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Vox Sentences: Terror befalls a London mosque

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Another terror attack in London; tensions between the US and Russia escalate in Syria; a mistrial is declared for Bill Cosby.


Another day, another terror attack

Vigil Held After One Person Killed In Terror Attack On Worshippers Leaving Ramadan Prayers Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • Muslim communities in the UK are reeling after a fresh tragedy in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Authorities in London responded to the fourth terror attack in three months, as a van plowed into a group of Muslim worshipers leaving evening prayers at a mosque in the city’s Finsbury Park neighborhood. The attacker was identified as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, who allegedly was shouting that he was going to kill all Muslims. [BBC]
  • Neighbors later said they were surprised the father of four was responsible for such an attack, but also used some choice swear words to describe his personality. [Metro / Jen Mills]
  • After ramming the van into the crowd, Osborne himself was saved by a 30-year-old imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, who shielded the man with his own body from angry crowd members’ kicks and punches. Mahmoud later told reporters he intervened because “all life is sacred.” [Sky News / Bethan Staton]
  • Addressing the latest attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a new government commission to counter extremism in all its forms. This represents a shift in May’s rhetoric; she had previously characterized the country’s terror attacks as ones carried out singularly by Islamist extremists. [The Guardian / Alan Travis]
  • The same cannot be said for President Donald Trump, who has a propensity to tweet during terror attacks perpetrated by Islamist extremists but stay silent when Muslims are the ones being targeted. Though the White House issued a statement a day after the attack, Trump himself has not tweeted a response. [Washington Post / Philip Bump]
  • This is an oft-repeated pattern; it took Trump days to speak out after the Finsbury Park attack, and he didn’t say anything after a January shooting at a mosque in Quebec or the May murder of two men in Portland, Oregon, who intervened as a knife-wielding white supremacist harassed two teenage girls, both Muslim. [Washington Post / Philip Bump]
  • Tolerance and sympathy for Muslims doesn’t score Trump political points, and it erodes his often-repeated critiques of political correctness and calls to get tough on terror. [Vox / Sarah Wildman​]

An escalation in Syria

  • On Sunday, the US military downed a Syrian warplane and killed its pilot, the first time that’s happened since the Syrian civil war started in 2011. The fallout is dramatically escalating tensions, not just with the Syrian government but also with Russia. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • There are a lot of players in the Syrian war. Russia, Iran, and the militant group Hezbollah are helping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the fight. Assad and his allies say they are fighting terror groups in the country, but they are also killing an inordinate number of civilians along the way. [Vox / Johnny Harris and Max Fisher]
  • The US, on the other hand, supports Kurds and rebel fighters who are allied with Turkey, Jordan, and the Gulf states. [Vox / Johnny Harris and Max Fisher]
  • The Russians are one of Assad’s main backers in the Syrian civil war, and were extremely unhappy about this latest development. So unhappy, in fact, that Russian officials threatened to aim at US coalition aircraft flying in Syria and also said they were cutting off the connection to a military hotline with the United States that’s expressly for the purpose of avoiding plane collisions in Syrian airspace. [NYT / Ivan Nechepurenko and Michael Gordon]
  • But the US airstrike wasn’t a random incident; it was the fourth time in a month the US has struck either Assad’s own forces or his allies. And those strikes haven’t been just to protect US troops; they have also been to protect US allied forces fighting in the country. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Trump’s first escalation of US involvement in the Syria came in April, when he ordered the US military to strike a Syrian airbase in retaliation for Assad using chemical weapons. Syria and Russia condemned the attack, but didn’t retaliate. [CNN / Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond]
  • Trump’s increasing intervention is a huge departure from his predecessor; the Obama administration didn’t really do much in Syria besides fund rebel groups fighting Assad. Obama’s rationale for not getting involved was trying to avoid getting dragged into another quagmire like Iraq, but he was roundly criticized for not doing enough to push back on Assad’s atrocities. [Foreign Policy / Charles Lister]
  • A lot of people don’t really know what Trump’s overall strategy in Syria is. There’s little congressional oversight into US action and minimal public discussion or debate as the conflict on the ground — and in the skies — escalates. [The Atlantic / Ilan Goldenberg and Nicholas Heras​]

Cosby trial is heading for round two

Bill Cosby leaves a preliminary hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania, May 24. William Thomas Cain / Getty
  • A deadlocked jury unable to reach a verdict Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case this weekend means that it will likely go to trial a second time. [CNN / Ray Sanchez, Eric Levenson, and Lawrence Crook III]
  • Prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, said they plan to quickly retry the case, and hope to bring in testimony from more of Cosby’s accusers the second time around. [NYT / Sydney Ember and Graham Bowley]
  • Despite prosecutors’ efforts to introduce the testimony of 13 accusers and establish a repeated pattern of alleged assault on Cosby’s part, the judge in the case only allowed one woman’s testimony to be considered. [NYT / Sydney Ember and Graham Bowley]
  • Outside the courtroom, a public case against Cosby has been building for quite some time.
  • Two years ago, 35 women went public to New York magazine about their stories of assault. All detailed similar accounts, with the comedian allegedly preying on vulnerable women, in many cases drugging them and having sex with them against their will. [New York magazine / Noreen Malone and Amanda Demme]
  • Their stories provided the impetus to reopen the lawsuit against Cosby filed by one accuser, Andrea Constand. She had originally filed against the comedian in 2005, but the case was dismissed because prosecutors didn’t think there was enough evidence to go to trial. [Deadspin / Diana Moskovitz]
  • In that 2005 deposition, Cosby revealed a number of things; he said that he viewed offering someone Quaaludes (a drug that sedates people) to be the same as offering a drink, asked a modeling agent to connect him to young women who were struggling financially, and in general didn’t seem to think that his actions amounted to sexual assault — rather, that they were normal romantic encounters. [NYT / Graham Bowley and Sydney Ember]
  • Even with the astonishing number of women who went public claiming Cosby assaulted them, it all came down to Constand in the trial. The defense spent a lot of time trying to discredit her story and claim the encounter was consensual, a common tactic in sexual assault cases. [Vox / Caroline Heldman]
  • With the prosecution needing to meet a much higher burden of proof than the defense, Cosby’s lawyers were able to sow enough doubt in the jury’s mind to avoid a guilty verdict. What remains to be seen is if they can do it a second time. [Vox / Constance Grady​]

Miscellaneous

  • Military experts say the US has four options to deal with the aggressive and unstable North Korean regime, ranging from total destruction to a do-nothing policy. They don't like any of them. [The Atlantic / Mark Bowden]
  • For decades, Paul Williams was a conservative evangelical preacher and a father figure to many young pastors. Then Paul became Paula. [NYT / Jon Leland]
  • Treating those who are addicted to opioids increasingly means also addressing a whole host of other costly health problems, like hepatitis C and HIV. It also often means addressing underlying mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. [Amino / Sohan Murthy]
  • The things that divide Americans are deeper than just politics. A new study shows there is a serious cultural divide and, among some rural Americans, a deep mistrust of people who live in cities. [Washington Post / Jose DelReal and Scott Clement]
  • The Czech Republic sits in a religiously devout bloc of nations in Eastern Europe. Yet an astonishing number of people living there — 66 percent — say they do not believe in God. [Jonathan Evans / Pew Research Center]

Verbatim

  • "He first heard of American Idea when a Trump Hotels executive called early one Saturday in March. It usually takes three years to finalize a deal, he said, but this one happened in just three months." [New Yorker / Adam Davidson]
  • "It is sort of like trying to change your tire on I-35 and I am trying to teach you how to read while that is happening. Obviously, that does not go very well.” [Amy Brewer to NPR / Katie Hayes Luke]
  • “‘It’s really hard for me to think about because I’ve been trying hard to be part of everything I’ve missed,’ the 35-year-old Woodall said. ‘Even the simple stuff, it could be the last time I take out the trash.’” [The Marshall Project / Marella Gayla]
  • "Sometime around the invention of agriculture, the cats came crawling. It was mice and rats, probably, that attracted the wild felines. The rats came because of stores of grain, made possible by human agriculture. And so cats and humans began their millennia-long coexistence." [The Atlantic / Sarah Zhang]
  • “The White House press secretary is getting to a point where he’s just kind of useless. If he can’t come out and answer the questions on camera or audio, why are we even having these briefings or these gaggles in the first place?” [Jim Acosta to CNN]

Watch this: Trump's policy agenda is a bigger scandal than his Russia ties

Trump’s health care plan and budget show the scandal hiding in plain sight. [YouTube / Ezra Klein and Mike Cades]


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