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Brexit: What’s in Store for Next PM Theresa May?

(The Home Secretary and soon-to-be Prime Minister Theresa May)

It’s official.

Theresa May will be the next British prime minister. Following the departure of Andrea Leadsom from the Tory leadership race, May is poised to take over the reins from Cameron, who announced his intention to step down following the disastrous Brexit referendum vote that has plunged Europe and world markets into turmoil.

May’s task to extricate Great Britain from the European Union is no small matter. A first for the multi-national body since its foundation in 1958, one of its members will withdraw using Article 50, the legislative tool that British authorities will need to formally trigger in order to follow through with Brexit.

Those wises, however may have changed a bit over the past few weeks. As we discussed on The Tap, many British voters began regretting their decision to vote ‘no’ almost immediately after polling for the referendum ended. Talks of independence and unification are buzzing in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, both of which voted to stay within the EU.

Enter Theresa May, the UK’s home secretary and soon-to-be prime minister. This Wednesday, Cameron will formally end his tenure, beginning the next chapter of the Brexit saga as May navigates the way forward as Prime Minister.

Since her entry into the British political scene as a parliamentarian in 1997, May has operated as a social liberal within her party, supporting equal pay for women and backing gay marriage. She strikes a much harsher line on immigration, for which she initiated draconian rules during her tenure as home secretary that have hurt the British economy and unduly burdened LGBTQ refugees.

May supported the ‘remain’ camp during the referendum, though in an halfhearted fashion. British political insiders consider this a deliberate strategy to position herself as a palatable leader for both the pro- and anti-Brexit camps within the party.

And make no mistake about it, she has every intention of following through with British voters’ shocking decision to leave the EU.

“Brexit means Brexit,” May has repeatedly said. In an interview with the BBC, she remarked that “as prime minister, I will make sure we will leave the European Union,” stating further that there will be “no attempts to remain inside the EU.”

She also maintains that Britain does not need to trigger Article 50 immediately. Pro-Brexit leaders are interested in delaying the process in order to negotiate the best deal possible to keep access to the EU market.

For its part, the EU has no interest in making things easy for Britain as it does not wish to send the message to other nations within the bloc – including struggling members such as Greece – that leaving is good idea with minimal consequences.

This could amount to a politically impossible position for May. As the drama over Brexit continues, we’ll see what path she takes from the current place of ambiguity and uncertainly she currently occupies.

Making Sense of Dallas: Violence, Racism, and Guns

This week, three separate incidents have monopolized the headlines. Two separate police shootings of non-threatening black men in Louisiana and Minnesota brought activists out across the country, decrying the disproportionately violent and harsh treatment directed by police at people of color.

Then, last night in Dallas, at one of scores of marches against police brutality happening across the nation, at least one gunman ambushed police officers who were on scene to direct the march. The shooter killed five officers and injured 7 people, including both police and protestors. The primary gunman was killed by a bomb detonated remotely by the police, while another three suspects – with as of now unknown affiliation to the incident – remain in custody.

During the lengthy negotiations with police that led up to the detonation, the 25 year-old gunman identified as Micah Johnson expressed anger at the recent shootings, his frustration with the Black Lives Matter movement, and his desire to kill white officers in retaliation for recent events.

This week’s events – both delicate and difficult, dealing with some of the most heated debates of our times – have already stirred the pot, heightening tensions over guns and race during an already fraught political season.

The former House Representative Joe Walsh posted an ominous threat to Obama and Black Lives Matter activists, tweeting: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

By murdering officers as they helped facilitate the expression of protesters’ first amendment rights, Johnson and whoever else was involved in the heinous shooting in Dallas deserve unequivocal condemnation, and any surviving participates in the attack should be prosecuted.

The victims in Dallas deserve justice. So, too, do Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, the men shot to death in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.

But understanding the complexity of this issue is difficult for many Americans. Consider the pandering of public figures like Walsh, whose vicious tweet itself deserves condemnation. The former congressman has leant his voice to a false narrative – just as the New York Post did with its cover this morning – that there is an unsealable divide in our country that will necessarily result in violent conflict. His pandering is reckless and, yes, racist. What exactly is “real America?” Are people who are outraged over senseless police violence directed at black people somehow outside of that classification?

As for rhetorical excess, it is worth mentioning the dehumanization that anti-police jargon generates. While police forces as institutions are flawed and some officers possess prejudice, police departments are run by many well-meaning people from all backgrounds and ethnicities who have families and aspirations. “Fuck the police” may be a cathartic chant, but it is reductive.

While politicians work to fit this week’s events into their narratives, it’s worth acknowledging the objective horror and injustice of violence generally, and gun violence specifically. It’s possible to both adamantly oppose racist violence against black citizens, and to also wholeheartedly oppose the exercise of violence against police officers, many of whom have provided countless hours of civic service for communities across the country.

At the heart of all of this rests that specter of American violence – the gun. As yet another week yields more gun deaths, the United States government cannot bring itself to define the issue in terms of public health. By granting adequate resources to studying and weeding out violence in our communities, we can look at the variegated factors that contribute to this persistent menace, instead of pitting Americans against each other and ignoring institutional flaws that perpetuate injustice.

Trump Uses Antisemitic Meme to Justify Antisemitic Meme

Donald Trump is certainly no stranger to controversy. The highly unpopular presumptive Republican nominee for president has alienated a number of demographics through his improvisational, reactive brand of demagogic populism. From mocking a disabled reporter to accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, Trump’s most offensive moments have somehow left the reality star-turned-candidate relatively unscathed.

That may be changing.

Following his rivals’ departure from the GOP’s presidential primary, Trump’s mercurial temperament may finally be catching up to him as the general electorate scrutinizes his unsavory and offensive style, which often veers into blunt racism and fear-mongering.

His favorability ratings are abysmal, particularly among important demographics including women and latinos, groups whose support is essential for a winning Republican coalition in November.

Trump now appears to be digging himself into an even larger hole. One of the candidate’s recent tweets featured a meme calling Hillary Clinton the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.” The image also featured a Star of David overlaid on a pool of cash. It remained on Twitter for several hours before being taken down and replaced with a doctored version.

The website Mic was able to trace the meme to a forum popular with the “alt-right,” a movement steeped in neo-nazi ideology and antisemitism.

At a rally this week in Cincinnati, Trump expended a considerable amount of energy defending the image, accusing the media of dishonesty in bringing up its racist undertones. Much to the confusion of political commentators who figured that Trump would make political use of recent developments pertaining to Clinton’s private email server, Trump instead focused on the meme, stating that if he had the opportunity again, he would have left it up.

The mogul has since tweeted another image depicting a sticker book themed with Disney’s film Frozen which also includes a Star of David, rhetorically asking if the book should attract the same degree of outrage sparked by the Clinton meme. Ironically, it turns out that image itself was taken from yet another antisemitic user from the same racist web forum that gave us the Clinton meme.

Trump completely missed the original point that juxtaposing the Star of David and a pool of money peddles very dangerous anti-Jewish stereotypes that we have seen before.

Whether or not Trump’s continued inability to rebuke his antisemitic followers or cease his own dissemination of racist memes changes the landscape of the general election remains to be seen. But if his horrendous track record offending women or latinos had any correlation to Trump’s poor polling numbers with those groups, then the candidate will fare even worse at the polls than he is currently slated to.

Breakdown of the 2016 DNC and RNC

(Pro- and anti-Trump protesters could clash in Cleveland during the RNC)

Philadelphia and Cleveland are preparing for the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention respectively.

The scale of these events is quite massive. In Philadelphia, more than 50,000 visitors from around the country will gather July 25-28 to watch political and cultural luminaries speak, as well as the Democratic candidate accept the nomination at the Wells Fargo Center – home to the Flyers and the 76ers. Approximately 20,000 individuals from national and international media outlets will be in attendance.

As part of the city’s welcoming preparation, Philadelphia has commissioned and displayed 57 painted donkey statues throughout town.

While some commentators argue for the economic benefits of hosting the convention in terms of national visibility and long-term tourism promotion, there are other cost burdens on the hosting city. National conventions have a long history of attracting large protests. Half of nearly a dozen requests for protest permits have been granted for this year’s DNC, with more unplanned protests expected to pop up around the city.

The 2000 Republican National Convention, which occurred in Philadelphia, culminated in nearly 400 arrests.

Concerns over security and violence this year, however, are even larger for Cleveland, which will host the RNC at the Quicken Loans Arena. Donald Trump – the presumptive Republican nominee – has run perhaps the most contentious and polarizing campaign in modern US history, attracting condemnation for racist and controversial statements while shoring up support among predominately white populations across the country dismayed with the political elite.

Cleveland anticipates 50,000 visitors for the RNC, scheduled for July 18-21. Hate groups, including white nationalist and neo-nazi organizations, as well as the anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church, are among those planning to travel to the RNC.

While organizers point out the safety and successful security perimeters of previous conventions that attracted large protests, this year’s RNC is unique. Left-wing protesters usually predominate at Republican conventions. Authorities anticipate anti- and pro-Trump protestors clashing in the streets, largely because they expect large volumes of right-wing protesters for the first time in recent history.

If the violence of previous Trump rallies is any indication, this mixture of political voices could prove combustible.

Indeed, the Trump campaign has created a safe space for racist nationalists. A racist organization at the center of recent violence in California announced plans to “protect” Trump supporters.

The Tap will cover events at both conventions while they unfold, and will explore the economic, cultural, and political aftermath of both the RNC and the DNC during this contentious political season.

Report: Most Walkable Cities Also Most Equitable

(Walkable New York City)

In an era where gentrification is pushing out lower income residents with deep roots in their neighborhoods, methods for ensuring equality in urban centers is paramount.

Soaring housing costs in cities such as San Francisco have created a crisis in which members of particular industries and income brackets gain an almost exclusive right to live in desirable areas. As tech companies bloom and add even more jobs across the western seaboard – from the Bay Area to Seattle – the process repeats itself, driving housing costs up and lower income residents out.

Popular cities across the country have experienced similiar patterns in recent years, as well.

A new report has pointed out an interesting factor that contributes to greater urban equality, however, and may show how some cities struggling with social stratification can improve the overall quality of life for residents.

According to Smart Growth America, the most walkable cities are more socially equitable than their car-centric, spread-out counterparts. Researchers at the nonprofit compared cities’ walkability ratings to their rank on the Social Equality Index, which rates the equality of cities based on variables including housing costs, access to employment and transportation costs.

Their study found that the most socially equitable cities in the United States – New York, Washington, DC and Boston –  are also the most walkable.

While those cities have high housing costs, this is offset by very low transportation expenditures.

According to Michael Rodriguez, the director of research at Smart Growth America, walkability eases financial burdens:

People can rely on automobiles less than they otherwise would, or not at all, and thereby save in transportation, get to destinations, and have more destinations near them. Those are equity points because the moderate- to low-income family needs jobs, they need ways to get to jobs, and they need housing.

The report looks to promising developments in cities not necessarily known for easily navigable layouts for pedestrians. These future walkable metropolises include Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Miami, Atlanta, and Cleveland.

By exploring ways to easily connect residents from all income levels to the destinations they need to reach, these cities can not only combat social inequality, but also help improve the overall living standard and health of their populations by encouraging people to get out and move.

Read the whole report here.

Berlin Joins Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

(The Berlin skyline)

The city of Berlin is doing its part to combat climate change, voting last week to purge the German capital’s pension fund of its investments in fossil fuels. Berlin’s parliament passed the legislation as part of the city’s long-term goal to become “climate neutral” by 2050.

The new policy will rid the $852.8 million fund of investments in RWE and E.ON – two German companies – as well as the French company Total.

Berlin joins a group of other Western cities acting as examples for the divestment movement, which looks to eliminate investments in dirty energy in order to lessen the financial incentive of investing in fossil fuels.

Other cities that have taken a similiar stand against dirty energy include Stockholm, Paris, Copenhagen, Oslo, Seattle, Portland, and Melbourne.

According to the activist nonprofit We Are Power Shift, a group that promotes divestment as a strategy for fighting climate change, the divestment movement

…started on university campuses, but has spread to cities, faith-based institutions, foundations, pension funds, and more, all over the world. Our goal is to diminish the influence and power of the fossil fuel industry in the market, our political system, and in the social conscience overall.

Christoph Meyer – a leading campaigner with Fossil Free Berlin – remarked on the Berlin parliament’s decision:

Berlin’s decision to blacklist fossil fuel companies is the latest victory for the divestment movement, which serves to remove the social license from companies whose business model pushes us into climate catastrophe. We will keep a close eye on the administration to make sure it upholds today’s commitment and urge the city to now take quick steps to break its reliance on coal power.

While there is debate about the effectiveness of divestment, advocates see it as a strategy to speed up the process through which investments become “stranded.” As public attention grows and support for regulation intensifies, the idea is for investors writ large to grow weary of such ventures due to the prospect of further diminishing profits.

As more of the world’s biggest urban centers jump on board, it’s safe to say that this push is gaining more-and-more momentum.

Brexit is Bad News for the Environment

(Air pollution in London)

As the world begins piecing together the ramifications stemming from Britain’s exit from the EU (also known as Brexit), one particular victim of the ensuing political chaos is becoming increasingly apparent: the environment.

Around 70 percent of environmental regulation currently in place in Britain is the result of EU legislation. As British officials begin slashing away the body of EU regulations left over from the country’s membership, important regulations designed to lower carbon levels or promote conservation could be thrown out. The climate skepticism of the “leave” campaign’s chief proponents is a worrying indicator that David Cameron’s successor may very well preside over a government that does just that.

Boris Johnson – the former London mayor and leading “leave” member of the Tories – has published editorials dismissing climate change as a fabrication, and once argued that snow is evidence that climate change is a myth. Johnson could very will be top of the list of Tories to assume the role of prime minister.

The other primary driver for the “leave” campaign was UKIP, a rightwing nationalist party that has exercised xenophobia and racist fear mongering to achieve its political ends. Nigel Farage, the party’s leader, has openly expressed his desire to cut pollution limits on power stations.

Those in the “leave” campaign often cited the red tape of the EU as one of the primary motivations for Britain to leave the multinational body. Combined with their climate skepticism, they would likely enjoy seeing environmental regulations simply fall by the wayside along with the rest of the EU law that formerly applied to Britain.

Furthermore, Britain’s pledge in the Paris climate deal was included in the EU’s pledge. The nation would have to re-ratify the deal under David Cameron’s successor. If pro-Brexit politicians’ science-defying beliefs indicate anything, such a pledge may not be forthcoming.

Pro-environment forces in Britain will certainly keep up the fight for a cleaner, more secure future for the environment. Their job, however, may have gotten a bit tougher.

Brexit: A Blow to the Social Good

To the shock of much the world, Britons voted to leave the European Union (EU) on Wednesday, marking the largest blow to the multi-national political body since its foundation.

Spearhead largely by the fringe rightwing, the “leave” campaigners imbued their rhetoric with racist undertones, invoking immigration and refugees as reasons for Britain to withdraw from engagement with the European continent.

While there are certainly problems with the massive bureaucracy of the EU, the consequences of leaving are already in full force. The British pound hit a 31 year-low, as Britain fell from its place as the world’s fifth biggest economy and the FTSE 100 in London lost an astonishing £122 billion of value overnight. Abroad, the economic ramifications reverberated through markets everywhere, including in the United States, where the Down Jones average plummeted more than 500 points.

To further compound the issues facing Britain, there are renewed separatist stirrings within Scotland. Additionally, Sinn Féin – the Irish Republican party – has called for polling in Northern Ireland to gauge interest in unifying with Ireland. Both the populations of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in favor of staying within the EU.

While Northern Ireland is unlikely to leave Britain anytime soon, the great surge in interest that the Scottish National Party (the leading driver for Scottish independence) has enjoyed in the wake of this week’s referendum indicates that the country may buck Great Britain and rejoin the EU of its own accord. This hypothetical disintegration within Great Britain would leave a greatly diminished England, with significantly less economic and geopolitical might.

Brexit is bad news for the Social Good. The European project – while imperfect – represents an ideal in which nations work together to forge solutions to issues facing the globe. With the number of displaced people and refugees at world historic highs, the threat of climate change growing by the day, and regional instabilities in Eastern Europe, the fracturing cooperation among European nations is a dark omen for what lies ahead.

If Google searches count for anything, many Britons are already regretting their vote. It appears, in fact, that many voters didn’t fully understand the EU when they went to the polls. The energy behind the “leave campaign” was largely derived from racist fear-mongering, as well as a distrust of elites and experts who warned of the consequences of Brexit. As Britain progresses along the rough road ahead, perhaps enough of its electorate will have a change of heart and reembrace international cooperation – if only for Britain’s own wellbeing.

Orlando Shooting: ‘Angels’ Block Westboro Bigots

(“Angels” arrive on the scene to help block Westboro Baptist Church members from funerals for Orlando shooting victims)

The Westboro Baptist Church – a fringe, virulently bigoted and homophobic congregation based in Kansas – has made headlines throughout the years, picketing national tragedies in efforts to broadcast its hateful message.

Following the mass shooting in Orlando, it was safe to assume that the congregation would stage some form of action. The Pulse nightclub was popular with the local LGBTQ community, meaning that its clientele is one of the primary targets of the church’s animus.

But when the congregation showed up to protest funerals for the shooting victims, a number of community members and allies staged a massive counter rally in order to prevent the anti-LGBTQ protestors from reaching the mourners.

“Angels” from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre donned large white wings to block Westboro members from view, while 200 people joined together to form a human chain.

This outpouring of love and humanity – significantly larger than the hate it stood opposite from – is a heartening display in the wake of tragedy, as well as a sign that the hate the precipitated the Orlando shooting has no place in our society.

Brexit: Racism Fuels ‘Leave’ Campaign

As the United States’ most bizarre general election campaign in recent memory has steamrolled forward at a fever pitch, Americans could be forgiven for overlooking events in Britain which – depending on how they turn out – may shake up international markets and fundamentally alter geo-politics for years to come.

That ignorance was completely understandable, that is, until last week when Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in public by a nationalist with links to neo-Nazi organizations.

Cox was a passionate anti-racist campaigner, whose philanthropic work included stints at Oxfam and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The attacker, Tommy Mair, announced his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

His rhetoric appears to imitate that of the pro-Brexit camp, which is pushing for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) through a referendum on June 23. Largely spearheaded by far-right elements in Britain’s political scene, the “leave” camp has invoked Syrian refugees and Islam in its quest to stir nationalistic fervor and abandon the European project.

The great majority of social and economic experts agree that a Brexit would be catastrophic not only for the British Isles, but for the rest of the developed world as well – including the United States.

The political uncertainly that would follow the single largest split from the EU since the project began would curtail global investment and international trade. Brexit could decrease the net economic output of the world’s advanced economies by half a percentage point by 2019. The IMF predicts that the UK’s depature from the EU would result in a decline of economic growth by 5.6 over the next three years.

For the United States, the head researcher at FIS – Laurence Wormald – predicts that a Brexit would send the S&P spiraling by 5 percent, and that the volatility of the broader stock market could reach 40 percent.

The clearly negative implications of a Brexit, however, hasn’t stopped The UK Independence Party (UKIP) – perhaps the largest driver of the pro-Brexit campaigning – from continuing its crusade. The party’s leader, Nigel Farage, has stood by the racist remarks of party members, underscoring the very real undercurrent of xenophobia that is behind the “leave” campaign. J.K. Rowling – author of the Harry Potter series – has accused Farage of deploying “Nazi propaganda” throughout the public debate on the referendum.

In addition to the concrete damages to the global financial system, the departure of one of the EU’s largest members could spell doom for the multi-national body, which has been credited for cooling diplomatic tensions in the historically volatile region following the cataclysmic events of World War II.

The Tap will bring you further coverage of the vote’s results this Wednesday, and analysis on how those results will impact the Social Good moving forward.

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