a white supremacist started in his mid-twenties with a YouTube video about the presidential candidate he says he supported at the time, Barack Obama.Josh Bates:I was scrolling through the comments section, you know: He's a Muslim, he wasn't born here." Things of that nature. And somebody said, "You guys sound like those Stormfront assholes." I was like, "What in the world is Stormfront?"Stan Alcorn:Stormfront is a message board that a former KKK leader set up in the 90s. Josh says he went there at first because he was curious, then to argue. But then the middle-aged message board neo-Nazis started winning him over. How could they be convincing in these arguments? Can you help me understand that?Josh Bates:Well, I wish I could answer that question because I still ask myself that a lot, how could I end up falling for something like that. But I guess it's probably similar to how we look at people who fall into cults. It's a conditioning process; it's a grooming process and I let myself fall into that.Stan Alcorn:The experts I talked to say that first step is more about the person than what they're stepping into. Josh had just left the Marines, where he used to have a team and a mission. Now all he had was a computer.Shannon Martine...:It's pretty concurrent with a whole lot of people where they felt really deeply disempowered in their lives.Stan Alcorn:Shannon Martinez is a former white supremacist who's helped people, including Josh, leave the movement.Shannon Martine...:So when you encounter information that's presented that this is the real truth, the true truth people don't want you to have because if you did it would be too empowering for you and too disempowering for them, that's an incredibly powerful, toxic drug.Stan Alcorn:That drug, widely available on the internet, is at its heart a conspiracy theory. It says your problems aren't your fault; it's immigrants, black people, Jews.Josh Bates:They talk about, oh, Hollywood and the media and all these Jews that are in these positions of power. When you google that kind of stuff and you see it and you consume it, eventually after a few months you kind of get desensitized to it. Everybody's agreeing with everyone for the most part. You get along. There's that online community. Stormfront was my first one.Stan Alcorn:He didn't know their names, but they were his team now. He'd spend the next 10 years as what he calls "a keyboard warrior" for the white supremacist movement. He'd be there for every step in its evolution, from joining the KKK and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement to more diffuse groups and web sites that call themselves "alt-right" and "identitarian." Some of these groups would go to some lengths to appear respectable and say, "We're not racists. We're not Nazis. We're not the KKK."Josh Bates:Mm-hmm (affirmative).Stan Alcorn:Then some of those groups were Nazis; they were the KKK.Josh Bates:Mm-hmm (affirmative).Stan Alcorn:You were in all of them. Does that tell you that the differences between these groups are more about the image and tactics than the core ideas or who they attract?Josh Bates:Absolutely. Absolutely. We'd been using the terms "white nationalism 1.0" and "white nationalism 2.0" for a few years now. And 1.0 is your early groups, Ku Klux Klan. They were the very explicit National Socialist Movement walking around with swastikas on their uniforms and their flags.Josh Bates:Your 2.0 guys, they're your Identity Evropas, where they're dressing in khakis and collared shirts and dock shoes and they've got these nice, cropped haircuts. They call it "good optics." But anybody who was in the early 1.0 movements like myself, I could see right through it. They just put lipstick on a pig. That's all they did.Stan Alcorn:But people who followed the white supremacist movement for decades, like Type Investigations reporter David Neiwert, they say that this alt-right makeover of the old racist right, it was transformative.David Neiwert:That radical right was very backward-looking, very stiff and formal. They didn't have any ... Humor was not part of their repertoire. In fact, their primary recruitment demographic really was men between the ages of 40 and 60. With the advent of the alt-right, what we saw was this very tech-savvy, very agile movement that instead of running away from the culturally-savvy component aspects of the internet, rather embraced them wholly.Stan Alcorn:Instead of writing racist newsletters that people had to sign up for, they were making memes and jokes in places like reddit and 4chan. These forums that celebrated being politically incorrect, they were the perfect place for those ideas to take root, hybridize with other fringe ideas and grow into something that could be shared on more mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook.David Neiwert:It was very brilliant because it meant that suddenly their recruitment demographic was much larger and had a lot more political activist energy. They were younger people.Stan Alcorn:And Josh Bates says that energy got a huge boost in 2016 with the rise of a new presidential candidate.Audio:They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.Josh Bates:Because Trump was spouting off a lot of the same talking points as general white nationalists, he breathed new life into that movement. The thought leaders of the movement just took full advantage, thinking that they could take it even further. And they did.Stan Alcorn:They started to take their ideas into the real world. After Trump's election in 2017, computer scientist Megan Squire set up software to track extremists on Facebook. She'd started out studying the misogynist Gamergate movement, but that had led her to all of these different anti-Muslim and neo-Confederate and white supremacist groups.Megan Squire:At the time, Facebook was a central player if not the central player and it was the place where these guys all wanted to be when I was looking for ideological crossover, group membership crossover, just trying to, I guess, map the ecosystem of hate on Facebook.Stan Alcorn:She watched this ecosystem plan what one neo-Nazi web site would call the "Summer of Hate." Anti-Muslim marches, misogynist Proud Boy rallies and what was shaping up to be this real-world meet-up of all these different mostly online hate groups: the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is where she came across Josh Bates.Megan Squire:There was a person who was talking about they didn't have enough money to go to Charlottesville and that someone else suggested, "Hey, we have this crowdfunding site. Why don't you set up a fundraiser?"Stan Alcorn:When Megan clicked the link, she saw this whole list of white supremacist fundraisers on a web site Josh had built, because GoFundMe had started cutting them off. It was the beginning of what Megan calls "alt-tech."Megan Squire:At the time we're talking about, alt-tech was basically just replacements that were coded and controlled by people probably in the movement or close to the movement or at least didn't care about white supremacists using their services. So they were replacing Patreon with hate-reon like it's kind of a one-to-one match there.Stan Alcorn:But when it came to advertising the rally, the alt-right didn't need alt-tech. They had a Facebook event page and it was being promoted by hate groups that Facebook had allowed to remain on the site, even after they were reported by civil rights advocates.Megan Squire:I mean, I'm a solo researcher with a laptop in rural North Carolina and I was able to find well over 2,000 hate groups operating on Facebook in like a couple of months. So I don't have a lot of sympathy that Facebook didn't know what was happening. That's ridiculous.Stan Alcorn:Megan decided to go to the rally in person, in part to see if this convergence of hate she was seeing on Facebook would happen in real life. Josh Bates went for the same reason.Josh Bates:Never in the history of white nationalism had there been that many people all showing up at one place. You had NSM, Ku Klux Klan, Identity Evropa, all these groups.Stan Alcorn:It's like all the groups that you'd ever been a member of.Josh Bates:Yeah, pretty much. And when you see that many people show up to support a common cause, it kind of fills you up a little bit with maybe a little enthusiasm. Like, hey, maybe this isn't dying; maybe this could go forward.Megan Squire:That's exactly right. I believe that. That's exactly why you have to shut that stuff down because ... Ooh. This is not the kind of people we need to be amassing power.Stan Alcorn:The rally wasn't shut down. But when it turned violent and a white supremacist killed Heather Heyer, reporter David Neiwert says this whole plan to unite the racist right backfired.David Neiwert:All of these groups started splitting. There was huge infighting over whether they did the right thing. In fact, the social media platforms actually then began taking it seriously, although that seriousness varied from platform to platform.Megan Squire:It reminded me of when you catch a kid doing something they're not supposed to be doing and all of a sudden they're incredibly sorry. But they already did it. There wasn't a whole lot of foresight there. They're sorry after the fact.Stan Alcorn:It's a pattern we've seen over and over in the last few years. A terrorist attack happens, the social media platforms put out statements but don't fundamentally change their policies. On YouTube you can still find old video manifestos from right-wing domestic terrorists. Facebook didn't ban white nationalist content until a year and a half after Charlottesville. The main step they did take at the time was to remove the accounts of a bunch of individual users and groups.Megan Squire:But that means I don't get to just clap my hands: "Okay, we're done here. Good job. They got de-platformed." Because my job is to worry about where they're going to go next.David Neiwert:You would push them off of platforms like Twitter and they would just go and create their own new platform and they called it Gab. It was just straight for white nationalists. It was on Gab, for instance, that the man who conducted the terrorism act against the Tree of Life synagogue did most of his organizing.Stan Alcorn:He networked with other white nationalists and had a long string of racist and anti-Semitic posts before his infamous final message: "Screw your optics. I'm going in."David Neiwert:On these alternative platforms, they could talk as though they didn't have to fear censors or monitors or people looking over their shoulders, so they were much more open and explicit about their hatefulness. And not just their hatefulness, but, frankly, their lust for violence. Their rhetoric became incredibly violent on a lot of these smaller platforms.Stan Alcorn:This journey, trying to go mainstream only to retreat back to the violent fringe, it's the journey Josh made too.Josh Bates:That's kind of this trajectory of going from white nationalist 1.0, white nationalist 2.0 and then things just crumbling apart, going underground and finding this thing called The Base.Stan Alcorn:The Base is a neo-Nazi network with an explicit focus on real-world violence. They shared bomb-making manuals and planned paramilitary trainings to prepare for a coming race war. When news broke that 11 people had been murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue, they talked about it in terms of tactics.Stan Alcorn:Josh wrote in their private chat: "Infrastructure is what needs targeting. Small hits like yesterday's while striking fear into many, that only ultimately served to embolden the enemy while they're still strong."Josh Bates:Yeah, see, I don't even remember saying that and I guess that goes to show that I was playing a role in a sense and it's just you start to play this role and you start getting into it.David Neiwert:That's the sound of someone who was enthralled with the idea of being a hero. That's how the whole heroism dynamic works, is that you are playing a role. You've created this image for yourself of being the hero and now it's really important for you to live up to it.David Neiwert:This is how people who've been radicalized can get talked into committing acts of violence, is that they feel like they have to. They have to prove that they are the heroes they've made themselves out to be in their own minds.Stan Alcorn:Josh left The Base's chatroom in November of 2018. He says he was turned off by all the glorification of violence. A couple weeks after that, Atlanta anti-fascists published an article exposing his long history in the white supremacist movement. Within days, he was tweeting that he was out of the movement for good.Josh Bates:Looking back now, I don't see myself staying in the movement no matter getting doxed or not. It's just it's tiring. I just don't ... And obviously, everything about it is wrong. In ideological and racial and social sense, Everything about it is wrong. But, yeah.Stan Alcorn:Other men who stayed in The Base would go on to be arrested for vandalizing a synagogue, plotting to murder a couple they believed were antifa activists, and trying to start a civil war at a gun rights rally in Virginia.Stan Alcorn:The FBI says that the greatest terrorist threat in the United States today comes from what they call "lone offenders," terrorists who get their radical ideas from online communities, who attack without ever coordinating with anyone else in the real world. According to our database, they're responsible for nearly half the terrorist fatalities since Trump took office. It's a list that includes the Tree of Life shooter, Robert Bowers, the Poway synagogue shooter, John Earnest, and the El Paso Walmart shooter, Patrick Crusius.David Neiwert:A lot of people will be exposed to these same ideas and not respond in a violent way, but it doesn't take very many of them to actually cause a whole lot of harm.Stan Alcorn:For law enforcement, the tricky question here is how can you tell from what someone says online if they're actually going to commit an act of violence? But for the rest of us there is a different question that's maybe even trickier: What do we do when people say things online that might help push other people to commit acts of violence?Stan Alcorn:Josh said several times in our interview that over the course of his 10 years in the white supremacist movement, he only spent a grand total of maybe five days doing things in the real world. His role was setting up web sites, organizing online and writing propaganda. Like an article he wrote for, where he told his fellow white people to, quote, "rekindle your inner hate," and that, "an honorable death must be earned."Stan Alcorn:We've talked about this saying that you didn't do anything; you were just writing things. But just as you were radicalized through reading things online, so was Robert Bowers, so was John Earnest.Josh Bates:Yep. Yep.Stan Alcorn:So was Patrick Crusius.Josh Bates:Mm-hmm (affirmative).Stan Alcorn:Isn't writing something doing something and do you think ... Mm-hmm (affirmative).Josh Bates:What I mean by doing something is IRL, like actually getting out to the street. That's what I mean by "doing something."Stan Alcorn:But he's starting to think that distinction doesn't really make a difference.Josh Bates:I didn't actually go out and get in any street brawls or physically attack anybody, but that's no different than writing something and encouraging others to do it. You know what I mean? I would've considered myself in a way a domestic terrorist, because I was spouting off some of these same ideas. It feels so weird to reference yourself in that way, but I have to be honest.Stan Alcorn:The things Josh did may not meet the FBI or the Department of Justice's definition of terrorism. They didn't even get him kicked off social media. But he says he'll be making up for them for the rest of his life.Al Letson:That story was from Reveal's Stan Alcorn. We reached out to Facebook for a comment. They sent us a statement saying that they don't want to be a place for promoting hate or violence and that they're making progress. They told us in the first three months of 2020, they banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and removed 4.7 million pieces of content tied to organized hate. We reached out to YouTube and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism as well, but they didn't respond.Al Letson:If social media companies aren't stopping white supremacist terrorism, what about the US government? That's after the break on Reveal.Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. A year after Josh Bates left the white supremacist group, The Base, another member of the organization shot a video of himself speaking into a camera, wearing a gas mask. He was calling on white people to acquire weapons, derail trains and poison water supplies in order to ensure the survival of the white race. Later, a federal judge outside of Washington, DC would read a transcript of that video into the record before prosecutors held a press conference:Audio:As the evidence gathered by the FBI demonstrates, these defendants who are self-proclaimed members of the white supremacist group The Base were dedicated to the idea of doing harm to African Americans, Jewish Americans and others who the defendants viewed as a treat to their twisted idea of a white ethno-state. Put simply, this domestic terrorism investigation likely saved lives.Al Letson:But this, stopping white supremacist terrorism before it happens has been the exception. According to the database we put together with Type Investigations, since 2008, law enforcement has stopped about one in three terror plots by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists.Al Letson:Meanwhile, they've stopped terror plots by those claiming to act in the name of Islam at more than twice that rate. They've stopped three out of every four of those. In other words, the FBI seems to do a better job going after terrorists whose ideas resemble the 9/11 attackers than the right-wing terrorists who've killed far more people in the two decades since.Al Letson:But in the last year, reporter David Neiwert says the FBI's statements and arrests seem to show a shift towards taking white supremacist terrorism more seriously.David Neiwert:It's very clear that the FBI has caught on that this is a problem. But it's also very clear that they have a lot of catching up to do.Al Letson:Getting the FBI to describe how it's catching up isn't easy. Here's Reveal's Stan Alcorn again:Stan Alcorn:In theory, there are people who can force the FBI to explain itself: Congress. But Congress has not always been focused on white supremacist terrorism either. For instance, this hearing from 2011:Audio:Morning. The Committee on Homeland Security will come to order.Stan Alcorn:Led by Republican congressman from New York, Peter King.Audio:This Committee cannot live in denial, which is what some of us would do when they suggest that this hearing dilute its focus by investigating threats unrelated to Al Qaeda. The Department of Homeland Security and this Committee were formed in response to the Al Queda attacks of September 11th. There is no equivalency of threat between Al Queda and neo-Nazis, environmental extremists or other isolated madmen. Only Al Queda ...Stan Alcorn:Actually, there were more than twice as many right-wing domestic terror incidents that year as anything inspired by groups like Al Queda, according to our data.Audio:Now it's my privilege to recognize the distinguished ranking member of the Committee, the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Thompson.Stan Alcorn:The ranking member, or top Democrat, Bennie Thompson ...Audio:Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.Stan Alcorn:Had a different perspective.Audio:I understand that our personal experiences play a role in how we see the world. We've all come to this place from somewhere else. I'm from Mississippi. My ...Stan Alcorn:He'd become the first black mayor of his hometown in 1973, a place where cross burnings were used to intimidate civil rights activists. 20 years later when he was elected to Congress, he made national news for pushing to finally prosecute the mastermind of the KKK killing that happened when he was in college.Audio:But we are not here in these places now. As members of Congress, our ...Stan Alcorn:In this hearing, he brought up an arrest just happened the day before. A man had placed a bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King Day march in Spokane, Washington.Audio:News reports identify the suspect as a member of the same white supremacist group that influenced Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. I urge you, Mr. Chairman, to hold a hearing examining the Homeland Security threat posed by anti-government and white supremacist groups. I yield back.Stan Alcorn:Over the next eight years, Thompson and other Democrats would keep asking for that hearing on domestic terrorism. They'd never get it.Stan Alcorn:I called up Congressman Thompson on Skype at his office in Bolton, Mississippi, the same town that elected him mayor nearly 50 years ago.Bennie Thompson:There are about 500 people who live in this little town.Stan Alcorn:So I bet you must know every single one of them more or less.Bennie Thompson:Not only do I know them, I know their business, they know my business. There are no secrets.Stan Alcorn:We talked about how it felt to struggle to get his colleagues to pay attention to this threat of right-wing terrorism.Bennie Thompson:Well, it was frustrating, to be honest with you because I knew this problem was growing in America and somehow our Committee was missing the opportunity to address it, and that's unfortunate.Stan Alcorn:But in 2019, Democrats took control of the House and Bennie took control of the Homeland Security Committee.Bennie Thompson:And finally after I became chairman, we held a hearing. It was only in this hearing that members of Congress and the public get a chance to see and hear for the first time what was going on.Stan Alcorn:This hearing and other Democrat-led oversight hearings got the FBI to finally acknowledge the serious threat of white supremacist terrorism. They said that, quote, "racially motivated violent extremism was now as big a threat as ISIS." But these hearings didn't turn up a lot of details on exactly what the FBI was doing to deal with that threat on the ground, like the number of agents or cases or arrests. So I asked the FBI agent in charge of counter-terrorism for the Newark field office, Joe Denahan.Joe Denahan:I think there's really been a surge in what we assess as racially-motivated violent extremism, both here in New Jersey and across the nation. I think a lot of the profiles of the subjects we had seen conduct successful attacks or younger males, all of them really radicalized online. Now that the velocity of those threats and successful attacks appears to be increasing, we obviously dedicate a greater number of resources to that threat.Stan Alcorn:When you talk about that dedicating a greater number of resources, can you share anything in the way of numbers, something to kind of just concretely get a sense of what that looks like?Joe Denahan:Unfortunately, I can't give any specifics on that in terms of our personnel or assets. But I can tell you that there is a tremendous emphasis put on this. We recognize that the threat is evolving and we're evolving with it, no question about it.Stan Alcorn:Just to be clear, why is it that you can't give more details on that?Joe Denahan:I'm not comfortable talking about the number of agents that we have working a specific threat.Stan Alcorn:So no numbers. Then there's the terms itself: racially-motivated violent extremism. Why call it that? Are we primarily talking about white supremacists terrorism?Joe Denahan:I mean, no question that white racially-motivated extremism is a very serious problem.Stan Alcorn:Well, what else fits into that ...Stan Alcorn:What he isn't saying is the whole point of the term "racially-motivated violent extremism" is that they are not just talking about white supremacists who've been responsible for more plots and attacks in the last few years than any other kind of terrorist in our database.Stan Alcorn:What happened was, in 2017 an FBI document was leaked to Foreign Policy magazine about something they called "black identity extremists." The FBI defined them as anyone using violence, quote, "in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society, in particular, police brutality." It was so broad former FBI agent Mike German said, "Basically, it's black people who scare them."Stan Alcorn:When Congressman Thompson heard about it, not from the FBI but from reading about it in the press, he wondered if it was really about countering terrorism at all.Bennie Thompson:I went through Cointelpro in the '60s where the FBI kind of spying on people of color. So they said, "Look, are we trying to unfairly target black people and black organizations again?"Stan Alcorn:This was a scandal and the FBI said it got rid of the black identity extremist category. But in 2019, more FBI documents were leaked to reporter Ken Klippenstein and they showed that the FBI had really just taken the black identity extremists and the white supremacists and put them both in one combined category: racially-motivated violent extremism.Stan Alcorn:Can you say with confidence now that the FBI is not focusing on so-called black identity extremists as a terrorist threat and potentially going after activists?Bennie Thompson:Well, no, I can't. No, I can't. Because I know-Stan Alcorn:And why not? You're at the head of the oversight committee looking at them. Why can't you say it with confidence that you know?Bennie Thompson:Well, I can't say it because a lot of what I found out as a member of Congress is there's a term: "a need to know."Stan Alcorn:Hmm.Bennie Thompson:So even though you might be in a classified setting and supposedly have top-secret clearances, there's still certain information that if an agency decides for whatever reason you don't need to know it, in all probability, they're not going to tell you.Stan Alcorn:The FBI's lack of transparency is why we built our own domestic terror database. It's also why the most important thing this Congress did on domestic terrorism might be something that's barely been noticed.Stan Alcorn:Tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act on page 957, there's language that requires the FBI to for the first time lay out in detail its domestic terrorism data, describing every incident, assessment and investigation since 2009 and breaking them down by category and saying exactly how many agents are working each threat. That data was due to Congress right as we released this story.Bennie Thompson:Why would you have to pass an act in Congress to get somebody to collect data that ought to be part of one's job?Stan Alcorn:Mm-hmm (affirmative).Bennie Thompson:Well, needless to say, we had to take it to that level.Stan Alcorn:And you had to get it in the defense spending bill too, right?Bennie Thompson:Yeah. Well, it's what you call a little home-cooking.Stan Alcorn:As Congress Thompson waits for the results, he's worried that attention is again being diverted away from right-wing terrorism, this time by President Trump. In the midst of the recent protests over racism and police brutality, President Trump tweeted he would designate antifa, short for antifascist, a terrorist organization, even though the FBI says antifa is really more of an ideology than a group.Bennie Thompson:He's president of the United States and he should lead this country based on what the facts are at the time he's presented with them.Stan Alcorn:Thompson says he hasn't seen any evidence of a connection between antifa and violence at the recent protests. Whereas when we spoke, a right-wing extremist who was obsessed with the coming civil war had just been charged with killing a federal security officer near a protest in Oakland.Bennie Thompson:And I'm glad that the law enforcement officials have identified and apprehended that individual, but he should let the professionals do their job.Al Letson:That story was from Reveal's Stan Alcorn. Just to be clear, the president does not have the power to designate terrorist groups. Still, since his tweet there've been multiple reports of the FBI interrogating protestors about their political views and what they know about antifa.Al Letson:Before we go, I want to remind you that we're just one week away from launching our first-ever serial, American Rehab. Chapter One begins with a look inside a rehab that sends people to work without pay and calls it therapy. Then we'll chase the origins of this type of rehab to a dangerous cult that started in the 1950s and came to a crashing end after performing mass sterilizations on its members and using a rattlesnake to attack one of its most vocal critics.Al Letson:We launch American Rehab on July 4th. You can hear it on your local public radio station or right here on the podcast. Just make sure you subscribe to the Reveal Podcast feed.Al Letson:This week's show was produced by Stan Alcorn and Priska Neely and edited by Jen Chien and Taki Telonides with help from Esther Kaplan and Soo Oh. Special thanks to our partners at Type Investigations, David Neiwert, Darren Ankrom and Sarah Blustein. Victoria Barenetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Najib Aminy.Al Letson:Our sound design team is the dynamic duo, J-Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs, and Fernando, my man, yo Arruda. This week's show was mixed and scored by [Ron Tean 00:51:31], [Ara Bluey 00:51:31] with help from Amy Mostafa. Our CEO is Christa Scharfenberg. Matt Thompson is our editor in chief. Our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Comorado, Lightning.Al Letson:Support by Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.Al Letson:Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I'm Al Letson, and remember: There is always more to the story.Audio:From PRX.

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The Evolution of All-American Terrorism - Reveal

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