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The multi-state U.S. military training exercise dubbed "Jade Helm 15," which has spawned myriad conspiracy theories and vexed public officials who struggled to allay the concerns of constituents, is finally here.

The "unconventional warfare" exercise is scheduled to begin Wednesday and run until Sept. 15. Training is planned for certain areas of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. California, Colorado and Nevada had originally been listed as areas where the training was to take place but have since been left out.

Conspiracy theory websites and InfoWars' Alex Jones suggested that the operation could be a cover for the implementation of martial law. One site even alleged that troops were converting shuttered Wal-Mart stores into covert military bases. But the paranoia surrounding "Jade Helm 15" really became headline news in May, after enough concerned Texans convinced Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to take action to protect their civil liberties. Abbott requested that the State Guard monitor the training exercise, asserting that the move was only meant to facilitate communication between the military and residents of the Lone Star state.

Outlandish theories about "Jade Helm 15" are likely to continue to proliferate in the coming weeks. As The Washington Post reported, the military has decided not to allow media to observe the exercise, which curtails efforts to better explain the training exercise to the public. In that information vacuum, a citizen surveillance group calling itself "Counter Jade Helm" has sprung up with plans to monitor the operation for any potential funny business.

Now that the start of the exercise is upon us, here is what fringe blogs say Americans can expect, from Russian interference in southern states to retaliation against Christian opponents of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

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The first image the American public saw of suspected Charleston gunman Dylann Roof was that of a scowling young man with a bowl haircut who wore a jacket emblazoned with the flags of two white minority governments.

The top patch on the jacket's right breast was the flag of South Africa's Apartheid government. The patch below it, with its three vertical stripes of green, white and green, was the flag of the white-controlled colony of Rhodesia that later became Zimbabwe. People who track extremists say both flags are symbols of the white supremacist movement.

The 21-year-old gunman would have been about a year old when Apartheid rule came to an end in South Africa in 1994.

Rhodesia, having gained independence from Britain and taken the name Zimbabwe in 1980, was already an entry in modern world history textbooks by the time Roof was born.

So how did Roof become so fixated on a white-controlled British colony that collapsed decades before he came of age?

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Dylann Roof allegedly photographed himself visiting slave burial grounds and scrawling white supremacist symbols into beach sand in the months before he opened fire at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

A chilling, racist manifesto surfaced Saturday at the website alongside a ZIP file containing 60 photos of a man who appears to be Roof, the white, 21-year-old suspect in the Charleston attack.

Among the photos were images of Roof visiting plantation houses, burial grounds for Confederate soldiers and other historic sites around Charleston that hark back to the antebellum South. Other images of Roof posted on the website are dominated by white supremacist and neo-Nazi symbols. The photos were shot between August 3, 2014 and June 17 with the majority shot in March and April, according to CNN.

TPM has annotated the most significant photos in the file to help shed light on the symbols and locations depicted in them.

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Ed. Note: Below, TPM is publishing the full text of a racist manifesto that surfaced on the website, which was registered under the name of the suspected Charleston, South Carolina gunman Dylann Roof. The white, 21-year-old was arrested and charged with murder in the massacre of nine people this week inside a historic black church in the city. The manifesto has not been verified as belonging to Roof, but the website also included multiple photos, like the one above, of a man who appears to be him.

Warning: The text below contains racist slurs and other offensive language.


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David W. Smith, the leader of the Orange County, Texas-based Golden Triangle Militia, wants people to know he is no white supremacist or conspiracy theorist.

“If you say you’re part of a militia, people start cowering with fear,” he told TPM in a phone interview last week. “They start calling you a white supremacist or part of the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] when it’s open for every single resident that lives in the county.”

Smith has been on a quest to persuade the Orange County Commissioners Court to recognize his group as the county reserve militia for over a year and a half. Last week, commissioners were about to vote on a resolution recognizing the Golden Triangle Militia—which would have been a first in the Lone Star State—when one commissioner expressed reservations about the group’s vetting process and requested more information, according to local TV station KBMT. The vote was tabled.

Smith expressed frustration, saying he believes his group already is the county’s reserve militia by default.

“The Golden Triangle Militia is a reserve militia according to that government code,” Smith told TPM. “That’s what I’m trying to do there, because the law says that the reserve militia is supposed to already exist but it’s never been officially organized according to the law in the state of Texas since it’s been on the statutes since 1987. Nobody’s ever done it.”

TPM spoke with Smith, who said he’s a U.S. Air Force and Texas Army National Guard veteran, at length about his effort to get his group recognized as the reserve militia for Orange County. Smith is a former phlebotomist who now runs a business building monolithic domes. He tried to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) last year as an independent and casually name-drops Texas politicians, including former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), whom he says he’s spoken to about his militia movement. He also offered his take on those "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy theories that have been catching fire in the state and elsewhere.

Below is a transcript of the conversation which has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

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