Crowds in hundreds of cities around the world gathered Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington. JAN. 21, 2017
President Barack Hussein Obama
American Slavery, Reinvented
The Thirteenth Amendment forbade slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
Crops stretch to the horizon. Black bodies pepper the landscape, hunched over as they work the fields. Officers on horseback, armed, oversee the workers.
To the untrained eye, the scenes in Angola for Life: Rehabilitation and Reform Inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary, an Atlantic documentary filmed on an old Southern slave-plantation-turned-prison, could have been shot 150 years ago. The imagery haunts, and the stench of slavery and racial oppression lingers through the 13 minutes of footage.
The film tells two overlapping stories: One is of accomplishment against incredible odds, of a man who stepped into the most violent maximum-security prison in the nation and gave the men there—discarded and damned—what society didn’t: hope, education, and a moral compass. Burl Cain, the warden of Angola Prison, which is in Louisiana, has created a controversial model for rehabilitation. Through work and religion, they learn to help each other, and try to become better fathers to their children on the outside. Perhaps the lucky few even find redemption.
But there is a second storyline running alongside the first, which raises disquieting questions about how America treats those on the inside as less than fully human. Those troubling opening scenes of the documentary offer visual proof of a truth that America has worked hard to ignore: In a sense, slavery never ended at Angola; it was reinvented.
Some viewers of the video might be surprised to learn that inmates at Angola, once cleared by the prison doctor, can be forced to work under threat of punishment as severe as solitary confinement. Legally, this labor may be totally uncompensated; more typically inmates are paid meagerly—as little as two cents per hour—for their full-time work in the fields, manufacturing warehouses, or kitchens. How is this legal? Didn’t the Thirteenth Amendment abolish all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude in this country?
Read more at The Atlantic
President Barack Obama looks at Rembrandt’s “Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul”
Image via The White House
Former Gay Propagandist SpongeBob SquarePants Is Now a Conservative Darling
After years of vilifying him as a flamboyantly gay, liberal propagandist, conservatives are now claiming SpongeBob SquarePants as their hardworking, anti-food-stamp hero.
On Monday, November 11—almost two weeks after the nation’s food stamps program was slashed by $5 billion—Nickelodeon is set to air “SpongeBob, You’re Fired!” in the United States. (The episode aired in Greece in July.) After the beloved sea sponge loses his job at the Krusty Krab in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob slips into a slovenly depression. His friend Patrick, a starfish, tries to teach him the benefits of “glorious unemployment”—as in free time and free food. “Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job,” the determined and eager SpongeBob tells Patrick.
And with this, conservatives found themselves a new star. “‘SpongeBob’ Critiques Welfare State, Embraces Self-Sufficiency,” the Breitbart headline reads. “Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it,” Andrea Morabito wrote at the New York Post last week. “No spoilers—but it’s safe to say that our hero doesn’t end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.”
Read more at Mother Jones
A Simple Prairie Garden
View photo gallery here.
El Salvador’s Children of War | Mother Jones
From 1979 until 1992, El Salvador was mired in a civil war that left 75,000 people dead and untold numbers displaced or unaccounted for. It was a conflict marked by extravagant violence: On December 11, 1981, in the mountain village of El Mozote, the Salvadoran army raped, tortured, and massacred nearly 1,000 civilians, including many children. News of the killings didn’t reach the United States until January 27, 1982, the same day the Reagan administration announced El Salvador was making a "significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights." Washington continued to pump aid into the regime—$4 billion over 12 years.
Part of what made the war so complicated, at least for US interests, was the ultimatum it seemed to present: Defeat the guerillas at any cost or lose the country to communism. In the twilight of the Cold War, any threat of a domino effect in the region—Nicaragua had already fallen to the Sandinistas—was too ominous for Washington to bear. By backing El Salvador’s right-wing junta and, by extension, its paramilitary death squads, the United States created a conundrum for journalists: how to document a war whose maneuvers and motivations were kept deliberately murky?
Photographer Donna De Cesare traveled to El Salvador in 1987 to “witness and report on war, with all the earnest idealism and naïvete of youth,” as she puts it in her new photo book Unsettled/Desasosiego. What she couldn’t have known at the time was how the experience would shape the next 20 years of her life. She visited refugee camps in Honduras, Jesuit killings on the campus of Central American University, a morgue in Guatemala City. Her work—like that of Larry Towell and Susan Meiselas—is essential to understanding a chapter in Central America’s history that is too often whitewashed or denied.
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” – William Shakespeare
See more of Donna De Cesare’s work at Destiny’s Children
A visual history of Palestinian refugees | Al Jazeera America
Displaced by the tumult in Israel and its environs, most Palestinians have lived as refugees for the last 65 years
See more at Al Jazeera America
Syria 1940 | LIFE in the Middle East: Photos From Syria in 1940 | LIFE.com
The ongoing chaos and violence that have come to define the Syrian civil war — a war that has now raged for close to two years, with no signs of abating — not only forced the names of ancient cities (Aleppo, Homs) back into today’s headlines, but reminded anyone who might have forgotten that Syria has long been a key crossroads and a major player not merely in the Middle east, but on the global stage.
In 1940, seven months before the United States entered World War II and nine months after Germany invade Poland, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the young (and, as it turned out, destined to be short-lived) republic in order to document Syria’s pivotal role — cultural, geographical, military — in the region. Eight decades later, in photographs that ran in LIFE and many more that did not, LIFE.com recalls the Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and other Syrian cities and towns as they appeared in the middle part of the last century.
This is how LIFE described the situation to its readers in the magazine’s May 20, 1940, issue, published mere weeks before Paris fell to the Germans, leaving Syria (briefly) under the rule of Vichy France:
Should Hitler strike east or Mussolini jump into the war or Soviet Russia pile on, the world spotlight would instantly narrow on far forgotten Syria. Here is now massed a formidable French army under the old warhorse Maxime Weygand, ready to rush either to the defense of Egypt or of Turkey and the Balkans. Here is a sample of the brains, the men and the material of France and its colonies. Here flies the flag of France …raised at sunrise to the bugle call Au Drapeau at Aleppo.
The French expeditionary forces in the Levant States, chief of which is Syria, has tanks and planes, motorized guns … The army’s numbers and the names of its generals are dark military secrets. Best guess is that it has now at least 150,000 men. It includes men from the far-flung domains of France: Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalese, Annamites, Madgascar Malgaches, Lebanese, Syrians, Bedouin camel fighters, Cherkess Cossacks of Syria and large units of the French Foreign Legion. One of the most polyglot companies ever assembled, these men of many tongues and colors now bathe on Beirut’s one fine beach, shop in the suks, peer into the Tomb of Saladin in Damascus and swelter in the heat of Homs and Aleppo.
The ancient fortresses of Syria could not long stand against air bombing. But the olive groves are just high enough for a small tank to get under … Action may come without warning. For Syria, long a crossroads of world trade, has been watered by men’s blood for far longer than Flanders. In this natural cockpit where Asia, Africa and Europe meet, have fought Abraham, David, Alexander, Ramses, Sargon, Menelaus, Pompey, Bohemond, Nureddin, Saladin, Tamerlane, Baibars the Panther, Suleiman, Mohammad Ali, Lawrence of Arabia and [British General Edmund] Allenby.
Read more at LIFE.com.
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