You are not Alone!
116 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for May 2018
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
5-31-18 5 Things to Know About Evangelicals in America
Americans who identify themselves as "born-again" or evangelical: 41%. There are many contemporary references to "evangelicals" in the context of the current American political scene. This is not new. I co-authored (with Stuart Rothenberg) a book aptly called The Evangelical Voter during the Reagan presidency more than 30 years ago, focusing on this group of voters and their impact on politics. There was then and is now no universally agreed-on definition of exactly who or what an evangelical is in American society. Within Christianity, still by far the dominant U.S. religion, all adherents are to some degree supposed to be evangelical in their life outlook -- spreading the gospel to other people. But in contemporary use, the term has come to be associated with a particular subset of Christians -- variously defined in terms of their religious affiliations (such as identifying with certain Christian denominations), their beliefs (for example, belief in an inerrant Bible), their practices (such as church attendance), their intensity (such as importance of religion), and through self-definition (for example, Do you identify as evangelical?). In recent decades, the term has been associated with a particular group of Christians who hold conservative and generally Republican ideological and political beliefs, as exemplified by recent news headlines such as these: "Poll: White Evangelical Support for Trump Is at an All-Time High," "Evangelicals Keep Faith in Trump to Advance Religious Agenda," and so forth.
- There has been little change in the percentage of Americans who identify as "born-again or evangelical" over the past 27 years.
- There have been shifts in other religious indicators over this same period, even as the born-again/evangelical population has remained generally constant.
- The born-again/evangelical population in this country is highest among blacks, who are overall the most religious racial and ethnic group in the U.S.
- Non-Hispanic whites who identify as born-again or evangelical have been and continue to be more likely to have Republican inclinations.
- A significantly smaller percentage of Americans identify as "an evangelical" than identify as "born-again or evangelical."
5-31-18 Lithuania and Romania complicit in CIA torture - European court
The US holds terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay without charging them. European judges have ruled that Lithuania and Romania violated the rights of two al-Qaeda terror suspects by allowing the CIA to torture them. The US captured Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri after the September 2001 attacks in the US and they are now at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The CIA operated secret prisons, including in Lithuania and Romania. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said both countries had violated the European prohibition of torture. The ECHR issued a similar ruling against Poland in 2014. Lithuania and Romania were ordered to pay €100,000 (£88,000; $117,000) in damages each to Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, respectively. The ECHR was unable to visit the suspects at Guantanamo. The existence of the so-called CIA "black sites" for interrogation - under the so-called "secret rendition" policy - was kept secret for many years after 9/11. Abu Zubaydah, a stateless Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, is thought to have been al-Qaeda's chief recruiter in the 1990s, and later became a key organiser, linking Osama Bin Laden to other al-Qaeda cells. Saudi-born Abd al-Nashiri led al-Qaeda's operations in the Gulf region, according to US intelligence. He allegedly masterminded the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, which left 17 dead. The ECHR ruling said Romania hosted a CIA prison in 2003-2005, where Abd al-Nashiri was subjected to "an extremely harsh detention regime". The ruling said he suffered "inhuman treatment... which Romania had enabled by co-operating with the CIA". The same verdict was issued against Lithuania, concerning Abu Zubaydah. The CIA prison in Lithuania operated in 2005-2006. Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, headed "Prohibition of Torture", says: "No-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." (Webmaster's comment: The United States is a rogue state using Nazi tortures on criminal suspects.)
5-31-18 Ambien can cause bizarre behaviour – but not racist tweets
Roseanne Barr has blamed the sleeping pill Ambien for her racial attack on a former Obama adviser. The drug is known to cause a range of strange side effects. The sleeping pill Ambien is in the spotlight after being implicated in TV star Roseanne Barr’s racial attack on Barack Obama’s former adviser Valerie Jarrett. In a since-deleted Twitter post, the actor blamed the slur on late-night “Ambien tweeting”. She also claimed that she had previously done “weird stuff” under the influence of the drug, like cracking eggs on a wall. In response, the drug’s manufacturer Sanofi hit back: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” The sleeping pill – which goes by the generic name zolpidem – has a long history of public controversy. In 2006, US congressman Patrick Kennedy blamed the medication for crashing his car. In 2011, actor Charlie Sheen said he had taken the pill on the night he trashed a hotel room the year before. In 2014, Australian Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett was found half-naked and incoherent in a hotel foyer after reportedly taking the drug. Since being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1992, zolpidem has become one of the most popular sleeping pills on the market. In the US alone, more than 30 million prescriptions are dispensed each year. Most users don’t experience problematic side effects, but the drug is known to trigger bizarre behaviours in a small minority. Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA documented more than 2300 cases of abnormal sleep behaviour and almost 900 cases of hallucinations in people using the medication.
5-31-18 Americans' Strong Support for Euthanasia Persists
A broad majority of Americans, 72%, continue to believe that doctors should be legally allowed, at a patient's and a family's request, to end a terminally ill patient's life using painless means. While support for legalized euthanasia is strong across nearly all subgroups of Americans, men, young adults, Democrats and liberals are especially likely to favor it. Support drops below a majority only among weekly churchgoers. Since 1990, support has not dipped below 64% and has been as high as 75%. And since 2013, at least 69% of Americans have supported euthanasia for terminally ill patients.
- 72% say doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die
- Fewer, 65%, express support when the question includes "commit suicide"
- 54% think doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable
5-31-18 Chile transgender: 'Growing up here is torture'
"I live in a rough neighbourhood and there are drug dealers in our building. I went to them and told them that my son was going to start dressing as a girl and that I hoped they would support us and talk to their children, so he wouldn't get bullied," recalls Jacqueline. "Surprisingly they have all been fantastic. They congratulated me on my courage and I have never had any problems," she says, laughing, while recounting the moment her son Vicente became Sofía. But it has not all been plain sailing for Jacqueline and eight-year-old Sofía. Chile, where they live, is socially conservative, and transgender people who want to change their name have to go through a lengthy application which can take years to complete. Transgender rights groups say it is a humiliating process which involves getting reports from psychologists and psychiatrists, and stripping off to have naked photos taken to show what sex they are. One of those who has not yet been able to complete the legal process is Daniela Vega, the Chilean actress who made history by becoming the first transgender presenter at the Oscars ceremony. Speaking at a news conference following the ceremony, she complained that, in Chile "I have a name on my identity card that is not my name". A gender identity bill - which would allow trans people to identify themselves with their preferred names rather than their assigned ones - is currently being discussed in congress. It has the backing of President Sebastián Piñera and would make changing your sex and name on your ID a quick process which could be done at a registry office. But the details are still being discussed, including what the minimum age will be.
5-30-18 Untangling 4 immigration controversies
Not all the horrible stories coming from the U.S.-Mexico border have anything to do with Trump. But the one Trump is complaining about is his alone. There's been a lot of fulmination recently over what is happening on America's border with Mexico. Some people are furious over the Health and Human Services Department's (DHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children, and others by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enacting the Trump administration's de facto policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. President Trump, meanwhile, bizarrely and falsely appeared to blame Democrats and a nonexistent "horrible law" for his administration's policy of separating children from their parents. Cut through the noise. Here's what you need to know:
- The case of the "lost" children: There are two groups of minors remanded into Office of Refuge Resettlement custody after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without proper documents: those who come by themselves, usually teenagers from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; and those separated from their parents.
- Separating parents from children: This is part of the "zero tolerance" immigration policy that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early May, though ICE tested it out along the Texas border in October.
- Sex abuse allegations against ICE officers and contractors: Last week, the ACLU released a report detailing hundreds of complaints of sexual abuse threats and other misconduct against children by U.S. border agents and contractors between 2009 and 2014, based on more than 30,000 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
- Border Patrol agent fatally shot unarmed Guatemalan woman in the head: Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a 20-year-old from an indigenous village in Guatemala, was fatally shot in the head by a Border Patrol agent soon after crossing illegally from Mexico into Rio Bravo, Texas, last Wednesday.
5-30-18 Roseanne blames racist tweet on sleeping pills
Roseanne Barr has blamed sleeping pills for her tweet likening an African-American former Obama aide to an ape. The comedian said on Twitter her offensive post was a result of "ambien tweeting" - although she has since removed this comment. Ambien is a sedative used as a sleeping aid. Barr's tweet said Valerie Jarrett was the child of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes film. ABC network has cancelled Roseanne's sitcom in response to the racist tweet. The television network said: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values and we have decided to cancel her show." The reboot of her hit sitcom Roseanne has been a ratings winner. (Webmaster's comment: She appealed to the worst elements in American society.) Barr deleted Monday night's post and said she was leaving Twitter, but has since posted a flurry of tweets including one claiming other comedians "have said worse". In another tweet, the TV star said what she did was "unforgiveable" and, while asking fans not to defend her actions, tried to explain away the post as having been caused by the effects of the sedative Ambien. "I apologise to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans," Barr wrote following the outcry, defending her remarks as a "joke". "I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me - my joke was in bad taste." Barr's initial tweet came in response to another Twitter user, who accused Mrs Jarrett of helping to conceal purported spying during the Obama administration. Mrs Jarrett was a senior adviser to US President Barack Obama, and worked with him during his early days in Chicago politics. She was born in Iran to African-American parents.
5-30-18 ABC drops Roseanne show after racist tweet
ABC TV network has cancelled comedian Roseanne Barr's sitcom after she posted a racist tweet likening an African-American former Obama aide to an ape. ABC said: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values and we have decided to cancel her show." Barr's tweet said Valerie Jarrett was the child of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes film. The reboot of her hit sitcom Roseanne has been a ratings winner. Barr deleted Monday night's post and said she was leaving Twitter, but later posted a flurry of tweets including one that said she made the comment after taking a sedative - which she has since deleted. "I apologise to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans," Barr wrote following the outcry, defending her remarks as a "joke". "I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me - my joke was in bad taste." Barr's initial tweet came in response to another Twitter user, who accused Jarrett of helping to conceal purported spying during the Obama administration. Jarrett was a senior adviser to former US President Barack Obama, and worked with him during his early days in Chicago politics. She was born in Iran to African-American parents. MJarrett was not the only target of Barr's Twitter tirade in recent days. On Monday, the 65-year-old entertainer claimed Chelsea Clinton - daughter of former US President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton - was married to a relative of billionaire investor George Soros in a tweet. Barr tweeted an apology to Chelsea Clinton on Tuesday. (Webmaster's comment: Barr and Trump are cut from the same cloth! She is racist to the core and Trump appeals to racists to gain politcal power and advance a racist agenda.)
5-30-18 India police officer threatened for saving Muslim man from mob
An Indian police officer hailed as a hero for protecting a Muslim man from being lynched by a mob has begun receiving death threats, police say. Gagandeep Singh, an officer in the northern state of Uttarakhand, shot to fame after a video of him saving a Muslim man from a Hindu mob went viral on social media last week. The man was visiting a temple with his Hindu girlfriend. The mob surrounded the man and tried to attack, accusing him of "love jihad". The term has been popularised by radical Hindu fringe groups who accuse Muslim men of participating in a conspiracy to turn Hindu women from their religion by seducing them. When the video was first shared online, many called Mr Singh a "role model" for all Indians, and his story was carried in many mainstream Indian publications. "I was just doing my duty. Even if I was not in uniform, I would have done the same thing and every Indian should do the same," he was quoted as saying by local media. However it did not take long for people to criticise Mr Singh's actions, accusing him of defending "indecent behaviour". Police officials working with him have said that he has received threats to his life, and has been sent on leave. Some politicians have also publicly justified the actions of the mob. (Webmaster's comment: Hatred of Muslims is not just in the United States.)
5-29-18 Starbucks shuts 8,000 US stores for race training
Coffee chain Starbucks has shut all 8,000 company-owned branches in the US for an afternoon to carry out "racial bias" training. About 175,000 employees are taking part. The aim is to prevent discrimination in Starbucks cafes. The move comes after the firm had to apologise over last month's arrest of two black men who were waiting to meet someone in a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Following the incident, protesters have been calling for a Starbucks boycott. Starbucks's CEO Kevin Johnson apologised on behalf of the company, promising to take action. Starbucks cafes shut across the US at about 14:00 local time. Employees are being taught how to handle unconscious bias, in an effort to ensure all customers are treated fairly. The closure could cost an estimated $20m (£15m) in lost sales. Employees will be watching videos about bias featuring company leaders and rapper Common, the company said in a statement to preview the "curriculum". "We realise that four hours of training is not going to solve racial inequity in America," Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz told CNN on Tuesday. "We need to have the conversation. We need to start." In an open letter to customers on Tuesday, Mr Schultz thanked them for their "patience and support as we renew our promise to make Starbucks... an inclusive gathering place for all". At the same time, about 6,000 licensed Starbucks cafes will remain open at airports and grocery stores. Those working there will be trained later. The merits of Tuesday's training are hotly debated, the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan reports. Some have praised Starbucks, but others see it as a publicity stunt which will do little to end the persistent problem of racial profiling in the US, our correspondent says.
5-29-18 Police officer filmed punching woman on New Jersey beach
Police in the US state of New Jersey have opened an inquiry after a video emerged showing an officer punching a woman in the head during an arrest. The footage, posted on social media on Saturday, shows three officers from the Wildwood Police Department attempting to detain Emily Weinman, 20. Ms Weinman was later charged with illegal possession of alcohol on the beach and for resisting arrest. Two of the officers have been placed on administrative duty, officials said. The incident, which occurred on a beach on Memorial Day weekend in the US, shows Ms Weinman being wrestled to the ground in a swimsuit and shorts. With one officer on top of her, she kicks out at another, who then holds her legs down by gripping her ankles. One officer is then seen punching her in the head with his fist before placing her in a headlock and pinning her to the ground. Eyewitnesses can be heard in the recorded footage urging Ms Weinman, who is from Philadelphia, to stop resisting the police officers. The video was captured by Alexis Hewitt, 19, of Williamstown, New Jersey. She said she was with friends when she was startled awake by the commotion. "When she fell that's basically when it caught my eye because everyone was yelling and I woke up, and I got my camera out right when she went down," Ms Hewitt told ABC News. Ms Weinman was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after she was found in possession of alcohol on the beach, police said. She was also charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault on a police officer "by spitting bodily fluids". The Wildwood Police Department said it had opened an internal investigation over the actions of its officers after it was made aware of the reports. (Webmaster's comment: We need laws allowing citizens to legally defend themselves from brutal police attacks and laws for immedately arresting police who brutally attack citizens. None of this administrative duty nonsense!)
5-29-18 This teenage girl is fighting for gun control in Wyoming. Will anyone listen?
In conservative Wyoming, firearms are part of the fabric of everyday life. So when one teen, upset about school shootings, began to call for gun control, the resistance began at home. Alan Engdahl was driving home after an overnight shift in the oil field when his truck picked up a scratchy radio signal out of Gillette. It was the first sign of civilization since he had disappeared the afternoon before down 50 miles of wind-whipped prairie and rutted gravel roads, so Alan and his co-worker listened to the disc jockey tick through community news. Cattle prices were flat. T&T Guns had antique rifles on special. The Cowboy Draw lotto was up to $1 million. "And here's something you don't hear every day," the radio host said. "We apparently have a liberal gun protest happening right here in Gillette." Alan had rarely heard anything described as liberal in northeast Wyoming, and now he listened as the DJ explained how 10 Campbell County High School students had marched downtown the previous afternoon to demand tighter gun laws. They said they wanted mandatory background checks on all gun purchases. They said they wanted to build a gun-control movement in solidarity with survivors of a shooting in Parkland, Florida. But this was Wyoming, where the high school yearbook devoted four pages to "Hunting: No Greater Sport" and a local club funded college scholarships by raffling off AR-15s. The protesters had been met downtown with middle fingers and the warning of suspensions. "They should be expelled," Alan remembered joking to his co-worker. "That bleeding-heart nonsense might fly in New York or D.C., but in Wyoming? That's treason." Wyoming has more guns per capita than any other state, and more than 80 percent of adults in Campbell County have firearms in their homes. Alan once owned more than 250 until he committed a drug felony in 2006 and lost his legal right to own guns. He parked at a ramshackle house on the outskirts of town, where the newspaper waited at the kitchen table. On the front page he noticed a story about the gun protest, the first that anyone could remember in Gillette. "A Walkout for Change," the headline read. Above that was a picture of several students marching, and there in the midst of them, holding a protest sign, was his 16-year-old daughter, Moriah.
5-29-18 The resegregation of America
If you want to get a good measure of the intense racial segregation of Washington, D.C., just head southeast on the Green Line subway around 5 p.m. Once that train leaves the L'Enfant Plaza station, it will reflect the demographic fact that east of the Anacostia River, the city is overwhelmingly black. This sort of thing is not at all uncommon. Indeed, a recent study of metropolitan segregation found that D.C. is actually towards the middle of the pack in terms of segregation — considerably better than the most segregated American city, Milwaukee. It's also no accident — segregation everywhere reflects residues of deliberate government policy, mainly in the form of enormous subsidies of white enclaves, and measures to corral black residents in impoverished ghettos. The least segregated cities are generally newer ones, built after redlining and other forms of discriminatory policy were repealed. But segregation is still immensely harmful, worsening poverty, directly causing sickness (particularly asthma and lead poisoning), poor student outcomes, and more. It's long since time for a return to bold integration policy, for housing and for schools. Let me start with schools. After the civil rights movement, liberals generally agreed that something needed to be done to remedy the legacy of Jim Crow in addition to restoring voting rights for African-Americans in the South. Black schools, in particular, were systematically overcrowded and underfunded. One common solution for hundreds of school districts trying to comply with federal court orders to desegregate was to shuffle some students around between districts to create a reasonable racial balance. In a truly classic American tradition, whites across the country — South and North alike; Boston's Louise Day Hicks was probably the most prominent anti-integration activist — reacted with purple-necked fury. (Webmaster's comment: The first objective is to resegregation America, then to reensalve it!)
5-29-18 Hungary to criminalise migrant helpers in crackdown
The Hungarian government has drafted new laws to criminalise those who help irregular migrants seeking asylum. If passed in its current form, the legislation could make printing leaflets with information for asylum-seekers and offering them food or legal advice a criminal offence. The constitution will also be amended to prevent other EU countries from transferring asylum seekers to Hungary. Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is defying EU policy on migration. Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia oppose an EU scheme for relocating 160,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea to EU partners of Italy and Greece, where migrant camps are overcrowded. The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest says Hungary's parliament is debating the draft laws despite the fact that very few migrants or refugees try to enter Hungary now, due to a double-thickness razor-wire fence on the southern border. Mr Orban's right-wing Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority in parliament; the vote on the new laws is expected to happen next week. Mr Orban was re-elected last month for a third term. The legislation is called a "Stop Soros Act", reflecting the government's antipathy towards billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom it accuses of encouraging Muslim immigration to Europe.Hungary's Magyar Hirlap daily says prison sentences, ranging from a few days to a year, are envisaged for people who smuggle migrants in, help them to get asylum or who fund illegal immigration. (Webmaster's comment: Making helping unfortunates a crime. How evil can a goverment be?)
5-29-18 'I want to produce the world's best cannabis'
In the blistering heat of the Coachella desert, armed security guards ensure there are no unwanted visitors at a gated industrial complex. The smell is a giveaway before you step inside the nondescript buildings. With dozens of fans whirring, and under bright lights, Lars Havens shows us thousands of cannabis plants being cultivated by his company, Del-Gro. Most of the seven-acre (2.8ha) site is still being developed but several rooms are already operational. Lars has been a nurse, a professional rugby player, mixed martial arts fighter, and a bar manager. Now he's hoping to capitalise on the world's biggest legal marijuana industry. On 1 January this year, California began licensing local businesses to grow cannabis for sale within the state. The total economic output from America's legal cannabis, worth $16bn (£12bn) last year, is forecast to grow 150% to $40bn by 2021, according to BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research. Last year, Aspen, Colorado, became the first US city to sell more marijuana than alcohol. "I moved out here to California to put forward a product that connoisseurs are going to be interested in," says Lars. "I want to produce the world's best cannabis." His product will have to be good, because legal producers will never be able to beat California's illegal dealers on price. Lars claims cannabis is the "most heavily taxed product" in the whole state, taxed at close to 40% when all the various levies are taken into account, and that this might be unsustainable. "I think you'll start to see some deregulation on taxes, because right now they're almost pricing themselves out of the market." California's new laws also made it illegal to export the drug out of state, raising concerns about overproduction. This has been a major problem in Oregon, where there's simply too much cannabis, and farmers have seen prices drop by 50%. It shows the difficulty and unpredictability of creating a legal market for something which is already available on the black market.
5-28-18 Sorry, white people: Black women are not trying to save you
When Stacey Abrams became the first black woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in Georgia on Tuesday, it was a sign of things to come. There are 603 black women candidates running in 2018, and while it's impossible to say whether that's a record, it certainly feels like one. In 2018, it's clear that black women are done being ignored and they’re done looking to save White America come election time. They're looking to save themselves. In the special elections following President Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential contest, black voters have repeatedly delivered for the Democrats, crushing turnout numbers in Virginia and, most notably, Alabama. As a result, liberals across the country have sung their praises, thanking black women for delivering them from further Republican dominance. "Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because #BlackWomen led us to victory," Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez tweeted after Democrats upset the GOP in Alabama. Yet black women's turnout this year was really no surprise. Long the foundation of the Democratic Party, black women routinely vote at the highest rate of any gender or racial subgroup in the American electorate. During the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, for example, 95 percent of black women turned in ballots for Barack Obama. In 2012, more than 70 percent of black women voted, outvoting black men (61.4 percent), white men (62.6 percent), and white women (65.6 percent) by large margins. And while their raw turnout numbers may have dipped slightly in 2016, they still overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party by giving 95 percent of their votes to Hillary Clinton. In fact, since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964, black Americans have never given Democrats less than 80 percent of their vote.
5-28-18 The gay mayor shaking up politics in Catholic Poland
Robert Biedron is one of Poland's young, rising political stars. He's an atheist in perhaps Europe's most Catholic country and its only openly gay politician. And now he is being viewed as a frontrunner for Poland's presidency. "I'm a dreamer. I was born in a very traditional, conservative part of Poland. I am gay and being an atheist, it wasn't easy for me," says Mr Biedron, mayor of Slupsk, a city about 18km (11 miles) from the country's Baltic Sea coast. He is being talked about as one of the leaders of a new progressive political movement that is being organised. A former Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has urged him to run for president in 2020. Opinion polls put him third behind the popular incumbent, Andrzej Duda, and the ex-prime minister and current European Council President, Donald Tusk. Robert Biedron has made his political career to date seem surprisingly easy. A left-wing former gay rights activist, the 42-year-old became Poland's first openly gay MP in 2011 and then Slupsk mayor in 2014. "As an MP I was beaten up four or five times on the street," he says. "Now, they are all smiling at me and greeting me." Several minutes later a man does exactly that. The mayor points out that a few years ago things would have been different. "They would probably have said 'You faggot', or they would spit at me. Today, they say 'Good Morning Mr Mayor' and this is a sign of change." Polish attitudes to homosexuality are evolving but gay marriage is still outlawed, unlike in many Western European countries. That's galling for Mr Biedron, who as mayor marries many couples. "I'm extremely jealous because I see their happiness. I'm 15 years with my partner and it's still a dream. It's not fair that in 2018 two adults cannot get married if they love each other and are committed to each other," he said.
5-27-18 Want to be a good doctor? Study the humanities.
Improving the humanities studies in medical schools can lead to better doctors. A 3-year-old was newly diagnosed with a brain tumor called a medulloblastoma. The pediatric oncologist, aware of the steep odds against the child's survival, explained the diagnosis and counseled the family. The doctor performed a bone marrow biopsy while singing the alphabet to soothe the child. Eventually, she comforted the family when their child died, tears in her eyes. As a medical student who was new to witnessing death, I could feel the grief of both the family and the physician. Later, as a doctor in training, I actively cared for a child with congenital heart disease as he died of multi-system organ failure. Eventually, when I became the doctor in charge, I determined the treatment course and was responsible for guiding the conversation when a patient's death was imminent. Recently, I told these stories in an introductory undergraduate religion class that asked the students to consider how best to support a patient who is dying. Do you cry with the patient? Is it acceptable to be detached? Is it okay to resume your life and laugh a few hours later? Further: How, where, and from whom do you learn these skills? Most of the students were science majors and hoping to become doctors. They understood the general idea that how you experience death and dying changes over time, and is not the same process for everyone. But they also wanted to know what makes a good doctor. As a philosophy major in college before medical school, I believe I learned what it means to be a good doctor just as much from my humanities classes as from my science classes. Studying the humanities helps students develop critical-thinking skills, understand the viewpoints of others and different cultures, foster a just conscience, build a capacity for empathy, and become wise about emotions such as grief and loss. These are all characteristics that define a good doctor.
5-25-18 Trump's tribalist revival
If politics is about policymaking, then Donald Trump's presidency thus far has been an exercise in weakness and ineptitude. But if politics is about something deeper than policy — about moving and shaping public opinion, and thus shifting the political landscape at a more fundamental level — then the distressing truth is that President Trump has been remarkably effective in his nearly three years at the center of American public life. Since he declared his candidacy for president in June 2015, Trump has managed, above all, to revive and empower a tradition of tribalistic American patriotism that had grown largely dormant over the past half century. The president warns ominously that immigrant children ("alien minors") are "not innocent"; the NFL responds to the president's racialized taunts by warning football teams that they will be fined for their players' refusal to stand for the national anthem; Trump suggests that players who persist in their protest of police brutality by kneeling during the anthem "shouldn't be in the country" — in these examples from just the past two days, we can see Trump and his rhetoric tapping into and unleashing something old, potent, and poisonous in American life. The president's critics are wrong to describe these sentiments as "un-American." On the contrary, they are profoundly American, drawing on some of the deepest and darkest currents in our history.
5-24-18 The new war
More people have been killed at American schools this year than have been killed while deployed in the U.S. military.
5-24-18 Texas school shooting renews debate over causes
A small Texas town was in mourning this week, after a 17-year-old student armed with his father’s shotgun and .38 revolver opened fire at his high school, killing eight students and two teachers and wounding 13 others. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a football player whom classmates described as an introvert, entered an art class at Santa Fe High School, about 35 miles southeast of Houston, shortly after 7:30 a.m. and yelled “Surprise!” before shooting. He later surrendered after a 25-minute standoff with police. Among those killed was a 16-year-old female student who had repeatedly rebuffed Pagourtzis’ romantic advances, according to her parents. Pagourtzis’ father insisted that his son was a “good boy” who had been bullied at school and “that’s what was behind” the shooting. It was the worst school shooting since the February assault on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which prompted a wave of nationwide, student-led protests calling for stricter gun laws. Incoming NRA President Oliver North blamed the epidemic on a “culture of violence,” as well as on the prevalence of the drug Ritalin, while Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attributed the rampages to violent video games, legal abortion, and a lack of religious teaching in schools. Some students seemed quietly resigned to the violence. “It’s been happening everywhere,” one Santa Fe student said after the shooting. “I’ve always felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.”
5-24-18 A dad, a daughter, and guns
In conservative Wyoming, firearms are part of the fabric of everyday life, said journalist Eli Saslow. So when one teen, upset about school shootings, began to call for gun control, the resistance began at home. Alan Engdahl was driving home after an overnight shift in the oil field when his truck picked up a scratchy radio signal out of Gillette. It was the first sign of civilization since he had disappeared the afternoon before down 50 miles of wind-whipped prairie and rutted gravel roads, so Alan and his co-worker listened to the disc jockey tick through community news. Cattle prices were flat. T&T Guns had antique rifles on special. The Cowboy Draw lotto was up to $1 million. “And here’s something you don’t hear every day,” the radio host said. “We apparently have a liberal gun protest happening right here in Gillette.” Alan had rarely heard anything described as liberal in northeast Wyoming, and now he listened as the DJ explained how 10 Campbell County High School students had marched downtown the previous afternoon to demand tighter gun laws. They said they wanted mandatory background checks on all gun purchases. They said they wanted to build a gun-control movement in solidarity with survivors of a shooting in Parkland, Fla. But this was Wyoming, where the high school yearbook devoted four pages to “Hunting: No Greater Sport” and a local club funded college scholarships by raffling off AR-15s. The protesters had been met downtown with middle fingers and the warning of suspensions. “They should be expelled,” Alan remembered joking to his co-worker. “That bleeding-heart nonsense might fly in New York or D.C., but in Wyoming? That’s treason.” Wyoming has more guns per capita than any other state, and more than 80 percent of adults in Campbell County have firearms in their homes. Alan once owned more than 250 until he committed a drug felony in 2006 and lost his legal right to own guns.
5-24-18 Teen suicides on the rise
The number of American children and teens thinking about or attempting suicide has increased dramatically over the past decade. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that the proportion of young people treated at 49 major U.S. children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or behaviors nearly doubled between 2008 and 2015. Almost two-thirds of those visits involved girls. Older teens accounted for about half of the incidents, but 37 percent involved children between ages 12 and 14. It’s unclear what is driving this disturbing trend, reports NPR?.com. The rate of hospitalizations is much higher during the school year, suggesting that academic and social pressures are taking a toll on kids’ mental health. Social media and cyberbullying may also reinforce feelings of inadequacy. “You’re becoming more disconnected and not having relationships with real people,” says lead author Gregory Plemmons. “And at the same time, you’re being fed a false distortion of what reality is, where everything looks great on screen.”
5-24-18 Calling people ‘animals’
When President Trump denounced California sanctuary cities for protecting “animals” in the undocumented population last week, said Vann Newkirk, his defenders said he was specifically referring to the brutal MS-13 gang. No one can defend the gang, but when the nation’s leader uses the “dehumanizing” rhetoric historically employed by dictators and demagogues in justifying purges, wars, and genocides, it has disturbing implications. Since the day he announced his presidential candidacy, Trump has publicly associated undocumented immigrants with murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. That animus has been reflected in “real policy.” His administration has been locking up hardworking immigrants without criminal records at record rates, filling “frigid detention centers” to capacity, and separating mothers from children. Those are indeed policies that “might be reserved for animals.” When leaders characterize groups of people as less than human, they broaden “what’s acceptable.” Consider how Trump supporter Aaron Schlossberg, a New York City attorney, berated people in a restaurant for speaking Spanish last week, threatening to have them deported from “my country.” “That’s what happens when people stop being people.”
5-24-18 War on the innocent
About 65 percent of those arrested by ICE from October 2017 to the end of March had no criminal convictions—compared with 21 percent during the same period the year before, and 13 percent the year before that.
5-24-18 An attorney named Aaron Schlossberg
An attorney named Aaron Schlossberg was videoed ranting to the manager of a New York City sandwich shop about several employees and customers speaking to one another in Spanish. “I pay for their welfare,” Schlossberg said. “The least they can do is speak English.” The attorney threatened to have the people speaking Spanish “kicked out of my country.” The clip went viral. Twitter users identified Schlossberg and found previous videos of his ranting in public, photos of him at Trump rallies, and records of his law firm donating to the Trump campaign. The company that leases Schlossberg’s office terminated its agreement, and more than 100 protesters gathered outside his apartment, where a five-man mariachi band performed.
5-24-18 Trade: Did Trump wimp out on China?
Coming from the best-selling author of The Art of the Deal, the so-called trade deal President Trump struck last week with China sure “doesn’t look too artful,” said Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times. Trump, a protectionist who sees trade deficits as the ultimate evil, had been threatening to slap tariffs worth up to $150 billion on Chinese imports, as punishment for Chinese trade practices that Trump likened to “rape.” But when a Chinese delegation resisted his negotiators’ demands at talks in Washington, Trump’s tough talk evaporated—as it so often does. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the threatened trade war is now “on hold.” The self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Negotiator came away with only a vague pledge from the Chinese to “significantly increase” their spending on U.S. goods—which China’s expanding middle class is already doing. “Trump’s trade agenda is deeply confused,” said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow are Wall Street free traders, while Trump chief trade adviser Peter Navarro is a fierce, anti-China protectionist. The Chinese exploited this division in the Washington talks, as well as Trump’s desperation for China’s help in his upcoming summit with North Korea. “On Team USA, it’s been amateur hour.”
5-24-18 The trans-Atlantic relationship is in trouble
“The trans-Atlantic relationship is in trouble. No American president has ever been as widely loathed among Europe’s political class as Donald Trump. And not since the era of Freedom Fries and Axis of Weasels have so many European countries, this time including Britain, been spoiling for a fight with the U.S. To the Europeans, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal and impose sanctions on European companies that trade with Iran is a profound betrayal—the act of a bully and overlord, not of an ally and friend. Europe is now actively looking for ways to inflict pain on the Trump administration in the short term, and in the long term to ensure its increasing independence from the U.S.”
5-24-18 Candidates bash Trump
In a televised foreign policy debate last week, the four main candidates vying for Mexico’s presidency all vowed to stand up to President Trump. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist who is leading presidential polls by double digits, declared: “Trump is going to have to learn to respect us. That I can guarantee you.” Ricardo Anaya, the candidate of a left-right coalition who is polling a distant second, was tougher, saying, “You can’t appease tyrants and bullies. You have to confront them.” The election is July 1, and President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose popularity plummeted and never recovered after he invited Trump to Mexico during the 2016 U.S. campaign, can’t run again.
5-24-18 SCOTUS: Companies can force arbitration
In a decision “affecting as many as 25 million workers,” the Supreme Court ruled this week that companies can require employees to settle wage disputes and other matters through individual arbitration rather than in class-action suits, said Robert Barnes in The Washington Post. In a 5-4 decision, with the conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that federal law favored arbitration over “costly and time-consuming litigation.” But in a dissent read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision “egregiously wrong,” saying it puts workers at a disadvantage, because they must give up the ability to collectively pursue claims that a company has shortchanged or treated them unfairly. “The ruling is a devastating blow to employees who are required to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment,” said Cristian Farias in NYMag.com. Though the case at hand concerned wage disputes, it remains unclear whether discrimination and civil rights claims will be affected, as the majority opinion did not mention them. Employers are now expected to make millions of additional workers sign contracts containing arbitration clauses. Hours after the decision, one law firm unveiled an automated tool for companies that prepares custom arbitration agreements with class-action waivers. (Webmaster's comment: So the individual employee will have to take on the giant corporations with all their millions and billions all by themselves. Talk about a ruling for the rich.)
5-24-18 The outlook for new grads
The job prospects of America’s newly minted college graduates are, sadly, “not great,” said Jeff Spross. For Americans ages 21 to 24 in possession of a bachelor’s degree, the current unemployment rate is around 5.3 percent, about where it was before the 2008 financial crisis. On its face, that doesn’t sound too bad. But considering that during the late-1990s boom the rate was down to 4.3 percent, it’s hardly ideal. Things look even worse when you factor in the rate of underemployment, which includes people who are working part-time but who want a 40-hour-a-week job. Underemployment for young people now is well over 10 percent, significantly higher than in 2007 or the late 1990s. “Remember too that a lot of recent college grads have to take jobs that don’t actually require a college degree.” As of March of this year, 42.5 percent of college grads ages 22 to 27 had jobs that didn’t require their education level, compared with 38.3 percent in 2000. Moreover, the hourly wages of young college graduates are just a few dollars higher now than they were in 1989. New grads have distinct advantages in the job market, so they are hardly the “least fortunate Americans.” But their situation suggests the recovery remains very much a work in progress. “And if it’s not working for them, it’s going to be even worse for others.”
5-24-18 The teachers’ revolt
Public school teachers are striking for better pay and increased funding for their classrooms. Are they winning?
- Where are teachers striking? Public school teachers have mounted statewide walkouts in six states since the beginning of the year, thronging state capitals with demonstrations to demand better pay and increased funding for their classrooms.
- Why these states? Almost all of the protests have been in states where Republican-dominated governments have dramatically cut education budgets over the past decade.
- How have cuts impacted teachers? They’ve been devastating. A recent NPR survey of more than 500 teachers found that 59 percent work a second job to make ends meet, while more than 8 in 10 have bought school supplies with their own money to be able to do their jobs.
- Have the strikes succeeded? Teachers have won pay raises and some funding increases, but say their grievances have not been fully addressed.
- What does the public think? Voters overwhelmingly support the teachers’ demands. A recent poll found that 90 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans think teachers aren’t paid enough.
- What’s next? Teacher pay is becoming an issue nationwide. Although teachers are relatively well paid in higher-tax states such as California and New York, the average national teacher salary decreased 4 percent between 2008 and 2017, when adjusted for inflation.
- Seeking political power: Teachers are turning to electoral politics in hopes of reversing years of budget cuts. In Kentucky, 40 protesting teachers have announced plans to run for seats in the state legislature, including eight Republicans.
5-24-18 More Say 'Nature' Than 'Nurture' Explains Sexual Orientation
Half of Americans in Gallup's 2018 Values and Beliefs poll say that being gay or lesbian is a trait from birth, easily eclipsing the 30% who believe it is a product of upbringing and environment. This is consistent with findings over the past few years. Another 10% say both explanations play a role, while 4% attribute being gay to something else and 6% are unsure. When Gallup first asked this "nature vs. nurture" question in 1977, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) said being gay or lesbian was due to people's upbringing and environment, and only 13% saw it as a birth trait. Attitudes didn't shift markedly until after 1989. Between 1989 and Gallup's next update in 1996, the percentage believing sexual orientation is determined at birth jumped from 19% to 31%, and reached 40% by 2001. Opinion remained steady for the next 12 years, as Americans were roughly split between the two positions. Since 2012, the percentage assigning sexual orientation to nature rather than nurture has inched up another 10 percentage points.
- 50% of U.S. adults say people are born gay or lesbian
- 30% attribute being gay to upbringing and environment
- Support for "nature" view still lags among conservative-oriented groups
5-24-18 Beware the new military-technology complex
Why big tech working with the Pentagon and law enforcement is so worrisome. People who tuned in to Sky News' livestream of the Royal Wedding over the weekend got a glimpse of the future of technology: An Amazon service called Rekognition was able to identify celebrities' faces via on-screen captions. Can't place that familiar-looking face? Now you don't have to. How nifty! But what seemed like a cute addition to the broadcast took a more sinister turn on Tuesday when the ACLU published a report on other ways Amazon is deploying Rekognition. This facial-recognition technology is being hawked to police departments all over the country as a way to cheaply track and catch suspects, and some, such as the Orlando PD, have already begun testing it. An Amazon director has even bragged that the service could be used by Orlando to "find the whereabouts of the mayor through cameras around the city," The New York Times reports. The adoption of cutting-edge technology by police forces and other arms of government isn't new, of course. But the reports about Rekognition come on the heels of revelations about a broader involvement by the tech world in creating instruments of surveillance and tools for the military, almost like a new "military-technology complex" to replace the military-industrial complex of the 20th century. As technologies like AI and machine learning become more commonplace and sophisticated, consumers are going to have to ask whether they want to support companies who dabble in the business of war and law enforcement. The big tech companies are already dabbling, however. Recently, it was revealed that there was something of an internal revolt at Google over whether the company should be providing its AI to the U.S. military to improve the capacity of drones to recognize people and objects. Four thousand employees signed a letter asking CEO Sundar Pichai to stop work on Project Maven, the name given to the operation.
5-24-18 Trump: NFL kneelers 'maybe shouldn't be in country'
President Donald Trump has praised an NFL ban on players kneeling during the national anthem, questioning whether such protesters should stay in the US. He said: "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country." The interview was aired a day after the NFL said clubs will be fined if players kneel for the Star-Spangled Banner. The players have been protesting over perceived police brutality since 2016. In an interview with Fox & Friends filmed on Wednesday, Mr Trump said of the NFL's decision: "The people pushed it forward, not me. I brought it out." Last autumn in Alabama, Mr Trump called on protesting players to be fired. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'" Mr Trump said at the time. "That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for." Under the new league policy, teams can be fined an undetermined sum if players protest on the field. Players are permitted to stay in the locker room as the anthem is performed. They previously were required to be present on the field.
5-24-18 Sterling Brown: Milwaukee police release arrest video
Milwaukee police have released video of officers using a stun-gun on a basketball player over a parking violation. NBA player Sterling Brown was arrested and stunned in January after parking in a disabled space. Until now, the police had refused to release the 30-minute video to the public; it shows that Mr Brown does not seem to physically resist the arrest. Police chief Alfonso Morales apologised for his officers' behaviour after an internal investigation. Speaking shortly after the release of the body cam footage, Mr Morales said he was sorry the incident "escalated to this level", declaring certain officers had "acted inappropriately" and had been disciplined. Mr Brown announced on Wednesday he would be taking legal action against the Milwaukee police department. Mr Brown made a statement after the release of the video. After "what should have been a simple parking ticket" turned into "unlawful use of physical force", the statement reads, Mr Brown said the police actions have "forced me to stand up and tell my story". "Black men shouldn't have to have their guard up and instantly be on the defensive when seeing a police officer, but it's our reality and a real problem," the Milwaukee Bucks player said. "I will take legal action against the Milwaukee Police Department to continue forcing change in our community." His team also released a statement, calling the police's actions "shameful and inexcusable". "There needs to be more accountability," the statement says. (Webmaster's comment: The officers should be arrested for physical assault, tried, and imprisoned! They are not above the law!)
5-23-18 Scientists develop 'mind-reading' algorithm
Researchers are using data from recorded brain activity and software algorithms to generate images reconstructed from a person's memory.
5-23-18 Gavin Grimm trans bathroom lawsuit backed by federal judge
A US judge has ruled that federal law protects a transgender student's right to use the bathroom corresponding to his gender identity. In the latest legal twist to a long-running case, a Virginia court rejected Gloucester County school board's bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Gavin Grimm, a student who has since graduated. Mr Grimm sued after his school barred him from using the men's bathroom. He said he felt an "incredible sense of relief" after the ruling. "After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old, I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law," he said. Mr Grimm's case has been the most prominent in the debate over which bathroom transgender people should be permitted to use, a debate that has come to the forefront of LGBT rights over the past few years. This decision does not completely end his case, but the judge on Tuesday ordered the school board to arrange a settlement conference within 30 days. "The district court's ruling vindicates what Gavin has been saying from the beginning," said Joshua Block, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. US district judge Arenda Wright Allen's ruling said the school's argument was "resoundingly unpersuasive", and she refused to throw out Mr Grimm's claim as the school had requested.
5-23-18 Pope Francis' cunning long game
The quiet revolution continues. Pope Francis' stealth reform of the Roman Catholic Church shows no sign of slowing down — and may even be accelerating. Stealth is key here. If the pope had declared earlier this month that henceforth the Roman Catholic Church would authoritatively teach that homosexuals should be happy being gay, that God made them homosexual, and that God himself (along with the pope) loves them just the way they are, it would have been a massive story in the history of Catholicism — and one that quite likely would have precipitated a major schism, with conservative bishops and priests (mainly in North America and Africa) formally breaking from Rome. But because word of the pope saying these things comes to us second hand, in a report of a private conversation between Francis and a gay man named Juan Carlos Cruz who is also a victim of the clerical sex abuse crisis in Chile, the utterance will go down as just the latest example of the pope making unorthodox statements in settings in which he has plausible deniability and in which he can claim he was speaking as a pastor rather than as an expositor of the church's official dogmas and doctrines. Most popes view themselves as caretakers of the church's authoritative teachings on faith and morals. When it comes to homosexuality, they would therefore be inclined to reaffirm the position laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which clearly states that homosexual desires are "intrinsically disordered" because they are not oriented to the end of procreation. (The same is true of masturbation and other non-procreative sex acts.)
5-23-18 In U.S., Estimate of LGBT Population Rises to 4.5%
The percentage of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) increased to 4.5% in 2017, up from 4.1% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2012 when Gallup began tracking the measure. The latest estimate is based on over 340,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup's daily tracking in 2017. Gallup's LGBT estimates are based on those respondents who say "yes" when asked, "Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?" Extrapolation to the latest census estimate of adults 18 and older in the U.S. suggests that more than 11 million adults identify as LGBT in the country today. The expansion in the number of Americans who identify as LGBT is driven primarily by the cohort of millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 1999. The percentage of millennials who identify as LGBT expanded from 7.3% to 8.1% from 2016 to 2017, and is up from 5.8% in 2012. By contrast, the LGBT percentage in Generation X (those born from 1965 to 1979) was up only .2% from 2016 to 2017. There was no change last year in LGBT percentage among baby boomers (born 1946 through 1964) and traditionalists (born prior to 1946).
- Rise in LGBT identification mostly among millennials
- LGBT identification is lower among older generations
- 5.1% of women identify as LGBT, compared with 3.9% of men
5-23-18 Two in Three Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage
Sixty-seven percent of Americans support same-sex marriage -- the highest level in Gallup's trend. In each of the past three annual polls, Gallup has recorded three-percentage point increases among Americans who say same-sex marriages should be legally valid. The current figure is up 40 percentage points from the 27% who supported gay marriage when Gallup first polled on the question in 1996. Some of the increases in support may be due to greater numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults getting married in the U.S. Using data for all of 2017, Gallup has found that more than 10.4% of LGBT adults are married to a same-sex spouse. This means that Americans are more likely to know someone who has married a same-sex partner, and the visibility of these marriages may be playing a role in overturning some folks' previously held opposition to their legal status.
- 67% of U.S. adults say gay marriages should be legally valid
- New high in support for gay marriage in Gallup's trend
- Democrats remain more in favor than Republicans
5-22-18 Why Spanish speakers in US are getting into trouble
Two high-profile incidents of Spanish speakers being challenged for not using English have raised familiar arguments over language and immigration in America. Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez were queuing inside a petrol station in rural Montana when a Border Patrol agent demanded to see their identification. The two US citizens were told they had been stopped because they were speaking Spanish in a "predominantly English-speaking state". In a video of the 16 May incident, Ms Suda asks the agent if he is racially profiling them. "It has nothing to do with that," the agent replies. "Ma'am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here." The women were detained for around 35 minutes before being allowed to go. US Customs and Border Protection says it is reviewing the case. Ms Suda told the Washington Post the incident left her feeling uncomfortable speaking her own language. Days later, on the other side of the US in New York City, footage of a lawyer threatening Spanish-speaking staff at a restaurant lit up social media. In the video the man threatens to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for deportations from the US, after hearing restaurant staff speaking to each other in Spanish. "They should be speaking English," he says in the video. "My next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country." (Webmaster's comment: More racial hatred by Americans.)
5-22-18 Black kids commit suicide at twice the rate of white children
After age 12, the pattern flips and suicide occurs more frequently among white children. Suicide rates for children ages 5 to 12 are roughly twice as high for black children as for white children, according to new data. But for adolescents ages 13 to 17, the pattern flips, with white kids having higher suicide rates, researchers report online May 21 in JAMA Pediatrics. The new study is based on an analysis of suicide rates among children ages 5 to 17 from 2001 to 2015. Suicide was relatively rare among young children, the scientists found, but rates for both black and white kids in the United States increased with age. “We really need to understand what are the risk and protective factors for not only suicide, but suicidal behavior in young people of color,” says study coauthor Jeff Bridge, an epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Most studies investigating psychological or social risk factors for suicide in young people are of predominantly white youth, he says. Suicide rates have traditionally been higher among white individuals for all age groups in the country. That trend does hold for older children in the study. From ages 13 to 17, black teens had a roughly 50 percent lower rate of suicide compared with white teens.
5-22-18 The great fertility reversion
Here's why America's plummeting birth rate isn't that exceptional. The CDC has come out with another report on American fertility patterns, with plenty of fodder for prophets of doom. The American birth rate took another dive, to 60.2 births per thousand women between ages 15 and 44, a sharp drop from 62.0 at the end of 2016, and an even more dramatic decline since the pre-recession peak in 2007 of 69.3. There were an estimated 3.85 million live births in 2017. The last time we had fewer total live births in America was 30 years ago, in 1987 — when the American population was only three-quarters as large as it is today. So what happened? Has something gone suddenly wrong with American culture or the American economy? Perhaps. But the more likely explanation is that America is simply reverting to the mean of other industrialized nations. Indeed, American fertility may have been less of an outlier among that group than it seemed for years now. And if that's the case, then it suggests that solutions aren't likely to be found in nostalgia for America's more fertile past. To explain how that could be, it's worth examining the data a little more closely. Along with the drop in live births, America's Total Fertility Rate (TFR) — a prediction of how many children the average woman will have in her lifetime — has dropped to a new low of 1.76, approaching the all-time low of 1.74 children per woman reached in 1976. But the TFR bases future predictions on current fertility patterns. Baby booms and busts alike attest to the fact that these patterns are quite changeable, which can throw predictions distinctly out of whack.
5-22-18 Sweden sends out leaflets on how to prepare for war
Salmon balls, tea lights and wet wipes. These are just some of the things Sweden has advised every household to stock up on in the case of war. Its government has sent leaflets to 4.7 million households explaining how to best prepare for various major crises. These include terror and cyber-attacks, natural disasters, serious accidents and military conflicts. Those who prepare improve "the ability of the country as a whole to cope with a major strain", the booklet reads. "Think about how you and people around you will be able to cope with a situation in which society's normal services are not working as they usually do," it adds. The leaflet, which is entitled If Crisis or War Comes, has been distributed amid concerns over Russia's military activities and the rise of terrorism and fake news. Under a section called "home preparedness tips", there is an eclectic list of some of the key items it says every household should have access to. It stresses the importance of having non-perishable food "that requires little water or can be eaten without preparation". The leaflet also warns that, in a major crisis, the electricity supply may fail meaning your home will quickly become cold. "Gather together in one room, hang blankets over the windows, cover the floor with rugs and build a den under a table to keep warm," it advises. If there is no electricity, it says people should prepare to keep warm and stay informed when communications systems are no longer working.
- Bread with a long shelf-life (eg tortillas and crackers)
- Precooked lentils, beans, tinned hummus
- Sardines and ravioli
- Quick-cook pasta, rice, instant mashed potatoes
- Prepared blueberry, rosehip soup, energy bars
- Woollen clothes
- Sleeping bags
- Candles and tea lights
- A radio powered by batteries, solar cells or winding
- A list of important telephone numbers
- A mobile phone charger that works in the car
5-21-18 Gun owner or not, Americans agree on many ways to limit gun violence
Deepest divides are over assault weapons and guns in schools. Despite a public debate that grows more fractious with every school shooting — from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., to Parkland, Fla., and the latest deadly attack May 18 in Santa Fe, Texas — Americans actually agree on gun policy to a surprising extent. According to a new survey of more than 2,100 people, majorities of both gun owners and nonowners support 15 potential gun restrictions or regulations, researchers report online May 17 in the American Journal of Public Health. “There’s much more agreement than one would think given the rhetoric and the fighting,” says David Hemenway, an expert on violence prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Two new questions in the survey, the third conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, give a glimpse into where Americans draw their battle lines. While more than 80 percent of gun owners and nonowners agreed on safe-handling tests for carrying concealed weapons, they disagreed on allowing those legally concealed guns onto school grounds. That idea got a thumbs-up from nearly 43 percent of gun owners but only 19 percent of nonowners. (Webmaster's comment: The blood-bath will continued as long as we allow the ownership of semi-automatic weapons!)
5-21-18 French Muslim student Maryam Pougetoux hits back over headscarf claims
A French student union leader who has been accused by ministers of using her headscarf for political gain has hit back, calling the claims "pathetic". France's interior minister has personally criticised Maryam Pougetoux, who is Muslim, for being interviewed while wearing her headscarf. "It's my faith," the student told Buzzfeed News, adding: "[My hijab] has no political function." Ms Pougetoux, 19, is the president of the student union at Paris's Sorbonne. She appeared in a documentary talking about student protests against the French president's educational reforms while wearing a hijab, or Muslim headscarf. The French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said it was a "form of promotion of political Islam", adding that the students' union Unef "should tell us what values it wants to promote, clearly and coherently". Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Ms Pougetoux's appearance in a hijab was a "provocation" that he found "shocking". Wearing the Muslim headscarf was banned in French schools and some other public buildings in 2004 but it remains legal in universities. Ms Pougetoux has also been the target of abuse on social media and said she had received "hate messages" after her phone number was shared online. She told Buzzfeed she felt "fear" and that she had to be "careful" in public "because I did not know what could happen". The student union has said that Ms Pougetoux is a victim of "racist, sexist and Islamophobic hatred".
5-20-18 Texas shooting: Houston police chief 'hits rock bottom' on gun reform
The police chief of Houston says he has hit "rock bottom" over failure to enact gun reforms after a school shooting in nearby Santa Fe on Friday left 10 dead. Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Facebook that he had "shed tears of sadness, pain and anger" over the shooting. He condemned elected officials who "called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing". The shooting was the latest in a series of deadly incidents across the US that has reignited debate about gun control. Chief Acevedo runs the police department of America's fourth most populous city, Houston, which lies nearly 40 miles (64 km) north-west of Santa Fe. His comments come as more details emerged about the attack. Police now say eight students and two teachers were killed when another student opened fire in an art class shortly before 08:00 (13:00 GMT) on Friday at the Santa Fe High School. Thirteen others were wounded in the attack, with two in critical condition. Among the dead are a Pakistani exchange student and a substitute teacher. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been charged with murder after surrendering to police. He later admitted "to shooting multiple people". He allegedly used a shotgun and a revolver taken from his father, who legally owned the weapons. It was the fourth deadliest shooting at a US school in modern history, and the deadliest since a student opened fire in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. The Florida attack spawned a nationwide youth-led campaign for gun control, and a series of proposed changes, including moves to ban so-called bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 concert-goers. (Webmaster's comment: And still we've done nothing!)
5-18-18 How America normalized the murder of schoolchildren
Don't call them "mass shootings." They are unfathomably more monstrous and devastating than that impersonal, quasi-industrial language suggests. fOr some time now it has been obvious that our language is not up to the task of describing current events. Perhaps the most obvious and dispiriting example is the more or less ubiquitous use of the phrase "mass shooting" to refer to massacres such as those that have taken place recently in Nevada, Florida, and now Texas, where at least 10 people were killed on Friday morning at a high school near Houston. When a euphemism suddenly appears and finds itself universally adopted, it is always worth asking what it is meant to conceal. The earliest use of the phrase "mass shooting" I can find appears in a volume of the Congressional Serial Set from 1920. It is part of a translation of a Bolshevik radio broadcast. The most striking feature is the combination of words "mass shooting should be applied," which suggests that we are talking about an impersonal, even a quasi-industrial process. It is about as bloodless a description of cold-blooded slaughter as one can imagine. It is also, of course, Leninist propaganda. It is curious that its language should be echoed, right down to the extraordinarily inapt use of the word "situation," in the initial "statement" — itself an especially noxious example of circumlocution, but you would be hard pressed to think of an acceptable all-purpose substitute for this genre of communiqué — offered by a representative of Santa Fe High School on Friday. Our eyes are so accustomed to skimming documents of this sort that it is easy to forget just how ludicrous they actually sound. Here we have acts of almost unimaginable savagery reduced to a vague "incident," another "situation" that has mysteriously come into being. The words are dehumanizing to an extent that is almost impossible to convey. A person, or perhaps an animal, might be described as "active," but situations and incidents cannot be. Nor in any case is "active," which simply means engaged or ready to engage in some unnamed activity, anything like the right word for describing mindless violence. Goodness knows what is being papered over by "contained. It is difficult to fault whoever is tasked with preparing this worthless account; he or she did not invent this mystifying double-speak, but if examples of this sort of thing are never discussed or criticized for their disfiguring effect upon our ability to see events clearly, I cannot help but think that the normalization of murder will become inexorable. (Webmaster's comment: Let's call it what it is: MASS MURDER OF SCHOOL CHILDREN!)
5-18-18 Santa Fe High School: Up to 10 dead in shooting
Between eight and 10 people have been killed in a shooting at a Texas high school, say police. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters the majority of the dead at Santa Fe High School were students. A student was held after the attack. Police said explosive devices were found at the school, 40 miles (65km) south of Houston, and off-campus. The death toll makes this the deadliest school shooting since the one in February at Parkland, Florida. Sheriff Gonzalez told reporters his officers were tackling a "multiple-casualty incident", but the final number of dead is unclear. He earlier tweeted: "An injured police officer is being treated, the extent of his injuries are unknown." Several students described hearing a fire alarm go off shortly before 08:00 local time. It is not clear how the alarm was activated. One witness told KTRK-TV the shooting happened in her art class, and that one person shot was a girl. "There was someone that walked in with a shotgun and started shooting," the student said, "and this girl got shot in the leg." She said that she did not get a look at the shooter, because she ran to hide. One 10th grader told networks she had an asthma attack while hiding in the woods. News helicopters filmed students emptying their backpacks in front of armed officers in a field outside the school.
5-18-18 Santa Fe High School: 'Multiple fatalities' reported in shooting
Multiple fatalities are being reported in a shooting at a Texas high school, which is on lockdown. One person is in custody in relation to the attack at the Santa Fe High School, about 40 miles (65 km) south of Houston, according to school officials. The school district has confirmed people were injured in an "active shooter" incident as classes began. It is unclear if the attacker was a student. Police have not yet confirmed any fatalities. News helicopters filmed students emptying their backpacks in front of armed officers in a field outside the school. A bomb squad is currently on scene, and several helicopter ambulances have flown victims to a nearby hospital. The sheriff of Harris County, the largest county in Texas, is at the scene and has tweeted his officers are responding to the "multiple-casualty incident" Federal officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are also helping the investigation. (Webmaster's comment: He we go again! Thank you for giving us so many guns so we can kill each other!)
5-18-18 Estonia's Kanepi town adopts cannabis leaf flag after online poll
An Estonian town has taken a cannabis leaf as the symbol in its new flag following an online poll. Kanepi, a south-eastern town and region, derives its name from the Estonian word for marijuana, "kanep". Residents traditionally grew marijuana and hemp to turn into goods such as cloth, oil, and rope. However January's poll has generated controversy because the area has a population of fewer than 5,000 but there were 15,000 votes. Some 12,000 of the votes cast were for the cannabis symbol. The chairman of the town council, Kaido Koiv, said the decision was the result of a "very democratic" process, Reuters reported. At a town council meeting on Thursday, the local government narrowly approved the decision to adopt the flag: nine members of the council voted in favour of it with eight against. The municipality was created last July through the merger of three previously separate districts and residents were given the chance to vote on a new symbol to represent the district. The possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use in Estonia is a crime punishable with a fine.
5-18-18 All Chile's 34 bishops offer resignation to Pope over sex abuse scandals
All of Chile's 34 Roman Catholic bishops have offered Pope Francis their resignations in the wake of a child sex scandal and cover-up. They asked forgiveness from victims and the Church for their "grave errors and omissions". It was not immediately clear whether the Pope had accepted the resignations. He had been criticised in Chile for his decision to ordain a bishop who is accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest. He said in January that he felt "pain and shame" over the scandal, which has rocked the Catholic Church in Chile. The bishops offered their resignation by letter after three days of crisis talks at the Vatican, during which the Pope handed them a 10-page document accusing Chile's Church hierarchy of negligence in sex abuse cases. The bishops wrote that their individual futures were in the Pope's hands, and if he did not accept their resignations, they would "continue doing our pastoral work". "In communion with (the Pope) we want to re-establish justice and contribute to repairing the damage caused," they wrote. Bishop Juan Barros, who Pope Francis appointed three years ago, is accused of using his position in the Catholic Church to try to block an investigation into the actions of his mentor, Catholic priest Fernando Karadima. Fr Karadima was an influential priest who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing young boys and was ordered to do penance. Bishop Barros has repeatedly offered his resignation to the Pope. It has been rejected several times as he was believed to be innocent of the accusations, but this time it is thought the resignation will be accepted. On Thursday three other bishops offered their resignations ahead of Friday's statement from all the bishops.
5-18-18 Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA's first female director
The US Senate has approved the CIA's first female director, despite her role in the spy agency's post-9/11 interrogation programme. Gina Haspel's confirmation in a 54-45 vote follows a partisan fight among senators about the CIA's Bush-era use of techniques such as waterboarding. Ms Haspel, a CIA veteran, once oversaw a so-called black site in Thailand after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The former CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, left to become US Secretary of State. Republican Senator John McCain - who was tortured during his more than five years in a Vietnamese prison - had earlier announced his opposition to US President Donald Trump's nominee. On Thursday, six Democrats crossed party lines to vote in her favour. One of them, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, said Ms Haspel had told him the agency should never have resorted to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He said she had pledged never to use such methods even if the president demanded it. "I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the president, who will speak truth to power if this president orders her to do something illegal or immoral, like a return to torture," he said in a speech before the vote. Two Republicans - Jeff Flake and Rand Paul - voted against Ms Haspel, meaning she would not have been confirmed without support from Democrats. (Webmaster's comment: Talk is cheap.The bottom line is she should have said no back in 2011 and she didn't.)
5-17-18 Kaitlin Bennett: Why she wore a rifle for graduation photos
A woman who slung an assault-style rifle across her shoulder for her graduation photos in the US has sparked a fierce debate over personal freedom, student protests and white privilege. Kaitlin Bennett graduated from Kent State University in Ohio with a degree in biology. The following day, the 22-year-old returned to the campus with an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle strapped to her back and posed for photographs while holding a graduation cap emblazoned with the words "come and take it". Bennett, who later posted the photographs on Twitter, says she was protesting against a university policy that prohibited students, professors and employees from carrying "lethal weapons" on campus - but allows "guests" to possess them on school grounds (but not in buildings). She noted that Kent State was the location where "four unarmed students were shot and killed by the government" - a reference to the 1970 incident where soldiers clashed with Vietnam War protesters, firing shots that hit 13 protesters and bystanders. Her tweet generated more than 4,800 retweets and 19,000 likes, sparking a swirl of publicity - both positive and negative. In subsequent social media posts and interviews, Bennett explained herself. In a Facebook post, Bennett says she was promoting "my right to defend myself". One of the primary responses from gun rights activists since the Parkland high school shooting in February is that the best way to prevent gun violence in educational settings is to do away with "gun-free zones" and allow more law-abiding citizens to carry firearms, both concealed and out in the open. (Webmaster's comment: Forget the laws. Next will be open shoot-outs to determine who is right. The lawless west returns.)
5-17-18 Viewpoint: Why racism in US is worse than in Europe
News stories emerge almost daily in the US about police being called over black Americans doing nothing more than being black. Writer Barrett Holmes Pitner explains why he thinks American racism is unique. Last week in California, three black people - a Jamaican, a Canadian of Nigerian descent, and a London native - were confronted by seven police cars as they checked out of their Airbnb because a white American thought they were robbing the house. Though they were not American, they were still subjected to racist American stereotypes - and being confronted with tense, potentially life-threatening altercations with police without ever committing a crime. I've travelled a fair amount around the world, but America's racist status quo remains unique and alarmingly oppressive. American racism is entirely complexion-based and monolithic. One's nationality is immaterial. Years ago during one of my trips to France, a woman at La Poste refused to sell me stamps because she thought I was African. When she learned that I was American, she apologised and sold me the stamps. The racism I experienced in France is totally unacceptable, but it provided an escape not afforded last week to these three visitors to America. In France, nationality usurped race, and while that can have its own problems, it was still very different from the racism back home. When I was in London, I lived in Bethnal Green during the 2011 riots, which started after London police officers killed Mark Duggan, a black man. As teenage vandals looted and set my neighbourhood ablaze, I remember casually walking down the street during the chaos and having a London police officer politely ask me to return to my flat. There was no tense exchange, I was not arrested, and I never feared for my life.
5-17-18 Evangelical White Protestants
Americans who say they have no religion now outnumber evangelical white Protestants. The number of Americans with no religion has nearly doubled since 2003—rising to 21 percent—while the number of white evangelicals has fallen from 21 percent to 13 percent.
5-17-18 Migrant Children
The Trump administration is preparing to hold migrant children on military bases, separated from their families, as part of an effort to deter people from crossing the border illegally. The Department of Health and Human Services is evaluating four military installations in Arkansas and Texas as potential shelters for minors under 18. The Justice Department recently announced plans to file criminal charges against anyone caught crossing the border illegally, and said that parents traveling with children will be held in immigration detention facilities and their children put in state custody. Today, families with children and unaccompanied minors make up 40 percent of illegal border crossings, compared with 10 percent five years ago. The military has been used to house children before. More than 7,000 migrant children were sheltered at bases in Oklahoma, Texas, and California at the peak of the 2014 child-migration crisis.
5-17-18 Know Your Teacher
A Texas public school teacher was suspended after she told students about her “future wife.” During a “Know Your Teacher” presentation, art teacher Stacy Bailey showed students a photo of the woman she went on to marry. A parent complained that Bailey was promoting a “homosexual agenda,” and school officials disciplined the teacher for sharing “personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues.”
5-17-18 Can a leader stamp out anti-Semitism?
It’s tough for a party with a neo-Nazi past to change its image, said Petra Stuiber. Heinz-Christian Strache has been trying to do just that for his Freedom Party, the junior member of Austria’s right-wing ruling coalition. The inclusion of the openly xenophobic party in government has caused diplomatic rifts. Israel, for example, refuses to meet with any Freedom Party members. And no wonder: Founded by ex-Nazis, the party from 1986 to 2000 was led by Jörg Haider, who defended SS veterans as “decent people” and called concentration camps “punishment camps.” Strache, though, seems to genuinely reject anti- Semitism. Good for him. Unfortunately, he heads a party, not a cult, and he can’t lead its members where they don’t want to go. Of course, not all Freedom Party supporters are brownshirts. But “‘individual cases’ of glorifying and/or excusing Nazism” keep popping up in this party, and only in this party. What else but a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism can explain why Freedom Party–affiliated fraternities have been found using songbooks with lyrics about gassing Jews, or that Nazi paraphernalia has been discovered in the workplaces of party officials? Strache may be no bigot. But his party certainly attracts them.
5-17-18 New York man threatens to report Spanish-speaking staff to authorities
A video of a man threatening to report Spanish-speaking restaurant workers to US immigration authorities in New York has gone viral on social media. The footage shows a customer berating staff for speaking Spanish at the premises in Manhattan. "Your staff are speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English," he tells one employee. He then threatens to call the US deportation force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "My guess is they're not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country," he says. Other patrons at the restaurant can be seen laughing at the man during the incident on Tuesday, which was captured in footage posted on Facebook and contains some strong language. Social media users have strongly criticised the man in the video, who local media report is a New York-based lawyer. ICE later criticised the recorded threat to report workers to the agency. "ICE's Tip Line is solely for the purposes of making legitimate reports of suspected criminal activity," Rachael Yong Yow, the spokeswoman for the New York field office of ICE told the New York Times. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter that the city's diversity was its strength, adding that it was home to people who share more than 200 languages. There are currently 56.5 million Hispanic Americans in the US, according to the Pew Research Centre.
5-17-18 Trump: Immigrant gangs 'animals, not people'
US President Donald Trump has said immigrant gang members are "not people" but "animals". (Webmaster's comment: So are white supremacists.) He was responding during a White House event to a point made by a California sheriff about the MS-13 gang, which was started in the 1980s by immigrants from Central America.
5-17-18 The US isn’t fertile enough to sustain itself without immigrants
For every 1000 women in the US, only around 1760 children are born, meaning the US population cannot replace itself without immigration. Last year saw the lowest birth rate in the US since 1978, according to data from the US National Center for Health Statistics. The decline in fertility in recent years means that the US population is not able to replace itself through reproduction alone. The latest statistics are based on data collected from birth records across the US, which together account for over 99 per cent of all birth certificates recorded in the country. These suggest that the total number of births in the US in 2017 was down 2 per cent on the previous year. Today, over the lifetimes of every 1000 women, there are around 1764 births – not enough to replace the population. “It doesn’t surprise me,” says Kevin Doody of the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas. “Most developed countries are seeing the same phenomenon.” Population stability is important, and has come to depend on immigration in places like the US, says Doody. “Immigration has allowed the population to increase at a healthy rate,” he says. “Without that, the population would shrink, and more of the population would be older – which we see in places like Japan.” As a result of this, Japan is set to face economic problems due to a declining workforce and an ageing population in need of health support. “The good news is that the decline is associated with a decrease in teen pregnancies, which we’re trying to avoid,” says Amy Sparks of the University of Iowa. The birth rate for girls aged 15 to 19 has been steadily declining since the 1990s, and dropped 7 per cent between 2016 and 2017. Compared to 1991, the birth rate for this age group has now dropped by 70 per cent.
5-17-18 How to fix the American drug industry
End this nightmare of complexity and waste. In America, medication is extremely expensive — and it's getting worse. Stories of Wall Street bloodsuckers snatching up the patent on some lifesaving drug and jacking up the price by many thousands of percent are routine, and reflect a broad-based increase in the price of drugs in general. But it's not just prices. The American drug system has also become sclerotic and corrupted, almost entirely geared to the commercial needs of pharmaceutical companies. In the British Medical Journal, Dr. Adam Gaffney, Joel Lexchin, and a working group of pharmaceutical policy experts published a smart plan on Thursday to address the problem, both here and in Canada — endorsed by Physicians for a National Health Program and the National Nurses' Union. The paper gives a good sense of the level of root-and-branch reform that will be required to create a medication system that actually functions on behalf of the citizenry. Let me start with the first and most obvious problem: cost. U.S. spending on outpatient drugs is a whopping $1,026 per person annually. The OECD average, meanwhile, is $515, while Denmark's is a piddling $240. That creates in the first instance a gigantic cost barrier for uninsured and underinsured people. Now, defenders of the pharmaceutical industry would argue that soaking the American (or Canadian) drug customer is necessary to fund research and development, but this is simply not the case. For one thing, 10 companies that recently developed cancer drugs spent $9 billion on R&D, and raked in $67 billion in monopoly profits as a result, reflecting the fact that what high prices are mainly producing is high profits — 23 percent versus 7 percent among Fortune 500 firms.
5-17-18 Harsh: Europe’s cannabis died just as the first farmers arrived
Cannabis – the source of the drug marijuana – virtually disappeared from Europe just as farmers arrived, so they didn’t get the chance to grow it for another 4500 years. Cannabis – the source of the drug marijuana – grew wild across Europe at the end of the Stone Age, but by the time early farmers reached the continent it was vanishing. It seems Europe’s first farmers just missed out on the opportunity to cultivate cannabis and reap its benefits – including its mind-bending properties. Researchers often use ancient pollen from archaeological deposits to work out which plants once grew in a place. However, it’s difficult to do this for cannabis, because its pollen looks just like that of a related plant, the common hop. Now John McPartland at the University of Vermont in Burlington and his colleagues think they have a solution to the cannabis/hop identity problem. He argues that wild versions of the two plants grow in different environments: cannabis on cold grassy steppes, hop in warmer woodlands. If the other pollen trapped in an ancient deposit comes from steppe-like plants, McPartland says, we can assume any cannabis-like pollen really does come from wild cannabis. The team re-examined pollen data from almost 500 European archaeological sites, dating back between 18,500 and 1200 years. They concluded that wild cannabis grew across Europe deep in prehistory. But the continent warmed up between 10,000 and 7500 years ago, so steppe-like conditions gave way to forests – and cannabis gave way to the hop. “That’s global warming for you,” says McPartland.
5-16-18 'I hated myself for Abu Ghraib abuse'
Gina Haspel has paved the way for her confirmation as new CIA director, after repudiating torture tactics used in the past. But the scars from one of America's darkest chapters, the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, still linger, as one of the men involved explains. A big, bear-sized man, Jeremy Sivits hunches his shoulders when he walks across the car park of a pizzeria in Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, trying to make himself smaller. He shoves his hands in his pockets as he stands next to me, outside where we can speak freely about the cruelty of his past, without fear of being overheard. The Abu Ghraib scandal broke on 28 April 2004 when photos taken by him and other soldiers at the prison were revealed on CBS News. The pictures showed naked prisoners heaped into a pyramid, forced to simulate sexual acts and adopt humiliating poses. One showed a US soldier, Lynndie England, holding a prisoner on a strap made to look like a leash. Another, the defining image of the scandal, showed a hooded man standing on a box and holding electrical wires. Sivits was sentenced to a year in prison for dereliction of duty, for counts related to taking a picture and failing to stop the mistreatment of detainees. In the car park, he describes lessons he's learned from the scandal - about humility, compassion and doing the right thing.
5-16-18 Do more people believe in God in Trump's America?
US Vice-President Mike Pence has said "faith in America is rising once again" - thanks to President Donald Trump. America's religious climate has shifted in recent years, but has it been in the direction Mr Pence suggests? "Faith in America is rising again because President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College," he told a crowd at a Christian conservative campus in Michigan on Saturday. "In fact, the percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis - praying, going to church, reading and believing in the Bible - has remained remarkably consistent over the decades, even as the population of the United States has grown by leaps and bounds." The vice-president also claimed that "relative to the population, four times as many Americans go to church on a regular basis than at the time of our nation's founding". According to Greg Smith, associate director for religion research at the Pew Research Center, Mr Pence's claims do not appear follow the numbers. "The data we do have do not suggest a recent increase in the share of Americans who are highly religious," Mr Smith told the BBC. "The vast majority of Americans do say they believe in God, but those numbers are ticking downward," he added. As for Mr Pence's suggestion that more Americans are going to church in modern times? Aside from sheer population differences from 1776 to now, the figures do not support that claim either, according to Mr Smith. "We've begun to see in recent years smaller but noticeable declines in the share of Americans who say they believe in God, who say religion is important to them in their personal lives, who say they pray every day and we've seen declines in the share of Americans who say they attend religious services regularly," he said. A 2017 study published in Sociological Science showed that those who are intensely religious are still going to church consistently and frequently, but once-a-week attendance is dropping. Mr Smith also noted the data shows the number of Americans identifying as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular is "growing very, very rapidly". "The share of Americans who identify with Christianity is declining because the share of Americans who identify with no religion is growing," Mr Smith said. A 2017 study by the Public Religion Research Institute also tracked a diminishing white Christian presence across the US. In 1996, 65% of Americans identified as white Christians. Over the last decade, that number has dropped to 43%.
5-16-18 Congrats on your college degree! Hope you weren't expecting a full-time job.
On America's broken promise to college graduates. Many hundreds of thousands of young Americans are on the cusp of graduating from college. What sort of job prospects await them? Sadly, it's not great, as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explains in a new paper. For Americans age 21 to 24 who have a bachelor's degree, and who aren't enrolled in further schooling, the unemployment rate is back down to where it was before the 2008 collapse — around 5.3 percent. On its face, that sounds pretty good! (It's represented by the light blue line in the graph below.) But as EPI points out, there are lots of reasons to view the post-2001 business cycle as a pretty shoddy baseline. The damage from that downturn had not yet been undone when the Great Recession hit. A better baseline is the boom time of the late 1990s, when unemployment for this cohort got down to 4.3 percent.
More telling still is the underemployment rate (the dark blue line above). This doesn't just include the officially unemployed. It includes people who are employed part-time but who want to be employed full-time and just can't find the work. It also includes people who have looked for work in the last year as well as just in the last month. Only the latter are counted in the official unemployment rate. That's significant, since the hiring rate for Americans who haven't looked for jobs in the last month is higher than it's been in decades. A bad enough economic crash can throw people out of the job search game entirely, which in turn throws off the unemployment rate. In that case, the economy is not as healthy as a low unemployment rate suggests. Sure enough, underemployment for recent college graduates remains significantly higher than it was in 2007. And it's a lot higher than it was in the late 1990s.
5-16-18 Emotional reunion after 18 years in US prison for crime he didn't commit
David Robinson served 18 years in prison, even after the real murderer confessed. The lead investigator on the case has since resigned. (Webmaster's comment: David was black of course.)
5-16-18 Beirut Pride cancelled after organiser detained
The organiser of a gay pride week in Lebanon says authorities have forced him to cancel the remaining events. Last year, Lebanon became the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week. But the organiser of this year's Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien, said he was taken to a police station overnight after security services came to an event. Mr Damien said he was asked to sign a pledge that he would cancel what was left of the week - which started on Saturday - in order to be released. Lebanon is more tolerant than most Arab countries, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people do still face sporadic police action. The second Beirut Pride festival began with brunch celebrating parents who had not rejected their children when they came out as homosexuals, and was due to include cultural events, talks and readings over the next nine days. But on Monday night, Mr Damien was called by a venue and told that agents from the General Security directorate had stopped a reading of the script of a play about homophobic crimes, saying the event required approval from its bureau of censorship, according to a statement on the Beirut Pride website. After arriving at the venue, Mr Damien was asked by "vice police" officers to accompany him to Hbeich police station, where he was informed that he would be detained overnight. On Tuesday morning he was summoned for questioning and advised that he would be released if he signed a pledge promising to cancel upcoming Beirut Pride events, according to the statement.
5-15-18 Is gun ownership increasing in Australia?
On Friday, Australia had its worst mass shooting since the nation overhauled its gun control laws more than 20 years ago. The suspected murder-suicide of a family of seven in Western Australia has inevitably revived discussion of the laws, often described as among the strongest in the world. Brought in following a 1996 massacre in Tasmania that killed 35 people, the legislation banned the use of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. It led to the destruction of more than one million guns. The country has had two mass shootings since 1996: the murder-suicide of a family of five in 2014, and the seven deaths at a rural property on Friday. However, as with debates overseas, opinions differ over what role gun laws have played in preventing or allowing tragedies, and whether changes are needed. Firearms found at the scene in Western Australia appeared to be properly licensed, authorities have said. Australians now own more guns in total than they did before the 1996 crackdown, according to figures from 2016 - the last time they were comprehensively studied. That amounts to more than three million firearms, according to separate government statistics. But gun ownership per capita has dropped by 23% during the same time, said Associate Prof Philip Alpers from the University of Sydney. "Far fewer people now have a gun in their home but some people have a lot more guns," Associate Prof Philip Alpers told the BBC. In the past 30 years, the number of households with at least one gun has declined by 75%. However, Associate Prof Alpers said that those who already own guns are buying more and registering them at a higher rate.
5-14-18 Activists mock US gun culture with Chicago 'gun-sharing' doc
A Chicago public art installation is raising eyebrows in its protest of American gun culture. The display, Chicago Gun Share Program, depicts an urban bike-sharing station, but instead pretends to offer people the opportunity to rent a rifle. A sign invites anyone to "unlock and load" a replica high-powered, semi-automatic rifle known as an AR-15. Activists say they want to raise awareness on how easy it is to "obtain a weapon of war". The installation in downtown Chicago's Daley Plaza was commissioned by the Brady Center, a gun control advocacy group. "We hope the Chicago community takes advantage of the opportunity to visit this installation and to learn just how simple it is for an everyday civilian to obtain a weapon of war," Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner, co-presidents of the Brady Center told US media. The structure, which was erected by Chicago advertising agency The Escape Pod, displays 10 fake AR-15 rifles. The legally-available weapon has been used in a string of recent mass shooting attacks, including one at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead in February. Part of the installation includes a sign featuring statistics, including data showing that many of Chicago's gun crimes were committed with weapons that were brought from neighbouring states such as Indiana. "When you rent a bike it's easy. It's easy to just rent a gun and it's easy to kill a person with it," tourist Omar Bahey Eldin, 12, told NBC Chicago after viewing the exhibit. The Brady Center advocates for banning AR-15 rifles, stricter background checks for all gun sales and the ability for a court to prohibit gun ownership from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others.
5-14-18 Ramadan fast: Should children give up food and water?
German doctors are urging Muslim parents not to have their children fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which this year starts on Tuesday evening. The Professional Association of Paediatricians would rather parents explain to their children how "fasting is unhealthy for them". "Make sure your children and adolescents drink enough. Also during the day," said a statement quoted by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Ramadan, which shifts according to the movement of the moon, is observed around the world by millions of Muslims. They abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 30 days. This year, the month coincides with longer days in early summer, which means people in Europe will be fasting for about 18 hours a day. With this year's Ramadan falling during the "most important weeks of the school year", they warn fasting, and particularly the absence of fluids, could have a negative effect on performance in school. "We always see very pale and unfocused children during Ramadan," doctors said in their statement. Some students came to see them straight from school, they said, after collapsing from "severe headaches or abdominal pain". Doctors are not the only ones concerned. German teacher associations have also repeatedly warned of the tiredness Muslim children suffer while fasting in Ramadan, local media report. (Webmaster's comment: Barbaric religious practice and obvious child abuse. Making your child ill for the sake of YOUR beliefs!)
5-12-18 America's job-market puzzle
The unemployment rate has plummeted. Why aren't wages spiking? "The job market hasn't been this good for a very long time," said Nathaniel Meyersohn at CNN Money. The unemployment rate dropped from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent in April, the lowest level since December 2000, the Labor Department reported last week. Employers added 164,000 jobs in April, "slightly below what economists were expecting but better than a comparatively sluggish March." Most of the hiring happened in professional and business services, which grew by 54,000 jobs; manufacturing added 24,000. A triumphant Trump tweeted, "3.9% Unemployment. 4% is Broken!" Yet the report also contained a "now-familiar disappointment," said David Dayen at the New Republic: stagnant wages. Average hourly earnings ticked up just 4 cents in April, for a total of about 67 cents, or 2.6 percent, over the past year. It makes sense that bosses don't like increasing pay, but periods of low unemployment, when businesses have to compete for workers, "are supposed to force their hand." The last time the labor market was this tight, wages rose at an annual rate of more than 4 percent. Our current state of affairs is "not how the economy is supposed to work." The fact that workers haven't gotten bigger raises "this far into one of the longest expansions on record remains a puzzle," said Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post. One possible explanation is that there is more slack in the economy than the unemployment rate suggests. There are "still a lot of working-age people sitting on the sidelines" who aren't counted in the official statistics. Wages won't rocket up until the ranks of those would-be workers are exhausted. Higher-earning baby boomers are also "retiring en masse" and being replaced by mostly younger, cheaper counterparts, which could be skewing the wage figures. I think the recession is "still casting a shadow," said Paul Krugman at The New York Times. Employers are loath to cut wages even when times are desperate, because it's considered "demoralizing and unfair." But they're also reluctant to increase paychecks in good times, because they're afraid of being "stuck with those higher wages if the economy turns bad again." That would explain why companies are increasingly offering one-time bonuses over raises, because it offers them more flexibility than permanent salary hikes.
5-11-18 The 'white minority' illusion
If there's one thing that's sustained liberals through the trials of the 2016 election and its aftermath, it's faith that demography will come to their rescue to ensure that they eventually prevail against the right-wing, racist populism of the Trump-era Republican Party. That assumption, which originated with the "emerging Democratic majority" thesis of the early 2000s, has animated a thousand tweets and undergirded an untold number of think pieces over the past year and a half. The most recent is Erza Klein's erudite reckoning with just how much President Trump's toxic racism and xenophobia diverges from the American norm. Klein's conclusion from a perusal of American history is: not much. The United States has never been especially liberal or democratic for non-whites, and Trump represents the last gasp of those in American life who would like to keep it that way. It's likely to be their last gasp because, as Klein writes, "if current demographic projections hold, we will be a majority-minority nation in less than 30 years." Once that happens, the country's formerly white majority will have no choice but to reconcile itself to a changed demographic reality. And that will hopefully allow historians of the future to look back at our moment to conclude that what seemed like a potentially dire threat to liberal democracy in America during the Trump administration was merely "the turbulence that has always accompanied racial progress in this country." Yes, the U.S. is on track to become at some point around 2045 a "minority white" nation — in the sense that if we lump every person who isn't white into a single demographic category of "non-white," whites will be outnumbered. The problem is that no such politically homogeneous category of citizen exists in the real world. It's the creation of demographers and liberal data journalists eager to mollify their anxieties. Such people convince themselves of its reality by making a habit of talking about how "people of color" are uniformly oppressed by hegemonic "whiteness" in the United States. But the truth is that people of Hispanic, African, West Indian, East Asian, South Asian, and Arab descent don't perceive themselves as (or vote as if they are) members of a unified bloc. They are discrete groups. Most of them do lean Democratic, but not uniformly, and they do so for disparate reasons rooted in the cultures they brought with them to this country and in their distinct histories since arriving. (That's true of white voters, too, of course.)
5-10-18 Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy
Jonah Goldberg has written the book of the year, said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. Odd as it is to say this of a work with such a title, Suicide of the West is “an exhilarating call to arms in defense of what is highest and best in our civilization.” Goldberg, a veteran National Review editor, has taken it upon himself to call out members of both the Right and Left whose descent into tribalism threatens to destroy democratic capitalism—and the unprecedented bounty the system has generated since arising out of Enlightenment thinking some 300 years ago. Goldberg’s proposed remedy for tribalism’s rise is at once simple and “so difficult it seems unachievable”: He wants to resuscitate gratitude for our peculiar political economic inheritance, an inheritance so special he calls it the Miracle. Policy matters aside, Goldberg’s “epic, debate-shifting” book slightly misdiagnoses just what ails America, said David Brooks in The New York Times. Excessive individualism is our problem, not romanticism, and history lessons alone won’t be the cure. Edmund Burke understood something Goldberg’s conservatism misses—that individuals in a democratic society need to feel bonded to one another through networks of association that begin at the level of family and community. Today, excessive individualism has weakened those social units, leaving people feeling distrustful and alone. We must, therefore, rebuild families and communities first; “gratitude is too weak a glue to hold a diverse nation together.”
5-10-18 The real reason Trump was elected
It wasn’t the loss of manufacturing jobs or economic anxiety that elected Donald Trump, said Tom Jacobs. In a new University of Pennsylvania study, political scientist Diana Mutz found that a pivotal group of voters—people who switched parties to back Trump—“were motivated by the vision of a frightening fall in social status.” Those voters believed that the traditional primacy of “white, Christian males” in the country was “under serious threat.” Indeed, Mutz found, the Trump base was convinced that white Christians face more discrimination in a rapidly changing America than blacks or Muslims. That’s why these voters were thrilled by Trump’s white-identity politics and his attacks on immigrants, globalization, free trade, feminists, and “political correctness.” And why did a majority of white women vote for Trump? A separate study, by researchers at High Point University, found these women also feel great “trepidation” about the loss of traditional culture, and want to maintain distinct gender roles for men and women. The 2016 election, in other words, was “largely about fear of change.” Liberals who think they can win back Trump voters by promising better jobs or social programs are only “kidding themselves.” (Webmaster's comment: In America it's all about racism and white supremacy!)
5-10-18 Fox News opens a window
For the past year, White House aides have leaked stories about President Trump’s unhinged tirades against his many “enemies,” said Jonathan Chait. Last week, Fox & Friends “gave outsiders unfiltered access to the sorts of rants he routinely imposes upon his staff.” The interview, with openly pro-Trump talk show hosts, went off the rails almost immediately, with Trump ranting about the “phony” Russia investigation. He called the FBI’s leadership corrupt and “a disgrace,” and said the Justice Department should be prosecuting Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, “not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.” In a blatant threat to the rule of law, Trump said he’s “trying” to stay away from the Justice Department’s investigation for now, “but at some point, I won’t.” Along the way, Trump admitted that lawyer Michael Cohen represented him in “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal”—thus contradicting earlier denials he knew anything about it, and undermining Cohen’s defense. The president was doing so much damage to himself that the Fox & Friends hosts—whose smiles turned to frozen, anxious chagrin—“ushered Trump off the phone, insisting he must be busy.” Too late. We all just saw how “bonkers” Trump really is.
5-10-18 Harold Bornstein,
Harold Bornstein, President Trump’s former doctor, who revealed that his office was “raided” last year by three burly Trump aides who carried off 35 years of the president’s medical records. Bornstein also revealed that Trump “dictated” the glowing medical report provided to the public during the campaign.
5-10-18 Police called after black Yale student fell asleep in common room
It seems the story has been told a hundred times before. A white person sees a person of colour doing something they disagree with. They call the police. The videos of the police encounter show up on social media and soon it appears on news outlets across the world. Lolade Siyonbola is a black postgraduate student at Yale University. She shares a common room with other students that live in the same hall of residence. On 8 May, a white student living in the Ivy League university's hall of graduate studies saw Lolade napping on a sofa in the shared room. She called the police. "I had a paper I was working on in the common room," Lolade told the BBC. "I was working on it for much of the day, and I was exhausted so I thought I'd have a nap. "This is normal, you know? People sleep there all the time. "At 01:45 [local time], I hear someone come into the room. Then the lights come on. I hear someone say 'you're not supposed to be here'. "The force with which she was saying it was very loud. She was yelling. "She said she could see me clearly from the doorway. I'm just waking up, thinking 'what is happening'? "She said 'I'm a resident here, you're not supposed to be sleeping here, you're not supposed to be here, I'm calling the police'." Lolade had seen this happen before, so she instinctively knew what to do. She downloaded Facebook onto her phone. "I installed it to record what I knew was going to happen," she said. "I always said to myself if I had a police encounter I'd record it on Facebook Live. "For my safety, I thought that might be the wisest thing - to keep a record of it. "I wanted to take any precaution I could." As of Thursday, the video of the police encounter has been viewed more than a million times, with many comments on the video criticising the police response. "I was just frustrated," Lolade said as she recalled the police reaction. "I thought, 'why am I being detained? Why am I being harassed?' "I thought it was absolutely preposterous I was having this conversation with the police when all I was doing was sleeping. "From my perspective and from the perspective of many others who watched the video, they didn't do the right thing. "They were not sure that I should be there, because I'm a black woman at Yale. "Even though I'm there with my laptop open writing a paper. Their bias is what determined how they proceeded. as a weapon against people of colour. Police think they need to monitor people of colour. "It's very common." (Webmaster's comment: Many police believe if you're black you must be guilty of something! And they'll beat (or kill) the truth out of you!)
5-10-18 US apologises after Canada MP asked to remove turban
US officials have apologised after a member of Justin Trudeau's cabinet was asked to remove his turban during an airport security search. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who is Sikh, says airport security behaved inappropriately when he travelled to Detroit last year. They let him board his flight only after he revealed his diplomatic passport, he says. It prompted Canada to complain to US officials, who apologised by phone. "It was an experience that made me uncomfortable," Mr Bains told Quebec newspaper La Presse. He said security agents at a Detroit airport were "very insistent and very difficult" when he told them he did not want to remove his turban. Security guards asked him to undergo special screening because of his turban, despite passing through the metal detector without incident, he claims. Mr Bains agreed, but the test malfunctioned, he said. That is when the security official asked him to remove his turban for inspection. He pushed back, and asked them to do the test again. "I never told them who I was, because I wanted to know how things would go for people who are not ministers or lawmakers," he told the newspaper. When the test worked a second time, he proceeded to his gate. But at the gate, he said a security guard caught up with him and told him he would have to do the security check again and remove his turban. This is when he took out his diplomatic passport, which identified him as a Canadian official. The incident caused a minor diplomatic scuffle, prompting Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to contact US officials, who apologised over the phone, according to CBC. (Webmaster's comment: If you are non-white you are not welcome in America!)
5-10-18 Elect a woman president
66% say they “personally hope that the U.S. elects a woman president” in their lifetime. 34% do not hope to see a woman president, including 59% of Republicans.
5-10-18 The cross is no neutral symbol
Bavaria’s leader is piously playing the Christian martyr, said Jochen Bittner. State Premier Markus Söder has ordered that a cross be displayed at the door of every state office, starting June 1. He knows, of course, that the courts will eventually rule that he is unconstitutionally privileging one religion over others, but he also knows that a ruling probably won’t arrive before his state’s elections in October. So until then, members of his center-right Christian Social Union party get to “perform for a summer as St. Sebastians, assailed by arrows because of their commitment to Christian heritage.” The gesture is likely also meant as a message of exclusion to Muslim migrants, but it is off-putting not only to them. After all, while Christianity has indeed helped shape the German people and nation, it was not the only influence. “What about all the Jewish poets and composers, the atheist engineers, the agnostic painters—or even the Muslim coal miners” in our past? Söder says the cross is simply a symbol of Western values, but that claim verges on blasphemous, because it “debases the central symbol of Christianity by stripping it of its religious dimension.” I’m sure “God will forgive Söder. The Federal Constitutional Court hopefully will not.”
5-9-18 Mormon Church cuts ties with Boy Scouts
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) will end its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, a joint statement says. The decision marks the end of a 105-year-old tradition that stated any boy in a Mormon congregation automatically became a Boy Scouts member. The Mormon Church said it severed ties with the Scouts because it hopes to create its own global youth programme. The partnership will conclude on 31 December 2019, the statement says. "The church has grown from a US-centred institution to a worldwide organisation, with a majority of its membership living outside the United States," the joint statement released on Tuesday said. "The church has increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development programme that serves its members globally." Over the last century, close to 20% of the 2.3 million Boy Scouts in the US have been Mormon boys, which made the church the Boy Scouts' largest partner. The church's decision follows a marked shift towards inclusivity in recent years by the Boy Scouts. In 2015, the Mormon Church said it was "deeply troubled" by the Boy Scout's decision to revoke the ban on openly gay adult scout leaders. The Boy Scouts had announced they would accept gay scouts two years prior, and the church did not offer public comment at the time. Mormon leaders decided to remain with the Boy Scouts in 2015 despite their concerns, but announced it would scale back participation in Boy Scout programmes in 2017. The Mormon Church is against same-sex marriage and there are no openly gay men or women in leadership positions within the church. The church says on its website "the doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman is an integral teaching" and that this doctrine "will not change"
5-9-18 Trump says the Iran nuclear deal is bad. Here’s why he’s wrong
Donald Trump didn't like the Iran deal's 2031 deadline, but by then we will have the tech to continue keeping a lid on Iran’s – and others’ - nuclear ambitions. US President Donald Trump has left the 2015 deal that limited Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons. Although Iran has complied with every requirement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US won’t keep its side of the agreement: Trump plans to re-impose heavy trade sanctions. The other parties to the deal – the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – still support it. But the threat of US penalties is expected to massively discourage firms from trade and investment in Iran, which could cause the JCPOA to collapse. Under the deal, Iran is able to enrich uranium to a limited extent for use in nuclear power plants, but it cannot make highly enriched uranium, which could be used to make a bomb. Trump’s main complaint is that the stringent limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment end in 2031 – whereupon, says the US, it can resume making highly enriched uranium. But that ignores technology being developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency that could keep such safeguards in place beyond then. “A lot of the JCPOA lasts forever,” says Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association in Washington DC. When extra-stringent inspections end in 2031, Iran switches back to normal IAEA monitoring rules under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In the past that monitoring, based on infrequent inspections, didn’t stop Iran covertly enriching uranium and working towards developing a bomb. But that may not be the case in the future. The IAEA plans to update the rules for all countries in the treaty without nuclear weapons – not just Iran – to require secure, remote monitoring of the flow of uranium isotopes through enrichment plants. For that it is developing new, remote monitoring technology that should be ready by 2031.
5-8-18 Evading death and mind-uploading: The ambition of transhumanism
Transhumanists could not stop for Death but they kindly stopped for Mark O'Connell, who has captured their beliefs and anxieties in his Wellcome Book Prize winning travelogue. The idea of transhumanism – that we can enhance human capabilities and ultimately escape death by turning ourselves into machines – is hundreds of years old, and as controversial as ever. Irish writer Mark O’Connell’s To Be a Machine, a travelogue of strange journeys and bizarre encounters among transhumanists, has just won the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize. Simon Ings asked O’Connell how he managed to give transhumanism a human face – despite his own scepticism.
- Has transhumanism ever made personal sense to you?
- A lot of transhumanist thought is devoted to evading death. Do the transhumanists you met get much out of life?
- What most sticks in your mind from your researches for the book?
- They do say the future arrives unevenly…
- Are you saying transhumanism is a product of an unreal Silicon Valley mentality?
- Who among the transhumanists most impressed you?
- Is transhumanism science or religion?
- Will their future ever arrive?
- Should we be worried?
5-8-18 Trump's clear message on the Iran deal: America is not to be trusted
a Tuesday announcement at the White House, President Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran. "We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," he said. "Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal." This sends a powerful signal to the rest of the world, most especially close U.S. allies: America is a deranged, crumbling basket case of a nation that can't be trusted to understand elementary logic or hold to its word, much less treat other nations with a modicum of decency or honor. The United States has become a rogue state. Trump repeatedly implied that Iran is continuing to develop nuclear weapons. This is not the case. The point of the Iran deal was to limit that country's nuclear program to non-military uses, and in return relax some of the sanctions that have been strangling Iran's economy. The official International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and U.S. intelligence agencies have both repeatedly confirmed that Iran is holding its end of the bargain, and not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. In return, America had already gone back on its word in part, by imposing more sanctions for reasons having nothing to do with the deal. Now Trump is unilaterally breaking the deal for reasons entirely based on domestic politics and the neuroses of his own befogged brain. Iran is a handy bogeyman for the profoundly Islamophobic extreme right and the deal was the biggest remaining diplomatic accomplishment of President Obama. So that is that. Moreover, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and China are all still parties to the deal, and all of them still believe the agreement is holding. There is virtually no chance that diplomatic system will be able to be reimposed. Indeed, many Iranian elites have argued Iran should continue to stick to the deal despite the U.S. betrayal, if European powers will continue to uphold it. (Webmaster's comment: Read our reccommended book: Rogue State A Guide to the World's Only Superpower.)
5-8-18 America's appalling about-face on refugees
Why is America breaking its word to tens of thousands of refugees? Twenty years ago, many Honduran refugees were "temporarily" admitted to the U.S. after Hurricane Mitch turned their country upside down. The program under which they sought refuge fell into a bureaucratic and legislative blindspot for two decades. Now, a sudden interest in fixing that problem threatens to make their lives — and our country — even worse. The Immigration Act of 1990 allows the executive branch to assign temporary protected status (TPS) to various groups of refugees seeking shelter from natural disasters or political persecution. The law got put to use almost immediately for refugees originating from Kuwait and Lebanon, with both gaining TPS status in March 1991 due to political strife. Both of those cases actually were temporary, lasting one and two years, respectively, after which the Bush and Clinton administrations closed out the safe-haven application. Other groups more recently covered by TPS had relatively short periods of time in the U.S. safe-haven status; the Obama administration scheduled an end to that status after less than three years to refugees from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, a Congressional Research Service analysis notes. But here's the key point: None of this offers any justification for the administration's appalling decision to threaten to kick out so many people after some 20 years of legal residency here. These refugees complied with the law, settled into American communities, and raised families here. Many of them started their own businesses, bought property, and continue to provide for extended families in their native land. They relied on American law to contribute to our communities, and expected American law to give them a measure of certainty.
5-8-18 The dishonest case against the Iran deal
Don't listen to the warmongers. President Trump will announce today whether or not to he will recertify the Iran nuclear deal. He has been hinting that he will refuse to do so this time, throwing the whole carefully negotiated framework crafted by his predecessor into disarray. A parade of warmongers, cretins, and outright liars have been pushing for Trump to do this since he started his presidency. They may well succeed — but that doesn't change the fact that the Iran deal, which halted the country's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, is working perfectly well. It should not be breached. Iran deal critics are barely even trying to construct logical arguments for their position. National Security Adviser John Bolton is, of course, all-in on tearing it up. When he took office he leaked a five-page memo for ginning up a context for breaching the deal, then blaming the dissolution on Iran. The plan was so hamfisted that nobody would be convinced, but that's just Bolton for you. He's not a man who bothers with niceties. Then there is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau, who made an anti-deal speech recently which essentially boiled down to "Iran Is Bad" and cited as evidence only that Iran had a nuclear program way back in 2003 about which they hadn't come clean. (Webmaster's comment: Hitler did the same thing. He demonized external and internal peoples and thus was able to pass racist and draconian laws which increased his power over those peoples and paved his way for launching world conquest. Trumps doing the same!)
5-8-18 Paris Franprix supermarket bans racist customers
"Racists are banned from this shop" reads a handwritten sign in the window of one Paris supermarket. The shop's manager, himself Jewish, said his notice was prompted by daily racist insults from customers at the Franprix minimarket. The shop is in the 19th district, a generally calm and green north-eastern quarter which is ethnically very mixed. The sign, translated, reads "In this Franprix work: Arabs, blacks, Asians, Jews, whites and others..." The manager's move caused a stir after a photo of the sign was tweeted on Saturday by journalist Florent Latrive. It is a criminal offence in France to insult someone on the grounds of race or religion. The Franprix manager, named in French media only as Jean-Jacques, said he was "sick of the racist, anti-Semitic and sexist insults" hurled at him and his staff. He was banning racists, he told France Info (in French), "because the racist insults really come from all sides, daily and it never stops". He said he had twice reported such abuse to the police, but no action had been taken. "I'm Jewish, my partner is Italian, one of my workers is Chinese. We've all been insulted, it's unbearable," he said. "It's my shop, it's my place. I'm not going to be messed around!" (Webmaster's comment: Imagine doing this in America. Nearly half of Americans would starve!)
5-7-18 Woman jailed in US for driving with Canadian licence
A Canadian woman is asking for an apology after US police arrested her and threw her in jail for driving with a Canadian licence. Emily Nield, 27, was on a student visa when she was pulled over for speeding in Georgia on her birthday in April. When she could not produce hard copies of her passport or birth certificate, she was handcuffed and taken to jail. Charges were eventually dropped and her record cleared, but Ms Nield says she is still waiting for an apology. After Ms Nield was pulled over for driving 87 mph (140 km/hr) in a 70 mph zone, the officer told her she could not drive with a Canadian licence. "I tried to tell the officer this isn't right, my licence is legal, if she had just done a simple Google search, this would not have happened," she told the BBC on Monday. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services website, non-US citizens holding a valid foreign driver's licence are allowed to drive in the state of Georgia, but may be asked for proof that they are citizens of the country that issued it. The highway she was driving on is frequented by many Canadians who vacation in Florida. The officer did ask for proof that she was Canadian, and would not accept photographs of Ms Nield's immigration documents and passport. She was then arrested for driving without a licence. She says she paid more than $778 (C$1000; £574) for bail and to retrieve her car from the impound. Three days later, the charges were dropped and her record has subsequently been cleared. Ms Nield says she wants Canadians to know they do have rights driving in the US. She also says at the police station she was not allowed to contact the Canadian consulate, which she is legally allowed to do. (Webmaster's comment: Our police's hatred for non-Americans knows no bounds!)
5-7-18 Trump backs CIA nominee Gina Haspel after she offered to quit
President Donald Trump has defended his nominee to head the CIA after she offered to withdraw amid concern over her role in harsh interrogation techniques widely seen as torture. She has been at the CIA for 33 years, almost entirely undercover but most recently as deputy director, and her time at the agency covered the period when techniques that included waterboarding were used in a controversial interrogation programme for terrorist suspects. Ms Haspel herself ran a so-called "black site" in Thailand, a secretive overseas prison where such interrogations were carried out. The Washington Post says she was summoned to the White House on Friday by officials worried about her previous support for the techniques. It was at that meeting she apparently indicated her interest in withdrawing, reportedly fearing the Senate questioning could damage her reputation and the CIA's. She also apparently feared repeating the fate of Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his nomination for Veterans Affairs secretary amid questions over alleged past misconduct. Her misgivings prompted senior White House aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to rush later on Friday to meet her at CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia. The Post said it was not until Saturday that Ms Haspel decided to remain the nominee. (Webmaster's comment: This is the face of a very sick person who believed in the TORTURE of the INNOCENT to get the TRUTH out of what were only SUSPECTS! She belongs in prison, and surely not in the CIA!)
5-7-18 America's putrid wage growth
People are getting jobs. But are the jobs everyone's getting any good? Do they pay well? e American economy has finally pierced the psychologically significant 4 percent unemployment barrier, hitting 3.9 percent in April. That's the lowest jobless rate since 2000. It is undeniably a good thing that so many Americans are working. Unfortunately, however, their wages are nothing to crow about. Average hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory workers (i.e. most people in the workforce) grew just 2.6 percent in the 12 months culminating in April 2018. That's certainly better than the 1.2-percent pit this metric hit in late 2012. But wages were growing at 4 percent at the peak of the last business cycle, just before the economy cratered in 2008. Wage growth also hit 4 percent during the late-1990s boom, and at the end of the 1980s business cycle before that. At this point, the unemployment rate may obscure more than it reveals. People are getting jobs. But are the jobs everyone's getting any good? Do they pay well? Thus far the answer is largely no. And grappling with that fact requires an unpleasant review of economic policymaking over the last few decades. Price growth got out of hand in the 1970s, peaking at around 10 percent. Economic officials broke the price spiral around 1980. After that, inflation came back down to Earth, and eventually leveled off around 2 percent in the 1990s. This story is now almost universally hailed as one of the great accomplishments of modern macroeconomic policymaking. Many businesses hated high wage growth; it translates into higher labor costs. Not surprisingly, in the 1970s, an organized business lobby first really emerged on a national scale, pushing for deregulation and a rollback of worker power. Unionization levels began to decline in earnest, as businesses got serious about beating back labor. The turn toward right-wing economic policy began, culminating in the Reagan revolution. Fed Chair Paul Volcker crushed inflation by hiking interest rates into the stratosphere. This set off a massive recession in 1981 — rivaling the 2008 collapse in some ways. Millions of working-class Americans were thrown out of jobs for years, and already-struggling unions went into a tailspin.
5-6-18 Stormy Daniels warns Trump on SNL 'storm's a coming baby'
US porn star Stormy Daniels has made a surprise appearance on US TV show Saturday Night Live as her legal wrangle with President Trump over an alleged affair continues. Playing herself in the latest in the show's series of sketches lampooning the president, she mocked him, saying: "I know you don't believe in climate change but a storm's a coming baby." Ms Daniels was paid $130,000 by Mr Trump's lawyer in 2016 to keep quiet. Mr Trump denies the affair. However he has said he reimbursed his lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment, which he says was designed to stop Ms Daniels from making "false and extortionist" statements. The Saturday Night Live sketch featured actors Alec Baldwin as Mr Trump and Ben Stiller as Mr Cohen. In it, Baldwin playing Mr Trump instructs his lawyer to "call up Stormy Daniels and fix this once and for all" and keep him on the line to listen in. Ms Daniels herself answers the phone to loud whoops from the audience. Stiller calls Ms Daniels and asks if she's alone, with Baldwin as Mr Trump then interrupting with: "And what are you wearing?" Baldwin as Mr Trump then takes over the call and tells Ms Daniels everyone knows the alleged affair is "just an act". "I work in adult films, we're not really known for our acting," Ms Daniels replies. "What do you need for this all to just go away," asks Baldwin, to which Ms Daniels says: "A resignation." "I solved North and South Korea, why can't I solve us?" asks Baldwin. Ms Daniels says: "Sorry Donald, it's too late for that. I know you don't believe in climate change but a storm's a coming baby."
5-5-18 French outrage after US President Trump mimics Paris attackers
US President Donald Trump has outraged French opinion by suggesting the 2015 attacks on Paris could have been stopped by giving people guns. He mimicked gunmen summoning and shooting victims one by one, saying "Boom! Come over here!" and using his hand to imitate a gun being fired. In reality, the attackers sprayed many of their 130 victims with semi-automatic fire and set off bomb belts. The French foreign ministry called for the victims' memory to be respected. "France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris and asks for the memory of the victims to be respected," the foreign ministry said. François Hollande, who was French president at the time of the attacks, said Mr Trump's remarks were "shameful". They "said a lot about what he thinks of France and its values", he added. Manuel Valls, who was France's prime minister in 2015, tweeted: "Indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?" In the same speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Dallas, Texas, the US president criticised the level of knife crime in London, comparing one of the city's hospitals to a "war zone". A senior London surgeon, Prof Karim Brohi, hit back by saying it was "ridiculous" to suggest guns could help combat knife violence.
5-5-18 Trump's London knife crime comments ridiculous, says surgeon
A senior London surgeon has hit back at US President Donald Trump for criticising the level of knife crime in the city while defending US gun laws. Prof Karim Brohi, who heads the group overseeing the city's trauma treatment, said it was "ridiculous" to suggest guns could help combat knife violence. He said the capital faced a "serious issue" but gunshot wounds were at least twice as lethal as knife injuries. Mr Trump's comments came in a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Addressing the firearms lobby's conference in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, Mr Trump referred to reading a story "that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital right in the middle is like a war zone for horrible stabbing wounds". It is unclear where Mr Trump sourced his information. However, leading London trauma surgeon Dr Martin Griffiths, who works at the Royal London Hospital, told BBC Radio 4 a month ago that his hospital was likened to an Afghan war zone. The interview was the basis for a Daily Mail article. Prof Brohi, who is also a trauma surgeon at the Royal London, is clinical director of the London Major Trauma System Directorate. The organisation has responsibility for co-ordination and policy development between hospitals in and around London dealing with serious injuries. In a statement released by Barts NHS Trust, he said: "We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes... "There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest guns are part of the solution is ridiculous. Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair.
5-4-18 Police stop Native American brothers during US college tour
A Colorado university has apologised for two Native American brothers who were removed from a campus tour after a parent called the police. The brothers' mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, said they were taken off the tour because a parent was suspicious of how quiet they were. Colorado State University (CSU) police searched the brothers, who drove seven hours to attend the admissions tour. University officials apologised for the incident in a letter to students. Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17, had borrowed their family van to drive from Santa Cruz, New Mexico to Fort Collins, Colorado, to visit the college on Monday. The boys got lost in the city and joined the CSU admissions tour about 30 minutes late. As the tour moved through the gymnasium, they were stopped by campus police who demanded to know why they were on campus. "Apparently, a parent on the tour called police because they were too quiet. That made them suspicious," Mrs Kahneratokwas Gray told the Denver Post. "They were trying to listen. Why should it be a crime to listen and not engage in a conversation?" The boys, who are members of the Mohawk tribe, were only released after they provided police with an email showing they had pre-registered for the tour. The tour continued while the boys were questioned, and they were unable to complete it. "I think it's pretty discriminatory," Thomas told the Associated Press on Thursday. "Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people; that we were just quiet." (Webmaster's comment: The bottom line, they were the wrong skin color!)
5-4-18 Trump is drowning in lies
On Wednesday night, former New York City Mayor and fresh Trump legal team recruit Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News and, among other things, accidentally blew apart President Trump's farcical explanation of l'affaire Stormy Daniels. Chatting amiably with Sean Hannity, Giuliani admitted that the president reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, after the latter paid Daniels off through a shell company. The president had previously argued that he was unaware of the $130,000 hush payment made to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a Stormy Daniels, who claims the money was meant to buy her silence after an affair she had with the future president shortly after the birth of his son Barron in 2006.The president's new story is that he knew about this payment, but that it was meant to prevent Daniels from extorting him, even though this would constitute ... very successful extortion indeed. It's like donating a thousand dollars on the spot to the "Do you have a minute for the environment?" people to get them to go away. The story is now such a mess that the president subcontracted his Twitter account on Thursday morning to someone who can write in complete sentences. "The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair." Giuliani's own goal was notable not just for what it suggests about the Daniels imbroglio — that, of course, she is telling the truth — but also for how casually the president and his allies claim that up is down. In the context of recent revelations and presidential meltdowns, it almost certainly means that the Mueller investigation, rather than heading for a negotiated, anodyne ending with New York's febrile former mayor at the helm, will soon cross over into a new, much more dangerous phase for the president. The takeaway here is that nothing the president or his lawyers say can be trusted. Mueller is surely taking note. It's clear the president is in trouble not just because his lips are moving and his incompetent underlings can't get their stories straight, but because over the past month he and his allies have been engaged in another of their quests to convince the public that the Mueller investigation is almost over. In that context, the hiring of the clueless Rudolph William Louis Giuliani looks like a head fake. He certainly wasn't hired for his subtlety or TV acumen. (Webmaster's comment: The full-blown meltdown of our President. Over 3,000 lies and counting.)
5-4-18 CIA director Gina Haspel's Thailand torture ties
When Gina Haspel was nominated as the next head of the CIA in March, it re-opened debate on a murky period of recent US history - the use of secretive overseas prisons to torture terror suspects. As the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports, the spotlight has fallen on Thailand, and one such "black site" which Haspel once ran. In early April 2002, a plane took off from an undisclosed air base in Pakistan, en route to Thailand. On board was a special passenger. Abu Zubaydah, a 31-year-old Saudi-born Palestinian, believed to be one of Osama Bin Laden's top lieutenants, had been captured a few days earlier in a joint US-Pakistani raid on Al Qaeda safe houses in Faisalabad. He was now in the hands of CIA agents, who had decided to make him the first "high-value detainee" to be subjected to what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques" - something human rights groups say amounts to torture. But they needed somewhere to do it. In December 2014 the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) published an executive summary of a confidential 6,000 page report on these techniques. The place where Abu Zubaydah and at least two other high-value detainees were interrogates is referred to only as Detention Site Green. Thailand is not named as the host country. US and Thai officials have consistently denied the existence of such a facility, although the Thai denials have at times been less than wholehearted. But a senior former Thai national security official has confirmed to the BBC that Detention Site Green was located inside the Royal Thai Air Force base in Udon Thani in the north-east. It was not large - just a CIA safe house on the base, he said. The Americans could operate there so long as the Thai government was kept informed.
5-4-18 DR Congo crisis: Why a trainee nun was shot dead at church
The BBC's Africa editor Fergal Keane reports on how the Catholic Church has become the main opposition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By the time her brother arrived on the scene Thérèse Kapangala was already dead. She lay in a pool of blood just inside the main door of the Church of St Francis de Sales, about 15 minutes from central Kinshasa. Thérèse was a novice nun who grew up in a devoutly Catholic family in the narrow streets of Kintambo, an old Kinshasa neighbourhood where the colonial explorer Henry Morton Stanley established his first settlement in 1881. She lived a short walk from the church. On Sunday 21 January she joined protesters who had gathered at St Francis calling for free and fair elections. Her brother Jean-Claude remembers hearing shooting and the firing of tear gas canisters. "I said to her: 'Look there's a lot of tear gas, please take this margarine butter' because it is something we use to lessen the effects of the gas on our skin. "But she already had some and threw away what I gave her. That day she was happy. She was joyful." Mobile phone footage from the protests shows people fleeing in panic as tear gas and live ammunition were fired by security forces who surrounded the compound. Thérèse was dead within minutes of being struck by a single round.
5-3-18 The Richest Live Longer
The richest 1 percent of American women by income live more than 10 years longer than the poorest 1 percent. For men, the life-span gap between the richest and poorest Americans is almost 15 years.
5-3-18 The collusion question
Is President Trump right in saying there is ‘no evidence’ his campaign team worked with Russia?
- What is ‘collusion’? “Collusion” is not a legal term, and it isn’t a federal crime (except in antitrust law).
- What justifies that suspicion? U.S. intelligence agencies have already established that Russia sought to intervene in the 2016 presidential race to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump.
- What evidence is known? In June 2016, British publicist Rob Goldstone—who had extensive business ties in Russia—told Donald Trump Jr. in an email that as part of Moscow’s “support” for his father, a Russian contact was offering “documents and information that would incriminate” Hillary Clinton.
- Was there a meeting in Prague? A controversial intelligence dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele claims that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, traveled to Prague around August 2016 to meet with Russian officials to plan a cover-up of their cooperation over hacked Democratic emails
- How so? Earlier in 2016, a U.K.-based professor who had been cultivated by the Kremlin told Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had “thousands of emails” that would damage Clinton if released.
- What other contacts occurred? Several Trump officials tried to set up back channels to Moscow during the post-election transition.
- What have they said? Top Trump campaign aide Jeff Sessions insisted during his confirmation hearings for attorney general that he “did not have communications with the Russians” during the campaign, only to later admit he’d met with Kislyak at least twice.
5-3-18 DNC sues over alleged Russian collusion
The Democratic National Committee sued the Russian government, the Trump presidential campaign, and WikiLeaks this week, accusing them of an illegal conspiracy to tilt the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton. The lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, “gleefully” worked with the Kremlin and its military spy agency to spread emails that had been stolen from the DNC’s servers. President Trump is not named as a defendant. If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, Democrats will have the opportunity through discovery to seek internal documents from the Trump campaign related to Russia. The Trump campaign has called the suit a “sham.”
5-3-18 Legal corruption
Legal corruption, after Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney urged bank executives to increase their donations to secure favorable legislation. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you,” Mulvaney said of his own time in Congress.
5-3-18 Starbucks arrests: A case of ‘implicit bias’?
Even in 2018, said Mikki Kendall in WashingtonPost.com, blacks and whites live in two different Americas—“and in one you can get arrested for sitting in a Starbucks.” The latest proof that racism is alive and well came last week in a Philadelphia branch of the ubiquitous coffee chain. Two 23-year-old black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, arrived early at Starbucks for a business meeting and sat at a table to wait for a third party. Two minutes later, the manager came over to ask if they were going to order anything, and when Nelson and Robinson said no, the manager told them to leave. She then called the police, who arrested the pair for “trespassing” and detained them for eight hours. Cellphone videos of the arrests triggered protests, threatened boycotts, and public contrition from Starbucks’ upper management. CEO Kevin Johnson apologized to Nelson and Robinson in person, announced that the offending manager has been fired, and that more than 8,000 Starbucks stores will close on May 29 so that 170,000 employees can receive “racial-bias education.” That corporate damage-control campaign may save Starbucks’ image, said Karen Attiah, also in WashingtonPost.com, but let’s be honest. The routine harassment people of color experience in public spaces “isn’t a Starbucks problem. It’s an America problem.”
5-3-18 A heartless immigration crackdown
ICE agents have become President Trump’s “personal bullying squad,” said Michael Gerson. While Trump rages against the FBI and Justice Department’s refusal to bend to his will, Immigration and Customs Enforcement have eagerly responded to his promise to cleanse the nation of undocumented immigrants with a 40 percent increase in arrests. Thousands of people without criminal records have been rounded up; “routine ‘check-ins’” with ICE officials can end in handcuffs and deportation. Hardworking mothers and fathers with deep roots in their communities are being dragged away from weeping children. To discourage border crossers, ICE is now deliberately separating parents it catches from their children—some of them infants—and dumping hundreds of traumatized kids in institutional shelters. Women and children from Central America, fleeing drug gangs and rampant crime, are being denied asylum and locked up. ICE’s director has thanked Trump for taking “the handcuffs off law enforcement,” but federal Judge Katherine Forrest has likened the heartless reign of terror to “treatment we associate with regimes that are unjust. We are not that country.” Under Donald Trump, we are that country.
5-3-18 Travel ban case
The Supreme Court heard arguments on President Trump’s travel ban for the first time this week, with the conservative majority appearing to side with the White House. The case, Trump v. Hawaii, concerns the third iteration of Trump’s travel ban issued last fall, which bars most travelers from eight countries from entering the U.S. Of those countries, six have Muslim majorities. Lawyers for the challengers of the federal ban argued that Trump’s campaign promise to ban all Muslims from the U.S. showed that the order was a de facto Muslim ban, violating the Constitution. But Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy peppered the challengers with tough questions about why the court should second-guess the president’s national security decisions. Roberts also asked whether there should be “a statute of limitations” on Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
5-3-18 Admit that refugees bring anti-Semitism
You can’t wear a Jewish skullcap on your head in Berlin without being beaten up, said Maritta Adam-Tkalec. That’s the horrifying conclusion we must draw from the viral video posted last week by an Israeli Arab. Adam Armoush, who lives in Berlin, said he wanted to prove that Jews wouldn’t be harassed in Germany if they openly identified as Jews, so he borrowed a friend’s yarmulke and went for a stroll. It wasn’t long before three men, at least one of them a Syrian refugee, began yelling “Jew” at him in Arabic and beat him with a belt. Armoush caught the attack on film. Of course, such anti-Semitic violence wasn’t unknown in Germany before the 2015 influx of mostly Muslim refugees—we’ve long struggled with the “disgusting, extreme right-wing German hatred of the Jews as well as leftist hatred often disguised as criticism of Israel.” But overt anti-Semitic acts are now more common, as the “native and immigrant strains of anti-Semitism complement and reinforce each other.” We do the immigrants no favor by failing to acknowledge and denounce the bigotry they have brought with them. Worse, we fail our Jewish residents. Germans should all don the yarmulke in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors. “Civilization needs protection against barbarism.”
5-3-18 Church slaughter
Armed Fulani herdsmen attacked a Catholic church in a southern Nigerian village this week, killing two priests and 17 worshippers and torching more than 50 houses. Clashes between the mostly Muslim nomadic herders and the mostly Christian settled farmers have escalated this year as climate change has pushed the nomads further south in search of grazing land. “Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers, is not only vile, evil, and satanic,” said President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from northern Nigeria, “it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting.” The attack sparked riots across Nigeria’s Benue state.
5-3-18 Mock’s gender-fluid upbringing
Janet Mock has become one of the world’s most visible transgender activists, said Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian. The best-selling memoirist and TV writer grew up in poverty in Honolulu, never feeling comfortable living as a young boy named Charles. She started hormone treatments at age 15 without telling her mother. Later, while still in her teens, she worked as a stripper and a sex worker to raise the $7,000 she needed for gender reassignment surgery. In many ways, she feels she was lucky to grow up in Hawaii, where there is a word, “mahu,” that is used to describe a third gender. “It was the norm to have people who were not male or female; people who may be in the middle somewhere,” Mock says. She’s also grateful that she didn’t have wealthy parents who might have paid for therapy to “right” her. “I believed I was, and knew myself as, a young woman, even when I had a penis,” she says. “It wasn’t as if I needed the surgery to confirm that for me.” She doesn’t understand why some people insist that trans people are delusional. “What’s happened to you that, of all the things you can talk about, of all the injustices in the world, the one thing you want to concentrate on is trans people living their truth?” Mock asks. “How is that harming you and your identity? Live your life and let me live mine.”
5-3-18 Making us take Taiwan by force
The U.S. had better rethink its reckless policy toward Taiwan, said Su Tan. Let last week’s live-fire drills in the Taiwan Straits, the first China has held in two years, be a warning. The exercise was necessary because Washington has upped “its military and security cooperation with Taiwan to the most intimate and dangerous level since 1979.” Not only did the U.S. pass a law in March that allows top Taiwanese officials to visit their counterparts in America and vice versa—a violation of the “One China” policy, under which the U.S. agreed not to recognize Taiwanese sovereignty—it also approved the sale of advanced submarine technology to Taiwan. Such measures have emboldened separatists in Taiwan to become “more aggressive and arrogant in their secession attempts.” And that is dangerous for Taipei. Taiwan is part of China and will one day be reunified with the motherland—peacefully, we hope, but by force if necessary. Secessionists on the island must understand the more support they receive from Washington, “the earlier they will see their doomsday coming.” Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen said recently that Taiwan is not simply a U.S. pawn, but a chess player in its own right. If she moves toward independence, we will tell her, “Game over.”
5-2-18 The Koch brothers' pay-to-play academic scheme
The Kochs, after all, aren't just spending money on lobbying to get legal loopholes narrowly beneficial to themselves. They are pushing hardcore libertarianism, a whole framework of political economy which (not coincidentally) says it is just fine and dandy for one person to own limitless piles of wealth — and to subject that wealth to steep taxation would be a gross miscarriage of justice. It's not enough for them to simply possess that wealth and exploit the power thus gained to accumulate even more — no, they've got to convince everyone that they are morally entitled to do it. As Thomas Frank once wrote, "Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized." The irony that Charles Koch was pulling this operation behind closed doors at a public university is not remotely a coincidence. Libertarianism presents itself as being the most hardcore pro-freedom political doctrine, which might lead one to expect such political influence operations to be conducted in the open, so they might be subject to rational debate, and with a private entity. That Koch didn't create his own private school, and instead piggybacked on the academic legitimacy of a state-created institution while secretly bribing school authorities to gain influence over the faculty, just reveals the game here. (This isn't the first time he has done so, either. A similar operation was discovered at Florida State University in 2014, and it's a safe bet there are at least a few more among the 240 schools that got Charles Koch donations in 2016.) What libertarianism often amounts to in practice — particularly in its most curdled, purchased-by-Charles Koch form — is the extensive and cynical use of state power to protect the money, status, and prerogatives of the ultra-rich. (That's presumably extra important for someone with an inherited business heavily based on oil, a naturally occurring substance which he did nothing personally to create or even find.) Therefore, one major objective is to put property "beyond the reach of democracy," which is why one of Koch's major heroes, Friedrich von Hayek, supported the brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Better a capitalist autocrat than a socialist democrat.
5-2-18 The death industry
Why can't more of us find it in our hearts to look after our parents and grandparents in our own homes, and spare them from those who profit off death and decay? o weeks ago, millions of Americans mourned the death of Barbara Bush, one of our greatest first ladies and an exemplar of virtues this country has lost or forgotten. Mrs. Bush spent her last day of terrestrial existence being held by her husband of some 73 years and drinking bourbon. Not very long before, a near-contemporary of hers, a former model named Rebecca Zeni, died in rather different circumstances at a nursing home in Georgia, according to a report in The Washington Post. "Parasitic mites had burrowed under her skin, living and laying eggs all over her body. By the time she died, vesicles and thick crusts had formed on her skin. Her right hand had turned nearly black, and … her fingers were about to fall off. The scabies that infected Zeni's body had become so severe that bacteria seeped into her bloodstream." [The Washington Post] This is almost unfathomably gruesome. But similar cases are hardly unheard of in the sinister world of privately owned for-profit nursing homes like the one in which Zeni had been living. Shepherd Hills in LaFayette, Georgia, had been home to several outbreaks of scabies and been charged with numerous health violations in the years before Zeni's death. Study upon deflating study has shown that under every conceivable metric the "care" received in such places is inferior to that provided by charitable institutions. Federal regulators have a special category of so-called "special focus facilities" that, due to repeated lapses, require increased oversight for a period of 15 months. According to a New York Times report, of the 524 homes subject to this designation before 2014 and since returned to normal status, more than half have gone on to harm their patients.
5-2-18 High times: The Victorian doctor who promoted medical marijuana
Thanks to one man's researches, cannabis was drug of choice for ailments from migraine to epilepsy – until an unexpected twist led to its downfall. ON THE evening of 6 November 1838, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy received an urgent note from the hospital where he worked. Could he come immediately? One of his patients was exhibiting “very peculiar and formidable” symptoms. Alarmed, he rushed to the man’s bedside. O’Shaughnessy, assistant surgeon with the East India Company’s Bengal Medical Service, had reason to worry. The patient was one of the first human guinea pigs in his pioneering experiments with cannabis. A few hours earlier, the man had been given a modest dose of cannabis resin dissolved in alcohol. What might have gone wrong? To a scientifically inclined physician based in India, cannabis – or Indian hemp – was a prime candidate for investigation. It was popular as a means of intoxication, but local doctors also valued it as a treatment for a range of ailments. In 1813, one of O’Shaughnessy’s predecessors reported somewhat sniffily on the intemperate habits of those who indulged in the various preparations. But O’Shaughnessy believed cannabis would make a useful addition to Western medicine and decided to put it to the test. O’Shaughnessy wasn’t just a doctor: he was also a skilled analytical chemist with a modern approach to medical research. He had made a big impression with his meticulous analyses of blood and excreta from people with cholera during an outbreak in England in 1831. He showed that patients were dangerously dehydrated and that bloodletting – then standard treatment – did more harm than good. Two years later, O’Shaughnessy landed a job with the East India Company and set sail for Calcutta. For millennia, cannabis had been used as a medicine from Egypt to India and China. It had been a traditional remedy in Europe, too, but was hurriedly dropped after Pope Innocent VIII condemned it in 1484 as “an unholy sacrament”. By the 19th century, cannabis was largely forgotten in the West.
5-2-18 AI can predict your personality just by how your eyes move
Shifty looks or wide pupils, our eyes give away clues to our personality - a discovery that could help robots better understand and interact with humans. The eyes really are a window to the soul. The way they move can reveal your personality type – a finding that could help robots better understand and interact with humans. Psychologists have long believed that personality influences the way we visually take in the world. Curious people tend to look around more and open-minded people gaze longer at abstract images, for example. Now, Tobias Loetscher at the University of South Australia and his colleagues have used machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence – to study the relationship between eye movements and personality more closely. They asked 42 students to wear eye-tracking smart glasses while they walked around campus and visited a shop – an activity designed to mimic everyday life. They also asked them to fill out questionnaires that rated them on the “big five” personality traits: neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. Their machine learning algorithm found that certain patterns of eye movements were more common among different personalities. For example, neurotic people tended to blink faster, open-minded people had bigger side-to-side eye movements, and conscientious people had greater fluctuations in their pupil size. The reasons why are unclear, but this doesn’t matter if the goal is to teach robots to be more socially aware, says Loetscher. “They need to know which eye movements relate to which personality types, but they don’t need to know why,” he says. Future research may find that brain chemistry explains these patterns, says Olivia Carter at the University of Melbourne. There is already evidence that neurotransmitters like dopamine and noradrenaline influence personality and can affect eye movements like blink frequency and pupil dilation, she says.
5-2-18 This mind-reading hearing aid knows who you’re listening to
An ear mounted device with a battery of brain-scanning electrodes knows which sounds you're paying attention to – it might also help you get a good night's sleep PEOPLE who wear hearing aids can often struggle with the “cocktail party effect” – the inability of the brain to follow a single conversation in a room crowded with voices. Now a device that listens to your brain’s activity can help pinpoint exactly which voice you want to focus on. Most hearing aids use microphones to identify which voices are coming from in front of the wearer, and then amplifies these. But conversations don’t just happen face to face. So Florian Denk and his colleagues at the University of Oldenburg in Germany combined a hearing aid with a behind-the-ear device that can sense brainwaves. They were able to show the two could work together to amplify the sounds that a wearer was paying attention to, no matter which direction they were facing. The brainwave-sensing is carried out by a flexible C-shaped EEG device that wraps behind the ear. It uses 10 small electrodes to pinpoint electrical activity in the brain. The device samples both the wearer’s brainwaves and the audio signals in the room and can match the two together, indicating what the person is concentrating on. The device is still just a proof of concept and would have to be much smaller to be useful. At the moment it uses a matchbox-sized amplifier to boost the brain signals, which are then decoded on a desktop computer. But many high-end hearing aids now come with Bluetooth connections that link them to a smartphone, and it is possible that the decoding could be offloaded here, or even to a remote server.