1-31-19 Sarah Sanders says 'God wanted Trump to be president'
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has told a religious television network that God "wanted Donald Trump to become president". Ms Sanders made the claim in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), saying it was the reason Mr Trump was in office. The press secretary also said it was "very hard" to take morality lessons from the Democratic Party. Democrats have attacked Mr Trump's proposed border wall as immoral. US evangelicals strongly support the president. The Washington Post reports Mr Trump won 80% of the white evangelical vote in 2016, a higher share than Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain in previous elections. CBN broadcast the interview with Ms Sanders on Wednesday, conducted by David Brody and Jennifer Wishon. Responding to Mr Brady's question about Mr Trump's position, Ms Sanders said: "I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become president." "That's why he's there and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about." When asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi position on the proposed border wall - a divisive issue at the heart of the longest US government shutdown in history - the press secretary attacked Ms Pelosi's suggestion such a barrier was immoral. The interview comes days after Mr Trump tweeted his support for Bible study. Several states have legislation pending that would make Bible literacy courses part of public school education. (Webmaster's comment: Goodby to separation of Church and State! Religious Evil is in our White House and will soon be forced down our throats by law!)
1-31-19 Migrants force-fed at Texas detention centre
Six migrants on hunger strike at an immigration detention centre in Texas are being force-fed, officials say. Immigration officials are using plastic nasal tubes to feed the men, which family members say are causing severe nosebleeds and vomiting. The detainees are refusing food over conditions at El Paso Processing Center, the Associated Press reports. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says a federal judge authorised the force-feeding this month. AP says the detainees, mainly from India and Cuba, went on hunger strike to protest against guards verbally abusing them and threatening to deport them. They are also protesting against the length of time they are being detained while they await legal proceedings. As well as the detainees in El Paso, another four men are on hunger strike in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco, ICE says. When a person is force-fed through the nose, a lubricated tube is pushed through the nostril until it reaches the throat. Liquid food is then pumped into the stomach. ICE spokeswoman, Leticia Zamarripa, told AP that a federal court had approved the use of force-feeding against the hunger strikers in mid-January, about two weeks after detainees started refusing food. Officials say that the force-feeding is for the migrants' own health and safety, as going without food for long periods of time can leave people at risk of long-term physical and mental health conditions. But the relatives of the detainees say they are suffering more because of the force-feeding. A spokesman for the World Medical Association - which is officially partnered with the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association - told BBC News it remained against force-feeding. "Forced feeding is never ethically acceptable," the organisation says in its declaration on hunger strikers. "Even if intended to benefit [the detainee], feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment."(Webmaster's comment: Welcome to detention in America!)
1-31-19 Attacked Empire actor Jussie Smollett 'has tasted brutality of hatred'
American actor Jussie Smollet has been attacked in Chicago, by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs.He was hit in the face, had an "unknown chemical substance" poured on him and a rope was wrapped around his neck. Celebrities and famous friends have been showing their support for him with videos and messages posted online.
1-31-19 The story of a US raid on al-Qaeda in Yemen
Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that began in 2014. On the one side, the Houthis, a group with links to Iran. Against them, a coalition including Yemeni government troops, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, supported by the Americans. But there's another war going on in Yemen - the US's fight against al-Qaeda. The US has carried out many strikes on al-Qaeda's bases, often using unmanned drones. A BBC Arabic investigation has gained rare access to one village targeted in a US ground raid. Reporter Safa Al Ahmad met survivors and found evidence of undeclared civilian casualties. (Webmaster's comment: The US Military has always used terrorist tactics against innocent civilians! It's part of their "Kill Anything That Moves" policy used in Vietnam!)
1-30-19 Empire's Jussie Smollett: Stars show support after attack
Stars are showing their support for actor Jussie Smollett after he was the victim of a suspected hate crime in Chicago. The 35-year-old Empire actor was attacked by two men "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs", police say. He was hit in the face, had an "unknown chemical substance" poured on him and a rope was wrapped around his neck. Jussie has told police his attackers also made reference to "MAGA" (Make America Great Again).The slogan was used by Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Oscar winner Viola Davis and supermodel Naomi Campbell are among those sharing their support. Naomi Campbell, who starred in the first two seasons of the musical show about a hip-hop mogul whose sons and ex-wife fight over his business, said that one of the most beautiful things to happen to her when working on Empire was meeting Jussie Smollett. Alongside a picture of the two of them, she called on the Mayor of Chicago to catch the "despicable people" who have committed this "act of hate". Oscar winner Viola Davis shared a photo of Jussie on her Instagram page. Jussie, who plays Jamal Lyon, in Empire, came out on US TV show Ellen in 2015. It's after he faced scrutiny in his personal life when his character on the show came out as being gay. At the time he told Ellen "there is, without a doubt, no closet that I've ever been in and I just wanted to make that clear". The TV host tweeted her support for him and his family. (Webmaster's comment: Attacked by Trump supporters. Just like in early Nazi Germany!)
1-29-19 National parks pick up the pieces after month-long US shutdown
National parks in the US are dealing with vandalism, pollution and administration backlogs caused by the federal government shutdown. A short-term agreement has reopened the federal government until 15 February, but the 35-day lapse in funding has taken a toll on parks around the country. “Now is when the real work begins. The damage done to our parks will be felt for weeks, months or even years,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, in a statement. Many parks remained open, but without visitor services, toilets and rubbish collection. In some places, volunteer groups stepped in to carry out essential maintenance. A week into the shutdown, parts of Yosemite National Park, California, had to be closed because of “impacts from human waste”, a park statement said. Conservationists warned that overflowing bins would attract wildlife such as bears, potentially habituating them to human food. With only a handful of rangers still working, parks struggled to maintain order. In Joshua Tree National Park, California, vandals cut down Joshua trees to create new roads, and cut chains and locks to gain access to campsites. “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” said Curt Sauer, a former Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent, at a rally on Saturday, according to Desert Sun.
1-29-19 Mind-reading implant can decode what your ears are hearing
A device that can recognise what words people are hearing and reproduce them in a robot voice could take us further down the road to reading the minds of people who can’t speak. The technique used temporary electrodes placed in the brain to monitor people before surgery, but the aim is to make a permanent implant. So far the approach has only been able to decode simple words that people were listening to. But the researchers hope that with further development it will understand speech that people are thinking but not voicing. If successful it could help people who can’t speak because they are paralysed after a stroke, for instance, or have motor neuron disease. At the moment such people can generate computer speech by using a headset that places electrodes on the outside of their head. These can detect simple “flashes” of brain activity that lets users select letters on a screen in front of them, but communicating this way is slow. “Speech is much faster than we type,” says Nima Mesgarani at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute in New York. “We want to let people talk to their families again.” Mesgarani’s team is trying to use electrodes that connect directly with the brain. It’s potentially risky so they exploited the fact that people who need surgery for epilepsy often have electrodes put into or on the surface of their brain temporarily to find out where their seizures are coming from. They asked five people in hospital who had either of these kinds of electrodes in place for a few days to listen to recordings of sentences. Their brain activity was used to train the group’s artificial intelligence speech recognition software.
1-29-19 Cannabis cookies given to boy, 4, for temper tantrums
A California doctor is fighting for his licence after he prescribed cannabis cookies to a four-year-old boy. Dr William Eidelman, a natural medicine physician, said small doses of marijuana would help control the child's temper tantrums. The doctor misdiagnosed the child as having bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADD). The Medical Board of California ruled to revoke the doctor's licence but he has launched an appeal. The board did not seek to revoke the licence because the doctor had prescribed cannabis to a child, which is legal for medicinal purposes in the state of California. Dr Eidelman was investigated due to being "negligent in his care and treatment" - he had failed to consult a psychiatrist in the case or communicate with the school. The boy's father consulted Dr Eidelman in September 2012 because his son was misbehaving at school. The doctor recommended small amounts of the drug, which was revealed when the school nurse was asked to give the boy his cannabis cookies at lunchtime. As a child, the boy's father had ADHD and bipolar disorder himself and had a negative experience with prescribed medications at the time, saying he felt like a "human guinea pig". He started using marijuana later in life, saying it helped "calm him" and changed his behaviour towards his wife, towards whom he had previously "exhibited anger". The father had previously obtained the drug for his older son, who had also been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. He said marijuana had had a "positive effect" on both his children. (Webmaster's comment: Since marijuana is even bad for undeveloped teenage minds this is every risky.)
1-28-19 The war over Trump's wall has only just begun
The longest government shutdown in American history is over. Thank goodness. But the war over President Trump's border wall isn't finished, no matter how defeated he seems. That much should be clear from the president's defiant tweets over the weekend. Instead, it's likely that the biggest and most important battles — battles that could determine the future of the U.S. constitutional order — are yet to come. Mick Mulvaney, Trump's acting chief of staff, made that clear Sunday, saying on Fox News: "The president's commitment is to defend the nation, and he will do it either with or without Congress." Almost certainly it will be without Congress, despite Trump's assertions that rank-and-file Democrats are ready to jump ship and vote for wall funding if they get the right deal. That's probably not true. It's probably also not true that Trump is ready to shut down the government a second time over this issue — given how badly the recent shutdown affected his standing in the polls, a second closure of government would defy everything we know about Trump's instinct for survival. Instead, it seems increasingly likely that Trump will declare a national emergency and assert his right to appropriate funding for the project regardless of legislative branch assent. The Washington Post reported on Sunday the president is telling advisers "that declaring a national emergency may be his best option now." The Constitution, after all, explicitly grants Congress the power of the purse. If the president declares an emergency, it seems like it should be a relatively simple thing for congressional leaders to take Trump to court — a familiar environment for him — and have his action declared null and void. Otherwise, we live in an authoritarian state. End of story, right? (Webmaster's comment: We must stop all these children terrorists and all these women terrorists from getting into the country! They are attacking everybody!)
1-28-19 Holocaust: Polish police probe Auschwitz far-right protest
Polish police have asked prosecutors to examine evidence against ultra-nationalists who demonstrated at Auschwitz on Holocaust Memorial Day. Police sent them video of the group, estimated at 70-100, who marched with big Polish flags at the notorious Nazi death camp site on Sunday. The protesters were led by Piotr Rybak, who was convicted in 2015 for publicly burning an effigy representing a Jew. The Nazis murdered nearly 1m Jews and 150,000 non-Jewish Poles at Auschwitz. The main commemoration at Auschwitz on Sunday involved Jewish survivors and Polish government officials. About half of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were Polish. There were many other victims of Nazi Germany at Auschwitz too, including Soviet prisoners-of-war and Gypsies (Roma). The colossal death toll has been documented by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others. The ultra-nationalist march on Sunday took place away from the main commemoration at the site. It is reported to be the first such protest at the site on one of the most solemn days for Jews worldwide. (Webmaster's comment: The Nazis are rising again in Europe, and also in the United States!)
1-27-19 The forensic pathologist who shed light on police violence
Bennet Omalu is not a man who seeks out controversy. He's been known to flee it, in fact. But it has a way of finding him. Last March, 22-year-old Stephon Clark became the latest flash point in the ongoing national furor over the police use of force against African-Americans. After the unarmed black man was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in the backyard of his grandmother's house, Black Lives Matter activists led a march that shut down Interstate 5 and forced the cancellation of a Sacramento Kings NBA game. A week after the shooting, during a game between the Kings and the Boston Celtics, both teams wore jerseys with Clark's name and the words "Accountability" and "We Are One" on them during warm-ups and the playing of the national anthem. Soon after Clark's death, his family contacted Omalu, a forensic pathologist, and asked him to perform a private autopsy. On March 30, Omalu released his findings. He determined that Clark had been shot eight times and that six of the bullets had entered the back of his body. This cast doubt on the veracity of the police report, which stated that Clark had been approaching the officers when they fired. In response to what the county coroner called the "erroneous information" provided by Omalu, the following day the county released its official autopsy, which found that Clark had been shot seven times, only three times in the back. A soft-spoken, devoutly Catholic, 50-year-old forensic pathologist from Nigeria is not exactly the first person you'd expect to keep materializing at the center of major American controversies involving contested deaths and charges of official cover-ups. Yet Omalu has now played a leading role in three such scandals — including the mother of all sports-medicine train wrecks, the National Football League concussion debacle.
1-26-19 US shutdown: National press see a defeat for Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has relented to political pressure and ended the longest government shutdown in history. He had vowed to reject any deal unless it included $5.7bn (£4.3bn) to fund his signature campaign pledge, a US-Mexico wall. (Webmaster's comment: Trump told us Mexico was going to pay for this stupid idea!) The three-week agreement Mr Trump signed however does not include this. Even outlets sympathetic to the US president have seen it as a blow. Here's our round-up. The New York Times: The NYT led its coverage of Friday's news with: "Trump backs down, ending longest shutdown in US history." The Washington Post: The paper's website has a frozen ticker, highlighting how Mr Trump's impasse with Democrats ended after exactly 34 days, 21 hours and 18 minutes. Fox News: The TV channel, a long favoured outlet of Mr Trump, leads its coverage by saying government is "back in business" but also reports that the president's approval rating has gone to one of its lowest, with 37% approval and 58% disapproval. Breitbart News: The right-wing news outlet, which was propelled into the national stage with Mr Trump's election, has not shied away from the unfavourable coverage of Mr Trump's decision. USA Today: This outlet took a different view from Breitbart, saying Ms Pelosi "was careful not to gloat". CNN: The organisation called "fake news" by Mr Trump leads its coverage with how those behind him are stunned by the "loss".
1-26-19 America's CBD mania
The cannabis extract is being hailed as a miracle drug. Is there any evidence that it works?
- What is it? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound in the Cannabis sativa plant that doesn't get you high.
- How is it ingested? Some puff it from a vaporizer, but it's mainly produced as an oil concentrate, allowing it to be mixed in juice or other liquids and consumed by drinking.
- So it's legal? It's actually in a gray area.
- How will that help? Without regulation, CBD products are marketed and labeled about as reliably as snake oil.
- Is CBD backed by science? Most findings are preliminary at best, since research on CBD itself began only a few years ago.
- Where do experts stand? Research may be sparse, but unlike, say, crystals and healing bracelets, CBD clearly does have biological effects.
- The GOP's embrace of hemp: The Republican Party's long-standing hostility toward cannabis was captured by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously said, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."
1-25-19 Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence
As marijuana continues its “inevitable march to legalization in all 50 states,” Americans have largely accepted the pot lobby’s claim that the drug is relatively harmless, said Reed Tucker in the New York Post. “But what if it’s not?” Alex Berenson, a former New York Times investigative reporter, has pored through decades of weed research and come up with a powerful case for caution. Tell Your Children makes clear the link between cannabis use and psychotic disorders—one study showed that heavy users have a six times greater chance of developing schizophrenia—and unearths scientific evidence that marijuana can be a gateway drug, leading to opiate or cocaine use. Meanwhile, he finds little proof of weed’s supposed medical value, instead discovering that it might worsen anxiety and PTSD and also raise the risk of testicular cancer. The uncertainty of weed researchers is “scarcely more reassuring than Berenson’s alarmism,” said Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. Right now, we simply don’t know how damaging marijuana is to its millions of users. Most likely, weed sits somewhere in the middle on the drug continuum: far less benign than coffee, not nearly as pernicious as opioids. And so, as Berenson suggests, we might consider treating marijuana as we do alcohol or nicotine: legalizing it, but also passing laws that, however imperfectly, work to limit its use. For now, “the advice that seasoned potheads sometimes give new users—‘start low and go slow’—is probably good advice for society as a whole, at least until we better understand what we are dealing with.”
1-25-19 Likely to die of an opioid overdose
Americans are now more likely to die of an opioid overdose than in a car accident, a fall, or a shooting. A new report from the National Safety Council found that based on 2017 data, Americans have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose (including heroin and fentanyl), while the probability of dying in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 103.
1-25-19 Border separation started earlier, covered more kids
The Trump administration began drafting a “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant families at the border as early as December 2017, according to a memo released last week by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The memo, which Merkley says he received from a government whistleblower, also revealed proposals to deny asylum hearings to separated children, expediting their deportation, and to target migrants who arrived with children for prosecution. As early as October 2017, months before a formal policy was in place, the Trump administration ran a pilot separation program in Texas. A government audit reported last week that children caught up in the program were only “informally” tracked, and thousands more could have been separated from parents than previously disclosed. (Webmaster's comment: Obviously many of the children end up in human trafficking as sex slaves.)
1-25-19 Inconvenient truths
Forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu shook the NFL with his findings about traumatic brain injury, said Gabriel Thompson. Now he’s upending California law enforcement with his findings about police violence. Bennet Omalu is not a man who seeks out controversy. He’s been known to flee it, in fact. But it has a way of finding him. Last March, 22-year-old Stephon Clark became the latest flash point in the ongoing national furor over the police use of force against African-Americans. After the unarmed black man was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, Black Lives Matter activists led a march that shut down Interstate 5 and forced the cancellation of a Sacramento Kings NBA game. A week after the shooting, during a game between the Kings and the Boston Celtics, both teams wore jerseys with Clark’s name and the words “Accountability” and “We Are One” on them during warm-ups and the playing of the national anthem. Soon after Clark’s death, his family contacted Omalu, a forensic pathologist, and asked him to perform a private autopsy. On March 30, Omalu released his findings. He determined that Clark had been shot eight times and that six of the bullets had entered the back of his body. This cast doubt on the veracity of the police report, which stated that Clark had been approaching the officers when they fired. In response to what the county coroner called the “erroneous information” provided by Omalu, the following day the county released its official autopsy, which found that Clark had been shot seven times, only three times in the back. A soft-spoken, devoutly Catholic, 50-year-old forensic pathologist from Nigeria is not exactly the first person you’d expect to keep materializing at the center of major American controversies involving contested deaths and charges of official cover-ups. Yet Omalu has now played a leading role in three such scandals—including the mother of all sports-medicine train wrecks, the National Football League concussion debacle.
1-25-19 The symbolic sacrifice of Steve King
Why are Republicans suddenly offended by the racism of Rep. Steve King? asked Frank Bruni. Since he entered the House in 2003, the Iowa Republican couldn’t have been more obvious about his white supremacist views “if he went around in a conical white hood.” He said “white people” had done more for civilization than “any other subgroup of people,” called illegal immigration “a slow-motion holocaust,” and warned that “cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.” Despite such blatant bigotry, Donald Trump embraced King in 2014, saying their views were so similar that “we don’t even have to compare notes,” while Republicans have remained silent. A few weeks ago, King complained in an interview that “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” had become forbidden terms—and GOP congressional leaders stripped him of his committee assignments. Why now? Obviously, Republicans feel ashamed that they’ve let President Trump make white nationalism the GOP’s brand, and wanted to make some kind of stand. “So they’re taking on King instead of Trump. It’s safer.” It was “the sacrifice of one wretched bigot to atone for the indulgence of another,” and Republicans deserve little credit for it.
1-25-19 The Left’s acceptance of anti-Semitism
The Left has a “growing anti-Semitism problem,” said Abe Greenwald. Several newly elected House Democrats are poised to become “extraordinarily effective ambassadors” for this “poisonous ideology.” Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim immigrant, was just appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee despite her support for the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) campaign “aimed at destroying Israel.” Omar has both defended and apologized for her 2012 tweet that said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” On the day she was sworn in, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib dined with a Hezbollah supporter who’s railed against “criminal Zionists.” Anti-Semitism is also “infusing the activist Left”: Last week’s Women’s March was roiled by controversy after its organizers refused to disavow Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, an “outspoken anti-Semite” who has condemned the “Satanic Jew.” The new Left believes “Jews are too powerful and too white to be the targets of bigotry.” Calls for Israel’s destruction are excused as long the critics are women or people of color. Mainstream Democrats act as if this were “a mere matter of bad optics”—in effect, “covering it up.”
1-25-19 Western papers sensationalize dead Africans
Not only Kenyans, but all Africans, should be “livid” at Western media coverage of last week’s terrorist attack in Nairobi, said The New Times. Gunmen from the Somalia-based jihadist group al Shabab rampaged through a luxury hotel complex of offices and restaurants, shooting at random, leaving 21 people dead. Grieving Kenyans woke the next day to see photos of the murdered, “slumped on restaurant tables,” on the website of The New York Times. Many took to social media to complain of the paper’s insensitivity and to call for the paper’s East Africa bureau chief, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, to be deported. Rather than apologizing, the paper tried to “justify the unjustifiable,” by saying the editors “believe it is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this.”Really? American school shootings routinely leave scenes of horror, with the bloodied bodies of children strewn across classrooms, yet the Times never shows those. Only dead Africans, apparently, should be used to educate. Worse than the “double standard,” though, is the tone of the coverage. By including so many gruesome photos, the paper “was in a way glorifying the success of the terror attack and fueling future attacks.” Shame on The New York Times.
1-25-19 Karen Pence: Religious freedom or bigotry?
Despite the progress in recent years, bigotry against gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans is alive and well, said Rachel Leah in Salon.com. Consider the part-time teaching job Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, just took at the Immanuel Christian School in Virginia. Teachers and students at the school are required to sign a pledge stating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that they are not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Pences are evangelicals, so Karen’s choice to work in an atmosphere of “blatant homophobia” is “hardly surprising.” But think what a statement they are making to LGBT Americans. That statement is also an act of “astonishing moral hypocrisy,” said Clay Cane in CNN.com. For all their professions of “moral purity,” the Pences have shown unwavering support for President Trump—a man who has cheated on all three of his wives and paid hush money to a porn star and a Playboy model. And yet the Pences would shun a gay teenager? The Pences are entitled to hold any religious beliefs they like, said Eliza Byard in TheDailyBeast.com. But Karen Pence is not a private citizen—she’s the vice president’s wife, and that role makes her a “symbolically powerful public figure.” Her choice to work at a school that views gay kids and teachers as morally unfit sends a message to these kids from the White House that “they are wrong, or lesser in some way.” That’s both backward and “deeply hurtful.”
1-25-19 Battling AI algorithm tested on a quantum computer for first time
Machine learning is growing ever more sophisticated, thanks to algorithms which pit two artificial intelligences against each other. These algorithms, known as generative adversarial networks (GANs), have already been used to create art, crack encryption codes, and produce uncannily real pictures of faces and animals. Researchers have now combined GANs with another hot technology: quantum computing. Luyan Sun at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and his colleagues have created a GAN on a quantum circuit. GANs are formed of two neural networks, the generator and discriminator. As you might expect, the generator generates data – a picture of a face, say. The discriminator is given both real data and the fake created by the generator, and must figure out which is which. The two AIs go back and forth, and after many rounds, the generator improves, learning to produce results so realistic that the discriminator can no longer distinguish true from fake. The researchers created a quantum GAN using both a quantum generator and discriminator. Unlike ordinary computers, which require data to be stored in binary digits (bits) of 0s and 1s, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which can store a mixture of 0 and 1 same time. Their generator was trained to replicate quantum data produced by a microwave resonator. Eventually, the discriminator was unable to distinguish between true and generated data. In theory, quantum computers have a speed advantage over their regular counterparts in solving certain problems, such as factoring large numbers, says team member Dong-Ling Deng. But as the technology currently stands, quantum computers aren’t yet able to achieve this edge, says Sun. (Webmaster's comment: China takes the lead in quantum computing!)
1-25-19 US shutdown: 'Out of touch' Wilbur Ross mocked online
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has attracted scorn for suggesting workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown should take out bank loans. "True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest," he told broadcaster CNBC. "But the idea that it's 'paycheck or zero' is not a really valid idea." Critics derided the multimillionaire for being out of touch. About 800,000 federal workers will miss another payday on Friday. The US government shutdown is now the longest in history and there is no clear end in sight after the Senate rejected two bills aimed at ending the impasse. President Donald Trump is demanding $5.7bn (£4.4bn) for a proposed southern border wall which the Democratic Party refuse to fund, saying it would be ineffective and immoral. In the interview, Mr Ross seemed puzzled that federal workers who have been without pay since 18 December would go to food banks. Borrowing from a bank is "in effect federally guaranteed", he said. There are some "very, very low interest rate loans" on offer, he added. Mr Ross also downplayed the number of people affected by the prolonged shutdown, saying it is "not like it's a gigantic number overall". "Put it in perspective: you're talking about 800,000 workers, and while I feel sorry for individuals who have hardship cases, 800,000 workers if they never got their pay... you're talking about a third of a percent on our GDP," he said. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called the comments "appalling", and said they were "the 21st Century equivalent of 'let them eat cake'". Marie Antoinette, wife of French King Louis XVI and the last queen before the French Revolution in 1789, is apocryphally thought to have used the phrase when she learnt that people had no bread. (Webmaster's comment: Ross would be happen to see them starve. It would thin out their ranks!)
1-25-19 US shutdown: Trump 'loves and respects' unpaid workers
The US Senate has rejected two bills to end the government shutdown, leaving no end in sight to the record-breaking closure of federal agencies. It means 800,000 federal workers who are struggling to cover their bills will miss another payday on Friday. President Trump was asked by a reporter what his message was to them. (Webmaster's comment: In essence he is saying "Let them eat cake.")
1-25-19 Roger Stone: Trump ally arrested on seven Mueller probe charges
Political strategist Roger Stone, a long-time ally of President Trump, has been arrested in Florida, charged with seven counts in the Mueller probe. Mr Stone will appear in court later in the city of Fort Lauderdale. The indictment includes one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness-tampering. The charges are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials. The information contained in the emails was released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US presidential election campaign. CNN reports that FBI agents arrested Mr Stone in a pre-dawn raid on Friday. One pounded on the door and said, "FBI... Open the door," the US outlet says. Mr Stone's attorney Bruce Rogow said the "spectacle of an early morning arrest was absurd". "It's disappointing how this was handled. With a simple phone call he would have appeared." According to his lawyer, Mr Stone will arrive in Washington next week to plead not guilty. "Mr Stone is not hiding; quite the contrary," Mr Rogow added. (Webmaster's comment: He's one of Trump's crooks and should have been brought-in in chains like any other common criminal.)
1-25-19 Minnesota mosque attack: 'White Rabbits' militiamen plead guilty
Two members of a militia group known as the White Rabbits have admitted bombing a mosque in Minnesota in 2017. Police say Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, wanted to scare Muslims into leaving the US. The pair, who admitted a number of charges, including a failed attack on an abortion clinic, face up to 35 years in prison following a plea arrangement. No-one was hurt in the attack on the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in a Minneapolis suburb. A third man, 47-year-old Michael Hari, who is the alleged founder of the White Rabbits, is in custody and awaiting trial. He was not party to the plea arrangement. Police say McWhorter confessed that the White Rabbits had wanted to "scare [Muslims] out of the country", with the message "you're not welcome here". According to the plea agreements, the men drove to the mosque, broke a window and threw a lit pipe bomb and gasoline mixture inside. It is unclear why the pair, from Illinois, attacked the mosque in Minnesota. The governor of Minnesota at the time, Mark Dayton, called the attack "a criminal act of terrorism". Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, told AFP news agency: "These militia groups have zeroed in on the Muslim community. And a number of their blogs are overwhelmingly talking about the Muslim community as a threat and a threat to be eliminated." Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center largely serves people from the Somali community. In a separate case, three men who plotted to attack a mosque and apartments housing Somalis in Kansas in 2016 are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. (Webmaster's comment: These groups are encouraged and inspired by Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric!)
1-25-19 Doomsday Clock frozen at two minutes to apocalypse
The "new abnormal" the world is facing from risks like nuclear war and climate change has led the symbolic Doomsday Clock to be frozen at the closest it has ever been to midnight. The clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) in 1947, intends to warn of impending disasters. Its 2019 setting was announced on Thursday - staying in the same perilous position it was set at last year. The BAS has warned we are "normalising a very dangerous world". It marks only the third year the clock has been so close to midnight - first reaching the position in 1953 after the US and the Soviet Union tested highly destructive hydrogen bombs. In Thursday's announcement in Washington, representatives from the Bulletin said the clock's maintained position was "bad news indeed". "Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world," BAS President and CEO, Rachel Bronson, said. "This new abnormal is simply too volatile and too dangerous to accept," Ms Bronson warned at the unveiling. Former California governor Jerry Brown, who serves as BAS executive chair, also cautioned: "We're playing Russian roulette with humanity." In the announcement, the bulletin did acknowledge improvements in US-North Korean relations, but also criticised developments like increased carbon emissions from some nations and continued diplomatic schisms across the world. The group cites nuclear weapons and climate change as the two major ongoing threats to mankind - and warned their risks were being "exacerbated" by the "increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world".
1-24-19 US shutdown: Trump delays State of the Union address
US President Donald Trump says he will not deliver his annual State of the Union speech until after the government shutdown is over. On Wednesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi withdrew an invitation for him to address Congress, saying government services should fully reopen first. The shutdown has left 800,000 federal staff without pay since 22 December. Mr Trump wants $5.7bn (£4.4bn) to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but newly empowered Democrats have refused. The row over border security has led to the longest government shutdown in US history. Having initially said the speech should be "on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location", he conceded overnight that he could not deliver on his pledge. He acknowledged on Twitter Ms Pelosi's refusal to allow Congress to host the State of the Union address until the shutdown - now in its 34th day - had been resolved. "This is her prerogative," he said, adding that he was no longer looking for an alternative venue but looked forward to making the speech in the near future. Ms Pelosi responded with her own tweet saying she hoped Mr Trump would back a bill passed by the House of Representatives to fund the agencies affected by the shutdown. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is solely responsible for the shutdown. He closed the goverment down because he couldn't get funds for his wall. He's the one at fault for the misery of 800,000 federal workers plus all their families.)
1-24-19 Venezuela crisis: Russia condemns bid to 'usurp power' from Maduro
Russia has condemned foreign powers for backing a Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president, calling it a bid to "usurp power". Moscow said that the move violated international law and was a "direct path to bloodshed". Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader on Wednesday - a move recognised by the US and several other nations. President Nicolás Maduro, who retains some other nations' support, broke off relations with the US in response. Mr Maduro has been in office since 2013. He was sworn in for a second term earlier this month, after winning a May 2018 election marred by an opposition boycott and widespread claims of vote-rigging. Mr Guaidó is the head of the National Assembly, who has said articles within the country's constitution allow him to assume interim power because he believes Mr Maduro's election, and therefore presidency, is invalid. He has vowed to lead a transitional government and hold free elections. US President Donald Trump recognised Mr Guaidó as Venezuela's new head of state minutes after his declaration in the capital, Caracas, on Wednesday. Mr Trump urged other nations to follow suit - but the move has divided much of the international community. Seven South American nations, as well as Canada, have backed his call. (Webmaster's comment: Venezuela's problems are none of our Damned business. We, and all other nations, should stay out of it! Moscow is right!)
1-23-19 Four held over New York state 'plot' against Muslims
Three men and a teenage boy have been arrested and charged over an alleged plot against a small Islamic community in New York state. The suspects are accused of possessing homemade bombs and firearms, and planning to attack Islamberg, founded by a Pakistani cleric in the 1980s. The alleged plot was revealed following a tip-off from a school student. The Islamberg community has become a target for conspiracy theorists who say it is a terrorist training camp. (Webmaster's comment: So where are all the terrorist attacks from this training in the last 30 years?) The three men are due to appear in court on Wednesday. They have been named as Andrew Crysel, 18, Vincent Vetromile, 19, and 20-year-old Brian Colaneri. All are charged with criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. A 16-year-old boy is also facing charges. Police said at least three of them served together as boy scouts. Investigators say the group, based in the city of Greece in the north-west of the state, made at least three improvised explosive devices using duct tape and large jars and cylinders containing nails and other projectiles. The accused were found in the 16-year-old's home, police said. Some 23 firearms were also found at various locations. Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said the investigation was launched after comments made by the 16-year-old at school on Friday were overheard by a fellow student.
1-22-19 US Supreme Court allows Trump military transgender ban
The United States Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to enforce his policy of banning certain transgender people from the military. The court voted 5-4 to grant a Trump administration request to lift injunctions blocking the policy while challenges continue in lower courts. The four liberal judges on the court opposed the ruling. The policy prohibits "transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition" from serving.
1-22-19 Researcher who created gene-edited babies has been fired
The researcher who secretly created gene-edited babies in China has been fired by his university after a preliminary investigation concluded he “illegally conducted the research in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”. In November, the world was shocked when He Jiankui claimed that two gene-edited babies had already been born and that a women was pregnant with another. Provincial authorities set up a team to investigate. On Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported that this team had concluded that He had avoided supervision, raised funds and organised researchers on his own to carry out the work. The case has been referred to the ministry of public security, which investigates suspected crimes. The university that employed He, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, has since put out a statement: “Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech.” However, it appears He made little use of the university’s facilities. He is thought to have made millions from the sale of a gene-sequencing company he helped found, and used his own wealth to fund the creation of the gene-edited babies. Some media outlets are reporting that the preliminary investigation has confirmed that the babies really are gene edited. While it does add to the evidence, final confirmation would require an independent team to replicate He’s results. That means taking samples from the babies – a mouth swab say – sequencing them and releasing the key results publicly, or better still publishing them in a peer-reviewed journal. (Webmaster's comment: Humanity alwyas heaps scorn on those that lead the way to a new future.)
1-21-19 US Supreme Court allows Trump military transgender ban
The United States Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to enforce his policy of banning certain transgender people from the military. The court voted 5-4 to grant a Trump administration request to lift injunctions blocking the policy while challenges continue in lower courts. The four liberal judges on the court opposed the ruling. The policy prohibits "transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition" from serving. The president announced on Twitter in 2017 that the country would no longer "accept or allow" transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption". Former defence secretary Jim Mattis refined the policy to limit it to transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, and it makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly or willing to serve "in their biological sex". Several trial judges around the country had issued injunctions blocking it. The move is a reversal of an Obama administration policy that ruled transgender Americans could serve openly in the military as well as obtain funding for gender re-assignment surgery. Gender dysphoria is when a person's biological sex and identity does not match. There are currently some 8,980 active duty transgender troops, according to Department of Defense data analysed by the Palm Center, a public policy nonprofit.
1-21-19 He Jiankui: China condemns 'baby gene editing' scientist
China says the scientist who claims to have created the world's first genetically edited babies last year acted illegally and in pursuit of fame and fortune, state media report. He Jiankui's claim to have altered twin girls' genes so they could not get HIV was met with scepticism and outrage. Investigators say the researcher faces serious punishment after acting on his own and forging ethical review papers. Professor He, who is reportedly under house arrest, has defended his work. In November, he told a genome summit in Hong Kong he was "proud" of his gene-editing work, a practice which is banned in most countries, including China. His announcement was met with condemnation from hundreds of Chinese and international scientists, who said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical. (Webmaster's comment: Unless THEY approve it ahead of time of course!) Prof He's claims had not been verified, but investigators confirmed on Monday that his work had resulted in the birth of twin babies, and that another woman was currently pregnant. Investigators from Guangdong provincial government said the doctor had raised his own funds, deliberately avoiding oversight. He had also allegedly used technology of an uncertain safety level in order to carry out human embryo gene editing. Investigators confirmed Prof He had recruited eight couples to participate in his experiment, resulting in two pregnancies. They said baby twins nicknamed Lulu and Nana were born in November, and are under medical supervision. Since Prof He's announcement of his experiment, he is said to have been placed under house arrest in Shenzhen.
1-21-19 US teen denies mocking Native American
A teenager involved in a controversial encounter between a Native American man and a crowd of students has spoken out. A video appeared to show some of the boys laughing and jeering as Omaha elder Nathan Phillips sang and drummed in Washington. The footage, which went viral, led to widespread criticism of the boys. However, additional video footage has provided further details of the incident, while student Nick Sandmann has denied mocking Mr Phillips. "I did not make any hand gestures or aggressive moves," he said. "I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse [sic] the situation." At least three groups appear to have been involved in Friday's incident. Students from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School, who had finished taking part in March for Life, an anti-abortion rally, had gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. The group of teenagers was predominantly white, and many wore Make America Great Again caps. Mr Phillips - a Vietnam War veteran - and many other Native American activists were also at the memorial, having taken part in the Indigenous Peoples March. Meanwhile, a group of black men, who called themselves Hebrew Israelites, were at the scene. Video footage shows them shouting insults at many people, including Native Americans, as well as the schoolboys. As the group shouted at the students, some of the teenagers began chanting, and one of them took his top off. Mr Phillips then approached the students, singing and beating a drum, in what he called a prayer to defuse tensions. He was surrounded by the students, some of whom began chanting and singing as well. A short video emerged showing Mr Sandmann smiling (Webmaster's comment: That superior smug smirk says it all!) and standing directly in front of Mr Phillips as he beat the drum. Other students laughed, shouted and clapped along. (Webmaster's comment: Making America Great Again with one hatefull confrontation after another.)
1-21-19 Egypt TV host Mohamed al-Ghiety jailed for interviewing gay man
An Egyptian TV presenter has been sentenced to one year of hard labour for interviewing a gay man last year. A court in Giza also fined Mohamed al-Ghiety 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($167; £130) for "promoting homosexuality" on his privately owned LTC TV channel. The gay man, whose identity was hidden, had talked about life as a sex worker. Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised in Egypt, however, the authorities have been increasingly cracking down on the LGBT community. They routinely arrest people suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct on charges of "debauchery", immorality or blasphemy. The most recent case came about after lawyer Samir Sabry, who is well known in Egypt for taking celebrities to court, filed a lawsuit against Ghiety for his interview which took place in August 2018. The TV host, who has voiced homophobic views on a number of occasions, spoke to a gay man who expressed regret over his sexuality and described life as a prostitute. The man's face had been blurred to conceal his identity. Egypt's top media body, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, immediately took the channel off air for two weeks, citing "professional violations".The prosecuting lawyer, Mr Sabry, accused the TV host of revealing there to be financial gains of "practising homosexuality", state-owned al-Ahram newspaper reports. In addition to the jail term and fine, the misdemeanours court also ordered Ghiety to be put under surveillance for one year after serving his sentence, Mr Sabry said. The verdict could be appealed against and suspended if Ghiety paid bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds, pending the appeal's outcome, he added. Egypt's media council banned homosexuals from appearing on any media outlet after a rainbow flag was raised at a concert in Cairo in 2017, in a rare public show of support for the LGBT community in the conservative, mainly Muslim country.
1-20-19 Trump and the obliteration of America
Two years of President Trump have been bad. The next few decades will be worse. Today marks the two year anniversary of President Trump's ignominious reign over the United States. We are now at the midpoint of Trump's first, perhaps only, term as president of the United States, what we can now understand as our collective Trumpening. It is natural to ask about the consequences of handing the office of the presidency to a friendless, joyless, violence-worshipping narcissist. Unfortunately, what we know about the repercussions of this period is vastly outstripped by the disasters to come. For all the many ignominious assaults that the country has endured over the past two years, we have not yet experienced even a fifth of the calamities this man and his misrule will ultimately inflict upon us. But we know a few things. We know that President Trump has, perhaps permanently, transformed the presidency with his malevolence, ineptitude, and divisiveness. Donald Trump is by far the laziest and least informed person ever to inhabit the White House. In two years, he has defined deviance so far down that he may have forever altered the expectations of the office of the presidency itself. As we have learned from a thousand anonymously sourced news analyses, the president's time is largely unstructured, filled mostly with blocks of compulsive Fox News watching, an activity that he telegraphs to the public by live tweeting it. America's voters are constantly being told, by the president of the United States, to watch particular Fox programs and to applaud quotes by right-wing gadflies uttered without any serious pushback from other guests on what is now effectively Republican state television. Every day, this darling of the evangelical movement lives his truth, which happens to line up with every one of the seven deadly sins of sloth, envy, greed, pride, anger and gluttony. Lust, at least, he seems to have left mercifully in his recent past. Heralded as the first post-partisan president, a transactional dealmaker sent to blow up the shriveled gridlock in Washington, Trump has instead governed as the president of the Red States of America. Journalists working outside of the right wing mediasphere are demonized as "enemies of the people" and hounded by his supporters. Fueled by a lifetime of resentment against elites, racial minorities, and immigrants, he is incapable even of treating disasters and tragedies in blue states and territories with the gravity they deserve. Texas is a "great state" hit by an unfathomably catastrophic hurricane, while Puerto Ricans "want everything done for them" and California wildfires are the fault of government mismanagement. Here again what was once unthinkable — a president openly despising people who voted against him and punishing them for their supposed thought crimes — has become routine.
1-20-19 US shutdown: Trump angered by Democrat rejection of 'compromise'
US President Donald Trump has attacked Democrats for rejecting his proposals to end the longest government shutdown in US history. He said his plans had been dismissed before he had even presented them. Mr Trump had offered "compromises" in exchange for funding for his security wall along the Mexican border, the issue that has caused the shutdown. But Democrats called the proposals "unacceptable", a "non-starter" and "hostage taking". On Twitter, he said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats had "turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak". He said his opponents "don't see crime and drugs, they only see 2020 - which they are not going to win". (Webmaster's comment: Trump created the shutdown to blackmail the democrats into giving him his wall. The shutdown has nothing to do with the wall or the democrats. It's Trump's attempt to use politcal blackmail which is hurting millions of Americans!)
1-20-19 The Supreme Court's dangerous silence
Police violence disproportionately affects people of color — but our nation's judicial system won't do anything about it. Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 shots, killing African-American teenager Laquan McDonald; 14 of those shots were apparently fired while McDonald lay on the ground. It took four years and the expulsion of the state attorney general before the trial against Van Dyke for first-degree murder resulted in convictions for the lesser crimes of second-degree murder and aggravated battery last October. Before the shooting, Van Dyke ranked among the worst 3 percent of officers in excessive force allegations, making him identifiable as a "problem officer" even before he killed McDonald. This case is remarkable not for the violence committed by a white police officer against an unarmed black person, but because it involved a rare instance of the United States' legal system scrutinizing a police shooting. The courts in the U.S. have done little to intervene more generally in the mass surveillance, mass violence, and mass incarceration affecting people of color. Racial division has always been the transcendent theme of American society. But with the proliferation of recording devices on every phone, there has been an explosion of videos showing police committing various acts of violence against minorities. Now the U.S. is being forced to face the reality of police beatings, shootings, and police officers taunting people of color whom they have stopped on the street with little justification. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to weigh in on these obvious racial discrepancies in the criminal justice system. Instead, it emphasizes constitutional colorblindness, which allows it to avoid confronting the judiciary's role in perpetuating racial discrimination in the U.S.C. The Supreme Court has historically been viewed as a model for functioning constitutional democracies because of its power of judicial review, which enables it to act as an independent check on government. But even though the Court now expends roughly one-third of its docket on criminal justice cases, it consistently ducks the key challenges of discriminatory police stops and frisks, fatal police shootings, unconscionable plea deals, mass incarceration, racially disproportionate sentencing, and the disproportionate execution of racial minorities. For these reasons, the Supreme Court has made itself supremely irrelevant in several important ways.
1-20-19 Video of US teenagers taunting Native American draws fire
Footage of a group of teenagers - many wearing Make America Great Again caps - taunting a Native American man in Washington DC has drawn criticism. The teenagers, students at Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School, are seen mocking Omaha elder Nathan Phillips as he sings and drums. The students were taking part in an anti-abortion rally on Friday, while Mr Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran, came for an Indigenous Peoples' March. The school apologised to Mr Phillips. The footage of the incident went viral on social media. A number of users said the youths' behaviour was "appalling" and their parents and school "should be ashamed". Congresswoman Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women to be elected to Congress, tweeted that the students showed "blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance". The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School later issued a statement offering "our deepest apologies to Mr Phillips". "We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general," the statement reads. It added that the incident was being investigated and "appropriate action" would be taken. After the incident, Mr Phillips was quoted by US media as saying: "I heard them saying 'build that wall, build that wall'". "This is indigenous land: you're not supposed to have walls here. "We never had a prison; we always took care of our elders, took care of our children, always provided for them, taught them right from wrong. "I wish I could... put that energy to making this country really, really great," Mr Phillips said. (Webmaster's comment: An apology is meaningless. Expel the little bastards! And make sure it goes on their records!)
1-20-19 Our fascination with robots goes all the way back to antiquity
‘Gods and Robots’ explores how ancient people thought about artificial life. Artificial intelligence and robotics are hot scientific fields today. But even in the brave new world of AI, there’s nothing new under the sun, writes classics and science history scholar Adrienne Mayor in Gods and Robots. In a breezy and thought-provoking account, Mayor describes how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese myths expressed hopes and fears about human-made life long before conversational robots and computer chess champions flexed their algorithms. Mayor argues that myths influenced, and were influenced by, real animated machines invented by ancient engineers. Many Greek myths focused on what Mayor calls biotechne, or “life through craft.” Consider Talos, a giant bronze robot in the epic third century B.C. poem “Argonautica,” which tells the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Hephaestus, blacksmith for the gods, created the automaton Talos to guard a kingdom on the island of Crete. When Jason’s crew arrives, Talos breaks rocks off a cliff and heaves them at the sailors. When the sorceress Medea fixes a disorienting glare on Talos, the giant stumbles, cuts his ankle on a rock and, in a sense, bleeds out. A single internal vein carried Talos’ life force, a substance called ichor that in Greek myths granted immortality to the gods. Talos’ tale demonstrates how the Greeks used biological knowledge to inform myths of manufactured beings and to ponder a future in which technology could produce artificial life. Talos’ anatomical weak point was chosen for a biological reason, Mayor argues. Ancient medical texts on bloodletting procedures describe a thick ankle vein as best suited for draining blood from patients. In early versions of the myth, a nail in Talos’ ankle sealed in the fluid that animated his body.
1-19-19 US shutdown: Pop-up kitchens offer free food for federal workers
Pop-up kitchens are serving free food to unpaid federal workers as the US government (Trump's) shutdown drags on.
1-18-19 Border security: Is Trump’s wall a realistic solution?
What started as an “applause line” at Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign rallies “has morphed into one of the dumbest policy debates in the history of American politics,” said Christopher Hooks in the Texas Observer. The only reason we’re a month into the longest government shutdown in our history is that President Trump fears disappointing the MAGA-heads who cheered deliriously when he promised them a “big, beautiful wall” across the southern border that a humiliated Mexico would pay for. Two years later, with no wall being built or paid for, he’s demanding that Congress authorize $5.7 billion to build a steel fence or something, anything along our border with Mexico. Not only is Trump’s wall opposed by voters 55 percent to 43 percent, it would also be an ineffective and wasteful way to address what Trump insists is a crisis of drugs, criminals, and illegal immigrants “invading” our country. Drug dealers don’t lug heroin for days across mountains and deserts; they smuggle it in through border checkpoints in cars, trucks, and people. The vast majority of migrants showing up at the border today are presenting themselves voluntarily to U.S. authorities and legally requesting asylum. The only value in Trump’s wall, in short, is that it’s a “simple expression of racial resentment” to gratify his base. The real question is whether a wall would really work, said Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley in NBCNews.com. Trump has settled on a design that features 40-foot-high, sharp-pointed steel slats that he deemed “very, very hard to penetrate.” But when the Department of Homeland Security tested a prototype of this kind of fence in 2017, it found that the slats could be quickly cut through with a hand-held metal-cutting saw. Smugglers and migrants are already using sledgehammers, saws, ladders and other tools to get past existing barriers. All barriers are “mere temporary inconveniences” to anyone truly determined to enter our country, said Kristine Phillips in The Washington Post. The Border Patrol has found hundreds of tunnels—some a half-mile long—dug under existing fences to smuggle in people and contraband. So why spend another $5.7 billion for the illusion of border security? (Webmaster's comment: For $5.7 billion we could easily build decent holding facilities (not tent cites with steel cages for children) for all immigrants seeking asylum on our side of the border. And hire more people and judges to more quickly process those legitimately seeking asylum. We could hold and process 100,000 asylum seekers for $5.7 billion.)
1-18-19 Justifying the imperial presidency
U.S. law and precedent do not permit President Trump “to defy Congress and build his wall,” said David French. “He knows it. Congress knows it. His own lawyers know it.” By any fair reading of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, Trump does not have grounds to lawfully declare an emergency to seize funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Border apprehensions are now at less than a quarter of their historical peak. On Dec. 20, Trump tweeted that the “border is tight” and demanded credit for that achievement. Now the border is a national emergency? Conservatives rightly criticized President Obama when he used an executive order to suspend deportations of “Dreamers”—an abuse of the Constitution that liberals applauded. But now it’s conservative partisans “who are tripping over themselves to disregard the law in service of their imperial president.” Think hard, my conservative friends. If Trump got an emergency wall declaration through the courts, a future Democratic president could declare an emergency to shut down coal plants and build windmills. Every time partisans justify presidential overreach, they do more damage to the Framers’ design. “The only clear winner is the imperial presidency. The loser is our constitutional republic.”
1-18-19 The growing impact of the shutdown
President Trump refused to budge this week on his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a border wall, scorning Republican efforts at a compromise to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. With Trump threatening to prolong a partial shutdown for “months or even years,” the federal workforce is increasingly strained. About 800,000 workers are furloughed or working without pay, and each has already lost an average of $5,000 in wages; $200 million in federal wages are going unpaid every day. The Trump administration called tens of thousands of employees back to work this week to process taxes and inspect aircraft, food, and drugs. Yet tax audits, financial fraud probes, and power plant inspections are on hiatus; national parks operating with skeleton staffs have been trashed; and Houston and Miami airport terminals closed after a surge of TSA workers called in sick. White House economists now project each week of the shutdown cuts quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percent, double their initial estimate. Democrats are making the shutdown hit close to home for the president: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Trump that the Jan. 29 State of the Union address should be postponed. Trump has mulled ways to fund the wall without Congress, including declaring a national emergency—an option he said he’d almost “definitely” pursue, before reversing course and taking it off the table. Regardless, his signature campaign proposal appears nonnegotiable. “I promised safety and security for the American people,” Trump said on Twitter. “Elections have consequences!” The wall-or-nothing camp has “brushed aside” the plight of federal workers “with astounding callousness,” said Catherine Rampell in WashingtonPost.com. Republicans love to champion “the dignity of work,” yet they appear unmoved by reports of unpaid government employees, many of whom make less than $50,000 a year, “selling their children’s toys on Craigslist, rationing their insulin,” and delaying surgeries.
1-18-19 White supremacy
House Republicans stripped Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his assignments on the judiciary and agriculture committees this week after the nine-term congressman and close ally of President Trump defended racist ideologies. The firestorm came in response to an interview with The New York Times in which King, 69, said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” King claimed he was misconstrued, though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) noted, “This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments.” In the recent past, King has compared immigrants to dogs, retweeted neo-Nazis, and said, “We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said King “should find another line of work,” leading Democrats to ask why the GOP didn’t condemn him earlier.
1-18-19 Capitalism: A conservative’s surprising critique
Carlson: The free market is failing us. You know you’re living in extraordinary times when Tucker Carlson is “the most incisive public critic of capitalism in the United States,” said Matthew Walther in TheWeek.com. In a remarkable monologue on the state of American conservatism, the Fox News host denounced the Republican Party for its cult-like obsession with the free market. Unbridled capitalism, Carlson argues, has done as much as anything to destroy traditional families. While outsourcing, free trade, and private equity have made a small percentage of urban elites spectacularly wealthy, the same forces have gutted entire communities and left the working class in ruins. Unable to earn enough to support a family, American men are dying in record numbers from drug addiction and suicide. Marriage rates are plummeting, as marriage becomes a luxury enjoyed by the affluent. Payday lenders are the biggest businesses in many struggling communities. Nor has consumer culture made us happier. “Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy?” Carlson asks. It’s a very good question. As Carlson says, “Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.” (Webmaster's comment: Greed does not make a nation great! Carlson has been attacked by every conservative. But they ignore the happiest nations on earth all which are European welfare states!)
1-18-19 New ultra-right party
A lawmaker who left his leadership role in the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) last year after a racist tirade is setting up a new party that will be even further to the right. André Poggenburg, 43, led the AfD to its strongest state election showing yet, when it won a quarter of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt in 2016. The party censured him last March after he called German Turks “camel drivers” and spoke of “expanding the external borders” of Germany. Poggenburg says that the AfD has become too soft. His new party, called Uprising of German Patriots, has a logo sporting a blue cornflower, the symbol Austrian Nazis used to recognize one another in the 1930s. (Webmaster's comment: Nazis on the march again. American Nazis and other Trump supporters celebrate.)
1-18-19 Saudi teen gets asylum
A Saudi Arabian teenager who fled her family, claiming her life was in danger, has been granted asylum by Canada. Rahaf Alqunun, 18, had tried to escape to Australia earlier this month, but when Thai authorities threatened to deport her during a stopover, she barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room and took to social media to plead for asylum. She said she had been beaten and abused by her relatives and that they would kill her for renouncing Islam, charges her family denies. After Alqunun’s application for asylum in Australia dragged on too long, the United Nations resettled her in Canada this week. Alqunun says she hopes her story will lead Saudi Arabia to grant women more freedoms. “This might be the agent for change,” she said. (Webmaster's comment: Note that she didn't seek asylum in America. It's almost as deadly for for women and ex-muslims in America as it is in Saudi Arabia. That's why 40% of women under 30 want to leave the United States according to a Gallop poll.)
1-18-19 Why China is winning in space
The space race didn’t end when Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on the moon, said Namrata Goswami. If anything, it’s only getting started—and China may be moving into the lead. On Jan. 2, it became the first country to land a robotic rover on the moon’s far side, “the first step” in its strategy to become “the leading space power by 2045.” China’s plans for industrializing the moon could make it Earth’s “dominant power” in the 21st century. China seeks to establish an “industrial and logistical base” on the moon allowing it to mine a huge trove of titanium, platinum, and other precious metals, and to launch missions deeper into space, including to Mars. Space travel is currently limited “by the unavailability of in-orbit rocket fuel,” which requires water. The lunar poles likely contain “hundreds of millions of tons” of water, and China plans on sending “robotic prospectors” there by 2030. Fifty years ago, the race to the moon was a symbolic contest between democracy and communism. Today, the U.S. has largely retreated from space, with no specific national goals and very limited funding. With its “well-coordinated, disciplined, technocratic system,” China is well positioned to win the next space race.
1-16-19 Vice-president's wife Karen Pence to teach at anti-LGBT school
Second Lady Karen Pence, the wife of the US vice-president, will return to teaching art at a school that requires employees to oppose LGBT lifestyles. The school in Springfield, Virginia, bars teachers from engaging in or condoning "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity" and "transgender identity". Mrs Pence previously taught art at the school for more than a decade while her husband was a member of Congress. A spokeswoman for Mrs Pence has hit back at criticism of her employer. "Mrs Pence has returned to the school where she previously taught for 12 years," the second lady's spokeswoman Kara Brooks said in a statement. "It's absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school's religious beliefs, are under attack." According to a job application for the Immanuel Christian School, a private school, applicants must initial a passage promising to "live a personal life of moral purity". It lists homosexuality along with premarital sex, polygamy, sexual harassment and sex abuse, among other factors, as examples of moral misconduct. "I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman," the document states. A parent agreement on the elementary school's website says that they can "refuse admission" or "discontinue enrolment" of a pupil "if "the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches". "I pay for Karen Pence’s housing. I pay for Karen Pence’s security. I pay for Karen Pence’s health insurance. All Americans do. So she needs to explain why it’s okay to teach in a place that discriminates against the LGBT community, who are Americans that pay taxes." (Webmaster's comment: A great religious sickness enveloping our country.)
1-16-19 US government shutdown: 'I can't get my meds because of Trump'
"Now that I have nothing to help me stabilise my mood, I'm just very worried that I'm going to start having more bad days than good days." Jazz Sexton works for the US government - or at least did until just before Christmas. She's not been to work since 21 December and is running out of money, which means she's been unable to renew her anti-depressants prescription. Since then the US government has been partially shut down, with President Donald Trump refusing to approve a budget unless it includes $5.7bn (£4.43bn) to fund a wall on the border with Mexico - something the opposition Democratic Party has rejected. "I thought for sure it could not last more than two weeks," Jazz, who works as a trainee for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), told Radio 1 Newsbeat. "Everyone who I was in training with, we were a little excited at the prospect of having a few days off with a shutdown because Christmas was on a Tuesday, so we had Monday and Tuesday off and we thought well, if there's a shutdown for the rest of the week for Christmas, that's OK. "Obviously now I was a little naive in that because we're in our fourth week. And it's been very difficult." The shutdown, which Jazz says she blames on President Trump and "racist rhetoric in the US", has affected about a quarter of the federal government - meaning 800,000 employees haven't been paid. Jazz joined the IRS in October and didn't have any savings from her previous job. She says that with no end to the shutdown in sight, she's down to her last couple of hundred dollars - which is needed to help out with rent. And because she joined so recently, her healthcare hadn't been properly processed before the shutdown. "So I haven't been able to renew my prescriptions for my medication that I've been on for the last few years," Jazz says. "I've had to wean myself off 40mg tablets, down to 20mgs and then down to 10mgs. And yesterday was my very last day - I don't have any more."
1-15-19 First moon plants sprout in China’s Chang’e 4 biosphere experiment
A sprouting cotton seed on China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander is the first plant ever to germinate on another world, heralding a new era for life in space. Seeds of cotton, oilseed rape, potato and arabidopsis were carried to the moon as part of a biosphere experiment, along with fruit fly eggs and some yeast. Pictures sent back by the probe show cotton, rape and potato seeds sprouting and growing well, the scientist leading the experiment, Liu Hanlong, told South China Morning Post. Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon on 3 January and this image was dated 7 January. The organisms are kept in a sealed chamber, protected from the extreme temperatures and intense radiation on the moon’s surface. Understanding how to grow plants in space will help lay the foundation for establishing a human settlement on the moon, Liu said. The six organisms could make up a mini-ecosystem, with plants producing oxygen and food to sustain the fruit flies. Yeast could process the flies’ waste and dead plants to provide another food source. In a future human settlement, potatoes could provide food, rapeseed could be a source of oil and cotton could be used for clothing. Plants have been grown before in orbit in the International Space Station, including cucumbers. Astronauts got their first bites of space-grown romaine lettuce in 2015. Algae have even managed to survive 530 days on a panel on the outside of the space station. (Webmaster's comment: But the fact remains, China is taking the lead in space achievements.)
1-15-19 China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout
Seeds taken up to the Moon by China's Chang'e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration. It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration. The Chang'e 4 is the first mission to land on and explore the Moon's far side, facing away from Earth. It touched down on 3 January, carrying instruments to analyse the region's geology. Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon. The ability to grow plants on the Moon will be integral for long-term space missions, like a trip to Mars which would take about two-and-a-half years. It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space, reducing the need to come back down to Earth to resupply. The Chinese Moon lander was carrying among its cargo soil containing cotton and potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs. The plants are in a sealed container on board the lander. The crops will try to form a mini biosphere - an artificial, self-sustaining environment. The lunar mini biosphere experiment on the Chang'e-4 lander is designed to test photosynthesis and respiration - processes in living organisms that result in the production of energy. The whole experiment is contained within an 18cm tall, 3kg canister that was designed by 28 Chinese universities. The organisms inside have a supply of air, water and nutrients to help them grow. But one of the challenges, say Chinese scientists, is to keep the temperature favourable for growth when conditions on the Moon swing wildly between -173C and 100C or more. They also have to control the humidity and nutrients.
1-15-19 Gillette faces backlash and boycott over '#MeToo advert'
A Gillette advert which references bullying, the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity has split opinion online. The razor company's short film, called Believe, plays on their famous slogan "The best a man can get", replacing it with "The best men can be". The company says it wants men to hold each other "accountable". Some have praised the message of the advert, which aims to update the company's 30-year-old tagline, but others say Gillette is "dead" to them. The ad has been watched more than 2 million times on YouTube in 48 hours. It currently has 23,000 likes and 214,000 dislikes, at time of writing - and that's increasing all the time. In it, the company asks "Is this the best a man can get?" before showing images of bullying, sexual harassment, sexist behaviour and aggressive male behaviour. It then shows examples of more positive behaviour - such as stepping into prevent these behaviours when they happen in public. Comments on the video are largely negative, with viewers saying they will never buy Gillette products again or that the advert was "feminist propaganda". (Webmaster's comment: All the brute males rally around their favorite things; bullying and beating women!) "In less than two minutes you managed to alienate your biggest sales group for your products. Well done?," wrote one angry viewer. Twitter users are also sharing their disappointment with Gillette's new campaign. There have also been calls for Gillette, which is owned by Procter & Gamble, to post an apology video. But the brand believes the new advert aligns with its slogan and says it believes in "the best in men." "By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come," says its president, Gary Coombe. (Webmaster's comment: It's about time all good men stood up against all the brute males! Shun them!)
1-15-19 Rahaf Mohammed: Saudi teen says women 'treated like slaves'
A Saudi teenager given asylum in Canada after fleeing her family has said the journey was "worth the risk" so she could live a more independent life. Rahaf Mohammed, 18, made headlines when she flew to Thailand and barricaded herself in a hotel while appealing on Twitter for help to avoid deportation. She said she feared being killed if she was sent back to her family. "It's something that is worth the risk I took," she told the Toronto Star and CBC News. "I had nothing to lose." "We are treated as an object, like a slave," she said. "I wanted to tell people my story and about what happens to Saudi women." Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women must obtain permission from a male relative to travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married or even leave prison. Ms Mohammed - who has dropped her surname, al-Qunun - alleged that her family had subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. "In the beginning they locked me up for six months after I cut my hair... because it is forbidden in Islam for a woman to dress like a man," she told reporters at the office of an immigrant settlement agency in Toronto. "But I was mostly exposed to violence by my mother and my brother," she added. "They were beating me and there was corporal violence." While she was in Thailand, Ms Mohammed also told the BBC that she had renounced Islam - a crime that is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. She had been on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight to Bangkok on 5 January, saying she intended to take a connecting flight to Australia and had an Australian visa. But she says her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight, leaving her stranded. (Webmaster's comment: And we want to be friends with the Saudi Arabia government? It's a brute male dictatorship nation that will harm or kill women for almost any reason.)
1-15-19 Republican Steve King ousted from House panels over race remarks
US Republican Steve King has been stripped of his congressional committee seats over comments he made about white supremacy. Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives voted to remove the Iowa congressman from the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business panels. Mr King sparked furore for questioning why terms like "white supremacy" are controversial. But he says his comments have been mischaracterised. Both Democrats and his own party were quick to condemn Mr King for the remarks, made in a New York Times interview last week. "We will not be seating Steve King on any committees in the 116th Congress," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after members of the Republican Steering Committee unanimously voted to remove Mr King on Monday night. Mr King called the move to remove him from his House assignments a "political decision that ignores the truth". Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the latest Republican to speak out against Mr King on Monday, saying he has "no tolerance for such positions". "Rep King's statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn't understand why 'white supremacy' is offensive, he should find another line of work," Senator McConnell said in a statement. In a speech from the House floor on Friday, Mr King said he regretted "the heartburn that has poured forth" as a result of his interview. "I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define." epublicans have faced mounting pressure to punish Mr King as Democrats prepare to file resolutions to censure Mr King over his comments. (Webmaster's comment: If you elect a piece of garbage to represent you, we're going to send him back!)
1-14-19 Brain-reading headsets trialled on 10,000 schoolchildren in China
Are you concentrating? Some teachers are checking whether their students are paying attention by using headbands that read brain signals. Focus headbands, made by BrainCo in Massachusetts, were used in a recent trial with 10,000 schoolchildren aged between 10 and 17 in China. Over 21 days, students wore the headsets during class and teachers could monitor their average attention levels using an app. Lights on the front of the headsets also show different colours for distinct attention levels – flagging to teachers when a student might be daydreaming. The device can help teachers identify students who may need special assistance and pitch their lessons right, says Bicheng Han, founder of BrainCo. However, aside from the potential privacy issues around monitoring students’ brain activity, some are expressing concern over the device’s effectiveness. The Focus headband uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to detect changes in brain waves when the wearer is highly engaged in a task. Typically, the brain’s high-frequency beta waves are increased when we are focused, and the low-frequency alpha and theta waves are more excited when we are relaxed. The patterns vary from person to person, so Focus determines each user’s maximum attention level via a series of mental tasks. Students who participated in the experiments also had to play a smartphone game every day at home for 25 minutes aimed at increasing their ability to concentrate. The more they concentrated, the further they progressed in the game. “After a few rounds, they will learn how to stay focused,” says Han. He says students in the trial saw a 10 per cent improvement in their grades and reduced the amount of time they needed to spend on homework.
1-14-19 Trump's 'Wounded Knee' tweet over Warren sparks anger
US President Donald Trump is facing criticism once again for taunting Democrat Elizabeth Warren over her purported Native American heritage. On Sunday, Mr Trump said the senator, a 2020 presidential hopeful, should have filmed a commercial "from Bighorn or Wounded Knee" in "full Indian garb". Wounded Knee was one of the worst native massacres in US history. Native Americans have decried Mr Trump's language, calling it insensitive and racist. Mr Trump's barb was a response to an Instagram live by Ms Warren on New Year's Eve, just after she announced she was running for president. Ruth Hopkins, a Sioux writer and tribal attorney, said the president's jibe was "cold, callous and just plain racist". "+300 of my people were massacred at Wounded Knee. Most were women and children. This isn’t funny, it’s cold, callous, and just plain racist." "Wounded Knee was a massacre of innocent Sioux women and children. Pocahontas was raped by a white man when she was only 12 years old." (Webmaster's comment: There isn't a moral or decent bone in Trump's body!)
1-14-19 Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System
Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being "in a state of crisis" or having "major problems." This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.
- 70% say U.S. healthcare has major problems/is in state of crisis
- Overall perceptions stable, but party views have changed
- About six in seven Democrats now have negative assessments of the system
1-13-19 When kids think a shooter is coming
When kids think a shooter is coming. Lockdowns have become an ordinary feature of the American school day, said journalists Steven Rich and John Woodrow Cox. Even when there’s no violence, children suffer the psychic consequences. Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you OK?” In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that a man with a gun was stalking the hallways of her school in the nation’s capital, and MaKenzie feared what he might do to her. Three times between September and November, bursts of gunfire near MaKenzie’s public charter elementary school led DC Prep to seal off its Washington campus and sequester its students. During the last one, on Nov. 16, a silver sedan parked just around the corner at 10:42 a.m., then the men inside stepped out and fired more than 40 rounds. As MaKenzie’s class hid upstairs, teachers frantically rushed three dozen preschoolers off the playground and back into the building. The children of DC Prep hid for 20 minutes, until police officers arrived at the crime scene around the corner and began to take note of where the 40-plus bullet casings had scattered. What did not arrive was the caravan of TV trucks and reporters that so often descend on schools when such scenes play out in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. In the hours that followed, students began to unravel. Among the things they said: “Who’s going to shoot me?” “I want to shoot people.” “I want to shoot myself.” “The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared. In April, the country will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High, and that day will arrive in the aftermath of the worst year of school shootings in modern American history. Last spring, The Washington Post launched a database that tracked incidents of gun violence on campuses dating back to 1999, and the carnage in 2018 shattered every record. Most shootings at schools: 25. Most people shot: 94. Most people killed: 33. Most students exposed to gunfire on their campuses: 25,332.
1-13-19 The plight of Japanese Peruvians in America
People are still healing from the wounds of World War II. Elsa Kudo was a junior in college when she learned that she was an "illegal" resident of the country she called home. Decades later, she still vividly recalled seeing her FBI file for the first time. "What is this? Why is my file stamped 'illegal entry'? We didn't come illegally. You folks knew we were coming in. You brought us here," she recalled saying in an interview with the history organization, Densho. "I was so upset." In the 1940s, the U.S. government launched a program to relocate Kudo and some 2,200 other Latin Americans of Japanese descent from their home countries to detention facilities in the U.S. They were taken under the pretense of a World War II prisoner exchange, but only 865 detainees were ultimately sent to Japan via the program. Several hundred others found themselves in a fight for justice that continues today. Grace Shimizu, co-founder of the Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans and the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project, thinks there's a reason Kudo and others still haven't received adequate compensation and recognition for what happened to them. "The U.S. government has an interest in not redressing this kind of situation, which are basically war crimes. They want to be able to continue to kidnap people, thrust them into indefinite detention, subject them to whatever treatment," she says, "and not be held accountable." In the immediate aftermath of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI made its first arrests of Japanese American leaders and held them in detention facilities and jails across Hawaii and the West Coast. The panic spread to Latin America too, and within 48 hours blacklists of Japanese businessmen, community leaders, teachers, and others appeared in Peruvian newspapers. The U.S. government under president Franklin D. Roosevelt had already been surveilling Nikkei, people of Japanese descent, for years in the U.S. and in Latin America. Central and South American presidents tried to win the favor with the U.S. its allies by allowing FBI agents to be stationed at embassies to generate lists of those they deemed "suspect." Peruvian President Manuel Prado was a particularly enthusiastic accomplice; after Pearl Harbor he froze all assets held by those with Japanese citizenship and prohibited the assembly of more than three people of Japanese descent. On Dec. 24, 1941, Seiichi Higashide, Elsa Kudo's father, was shocked to find his name on one of those lists of "dangerous Axis nationals." Seiichi was a Japanese immigrant in Ica, Peru, who had built a successful business, developed deep ties to his new community, and started a family. (Webmaster's comment: United States supports war crimes as long as the United States does them!)
1-13-19 Reality Check: How safe is it to live in China?
China's Director of Public Order, Li Jingsheng, has claimed it is "one of the safest countries in the world." He says that gun crime fell by 27.6% in 2018. The official China News Service shared a video of Mr Li announcing the decline, which has been viewed more than one million times. So how does China compare with other countries, and can we trust its statistics? The Chinese government says that from 2012 to 2017, the government reported an 81.3% drop in gun crimes from 311 to 58. These figures relate to all crimes involving the holding or use of guns, says Dr Xu Jianhua, a crime expert at the University of Macau. "In terms of gun crime, China could be one of the lowest because the government has very tight restrictions. But that doesn't mean other crimes are low," says Dr Xu. Such data is treated with caution by many experts. Borge Bakken, who studies crime in China at the Australian National University, is particularly critical. "There are lies, damned lies, and Chinese crime statistics. It is sheer propaganda and the falsification of data goes from each police station to the top level," he says. There are reasons why the rate of gun crime may be low in China, even if the data itself is unreliable. It is illegal for a private citizen to own a gun and the government has run an aggressive campaign to seize weapons. According to government statistics, police confiscated 146,000 guns in 2018. Gun crime data in Europe and the United States is far more readily accessible than in China. In the United States in 2017, there were 314,931 recorded cases of homicide, robbery and assault involving guns, according to the FBI. In the same year, the UK and Germany, which include threats with guns, there were 6,375 and 8,935 police-recorded cases, respectively. These figures cannot be directly compared with the Chinese numbers but it is easy to see why Chinese media find it easy to latch on to crime stories in the United States, for example, and to point to the dangers of America's cities. (Webmaster's comment: The bottom line: The united States is one of most dangerous countries to live in. That why 40% of women under 30 in the United States want to leave the country according to a very recent highly-reliable Gallop Poll.
1-12-19 Here’s how the record-breaking government shutdown is disrupting science
The shutdown is forcing scientists to cancel presentations and halt research. As the partial federal government shutdown enters its fourth week — on January 12 becoming the longest in U.S. history — scientists are increasingly feeling the impact. Thousands of federal workers who handle food safety and public health are furloughed. Countless projects researching everything from climate change to pest control to hurricane prediction are on hold. Among government agencies hit by the partial shutdown are the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, where nearly all employees are on leave. Additionally, 40 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s 14,000 workers are furloughed, as are most employees of the National Parks Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation, responsible for doling out nearly $8 billion in research funds each year, has stopped awarding grants and has canceled review panels with outside scientists that are part of the process. In 2018, NSF gave out $42 million in grants from January 1 through January 8, but this year, nothing has been funded so far, Benjamin Corb of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology noted in a statement January 8. Such stalled funding is leading to a backlog that could slow down approvals long beyond the shutdown. Here are some of the consequences of delaying government research, and how some scientists are trying to cope. Both the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain funded and operational. Flu surveillance is still being funded through the CDC. Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs are also safe.
1-12-19 US partial government shutdown becomes longest ever
The partial shutdown of the US government has become the longest ever, with no end in sight to the political standoff. On Saturday it reaches its 22nd day, overtaking the previous record - the 21-day shutdown in 1995-96 under then-President Bill Clinton. President Donald Trump is refusing to approve a budget unless it includes funds for a wall on the Mexican border. Democrats have rejected his request for $5.7bn (£4.5bn). About a quarter of the federal government is still out of operation until a spending plan is agreed, leaving 800,000 employees unpaid. On Friday, those workers - including prison guards, airport staff and FBI agents - missed their first salaries of the year. Meanwhile, President Trump has calmed speculation that he is about to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and get the money he needs. His proposed border wall was a key election pledge. He described an emergency declaration as an "easy way out" and said he would prefer Congress to resolve the problem. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has not drained the swamp. He's made it worse than ever!)
1-12-19 Republican Steve King in white supremacy furore
A right-wing Republican congressman is under fire from his own party after questioning why terms like "white supremacy" are controversial. Steve King of Iowa also pondered in a New York Times interview when labels like "white nationalists" became offensive. Fellow Republican Jeb Bush said condemnation was not enough, and called for party grandees to oust Mr King. Mr King has since defended his remarks, saying they were mischaracterised. Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday, he said he regretted "the heartburn that has poured forth" as a result of his interview. "I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define." "As I told the New York Times, it's not about race, it's never been about race," he continued. "Under any fair political definition, I am simply a nationalist." But other Republicans were unconvinced by Mr King's explanation. "Republican leaders must actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King, because he won't have the decency to resign," Mr Bush, a former Florida governor and one-time presidential hopeful, tweeted. (Webmaster's comment: He's cut from the same cloth as Trump.)
1-12-19 Florida pardons wrongly accused Groveland Four after 70 years
Four black men who were wrongly accused of raping a white teenager in Florida 70 years ago have been pardoned. Officials voted unanimously to issue the pardon at a meeting in the state capital of Tallahassee on Friday. None of the men are still alive, but their family members were in attendance to plead their innocence. Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas are known as the Groveland Four and were accused of abducting and raping a girl in 1949. Thomas was hunted down by a posse of more than 1,000 men shortly after the alleged incident and was shot hundreds of times. The three others were beaten in custody before being convicted by all-white juries. Samuel Shepherd was later shot and killed by a sheriff while travelling to a retrial. The case is seen as a historic racial injustice and was the subject of the book Devil in the Grove, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The alleged victim, who was 17 at the time, insisted during Friday's hearing that she had told the truth and opposed the pardons before they were granted. "I'm begging y'all not to give them pardon," she reportedly said. But the clemency panel, which was composed of top officials including the attorney general, praised the work of campaigners before issuing the pardons.
1-11-19 Evangelicals’ devotion to a false idol
When Jerry Falwell Jr. was recently asked if there was anything President Trump could do to lose his evangelical support, his simple answer was “No.” This tells you why Trump is counting on religious conservative voters “for his political survival,” said Michael Gerson. While some parts of Trump’s coalition have begun to crack under the weight of his chronic lying, vanity, cruelty, and corruption, his evangelical support “has solidified into something like devotion.” Why? After a century of losing ground to liberal, secular culture, evangelicals see that struggle in “apocalyptic” terms. “In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath—brutal, pagan, but on their side.” That deal will have a long-lasting cost. Many women, minorities, and young people have come to associate religious conservatism with Trump’s sexism, xenophobia, and racism—further marginalizing Christianity. In the past, Christianity has been used to justify segregation, slavery, and other wrongs. But reformers like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King have reminded Christians of the faith’s fundamental belief in the dignity of all humankind. After Trump, we’ll need new reformers to save Christianity from those who’ve reduced it to “a sad and sordid game of thrones.”
1-11-19 When kids think a shooter is coming
Lockdowns have become an ordinary feature of the American school day, said journalists Steven Rich and John Woodrow Cox. Even when there’s no violence, children suffer the psychic consequences. Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you OK?” In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that a man with a gun was stalking the hallways of her school in the nation’s capital, and MaKenzie feared what he might do to her. Three times between September and November, bursts of gunfire near MaKenzie’s public charter elementary school led DC Prep to seal off its Washington campus and sequester its students. During the last one, on Nov. 16, a silver sedan parked just around the corner at 10:42 a.m., then the men inside stepped out and fired more than 40 rounds. As MaKenzie’s class hid upstairs, teachers frantically rushed three dozen preschoolers off the playground and back into the building. The children of DC Prep hid for 20 minutes, until police officers arrived at the crime scene around the corner and began to take note of where the 40-plus bullet casings had scattered. What did not arrive was the caravan of TV trucks and reporters that so often descend on schools when such scenes play out in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. In the hours that followed, students began to unravel. Among the things they said: “Who’s going to shoot me?” “I want to shoot people.” “I want to shoot myself.” “The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared. In April, the country will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High, and that day will arrive in the aftermath of the worst year of school shootings in modern American history. Last spring, The Washington Post launched a database that tracked incidents of gun violence on campuses dating back to 1999, and the carnage in 2018 shattered every record. Most shootings at schools: 25. Most people shot: 94. Most people killed: 33. Most students exposed to gunfire on their campuses: 25,332.
1-11-19 Gallop Poll watch
Since Trump took office, 16% of Americans say they want to permanently move out of the U.S., including 40% of women under 30. On average, 10% said they wanted to leave the country during Barack Obama’s presidency, and 11% when George W. Bush was president.
1-11-19 Texas Republicans fail to oust Muslim official over religion
A Republican county official in Texas has survived a vote to oust him after several local party members took issue with his Muslim religion. The motion to remove Shahid Shafi from his position as vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican party failed by a vote of 139-49 on Thursday night. The effort was led by several county Republicans who argued that Dr Shafi was more loyal to Islam than the US. The movement led to criticism from prominent state Republican officials. Speaking to reporters after the vote at a church in Fort Worth, Dr Shafi said: "As an immigrant to this great country, I am honoured and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans." "We were fighting for religious freedom - a founding principle of our nation. And today, we have come out victorious," he declared. In addition to serving as the Republican vice chairman of Tarrant County - the third largest county in Texas - Dr Shafi is a surgeon and Southlake City Councilman who immigrated to the US nearly 30 years ago. He reportedly is originally from India, and became a US citizen in 2009. After he was appointed by party officials to his post in July 2018, several of his colleagues took issue with his religion and claimed he had connections with terrorist organisations.
1-11-19 Brazil: Bolsonaro goes after indigenous land
Brazil’s new president has an ambitious plan to open up indigenous land to commercial mining and farming, said Brasil.ElPais.com in an editorial. Nearly 13 percent of Brazilian territory—some 413,000 square miles, an area almost the size of Texas and California combined—has been set aside for native tribes, including a large swath of Amazon rain forest. As a presidential candidate, the “ultra-right-wing” Jair Bolsonaro vowed to cede “not one more centimeter” of public land to Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people. And after his inauguration last week, he got to work on that promise. First he stripped the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of the right to decide on lands claimed by indigenous people, handing the task to the agriculture ministry. The new agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina Dias, is a fierce advocate for farmers’ rights. Then Bolsonaro put FUNAI under the aegis of a new minister in charge of a hodgepodge of issues: human rights, women, the indigenous. That minister is an evangelical pastor who co-founded a group that advocates taking disabled children away from tribes so they won’t be put to death. Bolsonaro says his plan will benefit the indigenous, said Germany’s DeutscheWelle.de. His government views the tribes “as business partners,” and he says Indians want to “earn money, trade, mine gold, harvest precious wood, and rent out land” just like other Brazilians. Bolsonaro claims the tribes are being “exploited and manipulated” by nongovernmental organizations. “Together,” he tweeted, “we’re going to integrate those citizens.” The indigenous themselves, though, will have none of it. Leaders of the Apurina and Aruak Baniwa communities have already penned an open letter saying they won’t assimilate or open their lands to agribusiness.
1-11-19 China’s pioneering moon mission
China has become the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, setting the stage for a new space race with the U.S. The unmanned Chang’e-4 probe—the name was inspired by an ancient Chinese moon goddess—touched down last week in the South Pole–Aitken basin, an ancient impact crater that’s about 1,550 miles in diameter and 7.5 miles deep. Landing on the moon’s far side is incredibly challenging. Because the moon’s body blocks direct radio communication with a probe, China first had to put a relay satellite in orbit above the moon in a spot where it could transmit signals to the craft and to Earth. The far side of the moon is of particular interest to scientists because it is heavily pockmarked with deep craters, more so than the familiar near side. Chinese researchers hope to use instruments onboard Chang’e-4 and its lunar rover to find and study areas of the South Pole–Aitken basin where the mantle—the region below the crust—might be exposed. “This really excites lunar scientists,” Carle Pieters, a planetary scientist at Brown University, tells NBC.com, “because it means we have the opportunity to obtain information about the interior of the moon and how it’s constructed.” Data about the moon’s composition, such as how much ice and other exploitable resources it contains, could help China decide whether its plans for a future lunar base are feasible.
1-11-19 China powers up electric car market
Outside China, few drivers have heard of brands such asHit BYD or Beijing Automobile Works. But they're two of the largest players in the world's biggest market for electric cars. For a decade, the Chinese government has coaxed buyers and manufacturers into the electric vehicle market through subsidies and other incentives. The numbers suggest the strategy worked: the International Energy Agency says China buys more than half of the world's new electric cars. Now, the government is set to push the burden onto manufacturers, through a new "cap and trade" system and rules that make it harder to set up a factory to make combustion-engine cars. The rules were believed to have come into force on 1 January this year. China is both the biggest manufacturer and the biggest market for cars globally. But after two decades of rapid expansion, sales fell in 2018 by 6% to 22.7 million units. The most recent figures show that New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) - a category which includes electric and hybrid models - has defied that trend, growing substantially over the past year. However, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) says 601,000 NEVs were sold in the first three quarters of 2018, which means they still account only for a small fraction of the market.
1-11-19 The French teacher who saved Jewish children
During the darkest years of World War II, Georges Loinger used skill and guile—and a hefty dose of good luck—to save hundreds of Jewish children in France from the occupying Nazis. Together with fellow members of the French Resistance, the Jewish physical education teacher hid the children at châteaus across the countryside and kept his wards healthy and happy with exercise and sports. As the Holocaust intensified, Loinger organized field trips to soccer pitches near the border with neutral Switzerland, using false identities for the children. There, he’d throw a ball toward the border and get a few kids to chase after it and keep running, never to return. Other times, some children would dash under the barbed wire during the game. “There were always fewer kids in our returning group,” Loinger said, “but no one noticed.” Loinger was born in Strasbourg, a city on the French-German border that “came under French control after World War I but maintained a distinctly German identity,” said The Washington Post. As Adolf Hitler rose to power, Loinger saw Mein Kampf in bookstores and heard the Nazi leader’s anti-Semitic speeches on the radio. An athletic young man, Loinger “studied engineering and then took up teaching physical education,” said The Times (U.K.). He did so, he said, with “the intention of preparing and training Jewish youth for the ordeal that awaited.” Loinger fought with the French army when Germany invaded in 1940 but was captured and shipped to a prison camp near Munich. He escaped to France and joined the resistance, also recruiting a cousin, the mime Marcel Marceau. The young teacher “was well suited to his clandestine work,” said The New York Times. Fluent in German, with blond hair and blue eyes, Loinger could “pass as an Aryan.” He once convinced a group of German soldiers that the 50 children he was escorting had fled the Allied bombing of Marseille—then watched in amazement as the soldiers sang with the Jewish kids and gave them candy. After the war, Loinger helped Holocaust survivors immigrate to British-controlled Palestine, and later became an executive with the French subsidiary of an Israeli shipping firm. When he died at 108 years old, his son reported that his last words were “Nobody can destroy Jewish culture.”
1-9-19 Trump's imaginary border crisis
There is no national security crisis on the southern border — and everyone in Washington knows it. Let's get one thing perfectly clear: There is no national security crisis on the southern border. President Trump claimed otherwise in his nine-minute Oval Office address to the nation on Tuesday night. But he was lying. How do we know this? Because if there were a genuine national security crisis on the southern border, Republicans in the House and Senate would be tripping over themselves to fund — and take credit for funding — Trump's border wall. There is no political downside whatsoever to taking a strong stand in defense of the country in the midst of a national security crisis. And yet, what have we seen over the past two years during which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and could have appropriated funds for Trump's beloved wall at any time? Zip. Nada. Nothing. Part of the reason is that Trump's talk of the wall on the campaign trail was always wrapped up with the patently preposterous claim that Mexico would pay for it. That stuck in the craw of some fiscally prudent Republicans. (Yes, there are still a small handful of those around.) But if the threat were real — if the evidence of it were obvious, or even vaguely plausible — even the stingiest members of the GOP would gladly have added a few more inches onto the Everest of national debt in return for looking tough and patriotic. We would have gotten wall funding in the opening months of the Trump administration. Hell, in the face of a genuine national security crisis, the vast majority of Democrats would be eager to share credit for keeping the country safe, even with Trump in the White House. But none of that has happened. Not before the failure to repeal ObamaCare, and not after. Not before passage of the massive corporate tax cut, and not after. Not in the run-up to the midterm elections, and not after. Because there is no national security crisis on the southern border — and everyone in Washington knows it.
1-11-19 A 'moral imperative' to deceive
During the 2017 special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, progressive activists set up a fake Facebook page in ostensible support of Republican Roy Moore. The page, called Dry Alabama, praised Moore for proposing a complete ban on alcohol in the state — a false claim designed to depress his vote totals from moderate Republicans. Sounds like a Russian tactic, but activist Matt Osborne told The New York Times this week he had "a moral imperative to do this." Defeating Moore, an accused serial abuser of teenage girls, was so important, Osborne explained, that a bit of deception was justified. Dirty political tricks are, of course, not new, but the brazen defense of them on moral grounds is quite telling. There's a growing bipartisan conviction that virtually anything — lying, cheating, and spying — is justified because, well, the other tribe is so evil. President Trump, of course, is the leading practitioner of the dark arts of deception, but his disdain for facts and norms is evidently infectious. When socialist superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) was recently questioned about her fuzzy math and exaggerated claims about Pentagon waste, she shot back, "There's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right." When newly seated Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called out Trump for divisive rhetoric, lack of "honesty and integrity," and low character, Republican colleagues chastised him for being too truthful. Evangelicals excuse Trump's serial adultery and unchristian bombast in the belief that he's serving a divine purpose by filling federal benches with anti-abortion judges. Were 4,000 Islamic terrorists really caught trying to cross the Mexican border? Will raising millionaires' taxes really pay for free everything? Who cares? When you're absolutely certain you're "morally right," facts and ethics are immaterial.
1-11-19 Kevin Fret: Gay rapper shot dead in Puerto Rico aged 24
The rapper and outspoken advocate for the LGBT community Kevin Fret has been shot dead in Puerto Rico aged 24. The musician, described as Latin Trap music's first openly gay artist, was killed in the capital San Juan on Thursday morning, police said. Fret was shot at eight times while riding a motorbike in the street, and he was hit in the head and hip. His death brings the number of murders in Puerto Rico this year to 22, police added. Confirming his death, Fret's manager Eduardo Rodriguez said: "There are no words that describe the feeling we have and the pain that causes us to know that a person with so many dreams has to go. "We must all unite in these difficult times, and ask for much peace for our beloved Puerto Rico." Fret was out in the Santurce neighbourhood of San Juan at 5:30 local time (9:30 GMT) on Thursday when he was fatally shot. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead. Police are now searching for another man on a motorcycle who was with Fret when he was found, but quickly fled the scene. There is no immediate indication of a motive, and an investigation is under way. Puerto Rico has seen a rise in street crime in recent weeks, which has been described by police on the Caribbean island as a "crisis of violence". (Webmaster's comment: The male brutes continue their rampage against all the decent people of the world!)
1-11-19 Chang'e-4: China Moon probes take snaps of each other
A Chinese rover and lander have taken images of each other on the Moon's surface. The Chinese space agency says the spacecraft are in good working order after touching down on the lunar far side on 3 January. Also released are new panoramic images of the landing site, along with video of the vehicles touching down. The rover and lander are carrying instruments to analyse the region's geology. The Chang'e-4 mission is the first to explore the Moon's far side from the surface. The rover has just awoken from a period on "standby". Controllers placed it in this mode shortly after the touchdown as a precaution against high temperatures, as the Sun rose to its highest point over the landing site. Those temperatures were expected to reach around 200C. But the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) said that as of the morning of 11 January, the Yutu 2 rover, its lander and the relay satellite were all in a "stable condition". The panoramic images show parts of the static lander and the Yutu 2 ("jade rabbit") rover, which is now exploring the landing site in Von Kármán crater. CLEP, which released the images, said in a statement: "Researchers completed the preliminary analysis of the lunar surface topography around the landing site based on the image taken by the landing camera." In contrast with previous images from the landing site, the panoramic image has been colour-corrected by Chinese researchers to better reflect the colours we would see if we were standing there. Online commentators had pointed out that these earlier, unprocessed images made the lunar landscape look reddish - a far cry from the gunpowder grey landscapes familiar from other missions to the surface. (Webmaster's comment: The insane thing is that America is claiming that China stole the technology to do this. But how can that be since America can't do this!)
1-10-19 US shutdown: Border politicians oppose Trump's wall
Politicians in Washington have had a lot to say about the merits or otherwise of a border wall thousands of miles away. But why are so many lawmakers based there against it? There are nine members of the House of Representatives whose districts lie along the US-Mexico border. It is perhaps not surprising that the eight Democrats oppose President Donald Trump's signature campaign pledge. But the one Republican congressman - whose district stretches for 820 miles (1,320km) along the border - is also hostile. Most of his party, including some senators and governors of states at the border, back the president. These nine House representatives have intimate knowledge of the border and the issues arising from the movement of people - legal or otherwise - across it. So what have they said? Will Hurd, Texas Republican: "I think building a concrete structure sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security," said Will Hurd, a Republican congressman whose district has the longest border with Mexico. Congressman Hurd's 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, shares the largest border with Mexico of any member of Congress. Mr Hurd, a former CIA agent who happens to be the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, has argued for a "smart border wall" which would be composed of sensors and other technology. "A Smart Wall would use sensor, radar and surveillance technologies to detect and track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol, to perform the most difficult task - interdiction," he wrote in an op-ed in 2017. Mr Hurd, who broke rank with Republicans to vote on a Democratic-led bill to reopen government, said after Mr Trump's speech on Tuesday: "If this is a crisis, the people that are dealing with this crisis should get paid." Federal workers who are deemed "essential" such as border patrol agents, have been forced to work without pay as the shutdown continues.
1-10-19 South Africa teacher suspended over class 'split by race'
A teacher in South Africa has been suspended "with immediate effect" after a photo emerged of her pupils sitting in racially separate groups. A black parent told the TimesLive news site that she thought her child's first day at school in had got off to a good start until she saw the image. "This was meant to be an exciting day for me, but it's not," she said. Local authorities say they "highly condemn" the incident and have removed the teacher "pending investigation". The BBC's Milton Nkosi in South Africa says Schweizer-Reneke is conservative rural town with a population of just under 50,000, surrounded by a farming community made up of mainly white Afrikaners. Sello Lehare, the education minister for the North West province, said the school's explanation was that "the learners were separated according to those who could understand Afrikaans and English". He added: "We are suspending her [the teacher] because we want the investigation to be fair and free". Racism is still deeply embedded in South Africa nearly 25 years after white-minority rule ended. Language policy has historically been used to exclude black learners. Parents had dropped their children off on Wednesday morning for their first day of school at Schweizer-Reneke primary school. Apparently to reassure parents that all was going well, the class teacher reportedly shared a photograph of the children to the school's private WhatsApp group. People then pointed out that the children were sitting separately according to race - the white children at a table in the centre of the room, and the few black children at a table in the corner. The image began circulating on social media. (Webmaster's comment: It's not just America where racism is alive and well!)
1-9-19 China is showing the rest of the world how to build a cashless society
Mobile payment services are seeing explosive growth in China, where apps like Alipay and WeChat Pay let people do everything from paying bills to booking a taxi. CASH is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in China. Consumers have abandoned banknotes in favour of paying with their phones in unprecedented numbers – and this vision of a cashless economy could well be the future throughout the world. The country isn’t alone in rejecting coins and notes – Sweden leads the world as the most cashless nation as a percentage of GDP – but its pace of change is accelerating. Since 2013, China has experienced the highest growth in the number of cashless transactions out of the top 10 leading cashless economies and it now accounts for about 40 per cent of global e-commerce transactions. And unlike Sweden, where physical card payments dominate, people in China are paying via local equivalents of messaging services like WhatsApp. QR codes for Alipay and WeChat Pay, the two most popular such apps, are now ubiquitous in China: in shops, restaurants, metro stations and even among buskers and beggars. Anyone with the app can scan a code with their smartphone to transfer money, without the need for physical cards or chip readers. In 2017, such mobile payments totalled 120 trillion yuan ($17.5 trillion). The country’s regulators have scrambled to keep up with the boom. A new e-commerce law came into effect at the start of this year, aiming to give consumers stronger legal protections when they buy through e-commerce apps and social media. Brian Sui, a doctor who lives in Shanghai, says he hasn’t used cash in more than two years. “Occasionally, if you come across a place that accepts cash only, people become furious. I carry about 10 or 20 RMB [$1.50 or $3] in case of emergency, but I never have to use it.” Virtually everyone he encounters – even when he visits family in the rural north-east or buys breakfast from 70-year-old street vendors – has Alipay or WeChat Pay. (Webmaster's comment: The future is not here, it's in China!)
1-8-19 Fox News host Shep Smith wasted no time fact-checking Trump's address
President Trump made many claims during his Oval Office address on Tuesday night, and Fox News anchor Shep Smith was quick to fact-check them all, sharing with the audience that much of what Trump said was misleading. Trump spoke about murder rates by migrants, but "government statistics show that there is less violent crime by the undocumented immigrant population than by the general population," Smith said. Trump also talked about drugs coming over the border, however "government statistics show much of the heroin actually comes not over the unguarded border but through ports of call." Smith moved on to discuss border crossings, telling viewers that "the number of undocumented crossings over the southern border has been steadily down over the last 10 years, and the government reports there is more outward traffic than inward traffic." Trump declared during the address that a trade deal made with Mexico will pay for the wall, but "that trade deal is not yet complete," Smith said. Finally, Trump said law enforcement professionals asked for $5.7 billion for a wall along the southern border, but "it was he who requested it, and it's he who said he would own the shutdown. Nevertheless, he's making the case to keep his base together on this matter."
1-7-19 India scientists dismiss Einstein theories
Scientists in India have hit out at speakers at a major conference for making irrational claims, including that ancient Hindus invented stem cell research. Some academics at the annual Indian Science Congress dismissed the findings of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Hindu mythology and religion-based theories have increasingly become part of the Indian Science Congress agenda. But experts said remarks at this year's summit were especially ludicrous. The 106th Indian Science Congress, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, runs from 3-7 January. The head of a southern Indian university cited an old Hindu text as proof that stem cell research was discovered in India thousands of years ago. G Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor of Andhra University, also said a demon king from the Hindu religious epic, Ramayana, had 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in modern day Sri Lanka. Another scientist from a university in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told conference attendees that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were both wrong and that gravitational waves should be renamed "Narendra Modi Waves". Dr KJ Krishnan reportedly said Newton failed to "understand gravitational repulsive forces" and Einstein's theories were "misleading". Critics said that while ancient texts should be read and enjoyed - it was nonsense to suggest they represented science. The Indian Scientific Congress Association expressed "serious concern" at the remarks. "We don't subscribe to their views and distance ourselves from their comments. This is unfortunate," Premendu P Mathur, general secretary of Indian Scientific Congress Association, told the AFP news agency. "There is a serious concern about such kind of utterances by responsible people." (Webmaster's comment: Many of India's "scientists" would take us back to the stone age!)
1-7-19 India transgender gurus in landmark Hindu procession
The northern Indian city of Allahabad witnessed a historic procession on Sunday led by a Hindu congregation of transgender people. Photojournalist Ankit Srinivas reports. Thousands thronged the streets of Allahabad to seek blessings from transgender sadhus (holy people), ahead of the Kumbh Mela festival, which is set to begin in the city on 15 January and will continue until 4 March. It is one of Hinduism's holiest events and billed as the world's largest religious gathering. It has been taking place every few years over centuries. Four different northern cities, all along the banks of a holy river, take turns hosting it. Hindus believe that taking a dip in these rivers during the Kumbh will wash away their sins and help them attain salvation. So, tens of millions gather at the festival to do just that. In the days leading up to the Kumbh, each of Hinduism's 13 official Akharas or congregations embark on processions to mark their arrival at the festival. These processions are highly coveted as people line up to see holy men and women perched on top of heavily decorated floats. Sunday's procession was different. It had the usual fanfare - floats, musical bands, camels and horses - but the sadhus were all transgender. According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people. But it wasn't until 2014 that the Supreme Court recognised them as a third gender in a historic ruling. Then in 2018 the court ruled that gay sex was no longer a crime, overturning a colonial-era law. "Those were significant victories but now the fight to get us social acceptance and our presence at the Kumbh is another step in that direction," said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the head of the transgender congregation, which is known as the Kinnar Akhara. Hindu mythology and scriptures are full of references to transgender people - some Hindu gods and goddesses are transgender too. But rights groups say the community is ostracised and faces huge discrimination because of their gender identity. The Kinnar Akhara has been battling the other congregations to lead such a procession. Finally, they chose to do it despite being denied official recognition.
1-7-19 Rahaf al-Qunun: Thailand vows not to deport Saudi woman
Thailand's immigration police chief says a Saudi woman who fled her family at the weekend will be given temporary entry to the country. Thai immigration officials had tried to return Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, to Kuwait, where her family is. She refused to board a flight to Kuwait City on Monday, and barricaded herself into her hotel room at Bangkok airport. The teenager said she believed her family would kill her if she went back because she had renounced Islam. The Thai authorities said her status would be assessed by the UN refugee agency. "My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait," she told Reuters. "My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things." Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have expressed grave concerns for Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, who arrived at Bangkok's international airport on a flight from Kuwait. She had travelled to Thailand for a connecting flight to Australia, where she hoped to seek asylum. Thailand's chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn said on Monday afternoon local time that the country would "protect her as best we can". "She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand, no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere," he said. "We will talk to her and do whatever she requests. "Since she escaped trouble to seek our help... we will not send anyone to their death."
1-6-19 Saudi woman 'trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family'
A young Saudi woman says she is stranded at Bangkok's main airport after fleeing her family and having her passport seized by a Saudi official.Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, says she was on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight two days ago. She was trying to head to Australia via a connecting flight in Bangkok. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family. The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is frightened and confused. She says she has an Australian visa but her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight at Suvarnabhumi airport. Ms Mohammed al-Qunun told BBC Newshour she was now in a hotel in the transit area. She said: "I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this... I can't study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want." Thai police Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn told the BBC that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was escaping a marriage. Because she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, he said police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her through the same airline she had taken, Kuwait Airlines. Gen Surachate said he was unaware of any passport seizure. It is unclear why Ms Mohammed al-Qunun would need a Thai visa if she was in transit to Australia and had an Australian visa. Saudi citizens visiting Thailand are also eligible to apply for a visa on arrival when entering the country. Ms Mohammed al-Qunun wrote on Twitter that she had decided to share her name and details because she had "nothing to lose" now. She also shared a picture of her passport "because I want you to know I'm real and exist". Another tweet read: "I'm afraid my family will kill me." (Webmaster's comment: Christians in America have killed family members who renounce their faith too. The Word of Life church did this in October 2015. This young innocent woman will be undoubtably be killed by her family members if she is returned to them.)
1-4-19 Record Numbers of Americans Want to Leave the U.S.
While Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency focused on the number of people who want to get into the U.S., since he took office, record numbers of Americans have wanted to get out. Though relatively average by global standards, the 16% of Americans overall who said in 2017 and again in 2018 that they would like to permanently move to another country -- if they could -- is higher than the average levels during either the George W. Bush (11%) or Barack Obama administration (10%).
- 40% of women younger than 30 would like to leave the U.S.
- 22% who disapprove of Trump would like to move vs. 7% who approve
- Canada is top desired destination for would-be migrant Americans
(Webmaster's comment: Staying here in American more than doubles your odds for being beaten, raped or killed by the white male brutes. In Europe the statistics are 4 times better for your survival and a far happier life. You stay in America at a high risk of bodily harm!)
1-4-19 Chang'e-4: Chinese rover now exploring Moon
A Chinese robotic rover has got its wheels dirty after rolling off its landing craft and onto the lunar soil. The Chang'e-4 spacecraft touched down on the far side of the Moon at 10:26 Beijing time (02:26 GMT) on Thursday. Lunar exploration chief Wu Weiren echoed Neil Armstrong's famous quote, telling state media the event marked a "huge stride" for China. The rover and lander are carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region's geology. It represents the first ever such attempt and landing on the far side of the Moon, which has distinct characteristics to the near side we can see from Earth. According to the Guardian newspaper, Weiren told the state broadcaster CCTV: "The separation of Chang'e 4's rover was smooth and perfect." "The rover rolled only a small step on to the Moon, but it represented a huge stride for the Chinese nation." The rover touched the lunar surface at 22:22 Beijing time (14:22 GMT), about 12 hours after the landing. The event was captured by the camera on the lander and the images were sent back to the Earth via the relay satellite "Queqiao", China's Xinhua state news agency reported. China has also chosen a name for the rover - Yutu 2 - following a worldwide poll to name the rover in August. In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, the moon goddess who lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission. The number two at the end of the name acknowledges its predecessor, a Chinese rover called Yutu which touched down at Mare Imbrium on the Moon's near side in 2013.
1-4-19 Pope Francis: US sex abuse scandal undermines Church's credibility
Pope Francis has said the credibility of the Catholic Church in the US has been severely damaged by the ongoing child sexual abuse scandal there. Efforts to cover up the crimes had caused even greater harm, he said in a letter delivered to US bishops attending a retreat in Chicago. He urged the bishops to end internal bickering and show unity as they tried to tackle the crisis. The Pope's comments on child abuse have grown stronger over time. In an extensive letter released by the Vatican, the Pope says the "hurt caused" has generated "division and dispersion" within the ranks of US bishops. "God's faithful people and the Church's mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled," he wrote, adding bishops had "concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation". "Combating the culture of abuse, the loss of credibility, the resulting bewilderment and confusion, and the discrediting of our mission urgently demands of us a renewed and decisive approach to resolving conflicts," the Pope wrote. Attempts to restore the institution's credibility must be based on rebuilding trust, he added. Next month, US bishops will join their counterparts from across the world for an extraordinary meeting at the Vatican to find ways of tackling the crisis. A report last year by a grand jury in Pennsylvania identified more than 1,000 victims abused by hundreds of priests over seven decades in that state alone. In July of last year, the pontiff accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the US Church's most prominent figures, following allegations he had sexually abused a teenager. In October, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington DC, stepped down over his handling of abuse cases. Pope Francis called for "decisive action" when he was elected in 2013, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse. In late December, he urged priests who had offended to surrender to the law, in preparation for "divine justice". (Webmaster's comment: Divine Justice has not worked for over 1,500 years. Why should we expect it to work now? It's just words!)
1-4-19 Sabarimala: Women who defied temple mobs 'have no fear'
Two women who defied protesters to enter one of Hinduism's holiest temples say they have no fear of mobs enraged by their actions. Kanaka Durga, 39, and Bindu Ammini, 40, made history by entering Sabarimala shrine in India's Kerala state on Wednesday, sparking protests. The women told the BBC they felt it necessary to uphold women's rights. In September the Indian Supreme Court said the temple's ban against women of menstruating age was discriminatory. Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals - but most temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating at the time. Some protesters argue that the court ruling goes against the wishes of the temple's deity, Lord Ayappa, and reacted angrily. Since then women have had their entry blocked in defiance to the ruling, and even been subjected to violence. After prolonged resistance, Ms Ammini and Ms Durga successfully entered under nightfall alongside plain-clothed police officers on Wednesday. After they entered, thousands protesting put Kerala state into virtual lockdown. Right-wing groups, supported by India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), demanded a state-wide shutdown, and businesses and transportation became paralysed. Across the state hundreds were arrested, and at least one person was killed in clashes. Speaking to BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi from a secret location on Friday, Ms Ammini, a law teacher, said she felt it was important for her to visit the shrine in order to uphold "constitutional principles" and "constitutional morality" within India. "Gender justice is a big issue facing our society, and the implementation of this judgement helps to implement gender justice," she said of their visit. "I may be killed by the people," she said, of the protest response. But Ms Ammini maintained she "had no fear" of the angry mobs. The sentiment was shared by Ms Durga. "I am not afraid. But every time women make any progress, society has always made a lot of noise," she told the BBC. A religious devotee, she wanted to visit Sabarimala and pray to the deity, Ms Durga said.
1-4-19 Australians care if politicians tell lies, but people in the US don’t
The US may have entered a “post-truth” era, but Australia has not. Researchers who asked people in the US their views on politicians who frequently bend the truth found that fact-checking had little impact, whereas for Australians it did change their political opinions. The findings in Australia are positive and encouraging, says team member Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol in the UK. They suggest fact-checking is a genuine counter to politicians who regularly make false statements. “People like a politician less if they find out they have been lied to a lot,” says Lewandowsky. “It’s a reasonably large effect.” But when the team did a follow-up study in the US, the size of the effect was ten times smaller. “We have a lot of information now suggesting American voters don’t really care about facts, in the sense that if you tell them a politician is dishonest it doesn’t really seem to matter,” says Lewandowsky. In the Australian study, 450 people did an online test in which they were shown statements made by Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull, who at the time were the leaders of the left-wing Labor party and right-wing Liberal party respectively. Some participants were shown an equal mix of true and false statements, while others were shown mostly false ones. They were asked about their belief in the statements, their feelings towards the politicians and their voting intentions. Then they were shown the statements again along with very short fact checks, and asked the same questions again. The feelings and voting intentions of those shown mostly falsehoods changed significantly, while those of people shown an equal mix of truth and falsehoods did not. Surprisingly, fact checking was just as effective whatever people’s initial view of the politician making the statement. A follow-up study in the US used statements from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The full details have not yet been published, but the change in people’s feelings towards politicians who frequently made untrue statements was 10 times smaller than in Australia. (Webmaster's comment: Many Americans believe what they believe! Their minds are made up! Facts make no difference! Closed-minded and ignorant to the end!)
1-4-19 Migrant deaths: Who is at fault?
On Christmas Eve, 8-year-old Guatemalan migrant Felipe Alonzo-Gomez died of the flu in the custody of the Border Patrol, after being shuffled among four crowded detention facilities in six days. Two weeks earlier, a little girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin died of shock, dehydration, and a 105.7-degree fever amid reports she was not given water during the eight-plus hours she was in Border Patrol care. The Trump administration’s response to these tragedies was “a new low,” said Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post. First, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen blamed Jakelin’s father for making the perilous journey; then Trump used both children as pawns in his fight to get funding for a border wall. “If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try” to come here, he tweeted. Clearly, something is very wrong at the border detention facilities, said Elizabeth Oglesby in TheHill.com. The border facilities are filthy, overcrowded, and intentionally kept so cold that migrants refer to them as “hieleras”—“ice boxes.” Former Border Patrol agents and human rights activists say there is “a culture of cruelty” within the Border Patrol, designed “to punish migrants as a form of deterrence.” (Webmaster's comment: Just as we have said!) The deeper question is, Why are we “locking up migrant kids at all?” said Sally Kohn in TheDailyBeast.com. America has a long tradition of welcoming immigrants desirous of “a future that was impossible anywhere else.” These desperate migrants are making legal asylum claims at the border, after fleeing chaos-and-crime-plagued Central American countries. But to rouse Trump’s anti-immigrant base, the administration is denying most of the asylum claims, while locking migrant kids and their parents up in freezing cages. What we need is not a wall, but a coherent immigration policy with heart.
1-4-19 The Wall
54% of voters do not want a wall on the Mexican border and think that it will not improve border security, while 43% are in favor of building a wall. 62% oppose shutting down the federal government over the dispute on wall funding.
1-4-19 Louis C.K. a Comedian?
As he tries to revive a career derailed by his sexual misconduct, comedian Louis C.K. has grown even angrier and bitterer, using a recent stand-up routine to mock the teen survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shootings. In a recording released this week of a show C.K. performed last month on Long Island, N.Y., the 51-year-old said he was bored by the activist students from Parkland, where 17 people were shot dead in February. “Why does that mean I have to listen to you?” C.K. asked. “You didn’t get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way.” In another bit, he complained about transgender and non-binary people, saying they act “like royalty” because “they tell you what to call them.” To laughs, C.K. added that he wants to be addressed as “there” because “I identify as a location.” C.K. described feeling numb to outrage. “My life is over,” he said. “I don’t give a s---.” In 2017, C.K. admitted that he had exposed himself and masturbated in front of multiple women, including female comedians.
More than 4 million children experienced a school lockdown during the 2017–18 school year, with more than 6,200 lockdowns overall. On a typical school day last year, at least 16 campuses were locked down.
The rate of gun suicides in the U.S. has risen 22 percent since 2008. Households in which a gun is owned have triple the suicide rate of those that do not.
1-3-19 China’s Chang’e 4 makes historic first landing on the moon’s far side
For the first time, a spacecraft has landed on the side of the moon that is always facing away from Earth – an area that, until now, we had only seen from orbit. The China National Space Administration’s Chang’e 4 lander launched on 7 December and has spent the past month reaching the correct orbit to attempt the historic landing. The CNSA also launched a lunar satellite in May to facilitate communication with the lander, as there is never a direct line of sight between the moon’s far side and Earth. That lack of visibility meant that Chang’e 4 had to make its landing almost completely autonomously, with no input from mission control. At 10.26 am Beijing time on 3 January, the lander successfully touched down on the surface in an enormous depression called the South Pole-Aitken basin. This basin is particularly important because it is thought to be a crater from a huge impact during the moon’s early years. The impact may have punched through the crust and dug up rocks from deeper underground. If so, the spacecraft will be able to study these rocks to learn about the moon’s past as well as its present. The mission will also help prepare for the moon’s possible future. Researchers are keen to send radio telescopes to the far side of the moon, where radio wave pollution from Earth’s communications and power lines is blocked out. Chang’e 4 is also carrying a “biosphere” with potato seeds, cress and silkworm larvae to see if they can thrive in a sealed container on the moon. (Webmaster's comment: China is now the undisputed leader in space technology. United states now only leads in it's number of military killing machines.)
1-3-19 Sabarimala: India's Kerala paralysed amid protests over temple entry
Schools across the state are closed and public transport too has been suspended. One person was killed in clashes on Wednesday. The Sabarimala temple was historically closed to women of "menstruating age" - defined as between 10 and 50. The Supreme Court revoked the ban in September, which prompted outrage. On Wednesday, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, entered the shrine around dawn and became the first women to do so. Schools across the state are closed and public transport too has been suspended. One person was killed in clashes on Wednesday. The Sabarimala temple was historically closed to women of "menstruating age" - defined as between 10 and 50. The Supreme Court revoked the ban in September, which prompted outrage. On Wednesday, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, entered the shrine around dawn and became the first women to do so. Thursday saw a second day of protests across the state. Right-wing groups, supported by India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), demanded a state-wide shutdown. They wanted schools, colleges and businesses to remain closed as a sign of protest. The state government, which supports the Supreme Court ruling, stepped up security and deployed police across the state for protection. But fearing violence, schools and shops were closed. And buses did not run as protesters blocked highways and other roads. In total, more than 700 people were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday. Sixty police officers were injured, more than 80 public buses were damaged and at least a dozen police vehicles were attacked. (Webmaster's comment: Can it be true that religion is behind most violence? Seems to be.)
1-2-19 US fires tear gas at migrants at Mexico border crossing
US agents have fired tear gas over the border into Mexico at migrants trying to enter the country illegally. Around 150 Central Americans tried to make the crossing near the town of Tijuana to the south of California on New Year's Day. One US official described the migrants as a "violent mob". It comes as the US federal government remains shut down as President Donald Trump and Congress argue over funding for his proposed border wall. The US said security forces used tear gas after migrants threw rocks, and that they were deliberately aiming upwind of rock-throwers who they say hindered agents from helping migrants who were passing children over razor wire. But the Associated Press reports rocks were only thrown after agents fired tear gas, and a Reuters witness says one migrant was struck by what seemed to be a tear gas canister. US Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman called the group a "violent mob", and said agents used "the minimum force necessary to defend themselves". In a statement, Ms Waldman called on Congress to "fully fund the border wall". US Customs and Border Protection said 25 people were detained, including two teenagers. The majority of migrants returned to Mexico. A spokesperson for Mexico's foreign ministry said the government "regrets the events" near Tijuana, and called on both sides to respect the law.
1-2-19 Sabarimala: Indian women make history by entering temple
Two Indian women have made history by entering a prominent Hindu shrine in the southern state of Kerala, following months of protests against their entry. The Sabarimala temple was historically closed to women of "menstruating age" - defined as between 10 and 50. The Supreme Court overturned that ban but protesters then attacked women and stopped them from going in. The women's entry to the shrine sparked fresh protests and police used tear gas at several locations in Kerala. Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, devotees of the temple deity, Lord Ayyappa, entered around dawn. "We arrived early in the morning and we had a darshan [saw the idol] for a few minutes," Ms Ammini told the BBC. Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose government supports the Supreme Court ruling, told reporters that the women's entry into the temple was a historic moment. On 1 January, his left-wing coalition government organised a "women's wall" - in which women from across Kerala formed a 620km (385-mile) human chain to protest against the ban. Temple officials say the women have "defiled" the temple. It was closed for an hour in order to perform "purification rituals" but has now reopened. Demonstrations across the state have since erupted and police have fired tear gas to disperse crowds. Violent clashes have been reported outside the state parliament, according to local media. The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also called for a two-day protest after news of the women entering the shrine broke.
1-2-19 The Cape Town schools learning from transgender students
As an increasing number of young South Africans reveal that their gender identities differ from their sex at birth, schools are learning about the challenges these students face, writes the BBC's Mohammed Allie from Cape Town. Three years ago, Alex* transitioned from a boy to a girl. Now eight years old, she wears her blonde hair long and feels at ease among her classmates at a primary school in a leafy Cape Town suburb. "My friends are really nice," she says, even if some children in another class "don't really understand and act a bit mean". Alex's mother Jennifer* says the family was initially advised by a psychologist against allowing Alex to explore her female identity, and was urged instead to reinforce the male gender. "So we cut her hair and forced her to be a boy, but that turned out to be awful," Jennifer says. "She was affected badly - there was a noticeable decline in her sense of self." Matters only improved after the family - acting on the advice of another mental-health professional - allowed Alex to dress as she wished. "Legally we haven't changed the gender marker," Jennifer says, "but she started wearing dresses to school and they were OK with that." South Africa has been getting better at understanding the needs of transgender students, backed by a constitution that is widely recognised as one of the most liberal in the world. The country remains the only one in Africa that legally prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, guaranteeing equality for all.
1-1-19 Germany adopts third gender identity for intersex people
Intersex people in Germany can now legally identify themselves as a third gender, under a new law adopted in December. People who do not fit the biological definition of male or female can now choose the category "diverse" on official documents. Those choosing the option will need a doctor's certificate to register. Intersex people are born with both male and female sex characteristics, which can appear at birth or later in life. Other countries have approved laws in recent years to help recognise intersex people. Austria's constitutional court made a similar ruling to Germany's in June, while Australia, New Zealand, Malta, India and Canada have all passed measures to redress issues facing intersex citizens. The UN says up to 1.7% of the world's population are born with intersex traits - about the same number of people with red hair. This is separate from a person's gender identity or sexual orientation. But many face stigma, legal discrimination or even forced surgery because of these characteristics. Germany previously allowed intersex people to opt out of choosing either male or female as a gender in 2013. But in 2017 the country's top court ruled it was discrimination to deny people a gender, after a person registered as female had a chromosome test confirming they were neither sex. Germany's parliament approved the law change last month, to come into effect on 1 January. BBC Europe regional editor Danny Aeberhard says some people believe it is a step too far, while gender activists think the need for a doctor's certificate will make proof harder for intersex people without physical characteristics.
1-1-19 Sabarimala temple: Indian women form '620km human chain' for equality
Women in the southern Indian state of Kerala have formed a 620km (385-mile) human chain "in support of gender equality", amid a row over access to a prominent Hindu temple. The Sabarimala shrine was historically closed to women of "menstruating age" - defined as between 10 and 50. India's top court overturned the ban in September, but protesters have since attacked female visitors. The "women's wall" was organised by the state's left-wing coalition government. Officials told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi that around five million women from various parts of Kerala had gathered across all national highways to form the chain, which stretched from the northern tip of Kasaragod to the southern end in Thiruvanthapuram. Organisers had predicted a turnout of around three million. Officials said the short demonstration was to combat inequality and counter the efforts of right-wing groups that support the ban on women. On young woman, Kavita Das, told BBC Hindi: "This is a great way of saying how powerful women are, and how we can empower ourselves and help each other. Of course, I support the move to allow women of all ages into the temple. I don't think tradition or any kind of backwardness should stop women. Those who want to pray must have the right to pray." The Supreme Court decision to let women worship at the Sabarimala shrine came after a petition argued that the custom banning them violated gender equality. But India's ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has argued that the ruling is an attack on Hindu values. The issue has become increasingly contentious in the run-up to India's general election, scheduled for April and May. Critics have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of pursuing a religiously divisive agenda to court the BJP's mostly-Hindu support base.