July 15, 2015

NASA on Wednesday unveiled its first close-up photos of the planet Pluto, as taken by the New Horizons probe. Among the many cool things we learned today — including that Pluto's equator is studded with icy mountains, and that Pluto has one of the youngest surfaces in the Solar System — is that the members of the New Horizons team refer to a dark patch near the north pole of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, as Mordor, famously the home of Sauron and Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings.

(Text added, photo courtesy NASA.gov)

That is not the formal name of the region, according to The New York Times, though it is one of many possible names — including Tatooine and the Shire — that are reportedly under consideration for Charon's landmarks. Unlike Samwise Gamgee, who said Mordor was the one place we didn't want to see any closer, we're hoping in the coming days to get a more detailed look at that sinister-looking spot. Ryu Spaeth

9:47 a.m.

A group of civil rights leaders say they're "disappointed" and "stunned" following a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about his recent decisions on posts by President Trump.

Zuckerberg hosted a call with civil rights leaders on Monday as the company faces growing controversy and an employee walkout over its a hands-off approach to Trump's posts, including one in which he wrote "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in reference to the Minneapolis protests over George Floyd's death. Facebook also didn't touch a post by Trump about mail-in voting that Twitter fact-checked.

After the meeting, leaders from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Color of Change released a statement blasting Zuckerberg, per Axios, saying they're "disappointed and stunned by Mark's incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up."

The civil rights leaders go on to say Zuckerberg "did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump's call for violence against protesters," adding his inaction on Trump's posts sets a "very dangerous precedent."

Color of Change President Rashad Robinson also spoke in an interview with Bloomberg News about the meeting, saying that "I spent a lot of time, and my colleagues spent a lot of time, explaining to him why these things are a problem, and I think he just very much lacks the ability to understand it."

Amid the controversy, Zuckerberg this week said he would donate $10 million to groups fighting for racial justice. But Robinson told Bloomberg, "saying Black Lives Matter, saying I'm going to give money, but having your policies actually hurt black people, people will know the difference." Brendan Morrow

9:30 a.m.

People in China, where reporting on even small anti-government protests is censored, are getting full coverage of U.S. protesters and journalists being beaten and gassed by U.S. police, blinded by rubber bullets, and arrested in what looks like war zones. "Freedom is dead" in the U.S., Chinese wrote on social media, BBC News reports. "The U.S. police has lost all humanity." European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said "like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd," adding that Europeans "support the right to peaceful protest" and "call for a de-escalation of tensions."

Australians, meanwhile, watched a widely broadcast clip of 7NEWS reporter Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers being clubbed, punched in the face, and battered by federal police clearing Lafayette Square of protesters so President Trump could walk to a church and hold up a Bible for the cameras. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed "strong concerns" about the assault on the Australian journalists.

"We have asked the Australian embassy in Washington, D.C., to investigate this incident," Payne said Tuesday. "I want to get further advice on how we would go about registering Australia's strong concerns with the responsible local authorities in Washington," suggesting a formal complaint will follow. U.S. Ambassador Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. tweeted in response: "We take mistreatment of journalists seriously, as do all who take democracy seriously." Peter Weber

8:18 a.m.

President Trump's brief excursion to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op with a Bible on Monday evening was apparently a big hit inside the West Wing — the official White House Twitter feed features a campaign-like music video of the amble. After Trump's aides "spent much of Monday expressing outrage" over limited arson at the historic church, The New York Times reports, "Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, eventually hatched a plan with others at the White House to have the president walk over to the building."

Trump was anxious to leave the White House, reportedly irked by coverage of him being whisked to a secure bunker. "A number of people reached out directly to the president or his top aides to tell them, with great urgency, that he needed to be seen," Axios reports. "They saw signs on Twitter that the conservative base was turning against him."

Hicks was part of the entourage that crossed Lafayette Square with Trump after federal police used tear gas and flash grenades to clear the public park of protesters. Attorney General William Barr, Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper also accompanied Trump so he could hold a Bible in front of the church.

A senior White House official told Axios "I've never been more ashamed" than after watching the tear-gassing of protesters to pave Trump's path, adding: "I'm really honestly disgusted. I'm sick to my stomach. And they're all celebrating it. They're very very proud of themselves."

Bishop Mariann Budde, the top Episcopal official in Washington, was disappointed, too. One of the visiting priests at St. John's was tear-gassed in the square, she said, and neither the Bible nor the church should be used as a political prop. "The Bible is not an American document," Budde told the Times. "It's not an expression of our country. It's an expression of the human struggle to serve and love and know God." Peter Weber

8:11 a.m.

Jimmy Fallon has apologized on The Tonight Show in an emotional segment after coming under fire for wearing blackface in an old Saturday Night Live sketch.

A clip resurfaced last week of Fallon wearing blackface while playing Chris Rock on SNL in 2000, leading Fallon to apologize on Twitter for his "terrible decision." In his first episode of The Tonight Show since then, and in light of the ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, Fallon spoke further about the controversy.

"I was horrified," Fallon said. "Not of the fact that people were trying to cancel me, or cancel the show, which is scary enough. But the thing that haunted me the most was, how do I say I love this person? I respect this guy more than I respect most humans. I am not a racist. I don't feel this way."

Fallon went on to say that he was advised not to address the controversy at all but decided that "I can't not say I'm horrified, and I'm sorry, and I'm embarrassed," concluding that "the silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing."

In this "different" sort of edition of the show, Fallon then spoke with NAACP President Derrick Johnson about the "mistakes I made in the past" and asked how he "can do better," with Johnson praising Fallon's "powerful" apology and telling him that everyone is flawed. Fallon also interviewed CNN's Don Lemon, who similarly praised Fallon for his "honest" and "brave" opening monologue.

"That's exactly what we all need to do is examine ourselves," Lemon said. Brendan Morrow

6:50 a.m.

"Well, we're back after 10 days off," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, and the story that "has pushed 100,000 COVID deaths below the fold is America's pre-existing condition, racism," specifically "the extrajudicial execution of a man named George Floyd, face-down in a street in Minneapolis." Protests have broken out in dozens of U.S. cities, plus London, Toronto, and Berlin, he said. "You know it's bad when Germany thinks your country's racist. That's like Jamaica telling you to put down the bong."

"In times like these, we need empathetic and moral leadership," Colbert said. "Unfortunately we have Donald Trump." In a pugilistic call with governors Monday, Trump acted "the big tough guy," but "on Friday, as protests raged nearby, Trump took shelter in the White House bunker."

"America is now officially BYOP — bring your own president," Colbert said. Just as with the coronavirus, Trump has abdicated all responsibility, so once more, Americans have to do the right thing on their own, and "not only is addressing systemic racial and economic injustice the right thing to do, it is the safest, most conservative, most self-protecting, most self-serving thing to do. Contents under pressure will eventually explode — and that's not a threat, that's a law of nature."

Trump is sounding "like a cross between a brutal military dictator and a racist grandpa shuffling around the nursing home with his robe on backwards," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. But when he and Fox News host Tucker Carlson yell for "law and order," they mean "an 'order' that only serves them. They insist that communities of color politely and obediently request change from a system that systematically ignores, dehumanizes, and disenfranchises them."

"Our national crisis is that a large and vital community in our country is in real pain — pain because they do not feel safe, or dignified, or seen, and most importantly of all, they do not feel heard," Conan O'Brien said. "It is taking too goddamned long" to heal America's grievous wound of racism, he said, and if we "can really listen, maybe we can find out why."

Late Night's Amber Ruffin talked about her encounters with police and how common they are among black Americans.

"Each story seems unrelated," but they are dominoes that fall together, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah said over the weekend, linking George Floyd, Amy Cooper, the coronavirus pandemic, and the looting. He explained why some black looters might break the one-sided social contract, and said it isn't "extreme" to say "police in American are looting black bodies." Listen below. Peter Weber

4:08 a.m.

President Trump ordered hundreds of active-duty uniformed military personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Washington, D.C., on Monday to help restore "law and order" in the capital, and said if "a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them." Trump can deploy U.S. military forces in D.C., but elsewhere he either needs the consent of the governor or he has to invoke the Insurrection Act, a 1807 law that is rarely used in modern times.

Washington's mayor set a curfew of 7 p.m., but Trump ordered federal and military police to forcibly break up a peaceful protest at Lafayette Park half an hour before curfew so he could walk to St. John's Church for photos. After curfew, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, walked the streets of D.C. to monitor the deployment of U.S. military forces in the nation's capital.

"As scores of protesters made their way into Washington D.C.'s Chinatown district, a Blackhawk helicopter with U.S. Army markings descended to rooftop level, kicking up dirt, debris, and snapping trees that narrowly missed several people," The New York Times reports. "The maneuver, often conducted by low flying jets in combat zones to scare away insurgents, is known as a show of force." This "'show of force' snapped branches off trees and shattered some storefront windows," The Washington Post adds, citing local reporters.

You can watch the Post's recounting of the day's protests up to that point below. Peter Weber

2:56 a.m.

Some people think President Trump's threat to send the U.S. military into American cities to restore "law and order" is a frightening assault on civil liberties. Fox News host Tucker Carlson called it a good first step in a long and winding monologue Monday night.

"When the mobs came, they abandoned us," Carlson began. "This is how nations collapse, when no one in authority keeps order." He called the protesters "the worst people in our society" and the rioters "vicious psychopaths" who are "trying to topple our political system." Americans "must protect ourselves and our families," he said, "but we cannot allow ourselves to become like they are. We are not animals, we are Americans." Our leaders "set us against each other," he said, shifting gear, but "we will love our neighbors relentlessly and in spite of all of it, not just because they look like us or share our political views, but we love them because they are human beings and they are Americans. Those are the ties that bind us together, the bonds our leaders seek to destroy. We can't let them."

That's where the unity ended. Carlson showed a carefully curated, mostly context-free Twitter video montage of mostly black looters and rioters attacking mostly white people — if your own social media feed is filled with videos of police violence against peaceful protesters and bystanders, this is an alternative view, because Carlson suggested there are no peaceful protesters. He attacked Democratic leaders, saying they can't criticize the protesters because "these are their voters cleaning out the Rolex store," but he spent most of his energy slamming "so-called conservative leaders," name-checking Vice President Mike Pence and the president of the Heritage Foundation, and criticizing Nikki Haley for saying all Americans must be upset about police killing George Floyd.

Then Carlson turned to Trump, showing a clip of a Fox News correspondent chased out of Lafayette Square on Friday night by protesters. "If you can't keep a Fox News correspondent from getting attacked directly across from your house, how can you protect my family?" Carlson asked. "How are you going to protect the country? How hard are you trying? On Twitter the next morning, the president reassured America that he and his family were just fine. Their federally funded body guards had kept them safe. He did not mention protecting the rest of the nation, much of which was then on fire. He seemed aware only of himself."

"The first requirement of leadership is that you watch over the people in your care," Carlson said. "People will put up with almost anything if you do that. You can regularly say embarrassing things on television, you can hire Omarosa to work at the White House. All of that will be forgiven if you protect your people. But if you do not protect them, or worse than that, if you seem like you can't be bothered to protect them, then you're done. It's over. People will not forgive weakness." He went on to applaud Trump's military ultimatum, called his St. John's Church photo-op a "powerful symbolic gesture," trashed Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and suggested that white people aren't treated equally under the law. "Our leaders are weak," Carlson said. "Predators know it. That's why this is happening." Watch below. Peter Weber

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