116 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for January 2018
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
1-31-18 Trump’s 90-day plan for opioids has failed – here’s a better one
Deaths caused by accidental drug overdoses in the US now exceed those from motor vehicle incidents and guns. The government has been all talk and little action. AMERICA’S opioid crisis has spiralled further out of control. The latest figures reveal that more people in the US are dying from opioid overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents. The country’s life expectancy has dropped for the past two years running, thanks in part to drug overdose deaths. “It is the highest level we’ve ever seen related to drug overdose deaths,” says Michael Botticelli, who served as director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under former President Barack Obama and now directs the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine in Boston. “It has surpassed the peak of HIV deaths and the peak of gun deaths,” he says. “To say it is the defining health crisis of our time is no exaggeration.” In October last year, President Donald Trump acknowledged the scale of the crisis by declaring a public health emergency. This temporary emergency period lasted only 90 days, and expired on 23 January. A renewal has already been announced, but during the first emergency period, the administration has achieved little, if anything. A report, commissioned by Trump and published in November last year, made 56 recommendations for combating substance use disorder, such as making treatment more accessible, sending people to drug courts rather than prison, and supporting affected families. None has yet been implemented, and no additional funds were made available for desperately needed treatment centres and prevention programmes.
1-31-18 The love drug that could draw people away from any addiction
The "cuddle chemical" oxytocin boosts social bonds. Soon a version of it will be tested in pill form to see if it can reset the brain wiring that gets us hooked JOSEPH SHARP remembers the first time he injected methamphetamine. “It shot up like a geyser into my brain and I actually spluttered aloud, involuntarily, ‘I want to do this every day for the rest of my life’,” he says. “It was like the euphoric feeling of being madly in love.” Sharp first used the drug – also known as crystal meth or ice – to lower his inhibitions and make him “super social”. Having recently moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, he was eager to make friends. But as addiction took hold, he gradually withdrew from those close to him. “In the end, it was just me alone in a room with a needle in my arm,” Sharp says. “Talk about social.” This story sounds familiar to Iain McGregor at the University of Sydney, who has been studying substance abuse for over 25 years. One of the hallmarks of addiction is a waning interest in human contact and a growing fixation on seeking out the vice – be it alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids, nicotine or any other addictive substance. A decade ago, this observation gave McGregor an idea. Would it be possible to reverse substance addiction by switching the brain back from drug-chasing mode to social mode? If McGregor’s hunch was right, this could be the silver bullet – a universal treatment for all addictions at once. It was worth a shot. Alcohol, tobacco and illicit substances are implicated in 13 per cent of global deaths each year. Prescription opioids are adding to this crisis. In 2016, in the US alone, 46 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
1-31-18 Paris officials investigate suspected anti-Semitic attack on schoolboy
An eight-year-old boy wearing a Jewish skullcap, or kippa, has been attacked in a suburb of the French capital, Paris, in what officials suspect is the latest case of anti-Semitic violence. Two teenage suspects, who fled the scene, did not shout any insults or steal anything from the boy, who also wore a traditional Jewish belt. President Emmanuel Macron has condemned it as "an attack on the republic". France's Jewish community has voiced fears over rising anti-Semitism. The suspects - believed to be around 15 - were hidden behind rubbish bins and attacked the boy as he walked to a tutoring class on Monday evening in the northern suburb of Sarcelles, which has a large Jewish community, prosecutors said. They pushed the boy to the ground and beat him, they added. The boy was said to be well physically, but shocked. In condemning the attack, Mr Macron said on Twitter (in French) that "every time a citizen is attacked because of their age, appearance or religion, the whole republic is attacked". Also on Twitter, Israel's ambassador to France, Aliza Bin Noun, said she was "disgusted by the resurgence" of anti-Semitic violence. (Webmaster's comment: Attacks on Jews in the United States surged 86% in 1917 to over 2,000. Attacks against Muslims were less than 20% of that.)
1-31-18 Trump signs order to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open
US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay military prison open. Mr Trump announced the move in his State of the Union address. The decision reverses that of former President Barack Obama, who had said he wanted to close the controversial site "as soon as practicable". The facility in Cuba has been used since the 9/11 attacks to detain what Washington calls "enemy combatants", but only 41 prisoners remain there. Hundreds were transferred away from the facility during the Obama era. A White House statement confirmed the order had been signed to resist the detention facility's closure, and affirmed the administration's right to detain enemy combatants when necessary. "Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants. And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are," Mr Trump said during Tuesday's speech. "In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists only to meet them again on the battlefield," he added, giving as an example the Islamic State group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was held in US custody in Iraq. The first detainees were sent there in January 2002, and more than 700 have been held there since - many without charge or criminal trial. The facility has been controversial since its opening, with human rights groups complaining about conditions there amid allegations of torture. (Webmaster's comment: Trump keeps the Uniteds States prototype prison/death camp in business. They'll die there with no trial and no legal recourse.)
1-30-18 Volkswagen takes responsibility for exhaust tests on monkeys
Volkswagen has taken responsibility for diesel emissions tests on humans and monkeys amid mounting fury. VW chief executive Matthias Mueller said the German car maker had "taken first consequences" for the tests. He said the animal testing was "wrong ... unethical and repulsive", Spiegel Online reported. VW has suspended its chief lobbyist Thomas Steg, who admitted to knowing in advance about the monkey experiment, which took place in New Mexico in 2014. He said "what happened should never have happened, I regret it very much" and took "full responsibility". The exhaust fume tests were carried out by EUGT, a now disbanded body that had been funded by VW as well as rivals Daimler, which owns Mercedes Benz, and BMW. Last week the New York Times reported that EUGT had exposed 10 monkeys to fumes - in an air-tight chamber - from several cars, including a diesel VW Beetle, at a lab in Albuquerque. In his first public comments on the test, Mr Mueller said: "The methods used by EUGT in the United States were wrong, they were unethical and repulsive. I am sorry that Volkswagen was involved in the matter as one of the sponsors of EUGT." Germany's Stuttgarter Zeitung and SWR radio reported that 19 men and six women had inhaled diesel fumes in another EUGT experiment. (Webmaster's comment: Some people should be getting some VERY LONG prison sentences!)
1-30-18 Eurozone growth hit 10-year high in 2017
The eurozone's economy grew at its fastest pace for a decade in 2017, according to official figures. The economy of the 19-nation bloc grew by 2.5% last year, according to Eurostat, the strongest growth since the 3% rate seen in 2007. Eurostat also said that the eurozone grew by 0.6% in the final three months of 2017. The European Central Bank has been carrying out a huge stimulus programme in an attempt to drive eurozone growth. That programme has seen the bank slash its main interest rate to zero, and spend billions of euros a month on buying financial assets. Growth in the eurozone has been picking up and it is now regarded as one of the strongest parts of the global economy.
1-29-18 The case for full amnesty
Just give everyone permanent legal status immediately. The immigration debate has shifted far to the right over the last several weeks. Americans went from debating what should happen to immigrants brought here as young children to Republicans demanding the amount of legal immigration be halved in exchange for a pathway to citizenship. Naturally, this draconian proposal is now being denounced as a RINO sellout move by Republican anti-immigrant extremists. By this time next week, the consensus Republican view might well be mass deportation of all 11 million unauthorized immigrants, plus a total shutdown of all immigration from non-Western European countries. Therefore, I would like to offer a contrary bold argument: All unauthorized immigrants, and all residents with some form of temporary permit, should be immediately granted permanent legal status. Illegal immigration is a thorny question. Obviously in an ideal world, people would go through the normal legal process and not try to sneak through. However, we must admit that American foreign and domestic policy bears significant blame for the large unauthorized population. Free-trade agreements have done significant damage to the economies of Mexico and Central America (especially in agriculture), creating a large pool of people desperate for work. Second, the legal immigration process is a janky, unfair, and expensive nightmare of paperwork. More important, America also directly destabilizes countries in Latin America. Then there's the U.S. history of direct military intervention in the region, including multiple coups, the arming of death squads, and the creation of puppet states for rapacious fruit companies. As recently as 2009 the United States enabled a coup d'etat in Honduras, though not directly.
1-29-18 Indonesia: Transgender women in Aceh detained by police
Police in Indonesia have detained 12 transgender women, cutting their long hair and saying they were "coaching" them to behave like "real men". Several beauty salons in Aceh province were raided over the weekend and transgender women working there taken to the local police station. The transgender women, who were also forced to wear men's clothes, will be held for three days. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that has strict Islamic religious law. The move has been condemned by human rights groups. Transgender women are known locally as waria, a word that combines the Indonesian words for men and women. Local Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata told the BBC: "We are holding them for three days to give them counselling and coaching. It's going well and now they are all acting like real men." While on the phone to the BBC, he yelled at the transgender women: "Are you still waria now?" They replied quietly, sounding clearly under pressure, that they were not. He said his team had carried out the raid, dubbed "Operation Anti Moral Illness", after neighbours complained about the "negative influence" the transgender community could have on their children. The Indonesian National Commission of Human Rights has condemned the raids, saying the police acted outside the law and their actions were inhuman. (Webmaster's comment: Vice-president Spence will love this. He wants all gays forcibly "cured" with electroshock treatments.)
1-29-18 Iran frees woman who took off headscarf - lawyer
An Iranian woman detained after defiantly taking off her headscarf and holding it on a stick in Tehran has been freed, a human rights lawyer says. The woman - whose name remains unknown - became the face of protests in the country in December, and images of her were widely shared on social media. Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh now says she has seen an official dossier that shows the woman has been released. Iranian officials have so far made no public comments on the issue. "The girl of the Enghelab Avenue has been released", Mrs Sotudeh, a former political prisoner, wrote in a post on her Facebook page (in Persian) on Sunday. She was referring to the avenue where the woman took off her headscarf - a punishable offence in Iran. The lawyer said she had gone to the prosecutor's office to follow up the woman's case and had learnt of her release the previous day. "I hope they don't fabricate a legal case to harm her for using her basic rights," Mrs Sotudeh wrote. "She has not done anything wrong to deserve prosecution." The woman is believed to be a 31-year-old mother of a toddler. She has been the subject of a social media campaign in Iran, following the anti-establishment protests at the end of last year in which at least 20 people died. A hashtag in Persian asking about her whereabouts - and English-language equivalents #where_is_she and #WhereIsShe - have been used thousands of times on Twitter, as well as on other social media channels used in the country where dissent is often met with repression.
1-29-18 German shock at car exhaust tests on humans and monkeys
The German government has denounced experiments funded by German carmakers in which humans and monkeys reportedly inhaled diesel exhaust fumes. German media say the health impact research was done by EUGT, a body funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. Such tests could not be justified, the government said, demanding details. A minister called them "abominable". Daimler also condemned them. VW is embroiled in a scandal over software that gave false diesel exhaust data. In 2015 VW admitted having fitted "cheat" devices in the US that made their engines appear less polluting than they actually were. EUGT was dissolved by the carmakers last year. The initials stand for European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector. "These tests on monkeys or even humans cannot be justified ethically in any way," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks called the experiments "abominable" and expressed shock that scientists had agreed to conduct them. Social Democrat politician Stephan Weil - a VW supervisory board member - called them "absurd and abhorrent". "Lobbying can be no excuse whatsoever for such testing," he said. (Webmaster's comment: Right from the Nazi death camp medical experiments.)
1-28-18 There have been 11 US school shootings this year. Is it time to arm teachers?
Two schoolchildren died on Tuesday and 14 others suffered bullet wounds when a classmate opened fire outside a school in Benton, Kentucky. It was the third US school shooting in 48 hours and the 11th in the three weeks since the start of the year. The victims were Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both 15. A 15-year-old boy was arrested and charged with the attack. The story fell somewhere into the middle of the day's news agenda. "Americans have accepted these common atrocities as part of life here," wrote one commenter on the New York Times website. "Another day, another shooting spree, and no political will to do anything about it." But there is political will building behind a certain sort of gun legislation — reforms that aim to increase, rather than decrease, the number of firearms in schools and other public buildings, and arm teachers and school staff as a means of defence. Hours after the shooting in Kentucky, Republican State Senator Steve West rushed to file a bill that would allow Kentucky schools to have armed school marshals patrol the site. His bill joins another in the state which seeks to loosen gun restrictions around college campuses. Mr West's bill received cross-party support from state Democratic Senator Ray Jones. "We need armed officers in every school in Kentucky," Mr Jones said. "That is a small price to pay if it saves one child's life." The bill joins a raft of state legislation in recent years designed at putting more guns in schools. Most recently, the Michigan State Senate passed a bill in November which would allow teachers at primary, middle and high schools to carry a concealed handgun in class. Similar bills have been filed this year in Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia. (Webmaster's comment: Arming the teachers will only guarantee they are the first ones shot!)
1-26-18 US flu outbreak is worst since 2009 swine pandemic
More Americans are seeking medical care for flu than at any time since the "swine" pandemic of nearly a decade ago, say US health officials. Thirty-seven children have died and nearly 12,000 patients have been admitted to hospital nationwide. The outbreak could surpass 2014-15 when 34 million Americans fell ill, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In that season, 710,000 people were admitted to hospital and 56,000 died. The director of the CDC, Dr Daniel Jernigan, said thousands of people were going to doctor's offices and emergency rooms to seek treatment for flu-like symptoms. "This is the highest level of activity recorded since the 2009 pandemic," he said. All 50 states excluding Hawaii are reporting "widespread" flu activity.
1-26-18 Trump's immigration plan unites left and right in fury
US President's Donald Trump's plan to offer citizenship to undocumented migrants has pulled off the rare trick of uniting left and right - in outrage. The White House has outlined a plan for nearly two million people to become citizens, in exchange for $25bn (£17.6bn) for a Mexico border wall. Liberal activists called the deal "a white supremacist ransom note". Conservatives slammed it as "pathetic". Trump-allied Breitbart News called him "Amnesty Don" in a headline. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for fewer migrants, asked followers on Twitter to burn their Make America Great Hats, which Trump supporters wore during his campaign. After Mr Trump first suggested the idea of giving citizenship to some undocumented immigrants, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, told Bloomberg News: "I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally." (Webmaster's comment: We need to honor all deals we made in the past. This jerking the rug out from under people who have been living here peacefully for many years is just plain wrong!)
1-26-18 America's Constitution is terrible. Let's throw it out and start over.
The American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk — and it's only getting worse. When written, the Constitution made a morally hideous compromise with slavery that took a war and 750,000 lives to make right. And while its basic structure sort of worked for awhile in the 20th century, the Constitution is now falling prey to the same defects that has toppled every other similar governing document the world over. The truth seems clear: America is going to have to overhaul its basic structure of government, or eventually it will fall to pieces. The major problem with America's Constitution is that it creates a system in which elections generally do not produce functioning governments, and there is no mechanism to break the deadlock (like calling snap elections). Most of the time, control of the House, Senate, and presidency is split between the two parties in some way. Bipartisan compromises to keep government functioning used to be common, but are near-impossible anymore due to extreme party polarization. So as Michael Kinnucan points out, during divided government "there is de facto no legislative body." This is getting worse over time. Even with unified control of government, a party now only gets one big law per year through the reconciliation process. To actually govern in a way that would be normal for any other country, it takes unified control of government plus a Senate supermajority of 60 votes to get past the filibuster — something that has happened only three times since the Second World War. If Democrats take control of either the House or the Senate in 2018, we are likely in for even fiercer partisan combat and high-stakes standoffs. It's a ratchet that tends to end in constitutional collapse. To fix the problem, America should aim to make itself more like a proportional parliamentary democracy, by far the most successful and road-tested form of government.
- Get rid of the Senate filibuster. This would at least allow a party that got the presidency plus both houses of Congress to govern, and could be passed by a simple majority vote in the Senate.
- Radically change the way House members are elected. One major engine of political extremism in America is the partisan drawing of district boundaries.
- Neuter the Senate. The Senate is an odious, undemocratic institution in which senators representing about 11 percent of the population can filibuster a bill or those representing about 16 percent of the population can have a majority.
- Elect the president from the House. The point of "separation of powers" was to create a check on tyranny, but it has ironically worked to increase tyranny and undermine democracy.
- Throw the entire Constitution in the garbage. One of the biggest problems with the Constitution as written is it makes changing anything nearly impossible.
1-26-18 School shooting
A 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun inside his high school this week, killing two fellow students and wounding 18 others. The shooting began around 8 a.m. in the school’s atrium, where students were gathering before the start of classes. Sheriff’s deputies responded within minutes and tackled the shooter, who was arrested without further struggle. At least four students were wounded in the panicked rush to escape. Police haven’t determined a motive, but the shooter is expected to face two charges of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder. There have been at least 11 shootings on school campuses in the U.S. since Jan. 1. “We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings,” said Katherine Schweit, a former senior FBI official who co-authored a study of active shooter incidents. “I think that will continue.”
(Webmaster's comment: There were 7 school shootings in all of 1998, and 6 school shootings in all of 1999, lncluding Columbine. And we already have 11 in 2018 in less than a month!)
1-26-18 CNN threats
Federal agents last week arrested a man for making menacing calls to CNN and threatening to massacre its employees for spreading “fake news.” The FBI alleges that Brandon Griesemer, 19, made 22 calls to the main CNN switchboard in Atlanta between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” he said in one call. In another, he used anti-Jewish slurs while threatening to come to CNN headquarters and shoot “every single last one of you.” Griesemer was charged with transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort, threaten, or injure and was released on a $10,000 bond. CNN anchor Don Lemon explicitly blamed President Trump’s frequent attacks on CNN for inciting the threats. “There’s nothing random about this. Nothing,” Lemon said on air. Just hours after CNN reported on the arrest, President Trump tweeted about “Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN.”
1-26-18 The rich just keep on getting richer
More than $8 of every $10 of wealth created globally last year went to the richest 1 percent, according to Oxfam International. The charity estimates that the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population saw no increase in wealth at all.
1-26-18 Foreign tourism to the U.S.
Foreign tourism to the U.S. is declining, as other nations come to see the U.S. as hostile to visitors. Tourist spending in the U.S. dropped 3.3 percent last year—the equivalent of $4.6 billion in losses and 40,000 jobs.
1-26-18 Pope defends bishop
Pope Francis triggered outrage during his tour of Latin America last week after he voiced support for a Chilean bishop accused of covering up clerical sexual abuse. Victims of Father Fernando Karadima had testified in court that Bishop Juan Barros was present when Karadima groped and kissed them when they were boys. But during his weeklong trip to Chile and Peru, Francis said there was no proof that Barros had been involved in a cover-up and that the accusations against him were “all calumny.” Barros’ accusers called the pope’s words “offensive and painful.” Francis later apologized, saying his words must have felt like a “slap in the face” to victims. But he again defended Barros, saying his accusers might be guilty of slander.
1-26-18 Make America Horny Again
President Trump’s alleged porn star ex-mistress, Stormy Daniels, is exploiting the publicity over their affair on her “Make America Horny Again” burlesque tour. A South Carolina strip club where Daniels is performing this week featured a poster of both Trump and the porn star that says “He saw her live. You can too!” Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, 38, was reportedly paid $130,000 during the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about the alleged affair. In a 2011 interview published last week in In Touch magazine, Daniels said that after having sex with Trump in a hotel room, Trump told her she was “beautiful and smart just like his daughter.”
1-26-18 Gerrymandering ruling
The ongoing nationwide battle over partisan gerrymandering heated up this week when Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map, ruling that it “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state’s constitution by giving Republicans an unfair political advantage. The GOP-controlled legislature drew up the current map in 2011. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and other plaintiffs subsequently sued, alleging that some of the bizarrely shaped districts—one of which was nicknamed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck”—marginalized Democratic voters, potentially allowing Republicans to pick up two or three additional House seats. Lawmakers have until Feb. 9 to submit a new map; the new district lines could help Democrats capture as many as half a dozen now-Republican seats in the state—boosting their efforts to flip 24 seats nationwide and recapture the House in the midterms.
1-26-18 The Steele dossier
What role is a controversial intelligence report playing in the Russia investigation? A remarkable number of President Trump’s aides and associates met with Russian officials during the campaign. In January 2016, with the race well underway, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, secretly reached out to the Kremlin to discuss a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. George Papadopoulos met three people with links to the Kremlin—meetings he lied about to the FBI. Among those who had repeated meetings or calls with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., were Michael Flynn, who would later become Trump’s national security adviser; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Jeff Sessions, now attorney general. All three initially failed to disclose these contacts and later had to correct their disclosure statements. A Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton secured a meeting in Trump Tower with Kushner, Manafort, and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son. And during the transition, Blackwater founder Erik Prince secretly met a Kremlin-linked official in the Seychelles, in what was reportedly an attempt to establish a back channel between Trump and Moscow. This “pattern of surreptitious contacts,” Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson told senators, “supports the broad allegation of some sort of an undisclosed political or financial relationship” between Trump and Russia.
- What is the dossier? Compiled by a former British spy in 2016, it is a 35-page research document alleging that Donald Trump and his campaign team cooperated with Russia’s efforts to help Trump win the presidential election.
- Who financed it? During the Republican primary, in 2015, the conservative website Washington Free Beacon retained a D.C.-based research firm, Fusion GPS, to investigate Trump.
- What did Steele do? He worked his Russian sources, including a “former top-level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin” and a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry official.”
- How much of it is true? Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has undoubtedly tried to find out, with unknown results.
- Why are Republicans skeptical? The president’s defenders contend that since Democrats paid for Steele’s dossier, it’s politically motivated and tainted.
- Meeting the Russians: A remarkable number of President Trump’s aides and associates met with Russian officials during the campaign.
1-25-18 Spending bill gives Trump new intel powers
The White House can now direct U.S. intelligence agencies to spend money and launch covert actions without congressional oversight, thanks to a provision in the stopgap spending bill that ended the government shutdown this week. The last-minute provision exempts intelligence agencies from a decades-old law requiring them to inform congressional committees if they spend money on activities not expressly authorized by lawmakers. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to strip the provision out of the spending bill, but was blocked. Burr and committee vice chair Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said they would fight to remove the provision when the spending bill expires on Feb. 8.
1-25-18 Not Guilty Says God
A Texas judge instructed a jury that God had advised him that a defendant was not guilty. State District Judge Jack Robison called jurors out of deliberation to tell them of his revelation. The jury convicted the defendant anyway, but Robison said he has no regrets. “When God tells me to do something,” he said, “I gotta do it.”
Secularism, with new research indicating that 0 percent of Icelandic people under the age of 25 believe the Bible’s account of the Earth’s creation. Icelandic belief in elves, meanwhile, remains stable above 50 percent in the most recent surveys.
1-25-18 Jin Xing: China's transgender TV star
Jin Xing hosts some of China's most popular TV shows, including Chinese Dating - a show where parents decide who their sons can date. The transgender TV star spoke to BBC Chinese's Yashan Zhao about her show, and her experience as one of China's first public figures to transition.
1-25-18 EU court: Asylum seekers must not be forced to take 'gay tests'
Asylum seekers must not be subjected to psychological tests to determine whether they are homosexual, EU's top court has ruled. Tests to determine sexual orientation are controversial, but are sometimes used when assessing asylum claims. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling is binding in all 28 EU states. The ECJ case relates to a Nigerian man who submitted an asylum application in Hungary in April 2015. He feared persecution in Nigeria for being gay. Hundreds of homosexuals fearing persecution in Africa, the Middle East and Chechnya have sought asylum in the EU, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights reports. The Nigerian's claim was rejected after a psychologist's report failed to confirm his homosexuality. A court in Szeged, Hungary, must now reconsider his case in light of the ECJ ruling. In December 2014 the ECJ ruled on a similar case in the Netherlands and found that sexuality tests violated asylum seekers' human rights. In the new ruling, the ECJ said "certain forms of expert reports may prove useful" in such cases, but added that such reports interfered with a person's privacy. Authorities must also determine the reliability of a claimant's statements, the judges said. In 2013 the ECJ ruled that asylum could be granted in cases where people were actually jailed for homosexuality in their home country. Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, including key Western allies such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana. (Webmaster's comment: And where did all this hatred for gays come from. From religion of course! Watch the documentary listed on our website "God Loves Uganda".)
1-25-18 Padmaavat: India clashes as controversial film opens
Hardline Hindus angered by a Bollywood film have threatened cinema-goers and clashed with police in northern India. Reports say a cinema owner in Uttar Pradesh was attacked. Several other theatres in the state and in neighbouring Bihar were also targeted. Hardline Hindu groups allege the film Padmaavat is disrespectful of their culture by depicting a romance between a Hindu queen and a Muslim king. The producers deny this. The release was delayed for two months by protests. Many theatres across India have said that they will not screen the film, fearing further violence. But despite the threats, the film still opened in 5,000 cinemas in many parts of the country. Some cinema-goers in Delhi said there was nothing controversial in the movie. "All the ruckus that is going on is uncalled for," one viewer told the BBC after watching the film. The Supreme Court rejected a bid by four states that wanted the film banned for security reasons, saying it was their responsibility to ensure law and order. On Wednesday, footage of mobs attacking a bus carrying students in Gurgaon, near Delhi, caused outrage. It is unclear why the mob attacked the vehicle, which was clearly marked as a school bus. A video of the attack showed scared students ducking under the seat as the bus was pelted with stones. No children were injured in the incident, but protesters burned a number of other buses, and have also vandalised cinemas over the last few days. (Webmaster's comment: A primitive nation's people live up to their beliefs.)
1-25-18 Cannabis growers in marijuana mega-merger
Two Canadian marijuana growers are hoping to get high on profit after agreeing to merge and create a $6bn (£4.2bn) company. Aurora Cannabis is buying smaller pot producer CanniMed Therapeutics after a far-from-mellow takeover battle between the firms. Canada plans to legalise recreational marijuana before July. And the dope developers are betting on the merger putting them in a strong position when those changes come in. The deal is the largest so far in Canada's fast-growing cannabis sector, and creates the world's most valuable marijuana company. And analysts say that by paying about $850m for CanniMed, Aurora is able to get further into the market for using cannabis in medical products. Last year, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to "legalise, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana" in order to reduce access to young people and to displace the illegal market. The country's Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated that this year an estimated 4.6m people aged 15 and over would use cannabis at least once. The same estimate projects 655 metric tons of cannabis will be consumed this year. Canada will be the second country to legalise recreational marijuana after Uruguay.
1-23-18 The DREAMers are in big trouble now
How the short-lived government shutdown deal reveals these young people's imperiled political position. The government shutdown has come to an end. And the real lesson here, the one Democrats should take into any further negotiations, is this: If Republicans sound like they're agreeing with you about immigration, don't believe a word they say. That became apparent over the last week or so as the disagreement over the budget led to the brief shutdown. Democrats in the Senate withheld their votes from bills to keep the government open, demanding that Republicans include a provision extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which would allow young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (the "DREAMers") to remain in the U.S. When it became clear they weren't going to get what they wanted, they made a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying they'd vote to keep the government open if McConnell would allow a separate vote on DACA later on. If you're naïve enough to take what Republicans say at face value, you might not see that as a problem. The continuing resolution passed on Monday will fund the government through Feb. 8, and McConnell has pledged to put the DACA fix up for a vote before then. And Republicans have said all along that they want to protect the DREAMers. In polls, over 80 percent of Americans agree, including most Republicans. The idea of deporting young people who were brought to America as children, have done everything right to become productive citizens, and have known no other home but this one strikes the vast majority of Americans as abhorrent. But the unfortunate news is that the DREAMers are in big trouble, because their fate now rests with the Republican Party. (Webmaster's comment: Who just want to make America white again! We'll be shipping all non-whites out before you know it.)
1-24-18 German far-right AfD politician converts to Islam
A member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric, has surprised observers by converting to Islam. Arthur Wagner sat on the party's executive committee in the state of Brandenburg but recently stepped down for reasons he says are unrelated. The 48-year-old, who is still a member of the party, told one newspaper that it was a "private matter". On its website, the AfD proclaims that "Islam does not belong in Germany". AfD supporters have regularly held anti-Islam rallies, and in last year's federal elections the party used posters depicting housewives in niqab (face veils) to press home its message. But a spokesman for the party in Brandenburg has insisted that Mr Wagner's conversion is "no problem" for the party. "Religion is a private matter. We support the constitutional right of religious freedom," Daniel Friese was quoted as saying. Mr Wagner, who is of Russian origin, previously belonged to German chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. However in a video published in 2017, he is shown saying that although he had once been an admirer of Mrs Merkel, her decision to open the door to hundreds of thousands of migrants during the 2015-16 crisis had proved he was "totally wrong". He claimed Germany had "mutated into another country" as a result. (Webmaster's comment: The same thing has happened in America. Fire and brimstone Evangalists have converted to Atheism, but they still preach hatred!)
1-23-18 The DREAMers are in big trouble now
The government shutdown has come to an end. And the real lesson here, the one Democrats should take into any further negotiations, is this: If Republicans sound like they're agreeing with you about immigration, don't believe a word they say. That became apparent over the last week or so as the disagreement over the budget led to the brief shutdown. Democrats in the Senate withheld their votes from bills to keep the government open, demanding that Republicans include a provision extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which would allow young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (the "DREAMers") to remain in the U.S. When it became clear they weren't going to get what they wanted, they made a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying they'd vote to keep the government open if McConnell would allow a separate vote on DACA later on. If you're naïve enough to take what Republicans say at face value, you might not see that as a problem. The continuing resolution passed on Monday will fund the government through Feb. 8, and McConnell has pledged to put the DACA fix up for a vote before then. And Republicans have said all along that they want to protect the DREAMers. In polls, over 80 percent of Americans agree, including most Republicans. The idea of deporting young people who were brought to America as children, have done everything right to become productive citizens, and have known no other home but this one strikes the vast majority of Americans as abhorrent. But the unfortunate news is that the DREAMers are in big trouble, because their fate now rests with the Republican Party. (Webmaster's comment: They are now well and truly F.....! White Supremacists and Republicans want an All-White Christian country and they're moving towards that with all deliberate speed!)
1-23-18 Michigan man arrested for CNN death threat
A man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to commit mass murder at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, US media report. The FBI launched an investigation after the Michigan man reportedly made 22 calls to CNN a week ago, according to federal court documents. "I'm coming to gun you all down," the man, who was identified as 19-year-old Brandon Griesemer, purportedly said. Mr Griesemer reportedly made claims of "fake news" to the CNN operator. "I'm smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours," the man is purported to say, according to court documents. He threatened to come to Atlanta, Georgia, where CNN is based and "gun every single last one of you". The FBI said it was able to trace Mr Griesemer's number and arrested him over the threats. The same number was linked to threatening phone calls to an Islamic centre in Ann Arbor, Michigan, according to media reports of the arrest affidavit. CNN has been continually criticised by President Donald Trump for being "fake news". He has railed against the news organisation for its coverage of his administration. In July Mr Trump retweeted a cartoon video of himself punching the network in the face. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has deliberately incited violence and should be arrested too!)
1-23-18 We’ve stopped trusting social media – and that’s a good thing
I'm one of the growing number of users cynical about social networks such as Facebook. But there are upsides to all this digital doubt, says Lara Williams. Only 1 in 4 Britons trusts social media. That’s according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey. It also found that 64 per cent of UK adults couldn’t tell real journalism from “fake news” on such sites, while 63 per cent said the likes of Facebook aren’t transparent enough. It is a similar picture in the US. That is a pretty damning verdict. And yet social media, whether we admit it or not, is a mainstay in most of our lives. For instance, 76 per cent of adults in the UK use social media and we spend an average of almost 3 hours a day consuming it. That is a lot of time engaging with platforms we fundamentally don’t trust. There are many reasons for the declining faith. One major blow was when Buzzfeed found that a slew of stories generating significant attention on Facebook were apparently being fabricated by content farms in a Macedonian town. Facebook has just announced plans designed to counter this: deferring to users to determine what is and what is not fake news by allowing them to rank the quality and trustworthiness of news with semi-regular surveys. The network is effectively abdicating accountability. “We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we’re comfortable with,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted to his own Facebook page, somewhat contradicting claims by former employees that its trending news section was curated by editors. However, beyond hands-on intervention, Facebook’s algorithm is ripe for exploitation, predicated on subjective decision-making and programmed by people with biases and blind spots – and so, not entirely trustworthy.
1-22-18 Trump's First-Year Job Approval Worst by 10 Points
President Donald Trump's job approval rating averaged 38.4% during his first year in office -- slightly more than 10 percentage points lower than any other elected president's first-year average. Bill Clinton is the only other president who was below 50% in his first year. All others were 57% or higher, with six of the 10 presidents elected since World War II averaging 60% or better in their first year.
- Trump averaged 38.4% approval in year one of his presidency
- Prior lowest first-term average was Clinton's 49.3%
- Party polarization in Trump's first-year ratings greatest to date
1-22-18 Countries Disapproving of U.S. Leadership Triples in 2017
In President Donald Trump's first year in office, the number of countries and areas where majorities disapprove of U.S. leadership more than tripled from 15 in 2016 to a record 53 in 2017. While Gallup's Rating World Leaders: 2018 report finds disapproval of U.S. leadership in Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories remaining high year after year, many countries with typically warm relations with the U.S. rank among its toughest critics in 2017.
- At 83%, disapproval of U.S. leadership highest in Norway
- Among highest-approving countries, 11 out of 15 in Africa
- Traditional allies among most critical of U.S. leadership
1-22-18 Croatia bedtime stories feature same-sex families for first time
Zrinka Znidarcic has a new picture-book for her two-year-old son, Patrik. And she can hardly contain her excitement. "His reaction was complete delight," she says. "He just took it and immediately said: this is familiar." The book in question is called My Rainbow Family. At first glance it looks like many other publications aimed at pre-school children - heavy on full-page, colourful illustrations and light on text. But it quickly becomes apparent that something different is going on here. For starters, it can be read from the back or the front - as there are two different stories which meet in the middle. And then there are the characters. A little girl with two fathers. And a young boy with two mothers. It is the first time that a children's book in Croatia has depicted families with same-sex parents. And for people like Zrinka, who has been in a civil partnership since 2014, it is a welcome reflection of life in her family. "We're very happy," she says. "Patrik picks his own books for a bedtime story. Since he got this one, it's always in his favourite two or three. We didn't explain anything about it to him, he just took it. He says, 'I want to read the book about me, about my family'." My Rainbow Family may be a source of joy to Zrinka and her family. But it is a direct challenge to conservative organisations backed by the Catholic Church. Five years ago, they forced a referendum which blocked the then-government's plans to legalise same-sex marriage. Now they are taking aim at a children's picture-book. One organisation, Vigilare, says its mission is to "promote the original (natural) identity of marriage… between a man and a wife in which children are raised". It called My Rainbow Family "homosexual propaganda" and urged the education minister to ban it from schools. Vigilare did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
1-22-18 The businessman exiled for being Jewish
When Adam Ringer was forcibly removed from Poland simply because he was Jewish, he didn't think he'd ever be able to return to his homeland. It was back in 1968 that Mr Ringer, 19 at the time, was made to renounce his Polish citizenship and kicked out of the country, during one of communism's darker episodes. Just 23 years after the Holocaust, Poland's surviving Jewish population was targeted by an anti-Semitic purge officially sanctioned by the country's then communist authorities. Branded an "anti-Zionist" campaign, Polish Jews were stripped of their jobs and deported, because of the government's - and the wider Soviet Bloc's - growing hostility towards Israel at the time. An estimated 14,000 Poles of Jewish faith or ancestry were forced to leave the country, after each being given a document that stated that its holder was stateless and had no right to ever return to Poland. Looking back, Mr Ringer says: "Many of my colleagues were arrested... my father was expelled from his job. We were all in shock and feared for the worst." Mr Ringer, who at the time had been an electronics student at Warsaw Technical University, was taken in by Sweden. His parents, both Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors, followed a year later. It wasn't until the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 - 21 years after he was exiled - that Mr Ringer was able to finally return to his homeland. Now 68, Mr Ringer says he chose Sweden because he didn't have a lot of options. "Scandinavian countries' doors were open for people like me, unlike the UK, France and the US," he says. "And it was closer than Israel, where I also didn't know anyone."
1-22-18 Mysterious Dead Sea Scroll deciphered in Israel
One of the last remaining obscure parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been deciphered by researchers in Israel. Sixty tiny fragments were pieced together over a period of a year, identifying the name of a festival marking the changes between seasons. It also revealed a second scribe corrected mistakes made by the author. The 900 scrolls, written by an ancient Jewish sect, have been a source of fascination since the first were discovered in a cave in Qumran in 1947. The collection is considered the oldest copy of the Bible ever found, dating to at least the 4th Century BC. The sections of the scrolls were pieced together by Dr Eshbal Ratson and Prof Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University. They were written in code and some of the fragments were smaller than 1 sq cm (0.155 sq inches). They detailed special occasions celebrated by the ancient Jewish sect, which observed a unique 364-day calendar. These included festivals of New Wheat, New Wine and and New Oil, which were related to the Jewish festival of Shavuot. The researchers also discovered the name used by the sect for a festival observed four times a year that marked the transition between the seasons - Tekufah. The same word in modern-day Hebrew means "period". They said they were assisted in deciphering the code by annotations discovered in the margins by a scribe correcting omissions made by the author. The priceless Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves in Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They were reportedly first discovered by a young Bedouin shepherd searching for lost sheep.
1-21-18 America's reluctant septuagenarian workforce
U.S. companies have been eliminating traditional pensions for decades, but many Americans can't afford to retire on Social Security and savings alone.Tom Coomer has retired twice: once when he was 65, and then several years ago. Each time he realized that with just a Social Security check, "you can hardly make it these days." So here he is at 79, working full-time at Walmart. During each eight-hour shift, he stands at the store entrance greeting customers, telling a joke and fetching a "buggy." Or he is stationed at the exit, checking receipts and the shoppers that trip the theft alarm. "As long as I sit down for about 10 minutes every hour or two, I'm fine," he said during a break. Diagnosed with spinal stenosis in his back, he recently forwarded a doctor's note to managers. "They got me a stool." The way major U.S. companies provide for retiring workers has been shifting for about three decades, with more dropping traditional pensions every year. The first full generation of workers to retire since this turn offers a sobering preview of a labor force more and more dependent on their own savings for retirement. Years ago, Coomer and his co-workers at the Tulsa plant of McDonnell-Douglas, the famed airplane maker, were enrolled in the company pension, but in 1994, with an eye toward cutting retirement costs, the company closed the plant. Even though most of them found new jobs, they could never replace their lost pension benefits, and many are facing financial struggles in their old age. A review of those 998 workers found that 1 in 7 has in their retirement years filed for bankruptcy, faced liens for delinquent bills, or both, according to public records. Those affected are buried by debts incurred for credit card payments, used cars, health care, and sometimes the college educations of their children. Some have lost their homes. And for many of them, even as they reach beyond 70, real retirement is elusive. Although they worked for decades at McDonnell-Douglas, many of the septuagenarians are still working, some full time. (Webmaster's comment: Slave labor in America! Work them till they die! Making America Great Again?)
1-20-18 A Stormy (Daniels) situation: Donald Trump's porn-star (non)-scandal
Call it the October surprise that didn't happen - and a presidential scandal that doesn't seem to be catching fire. Yet. According to the Wall Street Journal, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, set up a private company that allegedly made a $130,000 (£94,000) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her agreement not to discuss a year-long extramarital affair she had with Mr Trump that began in 2006. The payment reportedly took place on 17 October, 2016 - just weeks before Mr Trump's shocking general election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. To place that in the timeline of major presidential election events, that was just 10 days after the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Mr Trump boasted of making unwanted sexual advances on women made headlines, and 11 days before James Comey's equally infamous letter re-opening the investigation into Mrs Clinton's email server. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has said the president "vehemently denies any such occurrence, as has Ms Daniels", while the White House called the WSJ story "old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election". Would a Trump porn-star sex scandal have made a difference in the election? Counter-factuals about the 2016 election are a fool's game. What's of more immediate interest is why the Wall Street Journal report hasn't made a bigger splash in the US media and among the public at large. And it's not just a stodgy financial newspaper's reporting, either. If a good sex scandal needs salacious details, this one has the abundance, due to an extensive 2011 interview Daniels (her real name is Stephanie Clifford) gave to In Touch magazine, which was published in full on Friday.(Webmaster's comment: It's not an issue since it's exactly what we would excpect of Trump!)
1-19-18 New twist on a flu vaccine revs up the body’s army of virus killers
A vaccine made with a virus genetically tweaked to be quickly detected lets mice survive a lethal infection. Sometimes an old fight needs a new hero. With the United States in the midst of a tough flu season — and with evidence from Australia that the current flu shot is only 10 percent effective against the strains responsible for most illnesses — a different approach to flu vaccine development may do the trick. Vaccines traditionally protect against illness by stimulating antibodies to block viruses. In the case of influenza viruses, this strategy can fall short: Influenza antibodies are specific to one strain, which may not be among the strains causing illness during an outbreak. Instead, researchers developed a flu vaccine that ensures influenza viruses can’t escape the body’s first line of defense, a powerful antiviral system that enlists a cadre of immune proteins and cells. “Because the virus is more visible to the host immune system,” says Ren Sun, a virologist at UCLA, “it stimulates a very strong immune response.”
(Webmaster's comment: This is a bad one and it's just begun!)
1-19-18 Trump travel ban: Supreme Court to rule on legality
The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide the legality of President Donald Trump's latest travel ban, which targets people from six Muslim-majority countries. The court is due to hear arguments in April and will rule by the end of June. But it has already allowed the policy to go into effect while legal challenges continue. The third version of Mr Trump's directive affects travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also bans travellers from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela from entering the US. Opponents say it is unconstitutional and discriminatory and that in making it Mr Trump has exceeded his legal authority. But supporters say the president is fulfilling his campaign promises to protect Americans and defend national security. The Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, will decide whether the policy is unconstitutional or violates federal immigration. In December, the court ruled it could go into full effect even as legal challenges continued in lower courts. Only liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have allowed the president's order to remain blocked.
1-19-18 Trump accused of buying porn star’s silence
President Trump’s lawyer paid $130,000 to an adult-film star a month before the 2016 election to secure her silence about an alleged affair, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Stephanie Clifford, 38, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, reportedly slept with Trump following a celebrity golf tournament in July 2006—a year after the real estate mogul married his third wife, Melania, and four months after the birth of their son, Barron. In October 2016, Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen arranged for the porn star to receive a six-figure sum as part of a nondisclosure agreement, said the Journal. Last week, Cohen released an email signed by “Stormy Daniels” stating that the hush-money rumors were “completely false.” But a Slate journalist subsequently reported that the porn actress spoke to him multiple times during the campaign and detailed a “yearlong” sexual relationship with Trump. In Touch magazine this week published its own interview with Clifford from 2011, in which she discusses the alleged affair. Clifford was reportedly paid the hush money shortly after an Access Hollywood tape emerged of Trump boasting about groping women. Another porn star, Jessica Drake, one of more than a dozen women who came forward at the time to accuse Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior, subsequently signed a nondisclosure agreement, her publicist confirmed this week. In Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book, Fire and Fury, former Trump campaign chief executive Steve Bannon hints that a lawyer paid off dozens of other women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump. “What did we have, a hundred women?” said Bannon.
1-19-18 The indolence of evil
When running for president, Donald Trump promised a presidency of violent xenophobia unparalleled since the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. He would deport every unauthorized immigrant — who were in his mind 90 percent murderers and rapists from Mexico — all 11 million of them. Then he would build a gigantic wall across the entire southern border, and somehow make Mexico pay for it. But as president, Trump has proved incapable of the level of organization and discipline required to achieve really grotesque crimes against humanity. So instead, his immigration policy has evolved into simple brute cruelty against helpless immigrant populations who are easy to target. Trump's failure is pretty easy to understand. To start with, simply moving around lots of people is a huge logistical challenge. Serving as quartermaster for an army of 100,000 people — that is, locating, transporting, housing, feeding, and equipping the troops — is extremely difficult and expensive, and that's for soldiers who wear uniforms and are bound to obey orders. Doing a similar sort of task for two orders of magnitude more unauthorized immigrants — who already try to stay below the radar of the authorities, and will hide when word of the roundup gets around — is dramatically more difficult. That is pretty obviously beyond the grasp of Trump's ill-staffed and worse-managed executive branch. Similarly, building the wall — perhaps Trump's signature policy idea — would be an extremely expensive pain in the neck. Two thousand miles of even crummy wire fence would cost millions and millions of dollars, severely compounded by remote, rugged locations and enormous property rights issues.
1-19-18 Trump appointee Carl Higbie resigns over comments
A government official appointed by US President Donald Trump has resigned after racist and sexist comments he made were uncovered. Carl Higbie was the external affairs chief at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) agency, which runs volunteer groups. Mr Higbie made the comments on an internet radio show he presented before joining the Trump administration. On Friday, Mr Higbie said on Twitter that he was sorry for the comments. CNN posted recordings of Mr Higbie making comments of a racist, sexist and homophobic nature on a talk radio show he used to host, Sound of Freedom, in 2013 and 2014. "I just don't like Muslim people because their ideology sucks," he said, saying that if this made him racist then "fine if that's the definition of it". But he also made obscene comments about Muslim people. On another occasion he said black people had "lax" morals and black women thought "breeding [was] a form of government employment". Another time he said that by recognising same-sex marriages, Rhode Island state was "breaking the morals" of the US. Announcing his resignation on Friday, Mr Higbie apologised for the comments, saying they did not reflect what he stood for.
1-19-18 Sen. Richard Shelby
Sen. Richard Shelby, after fellow Alabama Republicans launched a drive to censure him for failing to support the Senate candidacy of Roy Moore. After multiple women alleged Moore harassed or molested them as teens, Shelby said he would write in another Republican—which critics say was an act of “disloyalty.”
1-19-18 Dad deported
A 39-year-old Michigan man who was brought illegally to the U.S. as a child 30 years ago was deported to his native Mexico this week, with immigrant rights activists calling him a symbol of the Trump administration’s unnecessarily cruel immigration policies. As immigration agents looked on, landscaper Jorge Garcia bid a tearful farewell to his wife of 15 years and two children, all American citizens, at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Garcia had been in deportation proceedings since 2005, but was granted multiple stays of removal under an Obama administration policy that deprioritized deportations for immigrants without criminal records—a policy that was reversed by the Trump administration. ICE agents arrested some 28,000 “non-criminal immigration violators” like Garcia during the first seven months of President Trump’s term, a threefold increase from the same period in 2016.
1-19-18 American kids arrive
As more undocumented immigrants are deported from the U.S. or voluntarily repatriate themselves, Mexico is struggling to integrate their American children, many of whom don’t speak Spanish. This week, four U.S. citizens from the Cuahua family—Cecily, 10; Anthony, 8; Marrissiah, 6; and Enrique, 5—left their Kentucky home to join their deported father, Antonio, in rural Atlanca rather than be placed in foster care with strangers. They are among some 500,000 U.S.-born kids who have been brought to Mexico in recent years and who face “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship,” said Luis H. Zayas, dean of the Steven Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas, Austin. Many of the returning adults originally traveled to the U.S. because their home villages had few job prospects and few services.
1-19-18 Flu outbreak
The U.S. is the midst of the most severe influenza outbreak ever recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency said this week. Widespread flu activity has been recorded in every state in the continental U.S., the first time that’s happened since the CDC began tracking the flu’s spread 13 years ago. The outbreak is straining hospital resources, with reports of some clinics setting up triage tents in parking lots and emergency department staff across the country working double shifts. This year’s flu season has been worsened by the prevalence of the H3N2 strain, for which it is difficult to develop an effective vaccine. Although this year’s vaccine covers multiple strains of flu, evidence suggests that it could be as little as 10 percent effective against H3N2. Even so, doctors recommend getting vaccinated, because even a partially effective vaccine can reduce the illness’ severity.
1-19-18 Uninsured rate jumps
The number of Americans without health insurance increased by 3.2 million in 2017, according to the latest Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the first annual increase since the insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act were created in the fall of 2013. Under the ACA, the uninsured rate fell to a record low of 10.9 percent at the end of 2016; last year, it rose 1.3 percentage points, to 12.2 percent. The biggest driver of the change, Gallup said, is that fewer people bought their own insurance, possibly because of Republican promises to repeal the individual mandate, which was effectively eliminated with the tax bill in December. The Trump administration has also cut back on promoting the health exchanges.
1-19-18 Medicaid: Requiring enrollees to work
The Trump administration is about to embark on a much-needed “Medicaid experiment,” said the New York Post in an editorial. For the first time in the program’s 50-year history, the federal government has agreed to grant waivers allowing states to impose “modest” work requirements on some Medicaid recipients. Beginning in Kentucky, with nine other mostly red states lining up to participate, any enrollees who are able to work—excluding pregnant women, children, the disabled, and the elderly—will now be expected to get a job, do some volunteering or training, or prove they are caregivers. “It’s about time,” said John Daniel Davidson in TheFederalist.com. Medicaid’s original purpose was to provide health care to “strictly defined groups,” including poor kids, the blind, and the disabled. Obamacare transformed the program into a sprawling entitlement covering 11 million more people—including “able-bodied, childless adults of working age.” “Don’t be fooled,” said Judy Solomon in CNN.com. Team Trump would have you believe this move is about incentivizing work. Yet “Medicaid beneficiaries who can work, do work.” About 80 percent of able-bodied enrollees work or have spouses who work in jobs without medical benefits; they rely on Medicaid to stay healthy enough to keep working. The rest are low-income individuals who suffer from a mental or chronic illness, are in school, take care of family, or simply can’t find a job. Those vulnerable Americans will be left without health care when they can’t meet new bureaucratic requirements. That’s the real motive for Republicans, said Paul Waldman in TheWeek.com. Small-government conservatives see kicking people off Medicaid as a “good outcome”—and to justify this approach, they need to paint recipients “as undeserving, slothful moochers.”
1-19-18 Healthcare Is Now Our Number One Industry
For the first time in history, health care has surpassed manufacturing and retail to become the largest source of jobs in the U.S. Factors behind this trend include an aging population, increased public subsidies for medical care, and health care’s relative immunity to globalization and automation.
1-19-18 Not Today Antifa
A Florida gunmaker is urging customers to buy assault rifles to use against anti-fascist demonstrators. The ad features four heavily armed men facing down a mob of unarmed, black-clad protesters beneath the words “Not Today Antifa,” and lists clashes between the anti-fascist group and white supremacists. The marketing director at Spike’s Tactical said the ad did not condone violence. “We’re just trying to start a discussion.”
1-19-18 Fear and confusion in Hawaii after false missile alert
Hawaii was briefly gripped by panic last week after a state employee accidentally sent a statewide emergency alert warning of an imminent ballistic missile strike. At about 8:05 a.m. on Saturday, Hawaiians received a message on their cellphones that said, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” There was never any threat, but it took 38 minutes for a correction to be sent, a terrifying gap during which many Hawaiians ran for cover and said tearful goodbyes. Matt LoPresti, a state representative, sought shelter with his family in a bathroom. “I was sitting in the bathtub with my children, saying our prayers,” he said. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency later explained that an employee had mistakenly clicked the wrong option on a computer drop-down menu during a routine drill. The agency couldn’t immediately correct the error because it had no template to quickly issue retractions, a problem that has now been fixed. Going forward, the agency will require two employees to confirm any alert that is sent. The unnamed employee has been reassigned but not fired. “The system should have been more robust,” said agency administrator Vern Miyagi. “I will not let an individual pay for a systemic problem.”
1-19-18 Where weed is a branding opportunity
Canada’s most iconic indie band could soon become the face of legal marijuana, said Jeffrey Jones and Christina Pellegrini. The Tragically Hip, which toured and played for more than 30 years, until the death of lead singer Gord Downie from brain cancer last October, has invested deeply in the recreational cannabis industry. The band has a $30 million investment in Newstrike, a medical marijuana producer that could get a big boost later this year when the federal government legalizes recreational weed, fulfilling a campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Hip intends to “lend its unique rock vibe—one that, for many fans, evokes summers in Canadian Shield cottage country—to the marijuana brand.” Some Newstrike weed varieties might be named after Hip songs or lyrics, and vaporizer pens could be emblazoned with a Hip logo. Other weed-friendly artists have already partnered with legal marijuana ventures, such as rapper Snoop Dogg and the family of Bob Marley. And Hip lead guitarist Rob Baker says the move isn’t such a stretch for the band. It already has its own wine label, he says, and music, drinking, and toking are all activities that bring Canadians together. But Baker, 55, won’t be sampling any Newstrike products—he gave up weed a few years ago. “I felt,” he said, “like I hit my lifetime quota.”
1-17-18 Father of two deported after 30 years in US
A man who had lived in the US for 30 years was deported on Monday after being ordered to present himself with a one-way ticket to Mexico at Detroit airport. Jorge Garcia, 39, was brought illegally to the US aged 10 but failed to secure legal status. (Webmaster's comment: There are no other words for it. America has become just plain mean!)
1-17-18 End of days: Is Western civilisation on the brink of collapse?
History tells us all cultures have their sell-by date. Do political strife, crippling inequality and climate change mean the West’s time is now up. AH, the good old days, when predictions that “the end is nigh” were seen only on sandwich boards, and the doom-mongers who carried them were easy enough to ignore. If only things had stayed so simple. The sandwich boards have mostly gone and the world is still here, but the gloomy predictions keep coming, and not all of them are based on creative interpretations of religious texts. Scientists, historians and politicians alike have begun to warn that Western culture is reaching a critical juncture. Cycles of inequality and resource use are heading for a tipping point that in many past civilisations precipitated political unrest, war and finally collapse. For the most part, though, people are carrying on as usual, shopping for their next holiday or posing on social media. In fact, many people seem blissfully unaware that collapse might be imminent. Are Westerners doing the modern equivalent of sitting around eating grapes while the barbarians hammer on the doors? And more importantly, does science have any ideas about what is really going on, what might happen next and how people could turn things around? The idea that Western power and influence is in gradual decline, perhaps as a prelude to a precipitous fall, has been around for a while. But it has gained a new urgency with recent political events, not least the election of US president Donald Trump. For some, his turning away from international commitments is part of fulfilling his promise to “make America great again” by concentrating on its own interests. For others, it’s a dangerous move that threatens to undermine the whole world order.
1-17-18 Trump, this ‘shithole’ continent pioneered heart swaps and more
Seeking to understand other people is better than dismissing them with insults. Trump needs lessons in African history, culture and science, says Curtis Abraham. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” US president Donald Trump reportedly asked last week. The remark, made during talks on an immigration deal, apparently referred to people from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador. The alleged insult has not gone down well. There is anger in Africa and in Haiti, a country made up largely of people of African descent. The African Union Mission in Washington DC, which represents member states throughout the continent, is demanding an apology following its “shock, dismay and outrage” at the comment. It “strongly believes that there is a huge misunderstanding” of Africa and its people by the current US administration. Trump has seemingly rubbished an entire continent and all those with links to it. Has he forgotten Africa’s history and modern capabilities in expressing a ridiculously simplistic view of its problems? Has he forgotten the many millions of people taken as slaves to the Americas from the middle of the 15th century until well into the 19th century? And that the economic foundation of the US was built on this slave labour? Or, that it was the ancient Muslim scholars of Timbuktu in Mali who kept alive the knowledge of the Greeks, through tens of thousands of papyrus manuscripts, that centuries later would inform the thinkers of the Renaissance. Did Trump not know about the recent 50th anniversary of the first successful heart transplant by South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, which took place on the continent he is now belittling?
1-17-18 Senator Flake: Trump using Stalin's words to attack media
Republican Senator Jeff Flake slammed Donald Trump in a speech on the Senate floor, saying the president was using Joseph Stalin's words to attack press freedom. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Mr Flake's criticism, contending the speech was a retiring politician seeking attention because of bad poll numbers.
1-17-18 In praise of Africa
Contrary to President Trump's vile prejudice, Africa is a wonderful place full of normal people. President Trump is the most coarsely racist person to hold his office since Woodrow Wilson or even Andrew Johnson, and it's never more obvious than when he's talking about Africa. You don't need to read between the lines to understand what Trump meant by describing several African countries (as well as Haiti and El Salvador) as "shitholes," or when he groused that Nigerians would never "go back to their huts" once they had seen the United States. (He denied he made both comments.) Many have already dissected the utter odiousness of these remarks — their vile prejudice in addition to their cruel violation of the teachings of Jesus Christ, among other things. But instead of adding to the pile, I would like instead to stand in praise of Africa. I spent two years in southern Africa with the Peace Corps, and while that obviously doesn't make me an expert on an entire continent, it does provide a familiarity with it that most Americans sadly lack. Whole publications can be based on wry jokes about Americans' ignorance of Africa, especially its geography. (Much of that is probably down to the Mercator Projection used in many classrooms, which drastically overstates the size of northerly territory like Greenland.) Indeed, in two years, I was only able to gain reasonably detailed knowledge of South Africa (where I served) and some passing experience with Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Botswana. I had barely even heard of Namibia before I started my service — and was delighted to learn that it had a spectacular river canyon and a hauntingly beautiful endorheic desert basin. I was astounded at the high plateau of Lesotho, amazed and not a little intimidated by the free-roaming wildlife in the Okovango Delta, and mesmerized by the titanic Victoria Falls. (Webmaster's comment: The most disgusting country I know of is the one we live in. More rape and homicide and violence and brutality and religious hatred than in all of Europe and in most of the rest of the world!)
1-17-18 Italy election: 'White race' remark sparks row
Italy doesn't count its population by colour. But it would be fair to say that the country is overwhelmingly white: the National Institute for Statistics reports that more than 92% of the country is ethnic Italian, which is often interpreted in practical terms as white. It would be hard to find any branch of mathematics to support the claim that Italy's white population is under threat of extinction. But that's what one right-wing politician has claimed, in vivid terms. On Sunday, Attilio Fontana, a prominent candidate from the right-wing Northern League, settled into an interview ahead of the general election on 4 March. Italian politicians tend to do much of their campaigning via long, occasionally rambling talk show appearances. Mr Fontana's region, Lombardy in the north, is the leading destination for migrants in Italy. He reflected on this point. "We can't accept them all," he told Radio Padania, "Because if we had to accept them all, it would mean that we're no longer ourselves… as an ethnic fact. Because they outnumber us, because they are more determined than us to occupy this land." Mr Fontana, by now fully into his stride, reached his conclusion. "We need to decide whether or not our ethnic group, our white race, our society should continue to exist, or be wiped out. It's a choice." Mr Fontana's description of ethnic Italians as an apparently endangered "white race" has provoked headlines and condemnation. To some, his comments bring back unwelcome memories of the country's fascist past under Benito Mussolini. "How is it possible in 2018 to have to explain that there is not a white race to defend - 80 years on from the promulgation of [the Mussolini era's] racial laws?" tweeted Ruth Dureghello, the president of the Rome Jewish Community. (Webmaster's comment: And just what is so damn special about the white race anyway? It's been just as mean and brutal as any other race.)
1-16-18 Why Hawaii's false alarm should be a massive wake-up call for us all
For 38 minutes on Saturday, Hawaiians experienced the very worst sort of nightmare, after a state agency inadvertently sent out a message that a ballistic missile was inbound. "Seek shelter immediately. This is not a drill," read the terrifying alert that Hawaiians received on their phones and TVs. Distraught residents and visitors did their best to find safety and send tearful final messages to loved ones before the alert was retracted. President Trump, who was out golfing at the time, made a minor public statement about the false alarm, calling it a "state thing" and saying he loved "that they took responsibility." He then resumed pouring kerosene on the "shithole-gate" inferno, making up childish new names for United States senators, torpedoing a bipartisan immigration bill, and blaming everything on the Democrats. Maybe that's for the best. Saturday's incident was precisely the sort of executive-function-testing fiasco you could see him having difficulty grappling with. Imagine if, instead of chasing golf balls in Florida when the missile alert when out, The Least Racist Person You've Ever Interviewed had been beached in front of his television on a Tuesday, watching Fox & Friends, wiping french fry grease on his shirt, and barking for the nuclear football to be brought to him along with some cherry and strawberry Starbursts. He would likely be trying fruitlessly to load Twitter on his doomsday plane in the poisoned stratosphere. The rest of us might be dead. (Webmaster's comment: Just what we need. A nuclear incident with the thump of nut job Trump on the nuclear trigger!)
1-14-18 Hawaii missile false alarm triggers shock, blame and apologies
Residents and visitors in Hawaii have been recalling the shock of a false missile alarm, with many saying they thought they were going to die. The alert of an incoming ballistic missile was sent wrongly on Saturday morning by an emergency system worker. Victims of the ordeal spoke of hysteria and panicked evacuations. The false alarm sparked recriminations, with state officials apologising and President Donald Trump's response called into question. It was a mistake by an employee at Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) who "pushed the wrong button" during procedures that occur during the handover of a shift. The message was reportedly sent despite an onscreen prompt requesting confirmation. Mobile phone users received the message at 08:07 (18:07 GMT): "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill." The alert was corrected by email 18 minutes later but there was no follow-up mobile text for 38 minutes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The alert system is in place because of the potential proximity of Hawaii to North Korean missiles. (Webmaster's comment: The scary thing is that the world's biggest nuclear power, with a military and a president just itching to go to war, makes a mistake that could have easily escalated into a nuclear attack on an innocent country and the deaths of ten's of millions.)
1-12-18 Donald Trump must apologise for comments - African Union
The organisation representing African countries has demanded that US President Donald Trump apologise after he reportedly called nations on the continent "shitholes". The African Union mission in Washington DC expressed its "shock, dismay and outrage" and said the Trump administration misunderstood Africans. The US leader made the alleged remark in a Thursday meeting on immigration. But Mr Trump has denied using the language reported. He has been backed by two Republicans who were at the White House meeting, but Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Mr Trump called African countries "shitholes" several times and used "racist" language. On Friday, Mr Trump on Friday tweeted that his language he used at the private meeting with lawmakers to discuss immigration legislation had been "tough". But he added that the words attributed to him were "not the language used". It said the "remarks dishonour the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity". It added: "While expressing our shock, dismay and outrage, the African Union strongly believes that there is a huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people by the current Administration. "There is a serious need for dialogue between the US Administration and the African countries." (Webmaster's comment: All African nations should boycott the disgusting country that America has become.)
1-12-18 Trump's ambassador to Netherlands finally admits 'no-go zone' claims
Pete Hoekstra, the new US ambassador to the Netherlands, has admitted claiming in 2015 that Muslim youths had created so-called "no-go" zones in the country and were burning politicians. Mr Hoekstra, a Republican congressman appointed to the envoy's job by Donald Trump, last month denied making the claims, calling them "fake news", despite being shown video evidence. Confronted by Dutch journalists at a disastrous first press conference on Wednesday, he refused to answer questions about his comments. On Friday Mr Hoekstra finally admitted to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he had made the remarks, to a right wing gathering in the US, and said he was "shocked" by them. "That was a wrong statement. That was just wrong," Mr Hoekstra said, adding that it was "clearly that was an inaccurate statement". "That one shocked me personally ... because while you know there have been other issues in other countries in Europe, you know that has never been the circumstances here," he said. (Webmaster's comment: Another Republican caught in another lie. The United States has become a nation filled with evil!)
1-12-18 US ambassador to Panama says he cannot serve Trump
The US ambassador to Panama has quit because he says he is no longer able to serve under President Donald Trump. John Feeley, a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, said he was "honour-bound" to resign. The US Department of State, which oversees American diplomats, learned of his resignation in late December. It was not a direct response to Mr Trump's alleged use of the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries. "As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies," Mr Feeley said in his resignation letter. "My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come." Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein confirmed he was aware of Mr Feeley's planned departure ahead of the president's alleged remarks on Thursday. He said the ambassador, a career diplomat who spent most of his life working on Latin American issues, was leaving for "personal reasons". Some of Mr Trump's policies have caused uproar in the region, including most recently his decision to remove residency permits for thousands of Salvadorean, Haitian and Nicaraguan immigrants living in the US after natural disasters. Mr Feeley is not the first State Department official to leave their post. Elizabeth Shackelford, who worked in Nairobi for the US mission to Somalia, resigned in December. She wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that she was quitting because the US had abandoned human rights as a priority, according to Foreign Policy. (Webmaster's comment: No person with a moral conscience can serve this president or his administration.)
1-12-18 Toronto police investigate 'scissor attack' on girl's hijab
Canadian police are investigating a possible hate crime after a man tried to cut the hijab off a young girl. Khawlah Noman, 11, was walking to school with her brother in Toronto when they said a man came up behind her with scissors. Miss Noman said she screamed and her assailant ran, only to return, pull off her hood and cut her hijab. Police describe the attacker as Asian, 20-30 years old, between 5ft 7in and 5ft 8in, with a thin build. The siblings said he had black hair with straight bangs to the eyebrows, a thin moustache and black prescription glasses. He was described as wearing a black hooded sweater with the hood up, black pants and brown gloves. Khawlah sent a message to her attacker during a press conference on Friday at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School. "What you're doing is really wrong," the girl said, "you should not act like this, and especially, I'm a kid." Khawlah said that she is now "actually really scared" to walk to school. strong>Khawlah's mother told media the attack was "just not Canada." (Webmaster's comment: But it is American! Attacking Muslim women and children is the safe thing for American white supremacist males to do. They are physically much weaker than the males attacking them.)
1-12-18 Trump denies crude slur against migrant countries
US President Donald Trump has denied using crude words attributed to him about Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. Reports that he had called them "shithole countries" in an Oval Office meeting generated a backlash worldwide. But Mr Trump has tweeted that "this was not the language" he used in a meeting about immigration. However Democratic Senator Dick Durban said he heard Mr Trump use "vile, racist" language. The Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico and the Wall Street Journal all reported the comments on Thursday, quoting witnesses or people briefed on the meeting. The White House did not deny them. While denying the specific comments on Friday, Mr Trump admitted to using "tough" language. Mr Trump's reported remark came as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers visited him on Thursday to propose a deal on immigration. Mr Trump was said to have told them that instead of granting temporary residency to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics, the US should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway. "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" the Washington Post quoted him as saying. He was also reported to have said: "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out." But in another tweet on Friday the president denied saying "anything derogatory about Haitians". Another black lawmaker, Cedric Richmond, a Democrat, said the comments were "further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda".(Webmaster's comment: As I have already said!)
1-12-18 Voter fraud: Why Trump’s commission died
Ding, dong, the White House’s “election integrity” commission is dead, said Miles Rapoport in The American Prospect. With a tweet, President Trump last week abruptly shut down the sham commission, created to justify Trump’s “ludicrous claim” that he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton. The commission was ostensibly a fair-minded investigation into voter fraud but was nothing more than “a Trojan horse for a voter-suppression agenda.” Its co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, had spent his career trying, and failing, to prove that voter fraud is epidemic; he called for strict federal voter identification laws before the commission was even created. Luckily, both Republican and Democratic election officials saw through the charade, with 44 states refusing to comply with some or all of commission’s sweeping demands for information on voters, such as their Social Security numbers. The secretive commission was also buried in a “blizzard” of lawsuits, crippling its work out the gate.
1-12-18 Voting map rejected
North Carolina must redraw its congressional map after federal judges ruled this week that it was drawn specifically to advantage Republicans—the first time a federal court has thrown out a congressional map for partisan gerrymandering. The three-judge panel gave the state’s Republican-dominated General Assembly until Jan. 24 to come up with a replacement map for the 2018 midterm elections. In a blistering 191-page opinion, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote that the state legislature was “motivated by invidious partisan intent” in creating the map, with GOP leaders specifically instructing consultants to draw districts to minimize Democratic seats. Voting in the state has been split in recent statewide elections—Trump and a Democratic governor were elected on the same day in 2016—but Republicans currently hold 10 of the swing state’s 13 seats in the House of Representatives. Republican lawmakers vowed to appeal.
1-12-18 Salvadorans must go
Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been living and working in the U.S. for almost two decades will have to leave the country by next year, after the Trump administration announced this week it is ending the humanitarian program that gave them legal status. The U.S. government granted Salvadorans temporary protected status in March 2001 after two earthquakes devastated the country. The program was extended multiple times under both President Bush and President Obama, because of extreme poverty and gang violence in El Salvador. The Department of Homeland Security now says that conditions have improved enough since the earthquakes for people to return home. Salvadorans who have put down roots in the U.S. must decide whether to leave the country by September 2019 or risk deportation. Salvadorans living in the U.S. with protected status have 192,700 children who are U.S. citizens, 88 percent have jobs, and nearly one-quarter own a home here.
1-12-18 DACA drama
A federal judge this week ordered the Trump administration to maintain protections for 800,000 “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, potentially upending negotiations in Congress over their fate. San Francisco–based Judge William Alsup ruled that the White House must continue to allow Dreamers to renew their deportation protections and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while courts hear lawsuits challenging President Trump’s decision to end the program. The decision came the same day Trump presided over rare televised talks on DACA with members of Congress, designed to showcase the president’s leadership skills in response to questions about his fitness for office. Trump appeared to flip back and forth during the negotiations, alternately saying he would approve any bill to protect Dreamers and demanding that border wall funding be part of an agreement.
1-12-18 The phallic subtext of nuclear war
When President Trump tweeted that his nuclear button was “much bigger and more powerful” than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s, said Carol Cohn, the “penis-measuring” subtext was laughably obvious. But as tempting as it is to dismiss the juvenile boasting as just another norm broken by a “president like no other,” the reality is that nuclear strategic thinking has always been laced with a dangerous hypermasculinity. When I worked with war planners early in my career, I was struck by “how removed they were from the human realities” of nuclear weapons. To make the deliberate incineration of millions of people more abstract, they hid behind “euphemistic language” laden with sexual metaphors: from “vertical erector launchers” to “thrust-to-weight ratios” to “soft lay downs” to “deep penetration.” One military adviser talked about “releasing 70 to 80 percent of our megatonnage in one orgasmic whump.” In this nearly all-male world, war planners casually discussed accepting 30 million casualties, and mocked “sissy” politicians for not having “the stones for war.” Trump’s fear of “being perceived as unmanly” appears particularly deep. But among nuclear strategists, his macho worldview is the norm, not the exception. That makes the unthinkable a bit more likely.
1-12-18 Sessions targets legal marijuana
Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw the burgeoning legal marijuana market into turmoil last week by empowering U.S. prosecutors to enforce federal laws against pot in states where the drug has been legalized. Sessions, a fierce opponent of legalizing weed, announced he was scrapping an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from filing charges in some states because marijuana activity “is a serious crime” and the hands-off approach “undermines the rule of law.” Now it will be up to each of the country’s 93 U.S. attorneys to decide how aggressively they want to pursue weed cases. Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The announcement sparked a bipartisan backlash from lawmakers in states that have legalized marijuana. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow the use of pot for medical purposes; eight states have legalized recreational sales. Altogether, the legal weed market is expected to reach $9 billion by the end of this year, with some 4,500 medical and recreational shops across the country. But Sessions’ move could slow the industry’s growth if investors become leery of the shifting legal terrain. “It’s a really scary time for us,” said Jaime Lewis, who owns a Denver-based marijuana edibles company.
1-12-18 Legalizing marijuana
61% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 57% last year and 31% in 2000. 70% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Xers, and 56% of Baby Boomers approve of legalizing marijuana. 58% of those older than 75 oppose legalization.
A Kansas lawmaker who opposes legal marijuana claims the drug has a bad effect on black people. Republican state Rep. Steve Alford told a town-hall meeting that marijuana was originally banned because African-Americans “responded the worst” to cannabis, owing to their “character makeup, their genetics.” Alford later apologized.
1-11-18 US ambassador still can't answer Netherlands' questions
'This is the Netherlands. You have to answer questions.' The new US ambassador was hoping for a fresh start. Instead he faced a grilling by the Dutch press. (Webmaster's comment: Watch this lying, racist, United States ambassador to the Netherlands squirm.)
1-11-18 Trump to let states require employment for Medicaid
The Trump administration has issued new guidance that would allow states to impose work requirements on low-income healthcare recipients. Able-bodied recipients of the Medicaid health programme for the poor would be required to work, volunteer or prepare for a job through school or training. Critics argue that the move is aimed at cutting the number of people receiving government-funded Medicaid. The administration contends the policy is to promote "community engagement". "This is about helping those individuals rise out of poverty," said Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today's announcement is a step in that direction," she added. She said the new policy came about at the request of 10 different states including Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana and Utah. (Webmaster's comment: It's pretty simple. Work or die!)
1-11-18 Hospital apologises for 'dumping' gowned patient in cold
Imamu Baraka filmed the moment a patient at the University of Maryland Medical Center was escorted out of hospital in only a gown. Temperatures that night were close to freezing. The hospital issued an apology and is investigating the incident. (Webmaster's comment: Throw them out into the street in their hospital gowns if they can't pay.)
1-11-18 There's a science to saving money
We'd all like to have more money. (That stuff is really useful, ain't it?). Being worried about makin' the bacon can end your marriage, skyrocket your blood pressure, and even cause your brain to malfunction. From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter: Money is the top reason for divorce and the number one cause of stress in Americans. People are demonstrably worse at all kinds of problem solving when they have money problems on their mind. Thing is, we all make dumb money mistakes, many of which we're not even aware of. And a lot of those are due to quirks of human psychology. Luckily, Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, has a book out that explains some of the problems we're prone to when it comes to moolah and what we can do about them. The book is Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter. Let's look at some of what Dan has to say and see how we can save some shekels…
- "On Sale" signs are the devil: "Relative comparisons" mess with your head. Focus on the end price, not how good a "deal" it is.
- It's not a "bonus." Money is money: How you got the cash should not affect how you spend it. Saying that "bonus" money doesn't count feels good but being broke feels very very bad.
- Use cash more often: Make spending painful and you'll spend less. (Using cash is simpler than having a friend punch you in the face whenever you whip out your credit card.)
- "Fair" is a four-letter word: Focus on value. The plight of moral justice in the economic universe can wait until after the electrician gets your lights back on.
- Try a "Ulysses Contract": Send me the deed to your house. If you don't have more money in your savings account two months from now, I keep the deed. See? Saving is easy.
- Drop anchor: The only way to not be influenced by prices is to influence yourself ahead of time with other prices.
1-11-18 The nude pool party making waves in Canada
Thousands have signed an online petition calling for a sold-out pool party in a Canadian leisure centre to be halted. Why? Because it's a naked party which has been advertised as "all ages". The signatories are concerned that any children in attendance could be in danger. But the organisers of the event in Calgary say the petition shows a compete misunderstanding of nudist culture. The change.org petition has attracted more than 18,000 signatures, expressing concern about the event due to take place on 14 January at the Southland Leisure Centre. It calls for the event to be cancelled or made "age appropriate" - in other words, for children to be banned. The publicity has caused the City of Calgary, which runs the leisure centre, to think twice about allowing the event to take place. he event has been organised by a local naturist group, Calgary Nude Recreation. It has been advertised on the organisation's official Facebook page as well as on social media community site Meetup. It's listed as sold out and more than 180 people have indicated on social media that they plan to attend. On their website, Calgary Nude Recreation describe themselves as being a "family friendly" group and state that they hope to make to the party a monthly event. The site describes the organisation as "A group for like-minded people who enjoy being in their birthday suit! This group is family oriented and kid friendly and open to people of all ages, body types, all genders, sexual orientations, and anyone else in between." "The suggestions that it's not appropriate for kids implies there is something happening at nude events that isn't appropriate for children. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said in an email. "This is a non-sexual event. Nudity does not equal sex." The description reads: "There's an upcoming event in Calgary that really concerns some people, who are apparently unaware that they have genitals under their clothes." (Webmaster's comment: Nudist's have been meeting together along with their children for over 80 years. The only problem has been with the religious prudes who want to ban nudity. There have been virtually no reports of child sex abuse in these groups. Child sex abuse mostly happens within families and with their relatives and in secret at night in their homes.)
1-11-18 EU top court told same-sex spouses have residence rights
A senior adviser to the European Union's top court has backed a Romanian gay man's right to have his US husband live with him in Romania. EU countries should recognise the right of all spouses to residency even if they do not allow gay marriage, according to the advocate general for the European Court of Justice. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Romania. Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton, an American, married in Brussels in 2010. EU law permits a non-EU spouse of an EU citizen to join his or her spouse in the member state where the European national resides. But the Romanian authorities refused a request for a residence permit for Mr Hamilton, saying he could not be recognised as the spouse of an EU citizen because Romanian legislation prohibits marriages between same-sex couples. The couple challenged the decision, saying it was discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation. Romania's constitutional court then referred the case to the European court (ECJ). ECJ Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said the term "spouse" included, under the freedom of residence of EU citizens and their family members, spouses of the same sex. "Although member states are free to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex or not, they may not impede the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his or her spouse of the same sex, a national of a non-EU country, a right of permanent residence in their territory," he said.
1-10-18 Trump blasts courts after Daca Dreamers ruling
President Donald Trump has criticised the US courts after a judge blocked him from ending protection for migrants who entered the US illegally as children. Mr Trump said the court system was "broken and unfair". In September, he rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), but San Francisco Judge William Alsup said it had to stay while litigation against Mr Trump's move continued. The Obama-era scheme protects some 800,000 people. It also provides temporary permits for work and study. Mr Trump attacked the ruling on Twitter: "The opposing side in a case (such as Daca) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts." Judge Alsup's court is the District Court for the Northern District of California. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals commonly examines appeals of rulings made in Judge Alsup's court and others. Earlier, White House press spokeswoman Sarah Sanders described the ruling as "outrageous". (Webmaster's comment: The real horror is that Trump is replacing the judges with judges that will side with him. This is exactly what Hitler did!)
1-10-18 Judge blocks Trump's move to end Daca Dreamers scheme
A US judge has blocked attempts by the White House to end a programme barring the deportation of children brought illegally to the US by parents. In September, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme. But San Francisco's Judge William Alsup ruled it must stay in place while litigation against the move continues. The Obama-era scheme protects some 800,000 people, and also provides temporary permits for work and study. In his ruling, Judge Alsup stated that "the government is hereby ordered and enjoined, pending final judgment herein or other order, to maintain the Daca programme on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the rescission". He said the justice department's argument that the scheme was illegal was based on a "flawed legal premise". The district judge ordered the government to process renewal applications from people who had previously been covered. However, this would not be the case for those who had never before received protection under the programme.
1-10-18 Giuliana Farfalla: German Playboy cover to have transgender model
The German edition of Playboy magazine will feature a transgender model on its cover for the first time. Giuliana Farfalla, 21, will be topless, a tradition for such magazines in Germany. She is well-known after featuring in a reality TV series. Editor-in-chief Florian Boitin said Farfalla was a "beautiful example of how important the fight for the right to self-determination is". US Playboy featured a transgender model in its centrefold spot last year. Farfalla, born Pascal Radermacher in the south-western German city of Breisgau, said that early in her childhood she felt she was in the wrong body. She underwent gender reassignment surgery at the age of 16. On Instagram, Farfalla said she was "super proud" of the magazine, which will be available on newsstands on Thursday. Last year, she was a participant in the television series Germany's Next Top Model. Farfalla said she hoped the experience would encourage other transgender and transsexual people. Having Farfalla on Playboy's cover, Boitin added, was in line with magazine creator Hugh Hefner's tradition of being "resolutely opposed [to] any form of exclusion and intolerance". French model Ines Rau made history last year by becoming Playboy's first transgender Playmate.
1-9-18 Trump gives 200,000 Salvadoreans deadline to leave US
Donald Trump's administration has decided to cancel permits that allow nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador to live and work in the US. They were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after earthquakes rocked the Central American country in 2001. Salvadoreans now have until 9 September 2019 to leave or face deportation, unless they find a legal way to stay. The Trump administration has already removed TPS protection from tens of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans. Protections for Salvadoreans were set to expire on Monday, after nearly two decades of holding the humanitarian status due to the impact of the natural disaster that killed more than 1,000 people. The latest announcement comes four months after the government said it planned to scrap an Obama-era scheme, Daca (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), that protected young undocumented immigrants, mostly Latin Americans, from deportation. Lawmakers in Congress have been given until March to decide on the fate of the 800,000 so-called Dreamers affected by the Daca decision. (Webmaster's comment: Getting rid of the non-whites one Trump ruling at a time. Making America White Again!)
1-9-18 Don't make the poor work for health care
Trump's next policy push is an ill-considered conservative fixation that will hurt the needy. e Trump administration just won't learn its lesson. Fresh off some of the most detested policymaking in American history, the White House is about to turn to another unpopular conservative obsession: Work requirements. Republicans have long argued that too many able-bodied adults are getting a free ride from the government. During the Obama years, they took specific issue with the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, the government program that provides health coverage to the poor, which they said benefited lots of adults who should have been working in exchange for help. Indeed, since Medicaid is jointly administered by the federal and state governments, states can apply for waivers to impose work requirements on the program. Nine states did, but the Obama administration always turned them down. But the Trump White House is changing course. It is reportedly finalizing guidelines for what circumstances under which they'll approve the waivers — and will quite likely announce a batch of approvals soon as well. Let's not mince words: This is a stupid and terrible policy decision. How stupid and terrible? Let's count the ways:
- A sizable majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already work.
- There aren't enough jobs.
- It will undercut wage growth.
- It will result in an underfunded and capricious bureaucracy.
- What about the idle rich?
(Webmaster's comment: Making the old and the sick work for minimum wages to pay for their medical care. What a nasty, hafeful, uncharitable idea!)
1-9-18 Fire and Fury: More bombshell claims from the Trump book
Donald Trump called James Comey a rat before firing him, was confused by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and trusts women more than men, according to a controversial, new book. Journalist Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House also claims the president prefers to call his billionaire friends late at night. Mr Trump contends he never spoke to Wolff, dismissing his book as "full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist". But the author has stood by his account, insisting he had access and that he believes the president has no credibility. Here are 10 more explosive revelations from Wolff's purported inside portrait of the Trump White House.
- Trump doesn't know what the KKK believes in anymore
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were terrified by then FBI director James Comey
- Trump boasted about engineering a coup in Saudi Arabia
- Trump trusts women more than men
- Bannon tried to banish McMaster to Afghanistan
- Trump declined to nominate John Bolton because of his moustache
- Trump eats McDonald's because he's afraid of being poisoned
- The president asked for locks on his bedroom door
- Trump learned of chemical attacks in Syria from a PowerPoint presentation made by Ivanka
- The president's senior aides question his intelligence
(Webmaster's comment: More news from the nut house!)
1-7-18 Weed wars: California county fights illegal marijuana
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced prosecutors are prepared to challenge states that have legalised cannabis. But in some, like California, the battle over its production is raging on.
1-5-18 Clinton Foundation investigated by Justice Department
The US Justice Department has opened a new inquiry into the Clinton family's non-profit organisation, the Clinton Foundation, US media report. The Attorney General and FBI will reportedly investigate claims Hillary Clinton engaged in so-called "pay-to-play" politics for donations. Mrs Clinton's spokesman on Friday labelled the inquiry a "sham". He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions was doing President Trump's bidding to distract from the Russia probe. The FBI has been quietly investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, according to people familiar with the inquiry, US media report. The investigation is reportedly being led by FBI agents from Little Rock, Arkansas, where the foundation was founded. They have interviewed at least one witness in the last month, reports the Hill, a Washington DC political news outlet. Agents are said to be looking into whether policy favours were traded for unspecified donations to the foundation while Mrs Clinton was secretary of state. But figures within the Justice Department and FBI doubt any charges will be brought, the Washington Post reports. (Webmaster's comment: Trump and Jeff Sessions are now using the justice department for politcal vengence! The rule of law is being corrupted!)
In an impromptu half-hour interview President Trump gave to The New York Times on Dec. 28, he made 24 false, misleading, or dubious claims—a rate of one every 75 seconds. Among them: “I am the one that saved coal” and “I think it’s been proven there is no collusion.” In 2017, fact-checkers found, Trump made 1,950 false or misleading claims.
1-5-18 Why do US evangelicals support Trump's Jerusalem policy?
US Vice-President Mike Pence's trip to Israel has been postponed, amid Palestinian protests against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. But why does the move remain popular with evangelical Christians in the US? The Reverend Johnnie Moore, a 34-year-old evangelical Christian, is closer than most to President Trump. During the election campaign, he was co-chair of Mr Trump's evangelical advisory board. He has met the president and his team "several times" - most recently last month - and speaks to the White House regularly. In July, he even posted this picture of the president at prayer. So he seems a good person to ask. When Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, did American evangelicals support him for Biblical reasons, as has been reported? Because of a belief in the Battle of Armageddon? The End Times? The second coming of Jesus Christ, and a thousand years of peace?
1-5-18 ‘Swatting’ death
Police in Wichita shot an unarmed man to death at his home last week while responding to a false report of a hostage situation phoned in by a prank caller in Los Angeles. Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old father of two, was shot after he went outside to investigate suspicious noises, only to find his home surrounded by officers ordering him to put his hands up. An officer opened fire when Finch didn’t immediately comply, believing that he was reaching for a weapon. It’s believed to be the first fatal incident of “swatting,” in which hoaxers report false crimes in hopes of getting a SWAT team deployed to someone’s house. Some reports have suggested a dispute in the online video game Call of Duty was behind the hoax, with one player falsely listing Finch’s address as his own. Tyler Barriss, 25, who was arrested in California for making the prank call, has served jail time for false bomb threats.
1-5-18 Latin America’s rising tide of authoritarianism
Democracy had a lousy year in Latin America, said José Fernández Santillán. In May, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro “consolidated his dictatorship” by sweeping aside the elected, opposition-controlled legislature in favor of his handpicked Constituent Assembly. He calls it “communal power” in “a poor echo of the Soviets.” Bolivian President Evo Morales, meanwhile, spent his year trying to secure an unconstitutional fourth term in office. After he organized, and lost, a referendum on the matter in February 2016, Morales took the fight to Bolivia’s pliant Constitutional Court. This November, it ruled that term limits violate office-holders’ human rights. He’ll stand for a fourth term in 2019. In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández had his crony-stuffed Supreme Court declare that he could ignore the single-term limit and run for re-election. After the country’s November election, authorities took weeks to count votes, leading many to believe the government was stuffing ballot boxes. Hernández has been declared the winner, but regional leaders are calling for a new election. The one bright spot was Chile, where former President Sebastián Piñera won a December election. His defeated opponent promptly congratulated him, and current President Michelle Bachelet invited him to her office for an orderly transition. We can only hope that 2018 brings us more examples of such “republican civility and respect for institutions and laws.”
1-5-18 Poland: A showdown with the EU
Democracy is in retreat in Poland, said Adam Szostkiewicz in Polityka (Poland). Less than three decades after we threw off the yoke of Communist rule, Poland again faces the possibility of a single party wielding total power over all aspects of the state—including the judiciary. The ruling Law and Justice party appears to share the Communists’ belief that “judges should serve the party and be controlled by the authorities.” Sweeping legislation passed last month will force the retirement of all Supreme Court justices ages 65 and over—a criterion met by nearly half of the court’s 86 judges, including its president, Malgorzata Gersdorf, an outspoken critic of the government. The Law and Justice–dominated legislature will then pick their replacements. It’s just the latest in a series of “authoritarian attacks on civil rights and freedoms” by this government. A TV network, for example, was recently fined for covering an opposition protest. Is democracy dying here? Or is it already dead? This judicial takeover represents an existential crisis for the European Union—one far worse than Brexit, said Bernd Riegert in Germany’s DW.com. Unlike the U.K., Poland doesn’t want to leave the union. Instead it wants to flout the bloc’s founding values—such as respect for the rule of law—while reaping the benefits of membership. And Poland’s close allies Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic want the same thing; they just haven’t gone as far yet. This year will be a turning point for the 28-nation union. If the bloc lets the nationalists get away with such flagrant rule breaking, “the EU in its present form will be at an end.”
1-5-18 Tweeting hate
The deputy leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was being investigated by prosecutors for possible incitement to hatred this week after posting anti-Muslim messages on social media. Angry that state police had issued a New Year’s greeting in Arabic as well as French, English, and German, Beatrix von Storch tweeted, “What the hell is wrong with this country?” and asked whether police wanted “to appease the barbaric, rapist hordes of Muslim men?” Twitter took down her post and a similar one by another AfD lawmaker, and suspended von Storch’s account. Her message referred to New Year’s Eve 2015, when there were mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other cities, allegedly by groups of Muslim men. The AfD is the third-largest party in the parliament.
1-5-18 Legal weed
California’s law permitting sales of recreational marijuana went into effect this week, making the state the sixth to legalize pot and creating the nation’s largest legal marijuana marketplace. Eager buyers lined up in the early hours of Jan. 1 outside dispensaries in cities, including San Diego and Berkeley, that have embraced the voters’ decision last year to legalize pot sales for adults over 21. But it could be some time before legal weed becomes widely available throughout the state, with pot sellers facing substantial bureaucratic hurdles as the state refines how to regulate sales. Many municipalities have yet to finalize their own rules for marijuana businesses, and others have banned sales outright. The new law is expected to generate at least $1 billion a year in tax revenue for the state. More than 1 in 5 Americans now live in a state where they can legally buy recreational marijuana.
1-5-18 Marijuana legalization is the next great winning issue for Democrats
Ditch the antiquated drug warrior nonsense and light up. Marijuana is under attack. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ending former President Barack Obama's policy of allowing states to experiment with their own legal marijuana proposals. Instead, the issue will be left up to local U.S. attorneys, most of whom have been appointed by President Trump. At least some of the state-level experiments in fully legalized marijuana are at risk of going up in flames. Sessions is a longtime opponent of marijuana, so no one should really be surprised that he's going after legal pot. Still, it's a terrible new policy — and it opens up a big, easy opportunity for Democrats, who must ditch their antiquated drug warrior baggage and join Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in getting behind legal marijuana immediately. For one thing, legal marijuana is extremely popular, and getting more so by the minute. Gallup's poll shows support for legalization increasing from 40 percent in 2008 to 64 percent as of October 2017. It's also an excellent issue for driving youth turnout — support has increased among all age cohorts, but especially among millennials, 71 percent of whom supported legalization in October 2016.
1-4-18 How the Dead Sea Scrolls survived a war in the 1960s
Excerpt from the January 20, 1968 issue of Science News. The famous Dead Sea Scrolls, rumored lost or damaged during the June war between Israel and Egypt, are safe, according to Antiquity…. On the eve of the war they were packed up and put safely in a strong room in the basement of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (Rockefeller Museum), according to a reliable authority. — Science News, January 20, 1968. The Dead Sea Scrolls made news again in 2017 when archaeologists announced the discovery of a cave with new evidence of scrolls. The cave, close to the original 11 caves that housed scrolls near Qumran in the West Bank, held several broken jars and linen like that used to wrap the scrolls. The pottery dates to roughly 2,200 years ago and is typical of the kind used to store scrolls. One large jar still held a blank fragment of hide, possibly intended to be written on. Two rusty pickaxes located near that jar suggest looters took scrolls from the cave several decades ago.
1-4-18 Trump Bannon row: 11 explosive claims from new book
Donald Trump was "befuddled" by his election win, did not enjoy his inauguration and was scared of the White House, according to a new book. Journalist Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House also purports to lift the lid on Ivanka Trump's secret presidential ambitions. The book details Mr Trump's regard for media titan Rupert Murdoch, though the admiration was apparently not mutual. The White House said the book was full of "false and misleading accounts". Michael Wolff says his work is based on more than 200 interviews and that he took up "something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing" following the president's inauguration for a close-up insight into the fledgling administration. Here are 11 of the book's revelations, with commentary from the BBC's Anthony Zurcher.
- Bannon thought Don Jr meeting 'treasonous'
- Trump 'befuddled' by his victory
- Trump 'angry' at inauguration
- Trump loved 'pursuing' friends' wives
- Trump found White House 'scary'
- Ivanka hopes to be president
- Ivanka mocks dad's 'comb-over'
- White House unsure of priorities
- Trump's admiration for Murdoch
- Murdoch calls Trump 'idiot'
- Flynn knew Russia ties 'a problem'
1-4-18 Trump Bannon row: Lawyers seek to halt book's release
Lawyers for US President Donald Trump are seeking to stop the release of a book containing damaging allegations about his administration. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is due for release on Tuesday. It cites former top aide Steve Bannon as describing a meeting with a group of Russians as "treasonous". It also questions Mr Trump's fitness for office, reports his wife was crying on election night and says Ivanka Trump has presidential ambitions. The White House has disputed the book's accuracy. Mr Trump earlier said Mr Bannon - who was sacked in August - had "lost his mind" after losing his White House position. Among a number of explosive statements, Mr Bannon reportedly said, referring to a Trump Tower meeting between top campaign officials and Russia: "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV." The meeting, which involved Mr Trump's eldest child Donald Trump Jr, is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his inquiry into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia to win the election. Mr Trump strongly denies any collusion took place. On his Breitbart radio show on Wednesday, Mr Bannon responded to the president's criticism by saying he was a "great man" and that he supported him "day in and day out". (Webmaster's comment: Never has our govenment had such incompetence in the White House and in the people supporting it!)
1-4-18 Trump scraps his own voter fraud commission
US President Donald Trump has scrapped the voter fraud commission he set up in May to investigate his own allegations of illegal voting. A White House statement said many US states had refused to cooperate with the commission. Mr Trump has said fraud had cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election. His rival Hillary Clinton won three million more votes overall than Mr Trump in results that were certified by the Federal Election Commission. In a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump had decided to dissolve the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity "rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense". Democrats had alleged the voter fraud commission is a ploy to suppress left-leaning voters. Mr Trump won the all-important electoral college vote in November 2016 by prevailing in Midwestern states; however, Mrs Clinton gathered more ballots nationwide - known as the popular vote. The Republican president has insisted he in fact won the popular vote, "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally", without offering any evidence for the claim. State election officials have disputed Mr Trump's claim and many states refused to provide the commission with information for all their registered voters, including their names, addresses, political affiliation and voting history.
1-4-18 The life of a transgender boxer in Thailand
Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk is a champion Thai boxer who has racked up more than 150 wins, 30 of which have been knockouts. Rose is also transgender. Born Somros Polchareon, Rose identified as a woman at a young age. She may look different than her male competitors in the ring, wearing a sports bra, red lipstick, and braids. But Rose is a formidable Muay Thai boxer. Muay Thai is a boxing style that allows competitors to use every part of their body except their head to attack an opponent. The full contact sport runs in the family — Rose and her twin brother were actually named after a famous pair of Thai boxing brothers. Rose, who is in her early 20s, was mesmerized by the sport at an early age. She began learning fighting techniques from her uncle when she was 8 and entered a local boxing match the same year. Rose quickly outshined her siblings and becoming a local star. When she was 13, Rose realized she was attracted to boys. "It wasn't hard for me to recognize what I am," Rose told the Bangkok Post in 2015. She soon matched her looks to her gender identity, but refused to give up boxing. In Thailand, many transgender people feel they are treated as second-class citizens. There is also a stigma against transgender boxers. Opponents in rural towns often refuse to fight Rose. "They would say they didn't want to fight with a gay person, as it would be embarrassing if they won or lost," she told Reuters. "I still face those insults, but I don't care about them."
1-4-18 Canadian cannabis grower Aurora heads to Europe
A Canadian marijuana maker is set to sell cannabis in several European countries after striking a deal with Denmark's biggest tomato producer. Aurora Cannabis is partnering with Alfred Pedersen & Son to produce cannabis for medical use in Europe. The greenhouses used for tomatoes can be converted to grow the drug as both plants have similar growth needs. The joint venture will focus on selling cannabis in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Aurora Nordic Cannabis will build a production facility that can produce up to 120,000kg of cannabis annually, Aurora said. Alfred Pedersen was granted a licence to cultivate cannabis from Denmark's Medicines Agency this week. The drug has become legal in Denmark as part of a four-year trial, allowing patients with illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis to obtain cannabis on prescription. It remains illegal for recreational use.
1-4-18 Medicinal cannabis: Australia aims to become top exporter
The Australian government has said it aspires to be the world's leading exporter of medicinal cannabis. The nation plans to change its regulations to join Canada and the Netherlands in selling products beyond a domestic market. Uruguay and Israel have announced similar plans. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the move would also help local patients. Australia legalised the use of medicinal cannabis in 2016. Using the drug for recreation remains illegal. "Our goal is very clear: to give Australian farmers and manufacturers the best shot at being the world's number one exporter of medicinal cannabis," Mr Hunt said. Changing national regulations will require parliamentary approval. That could happen as soon as February with support from the Labor opposition. The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported the changes would extend of products including oils, patches, sprays, lozenges and tablets.
1-4-18 Turkey minister Soylu tells police to break drug dealers' legs
Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has been criticised for saying police should break the legs of drug dealers who are seen outside schools. The Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) and secular opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet both accused Mr Soylu of incitement to commit a crime. He pledged to take the blame for it. "If a dealer is near a school the police have a duty to break his leg. Do it and blame me. Even if it costs five, 10, 20 years in jail - we'll pay." He was speaking at a public meeting on security, at a hall in the Turkish capital, Ankara. He said the security forces' seizure of 20 tonnes of heroin in 2017 had made it a record year for drug hauls. He said Turkey must fight drug dealers just as it fights the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). "What we are doing to the PKK terrorists we must also do to drug dealers - no one can poison our future. What the security officer does is my responsibility." (Webmaster's comment: Brutal physical punishment without even a trial! The Philippine government and now Turkey's government are now both operating outside the law just like Hitler did. America will be next.)
1-4-18 The forgotten Swiss diplomat who rescued thousands from Holocaust
A Swiss diplomat has been credited with leading the largest civilian rescue operation of World War Two. But instead of being applauded for saving thousands of Jewish lives, he was reprimanded and - until recently - largely forgotten, as the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports. In a suburb of Switzerland's capital, Berne, there is a quiet street called Carl Lutz Weg. Ask people passing by, and no one seems to know much about him. Read the fine print on the street sign, though, and there is a clue: Swiss Vice-Consul to Budapest, 1942 to 1945. There are more clues at the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs. It holds bound volumes containing thousands of letters, each stamped by the government of Switzerland, each with photographs of families. The Geigers: Sandor, Istvan, Eva and Janos. Or the Brettlers: Izsak, Mina and Dora. They are a record of Carl Lutz's attempts to stop the Nazis deporting thousands of Jews from Budapest to the death camps. A seasoned diplomat, Lutz had served as the Swiss consul to Palestine, then under British mandate, in the 1930s. He was transferred to Budapest in 1942. Hungary had already joined the war on Germany's side in 1941, and in 1944 the Nazis occupied the country. "After the German occupation of Budapest, the Hungarian Jewry in the countryside was in very quick succession deported to Auschwitz," says Holocaust expert Charlotte Schallié. "Lutz realised he needed to act very quickly." Ms Schallié believes that what Lutz went on to do means he can be compared to Oskar Schindler, the German who saved Jews by employing them in his factories (and who was later immortalised in the film Schindler's List).
1-3-18 Kansas 'swatting' victim's mum demands to see body
The mother of a man who was fatally shot by Kansas police after a "swatting" prank call is pleading with officials to let her view his body. Innocent father-of-two Andrew Finch was shot by Wichita Police six days ago after a video-gamer reported a fake hostage situation at Finch's home. In a letter, his mother accuses city officials of "compounding our grief and sorrow, by keeping my son from us". A man who has been jailed previously for hoax calls has been arrested. Police have said they believe the phone call was an act of "swatting" where a person makes a false report to send police to another person or fake address. "Please let me see my son's lifeless body," Lisa Finch wrote in a letter to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and Police Chief Gordon Ramsey on Tuesday. "It goes without saying that our family is devastated by what has happened," she wrote. Her letter includes a request that police reveal the name of the officer who fired the deadly shot, and that he be prosecuted. "What cannot go without saying is why Wichita City leadership is compounding our grief and sorrow, by keeping my son from us?" she adds. "I want to hold him and say goodbye. Please immediately return his body to us." (Webmaster's comment: Shoot to kill first and ask questions later seems to be the policemen's standard procedure.)
1-3-18 Trump's war on Justice
Last week, President Trump told The New York Times that when it came to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russia scandal, "I think he's going to be fair." This was widely misinterpreted as being at odds with the broader Republican message that Mueller is leading an out-of-control probe staffed by maniacal anti-Trump partisans. It wasn't that at all. For Trump, a "fair" investigation is one that exonerates him, just as when he whines about how he's being treated unfairly by the media, he means that they aren't praising him in the fulsome manner he believes he deserves. More than anything else, predicting Mueller would be "fair" to him was an expression of Trump's typical confidence that he'll triumph in the end. But there's a long way between here and there, and as the investigation proceeds Trump is going to ask members of his party to follow him to some uncomfortable places. At the very least, the president who promised to bring back "law and order" will want his followers to demean and discredit the Justice Department, the FBI, and any other entity that should happen to get in his way. The closer the probe gets to Trump, the more it has to be attacked. This weekend we learned that the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia began when the Australian government alerted our government that Trump flunky George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat "during a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016" that the Russians had damaging information on Hillary Clinton drawn from emails. In other words, the FBI wasn't on the case until someone from the Trump campaign forced them to look into it.
1-2-18 How Trump wields unprecedented control over America's judiciary
In less than a year, President Trump has made enough appointments to the federal courts to "reshape the judiciary." That is not an overstatement. Thanks to Republican obstruction during the last two years of Barack Obama's presidency, an unusually large number of openings on the courts greeted Trump, including the Supreme Court seat now occupied by Justice Neil Gorsuch. But aside from the obvious impact that a large number of Trump appointees will have on the judiciary, there is another way in which the president is breaking with precedent to influence judicial decision-making. Recent research in political science demonstrates that by explicitly naming judges as potential future Supreme Court nominees, Trump increases the likelihood of judges attempting to pander to his preferences in their behavior from the bench. That's what Ryan Black and Ryan Owens, professors of political science at Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively, found in their paper, "Courting the President: How Circuit Court Judges Alter their Behavior for Promotion to the Supreme Court." Simply put, judges have career ambition, like anyone else. So, when vacancies appear higher up the chain — the federal Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, for example — judges who are believed to be candidates for promotion try to make themselves more appealing to presidents. They become more likely to vote with the president's preferences, to rule in favor of the United States, and to write dissenting opinions.
1-2-18 Trump's war on immigrants
It is both malicious and gratuitously petty. The Trump administration's malice toward immigrants isn't only evident in harsh deportation and other enforcement policies. You can also see it in the White House's acts of gratuitous pettiness. Case in point: the recent declaration that it plans to revoke the work authorization of spouses of foreign techies on H-1B visas. Unlike almost every other visa category, spouses of H-1Bs, 90 percent of whom are women, receive H-4 visas that allow them to live in the country but, until recently, not work or start a business. Spouses of diplomats, investors on E visas, and intra-company transfers on L visas have never faced such restrictions. This didn't make any sense. But it didn't matter all that much when transitioning from H-1Bs to green cards took only a couple of years. But in the last decade, average wait times have ballooned to six years. And for tech workers from China and India, wait times are now approaching two decades. This means that Chinese and Indian H-1B spouses are effectively frozen out of the U.S. labor market during their most productive years. Currently, about 1.5 million H-1B families are stuck in green card limbo land.
1-2-18 Californians can now buy marijuana for recreational use
The state already has a booming marijuana industry, on 1 January, it California became the sixth US state to make marijuana legally available for recreational use. On 1 January, California became the sixth US state to make marijuana legally available for recreational use. Because the state is the nation’s most populous, the move could hasten cannabis’s legalisation across the US. California banned cannabis in 1913, but penalties for using the drug have eased since the 1970s. In 1996, it was the first state to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes. Since 2016, it has been legal to grow, possess and use small amounts of the drug. The state already has a booming marijuana industry, producing as much as seven times more cannabis than is consumed there. Much of this is sold illegally in other states. According to Alex Traverso of California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, around 100 dispensaries in the state were licensed to sell cannabis for recreational use on Monday. The bureau had worked over the holiday period to try to process 1,400 licence applications for marijuana-related firms. Recreational marijuana has already been legalised in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Washington. Legal sales of the drug are expected to begin in Massachusetts later this year. “A third of the US now has legal access to marijuana for non-medical use,” says Steve Rolles of the UK drug regulation think tank Transform. “California may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, forcing the government to review federal legislation which currently rules the drug to be illegal.”
1-2-18 German AfD MPs under fire for anti-Muslim New Year's Eve messages
Two German far-right politicians are being investigated by police over anti-Muslim messages on New Year's Eve. Two German far-right politicians are being investigated by police over anti-Muslim messages on New Year's Eve. Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the AfD party, had her Twitter account temporarily suspended on Monday after posting an inflammatory message. She accused Cologne police of appeasing "barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men" after they tweeted a new-year message in Arabic. Another politician is being investigated after supporting her. Alice Weidel, one of the party's leaders, wrote on Facebook that authorities were submitting to "imported, marauding, groping, abusive, knife-stabbing migrant mobs". Police say both women may be guilty of incitement to hatred. If so, they could face fines or a prison sentence. A new German law, which came fully into force on January 1st, means social media companies have to act against hate speech. Failure to do so could lead to fines of up to €5m ($6m; £4.4m). (Webmaster's comment: Europeans are banning hate speech. Why can't we?)
1-1-18 Germany starts enforcing hate speech law
Germany is set to start enforcing a law that demands social media sites move quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material. Sites that do not remove "obviously illegal" posts could face fines of up to 50m euro (£44.3m). The law gives the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law-breaking material. Social networks and media sites with more than two million members will fall under the law's provisions. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law's main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in its provisions. The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) law was passed at the end of June 2017 and came into force in early October. The social networks were given until the end of 2017 to prepare themselves for the arrival of NetzDG. The call to police social media sites more effectively arose after several high-profile cases in which fake news and racist material was being spread via the German arms of prominent social media firms. Germany's justice ministry said it would make forms available on its site, which concerned citizens could use to report content that violates NetzDG or has not been taken down in time. As well as forcing social media firms to act quickly, NetzDG requires them to put in place a comprehensive complaints structure so that posts can quickly be reported to staff. Most material will have to be removed within 24 hours but networks will have a week to act on "complex cases".
1-1-18 Recreational cannabis use becomes legal in California
California has become the largest state in the US to legalise recreational cannabis use. As of 1 January 2018, adults aged over 21 can possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of the drug and can grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Opponents say the law will lead to more driving under the influence of the drug and introduce young people to drug use. But business is eyeing what could be an industry worth tens of billions of dollars in the next few years. Californians voted in favour of Proposition 64 legalising cannabis 14 months ago, in a poll that took place alongside the US presidential vote. Since then, a complicated patchwork of taxes and regulations has been drawn up to govern sales of the drug. Critics say the red tape will discourage consumers, growers and retailers from leaving the state's vast black market and only a few dozen shops have so far been approved to open. The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have yet to sanction any recreational marijuana outlets. "The first year, two years are going to be a mess," as cities agree their own regulations and supply and demand is established, Troy Dayton told AFP news agency. He is the CEO of Arcview, a company that analyses the global cannabis market. He predicted there could be "crazy fluctuation in price over the first year or two". Nonetheless, the potential rewards are huge in the US's wealthiest and most populous state. In 1996, California was the first state to legalise marijuana for medicinal use.
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