Fave 5 Fashion Moments

Olivia Palermo in Preen 
Rachel Zoe

Miranda Kerr in Louis Vuitton

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley 

Coco Rocha in Temperley London

[via fashionablyfly]

Islamism, the Arab Spring, and the Failure of America’s Do-Nothing Policy in the Middle East

Opponents of Egypt’s deposed Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi celebrate in Cairo in 2013. Hassan Ammar / Reuters

In the years leading up to the Arab Spring, Islamist parties developed something of an obsession with the role of Western powers in supporting democracy in the Arab world—or, more likely, not supporting it. Islamists were fighting on two fronts: not just repressive regimes, but their international backers as well. The ghosts of Algeria lingered. In January 1992, Algeria’s largest Islamist party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), found itself on the brink of an historic election victory—prompting fears that the military was preparing to move against the Islamists. In the tense days that followed, FIS leader Abdelkader Hachani addressed a crowd of supporters. “Victory is more dangerous than defeat,” he warned, urging them to exercise restraint to avoid giving the army a pretext for intervention. But it was too late. The staunchly secular military aborted the elections, launching a massive crackdown and plunging Algeria into a civil war that would claim more than 100,000 lives.

That authoritarian regimes and activist militaries could count on American and European acquiescence (or even support)—as they did in 1992—made Arab regimes seem more durable than they actually were, and the task of unseating them more daunting. During the first and forgotten Arab Spring of 2004-5, Algeria repeatedly came up in my interviews with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt and Jordan. Perhaps over-learning the lessons of the past, Islamist parties across the region, despite their growing popularity, were careful and cautious. They made a habit of losing elections. In fact, they lost them on purpose. This ambivalence and even aversion to power prevented Islamists from playing the role that opposition parties are generally expected to play. It was better to wait, and so they did.

It’s been almost five years since the start of the Arab Spring, but one conversation still stands out to me, despite (or perhaps because of) everything that’s happened since. Just two months before the uprisings began, Egypt was experiencing what, at the time, seemed like an especially hopeless period. I was in the country for November elections that proved to be the most fraudulent in Egyptian history. After winning an unprecedented 88 seats in parliament in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t permitted by Hosni Mubarak’s regime to claim even one seat. But this movement, the mother of all Islamist movements, accepted its fate in stride. “The regimes won’t let us take power,” Hamdi Hassan, the head of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, told me during that doomed election campaign. What was the solution, then? I asked him. “The solution is in the ‘Brotherhood approach.’ We focus on the individual, then the family, then society.”

“In the lifespan of mankind, 80 years isn’t long,” he reasoned, referring to the time that had passed since the Brotherhood’s founding. “It’s like eight seconds.”

* * *

Events in the Middle East, and the policy debates surrounding them, tend to proceed in endless, disorienting loops. The Syrian civil war has gotten almost unimaginably worse since early 2012 (from 7,000 dead to 250,000), but we’re debating much the same thing we were debating back then: to enact safe zones and no-fly zones in the country, or not to. Algerian Islamists were ascendant in 1991 and the military intervened to stop them; something eerily similar happened in 2013 after the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt through democratic elections. Where exactly is the line between inaction and complicity? The notion of neutrality, for a country as powerful as the United States, is illusory. Doing nothing or “doing no harm” means maintaining or reverting to the status quo, which in the Middle East is never neutral, due to America’s longstanding relationships with regional actors.

Egyptians watch President Obama give a televised speech in Cairo in 2009. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters)

Before, during, and after the Arab Spring, one thing has remained constant in the Middle East: the outsized influence of outside powers. When the United States opts to remain disengaged—itself a conscious policy choice—others move to fill the void. The convenient fiction that foreign powers can do little to respond to the conflicts or “ancient hatreds” of the region belies nearly every major political development of the post-Arab Spring period. For a moment, though, it was nice to think that it wasn’t about the U.S., or at least that it didn’t have to be.

The first two uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt seemed to shatter the illusion that Arabs had to wait. Even if Western powers weren’t with them—and, at least at first, they weren’t—Arabs could bring about their own revolutions. In Tunisia, where little was at stake for the United States, senior officials were still saying that the U.S. was “not taking sides” as late as two days before Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s fall. After Ben Ali fled on January 14, 2011, taking refuge in Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration quickly adapted, expressing its support for the revolution. The U.S. could live without the Tunisian regime, but could it live without a staunch ally like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a dogged opponent of Iran and a stalwart supporter of the Arab-Israeli peace process? Here too, Mubarak’s longtime ties with Western governments would prove insufficient in preserving his rule.

From the very start, there was a temptation to discount the importance of foreign powers in the Arab Spring. It became commonplace to hear some variation of the following: that the uprisings were a truly indigenous movement and that Arabs themselves did not want other countries to “interfere” in it—meddling that would, the thinking went, go against the very spirit of the revolutions. President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials repeatedly insisted that this was “not about America.” In reality, it was partly about America, not just because of the past U.S. role in backing Arab dictatorships, but because of the critical role it would continue to play in the region.

The Democracy Report

For better and worse, international actors influenced the first phase of the Arab Spring and, in several countries, defined it. In Libya, Yemen, and Syria, Western and regional powers in the Gulf played significant, even decisive roles. In the one stalled revolution—Bahrain’s—it was Saudi Arabia’s military intervention that quelled the uprising and kept the ruling family afloat. Even in Egypt, the 2011 uprising was effectively internationalized, with foreign media devoting countless hours to covering every turn and, in the process, putting the issue at the top of the Western policy agenda. The United States, making use of longstanding military-to-military ties, pressured the Egyptian army to refrain from using force against protesters.

Nor were Arab Spring protesters entirely inward-looking. While those who rose up were no doubt angry over the lack of “bread and freedom,” the third element—the demand for dignity—was more difficult to characterize. Here, Egypt’s pro-Western policies and perceived subservience to the United States figured prominently, including in the defining chant that echoed throughout Tahrir Square the night Mubarak fell: “You’re Egyptian—raise your head up high.” During my time in Tahrir, I heard numerous chants attacking Mubarak for being a lackey of the United States and Israel (one such chant claimed that the Egyptian president only understood one language: Hebrew).

In Egypt and Tunisia, what the United States did—and did not do—continued to matter well after the initial uprisings. Newly elected governments facing deteriorating economic conditions at home needed as much outside support as they could get, in the form of direct financial assistance, loans, trade, asset recovery, and private investment. Despite its struggling economy and budgetary constraints, the United States had an important role to play. It was a question of political will. In the first year and a half after the uprisings, the U.S. proposed or allocated only around $ 2.2 billion in new aid to Arab Spring-affected countries. (For the sake of comparison, the U.S. committed $ 128 billion in today’s dollars during the four years of the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Western Europe). But this wasn’t just, or even primarily, about money. More costly were the Obama administration’s decisions to disengage from Libya after a successful military intervention there, to do as little as possible in Syria, to indulge Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq as he cracked down on Sunni political forces, and to outsource policy on Yemen to Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, a growing academic literature has pointed to the role of international actors in bringing down autocrats, though the focus tends to be on non-Middle Eastern cases. In their 2010 book, the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way provide extensive empirical support to what many have long argued. They write that “it was an externally driven shift in the cost of suppression, not changes in domestic conditions, that contributed most centrally to the demise of authoritarianism in the 1980s and 1990s.” Levitsky and Way find that “states’ vulnerability to Western democratizing pressure … was often decisive.”

In the Middle East, the critical role of foreign powers was confirmed, once again, during Egypt’s July 2013 military coup and its tragic aftermath. In the two and a half years leading up to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States failed to put any significant pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which dominated—and corrupted—Egypt’s transition in those early, critical days after the revolution. The United States wagered that a military-led transition would facilitate (and manage) the democratization process while safeguarding American interests. SCAF, though, grew increasingly autocratic, culminating in one very bad week in June 2012 when the military and its allies dissolved parliament, reinstated martial law, and decreed a constitutional addendum stripping the presidency of many of its powers.

The precedent had been set: even the most egregious violations of the democratic process would receive little more than the usual, bland expressions of concern and disapproval. The unwillingness to pressure SCAF would make it all the more difficult for the U.S. to hold future Islamist-led governments, such as Morsi’s, to democratic standards. SCAF wasn’t elected. How, then, could Washington justify withholding U.S. assistance to Morsi’s administration—the country’s first democratically elected government?

After the July 3 coup and subsequent crackdown against the Brotherhood and other Islamists, the U.S. response was muted. Despite a legal obligation to suspend aid in the event of a coup, the Obama administration, along with most of Congress, insisted on the importance of maintaining the flow of military aid to Egypt. A month after the military’s intervention—and in the lead-up to its massacre of Morsi supporters near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque—Secretary of State John Kerry even appeared to endorse the coup, saying that the army was “in effect … restoring democracy” and averting civil war. Egyptian military officials wagered, rightly, that they could get away with what became, according to Human Rights Watch, the worst mass killing in modern Egyptian history—as well as one of the worst single-day mass killings in recent decades anywhere in the world.

Blood stains the ground near a poster of Mohamed Morsi after violent clashes between the Egyptian military and Morsi supporters. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters)

America’s relative silence was no accident. To offer a strong, coherent response to the killings would have required a strategy, which would have required more, not less, involvement. This, however, would have been at cross-purposes with the entire thrust of the administration’s policy. Obama was engaged in a concerted effort to reduce its footprint in the Middle East. The phrase “leading from behind” quickly became a pejorative for Obama’s foreign-policy doctrine, but it captured a very real shift in America’s posture. The foreign-policy analysts Nina Hachigian and David Shorr called it the “Responsibility Doctrine,” a strategy of “prodding other influential nations … to help shoulder the burdens of fostering a stable, peaceful world order.” In pursuing this strategy in the Middle East, the United States left a power vacuum—and a proxy struggle. During Morsi’s year-long tenure, Qatar became the single largest foreign donor to Egypt, at over $ 5 billion (with Turkey contributing another $ 2 billion). Just days after the military moved against Morsi, it was Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait that pledged a massive $ 12 billion to the new military-appointed government.

The United States, along with the conservative Gulf monarchies and many others, also viewed Islamist parties with considerable suspicion. The Muslim Brotherhood had a long history of vehemently anti-Western and anti-Israel positions, including refusing to accept the Jewish state’s right to exist. (A few months after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, Morsi, who was particularly outspoken among Brotherhood leaders on these matters, shared his views on the 9/11 attacks with me. “When you come and tell me that the plane hit the tower like a knife in butter,” he said, shifting to English, “then you are insulting us. How did the plane cut through the steel like this? Something must have happened from the inside. It’s impossible.” In 2010, before he had any inkling of becoming president, Morsi, echoing classical anti-Semitic tropes, called Zionists “descendants of apes and pigs.”)

But what Morsi apparently believed and what he actually did in power constituted alternate universes. In 2006, the Brotherhood’s general guide, Mahdi Akef, told me angrily that “of course” the Brotherhood would cancel Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel if it ever had the chance. More pragmatic Islamists adopted a different tone, usually one of resignation. As one senior Brotherhood figure in Jordan put it to me: “If we must, we will always, at the very least, believe and long for the liberation of Palestine in our own hearts.”As I discuss in my book Temptations of Power, it is in the realm of foreign policy that the dissonance between ideology and practice is most striking but also the least surprising. Islamist parties in power simply cannot do the things they might like to do in an ideal world. The structure of the regional and international order won’t allow it. As long as Arab countries are dependent on Western powers for economic and political survival, there will be limits to how far elected governments, Islamist or otherwise, can go. (If that dependency were to weaken in the long run, Islamists would likely pursue a more ideological, assertive foreign policy. Ideology, to express itself, needs to be freed of its various constraints.)

Morsi, as president, was a product of this constrained context. While his foreign policy departed from Mubarak’s in significant ways, it was far from the wholesale shift that some of his supporters were hoping for. Morsi, for example, played an important role in brokering a resolution to the Gaza crisis of November 2012. He brought Egypt closer to Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, but he did so in a way that fell well short of fundamentally challenging the U.S.-led regional order. The model for Morsi was Turkey or Qatar—countries that were tied to the United States militarily and strategically but able and willing to establish themselves as independent, assertive regional powers, despite occasional (or increasingly frequent) American grumbling. America’s red lines were clear enough to Morsi, and they included respecting the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and cooperating with Israel on security. Human rights and democracy were, as they had always been in Egypt, tertiary U.S. concerns.

* * *

The Arab Spring demonstrated the shortsightedness of the “stability paradigm”— the model of Arab governments doing the West’s bidding in return for the West overlooking the suppression of dissent—that had animated U.S. and European policy for a half-century. Regimes that once seemed resilient crumbled more quickly than anyone could have imagined. If there was a lesson to be learned, it was that human rights and democratic reform would need to be prioritized after the Obama administration had—hoping to distinguish itself from its predecessor—deemphasized their importance.

Almost five years later, however, it appears that Western governments have learned rather different lessons. The reorientation that many both in the region and within the foreign-policy community had hoped for did not come to pass. In most Arab countries, with the exception of Libya (and even then only briefly), the Obama administration was content to tinker around the margins of existing policies. This laissez-faire approach produced its own set of consequences.

The unwillingness or inability to use American leverage to pressure Arab governments, including those with Islamist leanings, came at a cost. The United States can provide a credible threat of sanction by suspending or canceling much-needed economic assistance. Such a punitive approach can backfire, of course, given the understandable sensitivities in the region about the interference of foreign powers. A better alternative is “positive conditionality”—providing economic and political incentives for governments to meet explicit, measurable benchmarks on democratic reform.

A model for what this might look like is (or was) Turkey. After coming to power in 2002, the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed a series of consequential democratic reforms. The prospect of membership in the European Union helped incentivize the AKP to revise the penal code, ease restrictions on freedom of expression, rein in the power of the military, and expand rights for the country’s Kurdish minority. But when the threat of a military coup receded, and negotiations with the EU faltered, the AKP government seemed to lose interest in democratization, increasingly adopting illiberal and undemocratic practices.

The European Union has the ability to embed European countries within a thick regional order. No comparable mechanism exists in the Arab world. Yet the template is relevant for understanding how the United States might bind struggling democracies within a mutually beneficial regional order. In a sense, of course, it’s too late. America’s unwillingness to play such a role increased the likelihood that the Muslim Brotherhood, empowered by its conservative base and pressured by its Salafi competitors, would veer rightward and overreach, alienating old and new allies in the process. As demonstrated in Egypt, the governance failures of Islamist parties can have devastating effects on the course of a country’s democratic transition. That Islamists were, once again, ousted, repressed, and exiled from the democratic process brings us back to Algeria in 1992. The ghosts of Egypt—the Arab world’s most populous country and long a bellwether for the region—will linger, but this time for far longer and with greater consequences than those of Algeria. Abdelkader Hachani, it seems, was vindicated. Victory is more dangerous than defeat.

This article is adapted from Shadi Hamid’s book, Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East (Oxford University Press), which is now out in paperback.

[via theatlantic]

Freedom for a Woman Who Got 20 Years for Using Meth While Pregnant

Melissa McCann Arms (Atlantic)

On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for using meth while she was pregnant.

I wrote about Melissa McCann Arms last year in an investigation into cases where women are given long jail sentences for giving birth to babies with drugs in their systems. (Readers disagreed over the best approaches to pregnant drug addicts like Melissa.)

Melissa’s son, who will turn three next month, has been living with his father, Joseph, and Joseph’s relatives in Oklahoma while Melissa has been in prison. Joseph has mild mental retardation, can’t read, and, when I interviewed him earlier this year, was homeless. Prior to her conviction, Melissa had completed drug rehab, parenting classes, and several 12-step programs in hopes of keeping her son.

“By the time they actually took her to trial, she had rehabilitated herself,” Melissa’s child-custody attorney, Pamela Fisk, told me at the time. “She had done the drug treatment, she had done parenting, she had done counseling. She had done everything the state had put in place. This is punishment. This is not rehabilitation.”

Nearly a year after her son was born, a jury convicted Melissa of injecting the drug into his body via the umbilical cord. In January, the Arkansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction. In reversing the decision this week, the state’s highest court wrote that the statute Melissa was convicted under, “introduction of [a] controlled substance into [the] body of another person," makes no mention of a fetus or an unborn child. The Arkansas criminal code does consider fetuses people, but only for certain homicide offenses. Furthermore, the court ruled that the state cannot criminalize “passive bodily processes,” such as a substance from a mother’s body entering her child’s.

Melissa’s lawyer, Randy Rainwater, told me on Friday that he was still waiting to hear whether Melissa would be released immediately or detained further because of an outstanding probation violation charge. (The drug use violated a condition of her probation from a separate charge for not returning a rental car on time.)

Melissa’s case is one of a growing number in which women find themselves losing custody of their children and serving time for drug use during pregnancy. As I found in my investigation, this can happen even when the children are born perfectly healthy, and as ProPublica recently reported, it happens even when the drugs in question are legal.

Rainwater said there had since been two similar cases against new moms in his area, but that those defendants had taken plea bargains in order to avoid the harsh sentence imposed on Melissa. It remains to be seen what will happen to those women, he said.

[via theatlantic]

GMR&SC ‘Quick Shift Part 2’ Drag Meet

Mohamed, Ramchand, Wade, Fagundes among top performers
Anand Ramchand, Nasrudeen Mohamed, Winston Wade, Romeo Singh, Imran Khan, Clifford Lallbar, Keron

Winner of the 10 seconds category Nasrudeen Mohamed (right) receives the winning trophy from a sponsor’s representative on Sunday.

Winner of the 10 seconds category Nasrudeen Mohamed (right) receives the winning trophy from a sponsor’s representative on Sunday.

Williams and Fazal Bacchus were crowned champions in the different categories at the end of the Guyana Motor Racing & Sports Club (GMR&SC) ‘Quick Shift Part 2’ Drag Meet which was staged on Sunday last at the South Dakota Circuit.
Ramchand dominated the 11 seconds category, while Mohamed did likewise in the 10 seconds division. Singh was equally impressive in the 12 seconds category while Wade clinched the top spot in the 9 seconds division.
The 13 seconds division title went to Khan while Lallbar Bacchus and Williams claimed the 14 seconds and 16 seconds top podium finishes respectively. Superbiker Ricardo Fagundes proved too good in the Open Class category for bikes

[via kaieteurnewsonline]

Ohio Insists It Can Import Execution Drug Legally, After FDA Said It Couldn’t

The FDA warned Ohio in June that importing the execution drug, sodium thiopental, would be illegal. Friday, Ohio pushed back, saying there should be a legal way to do it.

Ohio’s previous death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

Ohio insisted on Friday that it should be able to import an execution drug that federal officials have warned the state it could not import.

A lawyer for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction argued in a latter to the Food and Drug Administration that it would not be illegal to import the execution drugs that it, at one point, intended to order. BuzzFeed News first broke the story that the FDA warned Ohio in June that it could not import sodium thiopental, an execution drug that is no longer used in the United States.

“Please note that there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States,” wrote Domenic Veneziano, the director of FDA's import operation, at the time.

Now, four months later, DRC General Counsel Stephen Gray wrote back to Veneziano, insisting that there is a legal way the state can import the drug.

“Contrary to the implication in your letter that the importation of sodium thiopental is currently prohibited, there is a legal framework for a state, if it so chooses, to import sodium thiopental in accordance with” the law, Gray wrote.

Gray added that “Ohio has no intention of breaking any federal laws or violating any court orders in an attempt to procure the legal drugs necessary to carry out constitutionally approved and court-ordered death sentences.”

Ohio is not the only state looking to import the drug overseas. Nebraska has purchased $ 54,000 of execution drugs from a supplier in India named Chris Harris. The FDA warned Nebraska, like Ohio, that importing sodium thiopental would be illegal, but Nebraska is moving forward anyway.

So far, the drug has not been able to leave India. An exporter told BuzzFeed News that it was held because the drug is not FDA-approved.

So far, it is unclear where Ohio intended to buy the drug. A Drug Enforcement Administration letter obtained by BuzzFeed News shows another state purchased drug from Harris. When first asked whether Ohio also purchased sodium thiopental from Harris, spokesperson JoEllen Smith would only say that it had not communicated with Harris's company.

But when asked if Ohio had purchased drugs directly or indirectly from Harris, Smith would only say that “DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions. This process has included multiple options.”

She refused to answer whether Ohio had already ordered the drug.

Ohio said it should be able to import the drug if five provisions are met. Among the provisions is that the source is registered with the FDA, and that the source has submitted sodium thiopental on its list of drugs it distributes in the United States.

In a 2012 court case, the FDA argued it could selectively enforce drug importation laws and allow drugs in that are for executions. But it lost that case, and the courts ordered the FDA not to allow in any more shipments of sodium thiopental.

In Gray's letter to the FDA, he wrote, “The responsibility to carry out lawful and humane executions when called upon by the courts to do so is enormous, and it is a responsibility that ODRC does not take lightly.”

He continued: “In fact, when Ohio has been able to procure the drugs necessary to carry out its constitutionally approved method of capital punishment via lethal injection, it has a history of doing so humanely and efficiently.”

Ohio's most recent execution took place in January 2014, when inmate Dennis McGuire gasped, choked and clenched his fists in an execution that lasted 26 minutes.

Read Ohio’s Letter To The FDA:

LINK: Ohio Intended To Illegally Import Execution Drugs, FDA Letter Says

[source BuzzFeed]

Nick Gordon Injected Bobbi Kristina Brown With POISON, Family Claims

Earlier this week, we reported that Nick Gordon may soon be arrested for the murder of Bobbi Kristina Brown.

While that hasn’t happened yet, the fact that investigating officers recently passed his case along to the DA means it’s still very likely that Gordon will face criminal charges for his role in his 22-year-old girlfriend’s overdose and drowning.

In the meantime, lawyers for the Brown and Houston families are throwing everything they have at Gordon in a $ 10 million wrongful death lawsuit.

Nick Gordon, Bobbi Kristina

The families’ legal team has already alleged that Gordon left Bobbi Kristina to drown in a tub of cold water, now they’re alleging that he injected her with a toxic substance on the night of her death.

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“Exclusive new details in civil suit against Nick Gordon claim he INJECTED Bobbi Kristina Brown with toxic mixture, killing her,” tweeted an Atlanta reporter who’s covering the proceedings.

Brown family lawyers also went into greater detail about the alleged “altercation” that took place between Nick and Bobbi Kristina in the moments before her death.

Documents filed by the attorneys claim that Bobbi Kristina “died following a particularly violent altercation with [Gordon] that left her battered and bruised, with a tooth knocked out.”

The results of Bobbi Kristina’s autopsy have been sealed pending further investigation, so it is not known if her body showed signs of a struggle.

If her injuries were as varied and extensive as the Browns and Houstons claim, it seems unlikely that Nick Gordon will remain a free man for much longer.

View Slideshow: Bobbi Kristina Brown: Through Good Times and Bad

[via thehollywoodgossip]

Sources: Julian Castro Is Endorsing Hillary Clinton For President Next Week In San Antonio

The HUD secretary, who is often discussed as a potential vice presidential pick should Clinton make it to the general election, will make the announcement next week in San Antonio.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro will endorse Hillary Clinton for president next week in San Antonio, according to three sources with knowledge of the plan.

Clinton will be in town Oct. 15 for the first “Latinos for Hillary” organizing event in Texas and has made Hispanic voters a priority this fall, launching a bilingual SMS texting initiative to engage them, and showing up on stage at a Marc Anthony concert in Miami, among other efforts.

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona said the campaign has always planned to roll out Hispanic endorsements as its Latino initiative got underway and the elected officials, like Rep. Xavier Becerra recently, have a “put me in coach” mentality, excited to campaign for Clinton.

“The contrast for her in terms of both the launching of Latinos for Hillary and with Julian next week could not come at a better time with the debacle going on in the Republican side,” she said.

Castro, who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and was formerly the mayor of San Antonio before becoming HUD secretary, has often been discussed in the media as a potential running mate.

The campaign has repeatedly stressed that Clinton wants to be seen as a spokesperson and a champion for Latinos, in contrast to Republican rhetoric on immigration led by Donald Trump. She again made the argument in a Telemundo interview this week where she also said she would be less aggressive and harsh than the Obama administration has been with its deportation policy.

In addition to endorsements from elected officials, the campaign is also unveiling support from celebrities and community leaders as it pushes “Latinos for Hillary.” The campaign sent an email blast this week from actress Salma Hayek and Castro's brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, will campaign for Clinton in Nevada Oct. 11.

For his part, Julian Castro hasn't been shy about defending her in the media. He has dismissed the email controversy and called the Benghazi investigation a “witch hunt.”

“Congressman Gowdy, who is leading this, is very intentionally trying to manipulate this witch hunt to play politics,” he said in May.

Henry Cisneros, who like Castro was mayor of San Antonio and HUD secretary, fanned the vice presidential speculation earlier this year.

“What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton's campaign, is that the first person on their lists is Julián Castro,” Cisneros said in June. “He is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage.”

Democrats said the endorsement isn't a surprise but it is part of the necessary work the campaign must do to grow excitement among the Hispanic community for Clinton.

Joaquin Guerra, a longtime Democratic operative in San Antonio, said Castro is a beloved son, joking that his picture belongs next to the ones of the pope, Henry Cisneros, and Cesar Chavez, in the homes of San Antonio Latinos.

Guerra works out of Geekdom, a co-working space and tech incubator, that has one other office in San Francisco, and said Castro helped make San Antonio an emerging tech center. That along with the pre-kindergarten initiative he shepherded makes him uniquely qualified to boost Latino excitement in San Antonio and elsewhere, Guerra argued.

Andres Ramirez, a 20-year veteran of Democratic politics in Nevada, said the fact that Joaquin Castro is in Nevada this weekend and Julian Castro is in San Antonio next week to juice excitement for organizing events, is evidence of the Clinton camp applying a focus on Latinos that other campaigns like that of Bernie Sanders have gotten a later start on.

“It's great that other campaigns are learning this but this is not something the Clinton campaign has learned,” he said. “They've known it from the get go and launched the campaign with these concepts in mind.”

[source BuzzFeed]