Call for probe into crimes against humanity in Xinjiang as report details torture, rape of Uighurs



Human Rights Watch has called for an UN independent investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity carried out by China in Xinjiang, the details of which are documented in a new report.

A new report by Human Rights Watch has detailed instances of what it calls crimes against humanity in Xinjiang carried out by the Chinese government against Muslim Uighurs.

Acts of sexual violence and torture are detailed in the report, which was co-authored with the Stanford Law. School.

Elaine Pearson, the Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said the accounts shared with researchers are disturbing and appears to be escalating in intensity and frequency.

“For instance, one person told us of how they were stripped naked, forced to undergo a medical examination, electroshocked and beaten while interrogated.”

In another account, the 53-page report details how his solitary confinement punishment for resisting political education efforts involved him being forced to stand for 24 hours without sleep, with no food or water, and handcuffed in a two-by-two metre cell.

Countries urged to pursue prosecution for crimes against humanity

The report said the available evidence at this stage meets the legal criteria for crimes against humanity, but falls short of genocide.

“We haven’t documented ourselves genocidal intent, but crimes against humanity are extremely serious crimes,” Ms Pearson said.

“And this report does not rule out a finding of genocide by others in the future. I think one thing to remember access to Xinjiang is extremely limited.”
The rights group is urging an independent United Nations investigation in Xinjiang to verify what is happening.


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Adelaide Uighurs concerned over new Chinese consulate

Adelaide Uighurs concerned over new Chinese consulate

China has denied allegations of abuse and genocide, blaming “anti-China forces” for “some distorted coverage” in Western media.

Chinese officials said the detention facilities for Uighurs are vocational training centres aimed at deradicalising terrorists.

Renewed push for Australia to announce sanctions

The European Union, United States and Canada have announced sanctions against Chinese officials, with China responding with sanctions of its own.

Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye earlier this month warned Australia against imposing any sanctions, even as Labor’s foreign affairs minister Penny Wong renewed calls for such action.

In a speech overnight in Hobart, she called for the implementation of a legal framework for targeted sanctions against human rights perpetrators, similar to the US’ Magnitsky Act.

“Implementing Magnitsky sanctions and playing our part in ending modern slavery are concrete actions that Australia can take to change the world for the better,” she said in her address to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Australia, among other countries, is being urged by Human Rights Watch to pursue prosecution of crimes against humanity under “universal jurisdiction”, which allows countries to prosecute crimes like torture committed against their nationals overseas.

Australian permanent resident sentenced to 25 years in Xinjiang jail

It comes as an Australian permanent resident, 26-year-old Mirzat Taher, is sentenced to 25 years for alleged “separatism” relating time spent in Turkey.

His wife, Melbourne-born Mehray Mezensof, said the sentence is baseless and she has concerns for his safety.

The Australian government said it is limited to providing consular support to Australian citizens only.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the case is an extreme example.

“[The sentence is] absolutely horrifying and gobsmacking: a 25-year sentence. That’s really at the outer limit of what we’ve documented, except for people who have been given life sentences.”

She said pressure needs to be brought bear to secure Mirzat Taher’s release.

“One recommendation we have made over the years is that governments that have citizens or legal permanent residents, who are themselves detained, or who have family members who are detained – that hopefully governments will really go to bat especially for those kinds of cases.”

Elaine Pearson said there have been a growing number of examples of Uighur activists being handed prison sentences, ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment, for acts deemed by Chinese officials to be separatist activities.

“We’ve seen other examples of Uighur families who have travelled to Turkey; who haven’t committed any other offences, but perhaps received household goods or a musical instrument; and on the basis of that, they have been sentenced to 11 to 23 years in prison.”

Ms Pearson said there is a precedent for the Australian government to act in cases involving Australian permanent residents, including the case of footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

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‘Crimes against humanity’: Here’s why Team Biden banned photographers from border shelters


by WorldTribune Staff, March 22, 2021 Newly released photos from inside a Team Biden border shelter show the conditions migrants who are enticed by Joe Biden’s open border policies are forced to endure. Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar, who released images from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility in Donna, Texas to Axios, denounced […]

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Queensland’s toolbox murders: How an ‘innocent’ text led to one of the state’s most ‘sadistic’ crimes


WARNING: This story contains graphic details

Two people were tied up, tortured for hours, then locked inside a 2-metre metal toolbox, before being plunged into the depths of a murky Logan dam, south of Brisbane  — where they would remain for 18 days. 

The pair screamed and begged for their lives until they finally died in a “cold watery grave”.

This week, after five years, two full trials, and several other lengthy court proceedings, everyone who played a role in the murders of Iuliana Triscaru and Cory Breton, learned their punishment

In 2016, desperate relatives of Ms Triscaru, 31, and Mr Breton, 28, made an appeal to the public, pleading for help to find their loved ones who had not been seen since January 24.

Less than a week later, police divers found their decomposing bodies inside a locked toolbox in Scrubby Creek.

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Myanmar: Streets of blood in Myaing as UN fears ‘crimes against humanity’


In one unverified graphic image, a body can be seen with the head blown apart and brain remnants spilled onto the road.

“He said it’s worth dying for,” she said. “He is worried about people not joining the protest. If so, democracy will not return to the country.”

At least 80 people have been killed since the military invalidated the results of the country’s democratic election, the United Nations human rights office said, and hundreds more injured. At least four of the deaths in recent days were individuals arrested and detained by the junta, including two officials with the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) party. All four died in custody, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

More than 2,000 people have been arbitrarily detained since the coup, according to AAPP, many of them kept out of contact from family and friends, their condition or whereabouts unknown.

CNN cannot independently verify the arrest numbers or death toll from AAPP.

Myanmar’s state run daily newspaper published a notice on Wednesday reinforcing the military’s narrative that it is using minimum force against protesters.

On Thursday, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that a “growing body of reporting” indicates the junta’s security forces are committing “acts of murder, imprisonment, persecution and other crimes as part of a coordinated campaign, directed against a civilian population, in a widespread and systematic manner, with the knowledge of the junta’s leadership.”

The “brutal response,” he said, is “thereby likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.”

He called on UN member states to stop the flow of revenue and weapons to the junta, saying multilateral sanctions “should be imposed” on senior leaders, military-owned and controlled enterprises and the state energy firm, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

His statement came after rights group Amnesty International released a report saying the military were embarking on a “killing spree” in Myanmar, using increasingly lethal tactics and weapons normally seen on the battlefield against peaceful protesters and bystanders.

By verifying more than 50 videos from the ongoing crackdown, Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab confirmed security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies, including the ramped-up use of lethal force, indiscriminate spraying of live ammunition in urban areas, and that many of the killings documented amount to extrajudicial executions.

“These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see,” said Joanne Mariner, director of crisis response at Amnesty International. “These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions. These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.

Fleeing to India

There is evidence the violence is forcing people to flee the country. Between 200 and 300 people have crossed the border from Myanmar into India’s northeastern state of Mizoram, fleeing the unrest, Mizoram’s chief minister told CNN.

That number includes police, civil servants, their family members, and other civilian and the number of people fleeing increases daily, according Chief Minister PU Zoramthanga.

“We (the Mizoram government) are not sending them back as a humanitarian point of view. When somebody enters the land, the country’s border, for fear of their lives we cannot simply send them back. They are not criminals. It is a political issue,” he said.

Zormanthanga added that people are given food and shelter, and many have family in Mizoram. He said it is up to the Indian central government on how to deal with people crossing the border.

Suu Kyi accused of bribery

Ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was accused of bribery and corruption by the military Thursday, adding to four charges already against her that could result in a years-long prison sentence.

Military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said in a news conference that Suu Kyi accepted illegal payments worth $600,000, as well as gold, while in government, according to Reuters.

The spokesperson added that the information had been verified following a complaint from a former Yangon regional minister, and an anti-corruption committee was investigating.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw told CNN “the allegations are a complete fabrication.”

“I have been in politics in Myanmar for nearly 40 years, and in all these years I have not witnessed such shameless allegations” he said. “We are in a country where the people have seen lots of corruption in the past and many misbehaviors, but Aung San Suu Kyi is not in that sphere of corruption.”

He added that while he has had “many disagreements” with Suu Kyi, “when it comes corruption, bribery, greed — this is not her, she is not that kind of woman.”

Along with Suu Kyi, ousted President Win Myint, his wife, and several cabinet ministers were being investigated for allegedly asking for and accepting “money from some entrepreneurs,” the spokesperson said, without clarifying, according to Reuters.

Suu Kyi and Win Myint remain under house arrest.

The military, headed by coup-leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, took full control of the country last month, ousting Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government, which had won a landslide in November 2020 elections.

The army justified its action by alleging widespread voter fraud in that poll — only the second democratic vote since the previous military junta began a series of reforms in 2011.

In a video statement played to the UN Human Rights Council, Myanmar’s permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chan Aye said: “In recent days, authorities concerned have been paying attention to maintaining law and order in the country,” and “authorities have been exercising utmost restraint to deal with the violent protests.”

People pay tribute by laying flowers and lighting candles next to dried blood at the spot where Chit Min Thu was killed in clashes on March 11 in Yangon, Myanmar.

Chan Aye also said the military leadership remains committed to “free and fair multiparty democratic elections.”

But speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, said the country doesn’t need fresh elections as the last poll was free and fair.
His comments came after the 15 countries of the UN Security Council unanimously backed the strongest statement since the coup, saying it “strongly condemns the violence against peaceful protestors” and called on the military to “exercise utmost restraint.”
UN diplomats told CNN that China, Russia, and Vietnam objected to tougher language calling events “a coup” and in one draft forced the removal of language that would have threatened further action, potentially sanctions.

In a statement, China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said “it is important the Council members speak in one voice. We hope the message of the Council would be conducive to easing the situation in Myanmar.”

Kyaw Moe Tun said the message “does not meet the peoples’ expectation,” saying up against the brutality of the military “we all feel helpless” and called on the international community for protection.

CNN’s Sarita Harilela, Vedika Sud, Richard Roth and Radina Gigova contributed reporting.

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Six Asian women among those killed in US spa shootings, amid anxiety over hate crimes



The shootings came with many Asian-Americans already on edge following a recent spike in hate crimes against the community, and triggered immediate fears that Asian-run businesses may have been deliberately targeted.

Four of the victims were killed at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a suburb of Georgia state capital Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County sheriff’s office told the paper the victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man, while a Hispanic man was wounded.

Adriana Mejia, a niece of one of the victims, said the family was “devastated” after her uncle was shot and that they were praying for his recovery.

“We never know when we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time because this was so all of a sudden,” she said.

Police separately confirmed that four women had been killed in attacks on two other spas in the northeast of the city.

Describing the scene in northeast Atlanta, the city police department said: “Upon arrival, officers located three females deceased inside the location from apparent gunshot wounds.”

While on the scene, officers were advised of shots fired across the street, where they found a fourth female victim.

Police told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that all four were Asian women.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported the country’s foreign ministry had confirmed that four of the victims were of Korean descent.

Authorities have identified Robert Aaron Long as a suspect in all three shootings.

Based on the pattern of surveillance video from the shooting scenes, Atlanta police spokesman Sergeant John Chafee told AFP: “It is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody.”

“We are working closely with them to confirm with certainty our cases are related,” he added.

Mr Long was taken into custody after a “brief pursuit” about 240 kilometres from Atlanta, according to a statement by the Georgia Department of Safety on Facebook.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was assisting in the investigation, a spokesman told AFP. 

‘Once again we see that hate is deadly’

The shootings come as reports of attacks against Asian-Americans, primarily elders, have spiked in recent months — fuelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, activists believe, by talk of the “Chinese virus” by former president Donald Trump and others.

News of the shootings came just hours after the release of a report by the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate suggested a marked increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, with women disproportionately affected. 

In a tally of incidents reported to the group between March 2020 and February this year, almost 70 percent of Asian-American survey respondents said they had faced verbal harassment and just over one in 10 said they had experienced physical assault.

Georgia is home to nearly 500,000 Asian residents, or just over four percent of its population, according to the Asian American Advocacy Fund.

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock condemned the violence in a tweet late Tuesday.

“My heart is broken tonight after the tragic violence in Atlanta that took eight lives. Once again we see that hate is deadly,” he said.

“Praying for the families of the victims and for peace for the community.” 

The Democratic party in the state called Tuesday’s shooting spree “horrifying.”

“As details continue to emerge, this attack sadly follows the unacceptable pattern of violence against Asian Americans that has skyrocketed throughout this pandemic,” said Congresswoman Nikema Williams, who is also the state party’s chairwoman.

In an address to the nation last Thursday, President Joe Biden forcefully condemned what he called “vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.”

“It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop,” he said.



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International Criminal Court to probe possible war crimes in Occupied Palestinian Territories


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“My office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized.”

Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.

The UN recognises the Occupied Palestinian Territories as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – disputed territory claimed by Israel.

She named both the Israeli Defence Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.

The next step will be to determine whether Israeli or Palestinian authorities have investigations themselves and to assess those efforts.

‘Long-awaited step’

Israel’s government on Wednesday called the court “morally and legally bankrupt”.

“The decision to open an investigation against Israel is an exception to the mandate of the tribunal, and a waste of the international community’s resources by a biased institution that has lost all legitimacy,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the court ruled on jurisdiction, he said: “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-semitism.”

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.

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It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Islamist militant group Hamas defended its own actions in the conflict.

“We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said.

Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said ICC member countries needed to stand by to fiercely protect the court’s work from political pressure.

The ICC is a court of last resort established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when a country is unable or unwilling to do so.

The prosecutor’s office was targeted by sanctions under former US President Donald Trump in response to its investigation in Afghanistan, which is examining the role of US forces.

Reuters

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War crimes inquiry and Defence clash over sackings of whistleblower soldiers


As the Defence Force continues to deal with the fallout of the Inspector-General’s report, delegates of the Chief of the Army Rick Burr have moved to sack at least three whistleblowers from the Special Air Service Regiment and commandos.

Asked about this process, a Defence spokesperson said: “The fact that some individuals assisted the inquiry is not disputed and regardless of any recommendation the inquiry made, it is ultimately a matter for Defence as to what if any administrative action is taken.”

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr in November.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The spokesperson also said that while termination notices had been issued, the responses from soldiers threatened with sacking would be considered before any final decisions were made.

Defence sources in Canberra, who were not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed that the office of the Inspector-General had been forced to issue “support” letters to help a small number of soldiers who were issued termination notices.

Multiple Defence sources aware of behind-the-scenes efforts to protect whistleblowers said at least two of the soldiers who were issued termination notices allegedly engaged in war crimes on the orders of more senior soldiers, and in both cases, these alleged crimes would never have been discovered without the disclosures, the sources said.

Some soldiers suspected of repeatedly lying about their own involvement in war crimes have also been issued termination notices, but were given no support from the Inspector-General. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have confirmed this by speaking to more than a dozen serving and former special forces insiders.

In November, General Burr and Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell both publicly praised the role of special forces soldiers who disclosed alleged war crimes to Justice Brereton, who led the Inspector-General’s inquiry.

Justice Brereton ultimately found that Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed up to 39 murders and recommended that up to 19 current or former soldiers should face criminal investigation, possible prosecution and be stripped of their medals.

Justice Brereton warned in his November report that “too often … have the careers of whistle-blowers been adversely affected”. He urged the Defence Force to promote “cleanskin” whistleblowers – those who had observed or disclosed alleged war crimes but not participated in any alleged summary executions. Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is yet to act on that recommendation.

Justice Brereton also urged General Campbell and General Burr to consider special treatment for those “whose conduct is such that they cannot be rewarded by promotion, but who, having made disclosures to the Inquiry in protected circumstances when they reasonably believed they would not be used against them, and whose evidence was ultimately of considerable assistance to the Inquiry, ought not fairly be the subject of adverse administrative action”.

“Again, it will be an important signal that they have not been disadvantaged for having ultimately assisted to uncover misconduct, even though implicating themselves.”

General Angus Campbell.

General Angus Campbell.Credit:Getty Images

When he announced Justice Brereton’s findings in November, General Campbell described being “deeply appreciative of people who came forward to speak with concern of what they had seen, in some cases of what they had participated in”.

“It was a very brave thing for them to do, because in the climate and the culture I have described, they would have been very concerned for doing so,” he said in comments which suggested General Campbell was aware that key whistleblowers had also disclosed their own wrongdoing.

But since then, senior officers working under General Burr’s ultimate command have, in at least three cases, disregarded the advice from the Inspector-General and issued termination notices that inform a soldier they will be sacked unless they provide mitigating circumstances.

The question of how to deal with special forces veterans who have admitted to egregious acts is not simple. Even considering their assistance to the inquiry, their alleged conduct may be so serious that it warrants dismissal. However, that is the same workplace penalty suffered by SAS and commando soldiers who have been found to have repeatedly lied about their own role in war crimes only to have it disclosed by others.

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The tension comes amid confusion about how the federal police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will work with the new Office of the Special Investigator, which was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November to help prosecute those accused of war crimes. The Office of the Special Investigator (OSI), led by former Victorian judge Mark Weinberg, is analysing what information from the Brereton inquiry can be used in criminal prosecutions and what must be withheld because it was obtained under a special power that gives immunity to those who confess to wrongdoing.

However, the OSI is at risk of replicating steps already taken by the Australian Federal Police, which was referred war crimes allegations by Justice Brereton in 2018. Federal police agents have spent almost three years investigating former special forces soldier and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who is accused of multiple war crimes, and are also investigating serious allegations against another soldier known as “Soldier C”.

Shifting these investigations to a newly created bureaucracy is potentially fraught if it causes delays, as witnesses’ memories fade or suspects find opportunities to collude. It may also leave some already traumatised witnesses dealing with new investigators with whom they have no prior relationship or who have no corporate investigation knowledge.

Former SAS soldiers said federal police agents had taken statements and built rapport with key witnesses in 2018 and 2019. Official sources in Canberra said it was unclear how many federal agents would be seconded to the new office, although it would involve at least some of the AFP taskforces set up in 2018 to probe war crimes.

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GPS tracking ‘wouldn’t have stopped me’ committing crimes, says former Queensland youth offender


This week Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced trials of GPS tracking devices as a bail condition for repeat youth offenders, as part of a raft of measures aimed at tackling youth crime.

The moves were condemned as a “knee-jerk” response by former Northern Territory youth detention royal commissioner Mick Gooda and prisoner advocate Debbie Kilroy.

Reformed youth offender Ben, 19, (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) told the ABC a GPS tracker would not have slowed him down.

“It wouldn’t [have] stopped me from committing crimes,” Ben said.

“I’d get caught, obviously, but it wouldn’t stop me from doing what I did best, what I loved doing, things that were bad.”

Ben has been through the youth justice system multiple times.

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How to Stop Hate Crimes


A two-minute Google search will turn up dozens of attempts—including initiatives by lawmakers, religious leaders, and others—to combat hate crimes. Nothing has worked. The Department of Justice and human-rights groups have written exhaustive whitepapers, and justice advocates have spent countless hours over the years discussing hate on panels. Hate crimes have increased in four of the past five years, with 2019 being the deadliest on record for hate crimes, according to FBI statistics. How, I asked Racine during a recent phone conversation, will this effort be any different? It starts at the root, he said: We simply do not have enough data to know the scope of the problem.

“It’s so porous that dozens of people were injured, and Heather Heyer was murdered, in Charlottesville, but if you go back and look at the hate reporting data for Virginia in that year, you won’t find any report of a hate-crime incident coming out of Charlottesville,” he said. “Talk about a gap? That’s a freaking gap.”

The FBI, through a voluntary-reporting system, records roughly 6,000 such crimes a year, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that the actual number is closer to 250,000. Shortly after the 2016 election, ProPublica launched an initiative to try to understand how many hate crimes occur in the United States, but its effort ended in 2019. Groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center still catalog some of these crimes, Racine said, but such important data collection should not fall to private organizations. Critics have used the incomplete statistics to suggest that hate crimes are not a problem worth devoting extra resources to, Racine said. If data collection were mandatory and the results reported to every NAAG member’s office, perhaps we would have a more complete picture of the problem. (Racine does not have a plan to do this yet.)

In the video launching Racine’s NAAG presidential initiative, two Republican attorneys general spoke about the pervasiveness of hate crimes. Racine stressed that his group’s hate-crimes project was “bipartisan,” and not about Donald Trump. Though Trump is the latest and perhaps most brash presidential manifestation of the undercurrents of hate in America, he said, hate crimes long predate his rise. Further, if he made the initiative about the outgoing president, “I’d lose half of the room.”

He may have lost half of the room already, because a divided nation can’t agree even on the most basic question of what it means to adequately collect data. Our conversation was postponed for a week because hours before our originally scheduled call, 17 Republican state attorneys general had filed a brief in support of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s unsuccessful attempt to delay the certification of presidential electors in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If it is this difficult to agree on as simple a question as who won an election, how can you possibly agree on the importance of something as complex as a solution to hate crimes? I asked.



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