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Gaza Violence Resumes; Hamas Military Chief Targeted

Aug 20, 2014

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Israel says more than 70 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours, leading it to respond with at least 60 airstrikes after a short-lived cease-fire with Hamas broke down Tuesday. Palestinians say at least 11 people died in Israel's strikes.

The renewed violence comes after Egypt led diplomatic efforts to try to end the fighting.

From Gaza, NPR's Philip Reeves reports that the targets of Israel's airstrikes "appear to have included the veteran head of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Deif."

It's being widely reported that Deif's wife and seven-month-old son were killed in the attack, but not Deif.

Philip also notes that Israel is now recalling 2,000 army reservists to duty, after sending them home just a few weeks ago.

"Palestinian officials say the death toll in Gaza has risen above 2,000 since the war began last month," he adds. "64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have also been killed."

Both Israel and Hamas have now recalled their negotiators from Cairo, where talks had extended a truce as the teams worked toward a long-term peace agreement," Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports.

From Jerusalem, NPR's Jackie Northam reports:

"For the past two weeks, Egyptian mediators were able to get both sides to agree to a number of cease-fire extensions, in order to continue the talks. But analysts say in the end, the demands between Israel and Hamas were too far apart for talks to continue."

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Tiffany Flowers and Alderman Antonio French in front of Quik Trip in Ferguson, MO. (Tiffany Flowers)

Ferguson Killing Inspires Young Black Activists

by FREDERICA BOSWELL
Aug 20, 2014

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Malcolm London is a poet, activist and educator. Asha Rosa is an organizer and student. Naisha Soto is a youth leader and organizer.

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FREDERICA BOSWELL

The nation has been gripped by the ongoing protests following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. But the demonstrations sparked by his death have spread far beyond the streets in his community. Young activists from around the country tell us how the events in Ferguson moved them, and what they hope might come from this moment.


Malcolm London is a poet, activist and educator. He's the Chicago Chapter Co-chair of Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, a national organization of young adults that says its mission is to work for economic freedom and justice for all black people. London was involved in organizing a National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) in Chicago in response to events in Ferguson.

What were you looking to accomplish with the #NMOS14, and did you achieve what you were hoping for?

It was a moment to mourn publicly, and to let people know we are tired of the murder of black kids, and the extrajudicial killing of black folks. It hurts. We had 1,000 people gather in Daley Plaza within a day. We organized a lot of folks to say that these kind of things happen all the time, but they don't need to happen.

What we are always hoping for is to redefine what justice looks like for black youth in America. I don't think we've accomplished that goal. Even if the Ferguson cop does get arrested, that's not going to stop the deaths of black kids, so that struggle goes on.

How would you assess the current state of activism and organizing among young people?

I think right now, especially, that it's very alive. You see a lot of young people who do organize and act all the time. As young people, we put our hearts and souls into this and then are burnt out after 4 or 5 years. We need to make it more sustainable. There's a myth that young people aren't involved, I don't think that's the case. But more people need to get involved and we need more resources to keep going.

What's your hope moving forward?

BYP 100 convened the day of the Zimmerman verdict. That's how we got our name. We started off as 100 black activists. That night we were all in a room holding hands when the verdict dropped and America reminded us that black lives were not valued. We hoped we wouldn't be here again. And yet here we are this summer, and the deaths of young black men are making headlines again. So, of course, my hope is not to hear of black kids lying in the street for 4 hours, and that should be the hope of all Americans.


Asha Rosa is a rising third-year student at Columbia University in New York where she is a member of Students Against Mass Incarceration and organizes with the Columbia Prison Divest campaign. She is also a member of BYP 100.

How have you focused your activism?

While the unjust murder of Michael Brown is a tragedy that has sparked a lot of conversation and media attention, this work has been going on a lot longer than the past couple weeks. As a member of the Black Youth Project 100, I have been doing local organizing in Chicago around racial profiling as a part of our national campaign to end the criminalization of black youth. It's important to realize that the people in Ferguson are angry because what happened to Michael Brown is not rare. None of this anger, none of the issues that have been brought up really started with Ferguson. For black people in America, this is every day, and we've been fighting this fight for a while.

What actions have you taken part in?

I helped organize the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) rally in Chicago which was a part of a nationwide solidarity demonstration to remember victims of police violence. And it looks like I'm headed to Ferguson myself soon, mostly to deliver gas masks and water to folks on the ground.

Where do you see things in 6 months or a year from now?

I hope that a moment like this makes people start realizing that the current system of policing needs to change. We need less policing and a rethinking of what contributes to community safety. Is that the police? Or is it a community center and well-funded schools? I hope to see structures that establish greater police accountability like civilian-elected police accountability councils and cameras that film the police.

Beyond accountability, I hope to see a shift in narratives about violence. At the present moment, the dominant narrative points to black people as being the main sources of violence in black communities. But what our society needs to begin to recognize is that racialized targeting by the police, underfunding and closing schools, lack of access to social programs and so on are all forms of social, political, and economic violence on black communities. This is the real violence.


Naisha Soto is an 16 year old 11th grader at Community Academy of Philadelphia. She is a member of the Citywide Chapter and a youth leader and organizer at Youth United for Change (YUC) where she says her mission is to fight for real education reform.

What actions have you taken part in?

On August 14th, I attended the National Moment of Silence for Michael Brown in Philly's Love Park. We stood there in silence - some of us with our fists in the air. I felt sad, but in some ways it was a good feeling to see everyone come together, to know that we are not alone, to show the family that they are not alone. They even called out other names of people killed by police. The list was too long.

What do you see as the role of young organizers when events like the ones in Ferguson happen and receive widespread media attention?

There's a lot of power in the streets. We are frustrated and angry at the fact that one of our young people was killed. I understand the riots. Angry people react by doing whatever they can to take the hurt away. How can we respect the law if the law is attacking us like that? Still, our people are the ones at risk. As organizers we need to bring people together and lead them to attack back in a strategic way. We have to look for the roots of the problem. One of them is that cops have too much power and the relationships between cops and communities are not where they should be. Young people in my community don't like cops. We need cops to respect youth and stop treating us like criminals. They should come have a real conversation with us.


Tiffany S. Flowers is 36, and lives in Washington DC. She's the director of organizing for the United Food And Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Local 400). She comes from a family very active in the civil rights movement. Her grandfather, John H. Wrighten III, was represented by Thurgood Marshall in a lawsuit against the University of South Carolina law school in 1946 which led to the creation of a law school for black students.

How did you get involved in events after Ferguson?

It all started with watching the news, and following events on Twitter and Vine. People started retweeting Alderman Antonio French in my feed, and showing what was happening on the ground. It was crazy. I felt the need to do something after Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride. My soul is weary and I just wanted to help.

So what did you do?

I felt I had to go to Ferguson. My girlfriend and I started a GoFundMe campaign on Thursday and people immediately started to respond. We went to the National Moment of Silence in DC that night, and left for Ferguson at 4 the following morning. We raised $3,100 through GoFundMe. We used the money for gas and on-the-ground support like water, fruit, gas masks, granola bars, gloves, hydrogen peroxide, Maalox, bandages. With GoFundMe, you don't get the money right away, so we used our own. Once we're paid back, we'll either donate the rest or use it to get back there.

What were you looking to accomplish?

We wanted the community to know that we stood with them in solidarity. We wanted them to know that we had monitored the situation on the ground and wanted to speak truth to power. We wanted them to know that we too wanted justice.

Did you achieve what you were hoping for?

I felt we achieved it, and want to go back. In my official role, I lead a staff of organizers. The union is for retail workers. We help people form unions in their workplace. It's old-school union organizing, and we're pretty good at it. But I want to go back to Ferguson. People were so gracious and grateful that we were standing with them. I don't think people on the ground realized at the time how much worldwide support they had. I think they're learning. And in turn, we were paid back. On Friday night when things got really hectic, a young man, Michael Townson said he couldn't leave us on the street so invited us in and let us stay the night. He allowed me to tweet out that his house is open for anyone to stay. I think it was really rewarding to see someone who was hungry to help in any way, and be a major contributor to the movement.

So how did people in Ferguson react to you being on the ground?

People were super positive. Positive is actually an understatement. They were grateful, happy, and wanted to be of service. My partner was also there. We're an interracial couple and we felt nothing but love from Ferguson.

What do you see as the role of young organizers when events like the ones in Ferguson happen and receive widespread media attention?

I've been lucky enough to get a lot of training in non-violent organization in my job. We talk to a lot of undocumented workers who get a lot of hassle from police and so we train them how to deal with police. I felt my contribution is just sharing that knowledge, and teaching people what our rights are. There are thousands of ways to take non-violent direct action, like talking to people and strategizing how to keep the movement going. And even if you can't have those conversations, you can just go and show support, make a sign, raise your voice.

How would you assess the current state of activism and organizing among young people?

I would say the state of activism and organizing could use a defibrillator to jump-start the heart. There are a great number of us who are trying to do better, who are trying to make the movement more relevant. That's why I use the word 'defibrillator;' it's not that the bodies aren't here, it's just that we need the heart. I'm not making a judgement. I think the burden is on us as people who have got involved already to get more people involved.

What's your hope moving forward? Where do you see things in 6 months or a year from now?

I really don't feel comfortable making a prediction. My commitment to social justice has been completely reinvigorated. I know I will be taking more steps in and around my community to be a more powerful voice of change. We are who we've been waiting for, now we've just got to get all of our peers to understand that.

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Researchers asked 4-year-olds to draw a child. Here's a sample of their artwork. (Twins Early Development Study/King's College in London)

What Kids' Drawings Say About Their Future Thinking Skills

by Maanvi Singh
Aug 20, 2014

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Malcolm London is a poet, activist and educator. Asha Rosa is an organizer and student. Naisha Soto is a youth leader and organizer.

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At age 4, many young children are just beginning to explore their artistic style.

The kid I used to babysit in high school preferred self-portraits, undoubtedly inspired by the later works of Joan Miro. My cousin, a prolific young artist, worked almost exclusively on still lifes of 18-wheelers.

These early works may be good for more than decorating your refrigerator and cubicle, researchers say. There appears to be an association, though a modest one, between how a child draws at 4 and her thinking skills at 14, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

The findings don't mean parents should worry if their little ones aren't producing masterpieces early on. But the study suggests intellectual and artistic skills may be related to each other in a way that reveals something about the influence of our genes.

Researchers from King's College London enlisted 7,700 pairs of 4-year-old identical and fraternal twins in England to draw pictures of a child. The researchers scored each drawing on a scale of 0 to 12, based on how many body parts were included. All the kids also took verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests at 4 and 14.

Kids with higher drawing scores tended to do better on the intelligence tests, though the two were only moderately linked. And that was expected, says Rosalind Arden a cognitive geneticist who led the study while at the King's College Institute of Psychiatry. The drawing test researchers used was first developed in the 1920s to measure children's cognition. And studies have shown the test to be useful, but not always accurate.

In a surprise to the researchers, the drawings and the test results from identical twins (who share all their genes) were more similar to one another than those from fraternal twins (who share only half their genes). "We had thought any siblings who were raised in the same home would be quite similar," Arden tells Shots. The findings add to the growing body of evidence that suggests genes can play a role in both artistic and cognitive ability, she says.

This doesn't mean that a child's genetic predisposition necessarily hurts his or her chances of succeeding in artistic and intellectual endeavors, Arden says. As previous studies have shown, countless factors affect a person's abilities — and genes are only one of them.

How would Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko have done on the drawing test when they were kids? Arden says she and her colleagues are trying to figure out whether judging the children's art in some other way (maybe based on creativity instead of accuracy) would reveal something different about their intelligence.

But we shouldn't assume that these abstract masters couldn't draw realistically, Arden says. Picasso was a prodigy, who could draw everything from birds to busts with amazing accuracy at a young age. In fact, the artist famously said he easily learned to draw like Raphael when he was young, but it took him a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.

The most amazing thing about the drawings collected for this study is that they represent such a range of both ability and style, Arden says. "I had a fantastic time looking through them."

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Researchers asked 4-year-olds to draw a child. Here's a sample of their artwork. (Twins Early Development Study/King's College in London)

Top Stories: Militants Purportedly Kill Journalist; Ferguson Latest

Aug 20, 2014

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Malcolm London is a poet, activist and educator. Asha Rosa is an organizer and student. Naisha Soto is a youth leader and organizer.

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Video Purports To Show Beheading Of U.S. Journalist By Militants.

— A 'Different Dynamic' In Ferguson, But With 47 Arrests.

And here are more early headlines:

Huge Demonstrations Call On Pakistani Prime Minister To Quit. (BBC)

Kurdish Ministers Who Quit Former Iraqi Leader's Cabinet Are Back. (Reuters)

Louisiana Court Upholds Common Core, Deals Gov. Jindal Setback. (NOLA)

Landslides In Hiroshima,Japan Kill More Than 32. (Asahi Shimbun)

Salmonella Concerns Force Almond, Peanut Butter Recalls. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

New York Metropolitan Opera Settles With Last Big Union. (New York Times)

Macy's Settles Suit Over Racial Profiling At New York Store. (New York Daily News)

North Korea Insults The Face Of Secretary Of State John Kerry. (AP)

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Protesters walk in front of a line of police as authorities try to disperse a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday. The St. Louis suburb saw less violence than recent nights of protests. (AP)

A 'Different Dynamic' In Ferguson, But With 47 Arrests

Aug 20, 2014

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Malcolm London is a poet, activist and educator. Asha Rosa is an organizer and student. Naisha Soto is a youth leader and organizer.

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Tear gas and Molotov cocktails were absent from Ferguson's streets last night, as protesters and police avoided the clashes that have marred demonstrations over an unarmed black teenager's death at the hands of police in the St. Louis suburb last weekend.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, announced that 47 arrests had been made, and that three loaded handguns were confiscated.

"Tonight we saw a different dynamic," Johnson said, according to St. Louis Public Radio. "Protest crowds were a bit smaller and they were out earlier. We had to respond to fewer incidents than the night before. There were no Molotov cocktails tonight."

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, particularly early in the night. Police forced the crowds to stay on the move, enforcing a ban on "static assembly" that was implemented this week.

A prayer session ended with urges for people to head home, reports NPR's Brakkton Booker. But some people stayed on the streets, and as the night wore on, bottles were thrown at police. That led officers to put on helmets and shields and try to find the "agitators," Johnson said.

"Nearly four dozen arrests were made by the time the protests ended for the night," Brakkton says. "This includes one person police say is from Texas — and it was the third time this person has been arrested at the protests."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said he will being presenting witnesses today in the case of Michael Brown, 18, who died after being shot by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, to a grand jury Wednesday.

As St. Louis Public Radio explains, some have called for McCulloch to recuse himself from the case:

"McCulloch's critics say that McCulloch has a conflict of interest in this case because his father was a policeman killed on duty by a black suspect. Others point to McCulloch's role campaigning for County Councilman Steve Stenger in his successful bid to oust incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley in the Aug. 5 primary. Dooley is African-American."

Last night, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement saying he will not seek to replace McCulloch.

The Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into the case — and Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected to arrive in Ferguson today, wrote an op-ed piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he said that about 40 FBI agents are working on the case.

Holder also said that the violence that has broken out during some protests undermines, rather than advances, the cause of justice. At one point, he addressed the community's residents directly:

"This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent. And beyond the investigation itself, we will work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding — and robust action — aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve."

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