148 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for May 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
5-31-17 Being black in US tough says LeBron James after racist graffiti
Being black in US tough says LeBron James after racist graffiti
LeBron James says racism is hidden but alive every day in the US. NBA superstar LeBron James has talked about the ordeal of suffering racism after the "N-word" was spray painted on to his Los Angeles home. "No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are... being black in America is tough," he said. The graffiti was reported to police on Wednesday morning and the Cleveland Cavaliers star responded hours later. LAPD officials confirmed to the BBC the highly offensive nature of the racial epithet. Officers are reviewing surveillance footage to try to identify the vandal. James was speaking from San Francisco, where his team is training ahead of Game 1 of the NBA finals. "Racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America, and hate in America - especially for African-Americans - is living every day," he said. He added: "We've got a long way to go for us as a society and us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America." (Webmaster's comment: Driven by the white supremacists employed by Trump's rhetoric!)
5-31-17 Diseases are global, so it’s time for global emergency response
Diseases are global, so it’s time for global emergency response
As climate change and globalisation bring pandemics, we desperately need an agency for health emergencies. Enter the WHO, but will the world pay for it? DISEASE is coming back. This week alone, emergencies in five countries – Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen – reached the highest grade on the World Health Organization’s scale. That means they have the potential for “substantial public health consequences” – international ones. But no international agency can yet step in and fix these crises, never mind prevent them. So far even the WHO hasn’t been able to. It was not designed for handling emergencies, but to provide nations with technical health advice. It is a global agency, but until recently most disease outbreaks were not global threats. Now that they are, the agency is rushing to reinvent itself as the global disease response service the world increasingly needs. But that requires “predictable, multi-year financing”, says Peter Salama, director of the Health Emergencies Programme. Without that certainty, it is hard to plan, and to recruit staff with emergency management experience. The question now is: will the member states foot the bill? The wake-up call that the world was missing a vital global caretaker came in 2014 with the Ebola epidemic in Africa. After its disastrously slow response almost let the epidemic spin out of control, the WHO began trying to ramp up its ability to respond to such emergencies. Last year it set up its emergencies programme to coordinate responses to outbreaks. This year the world finds out if it works.
5-31-17 Could cannabis help crack cocaine addicts kick the habit?
Could cannabis help crack cocaine addicts kick the habit?
Crack users find it easier to give up when they take cannabis, and animals given components of cannabis are more likely to overcome a crack addiction. COMPONENTS of cannabis might help those addicted to crack cocaine to quit. Such people may find it easier to curb their usage or give up entirely when they take some form of cannabis, suggests a small study that builds on similar results from research in rodents. “This is a promising development that will provide more alternatives to those in need,” says Ric Curtis at the City University of New York, who wasn’t involved in the work. Some of the first hints that cannabis might help curb crack cravings were anecdotal, says Curtis, who studied crack dealers in the 1980s. “They would wean themselves off crack by smoking it with marijuana.” To find out if this approach might work, Michael-John Milloy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver assessed the findings from three long-term studies of drug users in the city. Across the studies, 3000 people with a history of drug use completed questionnaires detailing their habits, including whether they had started taking cannabis with the intention of reducing their crack cravings. Milloy and his colleagues identified 122 crack users who started taking cannabis for this purpose. Over an average of 30 months, these individuals were 89 per cent more likely to have reduced their crack use when they were using cannabis, compared with when they were not using it.
5-31-17 Before you argue for universal health care in America, look at the disaster in England
Before you argue for universal health care in America, look at the disaster in England
Plenty of people love government welfare when it seems like someone else will pay for their benefits. The problem with that, as Margaret Thatcher famously pointed out, is that eventually you run out of other people's money. And when that happens, the state goes after your money. Never forget that a government that is powerful enough to give you everything you want is also powerful enough to take away everything you've got. That logic is now playing out in England, where Thatcher's own Tory Party, having abandoned its commitment to rolling back the welfare state, is doubling down on taking away "your" money. Just consider conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal to reform her country's system to provide long-term care for the elderly. As things stand, anyone who gets terminal cancer or heart disease can get long-term free care through the National Health Service — Britain's chronically underfunded government-run universal health-care system — because they can stay in the hospital. However, the NHS bolts when it comes to chronic mental conditions that don't require hospitilization. To get help for those, the elderly have to turn to their local councils (municipal governments). However, these councils depend on London's central government for funding, and that body has been cutting back (partially to offset NHS's ever-ballooning costs). So they refuse to pay for in-home care of the old and senile if these seniors have anything over $30,000 in savings, not counting their homes. (Webmaster's comment: But they still live longer and have a lower infant mortality rate than Americans.)
5-30-17 The Trump administration is making a systemic effort to diminish civil rights agencies
The Trump administration is making a systemic effort to diminish civil rights agencies
President Trump has never been quiet about his plans to reverse some of the stepped-up civil rights enforcement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and he's doing that in big ways and small, by proposing to cut some civil rights divisions entirely, cutting funding and staff levels, and putting critics in charge of agencies, among other actions. At the Environmental Protection Agency, new leaders have recommended scrapping the environmental justice program, which helps mitigate oil spills, hazardous leaks, and other environmental threats concentrated in minority areas. The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights faces steep budget and staffing cuts, hampering investigations of discrimination in school districts, and its new director, Candice E. Jackson, wrote a book arguing that attempts to promote diverse student bodies disregard "the very real prices paid by individual people who end up injured by affirmative action." Trump has similarly suggested he wants to put the Justice Department's civil rights division under the leadership of conservative lawyer Eric Dreiband, who has represented several companies in discrimination lawsuits. The Trump Justice Department has already moved to dismantle challenges to a Texas voter ID law and, with the Education Department, rolled back Obama-era guidance about transgender students and bathrooms.
5-30-17 Chinese lesbian dating app Rela shuts down
Chinese lesbian dating app Rela shuts down
A Chinese dating app for lesbians that has more than five million users has been shut down. The app, Rela, is no longer available in the Android or Apple app stores, and its website and Sina Weibo account have been deleted. Users began to notice that the app was not accessible last week. It is unclear why it has been shut down. Rela told its users on WeChat that the service had been suspended for an "important adjustment in service". "Rela has always been with you and please await its return!" The state internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has not commented on the shutdown. Some users have suggested that it was connected to Rela's support for parents of LGBT children who wanted to take part in a "marriage market" in Shanghai on 20 May. The group joined the weekly event in People's Park where older parents try to find partners for their unmarried sons and daughters, and handed out "educational flyers".
5-29-17 Somalia's al-Shabab stones man to death for adultery
Somalia's al-Shabab stones man to death for adultery
Somali militants have stoned a man to death after an Islamic court convicted him of adultery. Dayow Mohamed Hassan, 44, was buried neck-deep and pelted to death with stones by al-Shabab fighters. He was convicted of being in an adulterous relationship with a woman and impregnating her, despite having two wives, an official said. Al-Shabab occasionally passes such sentences for sexual offences in areas it controls in Somalia.
5-29-17 Kenya election: Peter Gichira charged with attempted suicide
Kenya election: Peter Gichira charged with attempted suicide
A Kenyan man has been charged with attempted suicide for allegedly trying to jump from a building after his bid to run for president was rejected. Peter Gichira denied the charge during a court appearance in the capital, Nairobi, and was freed on bail. Police say he was arrested on Saturday for trying to jump from the sixth floor of the electoral commission's offices. He was among eight candidates who failed to meet the criteria to contest the 8 August election in Kenya.
5-28-17 Trudeau to ask Pope for apology for Canada's residential schools
Trudeau to ask Pope for apology for Canada's residential schools
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected next week to ask Pope Francis for a formal apology over the Catholic Church's role in the country's residential school system. The request stems from a report into Canada's history of taking indigenous children from their parents and sending them to residential schools. Many children experienced neglect and abuse while far from their families. Mr Trudeau meets with the Pope on Monday. The "call to action" from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) report also requests the pontiff to deliver the apology in Canada. (Webmaster's comment: Religions need to be held accountable for all the wrongs they have done and are still doing!)
5-26-17 Two fatally stabbed in Portland by man yelling 'anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs'
Two fatally stabbed in Portland by man yelling 'anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs'
Two people were killed and a third injured on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, by a man witnesses said was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs." Unverified reports suggest the suspect may have been targeting two Muslim girls riding the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab. The victims were attempting to protect other passengers when they were stabbed. "Terrible tragedy on Portland's Max Train," Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote on Twitter of the attack. "Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil." The suspect has been detained by police, who have deemed his rant to be hate speech. Neither the attacker nor the victims have been publicly identified. (Webmaster's comment: Expect more of this. A lot more!)
5-26-17 Portland deaths: Two stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim abuse
Portland deaths: Two stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim abuse
Two men have died in the US trying to stop a man abusing two women of Muslim appearance, Oregon police say. The abusive man turned on the two men and fatally stabbed them in the city of Portland, police said. The incident happened on a commuter train. Another passenger was wounded before the attacker was arrested. The Council on American-Islamic Relations urged President Trump to speak out against increasing Islamophobia in the US. It accused the president of exacerbating the trend with his statements and policies. (Webmaster's comment: A President who advocated and supported Muslim hatred is directly responsible for the new elevated anti-Muslim poltical climate.)
5-26-17 Trump’s proposed 2018 budget takes an ax to science research funding
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget takes an ax to science research funding
Some programs see increases, but most face sharp cuts. The Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 calls for sharp cuts to many federal science agencies and programs. Research on climate and clean energy would be especially hammered. Tornadoes in the southeast, Earth’s magnetic field and obesity might not seem to have much in common. Well, now they do. Under President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, federal research spending into all three areas — and many others — would decline abruptly. The president delivered his budget request to Congress on May 23, presenting the sharpest picture yet of his administration’s priorities for federal science spending. Some science and technology programs within agencies would see their funds increase, but the administration recommends extensive cuts to basic research overall. The request greatly expands on the “skinny budget” the administration released in March (SN: 4/15/17, p. 15). Total federal research spending would be slashed by about 17 percent, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in a conference call with reporters. “If the White House budget plan were to become law, it would devastate America’s science and technology enterprise.”
5-27-17 Gianforte wins Montana vote despite 'body slam' charge
Gianforte wins Montana vote despite 'body slam' charge
US Republican Greg Gianforte has won a special congressional election in Montana, just hours after he was charged with assaulting a UK reporter. With about 96% of areas reporting, he has secured 51% of the vote. His Democratic rival Rob Quist has 43%. Mr Gianforte has apologised for the incident in which he is accused of "body slamming" Ben Jacobs who works for the UK's Guardian newspaper. In a victory speech he said he had "learned a lesson" and was "sorry". A Fox News journalist who saw Wednesday's incident said Mr Gianforte had "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground" after the reporter persisted in trying to question him. (Webmaster's comment: A verification of the shift of the politcal climate in American where you can initiate violence and still get elected as a Republican! Expect more reporters to be threatened and assaulted as news media hatred sweeps the country lead by the conservatives.)
5-26-17 Praise from Trump
Praise from Trump
President Trump congratulated his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, during a phone call last month for doing an “unbelievable job” on the drug problem in the Philippines, where Duterte has sanctioned the extrajudicial execution of suspects. “Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing,” Trump said, according to a Philippine government transcript that was leaked to U.S. news outlets. Filipino police and vigilantes have killed at some 7,000 SUSPECTED drug users and dealers since Duterte took office last June. Trump also told Duterte during the call that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was “a madman” and said the U.S. had “two nuclear submarines” off the coast of North Korea. The locations of U.S. nuclear subs are normally kept secret.
5-26-17 They should be Lynched!
They should be Lynched!
A Mississippi lawmaker said that civic leaders who order the removal of Confederate symbols should be “lynched.” In a widely shared Facebook post, Rep. Karl Oliver compared the removals to Nazi book burnings and called them a “heinous and horrific” attack on the “loving memory” of our “fellow Southern Americans.” He later apologized for using the word “lynched.”
5-26-17 Neo-Nazi-turned-Muslim murders
A former neo-Nazi who converted to Islam was charged this week with killing two roommates at his Tampa apartment after they “disrespected” his new faith. Florida-born Devon Arthurs, 18, was arrested after taking hostages at a nearby smoke shop—telling them he was upset because of “America bombing his countries,” police said. Once in custody, Arthurs told officers the bodies of two of his three roommates were back at his apartment. The men had all previously “been friends with a common neo-Nazi belief,” according to police, but Arthurs allegedly felt compelled to shoot dead Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, because they “disrespected his Muslim faith.” A fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, 21, was found crying outside the apartment, and was arrested after authorities found bomb-making materials in the building’s garage, and firearms and Nazi propaganda in Russell’s bedroom. (Webmaster's comment: Expect this to get worse!)
5-26-17 Trump travel ban: US court upholds halt on executive order
Trump travel ban: US court upholds halt on executive order
A US federal appeals court has refused to lift a temporary block on President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. The Virginia-based court said the president's broad immigration power was "not absolute" and the ban "intended to bar Muslims from this country". The decision upheld a lower Maryland court ruling that found the ban violated constitutional rights. The justice department said it would now seek a Supreme Court review of the appeals verdict. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the verdict thwarted Mr Trump's effort to protect US national security. Mr Trump's revised executive order would have placed a temporary ban on people from six mainly Muslim countries and the refugee programme. The 10-3 ruling is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for an order the president insists is needed to stop terrorists from entering the country. A Maryland judge ruled that the order was meant to be a ban on Muslims and violated the first amendment of the US constitution.
5-26-17 Gerrymandering ruling
The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina this week, ruling that the state’s Republican-controlled legislature had relied too heavily on race when redrawing the district lines after the 2010 census. Republican lawmakers were accused of packing African-American voters into the two districts in order to dilute their vote, which tends to lean Democratic. One district, the serpentine District 12, was appearing before the justices for the fifth time. Justice Samuel Alito argued the district had merely been packed with Democratic voters who happen to be black, but conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joined the court’s four liberal justices in striking the district down, 5-3. Another electoral area, District 1, whose shape critics likened to an octopus, was struck down 8-0. Justice Neil Gorsuch sat the case out after missing oral arguments. Legal experts say the ruling could boost the success of similar gerrymandering challenges across the South.
5-26-17 Bathroom bill dispute
Bathroom bill dispute
Republican state lawmakers were racing to pass a compromise transgender “bathroom bill” in Texas this week before the state’s legislative session ends on May 29, amid a growing backlash from the business community. A broad bill requiring transgender individuals to use public restrooms corresponding with the gender on their birth certificate passed the GOP-controlled state Senate in March. But the measure stalled in the House, also led by Republicans, as high-profile corporations and organizations, including American Airlines and the NFL, threatened to boycott the state. Over the weekend, the House passed a measure that applied only to the state’s public schools, but the bill was rejected as too watered-down by some senators. With the recess fast approaching, the Texas Senate empowered a special committee to work out a compromise. Critics say the bill discriminates against transgender people and would force young students to reveal personal information about their gender.
5-26-17 CBO score
The health-care bill passed by House Republicans would leave 23 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026 than if Obamacare remained in place, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said this week. The American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House 217-213 in May, will increase the number of uninsured people by 14 million next year, compared with the current law, the CBO said, as well as provide smaller subsidies to most people on the individual market—especially low-income people over 50. The AHCA’s $8 billion fund to cover pre-existing conditions “would not be sufficient” to keep chronically ill people from paying higher premiums or losing insurance altogether, the CBO said. The bill, however, would decrease the budget deficit by $119 billion over a decade. The report provided fresh ammunition for Senate Democrats trying to kill the bill.
5-26-17 Lashed for being gay
Lashed for being gay
Two Indonesian men were lashed 82 times each with a rattan cane in front of a jeering crowd in Banda Aceh this week, as punishment for having gay sex. One of the men broke down in tears during the beating, while onlookers shouted, “Hit him again!” It was the first application of anti--homosexuality laws introduced in Aceh province three years ago. Aceh formally adopted sharia law in 2005 after Indonesia gave the province partial autonomy as part of a peace deal with separatist rebels. Four heterosexual couples were also lashed for kissing and hugging while not married. Meanwhile in Jakarta, where homosexuality is not illegal, police raided a gay club and arrested more than 100 people on suspicion of prostitution and pornography.
5-26-17 White Americans are the least likely to enter a mixed marriage
White Americans are the least likely to enter a mixed marriage
Seventeen percent of U.S. newlyweds in 2015 were of differing races or ethnicities, a fivefold increase over the 50 years since the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, according to the Pew Research Center. White Americans are the least likely to enter a mixed marriage, while Asian and Hispanic people are the most likely to do so. Black men are twice as likely to marry outside their race as black women.
5-26-17 Fox's Sean Hannity loses advertisers after conspiracy theory
Fox's Sean Hannity loses advertisers after conspiracy theory
Several companies have pulled adverts from Fox News host Sean Hannity's show after his coverage of a debunked election murder conspiracy. At least five firms have cancelled commercials, despite Mr Hannity's pledge to drop the topic on-air. Fox has retracted their story, which claimed a Democratic National Committee employee was shot because he passed emails to Wikileaks. Washington DC police suspect Seth Rich was gunned down in a botched robbery. Companies that have ditched the Sean Hannity Show are Cars.com, the United Services Automobile Association, home-security company Ring, Crowne Plaza Hotels, Peloton bicycles, and mattress companies Leesa Sleep and Casper. (Webmaster's comment: The absolute leader of fake news, FOX NEWS, is in full melt down!)
5-26-17 The free speech wars
The free speech wars
America’s universities are being roiled by violent protests over “offensive” speech that students say should be silenced. The rise of trigger warnings and microaggression theory has prompted widespread mockery. Literature that has been deemed “triggering” includes Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (suicide) and even Ovid’s Metamorphoses (sexual assault). In 2015, a faculty training guide at the University of California warned that the phrase “America is a land of opportunity” could upset people whose race makes it harder for them to succeed. Other expressions deemed verboten on campuses include “hey guys” and “man up” (sexist) and “crazy” (“ableist”). Yet activists say the use of trigger warnings, in particular, has been blown out of proportion. Fewer than 1 percent of colleges and universities have a policy requiring them, according to a 2015 study by the National Coalition Against Censorship. And most courses—in the sciences, math, engineering—have little or no need for them. Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, describes trigger warnings as a “basic courtesy” for students who have experienced extreme trauma. “They’re a pretty small kindness,” she says, “in a pretty small range of subjects.”
- What are the protests about?
- How long has this been going on?
- What is their justification?
- What is the counterargument?
- Why is all this happening now?
- Warning students about ‘triggers’
5-26-17 Germany vaccination: Fines plan as measles cases rise
Germany vaccination: Fines plan as measles cases rise
The German government plans to fine parents up to €2,500 (£2,178; $2,806) if they fail to get medical advice about vaccinating their children. Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said it was necessary to tighten the law because of a measles epidemic. He was speaking to the popular daily Bild. "Continuing deaths from measles cannot leave anyone indifferent," he said. The government wants kindergartens to report any parents who lack proof of having had a medical consultation. Failure to get advice about vaccination could mean expulsion of the child from the daycare centre, under the revised law. It is expected to be adopted next month. A mother of three died of measles in the city of Essen this week. However, Germany is not yet making it an offence to refuse vaccinations - unlike Italy. And the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, said forcing kindergartens to report some parents to the health authorities might breach data protection laws. (Webmaster's comment: Not getting vaccinated is as irresponsible as drunk driving! Unvaccinated people can kill other people!)
5-25-17 Republican health bill to leave 23m uninsured
Republican health bill to leave 23m uninsured
Some 23 million people would lose health insurance over the next decade under the revised Republican healthcare plan, says a non-partisan agency. Fourteen million people would be uninsured in 2018 alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The analysis said federal deficits would fall by $119bn (£91bn) from 2017-2026 under the proposal, which is championed by President Donald Trump. House Republicans were criticised for passing the bill before the assessment. Wednesday's rating lays down the gauntlet to Republican senators who are now crafting their own version of the bill, which Democrats have labelled "Trumpcare". House Republicans amended their American Health Care Act (AHCA) after it failed back in March to attract enough support to even win a vote in a chamber their party controls. The bill would accomplish a long-running conservative goal of repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The CBO score predicts the revised AHCA would leave 1 million fewer Americans uninsured overall compared with the last version, which said 24 million would lose coverage. The $119bn projected to be shaved off the federal deficit is less than the $150bn in savings forecast in the previous version of the bill.
5-25-17 White House denies 'egregious' budget accounting error
White House denies 'egregious' budget accounting error
The White House has denied the president's budget proposal contains an "egregious" maths error. Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers pointed out the spending plan double-counts $2tr. But White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters: "We stand by the numbers." Unveiled on Tuesday, the budget proposes deep cuts to welfare programmes. Mr Summers, also formerly chief economist of the World Bank, was one of the first to spot the apparent mistake. "It appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them," he wrote on his blog. He said the spending plan was "simply ludicrous". The budget forecasts about $2tr in extra federal revenue growth over the next 10 years, which it uses to pay for Mr Trump's "biggest tax cut in history". But that very same $2tr is then used to reduce the budget deficit. "My observation is that there appears to be a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course," Mr Summers wrote. A prominent conservative economist agreed there was a discrepancy. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Los Angeles Times the numbers "don't seem to match". (Webmaster's comment: You can not use all of the same savings to do two competely different things. Our leaders need to go back to grade school.)
5-25-17 Housing Secretary Ben Carson calls poverty a 'state of mind'
Housing Secretary Ben Carson calls poverty a 'state of mind'
US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has sparked outrage after describing poverty as a "state of mind". During an interview with Sirius XM radio on Tuesday, Mr Carson suggested people are poor because they learned the "wrong mindset" from their parents. The retired neurosurgeon oversees a department that manages housing for the country's low-income population. His comments quickly drew sharp criticism on social media. "I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," he said in an interview that aired on Wednesday. "You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there. "And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom." The interviewer was Mr Carson's own top adviser during his failed 2016 Republican presidential campaign. Ben Carson also calls US slaves 'immigrants'. In March, he called African-American slaves "immigrants" and in 2013 he said Obamacare was the "worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery".
5-25-17 Trump’s budget jettisons ‘irreplaceable’ marine mammals agency
Trump’s budget jettisons ‘irreplaceable’ marine mammals agency
The US Marine Mammal Commission, charged with restoring oceans’ mammal populations, is set for the chop in president Donald Trump’s budget proposal. The US Marine Mammal Commission, an organisation charged with restoring mammal populations in the world’s oceans, is set for the chop in president Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal. The budget, released on 23 May, includes a 16 per cent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s bodies and agencies. This would close down the MMC, an independent federal agency, which costs around US$3.41 million a year, or around one penny per American. The Maryland-based commission sees itself as a “one-stop shop” for marine mammal science and policies, says its chairman Daryl Boness. The commission reviews human activities in the ocean -including shipping, military drills and fossil fuel extraction – and uses the latest science to ascertain the impact of such activities on marine mammals. “The commission’s role as an oversight agency on all issues related to marine mammals is unique; no one else in the world meets this mandate,” Boness told the New Scientist. “This service to the public, marine mammals and their ecosystem would end.”
5-24-17 Mayor: 'Confederacy on wrong side of humanity'
Mayor: 'Confederacy on wrong side of humanity'
New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu explains why four Confederate monuments had to be torn down. While construction workers were taking down the enormous statue of Robert E. Lee, Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a powerful and brutally honest speech about Confederate monuments, the reason they were erected, and why they must come down.David Menschel, a criminal defense attorney, describes it as one of the "most honest speeches given by a Southern politician, maybe ever." He wasn't exaggerating. Here's an excerpt: America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined 'separate but equal'; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth. And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame ... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, "A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them." So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let's start with the facts. The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This 'cult' had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.
5-24-17 Melania Trump in black at the Vatican. Why?
Melania Trump in black at the Vatican. Why?
Melania Trump arrived at the Vatican on Wednesday morning the picture of modesty: a knee-length black dress, arms covered and a black veil over her hair. Her choice of outfit - in particular, the elegant veil - did not go unnoticed by those keeping a close eye on the First Lady during her husband's first overseas tour as president. Among them was the BBC's North America editor, Jon Sopel. "Interesting micro point," he tweeted. "Melania Trump wears head covering for meeting with @Pontifex - but not when she was in Saudi Arabia." But BBC's David Willey in Rome was unsurprised. There is a strict protocol to be followed when meeting the Pope, which the White House will have been informed of. A quick glance at the Vatican website lays out some of the rules: modest dress, with your shoulders covered, for those attending a Papal Audience - especially if indoors. "It goes from deep lace mantillas to just a black veil," he explained. Traditionally, heads of states and their partners have chosen to wear black, with a notable exception - a Catholic queen is allowed to wear white.(Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)
5-24-17 Ex-officer helps exonerate US prisoner after 24 years
Ex-officer helps exonerate US prisoner after 24 years
A Philadelphia man has been exonerated and freed from prison 24 years after he was found guilty of a murder he did not commit. Shaurn Thomas, 43, was released after the Philadelphia District Attorney's office agreed that the evidence did not support the conviction. Mr Thomas, who was 19 when found guilty, maintained all along he was at another court hearing during the crime. "I feel wonderful," he said as he left the prison. He hugged his fiancee and family outside the jail in Frackville, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday evening. "I don't got no animosity towards nobody. What for?" said Mr Thomas. "Life's too short for that. I just move on forward. "It's a tragedy that happened to me, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one."
5-24-17 California's looming single-payer disaster
California's looming single-payer disaster
Advocates of government-provided universal health care must confront financial reality. Progressives advocating single-payer health care need to face financial reality. Vermont had to abandon its attempts to impose a single-payer health-care system when its greatest champion, Gov. Peter Shumlin, discovered that it would cost far more than he had anticipated. Similarly, last year Colorado voters resoundingly rejected ColoradoCare when a study discovered that even tripling taxes wouldn't be enough to keep up with the costs. Now it's California's turn. The Golden State's legislature has plowed ahead with a plan to impose single-payer care. But a new analysis from the state Senate on SB562 shows that the annual costs of such a system would exceed the state's current annual budget — even if federal funding continued at the same pace. "California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called 'single-payer' system," the Sacramento Bee reported after the publication of a report by the Senate Appropriations committee. Even that estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state, and federal funding it currently receives to offset half of a $400 billion total price tag. $400 billion a year. That's 223 percent of California's total annual expenditures in an already bloated budget. (Webmaster's comment: But the countries in Europe provide it at less than half the current cost of healthcare in America! America needs to adopt the European model of single-payer healthcare. Or the Cuban model which provides healthcare equal to or better than that in America for only a fraction of the cost. P.S. I think it's the for-profit motive in America that dooms single-payer healthcare.)
5-24-17 Why are doctors prescribing antidepressants for things other than depression?
Why are doctors prescribing antidepressants for things other than depression?
The drugs we call antidepressants are fast becoming a misnomer. In fact, doctors regularly prescribe off-label uses for unrelated conditions they weren't designed or approved to treat, ranging from weight loss to incontinence. One study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that nearly half of antidepressant prescriptions electronically recorded in Quebec, Canada were intended to treat other conditions, and a third were used to treat conditions they hadn't received any approval for from regulatory agencies. Now, the researchers behind that study have gone one step further and looked at whether these prescriptions were reasonable to dole out in the first place. Their verdict, published recently in the BMJ, isn't particularly kind. Using the same prescription database from Quebec, the researchers from Montreal and Boston found that only one-sixth of off-label antidepressant prescriptions had strong, direct scientific proof justifying its use. Forty percent of the time, there was strong evidence for the off-label use of a drug in the same class as the prescribed drug, though not for the prescribed drug itself. And 44 percent of off-label prescriptions had no good evidence, direct or not, for its use. "The major takeaway is that we need to more closely examine the way we use antidepressants and be more cautious and conservative about taking these drugs when there is insufficient evidence to suggest they are effective for treating certain conditions," lead author Dr. Jenna Wong of McGill University told Vocativ in an email. Given that the U.S. and Canada have similar prescribing practices, she added, it's likely the U.S. has its own off-label problem. (Webmaster's comment: American doctors are also out of control. They are now just "thowing shit at the wall hoping something will stick." I was recently a victim of this medical malpractice. This is no longer medicine, it's witchcraft!)
5-24-17 No place to hide for LGBT people in Indonesia's Aceh province
No place to hide for LGBT people in Indonesia's Aceh province
Two gay men were publicly caned in the conservative Indonesian province of Aceh on Tuesday, the first to be punished under Islamic laws introduced two years ago that outlawed gay sex. As the BBC's Rebecca Henschke reports, the case has deeply worried Aceh's gay community. Salman (not his real name) joined the crowd of hundreds to watch the public caning. He flinched as the convicted men, dressed in white gowns, stood on a stage murmuring prayers while a team of men dressed in hoods took turns to lash their backs with sticks. The two men closed their eyes in pain while the crowd cheered. "It's horrible, it's terrifying, it could happen to me," Salman said. "I think now I should be more careful about how I behave. My partner is not in Aceh at the moment but I worry about my future." Salman is Acehnese and stays here so that he can look after his elderly mother - leaving is not an option for now. "There are lots of people in the gay community who are smart and have lots to contribute to Aceh but now they are scared and they have to hide their sexuality. Many others are leaving." (Webmaster's comment: If they move to America Vice-president Pence will want to have them given shock treatments to "cure" them!)
5-24-17 Taiwan's top court rules in favour of same-sex marriage
Taiwan's top court rules in favour of same-sex marriage
Taiwan's top judges have ruled in favour of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions. The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional. It gave parliament two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones. Wednesday's landmark decision came as the LGBT community faces increasing persecution in the region. In a press release following the ruling, the court said that "disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders" constituted a "different treatment" with "no rational basis." The court concluded that "such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality" as protected by Taiwan's constitution.
5-23-17 Trump’s 2018 budget slashes funding from healthcare and science
Trump’s 2018 budget slashes funding from healthcare and science
Medicaid is slated to lose billions of dollars in funding, as are many medical, humanitarian and scientific organisations. President Donald Trump’s Administration plans to gut funding to healthcare and medical research, according to a 2018 budget published online and rapidly withdrawn on Monday. Despite a campaign pledge not to touch Medicaid, which provides healthcare cover for millions of Americans on low incomes or with disability, Trump’s budget includes a $610 billion cut to the programme over 10 years. That’s on top of the more than $800 billion in cuts included in the American Health Care Act passed by the US House of Representatives. Food stamps are also on the chopping block. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps people on low incomes to buy food, is slated for a $193 billion funding cut over the next decade. Medical research could take a hit, too. The budget calls for slashing $5.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health and cutting $1 billion from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country’s health protection agency. It also includes deep cuts to programmes that aim to prevent substance abuse, while the US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. If enacted, the proposed budget would withhold all federal funds from facilities that provide abortions. Other scientific organisations stand to lose out on funding, to varying degrees. The Department of Energy is facing a 16.6 per cent cut to the Office of Science, which oversees 10 national laboratories that investigate clean energy. The department’s advanced green energy programme ARPA-E is slated for termination.
5-23-17 Trump's $4.1tr budget takes hatchet to safety net
Trump's $4.1tr budget takes hatchet to safety net
The White House is unveiling a $4.1tr (£3.1tr) budget that would take the axe to the social safety net for the poor. The plan would sharply slash food stamps, healthcare for low-income patients, disability benefits and eliminate student loan subsidies. The budget also features an Ivanka Trump plan for paid parental leave. The US military would receive a 10% boost while $1.6bn would be allocated for a wall on the border with Mexico. President Trump, who is travelling overseas, will miss the unveiling of his first full budget, titled A New Foundation for American Greatness. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, told reporters on Tuesday the proposal is "simply the president's priorities put on paper". (Webmaster's comment: This is an attack on the poor for the sake of bombs and a wall.)
- Its proposed $190bn reduction in food stamps surpasses previous cuts put forward by Republicans to a programme serving about 42 million people
- Representatives from agricultural states are objecting to a plan to limit farm subsidies
- Mr Trump promised on the campaign trail not to cut Medicaid, the healthcare programme for the poor, but his budget would cut the scheme by $800bn
- Republicans are also squeamish about proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels, which provides food to the homebound elderly, disabled and veterans
- But the funding cut to family-planning groups that offer abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, is likely to be welcomed by conservatives
5-23-17 The White House budget proves once and for all that Trump is a con man
The White House budget proves once and for all that Trump is a con man
It's only been four months and the president is already going to cut Medicaid. He was supposed to refashion the GOP into a party for the forgotten Americans. To that end, Republicans' long-standing commitments to slash the welfare state were going out the window: "I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut," he said during the campaign. "There will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid," he reiterated on Twitter. But as for Medicaid — the program that provides health coverage for low-income Americans — Trump has reversed course so hard and fast it's remarkable he hasn't altered the rotation of the Earth. House Republicans intend to cut Medicaid by a staggering $880 billion over 10 years. Of the 70 million Americans — young, old, disabled, and poor — who get their coverage through the program, 14 million would be kicked off by 2026, according to estimates. Far from standing in the way of this plan, Trump is endorsing it: The new, more detailed budget plan the president will release later today includes all of the House GOP's Medicaid cuts, and may even add to them. Nor does it end there. Over 10 years, Trump's new budget would cut $193 billion out of food stamps — a 25 percent reduction in a program that helps 43 million people afford to eat. It will slice another $40 billion out of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Traditional welfare would be reduced by $21 billion. No small portion of those cuts would come from letting states impose new work requirements across programs like Medicaid and housing assistance.
5-23-17 Trump will not bring peace to the Middle East
Trump will not bring peace to the Middle East
Instead, you can expect more pointless war and death, carried out by the most incapable president in history. Peace in the Middle East has been the holy grail for American presidents for decades, stretching back at least to Jimmy Carter. And every American president who has tried to bring peace to this violent and riven part of the world has failed. But don't worry. President Trump is on the case, and he's sure that Mideast peace is "something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years." You can get a further sense of his Solomonic grasp of this intractable conflict from an official White House press statement about his visit to Israel Monday, which stated that Trump would "promote the possibility of lasting peach." (Emphasis mine, typo all theirs.) God only knows what Scooby Doo antics our visibly declining president will get into as he continues to amble and ramble his way around the world on his eight-day foreign tour. But one thing is for sure: President Trump will make zero progress on peace in the Middle East. On the military front, there is simply no reason to think that continuing omnidirectional low-level intervention is doing anything but drastic harm. From one side of the region to the other, there is nightmarish violence and catastrophic political instability, seriously exacerbated by several consecutive botched U.S. interventions — in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen — every one of which was disastrously misconceived from the start. American meddling is not the only reason things are so bad, but it is a very large one. Let's take stock of the region:
5-23-17 Indonesian men caned for gay sex in Aceh
Indonesian men caned for gay sex in Aceh
Two men have been caned 83 times each in the Indonesian province of Aceh after being caught having sex. The men stood on stage in white gowns praying while a team of hooded men lashed their backs with a cane. The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together by vigilantes who entered their private accommodation in March. They have not been identified. Gay sex is not illegal in most of Indonesia but it is in Aceh, the only province which exercises Islamic law. It is the first time gay men have been caned under Sharia law in the province. The punishment was delivered outside a mosque in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.
5-22-17 In US, Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low
In US, Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low
The percentage of U.S. adults who believe that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years or so -- the strict creationist view -- has reached a new low. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults now accept creationism, while 57% believe in some form of evolution -- either God-guided or not -- saying man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.
- 38% say God created man in present form, lowest in 35 years
- Same percentage say humans evolved, but God guided the process
- Less-educated Americans more likely to believe in creationism
5-22-17 Republicans used race to redraw North Carolina voter maps
Republicans used race to redraw North Carolina voter maps
The US Supreme Court has ruled that North Carolina Republicans improperly used race as a factor in redrawing 2011 congressional district boundaries. The 5-3 ruling upheld a lower court decision last year forcing legislators to draft new district maps. Two predominantly black congressional districts are invalidated as a result. The case was the latest in a number of lawsuits accusing Republicans of trying to limit the influence of black voters by grouping them into districts. The ruling upheld a federal district court decision that found lawmakers had used race to carve out two of North Carolina's 13 House of Representatives districts in order to benefit the Republicans.
5-22-17 Views of US Moral Values Slip to Seven-Year Lows
Views of US Moral Values Slip to Seven-Year Lows
Americans' ratings of U.S. moral values, consistently negative through the years, have slipped to their lowest point in seven years. More than four in five (81%) now rate the state of moral values in the U.S. as only fair or poor. Since Gallup first asked in 2002 whether the nation's moral values were getting better or getting worse, the percentage saying worse has always been well above the majority level, ranging from a low of 64% in November 2004 to a high of 82% in May 2007. Over the past six years, it has stayed within a five-point range, reaching a low of 72% in 2013 and 2015 before climbing to this year's high of 77%.
- 81% say state of moral values is "only fair" or "poor"
- 77% say the state of moral values is getting worse
- Views have been consistently negative, at least since 2002
5-22-17 China is loving the Trump presidency
China is loving the Trump presidency
We may never really know if President Trump — or his campaign, or those in his inner circle — ever colluded with Russia. We also may never know if President Trump and his team tried to pressure then-FBI Director James Comey to drop his agency's investigation into then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. After all of the crazy, after all of the media spin on both the left and the right, after all of the endless "breaking news," after all of the hysterical partisan attacks, we may end up with only a snapshot of what actually happened. But it not might matter — at least when it comes to the damage to America's stature on the world's stage. That's already been tarnished. The question now is only if the damage is permanent. You see, in the crazy game that is international politics, where the wants, needs, and aspirations of nation states are more a mix of House of Cards and Game of Thrones than actual diplomacy, capitals around the world are taking stock of the mess in Washington, and many are coming to the same conclusion: America has been weakened from within. Case in point, in the always volatile Asia-Pacific, where the People's Republic of China is slowly but surely looking for every opportunity to push America out of the region for good, leaders in Beijing are surely licking their chops, watching Washington tear itself apart. Though the Trump administration never needed to formally kill the "pivot" to Asia, they did anyway. From there it only gets worse. Some Chinese officials are already openly talking about America's decline in the region and the day when Beijing is Asia's new hegemonic power — thanks to President Trump. One such official, a retired Chinese People's Liberation Army leader explained to me the other day why he loves Trump, and it made me cringe. "Your new president is exactly the leader for America we have been dreaming of — his need for attention and good press makes him weak," he explained.
5-22-17 Indonesian police arrest 141 men over 'gay sex party'
Indonesian police arrest 141 men over 'gay sex party'
Indonesian police have arrested 141 men attending what they called a "gay sex party" at a sauna in the capital Jakarta late on Sunday. Police said attendees, including a Briton and a Singaporean, paid 185,000 rupiahs ($14; £10) to attend. Indonesia has witnessed increasing hostility towards its small and low-profile LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is not illegal under Indonesian law, except in conservative Aceh province. But Jakarta police spokesman Raden Argo Yuwono said some of those detained could be charged under Indonesia's harsh anti-pornography laws. "There were gay people who were caught strip-teasing and masturbating in the scene," he told BBC Indonesian. Under the ambiguously-worded laws, putting on a live strip show for the enjoyment of the public could be construed as "pornography". Last week, two men were sentenced to public caning in Aceh after being convicted for engaging in gay sex - in the first such ruling since tough anti-homosexuality laws were introduced there in 2014. Earlier this month, Indonesian police arrested 14 people in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a gay party. They could also face charges under anti-pornography laws.
5-22-17 'Alt-Reich' member charged in fatal stabbing of black student
'Alt-Reich' member charged in fatal stabbing of black student
The FBI is looking into whether the fatal stabbing of a black student by a white student at the University of Maryland was a hate crime. Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, was arrested on murder charges in the death of Richard Collins III in the early hours of Saturday, according to police. Mr Collins, 23, was visiting friends at the College Park campus when he was stabbed in the chest with a knife. The victim was commissioned as a US Army lieutenant two days earlier. He was set to graduate from Bowie State University on Tuesday. Local police asked the FBI to help in the investigation after discovering Mr Urbanski belonged to a Facebook group called "Alt-Reich Nation". The online community featured disparaging content about African Americans, women, Jews and others, according to University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell. "We are here to evaluate that as an ongoing concern with respect to whether or not this was a hate crime," Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office, told reporters on Sunday.
5-22-17 The troubling rise of Bad Nietzsche
The troubling rise of Bad Nietzsche
The alt-right loves Nietzsche the same way 20th-century fascists loved Nietzsche. Bad Nietzsche is back. And he's being co-opted by the alt-right. You can see it in a personal, highly compelling profile of Richard Spencer, the now-famous white nationalist who was a former high-school classmate of The Atlantic's Graeme Wood, who traces Spencer's descent into disrepute to an encounter with Nietzsche. "He developed intellectually after a swift kick in the cortex from Richard Wagner and, ultimately, Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher whose skepticism of democracy and egalitarianism later made him beloved by the Nazis," Wood writes. "You could say I was red-pilled by Nietzsche," Spencer told me. To "red-pill," in alt-right slang, is to enter a vertiginous spiral of awakening and reassessment. The false dreams from which Spencer found himself freed were the dreams of the good ol' boy, who goes to church on Sunday and does things as his granddaddy did before him. Spencer started off with Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals, a systematic dismantling of the moral and religious truths of European civilization. Nietzsche saw Christianity as a slave religion, a consolation to the weak. Spencer says that the general effect, an inversion of his moral universe, was "shattering." Despite all the media attention he garners, Spencer remains a marginal figure. Still, this is extraordinary. And it makes me wonder what the late Allan Bloom would think.
5-22-17 Protecting America from corporate abuse is about to get a lot harder
Protecting America from corporate abuse is about to get a lot harder
Even while Donald Trump's presidency is going from "car crash" to "50-car pileup," Congressional Republicans are busily doing all they can to make it easier for corporations to vacuum up all the wealth in the country. The mechanism this time is by strangling the agencies charged with protecting the American people from corporate abuse — pollution, fraud, worker abuse, and so on — with red tape. This is the purpose of the Regulatory Accountability Act, which is being considered before the Senate. As Yogin Kothari at the Union of Concerned Scientists explains, it would raise vast new barriers for regulatory agencies to conduct their statutory duties. Laws like the Clean Air Act direct federal agencies to come up with detailed regulations to fulfill the broad legal language, in line with the process set down in the Administrative Procedures Act. As I've written before, there has long been a neoliberal intellectual tradition to make this process as slow as possible, by placing burdensome hurdles before a rule can be issued and making them easier to challenge in court. (Incidentally, President Obama's first appointee to the regulatory oversight agency is one of the most prominent advocates of this view.) Republicans could of course simply repeal such laws and abolish the protective agencies, but that would be unpopular and give the game away. Therefore, better to leave some formal husk of the agencies intact. Just make it impossible for them to do their jobs, and core out their funding to boot. With any luck, all the expert staff will abandon ship.
5-21-17 Mike Pence university address hit by student walk-out
Mike Pence university address hit by student walk-out
Dozens of students staged a walk-out when US Vice-President Mike Pence rose to address a commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Student activist group We Stand For said the protest was against his policies which, they say, marginalised people for their religion, race or sexual orientation. In his address, Mr Pence decried the "increasing intolerance and suppression" of free speech that he said was sweeping university campuses. (Webmaster's comment: It was far more than dozens as can be seen in the video.)
5-21-17 Turkey's first LGBTI choir sings for tolerance
Turkey's first LGBTI choir sings for tolerance
Turkey's gay community says it feels under threat as the government promotes a more conservative identity. But a choir that is open to all is helping people overcome their fears. The Seven Colours Association choir in the port city of Mersin has changed the lives of its gay and straight members.
5-20-17 New Orleans purges final Confederate statue
New Orleans purges final Confederate statue
Masked city workers in New Orleans have removed the last of four monuments to the pro-slavery rebellion defeated in the US Civil War. The 133-year-old statue depicted General Robert E Lee, the top military leader in the Confederacy, crossing his arms as he faced north towards his old enemy. Critics say monuments to the Confederacy are racially offensive, but supporters say they are important symbols of the city's Southern heritage. The three other statues were all removed at night to limit clashes. The workers on the job were wearing bullet-proof vests as well as masks. In a statement on Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the condemned statues "were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the 'Cult of the Lost Cause', a movement recognised across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy."
5-20-17 New Orleans removes last confederate statue
New Orleans removes last confederate statue
Masked city workers in New Orleans have removed the last of four monuments to the pro-slavery rebellion defeated in the US Civil War. The 133-year-old statue depicted General Robert E Lee, the top military leader in the Confederacy. Critics say monuments to the Confederacy are racially offensive, but supporters say they are important symbols of the city's Southern heritage and held protests during the other removals.
5-19-17 White Racial Resentment Before, During Obama Years
White Racial Resentment Before, During Obama Years
What impact did the first African-American U.S. president, Barack Obama, have on racial attitudes in the U.S.? Did race relations improve, stay the same or get worse during his administration -- the last perhaps as a result of a "backlash" effect among racially resentful whites? Our recent analysis of several indicators of racial resentment before and during the Obama administration provides evidence that racial resentment decreased among the majority of white Americans during Obama's presidency. Republicans were the only political group who did not decrease in racial resentment -- but they did not increase significantly either. The challenge in addressing the issue of Obama's effect on racial attitudes is finding questions that have been asked consistently enough to provide a suitable measure before and during his years as president. Fortunately, Gallup has data from its ongoing and frequently updated Minority Rights and Relations poll that can help meet that need.
|Racial Resentment Drops Among Independents and Democrats, but Not Among Republicans
||Racial Resentment Index*
|Pre-Obama (2004, 2007)
|During Obama presidency (2015, 2016)
(Webmaster's comment: No Surprise Here. Racism still reigns in America and the Republicans are the worst racists.)
5-19-17 Medieval Villagers Hacked Their Dead to Pieces in Fear of Zombie Apocalypse
Medieval Villagers Hacked Their Dead to Pieces in Fear of Zombie Apocalypse
Bones excavated from a village pit in England show signs of mutilation and burning, indicating to researchers that people really did believe that corpses can rise from the dead. Researchers may have uncovered the first scientific evidence of a “zombie madness” that obsessed medieval England, according to a study of 137 human bones that were excavated from a deserted English village. Dating from the 11th to 14th centuries, the skeletal remains were reduced to chopped, smashed, and burnt fragments in an apparent attempt to forestall revenants rising from the grave. The bones were recovered in the 1960s from a pit at the site of Wharram Percy, a long-abandoned village in rural Yorkshire, but were never examined closely until now. Gruesome evidence of extensive human activity was immediately clear. “Some of the bones showed sharp force marks, signs of burning and perimortem breakage,” Simon Mays, human skeletal biologist at Historic England, Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton, and their colleagues wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Rather than indicate starvation cannibalism, the breakage, burning, and knife and chop marks on the skeletal remains appear to be consistent with dismemberment and decapitation, which would reflect the dark side of medieval beliefs.
5-19-17 A classic quantum test could reveal the limits of the human mind
A classic quantum test could reveal the limits of the human mind
Using human consciousness as the trigger in a test of ‘spooky action at a distance’ could tell us whether mind is made of different stuff than matter. The boundary between mind and matter could be tested using a new twist on a well-known experiment in quantum physics. Over the past two decades, a type of experiment known as a Bell test has confirmed the weirdness of quantum mechanics – specifically the “spooky action at a distance” that so bothered Einstein. Now, a theorist proposes a Bell test experiment using something unprecedented: human consciousness. If such an experiment showed deviations from quantum mechanics, it could provide the first hints that our minds are potentially immaterial. Spooky action at a distance was Einstein’s phrase for a quantum effect called entanglement. If two particles are entangled, then measuring the state of one particle seems to instantly influence the state of the other, even if they are light years apart. But any signal passing between them would have to travel faster than the speed of light, breaking the cosmic speed limit. To Einstein, this implied that quantum theory was incomplete, and that there was a deeper theory that could explain the particles’ behaviour without resorting to weird instantaneous influence. Some physicists have been trying to find this deeper theory ever since.
5-19-17 Trump: Is he unfit for office?
Trump: Is he unfit for office?
After a series of shocking revelations engulfed Donald Trump’s presidency this week, said David Brooks in The New York Times, there can no longer be any doubt: Our nation is being “led by a child.” The common thread linking Trump’s sharing of highly classified intelligence with Russia and his firing of FBI Director James Comey is the president’s impulsiveness and sheer “immaturity.” Trump reportedly blabbed top-secret information to the Russian officials visiting the Oval Office not for strategic reasons, but just to impress them, like a “7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.” He fired Comey because, as he admitted in an interview, he got tired of seeing that “showboat” on TV, talking about the Russia investigation. “None of these disastrous decisions was part of a deliberate plan,” said Anne Applebaum in WashingtonPost.com. “Each one was made because of the president’s willful ignorance, impulsiveness, and inexperience.” But can anyone really be surprised? Last August, 50 Republican national security experts warned that the ill-informed, thin-skinned Trump “lacks the character, values, and experience” to lead the nation. Nearly four months into this disastrous experiment, it’s clear they were right.
5-19-17 The perils of anti-anti-Trumpism
The perils of anti-anti-Trumpism
We conservatives used to be united by strong principles—respect for “ordered liberty,” the separation of powers, and the rule of law, said Charles Sykes. But that’s all been chucked overboard in a desperate attempt to defend our distinctly unconservative president, Donald Trump. In the conservative media, it’s poor form to admit doubts about Trump’s competence. So “rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions,” the Right now takes refuge in being “anti-anti-Trump”—that is, attacking the liberals who are apoplectic over his wild statements and impulsive actions. If what Trump does “makes liberal heads explode,” anti-anti-Trumpists like Rush Limbaugh insist, “then it must be wonderful.” In their desperation, Trump’s champions also blame his daily disasters on “fake news,” or hide behind “whataboutism,” as in “What about Obama and Clinton?” There is no intellectual honesty in this blind partisanship, “no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character.” It’s not conservatism. And as anti-anti-Trumpists stand by their man, they will be forced “into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct.” (Webmaster's comment: And 3 years and 8 months to go. Imagine how extreme Trump will get in that time!)
5-19-17 Huge arms deal
Huge arms deal
President Trump will announce what may be the largest weapons deal ever during his trip to Saudi Arabia this week, White House officials said. The U.S. intends to sell more than $100 billion worth of armaments to the Saudis, including warships, missile defense systems, bombs, and munitions. While in Riyadh, officials said, Trump will also announce his support for an “Arab NATO”—a pan-Arab military alliance that Riyadh has long wanted to form as a counterpoint to Iran and to coordinate the fight against Islamist terrorism. President Barack Obama had halted some sales of weapons to Riyadh over concerns that Saudi-led forces intervening in Yemen were killing large numbers of civilians. Under Trump, says Princeton professor emeritus of international law Richard Falk, “the U.S. has reinforced its support for Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen.”
5-19-17 Travel ban hearing
Travel ban hearing
For the second time in President Trump’s administration, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week questioned the legality of his controversial travel ban. The Seattle-based three-judge panel was considering a revised version of the ban, which seeks to temporarily bar citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. In February, the 9th Circuit blocked Trump’s original order, which targeted seven Muslim-majority countries, ruling that travelers had not been given adequate “due process.” In Seattle, the judges—all appointees of former President Bill Clinton—questioned government lawyers on whether Trump’s call during the campaign for a “Muslim ban” rendered his revised order unconstitutional, and whether Trump had ever disavowed his previous comments. “Has he ever stood up and said...I was wrong?” asked Judge Michael Hawkins. The lawyer representing the government, Jeffrey Wall, replied that Trump had “clarified” his comments since the campaign.
5-19-17 Poll watch
64% of American adults say that same-sex marriages should be recognized as legally valid—the highest percentage to date. In 1996, only 27% of Americans agreed that same-sex marriage should be legal.
5-19-17 Chechen gay men hopeful of finding refuge in five countries
Chechen gay men hopeful of finding refuge in five countries
Dozens of gay men who fled persecution in Chechnya are hoping to find safety in a handful of countries that have volunteered to help. Activists are in talks with five countries, two of them non-EU, the Russian LGBT Network told the BBC. Nine men have already been granted visas. Two of them went to Lithuania, which has announced its involvement. "It's very important to act, because they are suffering," Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the BBC. He would not name the other countries involved but described them as "allies". His country's decision was an "implicit message" to Russia, he said, because "we are taking care of Russian citizens... [whose] rights were abused". Reports of a brutal crackdown on gay men in the republic in southern Russia first emerged in early April through the respected Novaya Gazeta newspaper, sparking international condemnation. Its report, later backed up by activists, alleged that more than 100 victims - either gay or just perceived as being gay - were being held and tortured at a detention centre near Argun, 20km (13 miles) from the city of Grozny. At least three deaths were reported.
5-19-17 Sessions: The return of the drug war
Sessions: The return of the drug war
Jeff Sessions is staging “a devastating revival of the War on Drugs,” said Kara Gotsch and Marc Mauer in TheHill.com. The attorney general last week instructed federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious provable offenses carrying the stiffest penalties, “including mandatory minimum sentences.” It’s a flashback to the 1980s and ’90s, when the crack epidemic fueled draconian policies that imprisoned millions, ruined lives, and blighted communities of color. Because of those policies, half of all federal inmates are primarily nonviolent, low-level drug offenders; more inmates are serving life sentences without parole for drug crimes than for murder. The Obama administration rolled back mandatory minimums and focused on violent crimes—a policy that won bipartisan support, eased prison crowding, and stressed treatment over punishment. Now Sessions threatens to undo years of progress while exacerbating a racial disparity that plagues “every level of the criminal justice system.”
5-19-17 Even short-term opioid use can set people up for addiction risks
Even short-term opioid use can set people up for addiction risks
atients prescribed 30 or more pills for an ankle sprain are more likely to seek refills. Opioids may seem like overkill for an ankle sprain. But some people who visited ERs with the minor injury in 2011 and 2012 were prescribed the drugs, raising questions if some are being needlessly exposed to the potentially addictive painkillers, a new study finds. Even though a sprained ankle rarely needs an opioid, a new study of emergency room patients found that about 7 percent of patients got sent home with a prescription for the potentially addictive painkiller anyway. And the more pills prescribed, the greater the chance the prescription would be refilled, raising concerns about continued use. The research adds to evidence that it’s hard for some people to stop taking the pills even after a brief use. State officials in New Jersey recently enacted a law limiting first-time prescriptions to a five-day supply, and other states should consider similar restrictions, says Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “The bottom line is that we need to do our best not to expose people to opioids,” Delgado says. “And if we do, start with the smallest quantity possible.” The research was presented May 17 at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s annual meeting in Orlando.
5-19-17 Safety fears over new drugs
Safety fears over new drugs
Nearly one-third of drugs cleared by the Food and Drug Administration are later flagged for serious safety issues, reports the Los Angeles Times. In a review of 222 drugs approved by the FDA from 2001 to 2010, scientists found that 71 were later flagged for safety issues that resulted in a recall, a health risk alert, or a new box label warning about life-threatening health risks. On average, the problems emerged about four years after the drugs were approved. Most drugs are tested on fewer than 1,000 patients, who are studied over six months or less; side effects or complications are more likely to be discovered when a drug has hit the market and been used by a more diverse group of people over a longer period. “No drug is completely safe, and during premarket evaluation, we are not going to pick up all the safety signals,” says lead author Joseph Ross, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Yale University. The findings, he says, illustrate the need for a “strong system to continually evaluate drugs and to communicate new safety concerns quickly.” (Webmaster's comment: Drug companies and doctors are guilty of just throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks!)
Scoops, after TV evangelist Rick Joyner predicted that Christian prophets will soon be able to write news stories a week in advance. “You don’t need to watch the Super Bowl,” Joyner told his flock. “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen.”
5-19-17 Just like they did centuries ago, you could pay.
Just like they did centuries ago, you could pay.
Catholics who are too lazy to complete the 100-mile pilgrimage to Portugal’s Fatima shrine can now rent a pilgrim to walk the holy route for them. Carlos Gil, 52, charges $2,700 to make the spiritual journey to the spot where three child shepherds reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago; the price goes up if a client wants Gil to shuffle the last 440 yards on his knees. “It’s not about making money,’’ he says, “but being in the service of others.’’
5-19-17 Marble men who fought for slavery
Marble men who fought for slavery
When I saw TV images of crews dismantling the massive statue of Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, said Garrett Epps, I felt a breathless “mixture of elation, disorientation, and bitter envy.” I grew up in Richmond, Va., where monumental sculptures of Confederate heroes—Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart—still haunt the city “like motionless ghosts.” We were “taught to believe that these marble men—who staked their lives and fortunes to fight for chattel slavery—were the equals of the nation’s founders,” and certainly far superior to the likes of Abraham Lincoln. Constructed by defiant Southerners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those hulking monuments weren’t innocent historical artifacts. They rose over the old Confederacy even as its rebellion was being resurrected in the form of segregation laws, Jim Crow, and lynchings—a legacy of racial hatred that left the region “poorer, more violent, less welcoming, less democratic, less healthy, less educated, and less livable.” It is not possible to revere the South’s defeated leaders and their Lost Cause and “believe that black Americans are equal.” Like the statues of Stalin in Eastern Europe, and of Saddam in Iraq, the monuments to the Confederacy “should come down, all of them.” (Webmaster's comment: It's unbelieveable! 150 years - 6 generations- after we defeated the slavers we are still in grips of those who are full of hatred and believe in salvery!)
5-19-17 Confederate rally
White nationalist Richard Spencer led dozens of torch-wielding demonstrators in Charlottesville last week to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue in the city. Chanting “You will not replace us” and “All white lives matter,” Spencer’s group converged on Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is set to be removed following a Feb. 6 vote by the city council. The protesters, who said the decision was an attack on “white heritage,” briefly clashed with counterdemonstrators before dispersing. Spencer’s gathering was condemned by Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who said the torch-lit rally “harkens back to the days of the KKK.” Days later, New Orleans workers dismantled the third of four Confederate monuments set for removal there. At least 60 Confederate monuments have been removed nationwide since the 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church.
5-19-17 Voter ID law
Voter ID law
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a deathblow to a controversial North Carolina voter ID law this week, refusing to hear an appeal over one of the strictest voting measures in the nation. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature passed the law in 2013—shortly after the Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. The sprawling measure reduced the period for early voting by seven days and required voters to show specific types of photo ID. In a stinging decision last July, a federal appeals court struck down the law, saying it targeted minorities “with almost surgical precision” and was “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.” The state appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court declined to consider the case, offering no explanation. The state’s Republican lawmakers have already begun work on new voting restrictions.
5-18-17 Global access to quality health care has improved in the last two decades
Global access to quality health care has improved in the last two decades
But gap between countries with best and worst treatment grew. HEALTH CARE PALETTE Countries shaded with cooler hues had better health care quality and accessibility in 2015 than those with hotter colors. Researchers created the Healthcare Access and Quality Index to assess each country’s status. Health care quality and availability improved globally from 1990 to 2015, but the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened in those 25 years, researchers report online May 18 in The Lancet. As an approximate measure of citizens’ access to quality health care, an international team of researchers analyzed mortality rates for 32 diseases and injuries that are typically not fatal when effective medical care is available. The team summarized this data as a number on a scale from zero to 100, called the Healthcare Access and Quality Index, for 195 countries and territories. The researchers color-coded the results on world maps. Places with the highest scores in 2015 include Canada, Australia, Japan and much of Europe. America lags these places!
5-18-17 Americans Split Over New LGBT Protections, Restroom Policies
Americans Split Over New LGBT Protections, Restroom Policies
Americans are about evenly divided on whether new civil rights laws are needed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults say such laws are needed, while 46% say they are not. These data, from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 3-7, come as Democratic members of Congress plan to reintroduce a bill that would provide protections for LGBT people from housing, employment and other forms of discrimination. The bill's potential for passage is unclear, as few in the majority Republican caucus have given their support. LGBT rights and protections have been contentious at the state level, too. The West Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that anti-gay assaults are not covered in the state's hate-crimes law. In Texas, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies and foster care services to refuse to place children in LGBT families based on religious objections. Also, bills introduced in the Florida legislature to protect LGBT people from housing and employment discrimination failed to pass in this year's legislative session. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group, 20 states have protections against discrimination in employment and housing situations for both sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Americans who favor new civil rights laws to protect LGBT people: 51%
- About half in U.S. say new civil rights laws needed
- Women, younger adults, Democrats, liberals most in favor
- Divisions remain over restroom gender policies
5-18-17 GOP congressman demands arrest of Turkish president's guards after beatings of peaceful D.C. protesters
GOP congressman demands arrest of Turkish president's guards after beatings of peaceful D.C. protesters
On Wednesday, there was rare bipartisan agreement on two things: appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election was a good idea, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's armed security detail beating and kicking peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington was an outrage. After Erdogan met with President Trump on Tuesday, he went to speak at the Turkish ambassador's residence, and when roughly two dozen "peaceful protesters" gathered outside, D.C. police chief Peter Newsham said Wednesday, they were subjected to a "brutal attack." Newsham said D.C. police are working with the Secret Service and State Department to identify the people who instigated the violence, and whether the men in dark suits, some with guns, are members of Erdogan's protective detail. According to two people with direct knowledge of the case who spoke to The Washington Post, D.C. police are trying to obtain arrest warrants for Erdogan guards they identify on video. Turkey's Anadolu state news agency acknowledged that Erdogan's security detail targeted protesters, but blamed "inadequate" police response for the violence. Police say 11 people were injured, including one police officer and two Secret Service agents. Foreign security guards kicking and stomping U.S. protesters in the nation's capital did not sit well in Washington. "This is the United States of America," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Twitter. "We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior." Mayor Muriel Bowser called the assault "an affront to D.C. values and our rights as Americans." (Webmaster's comment: Empowered by the new thuggish political climate in America and the President inviting to meet with the new Dictator of Turkey!)
5-18-17 Tulsa shooting: Policewoman acquitted of manslaughter
Tulsa shooting: Policewoman acquitted of manslaughter
A jury in the US state of Oklahoma has found a white policewoman not guilty of manslaughter over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man last year. During a trial in Tulsa, Betty Shelby, 43, said she had shot Terence Crutcher, 40, because she feared he was reaching for a gun in his car during a routine traffic matter last September. Police video showed him with his hands up before he was shot. The shooting added to a national debate about racial bias in the US police. High-profile incidents involving African-Americans dying at the hands of police have led to demonstrations across the country in recent years. (Webmaster's comment: In spite of the evicence there is no way we will ever convict a white police woman of murdering a black man in the New Racist America!)
5-18-17 Immigration arrests surge 40% under Trump
Immigration arrests surge 40% under Trump
US arrests of suspected illegal immigrants rose by 38% in the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency, according to government data. Detentions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency jumped to 41,318 between January 22 of this year and the end of April. That was up from 30,028 arrests in about the same period last year. The dragnet follows presidential orders widening the scope of who can be targeted for immigration violations. Almost two-thirds of those arrested this year had criminal convictions, said ICE. But more than half the increase in arrests was of immigrants who had committed no crime other than being in the US without permission. (Webmaster's comment: Targeting of Non-whites, the new America method of becoming Great Again! Welcome back Racism!)
5-18-17 Florida man tries to kiss rattlesnake; gets bitten
Florida man tries to kiss rattlesnake; gets bitten
A Florida man who tried to kiss a rattlesnake, only for it to snub his advances and bite him, is recovering in hospital. The snake was found by Charles Goff, a resident of Putnam County, in the north-east of the state, on Monday. A day later, a neighbour, named by a local CBS channel as Ron Reinold, started playing with the snake and made his ill-judged move. Mr Reinold was airlifted to hospital and is now recovering. (Webmaster's comment: There really is no limit to human stupidity!)
5-17-17 My grandma's hidden Holocaust heroics
My grandma's hidden Holocaust heroics
We idolized grandpa for surviving death marches. Then we learned what grandma had done. To us, she was an old Jewish woman who had somehow survived the Holocaust. Poppy, on the other hand, had fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and survived death marches and concentration camps. Grandma had too, but for whatever reason she didn't seem like the same survivor. Perhaps I was just a blinkered boy, who could only turn men into my heroes. Or maybe it was because the stories that I had overheard — "He beat up some Germans," my father told company — always featured Poppy. I learned that Poppy had been a sewer rat — one of the boys who traveled through Warsaw's sewers to help secure guns and potatoes for the uprising; he had been a gravedigger in his hometown, forced by the Nazis to bury four thousand of his Jewish neighbors who had been murdered in the woods; he had been a fugitive, cutting the bars on the cattle car and jumping from a train heading for the death camp Treblinka; he had been a slave in six different camps; and he had been a righteous killer, running a pitchfork through some Nazi's throat, leaving the German dead in a barn. Grandma did tell me what she remembered about Warsaw's sewers, but it tunneled us somewhere else. When the Nazis were sending thousands of Jews from the ghetto to the camps, where they would work or more likely be marched into the gas chambers, a group from Grandma's bunker had attempted to escape. Grandma waded with them through the piss and excrement beneath Warsaw. When her group reached an exit, the leader lifted the manhole cover. "They shoot him and his body falls into the s--t," she told me. "We run and I get this sewage splash in my face. But I'm not thinking about this because I know they gonna throw a grenade."
5-17-17 Republicans have a new welfare queen: The sick glutton
Republicans have a new welfare queen: The sick glutton
The GOP only wants Americans of good moral fiber to get health care. For years, the GOP has waged its health-care fight almost solely in opposition to ObamaCare. But lately, Republicans have been testing a more affirmative case for their American Health Care Act: by dividing people who deserve health care from those who don't. Take White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who recently defended AHCA's watering-down of ObamaCare's protections for pre-existing conditions, assuring that the Republican bill provides "plenty of money" to treat cancer patients, but "[t]hat doesn't mean we should take care of the person who sits at home, eats poorly and gets diabetes." Mulvaney tries to drive a wedge between those struck by illness through no fault of their own, and those chided for courting their own plight. This echoes an earlier statement by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who admitted that the benefits — and sympathies — of the AHCA flow to "people who lead good lives, they're healthy, they've done the things to keep their bodies healthy, and right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing." Brooks's implication, of course, is that people of ill health — who have not led "good lives" — are unworthy of affordable health care.
5-17-17 America has a fake cancer cure epidemic
America has a fake cancer cure epidemic
Can the FDA solve it? The Food and Drug Administration is calling out more than a dozen supplement and herbal product makers for misleading their customers and marketing fake cancer cures.The agency recently announced it had sent warning letters to 14 companies, accusing them of illegally selling more than 65 products claimed to "prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate, or cure cancer." These include creams, pills, teas, and even devices claimed to find tumors via infrared radiation, advertised to both people and pets. In addition, the FDA also singled out four companies that sell iffy treatments via less strongly worded online advisory letters. The warning letters advise the companies to immediately correct or remove any fraudulent claims within 15 days. The products, sporting names like Vitalica, Circulatory Detox & Support Syrup, and the blunt Skin Cancer Treatment, are easily found and purchasable through their respective company's website or social media feed. And aside from claiming to fight cancer, some of the products are advertised to treat brain injuries, malaria, and depression. One product's description, the herbal remedy inkberry sold by Everything, claims it can "dissolve cancers and tumors." Another, the Genital Wart Remover & Relief sold by Hawk Dok Natural Salve, LLC, says it kills "the roots and pulls the virus out." And another company, the The Vitamin C Foundation, says its vitamin products can kill drug-resistant tuberculosis and even the Ebola virus.
5-17-17 Indonesia's Aceh: Two gay men sentenced to 85 lashes
Indonesia's Aceh: Two gay men sentenced to 85 lashes
A Sharia court in Indonesia's Aceh province has sentenced two men to be caned in public for having gay sex. The men were found guilty of violating strict Islamic laws in conservative Aceh and will receive 85 lashes each. The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together by vigilantes in March. They have not been identified. Gay sex is not illegal in the rest of Muslim-majority Indonesia and this is its first such conviction. Aceh is the only province where Sharia is in force. The sentence is due to be carried out next week. While the judges did not give the maximum punishment of 100 lashes, the sentence is heavier than the 80 lashes asked for by the prosecution. Public caning sentences have been handed down previously only for gambling and drinking alcohol. Aceh has become increasingly conservative in recent years. Strict laws against homosexuality were passed in 2014 and came into effect the following year.
5-17-17 The transgender tailor who died in Saudi custody
The transgender tailor who died in Saudi custody
Mohammad Amin was a family man, with a wife, four sons and five daughters. But on 26 February, a contingent of Saudi police who broke up a party of transgender Pakistanis in Riyadh found him in women's clothes, wearing jewellery and make-up, and being addressed by others as Meeno Baji - the last name a customary title for an elder sister. Cross-dressing is not tolerated in Saudi Arabia, so Mohammad and 34 others were rounded up and thrown in Azizia prison. Mohammad died that night. Pakistani activists say he was beaten by policemen with clubs and hosepipes, causing his chronic heart condition to deteriorate. The Saudi authorities were quick to deny the allegations of mistreatment, saying he had a heart attack in custody. Pakistani officials followed suit by accusing him of indulging in "illegal and immoral activities". But Meeno's family, friends and some transgender rights activists paint a different picture of the person, and the events of that last night in Riyadh.
5-16-17 The NSA is running amok
The NSA is running amok
The National Security Agency (NSA) is supposed to protect American citizens from high-tech threats. But who will protect Americans from their screw-ups? Last week, countries around the world reeled as a virulent piece of ransomware (which forcibly encrypted local data, then demanded payment in bitcoins to release the files) spread through tens of thousands of computer systems, including in banks and hospitals. Russia was worst hit, but the U.K. suffered serious damage as well, with its National Health Service suffering serious disruptions to medical services. The story got much more infuriating when experts figured out that the computer worm was a slightly modified version of an exploit built by the NSA — one stolen by the "Shadow Brokers" and leaked over the internet. Luckily, a 22-year-old British researcher accidentally tripped the worm's off switch, containing the damage — at least for now. Different versions have already cropped up without that off-switch, though none as yet has spread to the same degree. It's time for American security agencies to actually start securing the safety of American computer networks — and the first step is to stop building and stockpiling computer security exploits.
5-16-17 Confederate monuments: Virginia mayor condemns 'KKK-style' rally
Confederate monuments: Virginia mayor condemns 'KKK-style' rally
A mayor in the US state of Virginia has condemned a torch-lit rally on Saturday night, saying protesters borrowed racist tactics from American history. Mayor Mike Signer said the rally against the removal of Confederate monuments "harkens back to the days of the KKK" - the white supremacist group. Protesters are upset over the city's decision to remove statues honouring the losing side of the US Civil War. More than 100 people attended a counter-protest the following night. Several dozen protesters had held the torch-lit rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at about 21:00 local time on Saturday night (01:00 GMT Sunday) to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. The protesters were heard chanting, "You will not replace us", "Russia is our friend" and the far-right nationalist slogan "blood and soil". The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a terror group that arose after the Confederacy was defeated by the Union in the Civil War. Its tactics included random acts of violence against black people, as well as vandalism, cross-burning, and other forms of intimidation.
5-16-17 Chechnya accused of 'gay genocide' in ICC complaint
Chechnya accused of 'gay genocide' in ICC complaint
Three French gay rights groups have accused the Russian republic of Chechnya of a policy of genocide towards gay people in a complaint filed at the International Criminal Court. They have blamed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and state officials for a "wave of persecution". They cited the case of a teenaged male thrown out of a ninth-storey window, allegedly because of his sexuality. Chechen officials have denied that gay people even exist in the republic. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month backed an inquiry into the reported crackdown on gay people in Chechnya. But the three French groups have rejected Russia's internal investigation, and want the International Criminal Court in The Hague to start work before Russia withdraws from its jurisdiction in November. Reports of arbitrary arrests of gay men first surfaced last month in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The three groups highlighted the case of a 17-year-old gay youth allegedly thrown to his death from a ninth-floor window by an uncle supposedly anxious to salvage the family's honour.
5-15-17 US Support for Gay Marriage Edges to New High
US Support for Gay Marriage Edges to New High
Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. Although not meaningfully different from the 61% last year, this is the highest percentage to date and continues the generally steady rise since Gallup's trend began in 1996. The latest update, from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 3-7, comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court ruled that states could not prohibit same-sex marriage.
- 64% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be legal
- For the first time, majority of Protestants support gay marriage
- Support for same-sex relations has also climbed, now at 72%
5-15-17 Jeff Sessions is refighting the last drug war
Jeff Sessions is refighting the last drug war
Jeff Sessions wants to take America back to the '80s. Just say no. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a warrior in search of a battlefield. Unfortunately, he has the power to create one, even if the majority of the country he serves has decided that the war he thirsts for should not be fought. With a two-page memo sent last week from the AG's office to the nation's 5,000-plus assistant U.S. attorneys, Sessions wiped away former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder's August 2013 directive, which ordered prosecutors to use discretion when bringing charges against defendants who did not have a history of violence, gang associations, or "significant criminal history." Holder's memo also instructed federal prosecutors to not purposefully pile on charges so as to trigger mandatory minimum sentences — which handcuff judges from exercising their own discretion — but to "evaluate these factors in an equally thoughtful and reasoned manner." Sessions' Department of Justice (DOJ) will have no more of that thoughtfulness. Instead, America's "top cop" has essentially rebooted the war on drugs, a failed and devastating law enforcement strategy that remains unpopular with a majority of Americans (no matter their political affiliation) and that has only served to enrich drug cartels, unnecessarily divert law enforcement resources, and contribute to the tragedy of mass incarceration.
5-15-17 Miss USA Kara McCullough criticised for saying healthcare a 'privilege'
Miss USA Kara McCullough criticised for saying healthcare a 'privilege'
The new Miss USA beauty pageant winner has sparked controversy by declaring that healthcare was a "privilege", not a right. Kara McCullough, a scientist at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, appeared to link healthcare to employment. But the beauty queen, 25, faced a backlash on social media. It comes as the Trump administration battles to overturn Obamacare, which aimed to extend insurance coverage to the 15% of Americans who lack it. Earlier this month the lower chamber of the US Congress passed a new healthcare act that Democrats say will leave millions uninsured. However, Republicans in the Senate have indicated they will cast it aside and write a new law. Asked during Sunday's pageant in Las Vegas whether healthcare was a privilege or a right, Miss McCullough said: "I'm definitely going to say it's a privilege." She added: "As a government employee, I'm granted healthcare and I see first hand that for one to have healthcare, you need to have jobs. "We need to continue to cultivate this environment that we're given the opportunity to have healthcare as well as jobs to all American citizens worldwide." Her remarks divided liberal-minded and conservative-minded viewers. Some were quick to criticise her stance.
5-14-17 There's no waking up from America's Trump nightmare
There's no waking up from America's Trump nightmare
The events of this week have confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Oval Office is occupied by an ignorant, impulse-driven lunatic. Just how much of a lunatic is President Donald J. Trump? So much so that he fired the director of the FBI in a fit of pique despite the fact that the FBI is conducting an investigation of whether and to what extent the president's own campaign colluded with Russian intelligence services to manipulate the election that landed Trump in the White House. If self-inflicted wounds can range from a paper cut to a bullet in the brain, this is something like the accidental amputation of a leg just above the knee: The victim can still get around, but he's undeniably and irreversibly hobbled, not to mention weakened by a near-fatal loss of blood. But not even that gruesome metaphor manages to capture the extent of our president's distinctive form of self-destructive madness. There isn't a single office holder, political operative, experienced staffer, or journalist in Washington who wouldn't have grasped in an instant that firing James Comey under such circumstances would be massively harmful to the president's efforts to defend himself against the Russian allegations and could well open himself up to a credible (or perhaps more than credible) charge of obstruction of justice. Even bomb-thrower extraordinaire Stephen Bannon understood it!
5-14-17 New museum exhibit explores science of racism
New museum exhibit explores science of racism
‘Us and Them’ examines why prejudice persists. A new exhibit at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris asks visitors to confront their own prejudices. This “category cylinder” highlights the psychological tendency that people have to classify other people into discrete categories. In a famous series of experiments conducted in the 1970s, social psychologist Henri Tajfel asked how little it would take to persuade one group of people to discriminate against another. The answer was almost nothing. Having assigned boys to two groups based largely on random criteria, he asked them to play a game. Each boy had to decide how many pennies to give to members of his own group and to members of the other group. Tajfel found that the boys were more generous toward their own group, even though the groups had been defined almost arbitrarily. Thus was born the concept of the “minimal group.” Tajfel’s research informs a new, temporary exhibit at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Titled “Us and Them,” the exhibit explores the science of racism and prejudice. The question at its heart is why, when biologists have swept away the rationale for categorizing humans by race, does racism persist? The exhibit draws on genetics, history, psychology, sociology and anthropology to answer that question. And in both its content and its structure, “Us and Them” reminds visitors how far society has come since the second half of the 20th century, when UNESCO declared that there was no biological basis to race and that the concept was purely a social construct.
5-14-17 America's growing life expectancy gap.
America's growing life expectancy gap.
Like Switzerland or like Iraq? America's average life expectancy has grown, but the gap between different areas of the country is stark. (Webmaster's comment: A county in south Dakota had the lowest life expectancy: 66 Years! The average life expectancy in the United States is 79.1 years.)
5-13-17 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brings his toddler to work
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brings his toddler to work
Prime Minister of Canada and internet darling Justin Trudeau has shown the rest of the world's leaders how to do publicity once again - by bringing his three-year-old to the office. A prime minister's business never stops - his official itinerary for the day included a national caucus meeting, questions in the House of Commons, and a meeting with the university presidents. But he still found time for hide-and-seek.Little Hadrien Trudeau literally had the run of the place - illustrious marble corridors and all - and stole the show in a series of photos posted to social media. "Whether it's good for PR or not, you can't call Mr Trudeau anything but a family man," another wrote. The liberal politician has been applauded by his supporters for supporting Syrian refugees, marching at a gay pride parade, and openly declaring himself a feminist. Last week, Syrian refugees in Canada named their child after him, he's tackled quantum computing off-the-cuff - and even dealt with Donald Trump.
5-13-17 Pope Francis canonises two children at Portugal's Fatima shrine
Pope Francis canonises two children at Portugal's Fatima shrine
Pope Francis was greeted by crowds of hundreds of thousands as he made saints of two shepherd children at the Fatima shrine complex in Portugal. "We declare the blissful Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto saints," the pontiff said to loud applause. It is 100 years since the two - and a third child - reported seeing the Virgin Mary while tending sheep. The third is also on the way to sainthood. Portugal boosted security and re-imposed border controls temporarily. Some 500,000 worshippers gathered in the town of Fatima, north of Lisbon, for the ceremony on Saturday, the Vatican said in a statement. Roman Catholic pilgrims converged on the Fatima Sanctuary from countries as far away as China, Venezuela and East Timor. The town's local bishop first read out the request for the two "little shepherds" to be canonised before the Pope declared them both saints of the Catholic Church. Earlier on Saturday, the official Twitter account of the Pope posted a message with reference to the Virgin Mary. "Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness," it said. (Webmaster's comment: The mysticism never stops. Having hallucinations can still make you a saint. Unbelievable!)
5-12-17 Healthcare Surges as Top Problem in US
Healthcare Surges as Top Problem in US
Americans became much more concerned about healthcare this month, with 18% naming it as the most important problem facing the U.S. Mentions of healthcare tie with mentions of "dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership" at the top of the most important problems list. This is the highest percentage mentioning healthcare since November 2013, amid the troubled rollout of the government healthcare exchanges. These results are based on a Gallup poll conducted May 3-7, in the midst of the House vote on the American Health Care Act, the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act. That vote followed a failed effort in the House in March to bring the original version of the bill to a vote. The Senate will now act on the healthcare legislation.
- 18% say healthcare most important problem in May
- Government dissatisfaction/Poor leadership ties healthcare for top concern
- 31% satisfied with way things are going in U.S.
5-12-17 Five most damning films about Catholic child abuse
Five most damning films about Catholic child abuse
The clergy child-abuse scandal roiling the Roman Catholic church hasn't always been front-page news, but, over the years, it's been thoroughly recorded on film. Here's how five acclaimed documentaries or fact-based docudramas have deftly handled the explosive topic since 1992: (Webmaster's comment: Descriptions of all five films and links to where to purchase them are are listed on the Sioux Falls Atheists website.)
- Deliver Us From Evil (2006)
- The Boys of St. Vincent (1992)
- Hand of God (2006, shown on PBS's Frontline in 2007)
- Sex Crimes of the Vatican (2006)
- Twist of Faith (2004)
5-12-17 Shielding the homeland
Shielding the homeland
North Korea is developing nuclear weapons capable of hitting mainland America. Can anti-missile systems protect us? (Webmaster's comment: Not Really. It's all pie-in-the-sky. Not accurate enough. “Despite more than a decade of development and a bill of $40 billion, the GMD system is simply unable to protect the U.S. public,” the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a report last year. In nine simulated ICBM attacks since 2004, the interceptors only took out their targets three times. And unlike in a real attack, the timing, size, speed, and trajectory of the targets were known by the U.S. military in advance. “The tests are scripted for success,” says Philip Coyle, a director of operational testing during the Bush administration. “What’s amazing to me is that they still fail.”)
- How big a threat is North Korea to the U.S.?
- Could the U.S. shoot down an ICBM?
- How does the system work?
- How accurate is the system?
- Why the problems?
- What’s next for the GMD system?
- Son of ‘Star Wars’
5-12-17 Too much testosterone?
Too much testosterone?
In Washington, white men are in, and women are out! Let me say right off that some of my best friends are white men. I have been white and male myself for as long as I remember. Yet it must be said there's something odd about the overwhelming white maleness of Washington's current leadership. When the House passed the American Health Care Act last week, only 20 of the 217 votes in favor came from women. Among women House members, the bill lost 63 to 20. A photo of President Trump celebrating the bill's passage shows him surrounded by more than 30 congressmen, with just two women visible. In the Senate, the 13 legislators chosen to draft that chamber's version of TrumpCare are — yep — all white males. No women, blacks, or Hispanics need apply. And it's not just health care. Every time President Trump signs a new executive order, he is surrounded by dozens of grinning aides, congressmen, and industry CEOs, nearly all of them white, male, and over 50. Is there a message there? Remember: Only 31 percent of the U.S. population consists of white, non-Hispanic males. The other 69 percent might well wonder if the disproportionate monochromatic maleness of those making laws and regulations might skew their thinking — leading this fraternity to conclude, for example, that Planned Parenthood should lose all federal funding, or that health insurers should be free to exclude contraception and maternity coverage. (Who needs that? Not us.) Perspective matters. In a new study, researchers found that giving men a shot of testosterone made them more likely to make dumb mistakes, and to insist nevertheless, "I'm definitely right." Now, as my wife and two daughters would tell you, I'm prone to a surfeit of certitude myself. But think about a hyper-male who rushes into poorly considered gut decisions, and refuses to even consider the possibility that he's wrong ... Does that remind you of anyone?
5-12-17 Sanctuary cities targeted
Sanctuary cities targeted
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned so-called sanctuary cities in his state this week, signing a controversial bill in an unannounced ceremony streamed live on Facebook. Civil rights activists said Abbott’s decision to hold a signing without public notice was a “cowardly” ploy to avoid planned protests against the legislation, which threatens law-enforcement officers with a Class A misdemeanor charge if they refuse to comply with a detention request from federal immigration agents. The law would also fine local governments up to $25,000 a day if they enact policies that block immigration enforcement. The bill was passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature last week, but was opposed by every major police chief in Texas. Abbott’s office said the Republican governor’s decision to skip a traditional signing ceremony was a way to reach out “directly” to Texans.
5-12-17 US law boss Sessions orders harsher criminal sentencing
US law boss Sessions orders harsher criminal sentencing
The US attorney general has ordered federal prosecutors to seek harsher criminal sentencing, undoing an Obama-era policy to ease prison overcrowding. In a two-page memo, Jeff Sessions instructed US attorneys to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offence". He has vowed to crack down on violence and drugs at the Justice Department. The move is a reversal of ex-President Barack Obama's policy to reduce jail time for low-level drug crimes. The new criminal justice policy "ensures that the Department enforces the law fairly and consistently, advances public safety and promotes respect for our legal system", Mr Sessions said in a memo released to the public on Friday. Mr Sessions' predecessor, Eric Holder, had instructed prosecutors in 2013 to avoid pursuing the maximum punishment for criminals in cases such as minor drug offences, which would have triggered mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences laws, which were passed in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the US "war on drugs", prevent judges from applying discretion when sentencing certain drug offences and are instead determined by the quantity of drugs involved in the crime. Mr Obama had sought to ease mandatory minimum sentences to reduce jail time for low-level drug crimes and help relieve overcrowded prisons in the US as part of criminal justice reform. The 2013 policy also encouraged prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities in cases of non-violent offenders with no previous charges or ties to gangs or cartels to avoid harsher punishments. Mr Sessions' guidance rescinds Mr Holder's approach, directing prosecutors to disclose all information about a case to the courts and follow current sentencing rules.
5-12-17 Religious liberty: Parsing Trump’s promises
Religious liberty: Parsing Trump’s promises
“People of faith are heartened” by President Trump’s latest effort to protect religious freedom, said Jim Campbell in TheHill.com. After vowing during the campaign to make religious liberty his “first priority,” Trump marked last week’s National Day of Prayer by signing an executive order that instructs the IRS not to enforce the Johnson Amendment—a 1954 rule denying tax-exempt status to religious organizations that back political candidates. Trump also directed federal agencies to consider “amended regulations” to exempt religious groups from the Obamacare contraception mandate. Although Trump’s defense of religious liberty was one that “many conservatives have longed to hear,” some faith groups confessed they’d hoped for more substantive legal protections; the Johnson Amendment is rarely enforced, after all, and exemptions from the contraception mandate already exist. But let’s see “what Trump’s administration does with the vision” he has cast. Liberals should be relieved, said Noah Feldman in Bloomberg.com. For months, progressives and LGBT groups feared Trump would use this order to exempt religious conservatives from anti-discrimination laws. But the watered-down final document that Trump signed is “silent on gay marriage or gay rights.” Nevertheless, it “still opens the door to policies that will erode the wall between church and state,” said Stephanie Russell-Kraft in NewRepublic.com.
5-12-17 Conversion therapy is free speech
Conversion therapy is free speech
The idea that “conversion therapy” can turn gays and lesbians straight “seems hopelessly misguided, if not downright delusional,” said Jeff Jacoby. But that doesn’t mean therapists who try to talk people out of their homosexuality should be punished. The Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge last week against a California ban on conversion therapy, only a few days after Democrats in Congress introduced legislation to outlaw the controversial practice nationwide. The lawmakers argue that homosexuality isn’t a medical condition, which means conversion therapy patients are being defrauded through “deceptive advertising.” But it’s not the government’s job to stop people from wasting money on “dubious therapeutic techniques.” If it were, authorities would also have to crack down on crackpot treatments like primal scream therapy and past-life regression therapy. Moreover, conversion therapy isn’t some “risky surgical technique” or “dangerous drug”—it’s a discussion between a therapist and a patient. And like all speech, that discussion should be protected by the First Amendment. The fact that “millions of Americans, gay and straight alike, would deem it offensive and insulting, even hateful,” is irrelevant. The Constitution gives people the freedom to engage in all kinds of speech—even the kind that “makes you want to scream.”
5-12-17 Blasphemy law in spotlight
Blasphemy law in spotlight
Ireland’s 2009 defamation law, which also bans blasphemy, came under fire this week after police opened an investigation against British comedian Stephen Fry. A citizen brought a complaint over a remark Fry made on a 2015 episode of an Irish talk show: “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?” Police soon dropped the investigation, saying nobody had been harmed by the comment, but the case alarmed many Irish citizens who had not realized their country even had a blasphemy law. “It’s a bit embarrassing,” said Health Minister Simon Harris. “It needs to be changed.” The Irish government said it might hold a referendum on the issue.
For years, it’s been conservatives who have been branded as intolerant. But conservatives will tell you that liberals demonstrate their own intolerance, using political correctness as a weapon of oppression. So who’s right? Recent research confirms that conservatives, liberals, the religious, and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are. Political understanding might stand a chance if we could first put aside the argument over who has that bigger problem. The truth is that we all do.”
5-12-17 Measles outbreak
Minnesota health officials this week blamed anti-vaccine activists for the state’s worst measles outbreak in nearly 30 years, with at least 48 confirmed cases of the virus reported in recent weeks. The vast majority of the measles cases are in unvaccinated Somali-American children 10 years old or younger in the Minneapolis area. Vaccine skepticism began spreading in the Somali-American community there in 2008, after parents noticed a disproportionate number of Somali children receiving special-education services for autism. “At that point, the anti-vaccine groups just really started targeting the community,” said Minnesota Department of Health official Kristen Ehresmann. Those groups later promoted a fraudulent study that proposed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. By 2014, vaccination rates among Somali-American children in Minnesota had plummeted to about 40 percent.
5-11-17 New Orleans Confederate monument removed
New Orleans Confederate monument removed
The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in New Orleans was taken down at night by workers clad in body armour and masks. (Webmaster's comment: Getting rid of the monuments of evil!)
5-10-17 Minnesota measles outbreak follows anti-vaccination campaign
Minnesota measles outbreak follows anti-vaccination campaign
Anti-vaccination activists have been targeting Minnesota's Somali-American community, among whom the MMR vaccination rate has halved in a decade. THE state of Minnesota is in the throes of its biggest measles outbreak in 27 years. As of 5 May, 44 cases had been confirmed. Of these, 42 people were unvaccinated, and 38 belonged to the state’s Somali-American community. In 2008, some Somali parents raised concerns over what they perceived to be a high rate of autism in Somali-American children. A subsequent study by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health found that autism rates among Somalis in Minneapolis were in fact similar to those of the city’s white population. Nevertheless, the concerns of the Somali community prompted anti-vaccination groups to begin targeting Somalis in Minnesota. Former doctor Andrew Wakefield, who lives in Texas, visited Somali communities in Minnesota several times, speaking to parents. Wakefield’s discredited 1998 study suggested a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Between 2004 and 2014, the MMR immunisation rate among 2-year-old Somali-Americans born in Minnesota dropped from 92 to 42 per cent.
5-10-17 A small class-action lawsuit could stop the US opioid epidemic
A small class-action lawsuit could stop the US opioid epidemic
A lawsuit settlement in Canada against Purdue, the pharmaceutical giant behind Oxycontin, offers a legal strategy for felling a giant with a thousand cuts. PURDUE PHARMA, the maker of painkiller OxyContin, last week settled a $20 million lawsuit brought against it by a Canadian province. It is a relatively trivial amount for a firm worth billions, but it could be part of a death by a thousand cuts. Since Purdue released OxyContin just over 20 years ago, the company has made more than $31 billion from it. But the drug has been linked to an opioid addiction epidemic that has swept Canada and the US. And there have been claims Purdue didn’t accurately describe the addictive potential of the opioid analgesic, which also induces euphoria and reduces anxiety. In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to US federal charges of misbranding the drug and was ordered to pay $600 million. The company still sells a version of it, and as the medicine is out of patent in the US, it is also sold by other firms in generic form as oxycodone. Purdue’s owners are also eyeing other markets through firms in Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia. However, the settlement last week might be a key turning point. The suit was launched 10 years ago by 2000 Canadians who claimed to be addicted to OxyContin after prescriptions from doctors, and sued the company for not disclosing that it knew the product was addictive and would lead to withdrawal symptoms if patients stopped using it. The payout includes $2 million for Canadian provincial governments, which spent $93 million on public programmes to combat drug addiction in 2014 alone.
5-10-17 Dan Heyman: US reporter arrested for shouting questions on healthcare
Dan Heyman: US reporter arrested for shouting questions on healthcare
A reporter was arrested on Tuesday night at the West Virginia Capitol for allegedly causing a disturbance by shouting questions to two Trump aides. Dan Heyman had asked Health Secretary Tom Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway about coverage under the Republican healthcare plan. The veteran health reporter wanted to know if domestic violence would be covered as a pre-existing condition. He later said he "was trying doing my job". He faces a fine and jail time. Mr Heyman, who works for the Public News Service, spoke to reporters after being released by police. He said that he had been following the Trump team's entourage through the capitol building while wearing his press badge and a shirt identifying his media outlet. "He didn't say anything," Mr Heyman told reporters about Mr Price's refusal to answer his question. "So I persisted," he added. (Webmaster's comment: The beginning of the shutdown of the freedom of the press! Hitler did this very same thing also!)
5-10-17 Report: Medical woes at US immigrant detention centres
Report: Medical woes at US immigrant detention centres
Suicide isn't the only health concern that went overlooked in the records detailed in the report. A man who complained of symptoms of cancer for two years didn't get a diagnosis until two months before he died from the disease. Another man with severe diabetes and pneumonia died after delays in emergency medical care, because of confusion around which detention centre employees could call 911. "What was particularly interesting to us is that we found insufficient care in both private and public facilities, indicating that the problems are systemic," said Christina Fiahlo, co-founder and executive director of Civic. Ms Meng and others who contributed to the report worry that a proposed ramping up of immigration enforcement could heighten the risks for detainees - many of whom haven't been convicted of crimes. About 400,000 people are held in detention each year, with President Trump saying he wants to double that figure. In the recent budget approved by Congress, Ice received funding for an additional 5,000 mandated-detention beds. "Now we have an administration that is trying to cram even more people into a system that is not effectively monitored," Meng said. "We're really looking at a recipe for more preventable deaths."
5-10-17 South Africa's Stellenbosch University in Nazi furore
South Africa's Stellenbosch University in Nazi furore
A leading South African university says it is investigating Nazi-inspired posters that have appeared on campus notice boards. Stellenbosch University condemned "racial superiority and any attempts to polarise" the campus, a spokesman said. The posters, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda to rally support for Hitler, called for a "Fight for Stellenbosch". The university has been fraught with racial tension since white minority rule ended in 1994. Before the end of apartheid, it was an elite institution for Afrikaans-speaking white people. The university, now open to all races, has been hit by protests over language policy, tuition fees, and alleged racism.
5-10-17 The Jewish refugees the US turned away
The Jewish refugees the US turned away
In May 1939 more than 900 Jews fled Hitler's Germany on a luxury liner, the SS St Louis; they hoped to reach Cuba then travel to the US, but were turned away from both. The increasingly desperate passengers were forced to sail back to Europe, where more than 250 of them were later killed by the Nazis. Gerald Granston, who was six years old when he and his father travelled on the SS St Louis, recalls that frantic search for sanctuary across the Atlantic.
5-10-17 Did President Trump fire James Comey as part of a cover-up?
Did President Trump fire James Comey as part of a cover-up?
Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey caught Washington by complete surprise. No-one - in Congress, in conservative circles, even in the FBI itself - seemingly had an inkling of what was in store. As politicians and pundits survey the fallout, here are a few of the big questions they are likely to contemplate. The abruptness and timing of Mr Comey's dismissal, to put it mildly, is highly suspicious. Just over a week ago, the FBI director talked about his agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election - and possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign - before a Senate committee. He was scheduled to appear before Congress again to discuss "worldwide threats" on Thursday. Mr Trump has been tweeting almost non-stop about how the allegations are a "hoax" and the investigations are a "taxpayer funded charade". Now the man overseeing that investigation has been shown the door - by Mr Trump himself. While the White House has said that the move is based on concerns over how Mr Comey handled last year's investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server, not many people - particularly Democrats - are buying that line. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has been engaged in a great purge of all those who might threaten his rise to absolute power. Comey is the latest victim. All up and coming dictators do this!)
5-10-17 Trump says he will be 'thanked' for firing of FBI chief Comey
Trump says he will be 'thanked' for firing of FBI chief Comey
Democratic and Republican lawmakers will be "thanking" Donald Trump for firing FBI director James Comey, the president has said. In early morning tweets, Mr Trump defended his bombshell decision to fire the FBI chief over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails. Mr Comey was leading an FBI investigation into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia. His removal has shocked Washington and Democrats are outraged. The sacking "raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter," said Adam Schiff, who is the highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. But the president stood by his actions on Wednesday morning, hours before a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - his first with any Russian official since taking power. "James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI," said Mr Trump. "Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!" he added. It is only the second time the head of the FBI has been fired. (Webmaster's comment: This is the beginning of the most blantant coverup in American history! Hitler did the same thing on his road to dictatorship. He fired or replaced all those who might threaten his march to absolute power. Trump is tearing our fabric of our democracy to shreds.)
5-10-17 Sean Spicer literally hid in bushes to avoid the press yesterday
Sean Spicer literally hid in bushes to avoid the press yesterday
After an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday night from the White House grounds, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer "disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff behind a tall hedge" to avoid an encounter with the press, The Washington Post reports. "To get back to his office, Spicer would have to pass a swarm of reporters wanting to know why President Trump suddenly decided to fire the FBI director," James Comey, the Post writes. Spicer wasn't eager to answer that question; he had shouted out the news at about 5:40 p.m. from the press briefing room, then locked himself in his office to avoid doing so. But Spicer couldn't stay hidden forever. Once outside, he tried "speed-walking up the White House drive to defend the president" with Kellyanne Conway and Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but was pounced on by the press. Spicer gets a brief reprieve from his ongoing nightmare Wednesday — Huckabee Sanders will hold the press briefing while Spicer is at the Pentagon the rest of the week for Navy reserve duty. Whatever it takes. (Webmaster's comment: Running for cover! This two-faced, forked-tongue spin doctor will probably be next!)
5-9-17 Don't cry for James Comey. Be nauseous for America.
Don't cry for James Comey. Be nauseous for America.
President Trump's sudden decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday was a genuine bombshell from an administration that seems to produce one on a daily basis. Nobody should shed any tears for Comey, who deserved his fate. But the real reason he was fired should make Americans more than a little nauseous. The irony of the firing is that according to its stated reasons, it was eminently justified. In a letter explaining the firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote: "I cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken." Rosenstein's argument is very strong. Comey's decision to send a letter informing Congress that the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server had been temporarily reopened violated departmental norms and rules, as well as the wishes of his superiors. Like his similarly inappropriate editorializing after he announced that he would not recommend that Clinton be charged with a crime in July, the letter was grossly prejudicial, creating the impression that Clinton might be guilty of severe wrongdoing, when in fact it was quickly determined that the emails discovered on Anthony Weiner's laptop contained no relevant evidence. The rules that Comey violated were in place exactly to prevent the kind of interference with an election that his letter constituted. Even worse, it was revealed Tuesday that Comey greatly misstated the number of Clinton-related emails that had been forwarded to Weiner by his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Comey claimed last week that "hundreds or thousands" of emails had been forwarded to Weiner, but in fact it was only a "small number." This makes it even harder to understand why he didn't just wait for the investigation to conclude before informing Congress. And it also makes it hard to escape the conclusion that his violation of the rules was motivated in part by bias against Clinton (however unconscious). (Webmaster's comment: This is not why he was fired! He was fired because of the FBI investigation of Trump's henchmen and their ties to Russia. Welcome to the Trumpgate coverup!)
5-9-17 Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy
Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy
The outgoing governor of Jakarta has been jailed for two years for blasphemy after judges handed down a sentence that was harsher than expected. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran in a campaign speech last year. Mr Purnama, a Christian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal. His case was seen as a test of the country's religious tolerance. Mr Purnama was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read out. His deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat will govern Jakarta until the term ends in October.
5-9-17 Germany army: New arrest over alleged anti-migrant plot
Germany army: New arrest over alleged anti-migrant plot
A third man has been arrested in Germany in an investigation into far-right extremism in the country's army. A high-ranking lieutenant, he was allegedly part of a plot to stage a gun attack and make it look like the work of Islamic militants. Prosecutors said he was suspected of acting on "right-wing extremist conviction". On Sunday, inspections were ordered at every army barracks after Nazi-era memorabilia was found at two of them. (Webmaster's comment: White extremists are probably plotting the same thing in the United States, an attack on whites made to look as if it was done by Muslims.)
5-9-17 Why were 101 Uzbeks killed in the Netherlands in 1942?
Why were 101 Uzbeks killed in the Netherlands in 1942?
They left their homes in Central Asia to fight against the German army. Then, dressed in rags, they were taken as prisoners to a Dutch concentration camp. Few now alive remember the 101 mostly Uzbek men who were killed in a forest near Amersfoort in 1942 - and they may well have been forgotten entirely if it had not been for a curious Dutch journalist. Every spring hundreds of Dutch men and women, young and old, gather in a forest near the town of Amersfoort, near Utrecht. Here they light candles to commemorate 101 unknown Soviet soldiers who were shot dead by the Nazis at this very spot - and then forgotten for more than half a century. The story was rediscovered 18 years ago, when journalist Remco Reiding returned to the town after working in Russia for several years, and heard from a friend that there was a Soviet war cemetery nearby. "I was surprised as I never heard of it before," Reiding says. "I visited the place and started looking for archives and witnesses." It turned out that 865 Soviet soldiers were buried there, all but 101 of them brought from other parts of the Netherlands or Germany. But the 101, all unnamed, had died in Amersfoort itself. (Webmaster's comment: The Germans were equal opportunity killers. All races and people were to die except the white Aryans in good physical health.)
5-8-17 Trump Muslim ban plan erased from website
Trump Muslim ban plan erased from website
A reporter asks White House press secretary Sean Spicer why President Trump's website still mentions "preventing Muslim immigration", and the online page is erased shortly afterwards.
5-8-17 A little cannabis every day might keep brain ageing at bay
A little cannabis every day might keep brain ageing at bay
A mouse study suggests marijuana may have the opposite effect on older people than it has on the young, boosting learning and memory instead of impairing it. In some cultures, it’s traditional for elders to smoke grass, a practice said to help them pass on tribal knowledge. It turns out that they might just be onto something. Teenagers who toke perform less well on memory and attention tasks while under the influence. But low doses of the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, might have the opposite effect on the elderly, reversing brain ageing and restoring learning and memory – at least according to studies of mice. “We repeated these experiments many times,” says team leader Andreas Zimmer at the University of Bonn, Germany. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.” Zimmer’s team has been studying the mammalian endocannabinoid system, which is involved in balancing out our bodies’ response to stress. THC affects us by mimicking similar molecules in this system, calming us down. The researchers discovered that mice with genetic mutations that stop this endocannabinoid system from working properly age faster than normal mice, and show more cognitive decline. This made Zimmer wonder if stimulating the endocannabinoid system in elderly mice might have the opposite effect.
5-8-17 The GOP's brilliant new plan to copy Canada's immigration system
The GOP's brilliant new plan to copy Canada's immigration system
President Trump is a man who prefers blunt instruments: He thinks he can solve America's complex immigration issues with a "big, beautiful wall." Meanwhile, two members of his party — Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado — have come up with a vastly more elegant solution to help the country meet its future labor needs. (Sen. John McCain has signed on as a cosponsor, too.) There are no walls involved — just a plan to let states set up their own guest worker programs. Besides being inherently sound, the great upside of this approach is that it would sidestep the messy politics in Washington that have long made sensible immigration reform well nigh impossible. And we know that it works: It already does in Canada. You wouldn't know this from all the restrictinionist screaming about mass immigration, but the American labor market is very tight, and growing tighter, as the latest jobs numbers show. On the high end, companies need at least twice as many foreign tech workers as Uncle Sam will let them hire. As usual, this year's annual H-1B visa cap for 85,000 high-skilled workers filled up within days of opening. Companies that don't land a visa this year will have to wait a year before they can re-enter the H-1B lottery — by which time the foreign techie they were planning to hire will be working for an Australian or Singaporean company. But high-tech companies are the lucky ones. Matters are far worse on the low-skilled front. Farmers need H-1A visas to hire farmhands. But the requirements for these visas are so onerous and the outcome so uncertain that they are practically unusable. Meanwhile, the demand for seasonal laborers in industries such as construction, landscaping, and hospitality is about four times the annual allotment of visas. The worst part, though, is that by the time federal bureaucrats are done processing the applications, the season is done.
5-7-17 New Canada Law Gives Legal Immunity To People Who Report Drug Overdoses
New Canada Law Gives Legal Immunity To People Who Report Drug Overdoses
“During an overdose, a call to 911 can often be the difference between life and death,” the Canadian minister of health said. The Canadian government enacted a new law on Thursday that seeks to stem the rising death toll from opioids by allowing bystanders to report overdoses without fear of legal repercussion. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act ensures that anyone who calls 911 in case of an overdose, as well as those who are at the scene of the emergency, will be granted immunity from simple drug possession charges, or violations of parole, probation or pre-trial release orders. Other offenses like trafficking or driving while impaired are not exempted. Liberal Member of Parliament Ron McKinnon introduced the law last year. Lawmakers gave it final approval earlier this week, clearing the way for it to receive royal assent on Thursday. Canada, like the U.S., has been hit hard by opioids in recent years. The influx of increasingly potent heroin, often cut with synthetics such as fentanyl, led to thousands of deaths in 2016. Although nationwide data is hard to come by due to inconsistent reporting, 931 people fatally overdosed on illicit drugs last year in British Columbia alone, with the vast majority likely related to opioids. British Columbia is often referred to as the heart of the Canadian opioid epidemic. Drug policy experts note that opioid overdose victims are often with others when they use drugs, and that these bystanders can play a crucial role in preventing fatalities. (Message I Received From A Member: I was just reading about Canada's new law called the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act and thought it is something that this country or at the very least, this state should have. Basically from what I understand it makes anyone immune from legal prosecution in the event they or anyone around them has to go to the hospital in the event of a drug overdose. I know in my younger years the idea of someone overdosing or even a minor getting alcohol poisoning would have been a big issue because everyone would be scared of legal repercussions if they went to the hospital or took someone to the hospital and in a situation like that, where every second means a persons life I don't think that people should have to delay for one moment just out of fear of prosecution. I don't care if it's a drug dealer or a group of adults who bought alcohol for minors, I just believe that as a society we should be more concerned with a human life than prosecuting someone for a mistake and a personal choice. I feel so strongly about this but don't know who to contact about it or who could just take the idea and know where to go with it to at least get it into people's minds. I figured your group would at least know how to move it up the chain I guess, and also figured that members of your group would probably agree with the idea. Feel free to email me back. Even if you disagree with my idea I would like to know that it was received and thought about I guess. I don't want any credit for it, the credit goes to Canada and their people, and I just happened to read the article and thought we need this, so no need to include my name or anything. Just hoping that you all can maybe go somewhere with it. You can put me on email lists. I would like to hear what's current in your group and emails are always a good way of getting updated. I think posting this issue would be a good idea; I fully support whatever you think it would take to get this concept out in the open. I'm hoping even some of the biggest anti-drug groups would even realize that this isn't about medical or recreational drug use it's about saving life.
We should support such legislation in the United States. Anyone who wants to run with this will get Sioux Falls Free Thinkers support. - Webmaster)
5-7-17 Stephen Fry faces blasphemy probe after God comments
Stephen Fry faces blasphemy probe after God comments
Police in the Republic of Ireland have launched an investigation after a viewer claimed comments made by Stephen Fry on a TV show were blasphemous. Officers are understood to be examining whether the British comedian committed a criminal offence under the Defamation Act when he appeared on RTE in 2015. Fry had asked why he should "respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world.... full of injustice". He later said he was not "offensive towards any particular religion". According to a report in the Irish Independent newspaper, no publicised cases of blasphemy have been brought before the courts since the law was introduced in 2009 and a source said it was "highly unlikely" that a prosecution against Fry would take place. Appearing on The Meaning of Life, hosted by Gay Byrne, in February 2015, Fry had been asked what he might say to God at the gates of heaven. Fry said: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It's not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?" (Webmaster's comment: I agree 100% with his comment. God seems to be especially capricious and mean-minded and kills innocent first-born boy children to punish the behavior of their fathers. It's good that God does not exist!)
5-7-17 Germany searches all army barracks for Nazi material
Germany searches all army barracks for Nazi material
Inspections have been ordered at every German army barracks, after Nazi-era memorabilia was found at two of them. The defence ministry said the command came from the inspector general of the Bundeswehr (Germany's armed forces). All barracks will be searched for material linked to the Wehrmacht, the army which served Adolf Hitler. The move follows a growing scandal over far-right extremism within the army, with an officer accused of plotting an attack disguised as a Syrian refugee. The army lieutenant, who had expressed far-right views, was arrested in late April. Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the 28-year-old suspect had a "xenophobic background". Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen cancelled a planned trip to the US and travelled to his garrison in Illkirch, northeastern France. Officials found Wehrmacht memorabilia openly displayed there in the common room, despite a ban on Nazi symbols. (Webmaster's comment: They are rising again! We need to remove all Nazi's and Neo-nazi's from our societies without delay using whatever means necessary!)
5-7-17 Pope Francis angered by America's 'mother of all bombs' name
Pope Francis angered by America's 'mother of all bombs' name
Pope Francis has criticised the naming of the US military's largest non-nuclear explosive ever used in combat as "the mother of all bombs". "I was ashamed when I heard the name," the pontiff told an audience of students at the Vatican. "A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is going on?" he asked. Last month the US dropped such a bomb, which weighs 21,600lb (9,800kg), on Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said it was dropped from a US aircraft in Nangarhar province, targeting a tunnel complex used by IS. (Webmaster's comment: Built with the help of our CIA.) The explosive is officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), but is widely known as "the mother of all bombs" It was first tested in 2003, but had not been deployed in combat before. The Pope's comments come ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump on 24 May. (Webmaster's comment: There is nothing new or special about this bomb. Britain made 99 of them during WWII 73 years ago and dropped 42 on German underground concrete fortified facilities. It was called the Grand Slam earthquake bomb and designed to penetrate deep underground before exploding.)
5-7-17 Syria refugees in Canada name their baby Justin Trudeau
Syria refugees in Canada name their baby Justin Trudeau
When Muhammad and Afraa Bilan arrived in Canada in February last year, they were starting a new life in a completely new country. Originally from Damascus in Syria, they, daughter Naya and son Nael arrived as refugees in Montreal in the depths of winter. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasn't there to greet them at the airport, as he did with other Syrian refugees. But the couple felt they had to give their thanks to him in some way - so have named their newborn son after him. (Webmaster's comment: This is an honor Trump will never get!)
5-6-17 Stephen Colbert investigated over 'homophobic' anti-Trump joke
Stephen Colbert investigated over 'homophobic' anti-Trump joke
US comedian Stephen Colbert is to be investigated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over a joke about President Donald Trump. The body's chairman Ajit Pai said it received several complaints about the monologue, which some viewers branded homophobic. It concerned crude sexual references involving Mr Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. On Twitter, angry users set the hashtag #FireColbert trending worldwide. Mr Pai told radio host Rich Zeoli he had now had a chance to watch the controversial clip, which aired on Colbert's CBS programme The Late Show last Monday. "We have received a number of complaints," Mr Pai said. "We'll follow the standard operating procedures, as we always do, and make sure we evaluate what the facts are and apply the law fairly and fully." The FCC is a US government agency which regulates TV and radio broadcasters. CBS could be fined if it decides that Colbert's joke was indecent. The FCC definition includes remarks that appeal to "an average person's prurient interest" or that "depict or describe sexual conduct in a 'patently offensive' way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value".
5-5-17 Trump's Army Secretary nominee Mark Green withdraws
Trump's Army Secretary nominee Mark Green withdraws
President Donald Trump's pick for Army Secretary has withdrawn his nomination amid backlash over his past controversial remarks. Mark Green said his nomination had become a distraction due to "false and misleading attacks" against him. The president's second pick for the post has outraged Democrats and some Republicans after his comments about the LGBT community were revealed. The Tennessee state senator said last year "transgender is a disease". "If you poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you that transgender is a disease," he told a Tea Party group last September in Chattanooga. Three years earlier, Mr Green criticised former President Barack Obama for supporting what he described as "transvestites in uniform". "Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterised and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain," the senator said in a statement.
5-5-17 President Trump is creating a privileged class of citizenship just for conservative Christians
President Trump is creating a privileged class of citizenship just for conservative Christians
The message from Trump to conservative Christians is clear: This administration will privilege your beliefs above others. President Trump has a message for conservative Christians: It's all about you. On Thursday, he'll sign an executive order that professes to strengthen "religious liberty," but isn't about the liberty of Jews or Muslims or Hindus or mainline Protestants. It's about offering some special privileges to right-wing Christians who want to restrict women's reproductive lives and turn their churches into semi-official arms of the Republican Party. That may sound like a crazy exaggeration, but it isn't. And it helps explain the unlikely degree of loyalty Trump got from religious right voters in the 2016 election. During the campaign, many people puzzled over evangelicals' enthusiastic embrace of Trump. After all, here was a thrice-married New Yorker who relished his libertine lifestyle and could barely pretend to be a person of faith, yet he got the support of 80 percent of white evangelicals, more than any candidate since the beginning of exit polls. If it was just that he's a Republican, you'd think there would have been some drop-off, especially after he was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. But no.
5-5-17 How America's faithless president became a defender of the Christian faithful
How America's faithless president became a defender of the Christian faithful
President Trump rolled out his new religious liberty executive order at the White House on Thursday. And in the process, he revealed some telling tics. "Come on up here, sister!" Trump called out to a nun from the Little Sisters of the Poor. If that wasn't tonally off enough for the faithful, he later referred to "my cardinals." It's harmless and humorous, I suppose — but also totally consistent with Trump's framing of religious liberty in a way that maximizes the ability of people of faith to endorse our seemingly faithless president. When Trump talks about religious issues, he tends to lead with a 1950s provision called the Johnson amendment, barring certain nonprofits from engaging in political campaigns. It has been used to prevent electioneering from the pulpit in churches. Occasionally, you hear complaints that this is applied unequally between liberal and conservative churches. But pre-Trump, repealing this rule has never been a major ask from the biggest social conservative groups in the country. (Webmaster's comment: (It is not Harmless!)
5-5-17 Deportation Arrests
About half of the 675 immigrants rounded up in deportation raids by the Trump administration in February had either no criminal convictions or only traffic offenses. Deportation arrests from January to mid-March have surged 32 percent compared with the same time last year.
5-5-17 Odiele’s gender odyssey
Odiele’s gender odyssey
Hanne Gaby Odiele is the world’s only known intersex model, said Will Pavia in The Times (U.K.). Odiele, 29, was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome, which gave her the genetic traits of a man—XY chromosomes and undescended testes—and the outward physical traits of a female. As a child, Odiele identified as a female and underwent surgeries to remove her internal testicles and make her more feminine, an ordeal she now resents. “I feel like something was taken away from me,” she says. She thought she was unique until she read an article about a Dutch intersex teen. Odiele contacted the girl, who hooked her up with a self-help group of intersex people. “That changed my whole life, knowing that I was not alone.” Odiele took up modeling after being told she was beautiful, but remained worried that people would find out her secret. Last year Odiele married fellow model John Swiatek—one of a select few aware of her condition. This year, Odiele went public with a video, staring squarely into the camera to proclaim, “Hi, I’m Hanne and I was born intersex. That means my body isn’t clearly male or female.” Now she’s an advocate, hoping to spare intersex kids the surgical traumas she endured. “I’m very happy and comfortable being the sex I am, not wanting to change it for anything, actually, in the world.”
5-5-17 Sessions is a Joke
Sessions is a Joke
A political activist is facing a year in jail for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings. Desiree Fairooz, 61, burst into loud laughter when one senator testified that Sessions treated “all people equally under the law.” Pointing to Sessions’ anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant positions and “jokes” about the Ku Klux Klan, “I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen to dissent,” Fairooz said. She was convicted of “disorderly and disruptive conduct.”
5-5-17 Police Murder Blacks
Police Murder Blacks
A Dallas-area police officer was fired this week after using an AR-15 rifle to shoot into a moving vehicle full of black teenagers, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Balch Springs Officer Roy Oliver, who is white, had arrived on the scene to investigate a report of underage drinking at a house party. According to the police department’s initial statement, Oliver and other officers heard gunshots and saw a vehicle “backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner”—prompting Oliver to shoot at the car. But after reviewing body-camera footage, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said the vehicle was actually driving away when Oliver opened fire. An attorney for Edwards’ family said that the teenagers in the car hadn’t been drinking, and that they fled after being fired upon—only stopping when they noticed Edwards, a straight-A student and standout athlete, wasn’t talking. Authorities said evidence would be presented to a grand jury.
Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty in federal court this week to violating the civil rights of Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist who was shot dead by Slager as he tried to flee a routine traffic stop. In cellphone footage of the 2015 incident, Slager, 35, is seen firing upon Scott, 50, as the motorist ran away—striking Scott five times in the back. Slager, who was fired and charged with murder following the shooting, said he had acted in self defense and feared for his life. His state murder trial ended in a hung jury in December. As part of Scott’s plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to drop his retrial if the former officer pleaded guilty to a single federal count of using excessive force to deprive Scott of his civil rights. That charge carries a maximum of life in prison.
5-5-17 Another purge
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracked down further on dissent last week, firing nearly 4,000 public officials, shutting down dozens of civic groups and health clinics, and blocking access to Wikipedia. An estimated 140,000 journalists, teachers, police, judges, bureaucrats, and soldiers have now been purged since last summer’s failed coup attempt—which Erdogan blamed on U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. The president accused the latest batch of fired officials of being linked to Gulen, who was once allied to Erdogan. Also this week, Erdogan said he would say “goodbye” to the European Union if it did not speed up talks on Turkey’s membership in the bloc, which the EU is all but certain to decline to do. (Webmaster's comment: The newest dictator in the world flexes his muscles! Will Trump follow?)
5-5-17 Forget about legalizing all drugs
Forget about legalizing all drugs
“As the opioid crisis takes lives on a historic scale, it’s time to kill a bad idea,” said David French. “Just say no to legalizing hard drugs.” Since the war on drugs took off in the 1980s, many thoughtful conservatives, libertarians, and liberals have argued for legalization. Their rationale is that the drug war’s costs—“in lives lost, lives squandered in prison, and civil liberties curtailed”—outweigh any potential harm from the drugs themselves. The opioid epidemic proves them wrong: The consequences of hard-drug use are indeed “more horrific than prohibition.” The scourge began when the federal government approved and pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketed addictive prescription opioid painkillers such as Percocet and OxyContin. It was, in essence, the legalization of heroin in pill form. “Communities were suddenly awash in narcotics,” and when prescriptions became more tightly restricted, already-addicted people simply turned to cheaper street heroin. In 2015, 52,404 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, more than the number who died from car crashes or guns. People don’t choose to use opioids—they become slaves to them. While we may never win the war on drugs, “there is no choice but to continue the fight.”
5-4-17 Republican-led US House votes to repeal Affordable Care Act
Republican-led US House votes to repeal Affordable Care Act
The bill now needs to be debated in the Senate, but could cost millions of people their health insurance if it passes. After a tight 217-213 vote, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill to repeal and replace most of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. The bill, called the American Health Care Act, will now go to the Senate, where lawmakers will have another opportunity to block it. If it passes in the Senate and is signed by President Trump, this bill will remove protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, depression, or pregnancy. It will include significant cuts to Medicaid, which provides health insurance to those with low incomes, while cutting taxes for the wealthy by billions of dollars. It will also allow individual states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s “essential health benefits” requirement, which forces all insurers to cover certain medical services like outpatient care, prescription medication, and care for children and pregnant people. In March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that passage of the American Health Care Act would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance coverage by 2026. Since the failure of an earlier version of the bill, it has been significantly amended, but there has not been time for the Congressional Budget Office to compile a new assessment. (Webmaster's comment: Reducing people's healthcare so the healthcare industry and the rich can make more money is just plain wrong. Except for the wealthy the conservative idealogy is anti-human and anti-life! It seeks to punish people for not being rich enough!)
5-4-17 Woman who helps thirsty pigs evades jail
Woman who helps thirsty pigs evades jail
A Canadian activist who faced time behind bars for giving water to pigs has been found not guilty. An Ontario judge dismissed mischief charges against Anita Krajnc, ending a legal battle that captured the global attention of animal rights activists. Judge David Harris said he was not convinced that Ms Krajnc obstructed the use of property when she gave water to pigs headed to slaughter. Ms Krajnc said it confirms "compassion is not a crime". Mischief to property is a criminal offence in Canada related to the wilful destruction or damage of property. Justice Harris wrote in his decision that he is satisfied that Ms Krajnc "did not obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of any property" when in July 2015, she gave water to a few animals being carried in a tractor trailer filled with 190 pigs going to a slaughterhouse outside Toronto. Ms Krajnc, who co-founded an organisation called Toronto Pig Save in 2011, regularly gathered with other activists on a traffic island at an intersection near a large slaughterhouse to pet the animals and give them water. But this time, the truck driver confronted Ms Krajnc and police were called. A video of the tense encounter was posted online by the activists. During her trial, supporters crammed into the courtroom, many sitting on the floor. Members of the media sat in the prisoner's box. Despite her win on Thursday, Ms Krajnc told the BBC she has "mixed feelings" about the decision. "We were hoping for recognition in the legal system that pigs and other animals are simply not property - that they are sentient beings, that they have basic rights," she said.
5-4-17 What's in Trump's religious liberty order?
What's in Trump's religious liberty order?
President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Thursday to ease a ban on political endorsements by churches and religious groups. It will loosen a provision of the tax code which prohibits religious organisations from directly supporting or opposing political candidates. Mr Trump often complained about the rule as a candidate. Repealing it would require action in Congress. LGBT groups and several human-rights groups oppose the order. The order will be signed by Mr Trump as he hosts conservative religious leaders at the White House for the National Day of Prayer. The Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty directs the IRS to provide "regulatory relief" to faith-based organisations that are tax-exempt, a White House spokesman said on Wednesday night. A current provision in the US federal tax code, known as the Johnson Amendment, says that churches can be investigated and lose their tax-exempt status if they directly support or oppose any political candidate.
5-4-17 Locked up: How London couple ended up in a Turkish jail
Locked up: How London couple ended up in a Turkish jail
Less than a month ago, Spaniard Jimena Rico, and Egyptian-born Shaza Ismail were just like any other young, gay couple in London, the city where their romance blossomed. But after a call from Ms Ismail's father, the two set out on on a trip which they say involved death threats, escape across international borders, and a spell in a Turkish jail where, Ms Ismail says, the treatment was "unexpected, inhumane and horrible". Safe in Ms Rico's Spanish hometown of Torrox, the couple faced the cameras to reveal a nightmarish three-week ordeal which, according to Ms Rico, began after her partner's family in Dubai had tried to separate them by force. "I really want to tell our story because I think it could help many people who live in a situation of repression for being homosexual," Ms Rico told reporters who had gathered in the room to hear their story. It had all started innocently enough. According to the 28-year-old, the couple flew from London to Dubai on 14 April because Ms Ismail's father had said that her mother was ill in hospital. "But it was a trick," said Jimena Rico. "He threatened to kill us and said we could go to jail for being lesbians."
5-3-17 Media Freedom Largely Stable Worldwide in 2016
Media Freedom Largely Stable Worldwide in 2016
This World Press Freedom Day, media freedom may be more crucial to free societies than ever amid rising concern about how "fake news" and propaganda are hurting democratic processes. Overall, global perceptions of media freedom changed little in 2016 from one year earlier, though they remain less positive than they were in 2010. Across 131 countries surveyed for the Gallup World Poll, a median of 61% of residents said the media in their respective countries have a lot of freedom, while 28% disagreed.
- Venezuela, Yemen, Ukraine among countries with lowest-rated media freedom
- Public perceptions of media freedom align with expert ratings
European countries dominate the high end of the range, with more than 90% of residents in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden saying their media have a lot of freedom. The U.S. is further down the list, at 82%, which is similar to the 81% recorded in 2015. Similar to the global trend, however, U.S. perceptions of media freedom have drifted downward since 2010 (89%).
5-3-17 Hypnosis and holy water: Russian 'cures' for gay people
Hypnosis and holy water: Russian 'cures' for gay people
Christian Pastor Peresvetov claims religion can cure gay "perversion". Controversial "treatments" by psychotherapists and preachers are being offered to gay people in Russia. BBC Russian heard accounts of so-called cures, after it emerged that gay men were being persecuted in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim republic in southern Russia. On Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had asked President Vladimir Putin to "use his influence to protect the rights of minorities", referring to the reports from Chechnya. Homosexuality is not officially considered a mental disorder in Russia. But homophobia is common - not only in Chechnya. Russia removed homosexuality from its list of recognised psychiatric conditions in 1999 - after the US had done so in 1973 and the World Health Organization in 1992. Globally, scientists do not recognise any "treatment" of homosexuality as effective or required. (Webmaster's comment: In America current Trump nominee Mark Green has said that being transgender is a disease and transgenders should be quarantined until cured. Vice President Pence has said transgenders can be cured with electro-shock treatments. That's right, fry their brains out! That will cure anything.)
5-3-17 Jordan Edwards shooting: Texas police officer fired
Jordan Edwards shooting: Texas police officer fired
A Texas police department has sacked an officer who shot an unarmed black teenager in the back of the head at the weekend. Jordan Edwards, 15, died after Officer Roy Oliver fired a rifle into a car that was driving away from a party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs. Police initially said the car reversed "aggressively" towards the officer, but footage discredits that claim. Police Chief Jonathan Haber said he "misspoke". Officer Oliver was fired for violating several department policies, a police statement said, without providing further details. Lee Meritt, a lawyer for Jordan's family, said they want the officer arrested. They also want the other police on scene that night to be punished for their treatment of family members. (Webmaster's comment: Firing is no punishment for outright murder. The officer should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced just like any murderer would be!)
5-3-17 Adam Jones: Boston Red Sox apologise for racial abuse of Baltimore Orioles outfielder
Adam Jones: Boston Red Sox apologise for racial abuse of Baltimore Orioles outfielder
The Boston Red Sox have apologised to Adam Jones after the Baltimore Orioles outfielder was racially abused by fans. Jones, a five-time All Star, said he had a bag of peanuts thrown at him and was taunted with racist slurs during Baltimore's 5-2 win at Fenway Park. The Red Sox said on Tuesday that they have "zero tolerance for such inexcusable behaviour". "Our entire organisation and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few," their statement read. The Red Sox said they will continue to review Monday's events, while Boston mayor Marty Walsh said the comments are "not who we are as a city". Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred condemned the abuse, adding that any fans behaving in an offensive fashion would be removed from the stadium and subject to further action. (Webmaster's comment: With just a little encougement from the new politcal climate the underlying rampant racism in America comes right to the surface.)
5-3-17 China announces tighter regulations for online news
China announces tighter regulations for online news
The Chinese government has issued new regulations tightening its control over online news content. Companies that publish, share or edit news will need a government licence, and senior editors must be approved by the authorities. Other staff will be required to undergo government training and assessment, and receive official accreditation. The legislation will bring online news providers into line with traditional news media operating in the country. From 1 June, when the rules come into force, they will be expected to follow "information security protocols", including "emergency response" measures such as increased vetting following disasters, according to the state news agency Xinhua. In a statement published online, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the new rules would "strengthen management of information" and "promote the healthy and orderly development of internet news, in accordance to law". (Webmaster's comment: Maybe coming soon to a nation near you.)
5-2-17 Chechnya gay rights: Merkel urges Putin to intervene
Chechnya gay rights: Merkel urges Putin to intervene
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to help protect gay rights in Chechnya. Activists say police in the republic have arrested and tortured dozens of people in an anti-gay crackdown. Mrs Merkel raised the issue during her first visit to Russia since 2015, which saw her hold talks with Mr Putin at his summer residence in Sochi. Relations between the two nations have been strained over Syria and Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The civil wars in Syria and Ukraine were discussed by the two leaders. Mr Putin is due to meet Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Wednesday. Homophobia is widespread in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region run by Ramzan Kadyrov, an authoritarian leader with a notorious private militia who is fiercely loyal to President Putin. "Torture is going on with electric shocks, beatings with cables," she told the BBC, adding that three deaths had been reported. "All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay."
5-1-17 Life behind bars for Thailand's transgender women
Life behind bars for Thailand's transgender women
Thailand is working hard to pioneer a prison system meant to protect and validate LGBTQ inmates. In a lively beach resort town along the eastern Gulf coast of Thailand, a queer experiment is quietly taking place behind bars.Under order from the country's Department of Corrections, Pattaya Remand Prison is one of a handful of facilities separating gay and transgender inmates from the jail's general population to protect them from harassment and assault. More than 6,000 of Thailand's 300,000 incarcerated people are registered sexual minorities, the Associated Press reports. Of Pattaya Remand Prison's more than 4,000 inmates, 10 are transgender females who have undergone gender-reassignment surgery. Thanks to the new pilot program, these women reside in a "female zone." During the day, all women commingle for meals, work, and activities — like, beauty, baking, and embroidery lessons. But at night, trans women and lesbians sleep in cells separate from the other women. "If we didn't separate them, people could start fighting over partners to sleep with," one warden told AP. "It could lead to rape, sexual assault, and the spread of disease." (Webmaster's comment: Beyond Horrible! Beyond Evil!)
5-1-17 India Assam mob kills two Muslim men over 'cow theft'
India Assam mob kills two Muslim men over 'cow theft'
Police in India say two Muslim men have been lynched by a mob which accused them of trying to steal cows for slaughter. The killings in the north-eastern state of Assam are the latest in a series of attacks blamed on religious tensions over the treatment of cows. Hindus consider cows sacred and killing them is illegal in several states. A Human Rights Watch report last week said at least 10 Muslims had been killed over the issue since May 2015. (Webmaster's comment: The insanity of some religions!)
5-1-17 Reince Priebus admits Trump administration has looked into changing the First Amendment
Reince Priebus admits Trump administration has looked into changing the First Amendment
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus admitted during a Sunday morning interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl that the Trump administration has "looked at" a constitutional amendment to free speech protections. Karl sought to clarify President Trump's tweet that "the failing New York Times has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws?" "That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment," Karl said. "Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?" "I think it's something we've looked at," Priebus replied in the affirmative. "How that gets executed, or whether that goes anywhere, is a different story." As Talking Points Memo notes, it was not a slip of the tongue — Priebus repeats that "this is something that is being looked at" later in the interview as well. "The changes President Trump wants are blocked by decades of jurisprudence which is little contested, unlike other hot button points of constitutional law," writes TPM's Josh Marshall. "If you want what Trump wants, you have to amend the Constitution — and not the Constitution in general but the First Amendment specifically. Amending the First Amendment to allow the head of state to sue people who say things he doesn't like amounts to abolishing it." (Webmaster's comment: Hitler did the very same thing. Changed the German constitution to allow him to establish his Nazi dictatorship. Same as Erdogan has done in Turkey. Same as Duterte has done in the Philippines. Same as Maduro is trying to do in Venezuela. Same as Duda is trying to do in Poland. Dictatorship is on the march all over the world.)
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