WASHINGTON (Indiana) — This city of 11,000, nestled among a handful of low hills rising from table-flat Hoosier farm fields, is 680 miles from the other Washington, but the cultural and political divide may be even greater than the geographical distance.
Solidly red Indiana backed Donald Trump by 57% to Hillary Clinton's 37%. Voters here in Daviess County went for Trump over Clinton by 79% to 16%, more than the 74 % who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and the 67% who supported John McCain in 2008. Indeed, Daviess, tucked into the state's southwestern toe between Illinois and Kentucky, was the Trumpiest county in the state.
So listening to the crowd at Rep. Larry Bucshon's town hall here the other night, it was both unsurprising that Trump's support appeared solid despite what some in the other Washington might consider a rocky start, and notable that some of those assembled were less than full-throated in their backing.
There was no fist-shaking at the North Elementary School auditorium - these folks tend to save their shouting for basketball sectional time, and that ended last month. Bucshon, a fourth-term former heart surgeon whose original candidate was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, encountered none of the anger that has greeted other Republicans at town halls this year, although the temperature might have been controlled by his decision to accept only written questions.
Several questioners reflected impatience with the slow or nonexistent progress of health insurance reform. One asked Bucshon if he thought the president should release his tax returns.
"Yes, he should," Bucshon said, to applause.
And about a third of the room clapped for a question calling for more investigation of the Trump administration's ties to Russia — even if the loudest applause came when Bucshon defended his willingness to defund Planned Parenthood, citing the organization's abortion services.
Still, no one took the opportunity to lambaste Trump for failure to launch.
"I think he's doing all right, with all the opposition he's getting," Gene Perkins, 77, wearing an NRA T-shirt and red Trump baseball cap bearing an American flag on the sides and "USA" proudly lettered on the front, told me. "He's trying to do what regular people want done out here in flyover country." Perkins laughed. "That's what they call us."
Perkins, who runs a trucking firm he built from the pavement up after having to leave Purdue University when his father died, thought that, until Trump came along, "this country was on the way down the tubes, as far as I'm concerned. I've said for many years that the government ought to be run like a business, and now we've finally got a businessman in there."
Supporters like his combative tone.
More guarded, and perhaps even more reflective of the general attitude, was David Stowers, a local businessman who brought along his three school-age children and was reluctant even to say if he supported Trump. "There's a need definitely for some changes, and he's making them," he said. "You have to give somebody the time to do the things that you elected them for."
This exactly reflects the mood one encounters often here. At family Easter get-togethers, chatting in grocery store checkout lines, or overheard at nearby restaurant tables, Trump gets credit for pushing for change, even if his efforts seem unfocused and even inept. It's a steep learning curve.
Trump cruised with 57% of the vote in this Midwest state — Photo: Ken Lund
Politics watchers point to signs of progress — easing of strict environmental oversight, greenlighting coal exploration and fuel pipeline work stalled under the Obama administration, withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, punishing Syria's chemical attack, dropping a massive non-nuclear explosive on the Islamic State and drawing a hard line with North Korea.
Less detail-oriented Trump supporters like his combative tone, finding in it a reflection of their own sense of being under attack by opposing culture warriors.
Three days after the town hall, Perkins returned my call from somewhere in the Southwest, where he was hauling a load into Los Angeles, still wearing the Trump hat from the other night, as always. "I have driven from one side of America to another," he said, "and all over the country I've had people say, "Hey, I like that hat." I expected to get some gassing about it, but I never have."
Trump is on the right track, Perkins said, but as an outsider the president faces opposition from every direction. Washington political professionals of both parties often seem more committed to the D.C. establishment than to the people who sent them there. "They may be Republicans or Democrats," he said, "but they're all politicians, and they don't want their apple cart turned over." Which is exactly what Trump has done - or at least started to do - in his first 100 days.
*Lee is a writer who lives in Indiana.
Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.
[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.
• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.
• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.
• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.
• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.
• Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.
• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."
— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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- Colombia, How War Spreads 'Cultural Violence' Into Daily Life ... ›
- Putin's Shadow Army: Russian Mercenaries Enter African Wars ... ›
- Taiwan, Keeping Calm And Watching China - Worldcrunch ›
- In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State ... ›
- Where Are The Doses? How U.S. And Europe Vaccine Pledges ... ›
- Hong Kong's International Food Scene Gets Political - Worldcrunch ›
- Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam ... ›
- Art For All? You Can Now Own Micro-Parts Of Basquiat Or Banksy ... ›