• The Middle East’s cold war, explained
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    The Middle East’s cold war, explained

    The Middle East is one of the most complex regions in the world: Currently there are 4 failing states and 3 wars, with major powers increasingly taking opposite sides. Countless armed militias and terrorist groups are spreading violence across borders. The region has seen conflict after conflict going back well into the 20th century. But among all the uprisings, civil wars, and insurgencies, two countries always seem to be involved: Saudi Arabia and Iran. They’re bitter rivals, and their feud is the key to understanding conflicts in the Middle East. The Saudis and Iranians have never actually declared war on each other. Instead, they fight indirectly by supporting opposing sides…

  • Why Turkey is invading Syria
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    Why Turkey is invading Syria

    This plume of smoke is rising from a town in Syria. A similar scene unfolded in another town about a hundred kilometers away. These attacks were the result of Turkish airstrikes on October 9th 2019, when Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria began. The long-planned Turkish military operation in Northeast Syria has been launched. Turkey pushing ever deeper into Syria. At least 160,000 civilians are believed to have fled the fighting in the border area. Over the next several days, the Turkish military moved further into Syria and attacked several other towns. All of these attacks are concentrated here, on this strip of land in Northeast Syria. It’s part of an…

  • This timeline shows confederate monuments are about racial conflict
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    This timeline shows confederate monuments are about racial conflict

    Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop? The Confederate monuments President Trump mentions are more than innocent markers of American history. Many exist to celebrate the Confederate cause to preserve the rights of whites over minorities. These monuments can traced back to the Civil War. But most of the sites and symbols were actually created during periods of racial conflict…

  • How to impeach a president
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    How to impeach a president

    When America’s founding fathers were debating how to set up a brand-new government, they ran into a problem: What should happen if a president, in Benjamin Franklin’s words, has “rendered himself obnoxious?” Most countries didn’t have elected leaders. Or ways to get rid of them, if necessary. So Franklin and the framers turned to a provision of British common law known as impeachment: Trial, conviction, punishment. In Great Britain, impeachment could be brought against anybody, any citizen. And it also could result in any punishment, including death. Michael Gerhardt is a constitutional law professor who literally wrote the book in impeachment. So they put impeachment in the constitution and then…

  • Hong Kong’s huge protests, explained
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    Hong Kong’s huge protests, explained

    The people of Hong Kong are out in the streets. Hundreds of thousands are demonstrating against a deeply unpopular bill. But this is about a whole lot more than a bill. It’s about the status of Hong Kong and the power China has over it. It’s a fight to preserve the freedoms people have here. And it all started with a murder. On February 8, 2018, a young couple, Chan Tong Kai and Poon Hiu-Wing, went from their home in Hong Kong to Taiwan for a vacation. They stayed at the Purple Garden Hotel in Taipei for nine days. But on February 17th only one of them returned to Hong…

  • Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.
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    Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.

    In 1788, three founding fathers made the case for the US constitution in a series of essays called “The Federalist Papers”. And if you want to understand why impeachment is broken today, it’s worth starting there. With what they thought it would look like if it worked. In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton makes the case for the way the Framers designed the impeachment power. The House brings impeachment, but it’s the Senate that decides whether to convict and remove. Not the Supreme Court, or some other independent tribunal. A bunch of politicians. Why? Why give them that power? Here’s the argument Hamilton makes: Impeachment, he says, poses a special problem.…

  • The big problem with how we pick juries
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    The big problem with how we pick juries

    In October of 2014, Jason Van Dyke – a white Chicago police officer – shot and killed Laquan McDonald – a black teenager. A year after the shooting, the city released the graphic video that captured the incident. It shows McDonald walking down a busy roadway, holding a knife. As he walks away from the officers, Van Dyke shoots him. 16 times. “16 shots. 16 shots.” The response to the release of the footage was swift and widespread. Chicago residents protested. The police chief was fired. The state’s attorney was voted out. A Justice Department investigation unearthed a pattern of excessive deadly force and racial bias among Chicago Police officers.…

  • The roots of America’s democracy problem
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    The roots of America’s democracy problem

    America has a democracy problem. Take a look at this chart. Over there on the left, that’s how many people each member of the US House represented in 1790. There’s now one representative for every 747 thousand Americans. That makes the US a crazy undemocratic outlier internationally. But it also makes us different than what we were supposed to be. The founding fathers, they wanted that number to stay small. James Madison wanted to make sure that it would never be more than one House member for 50,000 people. I bring this up because it’s one of a lot of ways in which our system has become different than what…

  • How sanctuary cities actually work
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    How sanctuary cities actually work

    When we think about sanctuary cities, we tend to imagine, depending on our political view, either lawless cesspools where federal law is utterly ignored; pretty much the definition of anarchy human sacrifices, rapes, murders, Satan worshippers American lives are being lost they are breaking the law, they are harboring fugitives this is absolutely nuts or havens for one of the nation’s most marginalized groups. You are safe in Chicago. This is about human beings, families. and will continue to be a place of refuge But, in reality, neither of those descriptions quite fit. And to understand why, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a local police officer.…

  • This lake now has legal rights, just like you
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    This lake now has legal rights, just like you

    In the summer of 2014, a giant algae bloom took over Lake Erie. It was so big, you could see it from space. This algae contained a toxin that could cause vomiting and liver damage. “Leaving over half a million people with no safe drinking water.” “Residents have been served notice: stop drinking water. Don’t shower. And don’t let pets come near tap water.” A few days later… “Hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio are breathing a sigh of relief today. The mayor of Toledo announced today the city’s water is now safe to drink.” “It seemed like, oh don’t worry, we we got over that, the water is…