3-31-19 Dismay after Trump moves to cut aid to Central America
US opposition politicians and aid agencies have questioned a decision by President Donald Trump to cut off aid to three Central American states. Mr Trump ordered the suspension of aid payments to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to push their governments to stop migration into the US. Critics say the decision will hurt programmes that already aim to persuade people to stay at home. Congress may seek to stop the aid being redirected elsewhere. US officials say the immigration system at the border with Mexico is already at breaking point yet the administration wants to increase the number of asylum seekers sent back over the border fivefold - from 60 a day to 300. There has been a huge increase in asylum seekers fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The three nations are where most of the migrants on the US southern border come from. President Trump has also said he is likely to close the border if Mexico does not do more to stop migrants crossing. "We are carrying out the President's direction and ending FY [fiscal year] 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle," a state department spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency, declining to give further details. According to the Washington Post, at stake is nearly $500m (£383m) in 2018 funds plus millions more left over from the previous fiscal year. A Reuters source put the overall figure at about $700m. In 2017, Guatemala received over $248m while Honduras received $175m and El Salvador $115m. (Webmaster's comment: These amounts are chicken feed! That's about 5 cents per taxpayer.) "I've ended payments to Guatemala, to Honduras and El Salvador," Mr Trump told reporters on Friday. (Webmaster's comment: This is how we become great again, Help No One!)
3-30-19 Trump offshore drilling order unlawful, judge rules
Donald Trump's reversal of an Obama-era environmental protection was "unlawful", a judge has ruled. During his presidency, Barack Obama brought in a ban on offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic. Mr Trump attempted to overturn this with an executive order in 2017, promising to allow oil and gas companies back into protected regions. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason has now ruled that the president violated a federal environmental law. The court heard that Mr Trump fell foul of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Under that law, presidents are allowed to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing programme, which allows companies to drill in specified areas. Mr Obama had used this law to protect almost 500,000sq km of the outer continental shelf - including the Arctic's Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea, and a large area of the Atlantic Ocean on the country's east coast. However, presidents do not have the power to add areas back to the leasing programme - only Congress does. Judge Gleason told the court that therefore the ban on drilling "will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress". The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of Alaskan indigenous and environmental groups. Athan Manuel, from a group called The Sierra Club, told US broadcaster CBS that the ruling was "great news for the Arctic Ocean, great news for the planet, great news for the fight against climate change". Getting rid of Mr Obama's environmental protections had been one of Mr Trump's promises to voters while on the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 election. He signed the executive order allowing oil and gas giants access to the protected areas in April 2017, just a few months after his January inauguration.
3-29-19 Trump pushes for courts to void Obamacare
The Trump administration urged a federal court this week to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, an abrupt policy change that startled Democrats, and many in the president’s own party as well. The Justice Department had earlier argued that only the health-care law’s consumer protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions, should be found unconstitutional. Yet a federal judge in Texas ruled the entire law was void last December, and now the Justice Department says the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should affirm his ruling. If that happens, 21 million Americans could lose health-care coverage and virtually every person with insurance would be affected, including the 133 million with pre-existing conditions. Two key Cabinet officials—Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr—opposed the new strategy, Politico reports. Trump visited Capitol Hill this week and said, “The Republican Party will be the party of health care,” then met privately with Republicans to revive efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Support for the law fueled the Democratic landslide in the 2018 midterm elections, with a CNN exit poll finding that Democrats won 75 percent of voters most concerned about health care. Democrats pounced on the Justice Department’s move, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an “all-out war on the health care of the American people.” A day later, House Democrats introduced a proposal to bolster the Affordable Care Act and counter efforts to undercut it. Trump’s strategy is as “substantively horrifying” as it is “politically bonkers,” said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Democratic presidential contenders have tried to one-up each other on grand health-care proposals like Medicare for All. Now they can focus on stopping Trump from “snatching coverage away from millions of Americans.” Whatever comes of the lawsuit, Democrats got “much of their 2020 campaign written for them.” (Webmaster's comment: Trump is as anti-human welfare as a man can get!)
3-30-19 Trump threatens to shut Mexico border amid migration surge
President Donald Trump has said he is likely to close the US border if Mexico does not do more to stop migrants reaching the United States.The closure would disrupt border crossings, threatening trade worth billions of dollars. Mr Trump's threat follows a surge in migrants travelling through Mexico to seek asylum in the US. Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not be drawn into confrontation on the issue. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in a tweet that Mexico was a "great neighbour" to the US and would "not act on the basis of threats". Mr Trump told reporters on Friday: "There's a very good likelihood that I'll be closing the border next week, and that will be just fine with me." He said it was very easy for Mexico to "stop people from coming up, but they don't choose to do it". The president later wrote a series of tweets which concluded that because the US "lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc., that the Border closing would be a good thing!" The US president has also instructed the state department to cut off all direct assistance to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala - where many of the migrants come from. The move has to involve Congress, many of whose members have authorised the monies to tackle the root causes of the migration. President López Obrador said on Thursday that the issue of migration was "not up to us Mexicans". He said it was a problem stemming from Central American countries rather than Mexico. "The Mexican is no longer seeking work in the United States. The majority [of migrants] are inhabitants of our fellow Central American countries," he said. He referred to migration as a "human right" and said: "People in Central America don't have any options, so they set out looking for a way to earn a living."
3-29-19 226 Percent Increase in Hate Crimes
Counties that hosted campaign rallies for President Trump in 2016 have experienced a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes, compared with counties that did not host rallies, according to a new study by the University of North Texas.
3-29-19 Schools and places of worship less safe
67% of Americans see schools and 61% places of worship as less safe now than they were before because of mass shootings. 67% of Americans want stricter gun laws, while 22% think the laws should stay as they are. 58% think that stricter gun laws would reduce mass shootings.
3-29-19 White Nationalism not a threat?
63% of voters who support President Trump believe that white people face “a lot of discrimination,” and 67% do not see white nationalism as a threat. 39% of all voters believe Trump supports white nationalism, while only 19% say he opposes it.
3-29-19 Biggest Monthly Deficit Ever
The U.S. government posted its biggest monthly deficit ever in February—$234 billion—and the deficit for fiscal year 2019 is up 40 percent so far. Monthly corporate tax revenue has plunged 32 percent since the Republican tax cut passed.
3-29-19 Horrors persist
Jeremy Richman, father of one of the 20 first-graders killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, committed suicide this week. His death comes a few days after two teenagers who survived the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took their own lives. Richman, 49, created a foundation named for his daughter, Avielle, to research links between mental health and violence; a week before his death he was in Florida, where he met with parents of one of the 17 students killed at Stoneman Douglas. “We wanted to prevent others from suffering the way that we were suffering, and continue to suffer to this day,” Richman said while visiting Florida. Richman’s visit came just two days after former Stoneman Douglas student Sydney Aiello, 19, killed herself. She’d been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and felt unsafe in college classrooms. (Webmaster's comment: The neverending legacy from the Merchants Of Death and their patrons!)
3-29-19 Bump stock ban can take effect
Chief Justice John Roberts rejected an emergency request this week for the Supreme Court to stay President Trump’s ban on bump stock gun attachments, allowing the executive order to take effect. Gun rights activists, including the lobbying group Gun Owners of America, sought to delay the ban—which requires that bump stocks be destroyed or turned over to authorities—until it’s litigated in lower courts. The devices gained notoriety in 2017 after police found more than a dozen weapons with bump stocks in the hotel room of the gunman who killed 58 people on the Las Vegas Strip. The ban classifies weapons with bump stock attachments as machine guns because they allow a semiautomatic “to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.”
3-29-19 Will we confront Islamophobia?
The New Zealand massacre has inspired a groundswell of sympathy and support for Muslims around the globe, said Apoorvanand, but not here in India. In Western nations, people of all faiths have sent flowers and letters of support to local mosques, and expressed their horror at the hatred that led a white supremacist to kill 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch. In India, “we saw no such initiative,” even though Indian-born Muslims were among the Christchurch victims. Instead, as India prepares for a general election in April, mosques are in the news for a sinister reason: The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has asked the election commission to send observers to Islamic houses of worship to make sure imams are not spreading hatred or urging people to vote along religious lines. The request is yet another example of how we as a society have normalized the demonization of our Muslim citizens. Where other countries demand action against Islamophobia, we call Muslims “unnecessarily touchy” if they complain against even overt discrimination. Where else but in India are the eating habits of Muslims—who consume beef—actually criminalized? “Islamophobia continues to run like blood in our veins.” Until we recognize this disease in ourselves, we can’t begin to cure it.
3-29-19 Italy: Becoming China’s beachhead in Europe?
The ancient Silk Road that once linked China to Italy is coming to life again, said China Daily (China) in an editorial. At a ceremony in Rome with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio last week signed his country on to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative—an $8 trillion infrastructure investment plan that aims to create new trade routes spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa. More than 100 countries are cooperating in the initiative, but until last week no member of the Group of Seven developed nations had joined. That’s largely because of pressure from the U.S., which “fears that China’s rise may challenge its leading position in the world.” But Xi’s visit to Rome shows that China is interested not in global domination but rather in lifting up all of its trading partners. Officials from both countries signed 29 deals worth $2.8 billion, including agreements to boost Italian exports to China and Chinese tourism in Italy. Meanwhile, China will invest in Italian telecommunications and the major ports of Genoa and Trieste. “Other G-7 members should keep an eye on how the cooperation between the two countries unfolds, as they will then appreciate the benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative.” The Germans can’t be all that concerned about the dangers of Chinese investment, said Cristofaro Sola in L’Opinione delle Libertà (Italy). If they were, why did they agree to transform the western German city of Duisburg “into the largest Chinese trade hub in Europe”? Every week, 30 trains from China arrive at its terminal “and unload clothes, toys, and high-tech electronics and load up German cars, Scotch whisky, and French wine bound for the Far East.” Germany’s total trade with China stood at $230 billion in 2017, while Italy—the EU’s third-largest economy—did a mere $47 billion. Is Germany worried about China undermining EU unity, or does it just want the first shot at any deals with Beijing?
3-29-19 Historic outrage
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador demanded this week that Spain and the Vatican apologize for human rights violations committed during the “invasion” of the Americas 500 years ago. “There were massacres,” López Obrador said in a video address. “They raised churches on top of temples.” Catholic Spain ruled Mexico for some 300 years and made the conversion of indigenous peoples to Christianity part of its mission; Mexico won independence in the early 19th century. The government in Madrid rejected López Obrador’s request for an apology. “The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory,” it said, “cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations.” (Webmaster's comment: The invaders from Europe did not civilize anything. They simply destroyed everything and killed everybody.)
3-29-19 Potent weed linked to psychosis
People who smoke high-strength marijuana every day are four times more likely to develop psychosis than those who have never used the drug, according to the largest-ever study on weed and mental health problems. As evidence grows of a link between marijuana and psychotic disorders, the new study suggests that levels of THC—the drug’s psychoactive component—are a major factor. Researchers from King’s College London looked at some 900 people in Europe and Brazil who received their first diagnosis of a psychotic disorder from 2010 to 2015 and compared them with more than 1,200 healthy people from the same regions. The scientists found that daily marijuana users were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis than those who never consumed the drug, and four times more likely if they used cannabis with a high concentration of THC. Overall, the researchers estimate, 24 percent of new psychosis cases were linked to daily high-potency cannabis use. Co-author Robin Murray tells TheGuardian.com that the findings have implications for the debate over marijuana legalization. “Unless you want to pay for a lot more psychiatric beds,” he says, “you need to devise a system where you would legalize in a way that wouldn’t increase the consumption and increase the potency.” (Webmaster's comment: People shoud smoke weed for medical reasons, not to cause medical problems!)
3-29-19 Can psychics speak to the dead?
A band of skeptics infiltrates audiences to prove that famed psychics are frauds, said journalist Jack Hitt. But sometimes the power of these ‘readings’ is hard to deny. When you’re setting up fake Facebook pages, it’s the little details that can mess things up. On a group computer call last winter, Susan Gerbic was going through her checklist of tips for her team’s latest sting operation—this one focused on infiltrating the audience of a psychic. It all started with maintaining their Facebook sock puppets—those fake online profiles. “American spellings, everyone!” she commanded her half-dozen international colleagues through the Skype crackle. Gerbic lives in Salinas, Calif., and while she is retired from the routine world of work, she has taken on a new job, as self-appointed guardian of Enlightenment Reason. She spends most of her days wrangling her far-flung group of Guerrilla Skeptics into a common cause, defending empirical truth online. This usually consists of editing and monitoring Wikipedia pages—a cat-herding task she says she’s uniquely qualified for. “I was a baby photographer,” she explained. “I ran a JCPenney portrait studio for 34 years.” Collectively, the group, which has swelled to 144 members, has researched, written, or revised almost 900 Wikipedia pages. Sure, they take on the classics, like debunking “spontaneous human combustion,” but many of their other pages have real-world impact. For instance, they straightened out a lot of grim hooey about the phony teen-suicide “blue whale game” challenge, and they have provided facts about the Burzynski Clinic, a theoretical treatment for cancer operating out of Houston. Most recently, Gerbic’s members have focused on what they call “grief vampires,” the kind of middlebrow psychics who profit by claiming to summon the dead in venues ranging from Motel 6 conference suites to wine vineyards. Lately, technology has changed the business of talking to the dead—a $2 billion industry according to one market analysis—and created new kinds of openings for psychics to lure customers, but also new ways for skeptics to flip that technology right back at them. (Webmaster's comment: Shows how they do it. Worth the read.)
3-29-19 Rammstein video: German rock band causes outrage with Nazi clip
German hard rock group Rammstein has provoked outrage with a video featuring the band dressed up as Nazi concentration camp prisoners. n Israeli official has described it as "shameful and uncalled for". The nine-minute-long film for the single Deutschland includes scenes of the band with nooses around their necks. Critics accused Rammstein of a cynical publicity stunt playing with Nazi-era imagery to generate media hype. In the video, the band assumes different roles during eras of German history. At least one band member appears to be wearing a yellow Star of David of the type Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis. The video then shows the prisoners shooting people who appear to be SS guards in the face. Felix Klein, the German government's commissioner for anti-Semitism, said that if the Holocaust imagery in the video was just used to promote sales, then it was "a tasteless exploitation of artistic freedom". Rammstein are no strangers to controversy. The band has built its image around dark militaristic aesthetics, and in a 1998 video used footage from Leni Riefenstahl's 1936 Nazi propaganda film Olympia. Their videos, lyrics and album artwork have included references to necrophilia, sado-masochism and sexual violence. Despite the backlash, many have also been speaking out in support of the video, pointing out that the band was simply depicting German history. (Webmaster's comment: There must be a better way.)
3-28-19 US-Mexico border official says migrant crisis 'at breaking point'
The US-Mexico border has reached "breaking point", US officials say, amid an "unprecedented" surge in migrant numbers. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said it is "a matter of time" before tragedy strikes at one of their facilities. In El Paso, Texas, officials have over 13,000 migrants in custody this week, he said. Most of the migrants entering the US are families or unaccompanied children. "On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody," Mr McAleenan said at a news conference on Wednesday. "As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented." During previous immigration surges, many of those seeking entry were single adults, the commissioner said. But because these are family units and children, they cannot be easily repatriated and instead, are "almost guaranteed to be released to remain in the US indefinitely". Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still do not have the capacity to detain families and children, officials said. Mr McAleenan said his agency expects 40,000 children to enter CBP custody in March after entering the US unaccompanied, "in the hands of violent and callous smugglers". "We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility," he added. "But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we're seeing...I fear that it's just a matter of time." CBP officials are on pace to manage over 100,000 migrants this month - the highest in a month since 2008. (Webmaster's comment: Instead of money for a wall we should demand money for housing families together in decent housing facilities!)
3-28-19 Why is the government allowing its own drug research to be monopolized for profit?
Corporate profiteering is allowing dangerous diseases to fester. How do we eradicate HIV/AIDS? One route is a vaccine, but so far that has proved a very difficult research problem. There is an ongoing clinical trial of one promising treatment in South Africa, but unlike the smallpox or polio vaccines, it appears to provide only moderate protection. Another is "pre-exposure prophylaxis," or PrEP — drugs which prevent HIV infection if taken every day. One such treatment called emtricitabine/tenofovir (better known by its brand name Truvada) works very well for this, cutting the risk of infection by up to 93 percent. But there is a problem. As The Washington Post reports, in the United States, Truvada is monopolized by the pharmaceutical giant Gilead, which charges between $1,600 and $2,000 a month for the treatment (the wholesale price is $1,414). Bizarrely, the studies proving Truvada works for PrEP were conducted and paid for almost entirely by the federal government (the Gates Foundation also helped). The Centers for Disease Control even holds a patent on this specific treatment. Yet the government is doing nothing to prevent this outrageous price-gouging, which places a near-insurmountable barrier to getting the drug out to all who need it. It's an object lesson in the dangers of allowing private companies to profiteer off government research. First, some background. Truvada was originally developed to treat people who already had HIV, as part of the usual suite of anti-retroviral medications to slow down the virus' progress. Two government-funded scientists proved it could be used to prevent transmission — first Thomas Franks at the CDC, who demonstrated it worked with monkeys, then Robert Grant, who showed the same for humans with a grant from the National Institutes of Health. That work was completed around 2004. Gilead immediately set about marketing and selling Truvada for PrEP, which brought in $3 billion last year and $36.2 billion since 2004. Yet because of the eye-watering price (and broader dysfunction in the American health-care system), only about 20 percent of the people who need the drug are getting it, and many who do have to navigate hellish bureaucracy to get access. The extreme cost also sucks money away from other priorities, particularly for cash-strapped state Medicaid program
3-27-19 Open immigration policies are not the route to fascism
Contra David Frum, locking down America's borders is inhumane, unnecessary, and politically stupid. resident Donald Trump's draconian border enforcement is provoking an equal and opposite reaction from Democrats, who are ditching past qualms to become unabashed advocates of more humane and open border policies. This has put Atlantic writer David Frum, a neo-conservative-turned-#NeverTrumper, in a tizzy. If Democrats don't do an about-face, they'll put America on the path to fascism, he warns, because "if liberals won't enforce borders, fascists will." Though certainly bold, Frum's prophesy — it would be wrong to call it a prediction as it admits no uncertainty — is politically simplistic and based on stunningly questionable premises. To be sure, Frum doesn't embrace every right-wing, anti-immigrant trope. He acknowledges "immigrants are making America safer" because they commit fewer crimes than the native-born population. And he grudgingly accepts that immigrants might be a net economic boon, though he disputes the extent of their fiscal contributions. But Frum's fevered imagination takes over from there, turning even good things about immigrants into bad news. Most absurdly, he admits immigrants abuse drugs and alcohol at half Americans' rate but twists this into blame for Washington's lackluster response to the opioid crisis. (In Frum's telling, employers would have noticed the absence of their drug-addled American workers sooner were there no immigrants to fill the gaps.) Likewise, Frum concedes immigrants perform dangerous jobs like drywalling and roofing — only to argue that because they're too powerless to demand labor reforms, they "set back the ideal" of equity. He doesn't seem to have considered that a better cure for these equity concerns might be creating portable guest worker programs without the present visa rules that make workplace advocacy so risky.
3-27-19 The CBD boom is way ahead of the science
Strict regulations have stunted research on cannabidiol, but that hasn’t hampered product popularity. A few months back, a new storefront appeared in my small Oregon town. Its shelves were packed with tinctures, jars of salve, coffee beans, bath bombs — even beard oil. This motley collection shared a single star ingredient: CBD. Produced by the cannabis plant, CBD is the straitlaced cousin of marijuana’s more famous component — the THC that delivers a mind-swirling high. CBD, or cannabidiol, has no such intoxicating effects on the mind. Yet the molecule has captured people’s attention in a profound way, sold as a remedy for pain, anxiety, insomnia and other ailments — all without the high. That neighborhood shop, CBD Scientific, is far from alone in its efforts to sell people on the benefits of CBD, which is found in both marijuana and hemp, two versions of the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD is popping up in products in pet stores, coffee shops and the health and beauty sections of mainstream grocery stores. It’s even being brewed into beer. I left the shop with a $5 bottle of water infused with “5,000,000 nanograms” of CBD. So far, messages of CBD’s purported health benefits come from people trying to sell CBD products — not from scientists, says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist who directs the Marijuana Research Laboratory at Columbia University. A gaping chasm separates the surging CBD market and the scientific evidence backing it. While there are reasons to be excited about CBD, the science just isn’t there yet, Haney says. Scientists still don’t know all of the targets CBD hits in the human body, nor what effects it may have, if any. There’s always the chance that for some people, CBD’s magic is made not by the compound itself but by a powerful placebo effect; people who expect good outcomes are more likely to see benefits.
The unending cost of gun violence. e mostly think about gun massacres in terms of the immediate death tolls: the 13 killed at Columbine, 58 dead at Las Vegas, 49 in Orlando, 27 at Sandy Hook, 17 at Stoneman Douglas. The numbers are horrifically large and they demand humility and mourning, but they are also limited. Giving them this exclusive focus inadvertently treats each attack as though its effects were limited to the point of impact. The death tolls are important, for example, but they don't tell us much about the ruined bodies and ongoing medical expenses of those victims who survive their injuries. The death tolls are important, but they don't measure the trauma that ripples outward for years, even decades, in the psyches of the witnesses, family members, and other survivors of such episodes. The death tolls are important, but they often are also just the beginning of the story. Why mention this? Because last weekend, Sydney Aiello, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas shootings, took her own life. On Saturday, another survivor of that attack, a 16-year-old boy, also apparently died of suicide. And on Monday morning, Jeremy Richman, whose 6-year-old daughter died at Sandy Hook, was found dead in his office — he also seems to have killed himself. "I worry about the students. I worry about the teachers and staff," said Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Stoneman Douglas attack. "We're still clearly in trauma." A caution: We don't know all the reasons for these newly lost lives, though Aiello's mom said her daughter had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the attack at Stoneman Douglas. What we do know is that each person's life had been deeply marked by gun violence.
3-26-19 US-Mexico border wall: Pentagon authorises $1bn transfer
The Pentagon has authorised the transfer of $1bn (£758m) to army engineers for new wall construction along the US-Mexico border. The funds are the first under the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to bypass Congress and build the barrier he pledged during his election campaign. Democrats have protested against the move. The funds will be used to build about 57 miles (91km) of fencing. President Trump has called the situation at the southern border a "crisis" and insists a physical barrier is needed to stop criminals crossing into the US. His critics say he has manufactured the border emergency. A Pentagon statement said acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan had "authorised the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1bn in support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol". The statement cited a federal law that "gives the Department of Defence the authority to construct roads and fences and to install lighting to block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies". As well the 18ft-high (5m) "pedestrian fencing", the funds will cover road improvements and new lights. Democratic senators complained that the Pentagon had not sought permission from the appropriate committees before notifying Congress of the funds transfer. (Webmaster's comment: The additional walls have one purpose, Keeping More Dark Skinned People Out! Catering to Trump's White Supremacist supporters.)
3-25-19 Edibles are tied to more severe health issues than smoking marijuana
People who ingest the drug are more likely to have psych or heart problems than those who inhale it. After Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, doctors in Denver noticed a surprising trend. Most people who visited the emergency room for cannabis-related complaints had smoked the drug. But those who ingested the drug were more likely to suffer more severe effects, including psychiatric symptoms and heart problems. Edibles — marijuana-laced products such as brownies, cookies and gummy bears — are being associated with “medical complications that we never knew were associated with marijuana,” says neuroscientist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., who was not involved in the study. Out of 2,567 marijuana-linked visits to the ER in 2012–2016 at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, only about 9 percent — or 238 cases — involved edibles. But those cases involved proportionally more short-term psychiatric conditions, with 18 percent of edible users suffering symptoms such as anxiety and psychosis compared with about 11 percent of cannabis smokers, researchers report March 25 in Annals of Internal Medicine. Heart issues were also more prevalent among ER visitors who had eaten edibles: Eight percent of those patients were diagnosed as having symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, or even heart attacks. By comparison, only 3.1 percent of marijuana smokers in the ER had such heart symptoms. The study, however, describes only a correlation; it does not show that smoking or ingesting marijuana actually leads to these conditions. Smoking marijuana, by contrast, was more likely to be linked with gastrointestinal issues, accounting for about 32 percent of all inhalation cases versus roughly 15 percent of the edible cases.
3-25-19 Reimann family firm reveals Nazi slave past in Germany
A German industrial dynasty with big stakes in various international brands has admitted brutality towards slave labourers during Nazi rule. A partner in JAB Holding, Peter Harf, said the Reimann family was shocked by links to Nazi abuses, discovered by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in archives. "[Albert] Reimann senior and Reimann junior were guilty... they belonged actually in prison," said Mr Harf. The family will donate €10m (£8.6m) "to a suitable organisation", he said. Bild am Sonntag reports (in German) that female slaves from Nazi-occupied eastern Europe - treated as racially inferior - were beaten and sexually abused at Reimann premises in Ludwigshafen, in the Rhineland. Among them was a Russian maid. The Reimann family fortune today is estimated at €33bn, which would make it Germany's second-wealthiest family. JAB Holding, their investment firm, has major stakes in various consumer brands, including Keurig Dr Pepper beverages, Coty Inc beauty products, Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee and the Pret A Manger sandwich chain. Albert Reimann senior died in 1954 and his son in 1984. It has emerged that both were enthusiastic Nazis, whose company used slave labourers. But it has taken more than 70 years for those dark connections to come out. Millions of ethnic Slavs were forced to toil under harsh conditions in Nazi factories or on farms, usually for little or no payment. Jews were also used as slave labour, though generally Jews were slaughtered by Hitler's SS. Mr Harf, quoted by Bild am Sonntag, said four of the Reimann descendants had commissioned a historian, Prof Paul Erker, to research the family's Nazi-era history. He gave them an interim report, and "we were speechless", Mr Harf said. "We were ashamed and turned white. You cannot gloss over any of that. Those crimes are abhorrent." Another historian who has seen the Reimann files, Prof Christopher Kopper, concluded that "Reimann father and son were apparently not political opportunists but convinced National Socialists". Since the 1990s some well-known German firms which allegedly profited from Nazi abuses have been sued by survivors or their relatives. Among them is Volkswagen, founded in 1937 as part of Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first car. During the war the Wolfsburg-based firm manufactured vehicles for the German army, using more than 15,000 slave labourers from nearby concentration camps. (Webmaster's comment: All Nazis and neo-Nazis are male brutes and all should be in prison!)
3-24-19 Protesters take to streets of Pittsburgh after policeman acquitted of killing black teen
Protesters took to the streets in Pennsylvania on Saturday after a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager was acquitted. Michael Rosfeld, 30, shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose three times in the back as he tried to flee police last June. He was charged with criminal homicide last year but a jury on Friday fully acquitted him after a four day trial. Amid the protests on Saturday, shots were reportedly fired at the offices of Mr Rosfeld's lawyer. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown Pittsburgh and blocked roads. They gathered at an intersection called Freedom Corner and chanted Rose's age. Some held signs that bore the names of other black men who had been killed by police in recent years. Rose's father, Antwon Rose Sr, addressed the crowds in Pittsburgh and and called for peaceful protest. "It's very painful to see what happened, to sit there and deal with it," he said. "I just don't want it to happen to our city no more." He added: "I want peace, period, all the way around ... Just because there was violence doesn't mean that we counter that with violence." The death of Antwon Rose is one of many high-profile cases of unarmed black men dying at the hands of white US police officers - cases that have ignited protests and civil unrest across the country. Lee Merritt, who represented the family, said Rose was shot in the back but "did not pose a threat to the officers". "The verdict today says that that is OK," he said. The family is now filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mr Rosfield, lawyers say. (Webmaster's comment: The police can not be found guilty of murdering any black! And there are millions left out there to kill.)
3-24-19 Can human mortality be hacked?
A fringe group of scientists and tech moguls think they're closing in on the fountain of youth. Here's everything you need to know. A fringe group of scientists and tech moguls think they're closing in on the fountain of youth. Here's everything you need to know:
- What is biohacking? Silicon Valley is built on the idea that technology can optimize, or "hack," any aspect of our lives — so why not the human life span? A growing number of "transhumanists" are convinced that, in time, human beings can be transformed through bioengineering, and that aging will be curable just like any other malady.
- How could that be achieved?: That's the million-dollar question, but Harvard Medical School researchers believe they might know where to start. Humans grow fewer blood vessels in their muscles with age, which is believed to result in the gradual breakdown of vital organs.
- What other techniques are used? One poster boy of biohacking is Bulletproof Coffee founder Dave Asprey, who recently turned 45 and is certain he'll live to be at least 180. Last year, a doctor extracted stem cells from Asprey's bone marrow and injected them in organs and joints throughout his body, a process Asprey intends to repeat twice annually in the belief he's refreshing his body with brand-new cells
- How big is the movement? There are tens of thousands of biohacking entrepreneurs and basement hobbyists in the U.S., many of whom gather at an annual convention in Austin. Some biohackers are even experimenting with the gene-editing technology CRISPR and have posted videos in which they inject themselves with homemade treatments.
- Are scientists on board? Most are either skeptical or firmly opposed to any effort that purports to reverse aging or extend human life spans indefinitely. University of Michigan professor Richard Miller wrote an article co-signed by 28 aging experts, who called de Grey's life-span goal "so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community."
- Is superlongevity truly desirable? Biohackers claim they're only accelerating evolution, but many ethicists believe something much graver is at stake. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama cited the transhumanist movement as among the most serious threats to humanity — not only because of the potentially disastrous consequences of botched treatments but also because of the equally alarming possibilities of success.
- The cyborgs among us: The most fanatical biohackers don't just use technology — they want to integrate it into their bodies. "Grinders" — a term adapted from a dystopian comic book — install hardware in themselves to gain superpowers of a sort.
3-23-19 Italy joins China's New Silk Road project
Italy has become the first developed economy to sign up to China's global investment programme which has raised concerns among Italy's Western allies. A total of 29 deals amounting to €2.5bn ($2.8bn) were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Rome. The project is seen as a new Silk Road which, just like the ancient trade route, aims to link China to Europe. Italy's European Union allies and the United States have expressed concern at China's growing influence. The new Silk Road has another name - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - and it involves a wave of Chinese funding for major infrastructure projects around the world, in a bid to speed Chinese goods to markets further afield. Critics see it as also representing a bold bid for geo-political and strategic influence. It has already funded trains, roads, and ports, with Chinese construction firms given lucrative contracts to connect ports and cities - funded by loans from Chinese banks. The levels of debt owed by African and South Asian nations to China have raised concerns in the West and among citizens - but roads and railways have been built that would not exist otherwise. On behalf of Italy, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, signed the umbrella deal (memorandum of intent) making Italy formally part of the Economic Silk Road and The Initiative for a Maritime Silk Road for the 21st Century. Ministers then signed deals over energy, finance, and agricultural produce, followed by the heads of big Italian gas and energy, and engineering firms - which will be offered entry into the Chinese market. China's Communications and Construction Company will be given access to the port of Trieste to enable links to central and eastern Europe. The Chinese will also be involved in developing the port of Genoa.
3-22-19 China is Number One in computing power
The U.S. is building a $500 million supercomputer that can reach “exascale” performance. That’s a quintrillion calculations per second, seven times faster than today’s fastest system. China has 227 machines on the top 500 list of the world’s most powerful computers, compared with 109 for the United States.
3-22-19 I know you are, but what am I?
The U.S. is at it again with its outrageous “slanders of China’s governance” in the Xinjiang region, said the Global Times. The latest State Department human rights report claims, in “almost hysterical” language, that China is oppressing its Uighur Muslim population there through mass detention, forced disappearance, and even torture and rape. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually said that China was “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations.” Such pious denunciations are especially rich coming from the only developed country where guns kill tens of thousands of people each year. If we wanted to sling epithets, China could describe America as “the biggest battlefield in an era of peace.” The U.S. also routinely supports corporate rights over human rights. Just look at its reaction to the apparently deadly flaw in Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft: Before finally grounding the plane, the U.S. secretary of transportation flew in one “in an attempt to trick the public into relaxing its vigilance.” Meanwhile, of course, America does nothing about the growing chasm between rich and poor or the spread of racial hatred. We used to think the West was superior, but now we see the U.S. as it is: “selfish, paranoid, and unpredictable.” Its criticism does not sting.
3-22-19 New Zealand: Demanding gun control after massacre
Jane Bowron in The Press (New Zealand). Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot dead at least 50 Muslims and wounded some 50 more at two separate mosques in Christchurch last week, using a head-mounted video camera to live-stream the slaughter on Facebook. Those killed—the youngest 3 years old, the oldest 77—were “our fellow New Zealanders,” many of them refugees who “came to this country in search of safe harbor.” The toll would have been even higher but for an act of heroism by an Afghan refugee, said Nick Perry in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). As the gunman opened fire on the second mosque, worshipper Abdul Aziz, 48, grabbed “the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, and ran outside screaming ‘Come here!’” Aziz hurled the machine at the shooter, who ran to his car, and then picked up a rifle abandoned by the gunman and used it bash in the attacker’s windshield, causing him to speed away. Police “managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been our rock in this tragedy, said Claire Trevett in The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand). Dressed “in a head scarf, her face dragged with grief,” she mourned with the Muslim community in Christchurch. Then she turned steely. She promised to announce new gun control reforms within 10 days. Ardern told the attacker—who allegedly used five legally bought guns in the massacre, including two semi-automatic rifles—that “you may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.” And when President Donald Trump asked in a phone call what the U.S. could do to help, she pointedly told him to offer “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” (Webmaster's comment: We haven't heeard a word of course! Trump targets Muslims!) That’s what Kiwis have done, said Ben Leahy, also in the Herald. We’ve piled up flowers outside mosques and Islamic centers and donated millions of dollars to funds for victims’ families. And with mosques closed over security concerns, Christian churches have stepped in to organize memorials and events. It’s a start, said Gaurav Sharma in Stuff.co.nz. We’ve been emphasizing that the attacker wasn’t from New Zealand, but there is racism and bigotry here too. When I ran for office in the city of Hamilton in 2017, people refused to shake my hand “because my skin tone did not match theirs.” So the next time your local Lions Club wears blackface for a parade, or you see a gas station with “the Confederate flag proudly hanging” out front, “speak up.” We must also make sure the government keeps its word on gun control, said Mike O’Donnell, also in Stuff. The shooter should never have been allowed to buy an AR-15—basically an “assault rifle in drag”—or 40- and 60-round magazines. I’m a hunter, but nobody needs such a gun. And “after last week, morally they won’t be acceptable.”
3-22-19 Cheering egg boy
A 17-year-old who smashed an egg on the head of a far-right Australian senator has become a national hero. Sen. Fraser Anning drew condemnation from across the political spectrum last week after he said immigration policies that let “Muslim fanatics” move to New Zealand were the real reason a white supremacist gunman slaughtered at least 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch. As Anning spoke to reporters in Melbourne, teenager William Connolly cracked an egg on the back of his head. Anning then punched the teen, who was arrested. Fans of Connolly raised more than $31,000 for his legal fees; the teen—nicknamed EggBoi online—said he would donate the bulk to the mosque victims.
3-22-19 The rise of white supremacist terrorism
President Trump last week dismissed the idea that white nationalism is a growing international threat in the aftermath of an anti-Muslim massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand that left at least 50 people dead and 50 wounded, some gravely. The shooter, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant of Australia, opened fire at two mosques during midday prayers last week. Shortly before the killings, the shooter published a 74-page manifesto replete with white nationalist talking points and memes, especially the idea of “white genocide,” or the idea that whites are being replaced through immigration and intermarriage. The shooter railed against Muslims and immigrants, describing them as “invaders in our lands.” (See International.) Trump expressed “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand without explicitly mentioning the Muslim victims. When asked if he considers white nationalism a growing threat, the president replied, “I don’t really think so. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” In the U.S., far-right terrorists have been responsible for 71 percent of extremist killings since Sept. 11, 2001. Last year was the deadliest for white supremacist violence since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The New Zealand shooter claimed to be inspired by Dylann Roof, the American white supremacist who killed eight black people at a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, as well as Anders Breivik, the right-wing Norwegian terrorist who massacred 77 people in 2011. To inspire fellow radicals, the New Zealand shooter live-streamed the carnage to his Facebook page. The social network has since removed 1.5 million copies of the 17-minute video, which at least 200 people watched live.
3-22-19 Everyone must own a semi-automatic killing machine
Missouri State Rep. Andrew McDaniel recently introduced a bill that would require adults ages 18 to 35 to own “at least one” AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. After the shooting massacre in New Zealand, the Republican lawmaker clarified that the “McDaniel Militia Act” was an attempt to provoke “the other side,” and “to show that our Second Amendment rights are under attack.” He said he doesn’t “actually support mandates.” (Webmaster's comment: The answer to more killing with guns is more guns!)
3-22-19 House divider
Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) shared a cartoon on Facebook last week joking about the prospect of another U.S. civil war. Below an image of red states and blue states, the meme read, “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.” King captioned the post, “Wonder who would win…” along with a winking emoji. He later deleted the post. An ally of President Trump and member of Congress since 2003, King was stripped of his committee assignments in January after defending the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalist.” Asked at an Iowa town hall this week, “Do you think a white society is superior to a nonwhite society?” King demurred, saying, “I don’t have an answer for that. That’s so hypothetical.” He recently announced plans to seek re-election.
3-22-19 Platforms: Curbing the technology of hate
The massacre at two New Zealand mosques last week was a first, said Kevin Roose in The New York Times: “an internet-native mass shooting.” The accused gunman, Brenton Tarrant, broadcast the killings live on Facebook, with video designed to pander to the internet’s white supremacist subcultures. It was shared on all the major internet platforms, and in the hours following the shooting, not only Facebook but also YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit scrambled to take it down. The shooter’s actions beforehand suggest an acute awareness of his audience—he even paused in his broadcast to say “Subscribe to PewDiePie,” a reference to a popular right-wing YouTube influencer. The heinous acts were carried out with the knowledge that the platforms “create and reinforce extremist beliefs.” They have algorithms that “steer users toward edgier content” and weak policies to contain hate speech, and they’ve barely addressed how to remove graphic videos. Extremists are exploiting this with increasing skill, said Joan Donovan in The Atlantic. The New Zealand attacker “knew that others would be recording and archiving” his video so that it could be re-uploaded in the wake of removals. In the first 24 hours after the attack, “Facebook alone removed 1.5 million postings of the video” and was still working around the clock days later. Actually, there is technology that can flag “obvious indicators” of extremism and prevent hate speech from spreading, said Ben Goodale in The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand). After all, if I searched online for a suitcase, there would be smart ad software targeting me instantly. These platforms compose digital profiles indicating what “I’m interested in—my age range, gender, hobbies, reading preferences, sporting affiliations, you name it.” All trackable, all within seconds. So why can’t the platforms pick up “the obvious indicators” of fanaticism? Simply saying “we can’t help it” or “that’s not our job” is no longer acceptable, said Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post. Facebook puts “tremendous resources and ingenuity” into maximizing clicks and advertising revenue. They rely on low-paid moderators and faulty algorithms to control content. But just as major news companies have dealt with such questions for centuries, “editorial judgment” from the platforms is not merely possible. “It’s necessary.” (Webmaster's comment: Block these White Nationalist Bastards from even getting 1 second of time on the Internet!)
3-22-19 Fox News: Should Carlson be fired?
“It is high time” for some soul-searching at Fox News, said Max Boot in The Washington Post. Over recent days, the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America has been leaking audio clips of star Tucker Carlson “saying reprehensible things” on Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio program between 2006 and 2011. Carlson called women “extremely primitive” and Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys”; joked about sex with underage girls; used the “C-word”; and said “white men” deserve credit for “creating civilization.” Amid widespread calls for his firing, Carlson portrayed himself as a victim of a liberal “mob” and refused to admit his comments—which delighted white supremacists—were wrong. His Fox colleague Jeanine Pirro caused a similar furor when she questioned Rep. Ilhan Omar’s allegiance to the Constitution because the Minnesota Democrat wears a hijab. Pirro was reportedly suspended but not fired. Why? Do Fox News’ “advertisers and network bosses, from Rupert Murdoch on down” really want to be complicit in injecting Carlson’s and Pirro’s “poison into the body politic”? “I don’t like many of Tucker Carlson’s ideas,” said David French in NationalReview.com. But as with other targets of the outrage police, “we should respond to his arguments with arguments of our own,” not by demanding that his life and career be destroyed or boycotting his advertisers. Bear in mind, Media Matters spends “millions of dollars and countless man-hours” searching for “gotcha” audio and video clips, old tweets, and 10-year-old writings to destroy prominent conservatives. Its goal: To silence voices it doesn’t want to hear. “Our nation cannot maintain its culture of free speech if we continue to reward those who seek to destroy careers rather than rebut ideas.” (Webmaster's comment: Tucker promotes the worst within us. Why shoud Fox allow him to spew his racist hatred and hatred of women?)
3-22-19 U.S. visa ban on ICC
The U.S. announced last week that it will deny or revoke the visas of any International Criminal Court staff who investigate alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces or by troops from allied nations such as Israel. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Washington could also impose economic sanctions “if the ICC does not change its course.” In late 2017, the ICC began collecting information on war crimes in Afghanistan—including murder, torture, and rape—allegedly committed by U.S. troops, the CIA, the Taliban, and various militant groups since May 2003. The ICC has received 700 submissions from alleged victims. Human Rights Watch called the visa ban “an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of U.S. conduct.” (Webmaster's comment: This is right out of the Hitler playbook!)
3-22-19 Crushing dissent
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a secret campaign to silence domestic dissenters—through abduction, detention, and torture—more than a year before a Saudi hit squad murdered and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. U.S. officials who have read classified reports on the campaign told The New York Times that the so-called Saudi Rapid Intervention Group—some of whose members were involved in Khashoggi’s death—has conducted at least a dozen operations, forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and torturing them at palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman. One detainee, a university lecturer who wrote about women in the kingdom, tried to kill herself last year after undergoing psychological torture. The Saudi government said it takes the allegations “very seriously.” (Webmaster's comment: Another of Trump's buddies!)
3-22-19 Supreme Court gives Trump immigration win
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled this week that legal immigrants who’ve been convicted of a deportable crime can be detained without a hearing, even if the immigrant was released from prison years earlier. Civil liberties groups had argued that the law mandating detention applied only for a short period after a prison discharge. The court’s conservative bloc sided with the Trump administration, which, like the Obama administration, argued that the immigrants can be picked up for deportation at any time after their sentences end. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said it was “hard to swallow” the argument that an immigrant “must be arrested on the day he walks out of jail,” adding, “an official’s duties are better carried out late than never.” (Webmaster's comment: So much for Freedom and Liberty in America!)
3-22-19 Black, Latino and White drivers
A Stanford University study of 100 million traffic stops found that black and Latino drivers were stopped significantly more often than white drivers. This is true even though illegal contraband like guns and drugs were found in 36 percent of searches of white drivers, compared with 32 percent for black drivers and 26 percent for Latinos.
3-22-19 Growing up as a gay, Muslim man
Queer Eye star Tan France is probably the only openly gay Muslim man on television, said Colin Crummy in The Guardian (U.K.). Before Netflix’s whole-life makeover show debuted with France as its fashion expert, he was living in relative anonymity in Salt Lake City, selling a line of stylishly modest clothing for Mormon women. He had no close gay friends outside his husband, an ex-Mormon with whom he bonded over their shared conservative upbringings. “I didn’t realize there were white people who didn’t drink until I turned up in Salt Lake City,” says France. He grew up the son of Pakistani immigrants in Doncaster, England. “The word ‘gay’ was never mentioned in the household,” he says. “I knew I was gay—I just didn’t know the word.” He liked crossing his legs, like a female teacher he admired, and playing with and dressing up Barbie dolls, but instinctively knew he had to police himself carefully to hide any evidence of femininity. “I didn’t play with the doll’s house when other people were around.” France’s parents did not go to his wedding, but since the Netflix show debuted, they’ve begun to acknowledge his husband by name. He doesn’t blame them for their struggle to adjust. “They had planned a whole heterosexual life for me,” he says, “and it was just shocking to hear that plan was never going to come to fruition.”
3-22-19 Hacking mortality
A fringe group of scientists and tech moguls think they’re closing in on the fountain of youth.
- What is biohacking? Silicon Valley is built on the idea that technology can optimize, or “hack,” any aspect of our lives—so why not the human life span?
- How could that be achieved? That’s the million-dollar question, but Harvard Medical School researchers believe they might know where to start.
- What other techniques are used? One poster boy of biohacking is Bulletproof coffee founder Dave Asprey, who recently turned 45 and is certain he’ll live to be at least 180.
- How big is the movement? There are tens of thousands of biohacking entrepreneurs and basement hobbyists in the U.S., many of whom gather at an annual convention in Austin.
- Are scientists on board? Most are either skeptical or firmly opposed to any effort that purports to reverse aging or extend human life spans indefinitely.
- Is superlongevity truly desirable? Biohackers claim they’re only accelerating evolution, but many ethicists believe something much graver is at stake.
- The cyborgs among us: The most fanatical biohackers don’t just use technology—they want to integrate it into their bodies.
3-22-19 Pompeo says God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said it is "possible" that President Donald Trump was sent by God to save the Jewish people from Iran. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network during a high-profile trip to Israel, he said it was his faith that made him believe that. He also praised US efforts to "make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains". The comments came on a Jewish holiday celebrating rescue from genocide. The holiday, Purim, commemorates the rescue of the Jewish people by Queen Esther from the Persians, as the interviewer noted to Mr Pompeo. He was asked if "President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace". "As a Christian, I certainly believe that's possible," said Mr Pompeo, a former Kansas senator and CIA director. "I am confident that the Lord is at work here," he added. Since becoming president, Mr Trump has sought a hard-line stance against Iran. In May 2018, Mr Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, calling it "a horrible one-sided deal". Also on Thursday, Mr Trump announced a change in US policy toward the Golan Heights, saying that the territory Israel has occupied from Syria since 1967 should be recognised as part of Israel. During Mr Pompeo's tour of the Middle East, he came under fire for holding a conference call and only inviting "faith-based" members of the media to join. (Webmaster's comment: This is SICK! They are trying to make Trump into some kind of devine being!)
3-22-19 A 9-year-old U.S. citizen on her way to school was reportedly detained at the border for more than 30 hours
A nine-year-old girl who is a U.S. citizen says she was "scared" and "completely by myself" while being detained at the border for more than 30 hours. Thelma Galaxia told NBC San Diego that her two children, 9-year-old Julia Isabel Amparo Medina and 14-year-old Oscar Amparo Medina, were on Monday being driven to school from Tijuana to San Diego by her friend, who told them to walk across the border after being worried that heavy traffic would make them late to school. But the children were reportedly then detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and not reunited with their mother for more than 30 hours. Galaxia says officers told her daughter she didn't look like her passport picture, which was taken when she was younger. They reportedly accused her of lying about her identity and told her she would be released to her mother if she told them she was really her cousin. Galaxia also says officers made her son sign a document identifying his sister as his cousin. "He was told that he would be taken to jail and they were going to charge him for human trafficking and sex trafficking," she said. The two were finally released when Galaxia called the Mexican consulate after being informed her children had been detained. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told NBC San Diego that the young girl gave them "inconsistent info" and that they detained her so they could "perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship," but they did not explain why this took more than a full day.
3-21-19 Christchurch shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons
New Zealand will ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said. New Zealand's PM said she hoped the ban would be in place by 11 April. The announcement comes less than a week after 50 people were killed at two mosques, allegedly by a lone gunman. Ms Ardern said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: "Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too." All of the dead have now been formally identified, police have confirmed. Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with one murder and was expected to face further charges. However, police said on Thursday that the person he was formally accused of killing had been wrongly declared dead. They said they had apologised to the woman and her family, and that the charge sheet would be updated when the suspect appeared in court on 5 April. "Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand," Ms Ardern said in a news conference. "Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines." An amnesty has been imposed so the owners of affected weapons can hand them in, and a buy-back scheme will follow. Ms Ardern said the buy-back could cost up to NZ$200m ($138m; £104m), but "that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities".The prime minister has called the Christchurch attacker a terrorist and said she will not utter his name. The gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines - the part of the gun which stores ammunition - so they could hold more bullets. As of Thursday, several weapons have been reclassified as military style semi-automatic firearms, making them harder to buy. "For many people, you will now be in unlawful possession of your firearm," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
3-21-19 US gun laws: Why it won't follow New Zealand's lead
Six days after the Christchurch mosque attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on "military-style" semi-automatic rifles, prompting questions in the US. Following a series of mass shootings in the US in recent years, there has been little in the way of sweeping gun-control reforms. On the federal level, at least, the interest and attention in new legislation has led to almost no action in decades, despite numerous polls showing widespread public support for measures like strengthened background checks and banning certain types of high-capacity gun magazines and military-style assault rifles. The Trump administration has issued a regulatory ban on bump-stock modifications that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns, and there have been some tweaks to the background check database for gun-store purchases. Last March, Donald Trump entertained the notion of more ambitious, "comprehensive" legislation, telling senators pro-gun lobbyists had little power over him. But no such talk from the president since. Part of the reason New Zealand is ability to move quickly, of course, is that it's a parliamentary democracy, ensuring that the government is controlled entirely by one party or a politically compatible coalition. That's not the only explanation for why the US has charted a different course, however. Here are five big obstacles that stand in the way of the kind of the US taking the kind of quick, major changes to firearm policy being advanced in New Zealand.
- The NRA: The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential interest groups in US politics - not just because of the money it spends on lobbying politicians, but also because of the engagement of its five million members.
- Gerrymandering: Despite these advances for the party, the House electoral playing field is still tilted toward Republicans, who tend to be for gun rights.
- The filibuster: ow that gun-control bills have hopes in the House of Representatives, the Senate - where the rural-urban divide plays itself out on the state level - becomes the biggest obstacle to legislative success
- The courts: Some of the laws have run up against another barrier, however - the US judicial system. In recent years the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the right to own personal weapons such as handguns is enshrined in the constitution.
- The enthusiasm gap: Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence.
3-21-19 What America can learn from the world's happiest countries
What America can learn from the world's happiest countries. Item: The life expectancy of the United States was recently found to have declined for the third straight year, something typically associated with all-out war, economic crises, or political collapse. According to the CIA, as of 2017 the U.S. ranks 42nd among nations for life expectancy, behind Malta and Greece. Item: The annual United Nations report on the world's happiest nations was released Wednesday, where the U.S. fell from 18th to 19th place. Meanwhile, the happiest country for the second straight year was Finland. Filling out the rest of the top 5 were Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the Netherlands. This raises the question: What might the U.S. learn from the world happiness grandmasters? A good place to start would be copy-pasting their economic and social welfare institutions. On first blush, there are some obvious big differences that almost certainly explain much of the difference. All these nations have extensive welfare states, with universal health care, generous benefits for parents, seniors, disabled people, the unemployed, and so on. If someone in Finland has an accident or run of bad luck, the state will catch them — and it will also help new parents out with the enormous expenses of child-rearing. That means both a better life for people who have kids, lose their job, or get sick, plus lower stress for everyone else who knows society will protect them from misfortune. But in the U.S., with its grossly dysfunctional health-care system and tattered safety net, such events can be personally devastating. For instance, children cause fully 36 percent of U.S. poverty, and some 42 percent of American cancer patients lose their entire life savings after diagnosis. Anu Partenen testifies that when she moved from Finland to America, she quickly started having panic attacks over health insurance worries. Citizens of the Nordic states also work far less than Americans. If Americans cut their hours-worked figure down to the levels of Denmark or Norway, that would mean over two additional months of vacation (again associated with happiness) every year. Additionally, a proper welfare state means all these countries have very low poverty rates. All the top five are in the bottom seven of the OECD poverty rankings, while the U.S. has the third-highest poverty rate among those countries (behind South Africa and Costa Rica). Poverty is both soul-crushing and physically harmful, and certainly drags down the U.S. happiness average. That in turn raises the issue of general economic inequality. The U.S. has the sixth-highest inequality in the OECD, while Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark have the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-lowest respectively. That means the top of the U.S. income distribution is very far from the bottom — which again unlike Finland, can easily mean utter destitution.
3-21-19 Italy takes a shine to China's New Silk Road
China's president lands in Rome on Thursday, where he is expected to sign a landmark infrastructure deal that has raised eyebrows and suspicions among Italy's Western allies. Xi Jinping's project is a New Silk Road which, just like the ancient trade route, aims to link China to Europe. The upside for Italy is a potential flood of investment and greater access to Chinese markets and raw materials. But amid China's growing influence and questions over its intentions, Italy's Western allies in the European Union and United States have concerns. The New Silk Road has another name - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - and it involves a wave of Chinese funding for major infrastructure projects around the world, in a bid to speed Chinese goods to markets further afield. Critics see it as also representing a bold bid for geo-political and strategic influence. It has already funded trains, roads, and ports, with Chinese construction firms given lucrative contracts to connect ports and cities - funded by loans from Chinese banks. The levels of debt owed by African and South Asian nations to China have raised concerns in the West and among citizens - but roads and railways have been built that would not exist otherwise: In Uganda, Chinese millions built a 50km (30 mile) road to the international airport, In Tanzania, a small coastal town may become the continent's largest port, In Europe too, Chinese firms managed to buy 51% of the port authority in Piraeus port near Athens in 2016, after years of economic crisis in Greece. Italy, however, will be the first top-tier global power - a member of the G7 - to take the money offered by China. It is one of the world's top 10 largest economies - yet Rome finds itself in a curious situation. The collapse of the Genoa bridge in August killed dozens of people and made Italy's crumbling infrastructure a major political issue for the first time in decades. And Italy's economy is far from booming.
3-21-19 Genetics studies are too white – that’s failing people and science
Three-quarters of people in studies linking genetics and health are of white European descent, leading us to miss vital clues, says researcher Scott Williams. We are at the beginning of a revolution in medicine, in which a burgeoning knowledge of the genetics of disease promises treatments tailored to individual needs. But there is a big obstacle in the way: our failure to incorporate diverse, representative populations in our studies. The incomplete knowledge of the genetics of disease and treatment response across populations is not only affecting treatment outcomes for individuals – it is also hampering our understanding of the basic science. Genetic research includes several types of studies. Recently, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which use data sets comparing millions of genetic variants in those with a specific disease to those without it, have come to predominate. Environmental risks can also be included to paint a more complete picture of disease risk. These types of studies have successfully identified many genetic variants that correlate with the likelihood of disease or treatment efficacy and safety. But they don’t always carry explanatory power across the whole population: GWAS findings often aren’t replicated across all ethnic groups. This makes it particularly important to have representative samples in such studies. In a paper published in Cell, together with my colleagues Giorgio Sirugo and Sarah Tishkoff at the University of Pennsylvania, I analysed ethnic diversity in studies held in the GWAS Catalog jointly maintained by the US National Human Genome Research Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute. Over half of the GWAS had been conducted in populations of white European descent, far outweighing the proportion of the world’s population this group represents. When we looked at the numbers of individuals of different ethnicities within the studies, the findings were even more stark: more than 78 per cent were white European. Just 2 per cent were African and 1 per cent Hispanic.
3-20-19 Is religion good or bad for humanity? Epic analysis delivers an answer
A scientific review of 10,000 years of history is finally revealing the unexpected truth behind religion's role in human civilisation. RELIGION has given us Bach’s cantatas and pogroms, algebra and the Spanish Inquisition. The debate over whether religion lifts humanity higher or brings out our basest instincts is ancient and in some ways reassuringly insoluble. There are so many examples on either side. The last word goes to the most erudite – until someone more erudite comes along. The latest round of the eternal conundrum was triggered by the seemingly religiously inspired 9/11 attacks in the US, after which “new atheists” rose to prominence. The likes of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and neuroscientist Sam Harris argue that rational beings following the evidence must inevitably conclude that religion is harmful. They, in turn, have been accused of cherry-picking their evidence. You might conclude that it is impossible to make a moral judgement about such a multifaceted cultural phenomenon. Nevertheless, in recent years, there have been attempts to dissect the question using a scientific scalpel. Researchers have tried to work out how humanity has been shaped by things like moralising philosophies, world religions, all-seeing gods and rituals. The studies offer intriguing insights, but each presents just a fragment of the full story, and sometimes they generate competing ideas. What is needed is a way to assess them and to build a more holistic picture of the role religion has played in the evolution of human societies. And that is what I and my colleagues have been doing. But first, what do we mean by “good” and “bad”? Should religion be considered good if it has inspired magnificent art but enslaved millions? Would it be judged bad if it ensured equality at the price of free expression? Such assessments risk miring us in moral quicksand. Besides, how could these intangibles be weighed against one another? A more empirical approach might tally lives lost or harmed against those saved or enhanced as a result of religion. But any attempt to estimate these numbers would be hopelessly subjective. Alternatively, we can ask whether religion has helped societies grow and flourish. Is it, as many believe, a form of social glue that builds cooperation? As it happens, there is surprising agreement about the moral significance of cooperation. A study involving 60 societies, ranging from small groups to the very largest, found that people everywhere equate “good” with cooperative behaviours and “bad” with non-cooperative ones. Admittedly, societies differ in the kinds of cooperation they value: some are more authoritarian, others more egalitarian. Nevertheless, this approach allows us to ask a more tangible question about religion: what role, if any, has it played in establishing the cooperative behaviours that have allowed human societies to grow from small hunter-gatherer groups to vast empires and nation states? One obvious place to begin is the Axial Age, a period when many researchers think civilisation pivoted towards modernity. Around the middle of the first millennium BC, the thinking goes, a set of cultural changes swept the world. Novel notions of equality radically altered the relationship between rulers and ruled, stabilising societies and allowing them to take a leap in size and complexity. Religion is thought to have played a role. Indeed, the Axial Age concept emerged from the observation that a handful of important prophets and spiritual leaders – among them Buddha, Confucius and Zoroaster, or Zarathustra – rose to prominence in that period, preaching similar moralistic ideologies.
3-20-19 Amnesty International says US air strikes 'killed Somali civilians'
Amnesty International says US air strikes have been killing civilians in Somalia, in a possible violation of international humanitarian law. The rights group said it had recorded 14 civilian deaths in five recent air strikes on territory held by jihadist al-Shabab militants. The US has stepped up its air war in Somalia, carrying out 110 strikes in the past two years. It says the strikes killed more than 800 people, none of them civilians. According to the US military, its drones and manned aircraft carried out 47 air strikes in Somalia in 2018. They have already conducted more than half that number of strikes in the first three months of 2019. The US military's Africa Command, or Africom, says it seeks to avoid civilian deaths, and insists the only casualties from its strikes have been "terrorists". However, this claim has been challenged in an Amnesty International report, entitled The Hidden US War in Somalia. The rights group said it had analysed five recent air strikes in the Lower Shabelle, a region outside Mogadishu that is largely under al-Shabab control. The report said 14 civilians had been killed and seven injured in the strikes. Its conclusion was based on 150 interviews with witnesses and relatives of the dead, as well as photographic evidence, satellite imagery and bomb fragments. The report highlighted a US military strike in the early hours of 12 November 2017, near the village of Darusalam. According to Amnesty, the strike killed three local farmers who were resting in the open after digging irrigation canals. The US military said at the time that the strike had killed al-Shabab militants. Brian Castner, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations, said the civilian deaths indicated that US secrecy over its role in Somalia's war had effectively provided "a smokescreen for impunity". (Webmaster's comment: Innocent men, women and children are being killed by the United States in a country we are not even at war with!)
3-20-19 Christchurch shootings: Jacinda Ardern calls for global anti-racism fight
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for a global fight to root out racist right-wing ideology following last week's deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch. In one of her first interviews since then, she told the BBC that she rejected the idea that a rise in immigration was fuelling racism. Fifty people were killed and dozens more wounded in Friday's gun attacks. The first funerals, of a father and son from Syria, took place on Wednesday. Hundreds of mourners gathered at a cemetery near the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, one of two places of worship targeted. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder. Fifty people died in the attack. Asked about the rise of right-wing nationalism she said: "This was an Australian citizen but that is not to say that we do not have an ideology in New Zealand that would be an affront to the majority of New Zealanders." She said there was a responsibility "to weed it out where it exists and make sure that we never create an environment where it can flourish". "But I would make that a global call," she added. "What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else. If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries." She defended New Zealand's record on accepting refugees, saying: "We are a welcoming country. I utterly reject the idea that in any way in trying to ensure that we have a system that looks after those who choose to call New Zealand home, that we have perpetuated an environment where this kind of ideology can exist." (Webmaster's comment: Outlaw all Racist Right-wing Ideology! Arrest them, try them, sentence them, eliminatate them from society!)
3-20-19 Supreme Court sides with Trump on immigration detention
The Supreme Court has given the Trump administration an immigration policy victory by ruling criminal noncitizens can be detained at any time. The 5-4 ruling states federal officials may detain convicted immigrants indefinitely after they finish serving prison time, even years after. Advocates had argued the law only allowed for detention immediately after immigrants were released from prison. The court's liberal justices dissented from the conservative decision. Tuesday's ruling reversed a lower court decision that had found the existing law to mean federal authorities must detain convicted immigrants within 24 hours of their release from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers had claimed after that deadline, immigrants should be permitted a bond hearing so they were not forced to remain in custody indefinitely while their deportation case went forward. The Trump administration, however, said the government should be allowed to hold convicted noncitizens at any time - and the conservative-majority top court has agreed. In the conservative opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito said the strict ruling was to ensure homeland security officials were not constrained by inappropriate deadlines to detain convicted noncitizens. "As we have held time and again, an official's crucial duties are better carried out late than never," he wrote, adding that such a tight deadline was often not feasible logistically speaking. Justice Alito also noted that it was not meant to target noncitizens who had served time and continued to lead legal lives in their communities, and said the decision still allows for those individuals to challenge the law on constitutional grounds if they are detained. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent for the court's liberals - and in a rare move, delivered it from the bench, US media reported. "The greater importance of the case lies in the power that the majority's interpretation grants the government," Justice Breyer said in his summary. "It is a power to detain persons who committed a minor crime many years before. And it is a power to hold those persons, perhaps for many months, without any opportunity to obtain bail." (Webmaster's comment: This will mean imprisoned for life for minor offenses in a "Land of Freedom and Justice For All!" The words are a JOKE!)
3-20-19 Lawsuit as unvaccinated teen banned by US school in outbreak
An unvaccinated Kentucky teenager is suing after his Catholic school excluded him amid a chickenpox outbreak that has sickened at least 32 pupils. Jerome Kunkel, 18, has not contracted the virus, but he has been banned by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton. His lawsuit argues the vaccine is "immoral, illegal and sinful" and his rights have been violated. The Northern Kentucky Health Department banned unvaccinated pupils on 14 March. The notification said that due to the outbreak of chickenpox, students who have not been vaccinated or are already immune to the infection must stay home "until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student or staff member". The statement, which also banned all extracurricular activities, said it came "in direct response to a public health threat and was an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this contagious illness". Jerome Kunkel's father, Bill Kunkel, said the vaccines were derived from aborted foetuses, which goes against his family's religious beliefs. "I don't believe in that vaccine at all and they're trying to push it on us," he told WLWT-News. Some viruses used to make vaccines are grown with cells descended from matter that was sourced from two human foetuses electively aborted in the 1960s. But no new human cells have been used since then to produce vaccines, according to health authorities and drug manufacturers. The Catholic Church has told its members it is morally justifiable to use these vaccines, though it wants alternative treatments developed without "using cell lines of illicit origin". (Webmaster's comment: Being UNVACCINATED is "immoral, illegal and sinful"! It endangers us all. We should lock him up!)
3-19-19 Mexico violence: With only one gun shop, why all the murders?
There were more than 33,000 killings in Mexico in 2018 - but there's only one legal gun store in the country. US weapons are feeding the crisis in Mexico - as is a high demand for drugs in the US. (Webmaster's comment: The United States is the Vendor Of Death for the rest of the world!)
3-18-19 Christchurch shootings: NZ cabinet backs tighter gun laws
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has said she will announce detailed gun law reforms within days, after an attack on two mosques left 50 people dead. Ms Ardern said her cabinet had backed gun law changes "in principle". Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist, has been charged with murder. Police say the killer used military-style assault weapons modified to make them more deadly - which is not illegal under current legislation. No specific details were given by the prime minister at her press conference on Monday, but she said they would made clear soon. "This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer," she said. Ms Ardern was appearing alongside her coalition partner and Deputy PM Winston Peters, who has previously opposed changes. He said he fully supported the prime minister on the issue, adding: "The reality is that after one pm on Friday, our world changed forever and so will our laws." Ms Ardern said: "We have made a decision as a cabinet, we are unified." She also announced that an inquiry would look into the lead-up to the attacks, and what might have been done differently.
3-17-19 The story of American slaves in the Revolutionary War
The Revolutionary War was a complex birth of a nation, steeped in both noble ideals and confusing contradictions. The founding document boldly declared that all men were created equal, but in reality, some of those same men owned fellow men, just of a different color. For people of color, what was their best option? What good would the freedom of a nation be to them if it did not involve their personal freedom?. Questions of loyalty and allegiance were not limited to any one race or ethnicity. Thousands of colonists from every background, for one reason or another, chose to retain their loyalty to that of the only government they had ever known — the British. Whatever grievances colonists had, and everyone had some, they figured an armed rebellion against their kin was not the solution. Loyalties could shift as well (see: Benedict Arnold), adding to the complexities of the conflict. Thousands of such men, known commonly as Loyalists, were embodied by the British into military regiments, some led by Americans, some by professional British officers. Among the latter was one regiment commanded by Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe, a 20-something who had served in the British Army since 1770. The regiment he commanded was known as the Queen's Rangers. Raised in 1776, the Queen's Rangers eventually reached a strength of 11 companies of infantry and five troops of cavalry. After five years of fighting, American independence was still not decided or guaranteed. May 1780 saw a large British force besieging Charleston, South Carolina, the largest city in the south. Its capture on May 12, 1780, netted the British over 5,000 prisoners and dealt then-General George Washington and his cause a serious blow.
3-16-19 Trump: White nationalists 'a small group of people'
President Donald Trump has told reporters he did not think white nationalism was a growing threat following the mosque shootings in New Zealand. The president instead suggested white nationalists were "a small group of people". (Webmaster's comment: But he still appeals for support from them.)
3-15-19 The bloody cost of Islamophobia
The appalling massacre of 49 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Thursday naturally has people around the world looking for explanations. Proximate motivations were not hard to discover. The alleged terrorist, a 28-year-old man from Australia, posted a white supremacist tract online where he lauded President Trump as a "symbol of white identity." He livestreamed the shooting, in which he repeated many white nationalist slogans and recommended that viewers "subscribe to PewDiePie" (YouTube's most popular independent channel, which is somehow constantly getting in trouble for "ironic" racism). One important aspect of this horror is how the internet enables the spread of genocidal propaganda. Worldwide peer-to-peer communication networks makes it easier than ever for hatred and racist conspiracy theories to spread. But just as important is the political background. Powerful conservative activists, media figures, and politicians around the world have deliberately stoked hysterical anti-Muslim bigotry for political advantage. It should not be surprising if occasionally some of their supporters follow their words to their logical conclusions.Ben Shapiro — whose tweets, according to Canadian court documents, were regularly read by Alexandre Bissonnette, the right-wing terrorist who shot up a Quebec mosque — has used ridiculously slanted statistics to argue that the majority of Muslims (or 800 million people, by his count) are "radical" terrorist sympathizers. He has also promoted an article he allegedly edited saying that Muslims living in Europe constitute a "disease" and that Muslim men are "uncivilized." David French wrote in National Review in 2015 (again wildly exaggerating the implications of opinion polls) that the Muslim world is "overcome with hate" and that "jihadists represent the natural and inevitable outgrowth of a faith that is given over to hate on a massive scale." This kind of thinking — many if not most Muslims are terrorists or "radicals," and should be collectively instead of individually judged — is why President Trump has stoked fear about Muslims sneaking across the southern border and proposed (and partly accomplished) banning all Muslim entry into the United States. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has stroked hatred for Muslims same as Hitler did for the Jews! Trump and Hitler are soulmates!)
3-15-19 How they see us: Funding the far right in Europe
American billionaires are trying to influence the May elections for the European Parliament, said Damien Leloup in Le Monde (France). Not content with spreading misinformation in the U.S. through the far-right Breitbart News, hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, 72, and his daughter Rebekah, 45, also fund the Gatestone Institute, “a neoconservative think tank focused on Europe.” The institute frequently warns of a coming jihadist takeover of the Continent. The Mercers also fund The Rebel, a Canadian far-right site that actively campaigned for Brexit and routinely “depicts a Europe on the verge of collapse, especially because of immigration.” In 2017, a Rebel writer disseminated “MacronLeaks,” emails stolen from the presidential election campaign of Emmanuel Macron and published two days before the second round of the French vote. The ploy failed to derail Macron’s victory, but it’s feared that similar email dumps could affect the European Parliament vote. Nor are the Mercers alone: U.S. manufacturing billionaire Robert Shillman has poured money into far-right causes across Europe, including support for anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders. The explicit goal is to destroy European cohesion from within, said Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Irene Mayer-Kilani in Kurier (Austria). That’s what Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump, boasted last year. “The beating heart of the globalist project is in Brussels,” Bannon said. “If I drive the stake through the vampire, the whole thing will start to dissipate.” Backed by unknown financiers, possibly the Mercers, Bannon is setting up a “gladiator school” at an old Italian monastery where would-be populist activists will be trained in the dark arts of spreading misinformation and hate. So far, the plan is still just a plan. But the EU “fears Bannon’s influence through fake news and social media propaganda.” Yet Bannon has far less influence than he pretends, said Daniel DePetris in The Spectator (U.K.). Many EU countries bar political parties from receiving foreign help, and some far-right parties “are concerned about the optics of taking direction from an American.” The Alternative for Germany party actually “seemed offended” at the very idea, understandable given Trump’s massive unpopularity in Europe. If populists do gain in May, Europeans will have only themselves to blame—not Americans.
3-15-19 Democrats: The decision to shun Fox
The Democratic National Committee has declared it won’t allow a racist “propaganda outfit” to host the party’s 2020 presidential debates, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. In other words, Fox News is out. DNC chair Tom Perez announced last week that Fox would be excluded from the debates, citing a “bombshell” New Yorker article that, he said, proved the network had an “inappropriate relationship” with President Trump. That article reported that Fox tipped off Trump to questions before a 2015 GOP primary debate and killed a story in 2016 about his “affair with Stormy Daniels and his efforts to buy her silence,” then demoted the reporter who’d “acquired hard evidence” of the scheme. A media outlet that punishes reporters for digging up politically inconvenient stories is not “a legitimate news network.” That’s a legitimate concern, said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. But Fox is fundamentally different from news organizations with liberal leanings. It is now in the business of spreading “disinformation” and has wholly joined in the Trump administration’s efforts to convince millions of Americans that the intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, and Congress “no longer have any legitimacy.” Fox shamelessly promoted the Obama “birther” nonsense, and the slanderous conspiracy theory that Democratic official Seth Rich was murdered by the Clinton campaign. True, said Jack Shafer in Politico.com, but being president means “confronting tough customers.” Any candidate “who can’t hold his own against a journalist from the other team should be disqualified from running.”
3-15-19 Our two justice systems
Paul Manafort is the poster child for America’s unjust criminal justice system, said public defender Rachel Marshall. My clients, who are largely poor and nonwhite, “get none of the sympathy” Manafort did from the federal judge who last week sentenced President Trump’s former campaign manager to a mere 47 months in prison for extensive tax and bank fraud. My very first client was sentenced to life in prison under California’s “three strikes law” for stealing a pair of pants from Sears; his other two strikes were unarmed robberies he’d committed as a teen. He was abused as a child growing up amid abject poverty and drug abuse, but the judge felt not a bit of sympathy for him. Manafort, meanwhile, made tens of millions he didn’t report or pay taxes on, in a sleazy career advising foreign dictators while strutting around in $5,000 suits. But when U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, 78 and white, looked “at the 69-year-old white defendant,” he saw a sympathetic figure who, Ellis said, had led an “otherwise blameless life.” To be clear, less punitive sentencing is a good thing. “But my clients deserve compassion and discretion in sentencing, too, and they often do not receive it.”
3-15-19 Opening bid
President Trump this week proposed a $4.7 trillion budget, the largest in federal history. Drawing fierce rebukes from congressional Democrats, the proposal previewed the likely themes of Trump’s re-election campaign. The White House wants a nearly 5 percent increase in military spending—more than the Pentagon requested—plus $8.6 billion to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s also asking for $200 billion over 10 years for infrastructure. But the proposal’s main author, Russell Vought, said, “We have many, many programs that are wasteful and inefficient,” explaining Trump’s backing away from a pledge to leave safety-net programs intact. The plan would cut $818 billion from projected spending on Medicare over the next decade and $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, and includes massive cuts to climate programs. Nonetheless, the White House estimates the plan would produce trillion-dollar deficits for four straight years.
3-15-19 Guns: Sporting goods chain defies NRA
Dick’s Sporting Goods announced plans this week to stop selling guns in 125 stores, said Eben Novy-Williams in Bloomberg.com. The move expands a trial in which the retailer removed hunting products from 10 stores last year. CEO Ed Stack said fourth-quarter sales and foot traffic rose in those stores. “Once a major vendor of firearms in the U.S.,” Dick’s stopped selling assault rifles and ammo after the Parkland massacre. The move angered the National Rifle Association, and Dick’s revenue fell 2 percent in 2018, partly because of “slower firearm sales.”
3-15-19 Only in America
A new app helps President Trump supporters find restaurants where they will be “safe.” The app, 63red Safe, rates businesses as either “safe” or “not safe” based on such criteria as whether they post political content on social media (not safe), and whether customers are allowed to carry guns (safe). Developer Scott Wallace says the app is needed due to the “rise of the socialist goon squad.”
3-15-19 U.S. lets private schools hire religious groups
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said this week that she would cease enforcing a law that bars religious groups from providing federally funded services to private schools, continuing her department’s push to expand protections for faith-based organizations. Federal law entitles private schools to funding for some services that public schools get, especially if they benefit children from low-income households or English-language learners. Private schools were not allowed to hire religious organizations to provide those services. DeVos, however, contends that runs counter to a 2017 Supreme Court decision which held that denying public funds to improve the safety of church playgrounds “was odious to the Constitution.”
3-15-19 Are libertarian Republicans misreading the political climate?
Why they should proceed into 2020 with caution. All it took was a noncommittal response to generate a little 2020 buzz. "I would never rule anything out," Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told CNN's Jake Tapper earlier this month when asked if he would run for president as a libertarian. "That's not on my radar right now, but I think that it is important that we have someone in there who is presenting a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting." Far from a declaration of candidacy, this was not a Shermanesque statement, either. "Sounds like a platform," Tapper replied when Amash talked about the principles that unite Americans. Despite President Trump's tax cuts, deregulation, and even criminal justice reform, it's generally been a frustrating time for libertarian Republicans like Amash. But if Democrats take the White House in 2020, Democratic overreach — and the backlash it triggers — will once again present libertarians with an opportunity to lead the GOP. Can they convince the party to follow? Trump isn't a limited-government true believer, and organizations from the Tea Party (which helped elect Amash) to the House Freedom Caucus (to which Amash belongs) seem to be filled with people who are more interested in rallying behind the president than cutting the federal government down to its constitutional size. Entitlement reform is out; tariffs and trade wars are in. The discretionary spending cuts in Trump's budget are dead on arrival; the deficit — once again nearing $1 trillion, this time under the GOP and a growing economy — is very alive. The Trump era has been especially frustrating for Amash. He's not drawn to nationalism or populism, much less partisan tribalism. He didn't like the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court or either of Trump's attorneys general. He doesn't see Trump as having made much progress ending the country's wars. "When some libertarians talk about the great accomplishments we're seeing on foreign policy, I don't know what they're talking about," Amash told The Washington Post last year. "Reaching out to these guys is one thing, but you have to move down the court. [Trump] actually made it harder for us to have a good relationship with Russia." (Webmaster's comment: Libertarianism means total anarchy! Gun fights every day in every city. School shootings supported in the name of the right to bear arms. And the rich rule everything!)
3-15-19 Christchurch shootings: 49 dead in New Zealand mosque attacks
Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incident as a terrorist attack and one of New Zealand's "darkest days". It is the nation's deadliest attack. A gunman identifying himself as an Australian live-streamed the rampage at Al Noor mosque to Facebook. He had espoused racist anti-immigrant views. Police say a man in his late 20s has been arrested and charged with murder. Two other men and one woman were also detained. One was released later. No names have been made public. Firearms and explosive devices were recovered, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. The suspect who was charged appeared to have published a document before the attack outlining his intentions as well as details about the plan for the attack. He is due in court on Saturday morning. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the man as an "extremist, right-wing" terrorist. New Zealand Police Commissioner Bush confirmed that the man was not known in advance to either New Zealand or Australian security services. One unnamed survivor told TV New Zealand he saw the gunman shoot a man directly in the chest. The attacker reportedly targeted the men's prayer room in the mosque, then moved to the women's room. "What I did was basically just waiting and praying, God please, let this guy run out of bullets," the witness said. "He came to this side, he shot this side, he went to another room and went to the ladies' section and shot them. I just heard one of the ladies has died." (Webmaster's comment: Right-wing extremists should be locked up before they start killing. Just promoting their views should be enough to put them away! Enough of this Freedom of Any Speech nonsense. Giving these evil people that freedom only leads to death!)
3-15-19 US court: Sandy Hook victims' families can sue Remington
A Connecticut court has ruled that families of schoolchildren killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting can sue American gun-maker Remington. In a 5-4 vote, the US state's Supreme Court said the lawsuit could proceed on the basis of state consumer protection laws. The gun was used by Adam Lanza, who killed 27 people, including 20 elementary school students. The ruling is a rare legal defeat for an arms firm in a mass shooting case. The lawsuit, by relatives of nine victims and one survivor, points to the "militaristic" marketing of Remington's AR-15 rifle. "The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety," said Josh Koshoff, a lawyer for the victims' families. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal." Remington did not immediately respond to a request by the BBC for comment. Proceedings were initially delayed after the firm filed for bankruptcy last year in the wake of slumping sales. An initial suit against Remington was thrown out in 2016 and an appeal by the families was taken to the state's highest court last year. It is expected to go to the US Supreme Court. Under US law, gun makers and dealers are shielded by legislation from legal liability if any of their weapons are used in criminal activity. Exceptions are made, however, in the case of harmful marketing. "It seemed kind of unbelievable that this industry would enjoy that kind of protection," said David Wheeler, a father of a Sandy Hook victim, in an interview with the Financial Times. "It's hard not to look at this [ruling] and think the states are perhaps swinging to a more sensible place." A wave of school shootings in recent years has brought debate around America's gun laws sharply into focus. In response, some US retailers have raised the age limit for certain firearms purchases to 21 or stopped stocking semi-automatic weapons. (Webmaster's comment: Bankrupt these Merchants of Death!)
3-15-19 Volkswagen and former boss face US lawsuit over Dieselgate
The US is suing Volkswagen, accusing the German carmaker of "massive fraud" over the diesel emissions scandal. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims the firm misled investors by issuing billions of dollars worth of bonds and securities, without disclosing that it had cheated emissions tests. Volkswagen's former chief executive Martin Winterkorn is also being sued. The company said it would contest the SEC lawsuit vigorously. VW first admitted in September 2015 that it had used illegal software to cheat US emissions tests. But between April 2014 and May 2015 the carmaker sold $13bn (£10bn) of bonds and securities to US investors, at a time when executives were already aware that illegal software had been installed to manipulate emissions tests, according to the SEC's suit. The suit seeks to bar Mr Winterkorn, who resigned when the scandal became public, from serving as an officer or director of a public US company. He has been charged in the US with conspiring to cover up the emissions cheating scandal. However Germany does not extradite its own citizens. The suit also seeks to recover "ill-gotten gains" along with civil penalties and interest. "We're not yet through the diesel scandal, it will probably still take years... and it's a burden for us." That is what VW's chief executive Herbert Diess had to say when I spoke to him at the Geneva Motor Show last week. We were discussing the raft of legal cases which VW is still facing around the world - and to which it is still having to dedicate substantial resources. It has already paid out more than $30bn in the US alone, in fines and other penalties, and to buy back affected vehicles. The SEC's lawsuit shows that the US authorities are not prepared to let the company off the hook just yet. It remains under pressure in Europe too - where it is still facing a waveof consumer lawsuits over its refusal to pay compensation. (Webmaster's comment: In addition all those involved should get long prison sentences! That will slow down these corporate executive's greed!)
3-14-19 The human cost of insulin in America
This is the list of what Laura Marston has sacrificed to keep herself alive: Her car, her furniture, her apartment, her retirement fund, her dog. At 36 years old, she has already sold all of her possessions twice to afford the insulin her body needs every day. Insulin is not like other drugs. It's a natural hormone that controls our blood sugar levels - too high causes vision loss, confusion, nausea, and eventually, organ failure; too low leads to heart irregularities, mood swings, seizures, loss of consciousness. For most of us, our bodies produce insulin naturally. But for Type 1 (T1) diabetics like Ms Marston, insulin comes in clear glass vials, handed over the pharmacy counter each month - if they can afford it. One vial of the insulin Ms Marston uses now costs $275 (£210) without health insurance. In 1923, the discoverers of insulin sold its patent for $1, hoping the low price would keep the essential treatment available to everyone who needed it. Now, retail prices in the US are around the $300 range for all insulins from the three major brands that control the market. Even accounting for inflation, that's a price increase of over 1,000%. Stories of Americans rationing insulin - and dying for it - have been making national headlines. The most famous case, perhaps, was 26-year-old Alec Smith, who died in 2017 less than a month after he aged out of his mother's health insurance plan. Despite working full-time making more than minimum wage, he could not afford to buy new insurance or pay the $1,000 a month for insulin without it. Ms Marston was diagnosed with T1 diabetes when she was 14. She laughs when recalling how the price of insulin in 1996 - $25 for one vial - was a shock to her. Two decades later, Ms Marston still uses the same formula of insulin - Eli Lilly's Humalog. Even the packaging is the same. "Nothing about it has changed, except the price has gone up from $21 a vial to $275 a vial."(Webmaster's comment: The idea is to milk every penny you can from these people before letting them die. Classic Capitalist Philosophy of Corporate Executives!)
3-14-19 Volkswagen boss apologises for Nazi gaffe
The chief executive of Volkswagen has apologised for evoking a Nazi slogan to describe the importance of boosting the group's profits. Herbert Diess used the line "Ebit macht frei" at a company event on Tuesday. The phrase echoes the maxim "Arbeit Macht Frei" - meaning "work sets you free" - which was famously emblazoned in wrought-iron on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Ebit is a commonly used acronym for "earnings before interest and taxes". In a statement, Mr Diess said he was sorry for what he described as "definitely an unfortunate choice of words". He explained that he was referring to the freedom afforded to VW brands in strong financial health, and added: "At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context. At the time, I simply did not think of this possibility." The German chief executive also acknowledged his company's "special responsibility in connection with the Third Reich". Volkswagen was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first car. During World War Two, the Wolfsburg-based firm manufactured vehicles for the German army, using more than 15,000 slave labourers from nearby concentration camps. Although popularised by the Nazis, "Arbeit Macht Frei" was coined by the 19th Century linguist, ethnologist and author Lorenz Diefenbach. Politicians in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s used the phrase to promote employment policies. The inscription appeared at the Dachau concentration camp, set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1933 to use dissidents as slave labour, and later became part of the Nazis' deception for the real use of the concentrations camps.
3-14-19 Italy Tajani: Praise for Mussolini sparks outcry
The European Parliament's Italian president, Antonio Tajani, has provoked outrage for suggesting fascist dictator Benito Mussolini did some "positive" things before he turned bad. Before following Hitler into war, Mussolini had "built roads, bridges, buildings, sports facilities", he said on Italian radio. Political opponents have expressed their shock at his remarks. But Mr Tajani has hit back, accusing people of manipulating his words. "I've always been a convinced anti-fascist," he insisted. Speaking on Italy's Radio 24, Mr Tajani spoke about the legacy left by Mussolini, who he said had "remade many parts of our Italy". "Up until he declared war on the whole world, following Hitler, and passed the racial laws... he did positive things to create infrastructures for our country," Mr Tajani said, referring to measures that banned Jews from schools and limited their professional, economic and social lives. He pointed to the building of roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects. "In terms of the concrete things done, you cannot say he didn't do anything," he said. But adding context to those remarks, the centre-right Forza Italia politician said that Mussolini was not a "champion of democracy", that his anti-Jewish laws were "crazy" and that bringing Italy into war was "suicide". As the controversy erupted, Mr Tajani tweeted an unambiguous condemnation of fascist ideology and accused critics of taking selectively quoting portions of his words. He later released a fuller, more apologetic statement, saying: "I apologise to all those who may have been offended by what I said." "I am deeply saddened that, despite my personal and political history, some may feel that I would choose to be lenient with regards to fascism."
3-13-19 California death penalty: Governor Gavin Newsom halts executions
California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a moratorium on executions and a temporary reprieve for all 737 inmates on death row in the state. The order issued on Wednesday afternoon described the death penalty as "inconsistent with our bedrock values". California has not carried out any executions since 2006, as a series of court battles over execution methods have been waged. No death row inmates will be released under the state-wide moratorium. Governor Newsom took office in January and a death penalty moratorium was one of his campaign pledges. "I do not believe that a civilised society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people," he said in a statement issued with the executive order. At a later signing ceremony he said he took the action "with a heavy heart" and "with deep appreciation for the emotions that drive this issue". "I believe in justice," he said, and called upon the state to make "a more enlightened choice". The order will also withdraw California's lethal injection protocol and close down the state's execution chamber at San Quentin prison. US President Donald Trump has criticised the executive order in a tweet, saying that the "forgotten" friends and families of the victims are not "thrilled". Two voter initiatives to end the death penalty in California have narrowly failed to gain a majority in recent years, with 48% support in 2012 and 47% support in 2016. Governor Newsom supported both initiatives. But a separate proposition voted on in 2016 won support for its demand to speed up executions in California. The governor does not have the power to abolish the state's 1978 death penalty legislation permanently. A repeal would require a popular vote in favour of the change. The next opportunity for such a ballot would be at the 2020 elections.
3-13-19 Many U.S. Catholics Question Their Membership Amid Scandal
As the Catholic church responds to more allegations of sexual abuse of young people by priests, an increasing percentage of Catholics are re-examining their commitment to the religion. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics, up from 22% in 2002, say news of the abuse has led them to question whether they would remain in the church.
- More Catholics questioning their membership than in 2002
- Nonpracticing Catholics most likely to reconsider their religion
- 59% confident in the priests at their church; 58% confident in Pope Francis
3-12-19 The white Southerners who fought US segregation
Its racist past still hangs heavy over the White South. But as with anything, it is rarely as simple as everything being bad - one of the reasons photographer Doy Gorton set out to illustrate the White South, his home, in a more nuanced light, writes James Jeffrey. The black neighbourhood of Greenville in segregated 1960s Mississippi had never seen anything like it. Neither had Mr Gorton when he encountered white people praying alongside their black brethren during an impromptu street-side Pentecostal revival. When a burly young white man inside the revival tent spontaneously picked up a small black boy sitting with his family and clasped him to his chest amid thronging songs of praise, Mr Gorton captured with his camera the sort of moment that rarely makes it into discussions about the racist White South. Growing up in Mississippi, Mr Gorton reacted to legalised white supremacy by joining the civil rights movement. But while abhorring the institutional racism that shaped every aspect of Southern life, he retained compassion and patience for the blue-collar whites who had been left behind by the likes of mechanisation and foreign trade since the end of World War II. He also bridled at mainstream representations of the White South, which he felt didn't effectively examine the reality and nuances, such as how class divisions informed racism, and who was really to blame. As a result, he undertook an 18-month drive across the Mississippi Delta, documenting "the most Southern place on earth," including encounters with more progressive whites, such as those at the revival, and activists fighting for de-segregation and civil rights, often at great risks to themselves. (Webmaster's comment: Who are these murderous Southerners? Let's get rid of them!)
3-12-19 Children can find inappropriate videos on YouTube in just 10 clicks
Young YouTube viewers stand an alarmingly high chance of stumbling across disturbing videos. There is a 45 per cent probability of them reaching inappropriate content within 10 clicks of a first, child-oriented YouTube video. “It’s shocking, and confirms what every parent experiences when their kids watch YouTube,” says Michael Sirivianos at Cyprus University of Technology. Sirivianos and his colleagues analysed more than 130,000 videos targeted at children aged between 1 and 5. The titles of the chosen videos contained keywords likely to appeal to young children, such as cartoon character Peppa Pig. Starting with a single, age-appropriate video, a computer clicked on recommendations, traversing from video to video much like a child would. Out of thousands of attempts, the first video recommended was deemed to be inappropriate 6 per cent of the time. After 10 clicks, this chance of rose to 45 per cent. A video was considered inappropriate if it was classified as unsuitable for children under the age of 13 using criteria set out by the Motion Picture Association of America. The algorithms that YouTube uses seem unable to take notions of what is appropriate into consideration, says Stine Liv Johansen at Aarhus University in Denmark. On top of this, young children often use their parents’ accounts to watch videos, skewing the recommendations. There is a kids-only version of YouTube, but the study only looked at the main site. Concerned parents should keep an eye out for what their children watch – and stick to official channels and playlists, says Liv Johansen.
3-11-19 Is white-collar crime treated more leniently in the US?
The sentencing of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, has sparked an intense debate about the way white-collar crime is punished in America. The perceived leniency of the sentence handed down by US District Judge TS Ellis was met with disbelief and outrage by many legal experts. Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison as punishment for a string of fraud charges, estimated to have cost the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) millions of dollars. The reaction on social media was swift, with many condemning the sentence and suggesting it was indicative of a wider problem in how the US legal system unfairly treats different types of criminals. Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator for Minnesota and presidential candidate, tweeted: "Crimes committed in an office building should be treated as seriously as crimes committed on a street corner." Duncan Levin, an expert in financial crimes and former federal prosecutor, called 47 months a "shockingly low" sentence. "The sentence is very lenient, end of story," Mr Levin told the BBC. "It is significantly lenient for a crime of this magnitude." He said that he was left "puzzled by the sentence" and suggested that it "had left a lot of people scratching their heads". Mr Levin added that given the "very serious" nature of Manafort's crimes, he would have expected a harsher sentence. "I think perhaps the judge felt strongly personally about Manafort's situation, and maybe that came into play in his decision." Paul Leighton, a professor of criminology at Eastern Michigan University who has written extensively on white-collar crime, agrees that the sentence is surprisingly low. He points out that 47 months is "below even what [Manafort's] attorney argued he deserved". (Webmaster's comment: The Rich Rule even if criminal!)
3-11-19 US seeks to allay fears over killer robots
Humans will always make the final decision on whether armed robots can shoot, the US Department of Defense has said. The statement comes as plans emerge for gun platforms that can choose their own targets on the battlefield. The plans seek to upgrade existing aiming systems, using developments in machine intelligence. The US said rules governing armed robots still stood and humans would retain the power to veto their actions. The defence department's plans seek to upgrade the current Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (Atlas) used on ground combat vehicles to help human gunners aim. The military is seeking commercial partners to help develop aiming systems to "acquire, identify, and engage targets at least three times faster than the current manual process". And some commentators feared this would mean systems that could choose their own targets and make an autonomous decision to fire. The US Army then updated its proposal, to emphasise the key role of humans in the aiming process. It said it remained committed to the rules governing human-robot interaction, known as directive 3000.09, which require a human finger on every trigger. The US Army also said it would issue a series of "talking points" around human-robot interaction to be debated on 12 March, when industry is invited to an open day to explore how Atlas can be updated. The US Army was not putting robots in a position to kill anyone, an official told military news site Defense One. Prof Michael Horowitz, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, told Defense One: "It is critical that any revisions to the Atlas program... clarify the degree of autonomy and the level of human involvement in the use of force." (Webmaster's comment: But just like today no person behind the trigger will ever be charged with those they murder. They will just be "collateral" damage.)
3-11-19 Chemnitzer FC: Far-right tribute taints German football club
The German football club Chemnitzer FC is at the centre of a row after fans mourned a far-right activist and known hooligan in the stadium before a match. The fourth-league club says it is now pressing charges because banned flags were displayed. A big banner honoured the deceased activist, Tommy Haller, reading: "Rest in peace, Tommy". A player was fined for joining in the tribute, by holding up a black T-shirt. Chemnitz, an eastern city, saw big far-right demonstrations last August. Chemnitzer FC chief executive Thomas Uhlig has resigned, accepting responsibility for the controversial tribute that gripped the stadium before Saturday's match against Altglienicke, which ended in a 4-4 draw. A minute's silence was held in honour of Haller, who was also shown on the stadium's video screen. In a statement on Monday the club said it was working with prosecutors to establish why the far-right tribute was allowed to happen. Club officials, the statement said, "object to all forms of far-right activism and are not ready to bow to those ideologies, nor to surrender football in Chemnitz". Unnamed officials are quoted as saying there had been far-right threats of "massive clashes" if the club refused to allow the tribute. The fans - some burning flares - displayed a big white cross on a black background, as well as the banner glorifying Tommy Haller in traditional gothic script, in a style recalling Nazi-era theatrics. German media report that Haller co-founded a group called HooNaRa - short for "Hooligans, Nazis, Racists" - in the 1990s, which was disbanded in 2007, but remained active informally. German MDR news, which covers the Chemnitz region, says Haller ran a security firm that employed stewards in the stadium. He also built up the far-right youth scene in the city and took part in the violent far-right protests there last August, MDR reports. The anti-immigrant activists were enraged by the fatal stabbing of a Chemnitz man. Two men - an Iraqi and a Syrian - were arrested over that incident. (Webmaster's comment: Nazis are everywhere now.)
3-11-19 How socialism won at South by Southwest
Capitalism took a beating this weekend at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was cheered. Howard Schultz was, well, not exactly booed, but he did produce a few groans for criticizing socialism. And overall, panels at the conference shed light on how democratic socialism has won over many young voters, while the free market's once-sterling reputation has taken a beating. Somewhere, the spirit of Milton Friedman is shedding a tear. Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO who is considering a presidential run, got the weekend rolling by insisting that the "vast majority of Americans are not going to embrace socialism," and drew an audibly negative response from the crowd when he offered up Venezuela as an example. "You don't like that?" he asked his onlookers. They didn't. Meanwhile Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, drew cheers by praising democratic socialism, declaring capitalism "irredeemable," and warning: "We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government. The audience did like that. As if capitalism — and capitalists — needed more bad news, Axios over the weekend reported on a new Harris Poll suggesting that young Americans are much happier than their elders to give socialism a try. They're more likely to believe government should provide universal health care and tuition-free college, don't believe that high earnings are the result of free enterprise, and are less likely to hope that government continue to allow private insurance. Oh, and there's this little detail: Those young, socialist-friendly voters will make up 37 percent of the electorate in 2020.
3-9-19 America needs to rethink higher education
In policy circles on both sides of the partisan aisles, the conversations around higher education are growing louder. The United States is spending far too much money educating philosophy majors with limited job prospects, say those on the right (including, most prominently, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos). No, no, argue those on the left: The U.S. either isn't spending enough money, or isn't spending money efficiently enough, to ensure that vulnerable students obtain the post-secondary credentials they need to thrive in the modern economy. To be sure, recent government reports are discouraging. In a white paper published last December, the Department of Education highlighted some of the challenges currently bedeviling the country's higher education system: low completion rates, particularly among low-income and minority students who "are often left with debt and few skills or job prospects that lead to upward mobility"; a lack of "new and different postsecondary options," despite growth in the number of jobs that require more than a high school degree and less than a bachelor's degree; and too many programs that fail to "prepare graduates for the demands of adult life, citizenship, and the modern workplace." Many of these complaints are not controversial. In fact, there's now widespread agreement among researchers and politicians that the country's system of post-secondary education needs to make changes. College completion rates have declined at all types of institutions; the U.S. lags far behind other developed countries in encouraging the work-based forms of learning that can appeal to students who are economically vulnerable or don't enjoy traditional educational models; and far too few students are told about non-bachelor's degree and certificate programs that are often quite economically valuable. "These are real issues, and it's worthwhile to talk about them and address them," says Jim Rosenbaum, a sociologist at Northwestern University. "I've heard [DeVos] say that a college degree is not the only path to success — I would totally agree and go further and say why should we only talk about one kind of college degree? There are many other types of degrees. And they have good career trajectories and earnings payoffs, and many of them can ultimately lead to a B.A." (Webmaster's comment: Young people are fully aware of the employment opportunites of various majors. If they want an higher education in any particular field THAT IS THEIR CHOICE!)
3-9-19 Jussie Smollett: Grand jury charges US actor over hate 'hoax'
US actor Jussie Smollett has been charged by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 counts, accused of falsely claiming to police that he had been the victim of a hate crime. Prosecutors had previously charged him with one count of filing a false report. The 36-year-old African-American actor told police he had been the victim of a homophobic and racist assault. Police say he staged the attack in an attempt to further his acting career. Last month he was suspended from the Empire TV show he starred in. Sources told NBC and CNN Mr Smollett had apologised to the cast for any embarrassment caused by the incident but maintained his innocence. Mr Smollett is accused of paying two brothers to stage the attack on 29 January. Chicago officials also believe that he sent a racist and homophobic letter to himself at a Fox studio beforehand. He was charged with making a false statement to police and, on Thursday, a grand jury returned 16 counts of disorderly conduct against him. At an earlier hearing, a judge set the actor's bail at $100,000 (£76,000). Mr Smollett denies all the charges against him and will appear in court on 16 March. His lawyers have said they will "mount an aggressive defence" of Mr Smollett, who they described as "a young man of impeccable character". Mr Smollett said two white men hurled racist and homophobic insults at him when he went out late at night to buy food from a Subway sandwich shop in Chicago. He said they then punched him, poured a potentially chemical substance over him and put a rope around his neck - a reference to racist lynchings of African-Americans.
3-8-19 Fox News: Donald Trump’s state TV?
Has Fox News “become propaganda” for the White House? asked Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. The cable network has abandoned any journalistic pretenses in order to do Trump’s bidding. Fox insiders believe the late network chief Roger Ailes tipped Trump off to Meghan Kelly’s pointed questions before a 2015 GOP primary debate. The network also shelved a story during the campaign about hush money paid to the candidate’s alleged mistress, porn star Stormy Daniels. When the reporter pressed for an explanation, a Fox executive replied that their boss, Rupert Murdoch, “wants Donald Trump to win, so just let it go.” Once in office, Trump worked to return the favors, allegedly directing his top aides in 2017 to pressure the Justice Department to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which owns Fox competitor CNN. He’s looking out for more than just his preferred news source: “Fox has been both his shield and his sword.” Cable’s most-watched news network makes for an “enormously influential” mouthpiece, said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com. “Everybody knows” Trump watches Fox day and night, hires staff directly from the network—including his new communications director, Bill Shine—and strategizes on the phone almost daily with Murdoch and Hannity. Yet Fox’s political influence somehow remains underappreciated. One study found that without Fox News, John McCain’s share of the vote would have been 6.3 points lower in 2008, an “extinction-level landslide” for the Democrats. Without Fox, George W. Bush wouldn’t have been elected in 2004, nor Donald Trump in 2016. Trump seems to understand this. “Propaganda television,” after all, is keeping his presidency afloat. (Webmaster's comment: Hitler's (Trump's) state controlled news media!)
3-8-19 Why is Trump covering for a dictator?
President Trump may have left his second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un empty-handed, said Frida Ghitis, but he still had nothing but kind words for a tyrant who murders and starves his own people. Most shamefully, Trump excused Kim for the horrific death of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who was taken prisoner in Pyongyang in 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. 17 months later—in a coma. He died soon after. At the time, Trump accused Kim of running a “brutal regime.” But now, desperate to keep the possibility of a historic deal with North Korea alive, Trump insists he takes Kim “at his word” when he says he didn’t know about his high-profile American prisoner and feels “very badly” about Warmbier’s mistreatment. Of course, “Trump has a well-established affinity for dictators.” He also accepted the word of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he wasn’t involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that he didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. This doesn’t mean Trump should never meet and be civil with autocrats. “But gushing is optional.”
3-8-19 Congress pushes back on border emergency
The Republican-controlled Senate appeared poised to deliver a stinging rebuke to President Trump after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) this week joined three other GOP senators in backing a measure to block the president’s border emergency declaration. Paul’s vote would be the decisive 51st in a roll call expected next week. Trump invoked the National Emergencies Act of 1976 after reluctantly signing a bipartisan spending bill in February that allotted $1.3 billion for barriers along the Mexican border, far short of the $5.7 billion he demanded. He now plans to bypass Congress and use $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund the border bulwarks. The Democratic-controlled House has already passed a companion measure to the Senate resolution, with support from 13 Republicans. But even if the House and Senate agree on a joint resolution, Trump has vowed to veto it, and only a two-thirds majority of both chambers could override him. “My oath is to the Constitution, not to any man or political party,” Paul said, chiding the president for “seeking to expand the powers of the presidency beyond their constitutional limits.” The Capitol Hill battle comes as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revealed that the number of migrants who crossed the Mexican border rose sharply, to 76,103, in February—more than double the tally from last February and the highest number logged during that month in the past 12 years. Officials say 90 percent of those crossing originate in Guatemala, and a record number are families. “This is clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis,” said Kevin McAleenan, CBP commissioner. “The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point.”
3-8-19 NSA could scrap program Snowden revealed
The National Security Agency is phasing out a surveillance program that analyzed billions of domestic phone calls and texts, multiple outlets reported this week. The program, first made public in 2013 by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, was started after the 9/11 attacks and initially required phone carriers to turn over customers’ call records to the NSA. The agency used “metadata” on who called whom and when to map associates of suspected terrorists. It collected 534 million records in 2017, but last year purged records back to 2015 because of “technical irregularities.” A senior House intelligence staffer says the NSA hasn’t used the system for six months and may not seek renewed authorization at the end of this year.
Heathens, after the Portland, Ore., city council unanimously approved an ordinance banning discrimination against atheists and agnostics. “With this declaration,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “perhaps more nonbelievers will feel less fearful of being themselves in the open.”
3-8-19 But Europeans have NO Socialism
Only 25% of Americans say they’d be enthusiastic about or comfortable with a presidential candidate who is a socialist, and 37% with a candidate over age 75. 87% would be enthusiastic about or comfortable with an African-American running for the White House, 84% with a woman, and 68% with a candidate who is gay or lesbian—up from 43% in 2006.
3-8-19 Measuring the opioid epidemic’s grim toll
A new study has laid bare the devastating human cost of America’s opioid epidemic, revealing that opioid-related deaths have more than quadrupled over the past 18 years. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census, researchers counted 351,630 opioid-related deaths between 1999 and 2016. They found that the opioid-linked death rate over that period rose from 2.9 per 100,000 to 13.2 per 100,000. And the figures show that while opioid deaths were once concentrated in the Midwest and Appalachia, the plague has advanced toward the East Coast. Particularly badly affected are Washington, D.C.—which has seen its opioid mortality rate more than triple each year since 2013—and New Hampshire and West Virginia, where overdoses have caused general life expectancy to drop by more than a year. Death rates are spiking on the East Coast because heroin laced with fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more powerful than heroin—has become the region’s fix of choice. “The heroin on the East Coast is much more lethal than the heroin on the West Coast,” co-author Mathew Kiang, from Stanford University, tells NBCNews?.com. The study concludes that the opioid epidemic has so far had three stages. The first, driven by prescription painkiller abuse, lasted from 1999 to 2010. The second and third stages, in which users shifted to heroin and synthetic opioids, are ongoing.
3-8-19 Sports: When trans women win gold
“Women’s sport may never be quite the same again,” said Rich Lowry in the New York Post. Last month in Connecticut, two male-to-female transgender high schoolers took first and second place in the girls’ 55-meter dash at the state indoor open track championship, “crushing the competition.” They also placed first and second in last year’s 100-meter dash. This was, of course, wildly unfair. Whether he identifies as male or female, the average man is bigger, taller, stronger, and faster than the average woman. “All this is obvious to those of us with eyes that see and minds capable of critical thought,” said Madeleine Kearns in National?Review.com. Yet tennis great Martina Navratilova was pilloried by social justice warriors for making the same observation in a recent op-ed for the U.K.’s Times. Even though Navratilova is a lesbian and a longtime champion of gay rights, she was kicked off the board of the LGBT group Athlete Ally for her unforgivable “transphobia.” The solution to this problem “is surely somewhere in the gray,” said Greg Cote in the Miami Herald. For her part, Navratilova has apologized for explicitly accusing trans athletes of “cheating.” “All I am trying to do,” she said, “is make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport.” Good for her. You can be in favor of trans rights while still recognizing that there are “unique difficulties” when it comes to sports. “Imagine a retired NBA player who is now a transgender female and dominating in the WNBA.” Raising these issues shouldn’t be taboo. “When the only goal is being fair to both sides, the discussion is always worth having.”
3-8-19 Reparations: Democrats weigh compensation
Generations of slavery, segregation, and discrimination have created a massive wealth gap between white and black Americans, said Paul Blest in SplinterNews.com. Democrats in the past have acknowledged “that this country has been and continues to be racist as hell,” but now a few 2020 hopefuls “are saying we should actually do something about it.” Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, have thrown their support behind reparations for African-Americans. That means “very different things to different people,” said James Hohmann in The Washington Post. “Many think of direct cash payments to African-Americans when they hear the word.” But the reparations Democratic candidates back look more like Warren’s proposal for home-buying assistance in mainly black neighborhoods or Cory Booker’s savings accounts for poor children. If only Democrats were truly serious about reparations, said Bankole Thompson in The Detroit News. There should be a national discussion about what this country owes to the descendants of slaves, whose stolen labor helped build it. That would include “well-thought-out policies that would specifically address the legacy of slavery.” But instead of offering concrete details, candidates have merely rebranded their existing proposals as “reparations” when they clearly aren’t. Such obvious pandering could backfire among black voters. “The conversation about reparations has to be more than just politicking for votes.”
3-8-19 Aging the old-fashioned way
Barbara Ehrenreich is sick of all the pressure to age “successfully,” said Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times. A social justice activist who lived on a minimum wage for three months as research for her seminal 2001 book, Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich, 77, says our wellness obsessions and warped attitudes about aging go hand in hand. “Health is just the absence of disease,” she says. “Well, the rich want more than that. They want to be as perfect as they can be.” That mindset has taken over Silicon Valley, where tech moguls are seeking to double their life spans. “If you are one of the richest and smartest people in the world, death is an insult,” she says. “Why would you let that happen to you? You’re too special to die.” Even ordinary Americans, she says, have come to view death as “a kind of suicide,” the result of eating poorly, drinking too much, or some other lifestyle vice. The truth, Ehrenreich says, is that aging can be managed, but not defied. “It’s a process of increasing disability. Things get harder. Things go wrong. And there’s nothing to do except try to adapt to each new disability that comes along as best you can.”
3-8-19 US police detain black man picking up rubbish outside home
Police in the US state of Colorado have launched an internal probe after an officer detained a black man holding a rubbish picker in front of his building, US reports say. Footage showed the man asking an officer why he had drawn his gun. "I don't have a weapon! This is a bucket! This is a clamp!" he says in the video taken by a neighbour. Police in Boulder said an officer had called for back up as the man was "unwilling to put down a blunt object". Several more officers attended the scene before they determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and took no further action, a police statement said. During the incident the man gave officers his university ID and said repeatedly that he lived and worked at the shared occupancy building. One of the officers has been placed on leave while the investigation takes place, the New York Times reported. Earlier this week Police Chief Greg Testa told Boulder city officials that it was an "extremely concerning issue". He confirmed that an officer had drawn his gun but said he had pointed it at the ground, the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper reported. Protesters at the city council meeting clacked rubbish pickers and held Black Lives Matter signs, the newspaper reported. (Webmaster's comment: The black man was just seconds away from being shot and killed by the policeman. And the policeman would have gotten away with it!)
3-8-19 Accor investigates 'Aboriginal segregation' at Australia hotel
Global hotel chain Accor is investigating claims that staff at one of its Australian hotels have been racially segregating guests. Aboriginal guests at the Ibis Styles hotel in Alice Springs were purposely put in inferior rooms after a directive last June, the ABC reported on Friday. They were charged the same price as guests placed in better rooms. Accor said the alleged practice went "completely against" its values. "[We] were made aware of the matter... and are taking prompt and decisive action on this incident at the highest level," the hotel group said in a statement to the BBC. "We are extremely saddened and disappointed as it completely goes against our values," it added, saying it had a long track record of engaging with Australia's indigenous community. Paris-based Accor is one of the world's largest hotel groups, with properties in more than 100 countries. Employees at the Ibis Styles Alice Spring Oasis - located in the southern desert region of the Northern Territory - were sent an email last June instructing them to direct Aboriginal guests into one of six designated rooms, the ABC reported. One whistleblower who spoke to the national broadcaster's Background Briefing programme said this had happened "hundreds" of times, adding that it was "pretty much standard". "We are now only putting hospital linen into rooms 85 to 90... these rooms are to be referred to as community rooms and we will try to limit them to just that, those coming from the communities [a local term for aboriginals from outside the town]," the email reportedly said. It also asked those working at reception to "please use a touch of initiative and allocate accordingly". The ABC sent two groups of people to the hotel as part of its investigation - the group that was made up of indigenous Australians was sent to the "community rooms".
3-7-19 Ilhan Omar: US House votes amid anti-Semitism row
The US House of Representatives has voted to condemn "hateful expressions of intolerance" amid a row over anti-Semitism. Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar has prompted sharp objections recently for frequently criticising Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington. Her Democratic party was split over how and whether to censure the freshman lawmaker. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has denied the resolution was made to rebuke Ms Omar. "It's not about her. It's about these forms of hatred," Ms Pelosi told reporters, denying suggestions the measure was "policing the speech of our members". Ms Pelosi has previously said she does not believe Ms Omar understood "the weight of her words". The Democratic-controlled House voted 407-23 in favour of the resolution condemning discrimination against Jewish people, Muslims, Latinos and other minorities. Some Democrats had pushed for a vote purely condemning anti-Semitism, but the resolution was broad and did not mention Ms Omar by name. Speaking at an event on Friday, the congresswoman questioned what she termed "the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country", in reference to pro-Israel lobbying. Critics from both parties attacked the 37-year-old, saying her comments revived anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish Americans having divided loyalties. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders - himself Jewish - said in a statement on Wednesday that he feared the House vote was to target the congresswoman "as a way of stifling debate", saying people should not "equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel".
3-7-19 Trump revokes Obama rule on reporting drone strike deaths
President Donald Trump has revoked a policy set by his predecessor requiring US intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of war zones. The 2016 executive order was brought in by then-President Barack Obama, who was under pressure to be more transparent. Since the 9/11 terror attack, drone strikes have been increasingly used against terror and military targets. The Trump administration said the rule was "superfluous" and distracting. The order applied to the CIA, which has carried out drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. "This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission," an official said. It required the head of the CIA to release annual summaries of US drone strikes and assess how many died as a result. Mr Trump's executive order does not overturn reporting requirements on civilian deaths set for the military by Congress. There have been 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of the Trump presidency, compared with 1,878 in Mr Obama's eight years in office, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based think tank. Lawmakers and rights groups have criticised Mr Trump's decision, saying it could allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes without accountability. "The Trump administration's action is an unnecessary and dangerous step backwards on transparency and accountability for the use of lethal force, and the civilian casualties they cause," Rita Siemion of Human Rights First told AFP news agency. Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat who chairs Congress's intelligence committee, called the requirement issued by Obama "an important measure of transparency," and said "there is simply no justification" for cancelling it.(Webmaster's comment: And now in order to terrorize "enemy" civilians the united States will be able to murder them wholesale without any accountability!)
3-7-19 Afzal Kohistani: 'Honour killing' whistleblower shot dead
The man at the centre of a campaign to expose one of Pakistan's most notorious "honour killings" cases has been shot dead nearly seven years after he brought it to national attention. M Ilyas Khan reports from Islamabad. A video showing two men dancing as four women sing a wedding song to the beat of clapping would pass as normal anywhere in the world. But this scene, filmed in 2011 in rural Pakistan, led to chilling consequences. The women in the video, and a young female member of the family who was also at the scene, are believed to have been killed by male relatives for "breaching their honour". Afzal Kohistani, a brother of the men in the video, has now been killed too. His death comes amid a blood feud that has also seen three of his other brothers killed. Mr Kohistani was shot dead in a busy commercial area of the north-western city of Abbottabad on Wednesday night, police said, quoting witnesses to the killing. He suffered multiple injuries and died on the spot, they said. In 2012, Mr Kohistani entered the public eye as one of the first Pakistanis to violate a local custom in remote northern Kohistan district whereby matters of family honour are settled in blood. Those perceived to have violated the code are killed with the mutual consent of families involved. About 1,000 "honour-killings" of women by relatives are recorded each year in Pakistan, say human rights campaigners. The real number is likely to be much higher. A much smaller number of men are murdered in such cases. According to the custom, the male family members of a woman suspected of an out-of-wedlock liaison should first kill the woman, and then go after the man. The family of the man would not oppose this action. Disregarding this local code, Mr Kohistani brought the wedding video case to national attention in June 2012, when he claimed that the women in the video had been killed by their family a month earlier, and that the lives of his younger brothers, two of whom were seen dancing in the footage, were in danger.
3-6-19 Republicans deny mocking victims with pearls
Male Republican politicians in the New Hampshire House of Representatives have denied they were wearing pearl necklaces during a committee hearing to mock gun control advocates, after accusations to that effect were widely shared on social media. On Tuesday, the Committee for Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard testimony from those affected by gun violence, while considering a bill that will make it easier for families and law enforcement officers to restrict gun access to people they consider a danger to themselves and public safety. However, it was not what was said at the hearing that led to controversy but rather the images that emerged after Shannon Watts, founder of the gun control group Moms Demand Action, tweeted photos of the Republican men on the committee wearing pearls and claimed they were doing it to belittle those giving testimony. "Male New Hampshire lawmakers on the hearing committee wearing pearls to mock Moms Demand Action volunteers and gun safety advocates," she wrote. Her post condemning the men quickly spread, accruing more than 6,000 shares and almost 5,000 comments. "Mocking mothers isn't brave," read one comment, which received more than 6,000 "likes". "Lowly weak men mocking women don't scare us." Ms Watts's tweet even drew the attention of Democrat presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, who both condemned the Republican men. "Moms who want to keep their kids safe from gun violence don't deserve this," wrote Mr Booker. (Webmaster's comment: According to Republicans the right to buy guns exceeds the rights of children to be safe!)
3-6-19 What London’s police can learn from Glasgow’s approach to knife crime
After a spate of stabbings of young people in UK cities, Sara Thornton, one of the country’s most senior police officers, has called for the government to treat the rise in knife crime as a national emergency. There have been ten knife murders of teenagers in the first two months of this year alone, according to a compilation of cases by the Guardian newspaper, half of which were in London. Politicians are talking tough, and there are calls for longer sentences for people found guilty of such crimes, as well as for just carrying a knife. But might there be other ways to tackle the problem? Scotland has seen its homicide figures fall since it began several initiatives to try to reduce violence by treating it as a public health issue, rather than a crime problem. UK home secretary Sajid Javid has said this approach should be rolled out more widely. “I want serious violence to be treated by all parts of government, all parts of the public sector, like a disease,” he said earlier today. That sounds radical, but it’s really a metaphor for tackling the underlying social causes of violence rather than just arresting people afterwards – like vaccinating to prevent disease instead of treating people after they get sick. Scotland’s efforts are spearheaded by the Violence Reduction Unit, which was set up by Strathclyde Police in 2005 to tackle rising crime levels, particularly in the city of Glasgow. The unit targets its crime prevention efforts on those who are at highest risk of offending, just as public health officials target those most at risk of disease. In this case, people who have just come out of prison are particularly at risk. A jail sentence can be a barrier to getting a job, leaving people with little choice but returning to crime. To address this, the unit has encouraged several local firms to employ former offenders, says deputy director Will Linden. (Webmaster's comment: In England there are 10 knife homicides in two months. In the United States we have have 27-30 gun homicides PER DAY!)
3-6-19 How celebrities have fuelled the amazing rise in pseudoscience
FOR the past decade, Timothy Caulfield, a professor of health law in Alberta, Canada, has been waging war on pseudoscience. He has written books on vaccination myths and about our uncritical relationship to medicine, most famously in Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? He is big on Twitter, and now on television, too. Each episode of his series A User’s Guide to Cheating Death delves into the ways people are trying to live longer or look younger, either through alternative therapies like cupping or by following out-there trends like the vampire diet and unproven stem cell treatments. While it is easy to poke fun at those who believe in pseudoscience, Caulfield seeks, through his TV show, books and academic research, to understand why unlikely therapies and scientific-sounding products are so alluring. Pseudoscience is a health threat, he points out, and it is time we took it seriously. Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness advice on her Goop website inspired your book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? Have her fans taken you to task? Yes. But I try to engage with people and I rarely block anyone. One anti-vaccination campaigner sends me emails twice a day. I know that I’m never going to change her mind, just like I’m not going to change the minds of people who believe conspiracy theories about fluoride. But it is important to hear the arguments, even the extreme ones, so that you can counter them. You criticise alternative health practices that many would say are harmless. Why go after them? Why am I wasting my time on this juice cleanse, say, or those silly crystal shoes that are supposed to help align my energy? Well, because these things add to the erosion of critical thinking. If you are willing to believe one little bit of magic, it becomes easier to believe the next little bit of magic. If someone believes in a homeopathic remedy for a cold, they may also come to believe in homeopathic vaccines. If a juice cleanse pushes misinformation about nutrition, it creates noise around the topic and makes it more difficult for us all to do the simple things to live a healthy lifestyle – like eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.
3-6-19 How belief in vengeful gods may have helped large societies cooperate
Belief in vengeful gods may have helped humans cooperate across larger societies by uniting distant populations into a cohesive group. How humans started to cooperate on large scales is a long-standing question. To see how religions may have played a role, Joseph Henrich at Harvard University and his colleagues recruited 2228 people from Asia, Africa and South America who practised Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, animism or ancestor worship. The participants had to play a game where they were given coins to allocate into two cups. The cups had labels that at different times included themselves, a local of the participant’s own religious group, another believer but one who lives far away, and a member of a different religion. When asked to place a coin in one of the two cups everyone tended to give more coins to themselves or local members of the same religion than others. But these choices changed depending on how highly each participant rated their belief in a punitive god. For example, in a choice between giving coins to themselves versus a distant person of similar beliefs, people who believed vengeful gods had little power over their lives were most likely to take the coin for themselves, while people who believed strongly in vengeful gods had more power were more likely to give it away. How people play these games is correlated with how people act in the real world, says Martin Lang at Harvard University who led the study. This may mean that the belief in a vengeful god may have helped people be more willing to share resources across a large society. “Religion created a sense of us versus them and as societies grew into empires that must have been a very important factor in keeping them cohesive,” says Peter Turchin at the University of Connecticut.
3-6-19 China plans world's first deep sea base, complete with robot subs
IMAGINE a structure thousands of metres under the ocean surface that is home to autonomous robots. One by one, the vehicles leave, mapping terrain and looking for unusual creatures. We know very little about life at these depths, but such robots could uncover a bit more with every trip. As their power runs low, they return to tell HQ what they have discovered and recharge their batteries. This is the vision for China’s ambitious plan to build the world’s first deep-sea base. Details are scarce, but there are clues to what it may be like in prototypes, documents from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is leading the project and which aims to have results within five years, and comments from China’s president Xi Jinping. The base itself will probably include a chamber to trap passing organisms, such as the weird eels, sharks or sea cucumbers that inhabit the deep ocean. If brought to the surface, these creatures often die. So being able to study them in the base will help our understanding of how they survive at these depths. Below about 200 metres, hardly any sunlight penetrates, so solar panels are useless. A base will need a power cord that can reach a surface ship or the shore. China has built several prototypes of robot submarine docking stations in recent years. Each looks like a giant megaphone and a torpedo-shaped submarine docks in the cone part to recharge and transmit data. Currently, the docking system has only been tested to a depth of 105 metres. The ocean floor is still largely unexplored. Less than 1 per cent is currently mapped in detail. So robot submarines will include sonar to reveal what is where with much greater resolution. One advantage of a permanent base is it allows you to see how things change over time, rather than just getting a snapshot by sending down a submarine for a single visit, says Jon Copley at the University of Southampton, UK. (Webmaster's comment: Chine is taking the lead in remote-control automonous operations, first on the moon, and now on the coean floor.)
3-6-19 LGBT in India: What it's like six months after gay sex was decriminalised
Up until six months ago, 20-year-old Tish felt like a criminal. He faced long-term prison time in India because he was an out and proud gay man, but then his life changed. Gay sex was decriminalised by the Indian Supreme Court on 6 September 2018. It overturned a 2013 judgement that upheld a 157-year-old law dating back to British rule. There were celebrations across India when the ruling came through but Tish was crying - because he'd just split up with his boyfriend. "But then I remembered I was no longer a criminal," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat, laughing. "I always felt caged and restricted within my soul." Tish says more cafes and bars in Delhi have become LGBT-friendly by putting up rainbow flags - but that doesn't necessarily mean the public have changed their attitudes. "India should create a space where I'd actually be able to make my family understand that it's normal," he explains. He says he hopes eventually he'll not always feel "caged" and be able "to take pride to go out as who I actually am - and not as a person who should stay in the closet because I already spent a lot of time being fabulous there." Tish regularly parties at gay club Kitty Su but says he's sometimes nervous when he leaves the venue as homophobic people know "what we are" so could attack him in surrounding streets. The club is owned by by Keeshav Suri - a prominent gay businessman - who was one of the the Supreme Court petitioners that helped change section 377, the colonial-era law. "I was in a position where I had to acknowledge my privilege and bring this conversation to policy makers," Keeshav tells Newsbeat. "It hasn't fixed everything. It will take time as it's a very small step in a much larger fight for equality." Keeshav says as well as changing society, the law also has economic benefits because of LGBT tourism.
3-3-19 Stephon Clark: US police not charged for killing unarmed black man
Two US police officers will not face charges for shooting dead Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in California last March, prosecutors say. The shooting victim, aged 22, was shot at least seven times in his grandmother's backyard in Sacramento. According to the district attorney, the officers, who were investigating nearby break-ins, did not commit a crime. The death sparked protests and fuelled national anger over police use of force, particularly against black men. "There is no question a human being died," District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told reporters after making an apology to the Clark family. She said that a months-long investigation into the 18 March 2018 shooting had looked into whether a crime was committed. "The answer to that question is no and, as a result, there was no criminal liability." The use of force was justified, Ms Schubert said, as the officers had feared for their lives, believing Mr Clark was armed with a gun and had allegedly moved towards the officers. Police body camera and helicopter footage later revealed the officers fired 20 times at Mr Clark, who was then found with only an iPhone, and they waited five minutes before giving him aid. (Webmaster's comment: The police can murder black people without consequence. Any excuse can be used to justify it.)
3-3-19 Ilhan Omar condemns 'anti-Muslim' poster at Republican event
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has condemned a poster linking her to the 9/11 attacks displayed at a Republican stall in the West Virginia legislature. She said the "anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist" encouraged threats of violence against her. West Virginia Republicans said they did not support hate speech and had told the exhibitor to remove the poster. Ms Omar was elected last November, one of the first two Muslim women to have been elected to the US Congress. The poster at Friday's West Virginia Republican Day in the state legislature in the town of Charleston showed her and the burning twin towers in New York alongside the words: "Never forget - you said. I am the proof - you have forgotten." In response Ms Omar said the image showed why she was the target of threats. "No wonder I am on the 'hitlist' of a domestic terrorist and 'Assassinate Ilhan Omar' is written on my local gas stations," she said. "Look no further, the GOP's [Republican] anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them." Ms Omar's mention of a hitlist appears to refer to an alleged plot by a self-proclaimed white nationalist. Christopher Paul Hasson had a cache of weapons and a list of targets including Ms Omar and other prominent Democratic politicians. The poster of Ms Omar was next to a poster for ACT for America, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a rights group, lists ACT for America as "an anti-Muslim hate group". However, ACT said in a statement that it had nothing to do with the poster of Ms Omar and had a "zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination". The West Virginia House of Delegates Anne Lieberman later resigned after she was accused in the House of making an Islamophobic remark. Democratic Delegate Michael Angelucci said that during the row over the poster Anne Lieberman said all Muslims were terrorists. (Webmaster's comment: Republicans are against everyone except White Christian Males!)
3-3-19 Milan anti-racism march draws "hundreds of thousands"
Huge crowds have gathered in the northern Italian city of Milan to protest against racism. Organisers said about 200,000 people turned out in the city in Lombardy, a region where the right-wing populist League party has strong support. Campaigners say the government promotes fear and hatred to spread division. Deputy prime minister and League leader Matteo Salvini says the government's new immigration policies will "make Italy safer". A decree issued in September makes it easier to deport migrants and take away their citizenship if they commit serious crimes. Under the new governing coalition, Italy has tried to close its ports to boats with migrants travelling across the Mediterranean. Demonstrators marched under the slogan People First, with organisers issuing a mission statement saying diversity is a cultural treasure. "We want Italy and Europe to change their policies, to put people at the centre with their difficulties," one man told Italian broadcaster Rai TV. A woman said the march was to show that "reception is a very beautiful thing and diversity an enrichment". Milan's social democrat mayor, Beppe Sala, described the protests as a watershed moment. (Webmaster's comment: You'd never see this in America. The White Male Christians will not allow it!)
3-2-19 Why is racial wealth inequality still growing?
A new report highlights how little progress the country has made in addressing racial economic issues. While we have just finished celebrating Black History Month in February, a recent report offers a sobering reminder that there's still much work to be done in America on the civil rights front. The report, released by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, finds that African Americans still hold a fraction of the wealth of their white peers. What's worse, this racial wealth divide has actually grown more severe since the 1980s. Looking at median household wealth — that is, the wealth of households at the 50th percentile of the income distribution — Institute for Policy Studies researchers Chuck Collins, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Josh Hoxie, and Sabrina Terry found that, between 1983 and 2016, the overall metric declined by about 3 percent (from $84,111 to $81,704). That trend is damning all on its own: "In other words, despite three decades of economic growth, great leaps in productivity, and other advances, the typical U.S. family at the statistical middle of the wealth distribution not only saw zero benefit, but saw their wealth go down," the researchers note in their report. (The researches define wealth as "the sum total of assets held by a family minus total household debt.") But the picture grows uglier once race is factored in. For white families, median wealth actually increased by over 30 percent during that time period, from $110,160 to $146,984. Latino families saw their median household wealth increase by about 50 percent, from $4,289 in 1983 to about $6,591. African-American families, meanwhile, saw their household wealth collapse during that same time period. Between 1983 and 2016, median African-American household wealth declined by over 50 percent, from $7,323 to $3,557. A big chunk of that decline occurred between 1995 and 2013, a time period during which African-American household wealth fell from approximately $12,000 to $1,700. "Whites are as likely to be millionaires as they are to have zero negative net worth," says Asante-Muhammad. "It's just a much more well distributed wealth scenario than Latinos or blacks, who are much more likely to hold no assets than to be millionaires."
3-1-19 White supremacist: A real hate crime averted
When gay African-American actor Jussie Smollett was charged with making up a story about being attacked by President Trump’s supporters, said Matt Ford in NewRepublic.com, Trump and conservative commentators gleefully mocked “mainstream news outlets” for assuming the MAGA crowd are bigots. But when the FBI busted a heavily armed white supremacist last week for planning mass murder of Trump’s critics, they reacted with…“silence.” Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was arrested in Maryland with 15 firearms and a browser history of searches such as “civil war if Trump impeached.” He had made a kill list of specific Democratic lawmakers and CNN and MSNBC journalists who’ve been critical of Trump. Perhaps because of Trump’s endorsement of violent responses to those who oppose him, said Philip Bump in The Washington Post. During his campaign, he spoke of wanting to see protesters carried out on stretchers and promised to pay the legal fees of supporters who knocked them out. He called Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) “my kind of guy” for body-slamming a reporter to the ground. Trump has called the media “the enemy of the people”—a phrase Stalin and the Nazis used to justify mass executions. Is it just mere coincidence that fanatics like Hasson and Sayoc seek to kill people on Trump’s enemy list?
3-1-19 John Wayne
John Wayne’s unapologetically bigoted views resurfaced and went viral on social media last week. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” the famously conservative actor told Playboy magazine in 1971, eight years before his death. “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks,” whom he called “irresponsible.” The star of dozens of Westerns, Wayne was asked whether he sympathized with the real-life plight of Native Americans. “Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” (Webmaster's comment: Indians had no rights to land if white man wanted it!)
3-1-19 France: An old hatred grows stronger
Here we go again, said Jean Daniel in L’ Obs. The French are bent on reminding the world that we are “the most anti-Semitic and perhaps the most racist people in Europe.” The past few weeks have seen a wave of anti-Semitic vandalism, with “Death to the Jews” sprayed on buildings, and swastikas on Jewish gravestones and mailboxes that bear the portrait of Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil. In a park in a Paris suburb, vandals cut down a tree planted in memory of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old tortured and killed in 2006 by a North African gang who believed his family must be rich because they were Jewish. Because of all these acts, a national march against anti-Semitism had already been planned when a shocking video went viral. It showed a protester with the populist Yellow Vest movement screaming at the Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut—himself a Yellow Vest supporter—calling him a “dirty Zionist shit” who should “go back to Tel Aviv.” The French were outraged at this attack on the 69-year-old intellectual, but they should not be surprised. From the scapegoating of the French Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus in the late 19th century to the deadly terrorist attack on a kosher deli in 2015 that left four Jews dead, France has always been “an anti-Semitic country.” Anti-Semitic acts were up 74 percent last year, and in the week since the march the pace has accelerated to at least two per day in Paris alone. The movement now “carries with it death threats, insults, and abominations, like a sea sullied by garbage.” Far-right militants have infiltrated the group. Until the Yellow Vests purge them, the anti-Semitic wave will continue.
3-1-19 Poll watch
45% of Democrats say they would not be happy if their child married a Republican, and 35% of Republicans say they would be unhappy if their child married a Democrat. 25% of Republicans and 7% of Democrats would disapprove of their child marrying someone of a different race, and 58% of Republicans and 25% of Democrats would disapprove of their child marrying someone of the same gender.
3-1-19 Despite low unemployment
Despite low unemployment, American workers’ slice of the economic pie continues to shrink. Employee pay and benefits fell to 52.7 percent of the nation’s economic output during the third quarter last year—down from 57 percent in 2001. If the workers’ share were still 57 percent, they would have $800 billion more in their pockets, or $5,100 more per worker.
3-1-19 Libel: Thomas’ call for more lawsuits
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “has just opened another front in the war on the media,” said The Boston Globe in an editorial. Writing in a concurring opinion on a libel case last week, Thomas volunteered that the court should overturn its landmark 1964 ruling, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which protects journalists from frivolous libel suits by elected officials and other public figures. Sullivan requires public figures suing for libel to prove that news organizations said something false that damaged their reputations—and that the journalists knew the disputed statement was false or acted with “reckless disregard” in publishing it. In an opinion joined by no other justices, Thomas argued that public figures—like him, or say, President Trump—should be able to more easily sue news organizations for “reputational harm.” Nonetheless, this probably isn’t the best time to “throw out a bedrock precedent protecting the press,” said Tim Dickinson in RollingStone.com. Just last week, Trump reacted to a parody skit on Saturday Night Live by tweeting his disbelief that TV networks “get away with” mocking him “without retribution.” Indeed, Trump has repeatedly called for an overhaul of libel law so that “when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” If Trump and Thomas had their way, it would subject the country’s news organizations to a blizzard of lawsuits that might silence them for good.
3-1-19 How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
Daniel Immerwahr’s new book only sounds like a yawn, said Jennifer Szalai in The New York Times. “Wry, readable, and often astonishing,” the young history professor’s chronicle of United States territorial expansion entirely recasts our nation’s story. Though our politicians have always described an America that disdains imperialism, the nation we encounter in Immerwahr’s book has been ruthlessly acquisitive from its inception. First, the U.S. spread west, of course, expelling native populations. But it also began picking up island territories by the 1850s, and continued to expand its total land mass for the next century. Today, the nation maintains 800 overseas military bases to Russia’s nine, and remains an imperial power in all but its self-image. “Seen through Immerwahr’s lens, even the most familiar historical events can take on a startling cast.” “You learn something amazing on almost every page,” said Christopher Borelli in the Chicago Tribune. Seabird droppings, valuable as fertilizer, spurred the U.S. to claim dozens of barren islands in a crucial early overseas expansion, and Immerwahr finds ways to fit Godzilla, the Beatles, and the peace sign into his surprising history. He opens on a darker note, with the Dec. 8, 1941, Japanese air attack on the Philippines, a U.S. territory that suffered far greater losses than Pearl Harbor but was talked about less from the start because the truth about our nation’s interests in the Pacific didn’t help the case for war. Racism often played a part in such decisions, said Patrick Iber in The New Republic. Though Hawaii eventually became a state, Puerto Rico, the pre-1946 Philippines, and pre-1902 Cuba—with their large nonwhite populations—were never granted that option. Our leaders preferred to obscure U.S. imperialism, and to take advantage of lands where the residents lacked full citizenship rights.
3-1-19 LGBT advocates criticise Biden for calling Pence 'decent'
Former Vice-President Joe Biden has had to clarify his praise of Vice-President Mike Pence as a "decent guy" amid criticism from LGBT advocates online. Mr Biden made the remark at a foreign policy conference on Thursday, later tweeting: "There is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights." Mr Pence, a Christian evangelical, has repeatedly expressed controversial views seen as anti-LGBT. The row comes as Mr Biden is expected to announce a 2020 presidential bid. Speaking at the University of Nebraska, Mr Biden, 76, brought up his successor in a discussion of last month's Munich Security Conference, where Mr Pence delivered remarks. The audience was left silent after Mr Pence offered greetings from President Donald Trump during a speech at the event. "It was followed on by a guy who's a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, 'I'm here on behalf of President Trump,' and there was dead silence. Dead silence," Mr Biden said, CNN reported. Critics were quick to condemn the remarks online, with some saying such gaffes were why Mr Biden would never win a presidential nomination. Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon, a New York Democrat who is openly gay, asked Mr Biden to "consider how [his comment] falls on the ears of our community", calling Mr Pence the country's "most anti-LGBT elected leader". Mr Biden then clarified he was just "making a point in a foreign policy context". "But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President." (Webmaster's comment: There is NOTHING decent about Pence. He has advocated that all that LGTB's should be rounded up and forced to have electroshock therapy to cure them of their GAYNESS! This man is pure EVIL!)