TIME Culture

Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit

Matt Anderson The bronze monument was unveiled by the Satanic Temple in Detroit on July 25, 2015

The "largest public satanic ceremony in history"

A little before midnight on Saturday, a crowd of around 700 gathered in an old industrial warehouse a few blocks from the Detroit River for what they’d been told was the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” Most of them professed to be adherents of Satanism, that loosely organized squad of the occult that defines itself as a religious group. Others came simply because they were curious. After all, Satanists exist in the popular psyche as those who casually sacrifice goats and impregnate Mia Farrow with Lucifer’s child; if this ceremony was indeed unprecedentedly big, who knew what could be in store?

The reality of the event — and of the contemporary Satanic movement at large — was tamer, and, if the Facebook pictures speak the truth, harmlessly festive: a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. They were there to publicly unveil a colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism. The pentagram, that familiar logo of both orthodox Satanists and disaffected teens, originated as a rough outline of Baphomet’s head.

The statue itself is impressive: almost nine feet tall, and weighing in at around a ton. The horned idol sits on a throne adorned with a pentagram, but it is the idol’s wings, and not his chair, that curiously evoke the Iron Throne from a certain celebrated HBO fantasy series. He has the jarring horns of a virile ram but the biceps of a guy who lifts four or five times a week. His legs, which are crossed, end not in feet but in hooves. It might seem more menacing if not for the two bronze-statue children standing on either side of him — a girl on his left; a boy on his right; both are looking up at him earnestly.

“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME late Sunday night. In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?

Blackmore directs the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple, one of the few coherent organizations in a field that’s otherwise disorganized and dogmatically nebulous. The Satanic Temple has chapters in Florida and Finland, in Italy and Minneapolis. Its headquarters are in New York, but the Detroit office is its first and largest outpost. Blackmore — who, by the way, uses a pseudonym for safety reasons — grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area and returned to the city to work with the Satanic Temple after attending a lecture on Satanism at Harvard.

Asked whether her group is a religious organization (or rather an anti-religious organization) she explains that it’s less of a church and more of an affinity group, built around what she repeatedly refers to as “Satanic principles.” It’s not the dogma you might expect. To quote from the group’s website:

The Satanic Temple holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good. We do not believe in symbolic “evil.”

Most vitally, though, the group does not “promote a belief in a personal Satan.” By their logic, Satan is an abstraction, or, as Nancy Kaffer wrote for The Daily Beast last year, “a literary figure, not a deity — he stands for rationality, for skepticism, for speaking truth to power, even at great personal cost.”

Call it Libertarian Gothic, maybe — some darker permutation of Ayn Rand’s crusade for free will. One witnesses in the Satanic Temple militia a certain knee-jerk reaction to encroachments upon personal liberties, especially when those encroachments come with a crucifix in hand. The Baphomet statue is the Satanic Temple’s defiant retort du jour.

“We chose Baphomet because of its contemporary relation to the figure of Satan and find its symbolism to be appropriate if displayed alongside a monument representing another faith,” Blackmore said.

The monument she refers to is a six-foot marble slab engraved with the Ten Commandments, controversially situated on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. In 2012, state representative Mike Ritze fronted $10,000 out of his own pocket to have the marker installed in the shadow of the capitol’s dome, prompting the ire of those who believed it flagrantly violated the separation of church and state. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Oklahoma; the Satanic Temple fought fire with fire. If the Christians could chisel their credo onto public property, the argument went, why couldn’t they?

The state didn’t agree, and rejected the Satanic Temple’s petition to place Baphomet’s statute on legislative property. The point is now moot, though: a month ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments monument violated the state constitution, a judgment that will probably stick in spite of an obstinate governor.

It seems there are battles left to fight, though. A Detroit pastor described the unveiling of the statue as “a welcome home party for evil.” A Catholic activism group in the city actively encouraged people to attend mass at a local cathedral to speak out against the statue — a pray-in, if you will. Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently signed a bill that will put the Ten Commandments on a similar monument on the grounds of the State Capitol in Little Rock. The Satanic Temple may be planning a road trip.

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TIME Crime

Detroit Mom Who Killed Her 2 Kids and Stuffed Them in Freezer Gets Life in Prison

Mitchelle Blair during a custody hearing in Detroit on June 4, 2015.
Clarence Tabb Jr.—AP Mitchelle Blair during a custody hearing in Detroit on June 4, 2015.

She admitted to killing her 13-year old daughter and 9-year old son

A Detroit mom who killed two of her kids and stuffed their bodies in a freezer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mitchelle Blair pled guilty to the murders of her 13-year old daughter Stoni and 9-year old son Steven, and told the court she killed them because she believed they had sexually abused one of her younger children.

She told the court she “definitely meant to kill” Stoni, but murdered Steven by accident. “If I had killed Steven intentionally I definitely would be proud to say I did, but I didn’t,” she said in court last month. “I don’t feel no emotion for the death of them demons.”

The judge told Blair she “imposed the death penalty” on her own children according to the Detroit News.

The children had likely been killed in 2012 or 2013, but their bodies were found in March while bailiffs were evicting Blair and her two surviving children from their Detroit home. The kids were home-schooled, which is one reason why their deaths went undiscovered for so years, according to the Detroit News. Prosecutors say neither of the surviving children were sexually abused.

Blair expressed no remorse during her sentencing hearing Friday. “As horrendous as everyone thinks I am, that’s fine. But I’m the only one not lying about anything,” she said according to NBC.

[Detroit News]

 

MONEY The Economy

Puerto Rico’s Debt Is Worse Than Detroit’s Debt Was

Puerto Rico's governor said the island cannot pay its $72 billion debt. Add high unemployment to the equation, and that's a bleak economic picture

Things aren’t looking good for the Isle of Enchantment. Puerto Rico is in 3½ times as much debt as Detroit was in when it filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013. The island’s $72 billion debt is larger per capita than any state, but the island’s government can’t file bankruptcy like Detroit did because only cities are allowed to file Chapter 9. Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, said the island’s debts are not payable, and that he needs to pull it out of a “death spiral.” This is bad news for mainland consumers as 70% of American mutual funds have Puerto Rico bonds.

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in April, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including The New York Times staff photographer Damon Winter’s stunning aerial pictures documenting the ongoing drought in California.

Damon Winter: California Drought (The New York Times)

Bryan Denton: 100 Years Later, a Genocide Haunts the Armenian Psyche (The New York Times) These compelling pictures capture sites related to the Armenian genocide that took place one hundred years ago.

Newsha Tavakolian: Women Taking the Battle to ISIS (TIME LightBox) Powerful series on a cadre of female Kurdish soldiers fighting Islamic militants in Syria.

David Guttenfelder: Harnessing the Mekong (National Geographic) National Geographic Photography Fellow Guttenfelder’s work documents life along the Mekong River in five different countries.

Adriane Ohanesian: Inside Sudan’s War-Torn Darfur (TIME LightBox) These rare pictures capture rebels and fleeing civilians in Darfur.

Wayne Lawrence: Taking Back Detroit (National Geographic) Portraits and audio of Motor City residents.

James Mollison: Playground (Wired) Fascinating, insightful photographs of children’s playgrounds around world.

Moises Saman: Digging for Gold in the Andes (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Magnum photographer documents the unregulated gold mining in the Peruvian Andes.

Katie Orlinsky: Taken at the Border (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Orlinsky documents the U.S.-Mexico border from empty stash houses to young migrants who have been extorted.

Christopher Griffith: Foot Soldiers (The New York Times Magazine) Excellent photographs of Manhattan shoe shiners’ hands.

TIME Crime

Nearly 1,000 Suspected Gang Members Have Been Arrested in a Federal Crackdown

Of those arrested, 913 were charged with criminal offenses

Federal agents arrested 976 suspected gang members across scores of American cities during a major operation that spanned from late February through the month of March, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced Wednesday.

Headed by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, the six-week campaign, called Project Wildfire, targeted members of 239 different gangs in 282 cities, with the heaviest focus on Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas and El Paso, Texas. San Juan, Puerto Rico, was also highly targeted.

“Criminal gangs inflict violence and fear upon our communities, and without the attention of law enforcement, these groups can spread like a cancer,” said ICE director Sarah Saldaña in a statement.

The majority of the people arrested were U.S. citizens, however, the ICE said 199 were foreign nationals.

Of the 976 alleged gang members arrested 913 were charged with criminal offenses, including 19 suspected of murder and an additional 15 suspected of rape or sexual assault.

In addition to the arrests, officials confiscated 82 firearms, 5.2 kg of methamphetamine, 1.5 kg of heroin, 5.6 kg of cocaine and 7.8 kg of marijuana. They seized $379,399 in cash and an estimated $547,534 worth of counterfeit goods.

The operation was part of global initiative called Operation Community Shield that targets transnational street gangs.

[ICE]

TIME Crime

Detroit Mom Arrested After Two Children Discovered Dead in Freezer

Freezer Bodies-Detroit
Daniel Mears—AP Detroit Police Chief James Craig and other law enforcement have a short briefing to media as law enforcement investigates in Detroit where the bodies of two children found in a freezer on March 24, 2015

A friend called her "a beautiful person"

A 36-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday after officials found the bodies of her son and daughter in a freezer at the family’s apartment in Detroit.

Court officers discovered the frozen bodies wrapped in a plastic bag while carrying out an eviction order. The boy was 11 and the girl was 14. A post-mortem autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death, reports the AP.

The woman had two other children, aged 11 and 17, who were discovered at a neighbor’s home. They are being cared for by social services.

Tori Childs, who lives nearby, told the AP that the two dead children hadn’t been spotted around the neighborhood for the past year. All four siblings were not enrolled in Detroit’s schools but were apparently being home-schooled.

The woman was reportedly unemployed and awaiting eviction from the low-incoming housing where the family had lived for a decade. Court records show that she owed $2,206. Another friend called her “a beautiful person” who was just “going through some things.”

[AP]

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush to Propose New ‘Reform Conservative’ Agenda in Detroit Address

Jeb Bush
Jeff Chiu—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco on Jan. 23, 2015.

A first policy address for the all-but-certain White House campaign of the son and brother of presidents

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will lay out the case for his “reform conservative” agenda in Detroit Wednesday, with a speech intended to broaden the reach of the Republican Party and focus the coming presidential campaign on the economic plight of the American middle class.

“I know some in the media think conservatives don’t care about the cities,” Bush plans to say to the Detroit Economic Club, in what amounts to the first policy address of his unofficial presidential campaign. “But they are wrong. We believe that every American and in every community has a right to pursue happiness. They have a right to rise.”

He will promise a “new vision,” with many details to come later, contrasting what Americans have been hearing from Washington, with a focus on raising incomes by ensuring “economic freedom.” Many of the remarks hit marks that politicians in both parties have been speaking about for years: The fear that the next generation of Americans will be worse off than the last, the preference for political solutions that arise in the state government and the idea that policy innovation is central to the nation’s economic future.

Coming amid an aggressive fundraising and staffing surge by the all-but-certain presidential contender, the speech marks Bush’s first attempt to define himself on the public stage. In recent weeks, Bush has benefited from positive reception from party leaders and wealthy donors, along with veteran campaign staff who have moved to join his campaign in waiting. But he has yet to publicly make his case for the White House.

“The recovery has been everywhere but in the family paychecks,” Bush will say according to prepared excerpts, embracing the income inequality theme recently touted by many other likely Republican presidential candidates. “The American Dream has become a mirage for far too many.”

He is set to criticize Washington, DC, the city where his father and brother both served as president, as city too focused on government,

“This really isn’t understood in Washington D.C. And you can see why: It’s a company town,” Bush will say. “And the company is government. It’s all they know. For several years now, they have been recklessly degrading the value of work, the incentive to work, and the rewards of work.”

The Des Moines Register reported Wednesday that Bush will make his inaugural trip to the early state of Iowa next month.

“So I say: Let’s go where our ideas can matter most,” Bush will continue. “Where the failures of liberal government are most obvious. Let’s deliver real conservative success. And you know what will happen? We’ll create a whole lot of new conservatives.”

The excerpts are below:

How do we restore America’s faith in the moral promise of our great nation that any child born today can reach further than their parents?
This is an urgent issue: Far too many Americans live on the edge of economic ruin.
And many more feel like they’re stuck in place, working longer and harder, even as they’re losing ground.
Tens of millions of Americans no longer see a clear path to rise above their challenges.

Today and in the coming weeks, I will address this critical issue.
And I will offer a new vision. A plan of action that is different than what we have been hearing in Washington D.C.
It is a vision rooted in conservative principles and tethered to our shared belief in opportunity and the unknown possibilities of a nation given the freedom to act, to create, to dream and to rise.

Six years after the recession ended, median incomes are down, households are, on average, poorer … and millions of people have given up looking for a job altogether.
Roughly two out of three American households live paycheck to paycheck. Any unexpected expense can push them into financial ruin. We have a record number of Americans on food stamps and living in poverty.
The recovery has been everywhere but in the family paychecks. The American Dream has become a mirage for far too many.
So the central question we face here in Detroit and across America is this: Can we restore that dream — that moral promise — that each generation can do better?

Our nation has always valued such economic freedom because in economic freedom, each citizen has the power to propel themselves forward and upward.
This really isn’t understood in Washington D.C. And you can see why: It’s a company town. And the company is government. It’s all they know.
For several years now, they have been recklessly degrading the value of work, the incentive to work, and the rewards of work.

The progressive and liberal mindset believes that to every problem there is a Washington D.C. solution. But that instinct doesn’t solve any problem, other than the problem of how to keep Washington’s regional economy well-lubricated.

There’s a better way.
Let’s define this path first by the core principles of a Right to Rise society because once we do that, the policies, the laws and the way forward will be much clearer.

And in the coming months, I intend to detail how we can get there, with a mix of smart policies and reforms to tap our resources and capacity to innovate, whether in energy, manufacturing, health care or technology.

…Let’s embrace reform everywhere, especially in our government. Let’s start with the simple principle of who holds the power. I say give Washington less and give states and local governments more.

I know some in the media think conservatives don’t care about the cities.
But they are wrong. We believe that every American and in every community has a right to pursue happiness. They have a right to rise.
So I say: Let’s go where our ideas can matter most. Where the failures of liberal government are most obvious. Let’s deliver real conservative success.
And you know what will happen?
We’ll create a whole lot of new conservatives.

This morning, 320 million Americans got up … and they are on 320 million different paths of life.
It’s our goal to see them succeed.
And it’s our responsibility to do everything possible to help them.
Because by their success, they will not only build prosperity for themselves. They will renew the promise of this nation when everyone, has the right to rise.

TIME States

Detroit Man Who Walked 21 Miles to Work Each Day to Finally Be Bought Car

James The Walker
Ryan Garza—AP In this Jan. 29, 2015, photo, James Robertson, 56, of Detroit, walks toward Woodward Aveune in Detroit to catch his morning bus to Somerset Collection in Troy before walking to his job at Schain Mold Engineering in Rochester Hills. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he'll take a bus partway there and partway home and walk 21 miles according to the Detroit Free Press

A kickstarted campaign has, so far, raised $130,000

James Robertson has arguably America’s harshest commute, a 21-mile trek that takes him through the Detroit’s worst neighborhoods. Now, his daily journey has captured the nation’s attention and prompted a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $130,000 to provide him with a car.

For the last decade, the 56-year-old has walked eight miles to work and 13 miles back again. He usually arrives home at 4 a.m., sleeps for two hours, and then wakes up at 6 a.m. to return to his factory job, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The daily odyssey takes him through Detroit’s infamous 8 Mile neighborhood in the middle of the night. But despite the ordeal, Robertson remains upbeat about his situation. “I sleep a lot on the weekend, yes I do,” he says. “I can’t imagine not working.”

A Sunday profile in the Detroit Free Press inspired hundreds of people to offer Robertson cash, chauffeur services and even cars.

Evan Leedy, a student of Wayne State University, was inspired to start a GoFundMe campaign. “I set the goal at the beginning of $5,000. Right now my page has more than $30,000,” Leedy said on Sunday evening.

Yet donations have now left $30,000 in the dust — the total stands at $130,000 at time of publication and is rising fast.

Robertson said that he is proud that he has managed his commute for all these years, but with the help of the kickstarter campaign, it looks like his walking days may be over.

[Detroit Free Press]

 

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TIME Autos

Check Out the Coolest Cars From the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

The 2015 North American International Auto Show is in full swing, with carmakers announcing some pretty sweet new rides. Check out the new Ford GT, the Acura NSX, the Toyota FT-1 and more.

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