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  1. The Collective Déjà Vu Of Black America

    We’ve been here before.

    Right here, at this very specific moment of anguish.

    Each time, it’s as though the world freezes and a familiar jolt zips through our bodies.

    Our vision blurs.

    Panicked, we look around to see if anyone else feels what we are feeling, to see if anyone else is in the grip of the same dismay. 

    On June 20, two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of three. The following day, the former Milwaukee police officer who shot and killed 23-year-old Sylville Smith in 2016 was found not guilty of reckless murder. It had been five days since the former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile last summer was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm.

    It seemed like there was barely time to process one of these events, to come to terms with the anger and the fear and the grief, before the next wave hit.

    That, too, felt familiar.

    Last summer, there was another head-spinning few days when two police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, 37, in Louisiana. One day later and a thousand miles to the north, Castile was killed. In both cases, there was graphic video.

    Footage shows Sterling being body-slammed by one officer and pinned to the ground before he is shot in the chest. Toward the end of the video, you can see Sterling lying on his back with his arms splayed out and his chest covered in blood.

    The next day, Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed video of the aftermath of Castile’s shooting on Facebook Live. The stream shows an agonized Castile with his head back and his eyes open, motionless and drenched in blood. 

    The shootings of Lyles and Smith ― both of whom were mentally ill, according to their families ― are equally disturbing.

    On dashcam audio of the moments leading up to Lyles’ death, you can hear officers shouting “Get back! Get back!” One officer tells the other to “tase her,” but the second officer does not have a Taser on him. The officers order Lyles to “get back” several more times before shots ring out and a child is heard crying in the background. 

    Smith, who was armed, fled within seconds of being pulled over by officers in Milwaukee. He dashed into a yard with a chain-link fence, which he threw his gun over as an officer fired. The first round hit him in the arm.

    The second shot was fatal. It pierced his heart and lung.

    Our death and suffering has always been public. This contributes to the recurring feeling that we’ve seen the same death time and time again.

    When these videos circulate, they leave families and black bystanders in a dark cycle we can’t escape. We know that footage won’t stop the violence. Our death, our suffering, has long been seen as a spectacle. If anything, video cameras have become an extension of the crowds that used to surround lynching victims.

    And then as now, even when our deaths take place in public, for all to see, it doesn’t save us or persuade a jury to convict the killer.  

    This is one reason why a list of victims from every high-profile police killing ― Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Dontre Hamilton, John Crawford, and on and on and on ― runs through the minds of black people each time a new one happens.

    After a while, the names blur together. 

    “Black grief belongs to the world, and is regulated by the same forces that caused such deep pain in the first place,” Mychal Denzel Smith wrote this week at The New Republic.

    “Black families become advocates, activists, and spokespeople, historians, journalists, and policy experts, while also being the gatekeepers of the legacy and humanity of those they’ve lost,” he continued. “And they must somehow do all of this while comforting a society that both produced the conditions for these tragic deaths and still refuses to acknowledge its role in them.”

    Another video from the Castile shooting shows Reynolds throwing her head back and screaming. Her daughter shoulders a superhuman duty seemingly only ever imposed upon black kids: She consoles her anguished mother before, eventually, breaking down herself in the back of a squad car.

    We’ve heard their cries before. They’ve come to us from crime scenes and courtrooms across the country. When the officer who killed Castile was acquitted, the same howls filled the courtroom. When the officer who killed Smith was found not guilty, it happened again.

    The sound is indescribable. It shakes you. But you’ve heard it before.

    It’s the same scream released by Mamie Till-Mobley, Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden, Samaria Rice and thousands of others who have lost loved ones to police violence. Somehow, you know that the same cries escaped the mouths of your ancestors whenever state violence was inflicted upon them. 

    Research suggests that historical trauma can be passed down to new generations. At times, it seems like we’re feeling exactly the same isolation, anger, fear and deep fatigue that our ancestors felt.

    We’ve been reliving the same experience for centuries.

    The déjà vu of black pain, trauma and death is generational. We’re stuck in a loop of violence and injustice. We exist in a constant state of trauma and distress. We are forever aware of our close proximity to this kind of death, the ordinary nature of our demise and how it could always be us or someone we love.

    We’ve been here before ― and we’ll be here again.

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  2. Ohio County Claims Top Spot In America’s Opioid Death Spiral

    Scott Weidle is struggling with the death of his son Daniel, who died from a heroin overdose 18 months ago, one day after Christmas.

    Daniel, who was 30 when he died, was a father of three young boys: Dylan, Landon and Gavin.

    “I got the call laying on the beach,” Weidle, 58, said. “Worst day of my life.”

    Weidle, a sand and gravel contractor in Montgomery County, Ohio, said he could never have imagined his son becoming a statistic in the United States’ growing opioid crisis.

    “I have all kinds of emotions,” he said. “One day it’s outrage, one day I’m infuriated, and one day I’m in disbelief.”

    Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    An estimated 800 people in Montgomery County will die this year from drug overdose, more than double the 370 overdose deaths the county recorded last year, giving it the unfortunate distinction of logging the most overdose deaths in the country per capita, according to the county’s coroner’s office.

    “If we stay on this pace, we could quadruple our deaths from last year,” Mike Brem, captain of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said.

    Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain medication responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths around the U.S., accounts for a significant number of the county’s overdose deaths, Brem said.

    Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The agency says illegally manufactured non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, and related overdoses, are a rising problem.

    In May, the state of Ohio sued five major drug manufacturers, accusing them of misrepresenting the risks of prescription opioid painkillers.

    The county morgue is at “full capacity all the time,” Ken Betz, director of the coroner’s office, said.

    “We can average almost 10 bodies per day in our facility where, historically, five bodies a day was a busy day,” Betz said. “Our staff is just plain tired.

    “We’ve never experienced this level of daily drug overdoses in my entire career,” he added.

    Weidle continues to fight on behalf of Daniel, advocating for stricter laws to curb opioid deaths.

    “He always loved to put his arm around you, always had a smile on his face,” Weidle said.

    “People who looked a little desperate, a little down and out ... he would go friend them. It’s something I wish I could do.” 

    (Reporting by Linda So; Editing by Melissa Fares and Leslie Adler)

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  3. Scott Walker Hails 'Free Speech' Bill That Would Punish Student Hecklers

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has hailed a bill that would punish student protesters who disrupt speeches on college campuses, a measure opponents say would infringe First Amendment rights.

    The bill, known as the “Campus Free Speech Act,” which passed in the State Assembly without any Democratic support Wednesday, could result in student hecklers being suspended or expelled.

    The GOP-sponsored Assembly Bill 299 still has to pass the state Senate ― and survive any constitutional challenges. But Walker indicated on Twitter Thursday that he’d sign it:

    Thanks to the Assembly for their commitment to free speech on UW campuses.

    — Governor Walker (@GovWalker) June 22, 2017

    Republican lawmakers introduced the measure after becoming concerned at protesting students heckling conservative speakers at University of Wisconsin campuses, particularly in Madison, which has a history of activism

    The measure targets students who “materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.” according to the amendment memo. It could result in disciplinary action against anyone who engages in “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, obscene, unreasonably loud, or other disorderly conduct that interferes with the free expression of others.”

    “The bill requires that a student who is twice found responsible for interfering with the expressive rights of others be suspended for at least one semester or expelled,” the memo states. The punishment for a student found in violation for a third time would be expulsion.

    Opponents say the bill prioritizes the free speech rights of some over others— mandating silence from audience members while allowing a speaker at a lectern to say whatever they like.

    Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) called the measure “unconstitutional.” “It basically gags and bags the First Amendment,” he said, according to Wispolitics.com.

    Democrats also criticized the bill for being overly broad, with leeway to punish almost any kind of behavior. It doesn’t define the term “interfering with,” which is a big problem, Taylor told The Badger Herald.

    “What does ‘interfere with’ mean? Is it calling out? Is it saying, ‘No, I don’t agree with you’? If you do that twice, you could be suspended,” Taylor said to the student newspaper.

    Critics are also concerned that such a bill that could suppress an open exchange of opinions in universities, which should be the heart of free expression in America.

    “Our colleges and universities should be a place to vigorously debate ideas and ultimately learn from one another. Instead, this campus gag rule creates an atmosphere of fear where free expression and dissent are discouraged,” Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Campus gag rule sets atmosphere of fear. Protect free speech by exercising it, not restricting it. https://t.co/3d1VuipB2x #WIDeserveBetter

    — Lisa Subeck (@LisaSubeck) June 22, 2017

    One Republican state legislator has expressed concerns that the bill could be used to gag conservative students who speak out against speeches on abortion or gun control.

    The measure was triggered in part by a November incident in Madison, where students shouted down former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro as he made a speech on campus. University of California, Berkeley, canceled a speech by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor, earlier this year amid violent protests. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter decided not to go through with a speech at Berkeley after a dispute with university officials over security

    type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=59076592e4b03b105b44baa7,58508aa8e4b0b662c2fdde80

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  4. The Health Care Bill Gets Its Own '10 Things I Hate About You' Poem

    After the Senate released its draft of the Affordable Health Care Act on Thursday, women’s health care organizations voiced their concern about what the AHCA would mean for women

    NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue called it “morally bankrupt” and Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, said “the bill that was crafted by 13 white men in secret shockingly doesn’t do well by women.” 

    One local Planned Parenthood affiliate in Minnesota went for a more creative approach, though, and took a page from the infamous poetry scene in the 1999 romcom, “10 Things I Hate About You.” 

    The poem, “13 Things I Hate About You,” pretty much nails what’s wrong in one succinct statement. 

    “Dear American ‘Health Care’ Act” the poem reads. “I hate the way you don’t represent me, and the way you steal our care. If I told you you’d strip Medicaid from millions, would that show you the burden that we’d bear?” (Read the full poem below.)

    In other words, Planned Parenthood Minnesota has the following message for the AHCA: 

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  5. Kellyanne Conway Says People Who Doubted Trump Interfered In The Election

    Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, attempted to spin a question about Russian interference in the 2016 election by saying people who questioned whether Trump could win had actually meddled with the campaign.

    “The president has said previously, and he stands by that, particularly as president-elect, that he would be concerned about anyone interfering in our democracy,” she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday. “We saw a lot of people interfering with our democracy by saying he couldn’t win here at home.”

    "You're not answering": @AlisynCamerota asks Kellyanne Conway question about addressing Russia interference 7 times https://t.co/t84hz1qtC0

    — CNN (@CNN) June 23, 2017

    There is an overwhelming consensus among intelligence officials that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but the White House has refused to say whether Trump believes that’s true. If there was hacking, Trump said Thursday, it was President Barack Obama’s fault for failing to stop it.

    Conway also dodged repeated questions from Camerota as to what specifically Trump and the White House were doing to prevent Russia from hacking another election, simply saying voter integrity was an issue of concern to the president.

    “The president has met with his national security team many times, he has an initiative or commission on voter integrity, and he himself has used the power of the bully pulpit to express his resistance towards any type of outside interference,” she eventually said.

    Some members of the presidential commission on electoral integrity, to which Conway was referring, have called for it to investigate Russian interference in the election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has said the commission will investigate the issue if members would like to, but that it does not fall within the panel’s official charge. But part of the executive order establishing the commission says it will look at “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

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