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Is the Kenosha shooting a turning point for the US on race?

Is the Kenosha shooting a turning point for the US on race?

Just twelve weeks after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police galvanized a racial justice movement across the US — and the globe — the city of Kenosha in the US state of Wisconsin is aflame after protesters took to the streets to demand justice for Jacob Blake, a Black man shot in the back this week by a white police officer.

How are current protests playing out — and how has public and political sentiment shifted since demonstrations against police brutality erupted across the nation in late May?


Vigilante violence. While bouts of violence characterized some riots earlier this summer, this week's clashes in Wisconsin swiftly became more sinister in nature when a 17-year old white male — a former member of a youth police cadet program with an intense affinity for guns — opened fire at protesters, killing two people and seriously injuring a third.

He was arrested a day later by local police, but one influential right-wing media superstar's characterization of the shooter as a dutiful citizen who had no choice but to take the law into his own hands is a dangerous justification for... murder.

Professional athletes go deeper. After the Floyd killing, many prominent sportsmen and women spoke out against systemic racism, but this week many athletes with massive followings and multi-million dollar sponsorship deals went further in showing solidarity with the movement for racial justice.

In an unprecedented step, teams from the National Basketball Association refused to take the court in playoff games scheduled for Wednesday night in protest, as did the Women's National Basketball Association. Several Major League Baseball teams quickly followed suit, joining strikes in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protests of this kind in American baseball — still a largely white-dominated sport with a largely conservative culture — are something new.

Meanwhile, the US Tennis Association — which governs a notably white sport itself — suspended all games Thursday after Naomi Osaka, the world's highest-paid female athlete and a Black woman, said she was pulling out of a tournament in New York (she opted back in the following day).

Whether these gestures can move the needle on awareness or exacerbate polarization is unclear. But the refusal of athletes to play the game — and the potential personal and professional hit they could take as a result — marks a new phase of engagement by some of the country's most influential public figures.

The looming election. One key difference between now and the aftermath of the Floyd killing is the proximity of the US election, which is set to take place on November 3.

With Kenosha as a backdrop, Joe Biden and the Democrats are emphasizing the enduring problems of racial inequality and police brutality in the US. Republicans, on the other hand, have focused on looting and urban chaos, claiming that Democrat-run cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York City, and Kenosha have allowed their streets to descend into lawlessness. Speaking at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence warned starkly that "law and order is on the ballot."

In a worrying sign for Democrats, there are already signs that the Trump campaign's messaging about Democrat-induced unrest might be resonating with at least some voters in the important swing state of Wisconsin, where Blake was shot. Polling also shows that national support for the Black Lives Matter movement might be waning.

If that trend continues, Joe Biden — sponsor of the fateful 1994 Crime Bill — and his running mate, former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, may soon have to make a calculation about whether to front their own "law and order" credentials, even at the cost of alienating progressives or Black voters who might be turned off by those messages.

As the presidential race hits the homestretch in the weeks ahead, the Blake shooting and subsequent protests are setting the parameters for a political clash over racial justice and policing in which voters will be asked to make a (largely false) choice between "racial justice" and "law and order." Who will win?

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he'll talk about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He'll also offer some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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