You are not Alone!
98 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for July 2018
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
7-31-18 Ignore the president
The time has come to turn off The Trump Show. I know: We can't simply ignore the president. He has enormous power at his disposal. Because of this, normally everything a president says has news value. Presidential words matter. They inspire actions and reactions across the federal government, and throughout the citizenry. They shape public opinion and drive policy changes. They can move markets at home and abroad. They send signals to foreign governments. Yet it's also true that we've been dealing with Trump in the presidential arena long enough — since he launched his campaign three years ago — to have learned something important about how he uses his pulpit differently from all previous presidents. President Trump uses his public utterances, and especially his tweets, not to rally the country as a whole but to rally his base of far-right voters, to encourage a cult of personality around himself, and to troll everyone else. To accomplish these goals, he exaggerates, insults, lies, and spreads transparent nonsense in the hope of provoking a reaction — adulation among his supporters and anger in his opponents. At this point, there's no good reason why we should lend credence to this miasma of presidential BS. If the president wants to engage in base maintenance and mobilization by denouncing "fake news" or the special counsel's investigation of his campaign's myriad ties to a hostile foreign government, he can go ahead and do that. But journalists shouldn't be complicit in spreading or legitimating the message.
7-31-18 Thousands download 3D-printed gun designs
Blueprints for 3D-printed guns, published online four days early amid last-minute attempts to ban them, have been downloaded thousands of times. The designs were not due to be made public until Wednesday, following a ruling from the US Justice Department. But blueprints for nine types of gun were uploaded to the Defense Distributed website on Friday. And, on Monday, multi-state legal action was filed seeking to block the ruling that Americans could see them. The controversy began in 2013 when self-styled crypto-anarchist Cody Wilson showed off the world's first 3D-printed gun. Files showing how to replicate the process were immediately made available on the Defense Distributed website and downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. It led the US State Department to order them to be removed from the internet. There followed a four-year legal battle, with Defense Distributed joining forces with the Second Amendment Foundation - which defends the right to own guns - to sue the State Department. Last month, in a surprise move, it won its case, with the US Justice Department ruling that Americans may "access, discuss, use and reproduce" the technical data. It led to a backlash from lawmakers and, on Monday, Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson announced that it would be suing the State Department "to stop the illegal distribution of 3D printed guns" on behalf of eight US states. In a statement, Mr Ferguson said: "These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history." The State Department had already been sent a letter asking it to reinstate its ban, by 21 other attorney generals, from states including California, Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
7-30-18 Germany gripped by #MeTwo racism debate
An activist who triggered a huge debate about everyday racism in Germany with the Twitter hashtag #MeTwo says the discussion was "long overdue". Ali Can, a writer and anti-racism campaigner, was born in Turkey but grew up in Germany. Thousands of tweets have exposed the scale of racism in Germany. He launched the #MeTwo campaign on 25 July because of the Mesut Özil furore. German-Turkish football star Özil said "racism and disrespect" had pushed him to stop playing in the national squad. Before the World Cup, a controversy blew up over Özil's decision to pose for photos with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting London while campaigning for re-election. Özil and another German-born football star of Turkish origin, Ilkay Gündogan, drew strong criticism for what was widely seen as a political endorsement of Mr Erdogan. The Turkish leader is accused of human rights abuses over his purge of state institutions, involving mass arrests and harassment of critics. The criticism and hate mail targeting the two players intensified after world champions Germany were knocked out after the group matches - the nation's earliest World Cup exit since 1938.Ali Can said Özil would have drawn much less criticism had he scored a couple of goals - it was his failure that fuelled the racism. The #MeTwo campaign has attracted about 60,000 tweets since Can launched it. The hashtag echoes the #MeToo social media campaign that mobilised thousands of women globally to report their experiences of sexual harassment. (Webmaster's comment: Why would anyone want to be associated with a dictator!)
7-29-18 New York Times tells Trump: Don't call reporters enemies of the people
The publisher of the New York Times has urged President Donald Trump not to continue labelling reporters "enemies of the people", saying it could "lead to violence" against the media. AG Sulzberger made the details of their off-the-record meeting public after Mr Trump tweeted about it. In his initial tweet, the president said it had been a "very good" meeting. But he later accused media of putting people's lives at risk through their reporting. His first tweet read: "Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, 'Enemy of the People.' Sad!" He did not refer to his own repeated use of the phrase. The New York Times then released its statement, saying it had decided to "respond to the president's characterisation of their conversation". Mr Sulzberger said he had accepted the meeting with Mr Trump to raise concerns about the president's "deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric". (Webmaster's comment: Violence against the media is exactly what Trump wants!)
7-29-18 Why Donald Trump attacks the media
When President Donald Trump first called the media "enemy of the people" last year, it elicited outrage. Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake said it was an example of an "unprecedented" and "unwarranted" White House assault on the free press. The second, third and fourth times Mr Trump used the phrase, it barely merited a shrug. Such is the unique talent of this president - an ability to take an action or opinion that once seemed outrageous and turn it into a new kind of normal. Even if the line doesn't generate headlines anymore, however, journalists still take note. And when a newsroom in Maryland was sprayed with bullets just a few weeks ago, the perils of the profession - even in an established Western democracy, and with or without the president's instigation - were put in stark relief. New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger clearly wanted to drive this point home in his previously secret meeting with Mr Trump nine days ago. The message, however, may not have been received. In his Sunday morning tweet, the president appears to assert that it's the media's fault that he has decided to label them "enemies of the American people". For Mr Trump, then, this kind of language - if it is a problem - is a problem for the media, not him, to fix. Whenever the Times runs a story about his administration with similar sourcing, however, it's "fake news". And this gets to the heart of the matter. The president wants positive news coverage for himself and critical coverage of his adversaries. "Fake news", "enemy of the people" and all the other media-bashing is simply a means to achieving that goal. In sport, the strategy is called "working the referee". It's the same idea in politics - but the stakes are much higher. (Webmaster's comment: Hitler and Stalin did the same thing. Shutting down the free press is essentail to dictatorship!)
7-29-18 Meet the 'stand-in mom' at LGBT weddings
Sara Cunningham came to terms with her son being gay - now she helps others disowned by their parents.
7-29-18 Long watch: Eleven years old and locked up
It was a short-lived policy but a devastating one. The separation of migrant children from their parents at the border was part of President Trump's zero tolerance policy towards immigrants. The policy was revoked after a public outcry and 2,500 separated children aged between five and 17 were supposed to be reunited with their families this week. In Orlando, Florida the family of 11-year-old Brayan is desperately waiting for him to be released. (Webmaster's comment: The White Supremacists only care about one thing. Punishing non-whites for their very existence!)
7-28-18 Cardinal McCarrick: Prominent US Catholic resigns over abuse claims
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a prominent US cardinal accused of sexually assaulting a teenager nearly 50 years ago. Theodore McCarrick, 88, a former Archbishop of Washington, has also been suspended from public duties pending a canonical trial, the Vatican said. Last month US church officials said the allegations were credible. Mr McCarrick has said he has "absolutely no recollection" of the alleged abuse. Further allegations have since emerged. Mr McCarrick was one of the most prominent US cardinals and is one of the most high-profile Catholic leaders to face abuse claims. "Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial," a Vatican statement said. Mr McCarrick is alleged to have assaulted the teenager while working as a priest in New York in the early 1970s. The claims were made public in June by the current Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. He said an independent forensic agency had investigated the allegations. A review board, including legal experts, psychologists, parents and a priest, then found the allegations "credible and substantiated". Several more men have since said Mr McCarrick forced them to have sex with him at a beach house in New Jersey, while they studied for the priesthood as adult seminarians. One man has come forward saying he was assaulted while still a minor.
7-27-18 Anne Hathaway attacks 'white privilege' after train stabbing
US actress Anne Hathaway has urged white people to ask "how 'decent' are we really?" after a black teenager was stabbed to death on a California train. Nia Wilson, 18, was killed after she and her sister were both knifed in the neck on Sunday night in Oakland. "She was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man," Hathaway wrote on Instagram. The suspect, John Lee Cowell, is in custody, but officials say it is unclear if race played a factor. Hathaway's post continued: "White people - including me, including you - must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS." "We must ask our (white)selves - how "decent" are we really?" she added. "Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?" The comments were posted alongside an image of Ms Wilson, who was returning home from a family event when she was attacked. "It basically happened at the snap of the fingers, at the drop of the pin," police chief Carlos Rojas said at a news conference on Monday. He added that it was "the most vicious" attack he had seen in his nearly 30-year career. "It's more reminiscent of a prison yard assault," Chief Rojas said. "They do their attack so quickly that before anybody can really react, the person takes off running." The suspect was arrested on Monday night on board another train after an anonymous tipster called police. In a statement on Monday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf raised the subject of race in response to the killing. She said that although the attacker's motivation is not yet known, "the fact that his victims were both young African-American women stirs deep pain and palpable fear in all of us who acknowledge the reality that our country still suffers from a tragic and deeply racist history".
7-27-18 After Toronto rampage, does Canada have a gun problem?
After a deadly summer of gun violence, many Canadians are wondering if their country is not as immune to the gun crime plaguing the US as they thought. Toronto's summer has been hot and deadly. There have been 109 shootings in the city since May, including last Sunday's deadly attack on Danforth Avenue, when a gunman opened fire on strangers, killing two and injuring 13 others. For many, the shooting spree was the final straw amid escalating gun violence in the city. "We have had an escalating issue with gun violence in this city," city councillor Joe Cressy told the BBC. A day after the attack, Mr Cressy tabled a motion to ask the federal and provincial governments to ban handgun and ammunition sales, respectively, within city limits. "In jurisdictions around the world where you have fewer guns you have a lower rate of gun violence," Cressy says. "In a city like Toronto, I can't understand why anyone would need a gun unless you're law enforcement." Cressy's motion passed 41-4. Council also voted in favour of additional police officers and surveillance capabilities, and to study best policies and practices for reducing gun violence. (Webmaster's comment: Why can't the United States do this?)
7-27-18 Parents deported
The Trump administration confirmed this week that at least 463 parents of children separated at the border are no longer in the U.S. Facing a court-ordered deadline to reunite more than 2,500 kids affected by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the government said at least 917 parents, including those 463, might not be eligible for reunification—because they have already been deported, or have criminal records or other issues. The government added that roughly 130 parents preferred that their children stay in the U.S., though the ACLU, which is representing migrant families in a federal lawsuit, said parents could “mistakenly strand their children” here. Hundreds of parents may have agreed to deportation in the hope of being reunited with their children faster. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has criticized the government’s reunion process and last week ordered deportation of parents to be suspended.
7-27-18 The fight over Kavanaugh’s Nixon comment
A new front opened up in the confirmation fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week, after Senate Democrats seized on years-old remarks in which Kavanaugh questioned the Supreme Court ruling that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes. Included in a trove of documents Kavanaugh passed to the Senate Judiciary Committee was a 1999 transcript of a panel on which he said the unanimous 1974 United States v. Nixon ruling was perhaps “wrongly decided.” The decision, he said, “took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch.” Democrats pounced on the comments, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asking, “If Kavanaugh would’ve let Nixon off the hook, what is he willing to do for President Trump?” Kavanaugh’s comments provide “a fascinating insight into his views on executive power,” said Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.com. What’s most striking is that Kavanaugh didn’t just oppose Nixon, “he condemned the court’s decision to hear the case in the first place.” A judge so opposed to presidential oversight is “precisely the kind of person Trump would want on the Supreme Court.” Yet Kavanaugh has articulated an “extraordinarily deferential stance on presidential powers and privileges,” said Matt Ford in NewRepublic.com. In a 2009 law article, he suggested that the president should be given temporary immunity from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions while in office. His argument? The job is incredibly complex and the president needs as “few distractions as possible.” But excusing Trump from such distractions would grind special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to a halt and let Trump escape political embarrassment from lawsuits brought by women accusing him of sexual assault. If Nixon were in office today, he’d want Kavanaugh on the court, too.
7-27-18 The GOP: ‘Fifth Avenue Republicans’
Donald Trump infamously boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue “and not lose voters,” said Timothy Egan in The New York Times. His supporters—call them “Fifth Avenue Republicans”—continue to prove he was right. Following the president’s “collusion-in-real-time sellout of his own country” to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, a CBS News poll showed 55 percent of all Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance—but 68 percent of Republicans actually approved of the president’s submissive fawning. Don’t be surprised: Republicans stuck with Trump through “his boasting of sexual assault” and his payoff of a porn star, his defense of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, and even his policy of “ripping children from their mothers’ arms” at the border. Who are these Republicans, asked Joe Scarborough in The Washington Post, “and what have they done with my party?” Trump supporters are no less extreme in their strenuous efforts to “excuse his bad behavior,” said McKay Coppins in TheAtlantic.com. First, they dismissed the evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia, then retreated to arguing that Trump campaign communications with Russia weren’t illegal. The next phase of their denial was insisting that Hillary Clinton would have lost regardless, “so the whole point is moot.” Now many Trumpists are arguing that the prospect of a Clinton presidency was so dangerous that foreign exposure of Democratic emails was a public service. “If Russia was involved,” said one writer for the right-wing conspiracy website Gateway Pundit, “we should thank them.” For Fifth Avenue Republicans, “the journey from denying Russian meddling to celebrating it” is almost complete.
7-27-18 The GOP kicks down consumers
“Why do Republicans hate consumers so much?” asked Catherine Rampell. “It’s bizarre.” It regularly feels like Republican officials want consumers to suffer. They’ve tried to block elders abused at nursing homes from suing, and have come down against students stuck with loans for worthless degrees from colleges that went out of business. At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency established after the 2008 financial crisis to prevent consumers from being misled and “hoodwinked en masse,” President Trump installed an acting director, Mick Mulvaney, who believed the agency shouldn’t exist. It’s galling but unsurprising that to fill the role permanently Trump has now nominated Kathy Kraninger, a midlevel bureaucrat with “zero experience in the complicated world of financial regulation or consumer protection.” That inexperience makes her the kind of leader who’ll follow the industry’s bidding, just like Mulvaney. Trump and the GOP have routinely followed the same pattern. They worked to roll back regulations that let consumers sue credit card companies, and blocked states from stopping abusive debt collectors. The best explanation of this is that Republicans “have confused being anti-consumer with being pro-business.” That’s especially silly because the other word for consumers is “voters.”
7-27-18 The Liberator
Americans can now download blueprints enabling them to make guns at home with a 3-D printer. The Trump administration has granted Defense Distributed, a libertarian group, the right to publish its blueprint for an untraceable, single-shot plastic handgun called the Liberator. Founder Cody Wilson says he’ll also publish blueprints for guns such as the AR-15.
7-27-18 Don’t dismiss democratic socialism
Republicans had better not dismiss the democratic socialists as “a fringe movement,” said John Hart. The Democrats’ “socialist surge has the potential to reshape not just the party but American politics for generations to come.” Last week, the country’s two leading democratic socialists, Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York City congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, parachuted into Kansas, the heart of red-state America, for political rallies in behalf of progressive congressional candidates. Conservatives who laugh off Ocasio-Cortez and other democratic socialists should remember how a small band of activists who called themselves the Tea Party became a major factor in national politics, pulling Republicans and the country to the right. “We live in an age of movements, not parties,” and disgust with incumbents of both parties is widespread, particularly among Millennials. Democratic socialists are actually asking important questions about income inequality and poverty, and conservatives must be willing to debate this issue rather than scoff at it. The U.S. is now entering into “a long-term generational and worldview conflict” over the direction of the nation, and the democratic socialists will be a force to be reckoned with.
7-27-18 Rise of the democratic socialists
Socialism was once a dirty word in U.S. politics, but some young progressives say it is the future of the Democratic Party.
- Is this the socialist moment? As the Democratic Party struggles to rise from the ashes of widespread electoral defeat, a growing number of progressives argue that the party can win back the working and middle classes only by moving to the left.
- What exactly is democratic socialism? He wants the U.S. to adopt the social democracy of Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Norway, where a robust social safety net operates in a regulated free-market economy.
- What is the DSA? It’s a national political organization that traces its lineage back to Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party from the early 20th century. Though still very small, the DSA has grown from 5,000 dues-paying members in 2015 to more than 45,000 members in about 180 local chapters today.
- How popular is the DSA? Four DSA-backed candidates recently won Pennsylvania state legislature primaries, and DSA says 35 of its members hold office in the U.S. But nearly all of them are at the city and county level, and in solidly liberal districts.
- Is socialism the Democrats’ future? Thanks partly to Sanders’ success, the party probably is headed to the left on such issues as the minimum wage, marijuana legalization, and health care. But most Democrats remain unwilling to embrace the socialist label.
- The price of democratic socialism? Few items on the democratic socialist wish list come with enough policy specifics to determine their true cost. Sanders and other proponents argue the cost would be lower, because national health care could produce large savings by cutting payment rates to doctors and hospitals, eliminating insurance costs, and requiring drug makers to charge lower prices.
7-27-18 A far-right scheme to register Jews
The far-right Austrian Freedom Party is trying to paint its latest anti-Semitic proposal as sincere concern for animal welfare, said Maram Stern. It pretends to abhor the kosher ritual slaughter of animals as cruel—even though many veterinarians believe the slow draining of blood is no more painful for the animals than other methods of slaughter—and wishes to curtail the practice. So in the state of Lower Austria, a state cabinet minister from the Freedom Party has proposed that only people who register as observant Jews be allowed to purchase kosher meat. The party—which is the junior coalition partner in the national government—says such a program will ensure that only the barest minimum of animals will be slaughtered in that way; gentiles will not have the option of buying kosher. A fortuitous side effect, of course, is that the state will then have a registry of Jews, and Muslims wishing to buy halal meat will probably be next. It’s an idea that could have come straight from the Nazis, which is hardly surprising; the Freedom Party was in fact founded in the 1950s by former Nazis and hasn’t changed much since. To consider limiting Jews’ free exercise of religion in this country, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler, is nothing short of “shameful.”
7-27-18 Israel: A battle over identity and democracy
The problem isn’t what the national law says but what it omits, said Susan Hattis Rolef in The Jerusalem Post. Specifically, Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population and “whose rights—especially the right to equality—are totally ignored.” This law downgrades the Arabic language from an official national language to one with a “special status.” Worse, its fuzzy conflation of the Land of Israel and the State of Israel could legalize the expansion of settlements throughout Palestinian territories. No wonder that when the vote was tallied, Arab members of the Knesset ripped up their copies of the law in protest. Israeli Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh said Israel had “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.” The entire point of the law is racist, said Mordechai Kremnitzer in Haaretz. The state doesn’t need a constitutional provision to settle Jews—it’s been doing that. “It only needs it in order to discriminate against non-Jews and segregate them.” What’s next? Apartment-for-rent ads that specify Jews only? Jobs for Jews only? This bigoted law will aggravate Israeli Arabs’ alienation from the state. But Netanyahu is happy to sow “separatism and factionalism between Jews and Arabs” to cement the support of hard-liners in his base and the ultra-Orthodox parties in his ruling coalition. We have strayed from the values in our noble Declaration of Independence, said Yedidia Stern in Yedioth Ahronoth. It calls Israel the national home of the Jewish people, but also pledges “full equality” for all citizens, regardless of religion, race, or gender. Remember, the Torah commands one law—“both for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.” In insisting on our Jewishness, are we rejecting the values of Judaism?
7-27-18 White farmers must return land to blacks
To get a sense of why South Africa needs land restitution, said Paddy Harper, you just need to listen to the stories of the black citizens whose ancestral lands were stolen. I went to the farming town of Vryheid last week, where a parliamentary committee held hearings to get public opinion on the government’s proposal to expropriate land without compensation from white farmers and redistribute it to blacks. Vryheid means freedom in Afrikaans, but there was certainly no freedom “for the ancestors of the hundreds of black people trying to get through the gate” to speak to lawmakers. One man from this town was jailed under apartheid for his peaceful civic activism; another man’s father returned from fighting the Nazis in World War II only to be “forcibly removed from the land where generations of his family had lived.” The stories are “harrowing, a gut-wrenching reminder” of our country’s crimes: “forced removals, children being kept out of school and used as cheap labor, livestock stolen, homes bulldozed, graves desecrated.” When a white man took the mike to defend his right to the land where he was born, the rest of the crowd got angry. “I can’t say I blame them.”
7-27-18 US child migrants: Over 700 not reunited with families by deadline
Some 711 migrant children taken from their parents at the US-Mexico border have not yet been returned to them, despite a court-ordered deadline. US government lawyers said the children were not eligible to be reunited with their parents. The reasons given included a lack of confirmed family ties, or a parent having a criminal record or a communicable disease. In 431 cases the parents were no longer in the US, a court filing said. US officials separated more than 2,500 children from undocumented adults at the border with Mexico earlier this year, in a "zero tolerance" crackdown on illegal immigration. But it was suspended by President Donald Trump last month after a fierce backlash. The majority of the children were reunified with their parents in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, and 378 others were released in "appropriate circumstances". This covers those reunited with parents who were already out of government custody, those sent to another relative or family friend, and those who are now over the age of 18. Of the 711 deemed ineligible, 120 children's parents had "waived reunification", the government said on Thursday evening. Dozens more remain separated because of "adult red flag", referring to situations in which the child might be at risk. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sued the government over the policy, said US officials had only met "a self-defined deadline". ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt told reporters: "The government shouldn't be proud of the work they're doing in separation. This is a disaster that they created." (Webmaster's comment: Child Abuse in the Extreme!)
7-27-18 Inside the chaotic effort to reunite separated families
The children separated included babies that could not speak properly. More than 700 migrant children taken from their parents at the US border with Mexico remain in federal custody, despite a court-ordered deadline on Thursday to reunite them. Bringing the distraught families together has proved chaotic. The journey from Guatemala through the Mexico desert had been "Todo bien, gracias a Dios" (all fine, thanks to God), and in May Lilian Martinez Lopes finally crossed into the United States carrying her only son, aged five. The 24-year-old, who had planned to seek asylum here, did not speak a word of English and hoped Google Translate would help in her new life. Her husband had come four years earlier and they planned to reunite in Houston, where he now lived. Then the immigration agents came to her. "They told me, 'We'll take your son to a shelter.'" She was surprised. Nobody had told her that migrant families caught crossing illegally were being separated, part of a "zero-tolerance" policy of the Trump administration. She had little time to say goodbye. She recalled him pleading: "Don't let them take me." Ms Martinez cried. "What could I do?" And she watched her boy go. The more than 2,500 separations were often traumatic. Shouting officers caught people by surprise and took scared children from their parents in the middle of the night, activists said. (One mother in Texas said agents had told her the migrants were criminals and the children would be given up for adoption, leaving her in panic.) "I didn't know we'd be separated," Ms Martinez said. "If I knew it I wouldn't have come." Adding to the chaos was the fact that adults and youths had to go through two separate immigration systems. In theory, they received the same identification number, known as A-file, which would make it easier for them to be located. That, however, was not the case for everyone. Some families had different numbers; others no number at all. (Webmaster's comment: The crimes committed by ICE know no bounds!)
7-27-18 Poland protests: Thousands rally against court changes
Thousands of protesters have rallied in central Warsaw chanting "Shame!" after Poland's president granted the nationalist government more power over court appointments. Many held candles and pens symbolising President Andrzej Duda's readiness to sign the controversial legal changes. It is now easier for the government to appoint a new Supreme Court chief. In an unprecedented move, the EU Commission is investigating Poland for allegedly undermining the rule of law. Many Poles and human rights activists accuse the government of politicising the judiciary, weakening its independence. Reuters news agency reports that police used pepper spray during some scuffles outside the presidential palace in Warsaw. Protests also took place in more than 20 Polish cities and towns on Thursday evening against the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's court reforms. The PiS argues that Poland's judiciary was not properly reformed after the end of communism in 1989 and that the courts need to be fairer and more efficient. For more than a year there have been "Chain of Lights" demonstrations demanding judicial independence. Under the PiS shake-up of the judiciary, about one-third of the Supreme Court's 73 judges have been forced to retire early. (Webmaster's comment: Bring back Nazism one step at a time just like Trump is doing in the United States!)
7-26-18 People are bad at spotting fake news. Can computer programs do better?
There’s just too much misinformation online for human fact-checkers to catch it all. Scrolling through a news feed often feels like playing Two Truths and a Lie. Some falsehoods are easy to spot. Like reports that First Lady Melania Trump wanted an exorcist to cleanse the White House of Obama-era demons, or that an Ohio school principal was arrested for defecating in front of a student assembly. In other cases, fiction blends a little too well with fact. Was CNN really raided by the Federal Communications Commission? Did cops actually uncover a meth lab inside an Alabama Walmart? No and no. But anyone scrolling through a slew of stories could easily be fooled. We live in a golden age of misinformation. On Twitter, falsehoods spread further and faster than the truth (SN: 3/31/18, p. 14). In the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the most popular bogus articles got more Facebook shares, reactions and comments than the top real news, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis. Before the internet, “you could not have a person sitting in an attic and generating conspiracy theories at a mass scale,” says Luca de Alfaro, a computer scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. But with today’s social media, peddling lies is all too easy — whether those lies come from outfits like Disinfomedia, a company that has owned several false news websites, or a scrum of teenagers in Macedonia who raked in the cash by writing popular fake news during the 2016 election.
7-26-18 Cracking down on illegal cannabis with edible barcodes and blockchains
A start-up is tracing legal cannabis sold in the US to fight counterfeiting, using edible barcodes and a blockchain – the technology behind cryptocurrencies. The software behind the cryptocurrency bitcoin has found an unlikely use – stopping counterfeit drugs. Using edible barcodes and a blockchain, TruTag Technologies, based in Hawaii, believes it can track cannabis sold legally in the US. The firm tags cannabis edibles, such as brownies or lollipops, with tiny silica particles described as edible barcodes. The idea is that these barcodes are very difficult to imitate and can be scanned to reveal that a particular product is legitimate. Similar tags have been used for medication since 2016, and TruTag will carry out small-scale pilot projects with cannabis later this year once engineering development is complete. The company is discussing partnerships with several local and state legislators. The tags are created by etching a thin silicon wafer with a coded pattern of tiny holes. The wafer is ground into microscopic particles that retain the optical code of the original wafer, which are attached to the surface of the cannabis. Anyone can then read the codes with a special handheld optical scanner and check them online. The online portion of the system is a blockchain-based database developed by Tag-It Tec, based in Seattle. Blockchain is a form of digital ledger originally developed for cryptocurrencies that can publicly record information in a way that is difficult to tamper with. Once someone scans a cannabis edible, the Tag-It database shows the producer, place and date of origin of a cannabis product, confirming it is safe and legal. This makes the supply chain transparent say Lucas Scholl at TruTag Technologies.
7-26-18 Kaitlan Collins: Row over CNN reporter's White House ban
A CNN reporter has been barred from a White House event for asking Donald Trump "inappropriate" questions. Kaitlan Collins said she was excluded from a Rose Garden event after asking about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Trump's ex-lawyer. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the reporter had shouted questions and refused to leave. President Trump has repeatedly attacked CNN as "fake news" and has refused to take questions from CNN reporters. Ms Collins attended a photo opportunity with Mr Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday. She was acting as the White House pool reporter - one of a rotating group of journalists, who will attend an event and write a report which all other networks can use. This system allows networks to share the burden of covering the president. Ms Collins said she had tried to ask Mr Trump questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin's postponed visit and recently released tapes documenting a conversation with lawyer Michael Cohen. The president reportedly ignored the questions. Shortly afterwards, Ms Collins was barred from a Rose Garden press event with Mr Trump and Mr Juncker. (Webmaster's comment: Hitler did the same thing. Banned the press he could not control.)
7-25-18 Has the chicken and egg puzzle over religion’s decline been settled?
New research claims to answer the question of whether godlessness begets riches or riches beget godlessness. It won't be the final word, says Gregory Paul. IT IS well documented that less religious nations tend to be more prosperous. This is most true of the advanced democracies, but also usually holds elsewhere – see how officially atheistic China outperforms more pious India. The trend tends to hold up within countries too: the most irreligious US states are better off than the most theistic. And over time, the global rise in nonreligion parallels that of the middle class. The big debate is not whether mass nontheism is better for societies than belief in the gods, but why the connection exists. A new study attempts to answer this (Science Advances, doi.org/gdtmtn). One possibility is that the better that people feel they are doing, the less they feel the need to seek the aid and comfort of deities. Consumerism also converts many from frugal, pious churchgoers into irreligious materialists. In this case, religion is merely the victim of modernity. Another idea is that secularisation precedes and even drives socioeconomic gain. The latest paper backs this idea, using analysis of socioeconomic patterns in the 1900s, when theism really started to nosedive.It finds that in most nations, and the planet as a whole, secularisation ran ahead of socioeconomic gains. It makes a good case, but I wonder if the measurements of secularisation and socioeconomics it uses are sufficient in scope to tell the horse from the cart in this way. And it is notable that the rapid rise in US nonreligion in the past decade or so, from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, is long after economic modernity. Ultimately, the analysis suggests that the rise in personal and societal freedoms hits dogmatic spiritualistic religion while also promoting capitalism, which tends to make lives better. Add the fast-growing set of nontheistic parents producing nonreligious children, and it looks like a potent feedback. While we can argue over the details, the analysis is yet another science-based blow to the idea that religion is inherent and vital to individuals and societies. Instead, a world afflicted with religious strife needs to know that there is not a single example of a modern democracy that is highly religious and highly successful.
7-25-18 An exclusive look inside the UK’s legal medical cannabis farm
As the row over medical cannabis usage in the UK continues, Amy Fleming visits the only people in the country with a licence to grow marijuana. IN A vast glasshouse in the south of England, cannabis cultivator David Potter is rubbing a plant labelled “Skunk #1” to unleash its unique faecal odour. He is surrounded by different varieties, all in heady bloom under the light sensors, ceiling shades and lamps at GW Pharmaceuticals’ cannabis breeding and medicine production facility. It is the only firm able to grow the plant in the UK. Wearing a white lab coat, he next coaxes out a lemon and pine aroma from a wild Afghan plant. You would never guess that it is a close relative of Skunk #1. Skunk #1 is used in the production of Sativex, the first marijuana medicine to be approved for use in the UK, which helps people with multiple sclerosis to manage muscle spasms. GW, where Potter is botanical director, sells the drug in 29 countries, making the UK the world-leading legal cannabis exporter. Another cannabis-based GW drug, Epidiolex, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last month for the treatment of two complex childhood epilepsies: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex is the first cannabis-based drug to be approved in the US and is likely to get the nod for use in Europe in early 2019. The use of medical cannabis in the UK has come under increased scrutiny thanks to high profile cases such as that of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, whose mother illegally brought cannabis oil back from Canada to reduce the frequency of his epileptic seizures. The Home Office is now reviewing the law and has temporarily granted Billy legal access to the oil. Last week, the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended that doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products to people with certain medical conditions.
7-25-18 This mind-controlled robotic arm lets you do two things at once
Need a hand? Eight people have reliably used a mind-controlled robotic third arm to perform two tasks simultaneously. Eight people have reliably used a mind-controlled robotic third arm to do two things at once. The technology could be used give a helping hand when lifting heavy objects or for tasks that require more than two arms. Participants in the experiment had to learn to control a robotic arm using a brain-machine interface. The robotic arm was placed next to the participants, and they wore two electrodes on the outside of their head to capture brain activity. The arm was then calibrated to pick up on the differences in brain patterns when participants imagined the arm grasping and releasing a bottle. To test their skills, participants had perform two tasks simultaneously. The first was to hold and release a bottle using the robotic arm, and the second was to use their two real arms to move a ball around on a tray. The team found that eight out of the fifteen participants could reliably roll the ball to target points on the tray while grasping and releasing the bottle with the robotic arm, but the other seven struggled and were only successful about half the time. “The two groups didn’t differ by their ability to control the arm, but probably by their ability to concentrate on multiple tasks at once,” says Shuichi Nishio at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan. In other words, he believes people who were better at the task were simply better at multitasking.
7-25-18 Migrant families: 463 parents 'left US without children'
Hundreds of migrant parents are no longer in the US, government lawyers said, ahead of a deadline to reunite families. Administration lawyers told a federal court more than 450 parents had gone, with the government unable to say if they had been deported. The Trump administration recently halted its policy of separating migrant families at the border with Mexico. A court ordered that it must now reunite children with their parents. Federal court judge Dana Sabraw has ruled that all 2,300 detained minors be brought back to their families by 26 July. On Tuesday he said the government was on track to complete the task by that deadline and praised the government's "remarkable achievement" of returning the majority of children rapidly. However, he said the separations and the realities of the case remain "deeply troubling". In a court filing, the administration said 463 parents had left the country, although it did not say if this was voluntary or not. The news comes amid reports that US immigration authorities are telling migrant parents to sign voluntary deportation forms in order to see their children. Lawyers for the government also said the figure of 463 parents was "under review", and the final tally could be different. According to a filing by the government and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Monday, at least 879 parents had so far been reunited with their children. Hundreds of children however remain separated. (Webmaster's comment: They did not voluntarily leave without their children. They were obviously forced to leave without their children!)
7-23-18 The Catholic Church is a cesspool
More than a decade and a half after the septic holding tank was overturned in Boston, the unfathomable noxious waste of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in this country is still seeping out in fetid drips. As a Catholic, I believe that the Church was founded by the apostle St. Peter at the behest of Christ Himself. I also believe that it was for many years and will for many more still remain a cesspool. A month ago, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was removed from public ministry after credible allegations were made that he had abused a 16-year-old altar boy in 1971. Almost immediately after the announcement was made, it was revealed that at least two settlements had been made with victims — both of them adults at the time of the assaults — of McCarrick in the last decade. Now The New York Times reports that McCarrick began molesting a boy identified only as "James" when the latter was 11. This was a boy whom the future cardinal had himself baptized only two weeks after his ordination to the sacrificing priesthood. The abuse continued for 20 years. McCarrick allegedly referred to James as his "special boy" and insisted that the child and his siblings call him "Uncle Ted." When James tried to tell his parents about the things his "uncle" forced him to do, he was told that he must be lying. (Through a spokesperson, McCarrick declined to respond to the Times' request for comment. He has said elsewhere that he is cooperating with the Church's investigation of the allegations.) James was not the only one of Uncle Ted's nephews. For decades it appears that McCarrick forced seminarians in his diocese to spend weekends with him at a beach house, where they were made to share his bed. There they were asked to rub his shoulders and to sit quietly while he groped their genitals. According to one file shared with the Times, McCarrick requested that a seminarian put on a striped sailor suit and a pair of shorts before joining him in bed. It was made clear to all of his victims that saying nothing was a necessary condition of their flourishing in his diocese and the wider Church.
7-21-18 Donald Trump wants NFL players banned for season if they kneel during anthem
US president Donald Trump has called for NFL players to be banned for a season with no pay if they kneel for the national anthem.In May, the NFL introduced a new policy with teams fined if players fail to stand during the anthem. Since 2016, some players have knelt to protest against police treatment of African Americans. "Isn't it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart?" President Trump wrote on Twitter. "First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!" The NFL policy also asked that players who would refuse to stand remain in the locker room while the anthem was played. Speaking in May, President Trump said the NFL was "doing the right thing". He has now called upon NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to "make a stand". The issue surrounding the national anthem returned to headlines on Thursday when it was reported the Miami Dolphins would ban their players for up to four games if they protested on the field. (Webmaster's comment: Suppressing Free Speach and Freedom of Expression anyway he can!)
7-21-18 Why private schools are bad for society.
When we prioritize status over education, everyone suffers. What is the relationship between private schools and the public good? Opinions tend to be shaped chiefly by philosophical commitment to either individual choice or communal welfare. Arguments rarely examine the tension between private schools and the public good, or address whether it can be resolved. At the root of that tension is the issue of status competition. Families in the U.S. choose private schools for many reasons, religious affiliation historically first among them. But for many parents, enrolling their children in private school is primarily about giving them an edge over their peers. And that, it turns out, is incompatible with the public good. When status is the chief aim of schooling, as it so often is in private education, everyone ends up suffering — even the privileged. Parents at all kinds of schools desire a broad and humanistic education for their children. But private school tuition is often justified by the idea that it will produce a return on investment. Private schools, then, face tremendous pressure to provide students with an advantage over others, particularly on the admissions rolls of prestigious colleges and universities. This, in turn, situates education as a very particular kind of commodity — what economists call a positional good. The value of a positional good is dictated not by any inherent worth, but rather by its relation to what is possessed by others. And this directly undermines the public good in two ways. First, if the purpose of school is to give students an advantage over others, then the content of education is largely unimportant. When we conceive of education as a public good, by contrast, learning is the only thing that matters. Are young people learning to be citizens and functional members of the community? Do they have interesting and valuable skills that they can bring to bear on social and economic life? These are the questions that we must answer if educating students matters. But if education is merely a positional good, we need only ask: Are their credentials perceived as more valuable than the credentials possessed by others? This approach undermines learning for all parties, including those enrolled at high-prestige schools. The second reason that status competition conflicts with the public good is that if status is the aim, there must be losers — lots of them. After all, if we are all roughly the same, there is no difference upon which to base unequal distribution of social and economic rewards. Thus, a valuable education is not only predicated upon something tangential to real learning, but also requires that a majority of young people draw short straws.
7-20-18 The mega-machines helping China link the world
China is creating a network of ambitious land- and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And it's wasting no time - designing incredible bespoke construction machines to get the job done fast. President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world's population across 70 countries through a network of land links (the "belt") and sea routes (the "road"). Officials talk about lifetime investments worth trillions of dollars, sourced from banks, participating countries and the Chinese government. The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it burdens poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and dismiss it as a projection of Chinese foreign policy. Nevertheless, evidence of the Belt and Road can already be seen in China and beyond, where a fleet of new machines is building railways at considerable speed.
- Building bridges: Enter bridge-building machine SLJ900/32 - locally nicknamed the Iron Monster. The SLJ is an all-in-one machine capable of carrying, lifting and placing sections of track, connecting pillar with pillar by heavy stone blocks.
- Digging tunnels: Weighing 4,000 tonnes, it has 100m of trailing infrastructure that enables workers to install the tunnel walls as the cutting head inches forward powered by hydraulic rams. As with other "slurry" machines, debris from the cutting head is then collected and transported back out of the tunnel.
- Laying tracks: With 90% of its funding coming from China's Exim bank, it is the first railway outside China built to Chinese construction standards with Chinese machinery. To understand how the railway was built at a pace of 700m a day, look no further than the machine that laid the tracks.
(Webmaster's comment: Instead of focusing on military weapons to kill people like the United States does, the Chinese are focused on making machines and making infrastructure to expand trade between peoples.)
7-20-18 Which President was best?
When asked which president has done the best job in their lifetimes, 44% of Americans named Barack Obama as their first or second choice, followed by 33% who chose Bill Clinton and 32% who listed Ronald Reagan. President Trump came in fourth, with 19%. Pew Research Center
7-20-18 Trump: Why he hates immigration
Donald Trump’s racism has gone from a dog whistle to “a foghorn,” said Richard Wolffe in TheGuardian.com. On his visit to the U.K. last week, the president told an interviewer that a flood of immigrants has “changed the fabric of Europe” and “I don’t mean that in a positive way.” Trump later “took his explicit nativism into more sinister territory” by stating that immigration was “a very negative thing for Europe” and “they better watch themselves because you are changing the culture.” At least now we can “drop the euphemisms” and say it plainly: America’s president is expressing views once confined to “the John Birch Society and George Wallace.” In his open embrace of “white nationalism,” said Paul Waldman in The American Prospect, Trump is realizing Steve Bannon’s fondest dreams. The former White House adviser saw Trump as the man to launch a “clash of civilizations”—pitting “white Christians on one side” against “everyone else on the other.” Trump’s immigration crackdown has targeted hardworking people who’ve lived in the U.S. for decades, such as a Mexican couple who were recently dragged away by ICE agents as they visited their soldier son at his military base in upstate New York. Trump and his nativist minions have actually launched a program to take away citizenship from some naturalized Americans, and have ended a program designed to let immigrants earn citizenship through military service. Trump has also canceled protective status for Salvadoran and Haitian refugees of natural disasters, and has sent ICE to scoop up “undocumented migrants with no criminal records.” Why? Let’s call these policies what they are: “ethnic cleansing.” Clearly, Trump wants nonwhite people out.
7-20-18 Strzok: Not what the GOP expected
President Trump’s “congressional enablers” on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees were planning last week to use Peter Strzok as a “punching bag,” said Rick Wilson in TheDailyBeast.com. Instead, he “knocked them out.” Strzok, of course, is the veteran FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages to his mistress got him booted from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and caused a national furor when they were revealed. The president himself has elevated Strzok to ringleader status in the supposed “witch hunt” against him. House Republicans hoped their melodramatic grilling of Strzok could damage Mueller’s investigation, but Strzok was having “none of it.” Strzok exhibited startling poise and passion as he insisted that he and his superiors at the FBI never let their personal political opinions affect their work, and denounced the hearing itself as “just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.” He left Republicans flailing and humiliated, and “wondering where Strzok learned to hit back that hard.”
7-20-18 How they see us: Putin’s summit victory
It was like watching “a horror movie,” said Karl Doemens in the Berliner Zeitung (Germany). Even before the Helsinki summit between Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump got underway this week, it was clear the Russian president “had the upper hand.” He kept Trump waiting for an hour and appeared relaxed and in charge at the photo op, all the while flashing “a malicious smile.” Then, at the joint press conference following the pair’s private, two-hour meeting, Trump morphed into a Kremlin mouthpiece. Challenged to criticize anything at all about Russia—a country that in recent years has invaded Ukraine, shot down a civilian airliner, and interfered in a U.S. election—Trump said both sides were at fault for their poor relationship. Even though his Justice Department had just indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential race, Trump dismissed the entire investigation into Moscow’s meddling as a “witch hunt.” He “squirmed, fueled conspiracy theories, criticized the domestic opposition, and finally positioned himself on the side of the autocrat against his own security agencies.” The bizarre performance made sense only if you believe the once incredible theory that Russia is blackmailing the U.S. president. Witnessing Putin easily outplaying Trump “filled my heart with not only pride but also alarm,” said Mikhail Rostovsky in Moskovsky Komsomolets (Russia). Getting Trump to side with Russia rather than with his own officials was quite a coup. Of course Putin was pleased—it was a “PR victory” for him, said Vladimir Frolov in Russia’s Republic.ru. True, no final declaration came out of the meeting, and hence no binding commitment on the war in Syria or any other issue.
7-20-18 No monument to a forgotten genocide
Germany has spent decades grappling with its responsibility for the Holocaust, said Susanne Lenz, but what about its earlier genocide? From 1904 to 1908, Germany carried out a campaign of racial extermination against the Herero and Nama people in Namibia. After confiscating their land, the Germans began shooting these cattle-herding nomads. That was too slow and cumbersome. So German colonial troops drove the tribespeople into the desert, leaving tens of thousands to die of thirst. Those who survived were placed in concentration camps, where more perished of disease or torture. By the end of the campaign, 100,000 Namibians had died at German hands. Some of the same officers who honed their skills in Namibia went on to become top Nazis, overseeing the extermination of Jews. Yet while Berlin has multiple monuments and museums exploring German culpability for the Holocaust, there is just one tiny plaque for the victims in Namibia—and its location should be cause for scandal. Berlin Postcolonial, an advocacy group, added the plaque at the foot of a small stone monument in a military cemetery in southeastern Berlin in 2009. The monument itself, of course, is dedicated to the “heroic dead,” those Germans who perished while carrying out the Namibian genocide. In this, our first national crime, the victims get less recognition than the perpetrators.
7-20-18 Romanovs honored
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church led some 100,000 pilgrims on a march to the gravesite of Czar Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, and their five children this week, 100 years after the royal family was brutally executed in the Russian Revolution. Imprisoned in a fortified mansion, the Romanovs were shot and bayoneted to death by Bolshevik troops. The family’s remains, exhumed in 1991, were identified two years later after Prince Philip, husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, provided a DNA sample for comparison. His grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, was the czarina’s sister. The Russian Orthodox Church made all seven Romanovs saints in 2000, a sign of a resurgence of religious fervor and admiration for Russia’s czarist past. (Webmaster's comment: Czar Nicholas II was the church endorsed devine Feudal Lord of the Russian People and his appointed Feudal land-owners could kill any Russian peasant that disobeyed them. The Russian people were in the grip of dark-age feudal tyrants.)
7-20-18 Reunification woes
The Trump administration revealed this week that it cannot reunite hundreds of parents and children separated at the border because the parents have already been deported, jailed, or released. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered deportations of parents to be suspended, saying he was “exasperated” by the government’s failure to meet deadlines for reuniting families affected by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Of the 2,551 children ages 5 to 17 who were separated from parents and placed in federal custody, hundreds have parents whom the administration has not located. The reunification of 57 children under age 5 took place last week. Chris Meekins, a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the judge’s deadlines were creating “increased risk to child welfare,” a claim Sabraw called “deeply troubling” and “completely unhelpful.” Sabraw has ordered all children reunified by July 26.
7-20-18 The blowback from Trump’s summit with Putin
President Trump faced bipartisan condemnation this week for his warm embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit meeting in Helsinki, during which he sided with the Kremlin in denying that it meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Asked about Russian hacking during the election at his joint press conference with Putin, Trump said, “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia,” adding, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Trump’s own aides were reportedly flabbergasted by his direct contradiction of U.S. intelligence findings after they’d prepared him to press Putin on a range of issues, including election interference. Instead, Trump blamed “both countries” for deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations, saying special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had offended Russia and “is a disaster for our country.” The blowback was immediate and intense, with even staunch allies like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Trump’s comments “the biggest mistake of his presidency.” Trump grudgingly attempted to walk back his most inflammatory statements ahead of a meeting with congressional Republicans the next day, contending that he simply misspoke. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’” Reading from a script, Trump also said that he accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but ad-libbed, “Could be other people also.” President Trump’s half-hearted efforts at damage control are “too little, too late,” said The Washington Post. Nothing can change the fact that the president stood beside the leader of a hostile power and refused to condemn a blatant attack on American democracy. Nor did Trump rebuke Putin for any of his regime’s other manifold crimes, including invading Georgia and Crimea, assassinating dissidents on foreign soil, and downing a civilian airliner over Ukraine. The only question now is “whether Congress will move beyond tut-tutting and toward action that begins to restrain Trump.”
7-20-18 14% of migrant children reunited in US
The Trump administration has reunited 364 separated migrant children over the age of five with their families thus far, according to a new court filing. Government lawyers also stated over 900 parents are "not eligible or not yet known to be eligible" for reunification. Thursday's filing comes a week before the court-imposed reunification deadline. Officials have identified 2,551 children to evaluate for reunification. With only a week before the 26 July deadline, the Trump administration has reunited 14% of the migrant children who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border as a part of the "zero tolerance" immigration policy. According to the filing, the government has deemed 1,606 parents as "possibly eligible" to be reunited with their children - of that total, they have cleared 848 parents, and 222 parents have been released. Over 500 of these "possibly eligible" cases are still pending. As of Thursday, 908 parents are still classified as "either not eligible or not yet known to be eligible for reunification". During Monday's hearing, Jonathan White, a senior official from the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the government has not been able to find the parents of 71 children, US media reported. (Webmaster's comment: This is blantant Child Abuse. If another country did this we'd be screaming at the atrocity of this policy.)
7-20-18 Republican candidate to teen: 'You're young and naive'
Scott Wagner, a Republican candidate in Pennsylvania's gubernatorial race, told an 18-year-old woman she was "young and naive" for asking him about campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Rose Strauss tells the BBC she was "disheartened" by the exchange. (Webmaster's comment: The Republican candidate actually blames people's body heat for global warming. Unbelievable!)
7-20-18 Push for legal weed, abortion
The jurist who may serve as Mexico’s next interior minister has said that she will seek to decriminalize abortion in the first trimester. Abortion is currently only legal in Mexico in cases of rape or to save the mother’s life. But Olga Sánchez Cordero, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pick for the interior ministry, said women “should not be deprived” of the right to an abortion, and vowed to discuss the issue with Mexico’s 32 state legislatures. López Obrador’s Morena party took a majority in 22 of the state legislatures earlier this month. Sánchez Cordero also said she would push at a state level for legalizing marijuana use. “Canada has already decriminalized, as well as almost half of the states in the U.S.,” she said in a radio interview. “Why are we killing ourselves when North America and many European countries have decriminalized?”
7-20-18 Lebanese farmer: Growing cannabis should be legal
The Lebanese government is considering legalising cannabis for medical purposes. A farmer explains why he thinks this could "benefit everyone".
7-20-18 The transgender acid attack survivor running for parliament
Forced to leave home when she was only 13, physically and sexually abused by relatives, and later attacked with acid by her former boyfriend, Nayyab Ali's life as a transgender woman in Pakistan has been turbulent. But now, the university graduate is one of four transgender candidates standing in Pakistan's general election next week. "I realised that without political power and without being part of the country's institutions, you cannot gain your rights," she told the BBC. More people from the community are contesting than ever before, in what has proven to be a significant period for transgender rights in Pakistan. During the Mughal empire, eunuchs served as singers, dancers and even advisers in the royal courts. However, when the British colonised India, they vigorously sought to criminalise the transgender community, whom they considered to be deviants, and denied them basic civil rights. But Pakistan is now "leading in the region" in terms of transgender rights, according to Uzma Yaqoob, founder and executive director of transgender rights group, the Forum for Dignity Initiative. Pakistan became one of the first countries to legally recognise a third sex on its national ID cards almost a decade ago and extended this to its passports last year, an option which is still not available to transgender and non-binary people in many Western nations. In May, Pakistan passed new legislation guaranteeing basic rights for its estimated 500,000 transgender citizens - including intersex people, transvestites and eunuchs - and banning discrimination against them.
7-19-18 Jewish nation state: Israel approves controversial bill
Israel's parliament has passed a controversial law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state, fuelling anger among its Arab minority. The "nation state" law says Jews have a unique right to national self-determination there and puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language. Arab MPs reacted furiously in parliament, with one waving a black flag and others ripping up the bill. Israel's prime minister praised the bill's passage as a "defining moment". "A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence," Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens. (Webmaster's comment: Which is exactly what this law does not do!)" However, the law risks further alienating Israel's large Arab minority, who have long felt discriminated against. Called The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, the legislation essentially defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state. Among its 11 provisions, it describes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people" and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is "unique to the Jewish people". It also reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city - part of which is claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state - as the "complete and united... capital of Israel". Controversially, the law singles out Hebrew as the "state's language", effectively prioritising it above Arabic which has for decades been recognised as an official language alongside Hebrew. (Webmaster's comment: The Jews can be as racist as any other group of religious people!)
7-18-18 Lazy thinking – not bias – is the real reason we believe fake news
It was thought that we’re tricked by fake news because we like to believe stories that confirm our world view. But not thinking actually seems to be to blame. Fake news travels fast. But why does anyone actually believe it? It has been widely assumed that fake news spreads because we like to believe stories that confirm our world view. But a study of more than 3000 people suggests otherwise, finding that whether you believe a headline – fake or otherwise – has more to do with your ability to resist mental shortcuts. Humans are well known for avoiding thinking whenever possible. Unconscious, automatic thinking is fast, effortless and intuitive and allows us to be thrifty with our limited mental resources. The downside is that it also fuels our tendency to jump to conclusions and fail to challenge unhelpful stereotypes. Effortful, deliberative thinking can help us question our biases, but research has shown that it can also be used to shore up polarised views on climate change and gun control. Psychologists David Rand of MIT Sloan School of Management and Gordon Pennycook of University of Regina Hill-Levene School of Business wanted to know whether people believe fake news because of deliberate ignorance or whether they are not simply not stopping to think. To find out they rated volunteers on a scale called the Cognitive Reflection Test, which measures the tendency to challenge gut reactions. They then showed them Facebook posts showing headlines for three kinds of headlines: real news, fake news that bolstered their political viewpoint, and fake news that contradicted them. Each person was asked to rate how accurate they thought each of the stories were.
7-17-18 Trump immigration policy: My life trapped in an American city
A student who came to the US from Mexico illegally as a child says she cannot leave her city because it is surrounded by checkpoints and she fears being deported. Her sisters and parents live hundreds of miles away. This is her story. My family and I migrated to Phoenix, Arizona, when I was eight years old. I'm now 22 and a student of engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso. I'm not a criminal yet in a way I'm treated like one. El Paso has checkpoints around it where immigration officers ask for your documents, documents I obviously don't have. I can't leave the city or I risk deportation. Fortunately, my parents became US residents two years ago but, unfortunately, this isn't the case for my sisters, aged 25 and 18, and me. When they got their papers they moved back to Phoenix in search of more job opportunities after four years of living here. But I risked putting my college education in jeopardy and getting deported if I crossed the checkpoint and was asked for my documents. My parents passed fine and it was a coincidence that my younger sister, then 16, had a school trip to New Mexico. You have to cross a checkpoint on the way there. But as immigration doesn't check school buses looking for undocumented migrants, she was able to travel without any problems. On the way back, my parents went there to pick her up so it was all perfect. But as I'm stuck in El Paso, I'm unable to visit my family. My parents visit me once every three or four months - because of work and other things they can't be here more often. But since they all moved I haven't seen my youngest sister. Her high school graduation was last month and I was unable to go even though everyone in the family was there. And I know neither one of my sisters will be able to attend mine. (Webmaster's comment: TRAPPED ie. Imprisoned by the Brutes of ICE!)
7-17-18 Conservatives' religious liberty con
Religious liberty is not meant to be shared with all faiths. The battle over religious liberty — fought, in recent years, over issues like contraception mandates and gay wedding cakes — is about to reach a fever pitch. Too bad it's based on such a big con job. Let's start with the flashpoint: President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While the tug-and-pull between secularism and religiosity in American society is an ever-present theme in the Court's jurisprudence — and, indeed, the culture wars could barely exist without it — the topic seems likely to be particularly salient during the confirmation debate. Already, conservatives and liberals are laying down their markers. National Review called Kavanaugh a "warrior" for religious liberty — although some conservatives worry he's not committed enough — while Vox warned that on religious liberty, like other topics, he will "will move the Court sharply to the right." What does that mean? The term "religious liberties" sounds anodyne enough: The First Amendment guarantees that Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of faith. And conservatives frame the recent debates with a libertarian gloss: Government shouldn't make religious folks violate their faith-informed consciences to provide contraception to employees or make wedding cakes for gay couples. On the surface the message is: "Leave us alone and we'll leave you alone." What could be more American? But that message isn't honest. Unless you're a Christian — and let's be honest, unless you're a conservative Christian — conservative advocacy of religious liberties is a big con, a consolidation of rights and privileges not meant to be shared with Muslims, atheists, or other religious minorities. You don't have to reach far for examples. Just last week, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that would let faith-based adoption agencies — such as Catholic Charities — refuse to serve gay couples, based on the religious beliefs of those agencies. That follows the passage of similar laws in states like Kansas and Oklahoma earlier this year. And yes: Those laws were characterized as "religious liberty" bills. Understand: Those agencies aren't just doing charitable work — they're providing state services, paid for by state and federal dollars. Which means that religious liberty isn't just a right to be left alone: Republicans also view it as a right to receive tax-subsidized government contracts, and to discriminate against a portion of the public. That's an unusual interpretation, to say the least. Can you imagine Republicans voting to let Muslims use tax dollars to discriminate against would-be Christian adoptive parents? It would never happen.
7-15-18 Chicago clashes after US police kill black man
Police in Chicago have clashed with protesters after an officer fatally shot a black man who was suspected of carrying a gun. A crowd of about 150 people shouted "murderers", threw objects and jumped on police cars during the confrontation in Chicago's South Side area. Officers armed with batons traded punches with the protesters, local media reports said. Three officers sustained minor injuries and there were four arrests. A string of police killings of black men, some unarmed, has caused outrage and led to protests in cities across the US. Police said the demonstrators in Chicago on Saturday were dispersed at about 22:30 local time (03:30 GMT). The shot man's identity has not yet been released but he is thought to have been aged in his 30s, local media reported. A police statement said officers on patrol in the South Shore district at about 17:30 local time saw the man "exhibiting the characteristics of an armed person". "An armed confrontation ensued resulting in an officer discharging his weapon and fatally striking the offender," the statement said, adding that police recovered a gun and two ammunition magazines at the scene. Chicago police patrol chief Fred Waller told US media that officers saw a bulge in the victim's trousers that they thought was a gun. When they approached the man, he "started flailing and swinging away, trying to make an escape" and then "reached for the gun", Mr Waller said. (Webmaster's comment: The police just murdered a man who was suspected of having a gun. How can that even be remotely legal?)
7-15-18 Afghanistan conflict: Civilian deaths hit record high, says UN
The number of civilians killed in the long-running war in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first six months of this year, the UN says. Some 1,692 fatalities were recorded, with militant attacks and suicide bombs said to be the leading causes of death. The report comes as at at least seven people were killed in an attack on the rural development ministry in Kabul. Recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores across the country. The figures for the conflict, which began in 2001, are the highest since the UN started keeping records in 2009. The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), says the number of recorded deaths rose by 1% compared with the same period last year. However, the report adds, injuries fell by 5% to 3,430, and the total number of civilian casualties - accounting for deaths and injuries - dropped by 3% to 5,122. The record high death toll came despite an unprecedented ceasefire by Afghan security forces and the Taliban last month, which was largely respected by both sides, Unama said. Earlier this month, Nato leaders gathered at a summit in Brussels to discuss the conflict in Afghanistan. The US has said it is planning a strategic review a year after President Donald Trump agreed to remain involved in the 17-year conflict. The US-led invasion drove the hardline Taliban from power in 2001, as part of a crackdown on Islamist militants after the 9/11 attacks in the US. (Webmaster's comment: And how well has that worked?)
7-15-18 Spain far right protest against moving Franco's remains. Protesters displayed the flag of Franco's Spain and gave fascist salutes.
Some 1,000 people are protesting at the tomb of former Spanish dictator Gen Francisco Franco against plans to move his body, reports say. A far right group had called for a "pilgrimage" to the controversial Valley of the Fallen monument near Madrid. Spain's new socialist government wants to exhume his remains, describing the tomb as a "divisive symbol". It is a shrine for Spain's far right, who pay homage to Gen Franco there. The monument was constructed by the right-wing dictator, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Victims from both sides of the 1936-39 civil war are interred there. However, the site is controversial for many Spaniards, as it is seen as a place dedicated to the victory of Gen Franco's nationalist forces over their Republican opponents. Reports said protesters were singing the song Cara al Sol, the anthem of the fascist Phalange party, whose founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera is also buried at the site. (Webmaster's comment: Worshipped just like shines, monuments, statues, and flags of the Racist Confederacy in the United States!)
7-14-18 Scarlett Johansson quits trans role after LGBT backlash
US actor Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of a role in which she was going to play a transgender man following a backlash from the LGBT community. The Avengers star was set to play 1970s Pittsburgh crime boss Dante "Tex" Gill, who was born Jean Gill, in Rub & Tug. But she was criticised by those who said the role should have gone to a transgender actor. "I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement," Johansson told Out magazine. "While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante's story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person." "I am thankful that this casting debate... has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film," she added. The original announcement was met with intense criticism and some said it showed the limited opportunities given to transgender actors. Trace Lysette, who stars in the Amazon series Transparent, said it was representative of a wider problem in Hollywood. "I wouldn't be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that's not the case," she tweeted. "A mess."
7-14-18 America's secret Cold War nuclear test films released
For the past five years, physicists and experts at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been declassifying films of atmospheric nuclear tests conducted in the US. The team has located around 6,500 of the estimated 10,000 films that were created during the Cold War testing.
7-13-18 ‘Abolish ICE’: Democrats’ new battle cry
If Democrats want to win the November midterms, said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com, they should embrace the growing movement to “#AbolishICE.” Voters are disgusted by the Trump administration’s cruel and extremist immigration policies, and the anti-ICE passion in the party’s base is a “critical asset.” It’s clear why the electorate is so fired up, said Shikha Dalmia in Reason. Having been given free rein by Trump, ICE is going to “monstrous” lengths to deport unauthorized immigrants, rounding up tens of thousands of people in schools, courthouses, and surgery wards, and outside churches. Whereas ICE used to target true criminals, its agents are now seizing people with minor infractions, including traffic violations, and are deporting mothers and fathers who’ve lived and worked in the U.S. for decades—thus separating them from their children. This is “the hard tyranny of the police state.”
7-13-18 Congress must reclaim its war powers
Even in this bitterly polarized age, most conservatives and liberals now agree that “Congress is too weak,” said David French. Over the years, the legislative branch has gradually abdicated its responsibilities in favor of an ever more powerful “imperial presidency.” This is not only bad for the constitutional order; it has also damaged the country’s civic fabric by making every presidential election feel like a life-or-death struggle for total control of the federal government. It’s past time for Congress to reassert itself as an equal branch—and a good place to start would be with its war-making powers. The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. But Presidents Obama and Trump have both claimed a de facto green light to launch “limited” military strikes without congressional authorization. U.S. troops are currently engaged in military operations across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa on the basis of two congressional post-9/11 military authorizations that are more than 15 years old. That’s absurd, and Congress should reclaim its proper constitutional authority over the decision to go to war. It’s the best way to give the public “a greater voice in the most consequential decisions any government can make.”
7-13-18 Missed deadline
A federal judge rebuked the Trump administration this week after the government failed to meet a court deadline for reunifying dozens of young children separated from their parents at the border. Judge Dana Sabraw had ordered all 102 children under age 5 be returned to their parents by July 10, but just 54 had been reunified by then. “These are firm deadlines,” Sabraw said. “They’re not aspirational goals.” Sabraw has also ordered that all 3,000 migrant children in federal custody be reunified with their families by the end of the month. Chris Meekins, a senior Health and Human Services official, insisted the reunifications could not be rushed, in order to ensure children’s safety. Meekins also cited “logistical impediments”; the parents of 12 children, for instance, have already been removed from the U.S.
7-13-18 UN reaches deal on Global Compact for Migration
The UN General Assembly has agreed on a deal to better manage the international flow of migrants and protect human rights. Diplomats from every country except the United States negotiated as global tensions on the issue continue to cause political upheaval and harsh anti-immigrant sentiment. Known as the Global Compact for Migration - it will be formally adopted by world leaders in Morocco in December. The BBC's Nada Tawfik explains what’s in the agreement.
7-13-18 Anthem rule contested
The NFL players union filed a grievance this week over the league’s new policy requiring players to “stand and show respect” during the national anthem or risk being fined. The union claims the rule—announced in May without the players’ being consulted—violates the league’s collective bargaining agreement and “infringes on player rights.” But rather than sue the NFL, the union hopes to negotiate a resolution or settle the matter before an arbitrator. The anthem policy, reportedly influenced by pressure from President Trump, permits players to stay in the locker room while the anthem plays, though Trump has tweeted that the compromise “is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling.” Malcolm Jenkins, a member of Super Bowl champion the Philadelphia Eagles, called the rule an attempt to “thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves” and “draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality.”
7-13-18 Ranchers pardoned
President Trump pardoned two cattle ranchers this week who were serving five-year sentences for arson on federal land, a punishment that drew national attention after it motivated the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016. Agricultural groups celebrated the pardon, while environmental groups said it sends a dangerous message to antigovernment activists. Dwight Hammond Jr., now 76, and his son Steven, 49, were convicted in 2012 of setting fire to more than 100 acres of federal land to cover up illegal deer poaching, a crime that carries a mandatory five-year sentence. After initially receiving lighter sentences, the Hammonds were ordered to return to prison in 2016 to serve the full five years. That led the Bundy family of Nevada, along with other local militia members, to storm a refuge next to the Hammond ranch, which they proceeded to occupy for 41 days. The White House said the five-year sentencing resulted from an “overzealous appeal” by the Obama administration.
7-13-18 Puerto Rico is part of the U.S
An Illinois woman who was wearing a T-shirt with the Puerto Rican flag at a public park was harassed by a man demanding to know whether she was a U.S. citizen. A video shows the man shouting at Mia Irizarry, 24, “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America!” even as Irizarry explains that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. The man was later charged with disorderly conduct.
7-13-18 US lawmaker caught speeding tells cop he often does so
An Arizona state lawmaker bragged to a police officer that he sometimes drives more than double the speed limit - after he was pulled over for speeding. Police stopped Representative Paul Mosley for going 97mph (156km/h) in a 55mph zone near Parker, Arizona, on 27 March in a filmed incident. Mr Mosley said he would go "130, 140" mph on his way home and told the cop he had legislative immunity. The lawmaker has posted an apology on his Facebook page. (Webmaster's comment: What a crock!)
7-13-18 Court takeover
The head of Poland’s Supreme Court turned up for work as usual last week, in defiance of a new law intended to oust her and 26 of the court’s 72 judges. The law, which mandates retirement for all male judges over 65 years old and all female judges over 60, was pushed through the legislature by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, which says it wants to replace judges linked to the old Communist regime. But opposition members say Law and Justice simply wants to fill the court—which authorizes election results—with lackeys so it can cling to power if it loses an election. Chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, 65, has refused the order and was cheered by hundreds of supporters when she arrived at the court. “I am doing this,” she said, “to defend the rule of law.”
7-13-18 The filmmaker who chronicled the Holocaust
When Claude Lanzmann set out to make a documentary about the Holocaust, his initial backers envisioned a two-hour film that would be produced over 18 months. Instead, the French filmmaker would toil for 11 years, doggedly gathering 350 hours of testimony from survivors and perpetrators alike. His 1985 film Shoah, which runs nine and a half hours, depicts the Holocaust entirely through the words of the people who witnessed it, with no music or archival footage. In one scene, a Jewish barber who cut the hair of fellow prisoners bound for the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp begs Lanzmann to stop the interview, but the director presses on. When asked about the morality of forcing survivors to relive such horrors, Lanzmann defended his unflinching approach. “One has to die with them again,” he said, “in order that they didn’t die alone.” Lanzmann was born in Paris to Jewish parents from Eastern Europe, said The Washington Post. The family later moved to a farm in rural Brioude, and during the Nazi occupation of France, Lanzmann and his brothers “were taught to hide from the Gestapo in a hole their father dug in the garden.” At age 18, he joined a Communist Resistance group and smuggled arms to the partisans. After the war, Lanzmann “became a figure of the intellectual left,” said The New York Times. A protégé of the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and for nine years the lover of Simone de Beauvoir, he joined both on the editorial board of the journal Les Temps Modernes. Shoah was Lanzmann’s second film—after 1973’s Why Israel—and he went to extreme lengths to pry the truth from former Nazis, making false promises of anonymity and using hidden cameras. Lulled into a false sense of security, some former camp guards even expressed pride in the efficiency of the Nazi death machine. Shoah “defined the Holocaust for those who saw it, and defined him as a filmmaker,” said the Associated Press. Lanzmann made several more documentaries based on his unused interviews, including 2013’s The Last of the Unjust. He loathed Holocaust movies such as Schindler’s List and Life Is Beautiful, which he thought tried to sanitize the Holocaust with their relatively hopeful endings. “The last image of Shoah is different,” he said. “It is a train which rides and never stops. It says that the Holocaust has no ending.”
7-12-18 Canada province cancels new sex-ed curriculum after protests
A Canadian province has cancelled a controversial sex education curriculum that taught children about gender identity, consent and social media. Newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford made good on his promise to cancel the lessons, which sparked protests when it was implemented in 2015. The curriculum was objected to by many who said it was age inappropriate and dismissed family values. Similar protests over sex ed have happened around the world. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, introduced a new sex-ed curriculum in 2015 in an attempt to modernise the programme in light of many changes to Canadian society and the growth of social media and sexting. The last time the curriculum had been updated was 1998. In 2005, same-sex marriage was legalised, and in 2012, Ontario passed a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people. Meanwhile, the explosion of social media and the ubiquity of mobile phone ownership led to the rise of cyber-bullying, cyber-exploitation and sexting. Many socially conservative parents said the programme promoted progressive values and usurped their rights as parents to teach their children traditional values about sex and monogamy. Some parents and religious organisations especially objected to parts of the curriculum that taught children about different sexual and gender identities and masturbation. For instance, one lesson plan designed for children around 11 years old suggests describing masturbation as "something that many people do and find pleasurable". Other lessons plans for children mention concepts such as sexual orientation, children having two mothers or two fathers, and the idea that not everyone's gender corresponds with their sex at birth.
7-12-18 US reopens investigation of Emmett Till slaying 63 years later
The US government has reopened an investigation into the 1955 murder of a black 14-year-old boy whose death galvanised the civil rights movement.. A Department of Justice (DOJ) report states the agency had received "new information" about the Emmett Till case, but offered no further details. Till was murdered in Mississippi after a white woman accused him of making lewd remarks and touching her. A recent book quoted the woman as admitting she lied in her testimony. The DOJ investigation was announced to lawmakers on 26 March, but has come to light this week after a report by the Associated Press. It is unclear what new information prompted the government to reopen the case, but a book published last year, The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B Tyson, had said Carolyn Donham, the white woman who testified against Till, admitted she lied about the teenager's actions in 1955 during a 2008 interview. "Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him," Mr Tyson's book quotes Donham, now in her 80s, as saying. In a letter to a US lawmaker last year, Acting Assistant Attorney General T E Wheeler II had said that the DOJ was "assessing whether the newly revealed statement could warrant additional investigation", the Clarion-Ledger reported. Last April, the Ledger reported that Till's relatives had urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reopen the case.
7-11-18 Latino picnicker harassed in Illinois park as cop stands by
A woman wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt at an Illinois park was racially harangued by a white man as a police officer stood by. Mia Irizarry, 24, filmed the stranger's tirade, which unfolded as she set up a picnic to celebrate her birthday. She repeatedly urges an officer to intervene as the man confronts her, jabbing his finger at her and demanding to know if she is a US citizen. Local officials said the officer has been assigned to desk duty. The Forest Preserves of Cook County, a local government agency that manages parkland in the Chicago suburbs, said it was investigating the officer's actions. Authorities said the intoxicated suspect was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct over the 14 June incident. He was named in police reports as 62-year-old Timothy Trybus. In the video clip, as Mia Irizarry sets up her picnic the man approaches and demands to know why she is wearing her shirt, which had "Puerto Rico" written on it. "You should not be wearing that in the United States of America," the man shouts. "Are you a citizen? Are you a United States citizen?" Ms Irizarry tells him Puerto Rico is part of the US, politely addressing the man as "sir". "We don't own Puerto Rico," the man replies. "Are you educated?" She asks a park police officer to help, saying: "I am renting this area and he's harassing me about the shirt that I'm wearing." But the policeman does nothing. She says: "Officer, I'm renting, I paid for a permit for this area." "I do not feel comfortable with him here, is there anything you can do?" But the officer walks away. Coming closer, the man says: "You're not gonna change us, you know that?" "OK, OK," Ms Irizarry says, trying to placate him. Pointing at her, the man says: "You're not American, if you were American you wouldn't wear that. "Why is she wearing that [expletive]?" As more police officers arrived, the man was detained. (Webmaster's comment: The home of the free and the land of the brave!)
7-11-18 Grandfather allegedly beaten and told 'to go back to Mexico'
Police are looking for several suspects following a brutal 4 July attack on a 92-year-old Mexican man in his family's Los Angeles neighbourhood. Rodolfo Rodriguez says he passed a woman on his daily walk when she began assaulting him with a brick and called on a group of men to join the attack. He was taken to hospital with a broken cheekbone and two broken ribs. A neighbour filmed the assault and told US media that the woman who first hit him said: "Go back to your country." "I can't walk anymore," Mr Rodriguez told CNN in an interview. "I'm in so much pain." Mr Rodriguez, a permanent resident of the US who lives in Michoacan, Mexico, said he visits his family in California about twice a year. He was walking to a nearby park when the attack occurred. "I just passed her and she pushed me and she hit me until she was done," he said. Misbel Borjas, a witness who captured the incident on her phone, told CNN the woman attacked the elderly man with her hands and then a brick or slab of concrete, shouting at him to "go back to your country, go back to Mexico". Ms Borjas said when she tried to defend Mr Rodriguez, the woman threatened to hit her with the brick. As Ms Borjas recorded the attack, she says a group of younger men came and began kicking Mr Rodriguez as he was on the ground. Erik Mendoza, Mr Rodriguez's grandson, found his grandfather later that evening, bloodied and bruised on the street and unable to walk. Mr Rodriguez's family says he does not understand why he was attacked "I'm just overwhelmed how anybody can do this to a human being at all," Mr Mendoza told CBS News. "He's 92 years of age. There's no harm that he meant for you to treat him the way you did." His grandson said Mr Rodriguez does not speak much English and did not understand why he was being attacked. (Webmaster's comment: Now the home of race hatred!)
7-11-18 US cannot reunite dozens of child migrants with their parents
The Trump administration has said 27 young migrant children are "not eligible for reunification" with their parents, according to a court filing. Twelve other children's mothers or fathers have already been deported from the US, said the government. "Legitimate logistical impediments" are delaying reunions for many of the 102 children under five years old who were taken from parents, US officials say. Nearly 3,000 children were split from undocumented adults entering the US. The government was bound by a court order to reunite children aged five and under by 10 July. The Department of Justice (DoJ) and American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) joint status report on Tuesday detailed why the 27 children cannot yet be reunited with their families. The parents of 10 children were being still held in criminal custody after crossing the US border without papers, and have yet to be fully assessed, said the report. Eight other children's parents have a "serious criminal history" including narcotics, human smuggling, murder and robbery. Two other children cannot be reunited with parents because of a possible threat of child abuse. Five children had been separated from adults who were not their parents. Another child's parent is being treated for a communicable illness. The location of another child's parent has been unknown for more than a year. Records show both parent and child might even be US citizens. Some 75 of the 102 separated children have been determined eligible to be reunited with their families, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But as of Tuesday afternoon, the government said it had only reunited four of those children with their parents. It said it expected to reunite another 34 by the end of the day, in accordance with the deadline. (Webmaster's comment: In India they lock children in basements for 5 hours. In America we tear them away from their parents and lose them.)
7-10-18 Trump pardons Oregon ranchers who sparked 2016 militia standoff
President Donald Trump has pardoned two Oregon cattle ranchers whose sentence for arson led armed militiamen to seize control of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 after a prescribed burn on their land spread to nearby public lands in 2001. The pair served time in jail, but a judge later ruled that they must serve their full five-year sentence. The ruling sparked anti-government protests that left one rancher dead. "The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community and have widespread support from their neighbours, local law enforcement and farmers and ranchers across the West," the White House said in statement on Tuesday announcing their full pardon. "Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.'' The Hammonds had claimed that the fire was to fend off invasive species, but prosecutors alleged that it was set to cover up evidence of illegal deer poaching and that it posed a grave risk to firefighters. A judge had granted them a shortened jail stint, but in 2015 a federal judge ruled that they must complete their full sentences and sent them back to jail. The case had drawn the attention of limited-government proponents, including the family of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who was himself facing charges relating to an armed standoff with law enforcement stemming from a refusal to pay fees for grazing on public lands. (Webmaster's comment: Pure and simple Trump will pardon crooks for political gain.)
7-10-18 My weekend in the desert trying to experience dream telepathy
When Rowan Hooper went to Arizona to explore the purpose of dreams, he found himself among “experts” in using dreams to talk to dead people and diagnose cancer. There’s still so much we don’t know about dreams. What shapes them? What is their true purpose? Wanting to understand such questions, I headed to the Arizona desert for the 35th annual International Dream Conference in Phoenix, last month, only to find myself having lunch with a psychoanalyst scheduled to give a talk on using dreams to predict the future. I was lucky not to choke on my burrito. The International Association for the Study of Dreams, which runs the conference, is “multidisciplinary”: it embraces both scientific and other modes of enquiry into dreaming. I was there to hear presentations from researchers such as Katja Valli, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Turku, Finland, who has proposed an evolutionary explanation for dreaming, and Mark Blagrove, a psychologist from the University of Swansea, UK, who is researching how waking events are incorporated into dreams. But I was also interested to learn what people outside the scientific fold are contributing to our understanding of dreams. Call me naive, but it was a shame to find an “us versus them” attitude among the non-scientists. “There are multiple ways of opening doors and sometimes hard science is the wrong key,” Fariba Bogzaran, of the California Institute of Integral Studies, told the meeting. You could argue that parapsychology – the study of telepathy and so on – is harmless fun, a mystical hobby in the vein of astrology. But conference sessions explored the use of dreaming for diagnosing breast and prostate cancer. When pseudoscience veers into the health realm, it risks misleading people with serious diseases, and unnecessarily worrying those who do not have cancer but may have dreamed that they do.
7-10-18 If democratic socialism is so bad, why is Norway so great?
The spectacular upset victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her recent New York congressional primary election has catapulted the topic of democratic socialism to the top of America's political discussion. Conservatives have argued that the leftist politics of Ocasio-Cortez represent a policy program guaranteed to fail, and a sure electoral loser for Democrats. (Plenty of moderate liberals, including my colleague Damon Linker, have cosigned the latter part of that argument, too.) Let's set aside electoral politics for now and focus solely on democratic socialist policies. Helpfully, we have a country that very closely approximates the democratic socialist ideal. It's a place that is not only very far from a hellish dystopia, but also considerably more successful than the United States on virtually every social metric one can name. I'm talking about Norway. As I explain here, democratic socialism is a political tradition aiming broadly at democratic control of the economy, achieved through electoral processes. In concrete terms, that generally means a completed cradle-to-grave welfare state plus democratic ownership of big swathes of the economy through mechanisms like a social wealth fund or state-owned enterprises. Importantly, this definition rules out authoritarian systems like the state socialism seen in the Soviet Union. Democracy means at a minimum regular, free, and fair elections, where a conservative party has a real chance of victory. On a snapshot of other quality-of-life measures, Norway boasts:
- A life expectancy of 81.7 years.
- An infant mortality rate of two per 1,000 live births.
- A murder rate of 0.51 per 100,000.
- An incarceration rate of 74 per 100,000.
How does all that compare to the United States? Well, our economy is somewhat less wealthy, with per capita GDP of $59,500 — but to be fair, that is about the highest outside of oil-rich or tax haven countries. Socially, however, the picture is much worse: America ranks in the mid-teens for happiest countries, while its life expectancy is two years behind Norway, and actually fell in 2016 and 2017. America's infant mortality rate is three times higher. Its murder rate is over 10 times higher, as is its incarceration rate.
7-10-18 Brett Kavanaugh picked for Supreme Court by President Trump
US President Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a bruising confirmation battle. In a primetime announcement at the White House, Mr Trump praised his pick as a "brilliant jurist". The nominee, a District of Columbia appeals court judge, is a former adviser to ex-President George W Bush. The decision has far-reaching implications for America on everything from abortion to guns to immigration. This is Mr Trump's second Supreme Court appointment, potentially allowing him to shape the US for a generation. The president said: "Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law. "Where does he stand on key issues?
- Abortion: He's against it.
- Executive power: He's for more power.
- Guns: He's for assault rifles.
- The environment: He's against protecting it.
The US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on contentious laws and disputes between states and the federal government. It rules on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, voter rights, immigration policy, campaign finance and racial bias in policing. Each of the nine justices holds a lifetime appointment. As Mr Kavanaugh is relatively young, he could serve for decades to come. His appointment will not change the ideological tilt of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but he could shift the bench further to the right. (Webmaster's comment: He's not a friend of the people.)
7-10-18 Deadline to reunite US migrant toddlers with parents extended
A US judge has given the Trump administration more time to reunite migrant children aged five or younger with their parents. The decision came after a government lawyer said more than half of the 102 young children may be back with parents by the original deadline of Tuesday. They are among more than 2,300 children separated from parents prosecuted for illegally crossing the border. The adults say they have fled poverty and gang violence in Central America. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that after viewing a list of the 102 children under the age of five in the government's care, "it appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by the 10 July deadline. However, during a hearing on Monday, Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian said 54 of the children should be back with their parents by Tuesday. At the hearing in San Diego Judge Dana Sabraw agreed that some cases "will necessitate additional time" for reunification. Immigration authorities have offered little information about reunification or what comes next. Lawyers have described migrant toddlers clambering on court desks during hearings, forced to appear in court alone while their parents are detained. Meanwhile, a federal judge in Los Angeles has rejected the Trump administration's request to allow the long-term detention of illegal immigrant children. Under a 1997 agreement, child migrants can only be detained for 20 days. Judge Dolly Gee said the administration's request to extend that limit was " a cynical attempt" to shift immigration policymaking to the courts. (Webmaster's comment: The extension just gives the brutes at ICE more time to hide the evidence of what has actually happened to many of the missing children.)
7-9-18 Nazi-themed goods found on Amazon marketplace
Amazon is helping hate groups profit by letting them sell Nazi-themed goods on its store, a report suggests. The study found many hate groups were selling goods on Amazon's store branded with Nazi imagery, including clothing, jewellery and replica military regalia. Some hate groups were also selling music and books celebrating their views via Amazon, it said. Amazon has now removed some listings and said anyone who broke its guidelines would face "swift action". The report by two US organisations, the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy, looked at the way white supremacist groups used Amazon to fund themselves. It said Amazon's "weak and inadequately enforced" policies gave racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic movements many different ways to generate cash, spread their ideas and grow. The groups found a wide variety of goods displaying established hate symbols such as the swastika and anti-black imagery as well as more modern imagery adopted by racist groups. Openly racist writers, musicians and activists were also selling their content via Amazon, it found. While Amazon had specific policies that banned "products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organisations with such views", it did a poor job of enforcing this stance, found the report. It said: "Amazon has a history of responding slowly - or not at all - to public pressure on this front rather than effectively preventing hate groups from using its platforms in the first place." The groups urged Amazon to take a "clear public stand" on hate movements and stop them profiting. Amazon has removed many of the items found by the report and said it was working to stop neo-Nazi musicians streaming content. In a statement Amazon said sellers on its marketplace "must follow our guidelines and those who don't are subject to swift action including potential removal of their account". (Webmaster's comment: In America promoting hatred is now very profitable!)
7-8-18 U.S. officials separated him from his child. Then he was deported to El Salvador.
"I don't even know where she is." Arnovis Guidos Portillo remembers the authorities in green uniforms telling him that this would only be temporary. They told him that his 6-year-old daughter, Meybelin, should really go with them, he recalled. The holding cell was cold, he said he was told, and the child was not sleeping well. Don't worry, he was assured, she would take the first bus, and he would follow soon. "What's best is we take her to another place," he recalled a U.S. official telling him. It's a conversation this 26-year-old farmer from El Salvador has replayed for nearly a month. His daughter was taken from him on his second day in U.S. immigration custody in Texas, he and his lawyers said, and she remains somewhere in the United States. Guidos was deported recently back to El Salvador, where he lives in a one-room, dirt-floor shack with no electricity and two goats in the yard. He and his daughter are one of more than 2,000 migrant families who have firsthand experience with President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. The decision to prosecute all those caught crossing illegally into the United States meant that parents and children were sent to separate detention centers and shelters. Although Trump ended family separations in an executive order last month, many parents are still trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare, far from their children and unsure how they will be reunited. "I would advise anyone who wants to travel to the United States with their children not to do it," he said. "I would never want them to have to walk in my shoes." (Webmaster's comment: The inhumanity of many Americans knows no bounds! Stealing children for child sex slaves and body parts.)
7-8-18 Turkey purges more workers ahead of Erdogan swearing-in
Turkey has sacked another 18,000 state workers, in the latest purge triggered by a failed coup two years ago. Those dismissed include soldiers, police and academics. A TV channel and three newspapers have also been closed. Since the coup attempt the government has fired more than 125,000 people, introduced emergency rule and clamped down on the media and the opposition. The move comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to be sworn in with sweeping new powers on Monday. He has promised to lift the state of emergency. Correspondents say the purge announced on Sunday could be the last before he does so. Last month President Erdogan was re-elected with 53% of the vote. He has presided over a strong economy and built up a solid support base. But he has also polarised opinion, cracking down on opponents and putting some 160,000 people in jail. Under controversial constitutional changes approved by a referendum last year, parliament has been weakened and the post of prime minister abolished. The president will be able to appoint to ministers and vice-presidents and intervene in the legal system. (Webmaster's comment: Turkey's dictator continues to get rid of and kill off all opposition. Trump praises him and is green with envy!)
7-7-18 US seeks extension over migrant family reunifications
The US government has asked for more time to reunite migrant families separated at the US-Mexico border as it emerged that some children's parents have already been deported. In a two-hour hearing on Friday, a government attorney said that 19 parents of children under the age of five held in custody had left the US. The justice department has a deadline to release these children by 10 July. But it says that more time is needed to perform the necessary identity checks. On Thursday, the US Department of Justice issued a formal request to Judge Dana Sabraw, a federal judge in San Diego, for relief regarding the earlier court order to release 101 children aged five and under by next Tuesday. The judge, who has yet to rule on the extension, said the government needed to provide a full list of those under five held in custody by Saturday afternoon, following which the original deadline would be re-evaluated. He also said the government would need to present expectations for meeting the deadline for each child on the list to the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the class action lawsuit. Judge Sabraw also scheduled a status hearing on Monday morning, saying he hopes an agreement can be reached regarding whether Tuesday's deadline will need to be extended. The court order also includes a deadline to release children aged between five and 17 by 26 July. During the hearing on Friday, the government attorney also provided an overview of the families affected. (Webmaster's comment: The brutish males in charge of this problem will make up any excuse to continue their abuse of women and their children!)
7-7-18 The sick phenomenon of school shooting contagion
Mass shootings can spread like a disease, with each massacre inspiring new rampages. Can the cycle of violence be stopped? Mass shootings can spread like a disease, with each massacre inspiring new rampages. Can the cycle of violence be stopped? Here's everything you need to know:
- How do shootings catch on? Researchers are finding ever more evidence that school shootings are often not isolated, random outbursts of violence but instead spread "contagiously," with every attack "infecting" and inspiring more potential killers.
- When did this phenomenon start? The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 is considered the spark that ignited the epidemic.
- Does mental health play a role? It's not clear. Michael Stone, a psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of mass shooters, said in 2015 that only 22 percent of such killers had a severe mental illness
- Are males more susceptible? Since Columbine, 95 percent of school shooting plotters have been men or teenage boys.
- Does the media bear any responsibility? Many experts believe that the saturation coverage that follows school shootings can act as a spur to other would-be killers.
- What can be done to stop copycats? Some commentators have argued that the media should refuse to name mass shooters, to deny them the attention they desire and help contain the contagion.
- The death toll competition: Many would-be school shooters aren't simply inspired by past mass murderers; they're also driven by a desire to top those killers' death tolls — as if they were playing a video game.
(Webmaster's comment: You put semi-automatic or automatic weapons designed soley for killing people in the hands of the many mentally immature males that make up the American society what would you expect?)
7-6-18 North Carolina mother alleges racism at private pool
A black woman has alleged racism after the police were called when she entered a North Carolina swimming pool, in an incident that has gone viral. Jasmine Edwards said she was visiting the neighbourhood pool in Winston-Salem with her baby on Wednesday when a white man asked her to show identification. She filmed the interaction and posted the video to Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 4.5m times. Amid the ensuing backlash, the man has been fired by his company. A lawyer representing the individual, named in local media as Adam Bloom, said he was merely doing his job as pool chairman and board member for the local homeowner's association. The attorney, John Vermitsky, told the Winston-Salem Journal that Mr Bloom had approached Ms Edwards because another resident had questioned whether she was a member of the pool. The incident took place during the Fourth of July holiday at the private Glenridge Community Pool. Mobile phone video filmed by Ms Edwards shows police calmly speaking to her and the man. "Nobody else was asked their ID," Ms Edwards tells police. She tells them that Mr Bloom had approached her to ask for her driver's licence to confirm she was a resident. "I feel this is racial profiling," said Ms Edwards. "I'm the only black person here, with my son in the pool, right? And, he walked only to me to ask for my ID. "Where does it say that I have to show an ID to use my pool, my own pool?" Officers leave after Ms Edwards hands her electronic keycard to a policeman, who uses it to open the locked pool gate. Ms Edwards then asks Mr Bloom if he will apologise, but he does not and walks away. On her Facebook page, Ms Edwards called the incident "a classic case of racial profiling in my half a million $$ neighborhood pool". Mr Bloom's employer, the packing company Sonoco, said on Friday it had fired him over the "terrible incident".
7-6-18 The case for abolishing ICE
This agency is cruel, expensive, and redundant. Get rid of it. Here is a growing backlash against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in America. The movement has been fueled by President Trump's divisive "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigrants, and the abhorrent practice of detaining immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. Many appalled protesters are looking for someone to be mad at besides Trump, and while ICE isn't responsible for rounding up and separating immigrant families at the border (that's Border Patrol), the anger being directed at ICE is warranted. It is an expensive, abusive, and unnecessary agency. We should get rid of it. ICE has only existed for 15 years, during which time America's spending on immigration enforcement, tracking, and surveillance has swelled like a tumor. The U.S. spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement between 1990 and 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Deportations increased more than tenfold between 1990 and 2011. And ICE spends $2 billion every year to hold immigrants in private detention centers known for human rights abuses. One report found that, over seven years, ICE workers were accused of roughly 600 instances of sexual and physical abuse in detention centers. This is made worse when you realize that private contractors have been benefiting from the detention centers. We now have a tangled monster of a system that incentivizes indefinitely holding people who have committed a civil infraction by crossing the border. We are spending a lot of money to punish families for nonviolent offenses — for doing a perfectly rational thing like trying to find more work, or trying to get their children out of violent, cartel, civil war-ridden countries. (Webmaster's comment: They seem to be little different than Hitler's brown shirts. Brutes who obey any orders from our new Fuhrer, Trump!)
7-6-18 Ex-Fox News co-president Bill Shine joins White House staff
Former co-president of Fox News Bill Shine is the latest addition to the Trump administration staff, the White House has announced. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Mr Shine will replace Hope Hicks as his assistant and deputy chief of staff for communications. Mr Shine resigned from Fox News in 2017 amid several sexual harassment scandals at the news organisation. Women's rights groups have criticised the decision. The White House statement said Mr Shine "brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role". He is now the president's fifth communications director following the departure of Ms Hicks in February. Mr Shine left Fox News in May of last year after allegations of sexual harassment arose against the late Fox News boss Roger Ailes and host Bill O'Reilly. Lawsuits suggested Mr Shine covered up Mr Ailes' scandals, US media reported. Mr Shine himself was not accused of any sexual misconduct and had worked with Fox for over 20 years.(Webmaster's comment: Birds of a feather flock together!)
7-6-18 Scott Pruitt quits as head of US environment agency
Scandal-hit Scott Pruitt has resigned as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In a letter to President Donald Trump, he blamed "unrelenting attacks" on himself and his family. Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Pruitt had done "an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him". But since taking office Mr Pruitt has been mired in series of scandals concerning his spending habits and alleged misuse of office. His deputy Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, will take over as acting head of the agency, Mr Trump said. Mr Pruitt is the subject of at least a dozen investigations into his conduct. He has been under scrutiny for renting an apartment with ties to a fossil fuels lobbyist at a below market rate. He is also accused of bypassing the White House to secure big pay rises for two long-time staff members. Earlier on Thursday, US media reported that he had asked his scheduler to retroactively alter his public calendar - which may be a federal crime - to scrub politically sensitive meetings. He angered liberals and environmentalists by severely curtailing the agency's activities and repealing many measures designed to protect the environment. (Webmaster's comment: Good riddance to bad rubbish, but he will only be replaced with someone equally bad if not worse!)
7-5-18 There's no such thing as a literal interpretation of the Constitution
If there is a legal creed of American conservatism, it is originalism: the literal interpretation of the Constitution, according to the intentions of the people who wrote it. "The Constitution is a dead document," Antonin Scalia famously said. "It is an enduring document that does not change." This idea is a ludicrous and impossible philosophy disguising narrow political self-interest. Trying to make legal decisions based on the perfectly divined views of previous authors raises many immediate problems. Of most practical significance is changing circumstances. Any political document will inevitably run into unforeseen circumstances, and that is more true for the United States than it is for any other country. At 230 years old, the American Constitution is by far the oldest continually operating constitution in the world — the average constitutional lifespan is only around 17 years. America is constantly facing developments the authors of the Constitution could not possibly have foreseen. It was largely written by aristocratic plantation farmers, many of them slave owners, who sharply restricted the franchise to property-holding men. It was a time before mass democracy, before mass production and industrial capitalism; before electricity and radio; before coal, oil, trains, planes, and the automobile; before the transistor, computing, and the internet. Even if we could divine the intentions of the authors with crystalline perfection, they likely provide limited at best guidance about how to make legal decisions about a modern wealthy state. It's senseless to try to predict what James Madison would think about, say, the proper regulation of internet platform monopolies. But we can't see those intentions, because the (numerous) authors of the Constitution were often deliberately vague about them. When both the original document and many of the most important amendments were drafted was a time of intense political disputation, and often unclear language was used to paper over differences.
7-5-18 Facebook finds Independence document 'racist'
Facebook's algorithms have ruled that parts of the US Declaration of Independence are hate speech and removed excerpts of them posted to the platform. In the run-up to Independence Day, a US community paper based in Texas had been posting small daily chunks of the historic document on its Facebook page. At issue was a part of it that referred to "merciless Indian savages". Facebook later apologised and allowed the posting. The Liberty County Vindicator had been sharing excerpts from America's founding document to its Facebook page in an attempt to encourage historical literacy among its readers. Part 10 did not appear, with the paper receiving a notice from Facebook saying the post went against its standards on hate speech. (Webmaster's comment: Maybe the real savages were the invading hoards of barbaric white people who stole the indians land and raped and killed them with impunity!)
7-5-18 Statue of Liberty climber in court after forcing evacuation
A woman who climbed up on the Statue of Liberty and sat on the monument's base is in detention, police say. Tourists were evacuated from Liberty Island in New York Harbour on Wednesday during a three-hour stand-off involving local and federal authorities. US media have named her as Therese Okoumou, a 44-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms Okoumou was reportedly protesting against President Trump's zero-tolerance policy on immigration. "At first, she wasn't friendly with us, but we took the time to get a rapport with her so that took a while," New York Police Detective Brian Glacken said at a news conference. "She just kind of mentioned the kids in Texas. I guess the whole debate that's going on about that," he said in reference to migrant children who have been taken away from parents held in custody for entering the US illegally. "In the beginning, she threatened to push us off, push the ladder off, but we stayed with her," he continued. Ms Okoumou is due in court on Thursday, and could face charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and violating national park regulations. Earlier, several people were arrested after holding a protest at the statue. (Webmaster's comment: So now protesting is now becoming illegal. So much for our rights of free speech and the right to protest!)
7-5-18 Black US politician reported to police while canvassing for votes
A black Democratic politician in the US state of Oregon says the police were called on her while she was out campaigning for re-election. Janelle Bynum was knocking on doors in Clackamas County on Tuesday when a patrol car pulled up alongside her. In a Facebook post, she said one of her constituents had thought she was acting suspiciously and called the police. "I was going door to door and spending a lot of time typing on my cell phone... aka canvassing," she wrote. "I asked to meet my constituent who thought I was suspicious, but she was on the road by then." Ms Bynum, who is hoping to win a second term in the Oregon House of Representatives later this year, then asked the officer to call the constituent. The woman said she had alerted the police "for the safety of her neighbourhood" and quickly apologised. The incident is the latest example of alleged racial profiling in the US to be widely shared on social media. A white woman faced widespread criticism earlier this year after calling the police about a black family who were having a barbeque. In May, a white student at Yale University called the police on a black student who was sleeping in the common room of her halls of residence. Also in May, there was a massive public backlash after two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend at a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia. (Webmaster's comment: She was black therefore she was suspicious and probably guilty of something!)
7-4-18 Will the UK’s plans to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’ succeed?
Similar bans in the US have saved thousands of teens from discredited “treatments”, even though they have loopholes that allow religious advice. The UK government has announced plans to ban controversial and long-discredited “gay conversion therapies” that claim to help gay people become straight, and transgender people revert to the gender they were designated at birth. The move follows a nationwide survey of 108,000 LGBT people in the UK, which revealed that 2 per cent of them had undergone conversion therapy, and a further 5 per cent had been offered it. Such treatments, also known as reparative therapy, have long been denounced as pseudoscience and potentially harmful. As far back as 1997, the American Psychiatric Association stated there is “no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change ones’ sexual orientation”. Since then, at least 16 US medical organisations have denounced the therapy, as did a coalition of 17 UK counterparts, including the National Health Service, in 2015. Several countries have already implemented bans – Brazil was first in 1999 – and they seem to be having an effect. Starting with California in 2012, 13 US states have banned the practice in under-18s. A study published in January by the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles estimated that the US bans have so far spared 6000 teenagers from having the therapy. By contrast, it estimated that 20,000 have received the therapy since 2012 in states still allowing the practice. The study also revealed a loophole: the US bans only apply to registered mental health care providers, not to religious or spiritual advisers. It estimates that because of this, a further 57,000 people across all US states will receive the “therapy” from religious of spiritual advisers before the age of 18. (Webmaster's comment: This therapy in the United States is spawned by religious hate, not love!)
7-3-18 Baby Jesus 'detained' in US immigration protest
A US church has placed statues of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a cage on its lawn to protest against the Trump administration's immigration policy. The Episcopalian Christ Church Cathedral in Indiana, Indianapolis, put the display up on Monday night, saying the Biblical family were refugees too. The church said it was in response to the US justice department's separation of migrant children from their parents. President Trump signed an order late last month to roll back the policy. Rev Stephen Carlsen, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral, said in a statement: "We will not stand by while children are being taken from their parents and families are being taken from our communities and congregations." Rev Lee Curtis, who came up with the idea for the demonstration, said the Biblical family were refugees seeking asylum after Jesus' birth. He told NBC News a number of their congregants were first or second-generation immigrants. "Families, all families, every family, is holy, and we hope and pray that families who are seeking out a better life for their kids are afforded that opportunity," he said.
7-3-18 Walmart removes 'Impeach Trump' apparel after boycott threats
US retail giant Walmart has removed anti-Trump merchandise following online boycott threats from the president's supporters. The items, including baby clothes and shirts featuring the words "Impeach 45", were for sale on Walmart's online marketplace from a third-party seller. The "Impeach 45" clothes are no longer on the site, but a large selection of pro-Trump items are still for sale. Walmart said in a statement that it is reviewing its marketplace policies. "These items were sold by third party sellers on our open marketplace, and were not offered directly by Walmart," a spokesperson told the BBC on Tuesday. "We're removing these types of items pending review of our marketplace policies." The company issued a similar statement when it came under fire last year for selling a shirt with the words "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required", on its third-party marketplace. Walmart's marketplace does still feature anti-Trump items from third-party sellers, but no products calling for the president's impeachment appear to be available. Items both for and against President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are also for sale. Students for Trump chairman Ryan Fournier first tweeted about the anti-Trump merchandise on Monday. One Twitter user called for Walmart to "clean up" its act, saying as a "pro American company it is wrong to politicise and be anti-US President with any product". But others called it hypocritical to remove anti-Trump gear while still selling pro-Trump items.(Webmaster's comment: So much for Free Speech! All hail Trump! You must praise him or else!)
7-3-18 Affirmative action: Trump 'to scrap' college racial bias policy
The Trump administration is set to roll back the Obama-era policies promoting diversity in universities, known as affirmative action, US media report. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked 24 guidance documents on Tuesday, many involving race in schools and affirmative action recommendations. It comes as Harvard University faces a discrimination lawsuit alleging it limits admissions for Asian-Americans. In 2016, the US Supreme Court had ruled in favour of affirmative action. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the 2016 opinion, announced his retirement from the top US court last month. His departure gives President Donald Trump a chance to appoint a justice who more closely matches the administration's views on taking race into account in college admissions. The Trump administration is expected to tell schools not to consider race in the admissions process, discontinuing the policy former President Barack Obama adopted to promote more diversity at colleges and high schools. Academic affirmative action - known as positive action in the UK- which involves favouring minorities during the admissions process in order to promote campus diversity, has long proved controversial in the US. The lawsuit against Harvard currently filed by the Students for Fair Admissions alleges that the college holds Asian-American applicants to an unfairly high admissions standard. The Justice Department is also currently investigating Harvard over racial discrimination allegations. In April, it called for the public disclosure of the Ivy League college's admissions practices. Harvard argues it "does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans". Asian-Americans currently make up 22.2% of students admitted to Harvard, according to the university website.
7-2-18 Trump immigration: The effects of a raid on one tiny town
President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy at the border with Mexico has made global headlines. But workplace raids in small US towns hundreds of miles away are also having a profound impact on these communities. On that 5 June, a little bit after 7:00, some 200 armed federal agents, reportedly joined by helicopters and canine units, carried out a surprise immigration raid. Undercover officers walked in offering to give out doughnuts and, when the workers gathered in a room, they surprised them by shouting orders. "We wanted to run," Carmen recalled her friend say, "but we couldn't. If we ran to one side, there they were. If we ran to the other side, they were there too. They were everywhere." There, 114 undocumented workers were arrested. Around 50 lived in the trailer park. The rumours triggered panic. Some of the 64 trailers were left abandoned as residents fled, many to a nearby church where they sought shelter. They then took turns looking after the more than 80 boys and girls, activists estimated, mostly American-born, who were without their parents. Two weeks later, many here were still asking where their parents were. They were often told by adults there was nothing wrong, "No pasa nada," and that they would be back soon. But some would never return, and were likely to be deported. "They're suffering," Carmen said. "It hurts us all." Children rarely came outside these days and, where they used to play, there were only abandoned toys. The streets were also empty and nobody seemed to give the once colourful gardens any attention. People carefully checked the windows when someone knocked on their trailers and one had already been put on sale. The peace they once had, Carmen said, no longer existed.
7-2-18 How Republicans sugarcoat American poverty
Conservatives are cynically downplaying American poverty to slash the safety net. Don't buy it. One of the last vestiges of bipartisan Washington is in danger of being corrupted by conservative myths about poverty. The Senate just passed their bipartisan version of the farm bill, after the House narrowly passed their own far more partisan bill last week. Typically lauded as one of the few compromises left in Washington — due to its funding of both crop subsidies and food stamps — the farm bill has hit roadblocks this year as House Republicans aim to make some of the harshest changes ever to the food assistance program. It's yet another underhanded attack on the poor from President Trump and House Republicans. Fortunately, the Senate bill rejected altering the food stamp program, resulting in an 86-11 vote. With any luck, the final piece of legislation will look more like the Senate’s version than the House's, but it's not guaranteed as Republicans in the lower chamber are gearing up to fight for expanded restrictions to food stamps when they go to conference. While the Senate version is fairly moderate, the House bill is a cesspool of conservative ideas about poverty in the United States. Its most radical change would be the addition of stringent work requirements, which would require almost all adults — even some adults with children — to document working at least 20 hours per week to receive food stamps. House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said the plan will provide a "springboard out of poverty to a good paying job," a clear reiteration of conservative orthodoxy about bootstrap-pulling. However, work requirements just don't work. And such an approach not only links a person's worth to their labor, but ignores the volatility of a low-wage job, systemic racism, and the consequences of poverty (like limited access to transportation) that make it difficult to get and keep a job.
7-2-18 Transgender children: Buying time by delaying puberty
More than 300 transgender children a year are now starting on a course of puberty-blocking drugs, figures seen by the Victoria Derbyshire programme show. One of the transgender children we have been following for four years has now begun her treatment, which gives youngsters time to decide if they want to live as a man or a woman.. "I'm happy I've been given [the drugs] because now I know that I won't grow facial hair. I just don't want a beard - I'm a girl," says 11-year-old Jessica. We have been following Jessica and her friend, Lily, as they have transitioned to live as girls at home and at primary school. Jessica, now preparing for the move up to secondary in September, has recently started taking puberty-blocking injections once a month. "If someone asks if I'm transgender, then I'll tell them. I won't yell it out but I will just say," she says. "It's quite rude, honestly, when people say this is just a phase because they don't understand it really." The UK's main centre specialising in gender issues in under-18s is the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, based in London and Leeds. The number of under-18s who visited the clinic in the last year has risen by 25% to 2,519 - around 50 a week. Doctors there say there is no single explanation for the increase but there is growing recognition of transgender people in society and more awareness of treatment options. Around 300 children a year are now referred to a separate clinic to start on hormone-blocking treatment which can only be prescribed on the NHS after the patient has started puberty.
7-1-18 #Familiesbelongtogether: Thousands protest over migrant separations
Tens of thousands of people have joined nationwide protests across the US over the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies. More than 630 events were planned, with protesters calling for migrant families split at the US border to be reunited. Some 2,000 children remain separated from their parents, despite President Donald Trump bowing to public outrage and curtailing the policy. Concerns remain that records were not kept linking parents and children. Major protests took place in Washington DC, New York, and many other cities, using the hashtag #familiesbelongtogether. Marchers held placards calling for no more family separations and for the controversial immigration agency ICE to be abolished. The nation is deeply divided about immigration policy, and the president ignited the debate again with his tweets on Saturday. From his golf resort at Bedminster, New Jersey, he defended the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Twitter, describing it as the "smartest, toughest and most spirited" of law-enforcement groups. Meanwhile the movement to abolish ICE has been "going mainstream", according to some activists, and thousands have taken to the streets to protest the president's policies. More than 100 protesters gathered near the president's resort ("My civility is locked in a cage", said one of their signs). I drove past the protesters on my way to the resort where I spent part of the day. As demonstrations heated up in New Jersey and across the US, the president was doubling down on his effort to promote his hardline policies. "It goes against everything we stand for as a country," one protester, Paula Flores-Marques, 27, told Reuters in front of the White House in Washington DC. President Trump was out of town. In New York they chanted, "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here". In Chicago, protesters marched to the local offices of federal immigration authorities. The original Trump administration "zero tolerance" policy required authorities to arrest and detain anyone crossing the Mexico-US border illegally. That meant separating children from their parents and holding them separately. Faced with a massive public outcry after recordings were published of distressed, crying children in detention centres, President Trump promised to "keep families together" in migrant detention centres. (Webmaster's comment: But most of the children seperated from their parents have been lost! They will be perfect for child sex abuse and for body parts! No one will ever know what happened to them!)
7-1-18 Uncovering the traumatic past of the Navajo people
150 years after the Navajo Treaty, young Navajo grapple with their history. Two years ago, Vanessa Roanhorse was in Taos, New Mexico, with her husband, and they walked by the Kit Carson museum. "My husband was like, 'Who's Kit Carson?'" says Roanhorse. "I'm looking at him thinking, 'How do you not know who Kit Carson is?'" Although Carson is a significant part of U.S. history, people outside of the Southwest generally have no idea who he was. He was a frontiersman, famous as a tracker and wilderness guide and for shaping New Mexico. But for the Navajo, he is the devil — and the reason is the Long Walk. "The Long Walk was a huge initiative undertaken by Kit Carson and his team of various military branches to round up as many Navajos as they could, and force them on this walk," explains Roanhorse. That walk was actually some 50 separate marches. Almost 10,000 Navajo, as well as several hundred Mescalero Apaches, traveled as many as 400 miles to reach Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico — or as it is known to the Navajo, Hwéeldi, The Place of Suffering. At the museum, Roanhorse looked for this side of the history, but she couldn't find it. "There wasn't one mention of any relationship with Native Americans. It was completely devoid of the story, which was just blowing my mind," says Roanhorse. Roanhorse had moved from Chicago back to New Mexico so that her son Arno would have access to his Navajo culture. "I have a son who is half Navajo, half white and he's going to spend the rest of his life trying to make sense of who he is, where he belongs. And my hope is I can instill with him a strong sense of his Navajo family and his culture," Roanhorse says. For Roanhorse, part of knowing where she comes from includes understanding some very painful parts of U.S. history.