Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

107 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for July 2019
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source

7-23-19 Ocasio-Cortez: Officers sacked for post suggesting lawmaker be shot
Two US police officers in Louisiana have been fired over a Facebook post suggesting congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot. Charles Rispoli wrote that the Democrat needed "a round", which was then "liked" by a fellow officer. The police chief of Gretna said it was "an embarrassment to our department". It comes days after President Donald Trump's comments about Ms Ocasio-Cortez and three of her colleagues in Congress that were widely derided as racist. His tweets telling four congresswomen - all US citizens - to "go back" where they came from sparked an outcry from Democrats, as well as condemnation from some Republicans. Charles Rispoli of the Gretna police department in Louisiana was responding to a post by a satirical news website that falsely suggested Ms Ocasio-Cortez believed US troops were overpaid. "This vile idiot needs a round...and I don't mean the kind she used to serve," he wrote. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 29, worked as a waitress and bartender before stunning the political world last year by defeating veteran Joe Crowley in their party's congressional primary in New York City. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson told reporters that both Charles Rispoli and a fellow officer who "liked" the post, Angelo Varisco, had been fired. "These officers acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted a sitting U.S. congresswoman," Mr Lawson said. Both men were found to have violated the police department's social media rules, on which they had been trained. (Webmaster's comment: It's illegal to advocate killing anyone. These males brutes should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned!)

7-23-19 Mentions of Immigration as Top Problem Surpass Record High
After hitting a new high last month, mentions of immigration as the most important problem facing the U.S. increased further to 27% in July. Since Gallup began regularly recording mentions of the issue in 1993, immigration has been cited by an average of 6% of Americans, though it has been higher in recent years. There have been occasional, typically short-lived, spikes when major immigration events were occurring. U.S. separating immigrant families led the way! (Webmaster's comment: We've become a very unfriendly country to those who need help. Note below that migrants are at a near record low. This is a politically manufactured crises.)

  • 27% identify immigration as the most important U.S. problem
  • Surpasses record 23% naming the issue in June
  • A small number of issues have ever eclipsed 27% mentions since 2001

Apprehensions on US-Mexico border. Total number of migrants by US financial year (2000-2018)

7-23-19 US expands powers to deport migrants without going to court
The US government is introducing a new fast-track deportation process that will bypass immigration courts. Under the new rules, migrants who cannot prove they have been in the US continuously for more than two years can be immediately deported. Until now, expedited deportations could only be applied to those detained near the border who had been in the US for less than two weeks. Rights groups say hundreds of thousands of people could be affected. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it will challenge the policy in court. The new rule is expected to be implemented with immediate effect after it is published on Tuesday. US immigration policy has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months - in particular, the conditions at the country's detention centres on the southern border with Mexico. Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of Homeland Security, said the change was "a necessary response to the ongoing immigration crisis" and would help to relieve the burden on courts and detention centres. US Border Patrol says it has made 688,375 apprehensions on the south-west border since October 2018, more than double that of the previous fiscal year. Several analysts predict US President Donald Trump will make hardline immigration control a key element of his re-election campaign in 2020. (Webmaster's comment: One of the meanest nations on Earth just got meaner!)

7-23-19 Immigration raids are traumatizing American communities
The people of Hermitage, Tennessee are heroes. On Monday, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tried to arrest a Hermitage man — an undocumented migrant — as he left his home. They failed to make the arrest, however, because the man's neighbors formed a human chain to protect him. After four hours, the ICE agents gave up. "I could see if these people were bad criminals, but they're not, they're just trying to provide for their kids," Stacey Farley, a neighbor, told reporters. "The family don't bother nobody, they work every day, they come home, the kids jump on their trampoline, it's just a community." The people of Hermitage did what you hope Americans will do when an outsider threatens their community: They joined together and resisted. That's what heroes do. While that was happening, though, a bigger immigration crackdown seemed to be in the offing. The federal government announced Monday that it is dispensing with due process — "streamlining" immigration enforcement — to allow ICE agents to confront suspected migrants anywhere they can find them and ship them out of the country without so much as a court hearing. If ICE catches you on the street and you can't prove immediately that you're a citizen, or that you've lived in the U.S. more than two years, the agency will be able to ship you out of country in a matter of days. This new, tougher policy promises to be a disaster. To understand why, all you have to do is look at what happened in Hermitage on Monday. ICE raids are intended to remove unwanted outsiders from American communities, but they often end up disrupting those communities instead. In many cases, hawkish immigration enforcement does more harm than good: Research suggests the effects of ICE raids on local communities can be, quite literally, traumatic and disastrous. President Trump and the immigration hawks justify these policies by presenting illegal immigration as a disaster for America. Don't forget that when announcing his run for president, Trump said that "when Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." This narrative simply isn't supported by the data: Studies show that undocumented migrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.

7-23-19 Russian LGBT activist Yelena Grigoryeva murdered in St Petersburg
A prominent LGBT rights campaigner has been found dead with multiple stab wounds and signs of strangulation in the Russian city of St Petersburg. The body of a 41-year-old woman was found in bushes near her home in the city on Sunday, local police said. atives and friends later named the victim as Yelena Grigoryeva, Russian news website Fontanka reports. Ms Grigoryeva, who had reportedly received death threats, regularly campaigned for human rights in Russia. In a post on Facebook on Monday, activist Dinar Idrisov said his friend Ms Grigoryeva had been "brutally killed near her home". "She had recently been the victim of violence and death threats," he wrote, adding that she had filed several complaints with the police. Police have not confirmed the reports of death threats and it is not clear if the attack was linked to her activism. A suspect has been detained in connection with her murder, according to Fontanka. Along with campaigning for LGBT rights, Ms Grigoryeva also demonstrated against Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, the ill treatment of prisoners and a number of other human rights causes. In January last year, Russian opposition activist Konstantin Sinitsyn, 53, was found dead near his home in St Petersburg after suffering head injuries. Police said the attack appeared to be a robbery. Last August, dozens of LGBT rights activists were arrested during a banned protest in St Petersburg to promote the rights of sexual minorities. In 2013, Russia passed legislation banning the spreading of what it described as gay propaganda.

7-22-19 Will evangelicals thwart Trump's unchristian refugee ban?
That the Trump administration is considering effectively barring all refugees from entering the United States in 2020 should shock but not surprise. Admissions were capped at just 30,000 for 2019, down from 45,000 the year before, during which only about 22,000 refugees were actually allowed to come to America. Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller has reportedly made gutting the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration a personal mission, and he seems to be equal to the task. There are all sorts of reasons this should not happen. The primary argument advanced by its supporters — that terrorists will slip in among the truly helpless and harm Americans — is statistically a load of bunk: "The chance of being killed on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee [from 1975 to 2017] was 1 in 3.86 billion a year," a recent Cato Institute analysis reports. Logistical concerns are unfounded, too: If there is a lack of capability or resource to handle refugee resettlement in America, it is because the Trump administration's stranglehold on refugee admissions has strangled the nonprofit network serving refugees, too. Stop killing the one and the other will revive. But if the zero admissions plan is averted, its undoing is unlikely to be such factual considerations. The best hope here may well be for the president's evangelical supporters to demand his compassion. This may sound like a long shot, and that's because it is. Earlier this month, white evangelicals' views of refugees came under fresh scrutiny as a 2018 Pew Research poll recirculated on Twitter. Asked whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees, white evangelicals were disproportionately likely to say no. The religiously unaffiliated (65 percent), black Protestants (63 percent), Catholics (50 percent), and white mainline Protestants (43 percent) all outpaced white evangelicals' 25 percent identification of a responsibility to admit the displaced. (Webmaster's comment: So much for Christian love.)

7-22-19 Israel razes Palestinian homes 'built too near barrier'
Israel has begun demolishing a cluster of Palestinian homes it says were built illegally too close to the separation barrier in the occupied West Bank. Security forces moved in to Sur Baher, on the edge of East Jerusalem, to tear down buildings said to house 17 people. Residents said they had been given permits to build by the Palestinian Authority, and accused Israel of an attempt to grab West Bank land. But Israel's Supreme Court ruled that they had violated a construction ban. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and later effectively annexed East Jerusalem. Under international law, both areas are considered to be occupied territory, though Israel disputes this. Some 700 Israeli police officers and 200 soldiers were involved in Monday's operation in the village of Wadi Hummus, on the edge of Sur Baher. They moved in at about 04:00 (01:00 GMT) along with excavators, which began tearing down the 10 buildings the UN says were earmarked for demolition. Nine of the Palestinians who have been displaced are refugees, including five children, according to the UN. Another 350 people who owned homes in buildings that were unoccupied or under construction are also affected. One of the residents, Ismail Abadiyeh, told AFP news agency his family would be left "on the street". Another man who owned an unfinished house said he was "losing everything". "I had a permit to build from the Palestinian Authority. I thought I was doing the right thing," Fadi al-Wahash told Reuters news agency. (Webmaster's comment: Israel continues it's 70 year attack on the Palestinian people.)

7-22-19 US denounces Venezuela aircraft's 'unsafe approach'
The United States military has accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of endangering the crew of a US navy plane in international airspace. The Venezuelan plane made an "unsafe approach" and "aggressively shadowed" the US reconnaissance aircraft over the Caribbean Sea, US Southern Command said on Sunday. Venezuela said the US plane had entered Venezuelan airspace without permission. Relations between the two countries have been tense for years. The incident happened on Friday, the same day the US treasury department imposed sanctions on four members of Venezuela's military counterintelligence directorate (DGCIM) for their alleged role in the physical abuse and death of a Venezuelan navy captain, Rafael Acosta. Capt Acosta's death, which a leaked forensic report suggests occurred after he was severely beaten, asphyxiated and given electric shocks while in DGCIM custody, caused an international outcry earlier this month. US Southern Command took the unusual step of not only releasing their description of the incident but also publishing video of the Russian-made jet on Twitter. In a further tweet, US Southern Command said the action demonstrated "Russia's irresponsible military support to Maduro's illegitimate regime and underscores Maduro's recklessness & irresponsible behaviour, which undermines international rule of law and efforts to counter illicit trafficking". The US is one of the more than 50 nations which does not recognise President Maduro and his government, arguing that the 2018 polls which saw him re-elected to a second term were neither free nor fair. But Russia continues to support Mr Maduro and has in the past said it will do "everything required" to support him as Venezuela's "legitimate president". The reference to Russia's military support in the tweet posted by Southern Command shows their annoyance not just with the fact their plane was intercepted but also that it was a fighter aircraft developed by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. (Webmaster's comment: The United States continues it's 120 year aggression against South American countries.

7-22-19 Poland LGBT march: Police arrest 25 after attacks on activists
Polish police have arrested 25 people after attacks on LGBT activists taking part in the city of Bialystok’s first ever equality march. Around 800 pro-LGBT demonstrators marched through the streets of the city on Saturday amid a heavy police presence. Hundreds of counter-protesters attempted to disrupt the event, with some attacking activists and chanting homophobic insults.

7-21-19 Ocasio-Cortez: Trump is 'putting millions of Americans in danger'
Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has reacted to President Trump's comments about her and three other congresswomen - in which he told them to 'go back' to 'the totally broken and crime infested placed from which they came.' Speaking at a town hall event in her own New York district, she said the remarks endangered millions of Americans.

7-21-19 American churches are failing congregants with disabilities
It's a failure for our kids, and a missed opportunity for the church itself. American churches are failing to meet the needs of children with cognitive and conduct disorders, a study by the National Survey of Children's Health found last year. In fact, children with autism are twice as likely to never attend religious services compared to kids with no chronic health conditions. As researcher Andrew Whitehead concluded, "This population is unseen because they never show up, or when they do, they have a negative experience and never return." It may come as a shock to you that churches are unable or unwilling to meet the needs of kids with developmental delays and learning disabilities — especially if you're a parent of children without any significant differences. But for people like me — a parent of three adopted children and two who have Down syndrome — these revelations barely induce a yawn. This is a situation we've been wrestling with and tirelessly trying to improve for years. Recently, I was at an evangelical church service to talk about my book, Scoot Over and Make Some Room, which explores the intricacies of my family life and the ways in which many of the systems in our society have yet to make room for my kids and others like them. The pastor who was interviewing me prefaced his first question by saying, "parents who have kids with disabilities such as Down syndrome, really wish their children didn't have that, that they could take it away." I cringed inside. I was so shocked to hear this religious leader, standing before a sea of people who looked to him for spiritual guidance, casually degrade my son and daughter with Down syndrome, I didn't even hear what the actual question was. I gently responded that I love my kids with Down syndrome and affirm that they are fully human like the rest of us: "Their Down syndrome is an important part of who they are and it is something I love about them. I wouldn't change the fact that they have Down syndrome for anything in the world." As I've raised my kids and fought for an equitable space in this world for them, I have often found myself disappointed with the Church and its lack of inclusive practices. And I'm not alone. I've met countless other parents who have stopped going to church once they had a child with a different ability. The environment was just too difficult for their child to navigate and they did not feel welcomed anymore. Christian churches must do a better job.

7-21-19 Why do Americans pay so much for prescription drugs?
President Donald Trump said that prescription drug prices dropped for the first time in half a century in the US last year. Since taking office, the president has made repeated attacks against those who set drug prices and has pledged to take radical steps to reduce them. Mr Trump appears to be referring to the Bureau of Labour Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the increase in the cost of household items in the US. In the year to May 2019, the average monthly cost of prescription drugs fell by 0.2%. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a JOKE!)

7-20-19 Minnesota crowd welcomes home Ilhan Omar amid Trump row
The Somali-born lawmaker returned to her home state and was met with "welcome home" chants. The surprise greeting came after a Trump rally this week where attendees shouted to "send her back" after the president criticised her and three other congresswomen.

7-20-19 The pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage
The movement to increase the federal minimum wage is gaining steam. What are the benefits and costs? A Congressional Budget Office analysis released last week "makes clear that the benefits of a $15-an-hour minimum wage would heavily outweigh the downside," said Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times. The agency found that as many as 1.3 million people could be lifted out of poverty if the federal minimum wage rose from $7.25 in stages over five years, boosting the wages of 27 million Americans. The CBO said the change might also lead to the loss of 1.3 million jobs. Opponents have seized on that point, but the agency acknowledges it is "manifestly more uncertain than most of the rest" of the analysis. This uncertainty sounds familiar, said Noah Smith at Bloomberg. Many CBO studies rely on sifting through a large and often contradictory body of research. The most recent studies, however, tend "to find very small job losses from raising pay floors." In many places and industries, companies "hold wages below what a competitive market would offer." A higher minimum could just restore the competitive balance between workers and employers. Tell that to the small businesses that are particularly vulnerable to cost increases, said Tiana Lowe in the Washington Examiner. Big businesses, meanwhile, will simply automate the jobs. "Just go to your local McDonald's and order from the kiosk to see this in action." Some companies in places that have raised the minimum wage are already blaming wage laws for driving them out of business, said Jeremy Hill at Bloomberg. Restaurants Unlimited, a West Coast chain of 35 fine-dining and casual eateries, filed for bankruptcy protection last week. It said "progressive wage laws" in Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland had inflated "wage expenses by a total of $10.6 million" — more than the midsize chain, with total revenue of $176 million in a year, could afford. Don't base your opinion on one example, said economists Anna Godoey and Michael Reich at CNN. We've done the research on 51 minimum-wage increases in 45 states and found that "higher minimum wages do not have adverse effects on employment." We also found that in low-wage areas "where the highest proportion of workers received pay increases," there were wage increases across the board. That matches other research that "wage increases ripple upward," said Andrew Van Dam at The Washington Post. As much as "about 40 percent of wage benefits go to workers who aren't directly affected" by the law. And there are other surprising benefits: "Raising the minimum wage by 10 percent could reduce suicides by 3.6 percent among adults with a high school degree." Another bonus: Higher minimum wages have even been shown to cut crime, by making ex-convicts less likely to return to their old ways.

7-20-19 Polish abuse scandal: Victims take on the Catholic Church
Marek Mielewczyk was a 13-year-old altar boy when a priest asked him to come to his presbytery. "This is where I was abused for the first time," he says. He is one of several victims, now adults, featured in a documentary about Polish priests who sexually abused children. Tomasz and Marek Sekielski's film, Don't Tell Anyone, was watched 20 million times in the first week of its digital release – and prompted an unprecedented challenge to Poland's Roman Catholic Church. More than 90% of Poles identity themselves as Catholics. For many, the Church and its rituals do not just provide spiritual comfort: they are part of a national identity. That might explain why Poles have been slow to question the behaviour of some of their own priests, despite sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in Ireland, the USA and neighbouring Germany. Monika, 28, did not appear in the film. But she told the BBC about years of abuse during supposed exorcisms by priests around Poland when she was a teenager. Her parents saw the priests "as heroes, people who were fighting against the devil himself" - but she believes they were manipulated. The Catholic Church defended Polish culture, language and identity as the country was ruled by three occupying empires in the 19th Century. After World War Two, the Church – and Polish Pope John Paul II – gave strength to the democratic Solidarity movement, helping it overthrow communist rule. But the documentary has sullied that reputation. Shortly after the film's release, an opinion poll suggested 67% of Poles regarded the Church's response as inadequate and 87% said its authority had been diminished. Marek Mielewczyk was abused for five years. "I didn't know about things like masturbation and touching. I had no idea about homosexual relations. I didn't know that an adult could abuse a child," says Mr Mielewczyk.

7-20-19 Merkel marks Hitler assassination attempt with anti-extremism appeal
German Chancellor Angela Markel has used the 75th anniversary of the most famous plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler to call on citizens to counter rising right-wing extremism. Ms Merkel thanked the German officer, Claus von Stauffenberg, and other plotters who tried in 1944 to kill the Nazi dictator with a briefcase bomb. Stauffenberg and some 200 co-conspirators were caught and executed. Mrs Merkel urged people to join programmes for strengthening democracy. "This day is a reminder to us, not only of those who acted on July 20, but also of everyone who stood up against Nazi rule," she said in her weekly video podcast. "We are likewise obliged today to oppose all tendencies that seek to destroy democracy. That includes right-wing extremism." The right-wing party Alternative for Germany in May became the country's largest opposition party in parliament with an anti-immigrant and nationalist agenda. In recent years there has been a rise in far-right attacks, including the murder of a German politician, whose death prosecutors believe was politically motivated and carried out by assassins with neo-Nazi extremist links. According to government figures, there are 24,000 right-wing extremists in Germany. Nearly 13,000 are believed to have a tendency to violence. (Webmaster's comment: This would never happen in the United States. Trump supports right-wing extremists and white supremacists. They will form the core of his elite presidential guards.)

7-20-19 The cruelty of indifference
"I do not care if we go down in history as barbarians," declared Romanian authoritarian Ion Antonescu to his nation's Council of Ministers in 1941; he was arguing the case for exterminating Jews, either by deporting them and thus leaving them to the mercy of the Germans, or simply by gunning them down. In 2019, Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude has turned Antonescu's words against him, using the authoritarian's callous proclamation as the title of his latest movie. The effect is so damning that if Antonescu lived today, he may find that he cares after all. Jude's film rebukes Antonescu's shameful legacy and confronts Romania's self-delusion over its role in the Holocaust; his purpose is to interrogate the country's past sins. But by wielding Antonescu's own words in the name of satire, I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians simultaneously captures present-day global antipathy toward immigrants: In Italy, where Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini remains determined to criminalize Mediterranean migrant rescues, in France, where members of Generation Identitaire posed as border guards to deny African migrants entry into the country, in the United States, where Donald Trump's supporters react to family separations with contemptuous sneers, where Mike Pence observed CBP cages overflowing with tired migrants and said that they're "in good shape." Wisely, I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians doesn't make an active effort to connect the dots between Antonescu, the Holocaust, and the present day; Jude's purpose is specific to the crimes of his homeland rather than the crimes of others. Instead, those dots connect organically as the film's plot progresses over its 140-minute running time. Jude shot mostly on 16mm using hand-held ambulatory takes, stripping away all artifice and emphasizing sober reality to drive his points home.

7-19-19 Trump tells congresswomen to ‘go back’ home
President Trump embraced the most openly racial confrontation of his presidency so far this week, telling a group of nonwhite Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their “totally broken and crime infested” home countries. Trump’s tweets were aimed at a group of unabashedly progressive House freshmen who have been nicknamed “the Squad”: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. All of the women were born in the U.S., with the exception of Omar, a Somali refugee who became an American citizen as a teenager. After his comments ignited a firestorm of racial and partisan rancor, Trump refused to back down. “If you’re not happy here you can leave,” he said. “That is what I say all of the time. A lot of people love it, by the way. A lot of people love it.” The House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning Trump for his “racist comments,” with every Democrat voting in favor. However, only four House Republicans voted to rebuke Trump. Most GOP officials either defended Trump, or offered heavily qualified criticisms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said flatly, “The president is not a racist.” Maine Sen. Susan Collins issued a statement heavily criticizing the four Democratic congresswomen before calling Trump’s comments “over the line.” Trump’s racist tirade lays bare his political philosophy, said Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times. To Trump, America is a “white man’s country” where everyone else is a guest and better be grateful. This naked bigotry informs everything Trump does, from spreading conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace, to trying to change the census to benefit white voters, to insulting congresswomen who represent millions of Americans. It’s why white-skinned European immigrants like first lady Melania Trump are welcomed, while dark-skinned migrants from Latin America “are put into cages and camps.” When he sees people who aren’t white, “he just knows they don’t belong.”

7-19-19 Sending asylum seekers back to Mexico
President Trump placed dramatic new limits this week on Central Americans’ ability to seek asylum in the U.S., ordering immigration officials to deny all claims from petitioners who first passed through Mexico. The new directive would require asylum seekers to petition the first safe country they encounter after leaving their homeland. Immigration advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union called the rule illegal and immediately challenged it in a California court. Attorney General William Barr defended it as “a lawful exercise of authority,” though the order broke with decades of American policy and represents the administration’s most restrictive effort to stem the tide of Central American migrants flowing across the U.S.’s southern border. New federal data showed migrant arrests at the Mexican border fell in June to 104,344, a 28 percent drop from the 144,278 notched in May, the highest monthly total in 13 years. A Border Patrol official credited Trump’s deal last month with Mexico to intercept more migrants, although other experts blamed summer heat for the fall-off. Nearly a million migrants are expected to cross by year’s end, with many of them applying for asylum upon arrival. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began raids in 10 cities on 2,000 migrant families who’d flouted prior deportation notices. Trump hailed the heavily publicized operation as “very successful” and said that “many, many were taken out,” although activists noted little evidence of the massive dragnet they’d feared. Meanwhile, thousands of people protested at ICE facilities across the country, and a 69-year-old man armed with a rifle and Molotov cocktails was shot dead by authorities after he attacked a detention facility in Washington state.

7-19-19 Congressman blasts homeland security chief over detained children
Democrat Elijah Cummings erupts as US homeland security chief Kevin McAleenan defends border facility conditions.

7-19-19 Seven-figure paychecks at migrant shelters
At a nonprofit that houses migrant children for the federal government, six top employees received compensation in 2017 exceeding $1 million, according to filings released this week. That contractor, Texas-based Southwest Key, runs 24 shelters—among them a converted Walmart—for about 4,000 children in government custody, for which it’s reaped almost $1.9 billion in federal funds over the past decade. Four of its executives resigned in recent months following outrage over their lavish compensation packages, including founder Juan Sanchez, who earned $3.6 million between September 2017 and August 2018. The group’s chief financial officer made more than $2.4 million over that period. By comparison, the head of the much larger American Red Cross made $686,000.

7-19-19 Trump acts like an African strongman
Donald Trump “behaves more and more like an African president with each passing day,” said Nerima Wako-Ojiwa. We Africans recognize the U.S. leader’s tendency to appoint family members to trusted positions where they can make money, because our leaders do that, too. Son-in-law Jared Kushner is a top adviser, despite having no policy background. Similarly, our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has seen his uncle, his sister, and his cousin, among others, profit through government contracts steered toward their firms. Some Kenyans voted for Kenyatta—son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president—because they assumed that, since he came from a wealthy family, he could resist corruption. Instead, “this is one of the most corrupt administrations we have witnessed”—just as the Trump administration sets new records for scandal in the U.S. The worst nepotism of all is the appointment of socialite Ivanka Trump as adviser to her father, where she has “no form of oversight” and a vague job description. Such appointments are “not unheard of” in Kenya, where presidential relatives get meaningless posts like “chief administrative secretary” or minister “without portfolio.” Even Trump’s July 4 bash was authoritarian, with a triumphal military display. How much more African can he get?

7-19-19 Two-thirds have quit!
Over 30 months, about two-thirds of President Trump’s top aides have left his administration, many amid scandals or conflicts with Trump—a rate far higher than for previous presidents. Trump has had six communications directors, three chiefs of staff, three national security advisers, four secretaries of homeland security, and he currently has nine acting directors running Cabinet departments or major agencies.

7-19-19 Obamacare: Another GOP attempt to kill it
“The Affordable Care Act and health insurance for tens of millions of people are suddenly in jeopardy again,” said Jonathan Cohn in After the Supreme Court seemed to settle the constitutionality of the ACA—commonly known as Obamacare—in 2012, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has again taken up the question. Last week, the Trump administration–backed lawsuit brought by GOP officials in 20 states “got a credulous, sympathetic-sounding hearing” from two Republican-appointed judges during oral arguments. That’s “hard to fathom.” The lawsuit claims the whole ACA is now void after the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated the penalty on the uninsured in 2017; in ruling the law constitutional, the Supreme Court had said the penalty functioned as a tax, which was within Congress’ powers. Now, in an argument that most legal experts call “positively bonkers,” Republican states insist that without a tax penalty, all of Obamacare should fall. Winning this lawsuit “would be a disaster for Republicans,” said Ramesh Ponnuru in As many as 30 million people might lose their health insurance, and insurers could “once again discriminate against people with chronic conditions.” State budgets would be devastated without federal reimbursement for Medicaid expansion, which would likely force some states to abandon at least some of the 13 million who got coverage that way. The 2020 electoral backlash against the GOP could be massive. And it’s not as if Republicans have advanced any plan for a post-ACA health-care system. Yes, but “political expediency” should not be the determining factor here, said Erin Hawley in This lawsuit is about limiting the power “of the federal government to force people to do something”—in this case, buy health insurance. That’s a fight worth fighting. (Webmaster's comment: The whole objective of getting rid of Obamacare is to be able to bill more for medical services, making the poor even poorer.)

7-19-19 How Navratilova became a ‘terf’
Martina Navratilova never dreamed she’d be labeled a bigot, said Decca Aitkenhead in The Times (U.K.). The Czechoslovakia-born tennis legend, 62, had to Google the term furious social media users were calling her last December: terf, or trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Navratilova, one of the first female athletes to come out as a lesbian, had responded to a tweet arguing that anyone who self-identifies as female should be allowed to compete in women’s sports. “There must be some standards,” she replied, “and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.” A firestorm ensued. “I was attacked by my people,” says Navratilova, referring to the LGBTQ community. Higher testosterone levels and larger muscles for trans women who grew up male, she says, pose an insurmountable competitive advantage. “When I was in unbelievable shape, I did 10 pull-ups. But no matter what, I couldn’t bench-press 250 pounds.” Though her stance offends trans people, she says, “For me, this has been about fairness for women and girls. I left a Communist country because I couldn’t say what I wanted to without repercussions. Now, if people attack me, it is what it is.”

7-19-19 Toronto walls off illegal pot shops with concrete blocks
Toronto has used giant concrete blocks to bar entry to a chain of illegal cannabis dispensaries operating in the Canadian city. The unlicensed chain has four locations and the city has been playing a cat and mouse game for months trying to shut them down. The city calls them "blatant, repeat, and serial violators" of the rules. Canada legalised recreational marijuana last year but only government-licensed stores are allowed to sell the product. This week, Toronto bylaw enforcement officers, with the help of police, raided the four locations, seized the product on the premises and placed concrete blocks in front of them all to block entry. The city has filed over 70 charges against employees, property owners and the businesses since last year, and police had issued several closure orders. Whenever the stores were locked by police and bylaw officers, the owners would simply break back in and continue as before, said Mark Sraga, director of the city's investigation services. "It got to the point where we've taken what we believe is a very significant and dramatic enforcement action," he said. The blocks were removed within days at two storefronts by the dispensary operators, but were replaced by the city. In an emailed comment, the "Cannabis and Fine Edibles" dispensaries called the move "a vigilante interpretation of flawed legislation". Toronto resident Jay Rosenthal spotted the concrete barricades in front of one store on Tuesday. Mr Rosenthal, who also heads a media company that focuses on the business of cannabis, said unlicensed stores have customers in part because of the time it has taken the province of Ontario to get its legal retail cannabis sector up and running. Toronto currently has five licensed, legal cannabis stores.

7-19-19 City exorcised
Banishing demons. The bishop of Buenaventura rode a fire truck festooned with balloons through his home city this week, flicking holy water at residents in an attempt to exorcise the demons that he believes are responsible for an epidemic of crime and violence. Monsignor Rubén Dario Jaramillo Montoya had originally hoped to conduct the ritual by helicopter, but that plan fell through. Rival gangs are battling for control of the drug trade in Buenaventura’s main Pacific port, which has caused a spike in murders and kidnappings. The Catholic prelate said he wanted to “drive the devil out of Buenaventura, to see if we can restore the peace and tranquility that our city has lost.”

7-19-19 The land wedded to quack medicine
Are the French finally going to start listening to science? asked Klaus Taschwer. Their government is prodding them in that direction. French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, who is a doctor, has decreed that government health insurance will no longer pay part of the cost of homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy uses tiny amounts of a plant or mineral with the aim of stimulating a patient’s natural immune responses. Buzyn has rightly concluded that this so-called alternative medicine is not worth subsidizing, because study after study has shown that homeopathic pills are no better than a placebo. “Which is to say, no good at all.” Yet the French consume these hocus-pocus potions in vast quantities—their government reimbursed them $143 million for homeopathic treatments last year. During the 18th century, France was “the center of European enlightenment and reason.” Today, its people “embrace ignorance,” at least in health matters. One in three French people believes vaccines are dangerous, the highest rate of such skepticism in the world. Perhaps the country needs to undergo “a kind of Enlightenment 2.0 in the matter of scientific evidence.” In the meantime, those patients who are furious that they will soon have to pay more out of pocket for their homeopathic pills can take comfort in one scientific teaching: “Placebos have been shown to work better the more they cost.”

7-19-19 Nobody can ignore the body count
The world is paying attention to the slaughter in the Philippines, said the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In his three years as president, Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged vigilantes and police to shoot suspected drug dealers and users on sight. The police say some 6,600 “drug personalities” have been killed since 2016, but Amnesty International says it’s impossible to know how many thousands are dead. Amnesty said in a report last week that Duterte’s centerpiece policy is “nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price.” It has called on the United Nations to open an investigation into this human rights calamity. Just days earlier, 27 countries, including the U.K. and France, backed Iceland’s resolution urging the U.N. Human Rights Council to report on the bloodshed in the Philippines. But Duterte’s administration dismisses all foreign criticism. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. claimed that the nations supporting Iceland’s resolution had been paid off by “drug cartels.” It’s the same contempt the regime shows for the Philippine Supreme Court, which has been rebuffed in its demand for data on extrajudicial killings. The Duterte administration may “hiss and curse,” but “as the body count continues to rise, the world is watching.”

7-19-19 We're no longer in Brave New World. We're back in 1984.
The fury of the crowd chanting "Send her back!" — send Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an American citizen, back to her birthplace in Somalia, that is — at President Trump's rally in North Carolina on Wednesday resembled nothing so much as the "Two Minutes Hate" of George Orwell's 1984. Instead of a video of the enemies of the regime, Trump provided a live denunciation to get the hatred flowing. The substitution was no impediment to his audience's response in ritualized resentment. "A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current," Orwell said of his fictional mob. That description is — I hope — as-yet hyperbolic to apply to Trump's crowd, though the president's behavior has observers left and right alike worried he will incite violence against Omar or the American Muslim community more broadly. But Orwell's next sentence is already apt: The "rage that one felt" during the Two Minutes Hate, he wrote, "was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp." The anger of Trump loyalists is similarly supple, constantly redirected from one target to another, each one cast as an enemy of "real America," which coincidentally looks just like them. I was not the only one to see Orwell in the rally shouts. So what I find noteworthy is not my reaction, but that this is the dystopia that so widely came to mind. 1984 is classic, of course, but wasn't our descent into tyranny supposed to come from the pages of Brave New World? Weren't we on track to prove Aldous Huxley the more prescient prophet of our coming oppression? But "Send her back!" isn't Huxley. It's Orwell. It's not the lulling, consumerist tyranny of Brave New World. Though too fleeting to fully incarnate the institutional violence of 1984 — Trump will be on to a new target as soon as his mosquito attention span demands fresh blood — it's an unmistakable shift in that direction. And "Send her back!" is hardly the only sign we should give Orwell's caution heed anew. The authoritarian populism which fueled Trump's rise to power; state surveillance capabilities that remained the stuff of science fiction when 1984 was published; "alternative facts" as the Trumpian take on doublethink; the president's "enemy of the people" designation for all but the most fawning members of the press; his memory hole denial of saying things he is recorded saying; newly coercive enforcement of immigration policy in the form of ICE raids, family separations, and border camps — all these are Orwell, not Huxley. They are not a dreamy drift into the pain-free totalitarianism of Huxley's World State. They have the more brutal edge of Orwell's Oceania.

7-19-19 Trump - I disagree with Omar 'send her back' chants
President Donald Trump has disavowed the "send her back" chants directed at Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar by his supporters at a campaign rally. Ms Omar is a US citizen who emigrated from Somalia with her family after fleeing the country's civil war. The chants, which came after Mr Trump criticised Ms Omar and three other congresswomen, were widely condemned, including by some Republicans. "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it," Mr Trump said of the chant. He did not elaborate on what he disagreed with. "It was quite a chant and I felt a little bit badly about it," Mr Trump told reporters on Thursday. "I started speaking very quickly but it started up rather fast, as you probably noticed." The controversial chants took place at Mr Trump's campaign rally in North Carolina. Mr Trump was cheered on by the crowd of thousands as he again accused Ms Omar and her fellow congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashia Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley - known as "the squad" - of hating America. Ahead of the rally, a bid to impeach Mr Trump was blocked in Congress. Critics say it echoed the "lock her up" phrase adopted by his supporters against Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The chant comes as tensions escalate between the president and the four Democratic congresswomen over recent tweets, in which Mr Trump told the then four politicians to "go back" to their countries.

7-18-19 The problem with correctly labeling Trump a racist
Two years into Trump's presidency, it's clear calling him a racist won't change minds. Now that we know for certain that the president of the United States is going to spend the next 16 months running for re-election by leading fascist rallies around the country, whipping crowds of thousands into a giddy frenzy of hatred by weaponizing a demonic mixture of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and right-wing ideology, the rest of us confront the question of how best to respond. The answer isn't obvious. Consider my long opening sentence above. I enjoyed writing it. There's something undeniably satisfying about naming names, about affixing bold, morally evaluative and condemnatory labels to heinous words and deeds. I called Trump's rally on Wednesday night — an event where his furious demonization of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and calls for her to love-or-leave the United States inspired the crowd to begin a gleefully malicious chant of "send her back" — a fascist rally. Because that's what it was. That doesn't mean I think Trump is a fascist dictator. Thankfully, the institutions of American democracy, though buckling under Trump's presidency, have remained intact, hemming him in in all kinds of ways and rendering him a remarkably weak president, institutionally speaking. Yet Trump's greatest power — his distinctive political genius — is demagoguery. He's a master of aiming low and succeeding at convincing a segment of the electorate that they should be unashamed and even proud of their basest impulses and prejudices, that they should give into their instinct toward bigotry and animus toward outsiders, even when those "outsiders" are, as in Omar's case, naturalized American citizens. That racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are crucially important and even absolutely necessary ingredients in the toxic stew is obvious to everyone who hasn't morally and intellectually blinded themselves for the sake of partisan gain. (Gee, I wonder why Trump has chosen to demonize and ostracize a handful of dark-skinned, first-term congresswomen instead of the clear Democratic frontrunner who also happens to be white and male. Must just be an innocent coincidence!) There you have it: Trumpism is undeniably fascistic, racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.

7-18-19 Calling out racism isn't political. It's our moral imperative.
President Trump's bigotry is ugly and obnoxious, but it sure seems to be popular with his biggest fans. On Wednesday night, the president held a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, and renewed his attacks on "the Squad" — four rookie Democrats in Congress, all women of color — and the crowd responded with chilling enthusiasm, erupting into chants of "Send her back!" as Trump singled out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). We don't use explicitly biblical language much in our increasingly secular society anymore, but sometimes it comes in handy. This is one of those times. We need to be clear about what we saw at this rally: It was racism. And racism is a sin. An abomination. Wrong. Evil. It is not merely a breach in decorum. It is not a case of bad manners. It is not just a risky political strategy. It is a sin. Where racism is empowered — politically or culturally — you will mostly find terrible violence against minorities, as well as a proliferation of cages. Racism powered the Holocaust, slavery, and Jim Crow. Racism inspires ethnic cleansing, church shootings, and synagogue massacres. So when racism presents itself to us — particularly when it is justified and encouraged by people in the highest precincts of power — we must push back and fight, even if there is a political cost. Perhaps that hardly needs to be said in the wake of this week's House vote to condemn Trump for last weekend's racist tweets directed at Omar and the Squad. But the controversy over those tweets has given rise to a genre of hand-wringing punditry and reporting suggesting that Democrats have given the president exactly what he wants by confronting him so forcefully — that appealing to racism is Trump's path to re-election in 2020. "While Democrats were publicly unanimous in their support of the resolution, some moderate lawmakers from Republican-leaning districts that backed Mr. Trump in 2016 privately voiced their discomfort," The New York Times reported. "They said that while the president's comments had been racist, the party was playing into his hands by spending so much time condemning his remarks." "The principled case for denunciation is strong. What though of the politics?" Jonathan Freedland added at The Guardian, noting, "Trump's calculation is that he can repeat in 2020 what he did in 2016, winning an electoral college majority by winning in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — and that he can edge a victory in those states by appealing to white voters stirred by racial resentment." (Webmaster's comment: In order words, White Racists!)

7-18-19 We told you so
President Trump's attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color known as "the Squad" this week appeared to mark a turning point in some people's understanding of the depths of Trump's racism. For example, after Trump told these women to "go back" to the countries from which they came, Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter for President Obama and host of Pod Save America, claimed that "We're not ready for how ugly he's going to make 2020." More than 6,000 people have retweeted this sentiment. Writer Jared Yates Sexton tweeted almost verbatim: "I don't think anyone's prepared for how ugly and racist and dangerous the 2020 Campaign is going to be." Vox writer Sean Illing agreed, saying, "2020 is going to be so much uglier than people think. Jesus." George Conway — husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — declared Trump "a racist president" in The Washington Post. Writing for The New Yorker, David Remnick wrote forebodingly about "the racist in the White House." To all of these observers, I say: Welcome, gentlemen. Where the hell have you been? Trump's history of aggressive acts of racism is long. In a press conference on Monday, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar — with fellow Squad members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) behind her — gave America a brief recap: "Right now, the president is carrying out mass deportations across the country ... committing human rights abuses at the border, keeping children in cages, and having human beings drink out of toilets ...This is a president who has called black athletes "sons of bitches"... called people who come from black and brown countries 'shitholes' ... equated neo-Nazis with those who protested against them in Charlottesville." There's more, of course. The evidence contradicting Trump's proclamation that he doesn't have "a Racist bone in my body!" is vast and damning. Yet it seems many men who've made a career of observing and participating in the political process are suddenly gobsmacked. Have they been sleeping on Trump's penchant for bigotry? Has this latest tirade — or the bigoted chants of "Send her back!" at a Trump rally Wednesday night — suddenly opened their eyes? People who are not white men — or, yes, half of white women — have been painfully aware of Trump's White is Right philosophy all along, and they've been sounding the alarms.

7-18-19 Trump and the everlasting problem of men demanding apologies from women
It was a busy weekend for President Trump on Twitter. You've no doubt heard the story by now: In the span of 24 hours, Trump posted a series of rapid-fire tweets aimed squarely at "the Squad" of four Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — telling them to "go back" to their home countries. These tweets revealed, yet again, the president's deeply racist and misogynistic character. But it was one of his follow-up tweets, posted July 15th, that demonstrated an equally troubling pattern with which many women are all too familiar: men demanding apologies from women. "When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said," Trump asked in his tweet. The question smacks of sexism: A grown man chastising women as if he were somehow superior to them, as if they need to be "put in their place." Never mind the foul language he himself has used to describe everything from his political opponents to entire countries. Never mind that most of Trump's accusations against these congresswomen were false. It didn't matter. These women, Trump believed, had misbehaved, and needed to pay the price of public humiliation and contrition. This kind of gaslighting behavior is peak misogyny, and most women are very familiar with it. The phrase "I'm sorry" may seem small and inconsequential. It's only two words and three syllables. And of course, men have been asked or forced to apologize for their actions, too. But the demanded apology's power over women is huge: Research shows that women are society's chief apologists, saying "I'm sorry" far more often than men. Indeed, society's tolerance for women who are anything but quiet and polite is low, and the punishment imposed on such a woman is shame and remorse. And it's not just society: Women themselves believe they should apologize more often for their actions. One 2010 study published in Psychological Science suggested that "women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior."

7-18-19 Donald Trump supporters chant 'send her back' at rally
US Democratic congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, has responded via Twitter after crowds at a presidential rally chanted "send her back." Donald Trump was cheered at the rally in North Carolina after continuing his attacks on the four non-white Democrat congresswomen, known as "the squad". The chanting resembled those Mr Trump's supporters had chanted against Hillary Clinton during his presidential campaign in 2016. (Webmaster's comment: Our president is evil beyond redemption!)

7-18-19 Trump sparks condemnation after supporters chant 'send her back'
The row between President Donald Trump and four Democratic congresswomen has escalated after his supporters chanted "send her back" at a campaign rally. The chant was directed at Somali-born lawmaker Ilhan Omar, though Mr Trump had also attacked three other non-white lawmakers during his speech. Ms Omar, who is a US citizen, responded on Twitter by quoting a poem by civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Ahead of the rally, a bid to impeach Mr Trump was blocked in Congress. The controversial chants took place at Mr Trump's campaign rally in North Carolina. Mr Trump was cheered on by the crowd of thousands as he again accused Ms Omar and her fellow congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashia Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley - known as "the squad" - of hating America. Critics say it echoed the "lock her up" phrase adopted by his supporters against Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. In response, Ms Omar tweeted lines from Maya Angelou's poem Still I Rise: "You may shoot me with your words...But still, like air, I'll rise." She later shared a photo of herself in the House of Representatives, saying, "I am where I belong". On Twitter, #IStandWithIlhan began trending as Democrats expressed their support for Ms Omar and criticised the president for prompting the chants with his rhetoric. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: "Trump is stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society." Senator Kamala Harris, another Democratic 2020 contender, described the actions as "vile". Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer drew comparisons to dictatorships. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi simply told reporters: "We condemned the president's comments the other day. That's our statement." Some conservatives have also censured the use of the phrase.

7-17-19 US House condemns Trump attacks on congresswomen as racist
The US House of Representatives has voted to condemn President Donald Trump after a series of attacks aimed at four congresswomen. The symbolic resolution denounced Mr Trump's "racist comments that have legitimised fear and hatred of New Americans and people of colour". Mr Trump had been accused of racism and xenophobia for telling the members of congress to leave the country. The president has since tweeted: "I don't have a Racist bone in my body!" Tuesday's debate in the Democratic-controlled chamber was a highly polarised debate, with various Republicans insisting the vote itself was a breach of decorum. It passed by 240 votes to 187. Four Republicans and the House's sole independent, former Republican lawmaker Justin Amash, joined all 235 Democrats to approve the resolution. The four Republicans were Texas congressman Will Hurd (the party's only African American representative), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), Fred Upton (Michigan) and Susan Brooks (Indiana). Passing a resolution - which is a statement of opinion and not legally binding - criticising presidential conduct is very rare. In a series of tweets on Sunday, the president said Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" and should "go back". Mr Trump did not explicitly name the women - all four of whom are US citizens - in his initial Twitter tirade, but the context made a clear link to the four Democratic congresswomen, who are known as The Squad. The congresswomen dismissed the comments as a distraction on Monday, and urged people instead to focus on policies rather than the president's words. (Webmaster's comment: And the majority of the Republicans prove to be as racist as our President!)

7-17-19 What Americans make of Trump 'go back' tweets
President Donald Trump telling four congresswomen to "go back" to the countries where they came from has caused a storm in Washington's political circles. But what do people beyond the nation's capital think? The president's tweets have pushed people even further into two camps - those who love him, and those who hate him. In Leesburg, Virginia, the two camps are represented, with both sides equally passionate in their views. Susy Moorstein, an antique dealer, says that she's scared after seeing his tweets. "They're beyond the pale." She adds: "It just brings out the worst in everyone." Moorstein spoke about the president and his tweets while standing in an alleyway in downtown Leesburg, a town that is located about 40 miles from Washington. "We have racial issues in the country that we're trying to work through, and he just constantly seems to antagonise," says Moorstein. She says she voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election - it was not so much a vote for Clinton, she says, but a vote against Trump. Moorstein says that she finds the president's comments about the lawmakers, all Democrats, and his public statements, words that she characterises as racist, deeply upsetting. "It's very scary," she says, explaining that sometimes she feels as though she is in the midst of a bad dream. The row began on Sunday when Trump wrote on social media that lawmakers who criticise the US should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done". His insult was directed at four female members of Congress - Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Queens, New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, all of whom are women of colour. The Democratic leadership was forceful in its condemnation. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the US House of Representatives, fired back at the president for his tweets and said that his popular slogan, Make America Great Again, was really about "making America white again". (Webmaster's comment: Hitler said the same kind of things about the Jews!)

7-17-19 'The Squad' condemn Trump's 'racist' tweets in CBS interview
Democratic congresswomen targeted by President Trump's tweets have condemned them in an interview with CBS's This Morning show. Rashida Tlaib called the US president "the biggest bully [she's] ever had to deal with". Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined her colleague in condemning Republicans for not standing up to Mr Trump over his social media posts. The interview came as the US House of Representatives voted to symbolically condemn Mr Trump after a series of what they called "racist comments". (Webmaster's comment: What Trump is trying to do is normalize racism. Then he can mobilize the racists in the country to do his bidding and physically attack non-whites!)

7-17-19 The utterly pathetic Republican Party
There's not a shred of dignity or self-respect left in Trump's GOP. Watching Tuesday's sordid spectacle of House Republicans indulging in camera-ready displays of sputtering indignation at the thoroughly shocking suggestion of Democrats in the chamber that President Trump may just possibly be ever-so-slightly racist, my mind turned to thoughts of Jason Bourne. After three feature-length films in which the super-assassin who suffers from amnesia slowly uncovers the truth about the extent of the brainwashing he endured in a secret CIA program, Bourne stands face to face with the latest in a long line of assassins from the same program who've been sent to kill him. Summing up all he's learned about himself and the men who erased his former identity while turning him into a highly efficient killing machine, Bourne mutters to his counterpart with weary wisdom, "Look what they make you give." Look what Trump has made Republicans give: their standards and principles, their judgment and intelligence, their honor and pride, their souls. For nearly three years now (since he was anointed the Republican Party's standard bearer at the 2016 GOP nominating convention), they have carried his pestilential water. And where has it left them? Pretending they aren't disgusted by the man who leads their party and governs the country in their name. It's become commonplace on the right for elected officials and their media cheerleaders to speak as if Trump is some kind of political Svengali ruthlessly manipulating his enemies into acts of self-destruction. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was attempting last week to marginalize "the Squad" of troublemaking lefty backbenchers, and Trump's "racially charged" tweets about them on Sunday morning forced Pelosi to embrace them anew. Genius! Except that isn't what's happened at all. Even if we conveniently forget that Trump's always-anemic approval rating hit rock bottom in the days following his expression of even-handed sympathy for the "very fine" neo-Nazis who terrorized Charlottesville in August 2017, we have ample reason to doubt Trump is deploying an effective strategy for the early stages of his re-election campaign.

7-16-19 The rebuke is part of the coverup
The president of the United States took to Twitter this week to ask a group of progressive congresswomen of color to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." The president's racist fulminations, obviously aimed at the self-styled "Squad" of newly-elected Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (born in Detroit), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (born in Queens), Ayanna Pressley (born in Cincinnati), and Ilhan Omar (born in Somalia), generated stern newspaper headlines and outrage from out-of-office Republicans like former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, but comparatively little reaction from elected members of the party. Then on Monday, a flurry of Republican officeholders bent to public pressure and issued tame statements of distaste for the president's behavior. Most of those who did speak up, like New York Rep. Elise Stefanek and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, made sure to include a blistering attack on Ocasio-Cortez and her allies as part of their "denunciations." Others, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, condemned the tweets but refused to admit that they were racist. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far said nothing. This is a pattern that goes back to the very first days of Donald Trump's campaign in 2015 — long periods of silence about and complicity with the president's daily outrages and racist agenda, with sporadic pushback assigned to suburb-soothers before everyone moves along and forgets it ever happened. The cast of this choreographed dance has changed substantially since the 2018 midterms. Gone are former House Speaker Paul Ryan and his intermittent, hangdog denunciations of President Trump's outrages, former Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker's G-rated acts of calculated pushback, and former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake's tortured indecision. The harrumphing is now assigned to people like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Will Hurd. But make no mistake, the song remains the same. Republicans at every level of government eagerly grant their cooperation with, if not their outright endorsement of, Trump's ugly racism, while a handful of public-facing figures seek to reassure wavering moderates that they are still in the right party.

7-16-19 Trump is an apocalypse
The last book of the Bible is an apocalypse. We call it "Revelation" in English, but in the Greek it's apokalypsis, as in, the "apokalypsis of Jesus Christ ... to his servant John." Apokalypsis does not mean "catastrophe." There is plenty of that in Revelation, but our use of "apocalypse" as a synonym for world-ending disaster is the result of this book, not the other way around. Apokalypsis is a literary genre our culture has abandoned, and it simply means "revealing." (Thus, "Revelation.") The concept is one of unmasking, of unveiling a previously hidden truth. The display is necessary, but that doesn't make it happy. Seeing it can feel like the end of the world. Apokalypsis is a moment of exposure, a paradigm shift. It's suddenly realizing you were in the wrong. It's finally admitting a relationship is over. It's turning on the light and seeing cockroaches scatter. President Trump is an apocalypse. "The most useful thing about Donald Trump is that he coaxes many people into revealing their worst character traits in defense of him," tweeted Corie Whalen, a freelance writer and former communications director for Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), after the president's go back to where you came from remarks. "I've learned a lot of terrible things about many folks I was once comfortable associating with," Whalen added. "I'm a whole lot more cautious now." Regardless of whether and how politics should rejigger our relationships, Trump's apocalypse will surely elicit the impulse. The four years since he rode that golden escalator into our national consciousness have often been described as "polarizing," and that's not wrong. But much of the discord over Trump we're experiencing is not new movement to political extremes but a revelation of what was already there. Trump has surely catalyzed division in our polity, but I suspect he has done much more to merely expose realities previously unnoticed, hidden, or ignored.

7-15-19 Trumpism is built on racism
President Trump is a racist. This is the most important issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Everything else is secondary. If that wasn't clear before, it should be now. Trump over the weekend pushed a series of tweets calling on a group of rookie Democrats in Congress, all of them women of color, to "go back" to where they came from rather than criticize the government he leads. His outburst was nonsensical, of course — all four women are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the United States — but also telling. No matter the facts, Trump casts people of color as not-quite-American. His white critics never seem to get the same treatment. That's not a coincidence. Trump's appeal to racism and racists has always been the most important element of his public identity. There are times when it seems like his xenophobic politics are losing their power to shock. But there are also times — and in his recent statements, we have a prime example — when the president offers a fresh reminder to Americans that his outlook is fundamentally toxic, and it is necessary that his term of office be brought to an end as soon as possible. This is not just a cosmetic political issue. Many of Trump's worst policies are arguably race-related: His administration's bids to undo the Affordable Care Act and scuttle the joint agreement halting Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon do not stem from any real ideological motivation on his part — instead, he seems motivated primarily to undo the most notable policy achievements of his predecessor. Former President Barack Obama, of course, was another black politician whose citizenship was called into question by Trump. Again: That is probably not a coincidence. Prejudice spans the breadth of presidential policymaking under Trump. His policies on immigration are designed to appeal to conservatives who believe the "ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners" is a national emergency. His administration's positions on the Census citizenship question, voting rights, and police powers, likewise, appear to be aimed mostly at preserving white political power in this country. Even his well-documented misogyny finds its fullest flower when aimed at women of color. Racism is the foundation upon which Trumpist governance and politics are built.

7-16-19 Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?
Americans' confidence in organized religion is down again this year, continuing the gradual deterioration evident over the past several decades. As my colleague Justin McCarthy pointed out in his recent review of Gallup's annual update on confidence in institutions, 68% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion in 1975. As recently as 1985, organized religion was the most revered institution among the list of institutions Gallup tracks. Confidence fell below the majority level for the first time in 2002, and with some fluctuations along the way, confidence this year has reached a new low of 36%. Organized religion has lost its exceptionalism, and Americans now view it little differently than they view a number of other institutions in contemporary U.S. society. Confidence in organized religion is in the middle of the pack of the 15 institutions tested this year. It's important to note that U.S. culture, norms and patterns of social behavior are always in flux, and religion is part of this inevitable cycle of change in the nation's sociological fabric as years and decades go by. Americans' confidence in many (but not all) institutions has been declining in recent years, and organized religion is to some degree being swept along with this trend. Out of the 15 institutions measured this year, for example, only three have confidence ratings above the majority level -- the military, small business and the police. Americans' faith in the most important institution of all -- government -- is at or near all-time lows.

7-16-19 Trump's asylum crackdown: Will the 'safe third country' plan work?
The Trump administration has announced a new rule to curb Central American asylum claims in the US. The measures say migrants must apply for asylum in the first country they pass through en route to the US or they will be ineligible for consideration. The plan goes into effect on Tuesday 16 July, having been unveiled the previous day. Will it be possible? Here is a look at the various complications. Migrants arriving at the US southern border are largely coming from Central American countries, including violence-stricken Honduras and El Salvador. Most travel overland, passing through other countries en route. The US wants them to stop in the first place outside their own country. It is making these changes because its migration services are overwhelmed. However, other countries would also struggle to cope, and Mexico and Guatemala will be the most affected by this new plan as they are closer to the US. Amnesty International says the Mexican asylum system is "underfunded, absolutely beyond its capacity and inadequate in identifying even valued asylum claims". There is also a backlog of people who have already made the journey and are now stuck at the US southern border. The US had already imposed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program - also known as "Remain in Mexico" - which forces asylum seekers to wait for their US court hearings on Mexican soil. Migrants would only be expected to apply in another country if it is deemed "safe". However, Central American migrants are also often deliberately sought out by gangs in neighbouring countries, because they are vulnerable. Many have reported finding the journey north as dangerous as their lives at home. The US cannot declare a country to be a safe without the formal agreement of the place in question. The US and Canada have such a reciprocal agreement. When asylum seekers arrive in the US from somewhere else, via Canada, they will be sent back to Canadian immigration authorities. The same applies in reverse. So far, Mexico has so far rejected the US plan.

7-16-19 US migrant crisis: Trump seeks to curb Central America asylum claims
The Trump administration is seeking to curb migration from Central America by introducing new rules over who can claim asylum in the US. The measures, unveiled on Monday, say migrants who fail to apply for asylum in the first country they pass through en route to the US will be ineligible. Migrants who have been trafficked will be exempt from the ban. Mexico has rejected the measures and the American Civil Liberties Union has mounted a legal challenge. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was "deeply concerned" over the new rules. Announcing the rule change, Attorney General William Barr said it would deter "economic migrants" from exploiting the US asylum system. "The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border," Mr Barr said in a statement. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, however, said his country would not become a dumping ground for those rejected by the US and would not return refugees to danger zones. "Mexico does not agree with measures that limit access to asylum and refuge," he told reporters. In a statement, the UNHCR said the measures would "endanger vulnerable people in need of international protection from violence or persecution." "This measure is severe and is not the best way forward," it added. It is not clear what will now happen to asylum seekers rejected by the US at the border with Mexico. The new regulations are the Trump administration's latest attempt to toughen the US asylum process as increasing numbers of Central American migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border. The US announcement comes after a court in Guatemala temporarily blocked a migration deal which could have seen the Central American nation defined as a "safe third country". Migrants from other countries en route to the US would have had to apply for asylum in Guatemala under the agreement.

7-16-19 Congresswomen hit back in Trump race row
Four congresswomen attacked by President Trump in a series of tweets have dismissed his comments. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib said the tweets were a distraction from their criticism of the president's border control policy.

7-15-19 Trumpism is built on racism
Both must be driven from American politics as soon as possible. President Trump is a racist. This is the most important issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Everything else is secondary. If that wasn't clear before, it should be now.Trump over the weekend pushed a series of tweets calling on a group of rookie Democrats in Congress, all of them women of color, to "go back" to where they came from rather than criticize the government he leads. His outburst was nonsensical, of course — all four women are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the United States — but also telling. No matter the facts, Trump casts people of color as not-quite-American. His white critics never seem to get the same treatment. That's not a coincidence. Trump's appeal to racism and racists has always been the most important element of his public identity. There are times when it seems like his xenophobic politics are losing their power to shock. But there are also times — and in his recent statements, we have a prime example — when the president offers a fresh reminder to Americans that his outlook is fundamentally toxic, and it is necessary that his term of office be brought to an end as soon as possible. This is not just a cosmetic political issue. Many of Trump's worst policies are arguably race-related: His administration's bids to undo the Affordable Care Act and scuttle the joint agreement halting Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon do not stem from any real ideological motivation on his part — instead, he seems motivated primarily to undo the most notable policy achievements of his predecessor. Former President Barack Obama, of course, was another black politician whose citizenship was called into question by Trump. Again: That is probably not a coincidence. Prejudice spans the breadth of presidential policymaking under Trump. His policies on immigration are designed to appeal to conservatives who believe the "ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners" is a national emergency. His administration's positions on the Census citizenship question, voting rights, and police powers, likewise, appear to be aimed mostly at preserving white political power in this country. Even his well-documented misogyny finds its fullest flower when aimed at women of color. Racism is the foundation upon which Trumpist governance and politics are built.

7-15-19 Theresa May condemns Trump's 'go home' remark to congresswomen
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has criticised US President Donald Trump for calling on several Democratic congresswomen of colour to "go home". The outgoing PM called Mr Trump's words "completely unacceptable", according to her spokesperson. Mr Trump said the women "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe". He was referring to four congresswomen - three who were born in the US and one who came as a child refugee. His remarks were widely condemned as racist, and as having gone beyond previous statements and actions by the president that drew allegations of racism. Prospective Democratic presidential candidates denounced Mr Trump's tweets as racist and divisive. Republican Party representatives largely kept quiet. Despite the criticism, President Trump launched another Twitter tirade on Monday morning, calling on the women themselves to apologise. The women - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a refugee aged 12 - all called the president racist and were been backed by members of the Democratic Party. Ms Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx in New York, approximately 12 miles away from the Queens hospital where Mr Trump was born. Mrs May resigned as UK prime minister in June after being unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament. Two candidates in the governing Conservative Party are currently vying to replace her. In Sunday's three-tweet thread, Mr Trump accused the congresswomen of "viciously" criticising him and the US. The president did not explicitly name the women, but the context - and references to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - made a clear link. He said Ms Pelosi would happily organise for them to leave the country.

7-15-19 US migrant crisis: Trump seeks to curb Central America asylum claims
The Trump administration is seeking to curb migration from Central America by introducing new rules over who can claim asylum in the US. Under the new rules, announced on Monday, migrants who travel via another country before reaching the US border will be ineligible for US asylum. Migrants who have been trafficked will be exempt from the ban. A legal challenge against the US restrictions is expected, the Associated Press news agency reports. Announcing the rule change, Attorney General Bill Barr said it would deter "economic migrants" from exploiting the US asylum system. "The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border," Mr Barr said in a statement. The move comes after a court in Guatemala temporarily blocked a migration deal which could have seen the Central American nation defined as a "safe third country". The Trump administration has suspended aid to Guatemala, as well as Honduras and El Salvador, arguing they are not doing enough to curb the migrant flow. Guatemala's president, Jimmy Morales, has been under pressure from the US, but Guatemala's constitutional court granted an injunction late on Sunday which effectively blocks him from signing the deal. "Safe third country" agreements require migrants to seek asylum in the first country designated as "safe" they reach rather than proceed to a country of their choice. Such a deal would affect the thousands of Hondurans and Salvadoreans who cross Guatemala on their way north to the US, who - under such a deal - would face being sent back to Guatemala, the first "safe" country they entered.

7-14-19 How American policy has separated refugee families
When Wajed al-Khalifa and her family arrived in the U.S. as refugees in 2015, everything about America seemed foreign. They were resettled to Turlock, California, a rural city about two hours east of San Francisco. Yet it wasn't long before they started hitting milestones. Khalifa and her husband, Gasem al-Hamad, got driver's licenses. Their four kids excelled in school, quickly overcoming barriers such as English-language instruction and a new education system. It was a big change after fleeing war in Syria, living in limbo in Jordan for more than two years, and then being accepted to resettle in the U.S. as refugees. Lately, there have been more milestones, the biggest being a new baby girl — the family's first U.S. citizen child. Their son Mohamed, now 5, has also sprouted up. He and his siblings seamlessly switch between English and Arabic. Hamad is also picking up more English. "A little bit better!" he says. "I go with my kids to school, I talk to the teacher. Every day I'm learning something different." Khalifa, his wife, is just starting to learn English at home; a tutor comes to the house twice a week at no charge, she says. Hamad, 38, still works at the same halal slaughterhouse where he got a job when he first arrived. It's tough, messy, physical work, similar to what he did in Homs, Syria. But now he is pretty much supervising the place and earning $16 an hour, up from $9 when he first started. "My boss says, inshallah, in a few months, he'll make me more," Hamad said. More financial stability means the family has transitioned from food stamps and has moved from their previous cramped apartment to a single-story, three-bedroom home with a spacious backyard, where Hamad grows onions and tomatoes — just like he did in Syria. Yet some aspects of their lives are stuck — and may be for a while. Hamad's older brother remains stuck in Jordan. He had been accepted to be resettled in the U.S., too, and had his plane ticket ready to fly in January 2017, Hamad said. Then, President Trump's travel ban, issued his first week in office, blocked Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., along with people from several other Muslim-majority countries. One consequence of the policy change is separated families. Hamad does not know when he will see his brother again. His brother's son, who is Hamad's nephew, did make it to the U.S. — just one month before Trump took office. So father and son were split by a sudden shift in policy.

7-15-19 Inside Iran: What Iranians think of stand-off with US
As tensions rise between Iran, the US and its allies, the BBC has been given rare access to Iran. Even in the sweltering summer months, you can still see snow on the towering peaks of the Alborz mountains that form the stunning backdrop to the Iranian capital. Tehran's wealthiest suburbs cling to the slopes, which provide respite from the heat and the pollution that choke this city of almost nine million people. At the weekends, many Iranians - young and old - take to the trails with their rucksacks and hiking sticks to leave the city behind them. But even up in the clean mountain air there is no escape from the US sanctions. "Who's not suffering?" asks one man rhetorically. As if to make the point, he shows me his climbing clip, hanging from his belt. It now cost four times what it did a year ago. Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran last year after he unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. The US president said the previous deal was too generous to Iran and gave the country a free hand to develop ballistic missiles and meddle in the Middle East. Mr Trump wants to use "maximum pressure" to force Iran back to the negotiating table. Many fear it could lead to conflict. Iran is furious. It feels betrayed by the US and abandoned by European countries that still support the deal - the UK, France and Germany. America's decision has strengthened the hardliners here who say that Washington should never have been trusted in the first place. That mistrust of the US (and the UK) runs deep in Iran, after both countries orchestrated a coup that ousted Iran's democratically elected prime minister in 1953. (Webmaster's comment: The United States has every intent on attacking Iran and killing innocent men, women, and children by the tens of thousands. It's what the U.S. does just like it did for the last 120 years in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Iraq wars.)

7-14-19 Inside Iran: Iranians on Trump and the nuclear deal
As tensions rise between Iran, the United States and its allies, the BBC has been given rare access to Iran. Iranians remain furious that President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal last year and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country. Our correspondent Martin Patience, along with cameraman Nik Millard and producer Cara Swift, have been in Tehran and the holy city of Qom, talking to Iranians about the escalating crisis. While in country, recording access was controlled – as with all foreign media the team was accompanied by a government representative at all times. (Webmaster's comment: The United States has every intent on attacking Iran and killing innocent men, women, and children by the tens of thousands. It's what the U.S. does just like it did for the last 120 years in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Iraq wars.)

7-14-19 Megan Rapinoe: Why is America's newest hero so polarising?
She won the World Cup, was player of the tournament and top scorer, then stole the show at the ticker tape parade with both her swagger and her speech - but Megan Rapinoe is also a polarising figure who inspires anger as well as adoration. Why? The summer so far has belonged to the 33-year-old co-captain of the US women's soccer team who scored six goals as the reigning world champions retained their crown. She's been on talk shows and magazine covers, and children across America - girls and boys alike - are out practicing their football skills, dreaming of becoming the next Megan Rapinoe. But just a day after that triumph in France, while Rapinoe and her teammates were probably still partying, public posters of the star back in her homeland were being vandalised. Homophobic slurs were scrawled across them, and New York police say they are investigating a possible hate crime. Online, where her goal celebrations and dance moves sparked joyous memes, you will also find comments denigrating her attitude and activism, some even questioning her patriotism. One conservative commentator insists she is actually a bad role model for girls. "They look up to her and see not a disciplined, respectful sports icon, but a groundlessly bitter, petulant celebrity who is totally ungrateful for the opportunities she's had," wrote Brad Polumbo. While most critics say their dislike for the athlete has nothing to do with her sexuality, the kind of American hero that Rapinoe represents - strong, gay and female - is clearly triggering to some. In a viral video filmed by a teammate, Rapinoe was seen yelling "I deserve this" into the camera before taking a swig of champagne aboard the open-top bus driving through Manhattan. Such a display of unabashed confidence is not customary for women, says University of California Berkeley history professor Bonnie Morris. Women are traditionally expected to "put themselves down and be modest". (Webmaster's comment: Well to hell with that!) "Women are very careful not to seem too assertive or knowledgeable because it's taken as a kind of cockiness that is a turn-off to men," she explains. However, the openly gay athlete does not appear fussed about how she comes across to men. When Rapinoe posed confidently with her head held high after one of her World Cup goals, the image took off on the internet with many people praising her confidence. Others, though, called her egotistical. "Nobody knows what to do with Megan because she's attractive, smart and a fantastic athlete," says Ms Morris. "She's earned the right to present herself as capable, but still people don't want to let her show pride." There is a double standard, she says. Male athletes can be brash and pound their chests without being criticised, adds Ms Morris, but because Rapinoe is a pink-haired lesbian willing to take on President Trump, she is startling people who haven't encountered anyone like her before. (Webmaster's comment: One hell of a hero!)

7-14-19 US-Mexico border: Step into the shoes of a migrant
Since October, almost 700,000 people have been detained crossing the border from Mexico into the US, a huge jump on previous years. The large number of new arrivals has proven to be a polarising issue. Democrats have cited the separation of migrant families and the "ticking time bomb" of poor conditions in detention centres. Republicans have demanded funding to tighten security on the border. The reasons people give for trying to reach the US are varied - family, better economic opportunity, or the chance to escape the threat of violence. Here, we have focused on the story of one woman, Maria, who represents many of those seeking to make the journey. In her case, like many others, she has made the decision to flee violence in El Salvador. Maria is fictional. But everything that happens to her here is based on the real experiences of migrants who have travelled to America, experiences that have been documented by rights groups, journalists and lawyers. See for yourself the decisions and dangers a migrant like Maria may face. (Webmaster's comment: These women have enormous courage and we should do everything we can to help them!)

7-14-19 Armed man dies after police shooting at Tacoma immigration jail
An armed man who attacked an immigration detention centre in the US city of Tacoma died after police officers opened fire, authorities say. Police said they received reports that a man, armed with a rifle, was throwing "incendiary devices" at the Northwest Detention Center early on Saturday. He was later identified as Willem Van Spronsen, who was reportedly involved in an earlier protest at the centre. The shooting came a day before a major deportation operation was due to begin. The raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials will target hundreds of immigrant families across 10 cities who have recently been ordered deported but have not yet left the country. It marks the latest move in US President Donald Trump's crackdown on migration. Sunday's raids are not expected to affect Tacoma. A police spokesperson told Reuters the incident on Saturday took place several hours after a peaceful rally outside the Washington state facility protesting against immigrant detentions. In a statement, the Tacoma Police Department said the four police officers involved in the shooting had been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure in such cases, and an investigation into the incident was underway. Police arrived at the privately run Northwest Detention Center at about 04:00 local time (11:00 GMT) after receiving reports that a man was throwing "incendiary devices" at the facility and at vehicles in the car park, the statement said. The man allegedly set a vehicle on fire and attempted to ignite a propane tank and set buildings on fire. Officers said he was wearing a satchel and carrying flares. Tacoma Police Department confirmed that all four officers opened fire on the suspect, while it remains unclear if he fired at the officers. He was found shot dead at the scene. A police official said it could not yet be confirmed who was responsible for his death. (Webmaster's comment: That's why four police shot him, no single policeman can be found guilty of his death!)

7-13-19 Suspected carjacker dies after 'mob justice' in Philadelphia
A couple have been questioned by police and may face charges after a suspected carjacker was beaten by a mob and died in the US city of Philadelphia. Police say the man who died had tried on Thursday to steal a woman's car with her three young children inside. The woman's boyfriend, the father of two of the children, managed to chase the car when it got stuck in traffic. The suspect, 54, was then pulled out of the vehicle and beaten by the boyfriend and some local residents, police say. The suspected carjacker was unconscious when emergency services arrived at the scene shortly afterwards. He later died in a local hospital.The couple who were questioned by police are both aged 25. They have not been identified. "I'm not a fan of street justice," Philadelphia Police Capt Jason Smith was quoted as saying by CBS. "I think everything should play out through us as it comes to criminal actions," he added. (Webmaster's comment: The return of vigilanty justice to America. Next will be mob lynchings!)

7-13-19 US cop fired over deadly shooting 'rehired to get pension'
A US police officer who was fired after shooting dead an unarmed man was temporarily rehired so he could apply for a pension, local media report. Philip Brailsford, 28, killed 26-year-old Daniel Shaver in the hallway of an Arizona hotel in early 2016. He was fired and charged with murder - but was acquitted at trial in 2017. Records show that he was briefly rehired last year so he could apply for a lifetime pension worth more than $2,500 (£2,000) a month. The move meant he could be medically retired - rather than fired - which made him eligible for the pension. "He was eligible for retirement benefits, so he applied for them," local official Chris Brady told ABC News. He added that Mr Brailsford had submitted a claim of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in connection with the shooting. The former officer signed an agreement with city officials that allowed him to apply for an accidental disability pension and medical retirement, the Mesa Police Department said. Records, seen by the Arizona Republic newspaper, show that Mr Brailsford was reinstated for 42 days last August so he could make the application. "[He] was not in any way fulfilling a capacity as a police officer" during this time, a police spokesman told the newspaper. Mr Shaver was confronted by police responding to a report of a man pointing a gun out of a hotel room window in January 2016.Bodycam footage of the incident, released after Mr Brailsford was acquitted, showed Mr Shaver on his knees asking officers not to shoot him. But he was shot five times with a semi-automatic rifle as he crawled towards the officers while sobbing. (Webmaster's comment: Murdering cop gets off and gets retirement pay to boot!)

7-13-19 Christchurch shootings: New Zealanders hand over guns
New Zealanders have started handing over their semi-automatic weapons as part of a buyback scheme following a ban after the Christchurch attacks. Gun reforms were enacted after a gunman shot dead 51 people at two mosques in March. Saturday's handover in Christchurch was the first of more than 250 collections to be held across the country. More than NZ$433,600 (£230,000) was paid in compensation to 169 firearms owners, who handed in 224 weapons. The weapons were then destroyed. "Police recognise that this is a big change for the law-abiding firearms community and we are hearing really positive feedback from people as they come through today that they are finding the process works well for them," regional police commander Mike Johnson said. More than 900 gun owners in the Canterbury region had registered to hand over 1,415 firearms, he added. One gun owner, who requested anonymity, was pleased with the NZ$13,000 (£6,900) he received for his semi-automatic hunting firearm. "I didn't think this would be a fair process at all - I wasn't particularly happy about it. But the outcome was good and they handled it well," he told the New Zealand Herald newspaper. However, not everyone was happy with the collection. Christchurch firearm owner Vincent Sanders told TV New Zealand that he would be staying away after being offered just $150 for his grandfather's 100-year-old gun. "They've rushed through the entire process, they gave us two days for submissions, paid no attention - and forced it through," he said. The government has pledged NZ$208 million (£110 million) for the scheme. The gun reform bill was passed by 119-1 in April to prohibit military-style semi-automatic weapons and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms. (Webmaster's comment: With the record number of mass murders we have in the United States we should do this too!)

7-13-19 Kursk WW2: Why Russia is still fighting world's biggest tank battle
Winning the biggest tank battle in history - against Nazi Germany at Kursk in 1943 - remains a great source of pride for Russians. So it is not surprising that Russian officials have lashed out at Western historians for questioning the Red Army's mastery of the battlefield. For decades Russians have seen no reason to doubt Soviet military historians, who portrayed the Battle of Prokhorovka on 12 July 1943 as a turning-point, where the Red Army seized the initiative, then rolled back the Nazi armour. The wider Battle of Kursk - from 5 July to 23 August 1943 - was indeed a turning-point in World War Two. Soviet forces thwarted a huge Nazi counter-attack, after Adolf Hitler's troops had suffered a colossal defeat at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43. But recently a British historian, Ben Wheatley, analysed German Luftwaffe aerial photos of the Prokhorovka battlefield, taken on 14-16 July, when the area was still in German hands. The photos were found in the US National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Wheatley's assessment, backed by detailed study of battle reports and historical archives, is that on 12 July the Germans lost just five Panzer IV tanks at Prokhorovka, but decimated "kamikaze" Soviet tank formations, turning more than 200 Soviet tanks into smouldering wrecks. He writes that dozens of Soviet T-34 tanks tumbled into an anti-tank ditch 4.5m (15ft) deep, dug by Soviet infantry, and when the Red Army realised its mistake other T-34s started queuing up to cross a bridge. German tanks were easily able to pick them off at the bridge. Wheatley and a German military historian, Karl-Heinz Frieser, were cited in a feature in the German daily Die Welt, which hit a Russian raw nerve. (Webmaster's comment: Bottom line: Kursk was the last gasp of the evil Nazis. From there Russian killed tens of thousands of Nazis all the way back to Berlin! And along the way freed all those who remained alive in the German death camps.)

7-12-19 Gerrymandering: A green light from SCOTUS
The Supreme Court just invited state legislators to go on a frenzy of gerrymandering, said Mitch Smith and Timothy Williams in The New York Times. In a 5-4 decision last week, the court’s conservative justices ruled that federal courts are powerless to stop state lawmakers from drawing electoral maps to favor their own party, no matter how outrageously partisan those efforts are. Writing for the majority in Rucho v. Common Cause, Chief Justice John Roberts conceded that partisan gerrymandering “leads to results that reasonably seem unjust”—but that the drawing of election districts is a “political question” beyond the judiciary branch’s authority. States will set new state and congressional maps after the 2020 census, and the court has now left the door wide open for the winning political party to cement its power for the next decade. We all know who’s meant to benefit from this decision, said Zack Beauchamp in Both parties gerrymander, but “there is no doubt that Republicans do it more and more shamelessly.” The GOP has used its dominance in state legislatures over the past decade to aggressively pack large numbers of Democratic voters into a handful of districts. Often these districts are urban and heavily black and Latino, diluting their representation and giving a fewer number of rural whites control of most state legislative and congressional seats. In 2018, for example, Republicans won 50 percent of the House vote in North Carolina but got 70 percent of House seats. The court’s decision “seriously undermines our already fragile democracy,” said Eric Foner in “What is the difference between being denied access to the ballot box and living in a district designed so that your party is guaranteed to lose?”

7-12-19 Venezuela: Crushing the opposition with death squads
The United Nations has laid out in grim detail exactly how Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro has clung to power, said Américo Martín in Tal Cual (Venezuela). Maduro initially welcomed the investigation by U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet because he thought she was an ally—as the leftist president of Chile from 2014 to 2018, Bachelet was one of the few world leaders who refrained from criticizing Maduro. But her report is damning. Bachelet describes how members of Maduro’s security forces have subjected detained members of the opposition to “electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, waterboarding, beatings, sexual violence, water and food deprivation,” and other forms of torture. The Special Action Forces—which are officially tasked with combating drugs and crime but are known as “death squads” by ordinary Venezuelans—killed 5,287 people last year and another 1,569 by mid-May this year. The casualties mostly occurred during raids following anti-Maduro protests, said Fermín Mármol García in France’s Aleteia?.org. Evidence suggests that many of these killings were “extrajudicial executions perpetrated by the security forces.” It’s not just the human rights abuses, hideous as they are, said Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star (Canada). Bachelet also details Venezuela’s descent into dire poverty under Maduro. Basic services like water and electricity have collapsed, thanks to “misallocation of resources, corruption, and lack of maintenance.” Food is so scarce that the government uses ration cards “as a means of social control, rewarding its political supporters and punishing its enemies.” The press has been all but shut down and the judiciary co-opted. When the last free elections, held in late 2015, gave the opposition control of the National Assembly, Maduro stripped the legislature of authority and created his own Constituent Assembly to replace it. At least 4 million desperate people have fled the country.

7-12-19 Trump owns the border catastrophe
In America’s squalid border facilities, even children are treated worse than prisoners of war, said Max Boot, yet President Trump “gives every appearance that he could not care less.” New investigations of these facilities should shock anyone with a conscience: Adults were crowded in so tightly at one camp they could not lie down, and at the detention center in Clint, Texas, up to 700 children, “some as young as 5 months old,” lack sufficient beds and have no place to wash. Outbreaks of chicken pox and other illnesses are rampant, and the stench is so overwhelming that agents’ clothes reek. Trump is blaming everyone but himself, including the migrants for seeking legal asylum in the first place. But it’s Trump’s “incompetence” and cruelty that have turned a crisis into a catastrophe. His only strategy for discouraging Central American migration has been to signal to Border Patrol agents “that they have carte blanche to be as brutal as they want to be.” In a Facebook group of roughly 9,500 current and former agents, members routinely mocked the suffering of migrants and referred to them with racial slurs. Trump “will never escape responsibility for this horror show.”

7-12-19 Obamacare in jeopardy
A panel of federal judges voiced skepticism this week about the Affordable Care Act, signaling that they are inclined to affirm a Texas court’s decision to strike down the entire healthcare law. Eighteen GOP-led states brought the lawsuit after Congress eliminated a tax on the uninsured—the “individual mandate”; the mandate had been seen as putting the law within the sphere of Congress’ power to tax and spend. The states and the Trump administration argue that without that tax the entire law is void. House Democrats and 20 Democratic-led states insist most ACA provisions, such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions, can exist independent of the individual mandate. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision will almost certainly prompt a review by the Supreme Court, which has twice upheld the ACA. (Webmaster's comment: Prepare yourself for no longer getting any healthcare insurance. You're going to have to pay full price or die!)

7-12-19 No pardon needed
Navy SEAL platoon leader Eddie Gallagher was found not guilty last week of the first-degree murder of a teenage ISIS captive in Mosul, Iraq, a verdict celebrated by Republicans who’d rallied around Gallagher’s case. A military jury also found Gallagher, 40, not guilty of shooting at Iraqi civilians and threatening fellow SEALs who’d reported him. Gallagher was convicted of posing for pictures with the dead captive’s body in 2017, a charge he hadn’t contested, resulting in a fine and demotion. Two witnesses said they saw Gallagher stab the victim with a hunting knife, yet one of them, SEAL medic Corey Scott, shockingly changed his account on the stand and said that although Gallagher stabbed the captive, Scott then suffocated him. Scott had been given immunity for his testimony. After the verdict, Trump, who’d had Gallagher removed from pretrial confinement and dangled a pardon, said, “Glad I could help!”

7-12-19 Justice for disappeared
An Italian court has sentenced 24 people to life in prison for their roles in Operation Condor, a conspiracy among six right-wing South American dictatorships to assassinate dissidents in the 1970s and ’80s. Only one of those convicted, former Uruguayan naval officer Jorge Néstor Troccoli, lives in Italy. The rest—including former Peruvian President Francisco Morales Bermúdez, 97—were convicted in absentia and are unlikely to see the inside of a prison. Still, families of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims feel vindicated. “Today’s ruling is dedicated to all the people killed and kidnapped under Condor,” said Aurora Meloni, whose husband, Daniel Banfi, was kidnapped and murdered in Buenos Aires in 1974. At the time, the U.S. assisted the military governments of all six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. (Webmaster's comment: Condor was also supported by the United States because it targeted liberals.)

7-12-19 Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib's testimony on detained migrants
epresentatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib were giving evidence to the House Oversight Committee following their visit to detention facilities on the southern border. Just a few hours later, Vice President Mike Pence was touring a facility and reviewed the conditions there. (Webmaster's comment: The women were told to drink out of a toilet bowl!)

7-12-19 Turning against migrants
Mexican police and soldiers are intensifying their crackdown on migrants—raiding hotels, buses, and trains and transferring the mostly Central American detainees to overcrowded and unsanitary holding centers. While similar scenes have caused an outcry in the U.S., the response in Mexico has been muted. When the first migrant caravans began arriving in the country last fall, about 48 percent of Mexicans said the migrants should be granted asylum in Mexico, with 38 percent opposed; now only 37 percent say they should stay, with 57 percent opposed. Last month alone, Mexico arrested more than 23,000 migrants and deported more than 17,000.

7-12-19 Customer felt “unsafe.”
A Starbucks barista asked five Tempe, Ariz., police officers to leave a coffee shop because a customer felt “unsafe.” Starbucks later apologized, but Tempe Officers Association president Rob Ferraro said that “feeling unsafe when you have law enforcement around you is somewhat perplexing to me.” (Webmaster's comment: Not to the innocent of us who get shot by police.)

7-12-19 Charge white people twice as much as black people
Organizers of the AfroFuture Fest music festival in Detroit have grudgingly reversed their plan to charge white people twice as much as black people. The festival had advertised an “Early Bird POC [People of Color] Ticket” for $10, while the “Early Bird NONPOC Ticket” went for $20. After objections both from customers and performers, including biracial rapper Tiny Jag, organizers scrapped the two-tier pricing but said that “Non-POC individuals are encouraged to provide additional donations.”

7-12-19 Both sides–ism
Both sides–ism, with the removal of a Florida public high school principal who wrote to a parent that it would be wrong to teach pupils about the Holocaust when “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”

7-12-19 “Why do democracies fail?
“Why do democracies fail? Humans are not predisposed to living democratically. What’s most natural to us, or to any living creature, is to seek to survive and reproduce. And for that purpose, we assert ourselves, relentlessly, savagely, against others. We push them aside, overstep them, overthrow them, even crush them if necessary. Who would choose the dull responsibilities of democracy over the instant gratification a demagogue will provide?”

7-12-19 No influence at all
55% of Americans say clergy members or religious leaders have influenced their lives, while 45% say they’ve had no influence at all.

7-11-19 US migrant gives emotional testimony about daughter's death
A Guatemalan woman whose 21-month old baby daughter died after being held by US immigration authorities is suing the federal government. Yazmin Juarez spoke out at "Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border," a congressional hearing staged amid a series of scandals over poor conditions suffered by detained migrants that has rocked Washington.

7-11-19 US politician insists on chaperone for interview with female reporter
A Republican candidate for Mississippi governor has refused to be interviewed by a female reporter unless she brings a male colleague with her. Larrison Campbell, 40, said she had asked to shadow Robert Foster on a 15-hour "ride-a-long" on his campaign, but was denied because of her sex. Mr Foster said he was acting out of precaution and he did not want to raise any suspicions about his marriage. "This is my truck, and in my truck we go by my rules," he said on CNN. During the CNN interview with Campbell and Mr Foster on Thursday, the 36-year-old gubernatorial candidate cited his religion and faith, arguing he made a vow to his wife to not be alone with someone of the opposite sex. He cited the late Christian evangelist Billy Graham, who had said he would not spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife, as well as Vice-President Mike Pence, who has said he will not eat alone with a woman other than his wife. "I don't trust the perception that the world puts on people when they see things and they don't ask a question, they don't look to find out the truth," he said. "Perception is a reality in this world, and I don't want to give anybody the opinion that I'm doing something that I should not be doing." Mr Foster said following the #MeToo movement, "men are under attack all the time". "I'm not going to allow myself to be put in a situation with any female where they can make an accusation against me" without someone else in attendance, he said. When asked if he would allow the 15-hour interview with a man, Mr Foster said he would, adding: "I stand my ground." Campbell, who has interviewed Mr Foster numerous times, called the decision sexist. She argued that if she were expected to go by his rules in his truck, he should provide the male chaperone. (Webmaster's comment: These guys are a bunch of religious sickos!)

7-11-19 Mike Pompeo is misrepresenting the Bible to gin up war with Iran
The secretary of state knows nothing about scripture. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo preached this week at the annual conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). The bulk of his speech was standard Christian Zionist fare — admiration for the modern state of Israel, praise for the United States for its support of Jewish nationalism, and brash claims of divine approval — all couched in the familiar language of evangelicalism. But Pompeo also had another subject in mind: Iran. Slipping smoothly from a broader discussion of religious liberty, Pompeo described Iran as a "noxious" theocracy, an abuser of human rights, and a terrorist enemy of Israel, the United States, and indeed Christianity itself. Though stopping short of his past advocacy of forcible regime change in Tehran, Pompeo presented his audience with Iran as an adversary that must be stopped. Bellicosity is only biblical, he seemed to suggest, stringing together half-truths about religious persecution and a wildly unjustified interpretation of scripture to push the faithful toward war. Pompeo's critique of Iran was not so much false as deceptively incomplete. He is not wrong, for example, about the persecution Christians face in Iran and the greater Middle East. Ancient Christian communities who could trace their roots to the apostles themselves have been subject to ghastly violence, displacement, and destruction of historic sites of worship. The Iranian government does have a horrific record on human rights, including oppression of religious minorities. And Christian converts from Islam in Iran have been sentenced to death. But Pompeo doesn't tell the whole story. He mentions the "near-extinction" of Christian communities in neighboring Iraq but ignores the fact that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "tolerated the country's Christian minority;" that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq led directly to the decimation of the Iraqi church; and that the pope begged the Bush administration not to invade precisely because war in Iraq would be disastrous for marginalized religious groups. This is the sort of recent history we would be wise to consider while contemplating yet another war. Pompeo also left unmentioned the Trump administration's travel ban, which in its final and ongoing iteration includes a blanket exclusion of visitors from Iran. There is no exception for persecuted Christians.

7-11-19 Philippines drugs war: UN votes to investigate killings
The UN Human Rights Council has voted to set up an investigation into alleged crimes committed during the Philippine government's war on drugs. The resolution, which passed by a narrow margin, mandates a comprehensive written report into the human rights situation in the country. It will focus on reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. The Philippines strongly opposed the resolution and branded it a "travesty". President Rodrigo Duterte launched the anti-narcotics campaign in 2016, to deal with a rampant drug problem. Since then at least 6,600 dealers or users have been killed, according to police. But activists say the toll is much higher at more than 27,000. Last week, a three-year-old girl became one of the crackdown's youngest victims after she was shot dead in a drugs raid. Police said she had been used as a human shield by her father, but the family disputes this. Mr Duterte and his anti-narcotics campaign enjoy wide support from Filipinos. An opinion poll earlier this year gave him a 79% approval rating. The latest UN resolution secured the backing of 18 states in the 47-member council, while 14 nations opposed it and 15 countries abstained. "We have put forward a balanced text with a very modest ask - simply requesting the High Commissioner to prepare a report for discussion by June next year," the ambassador for Iceland, which sponsored the resolution, said on Thursday. The Philippine's ambassador to the UN hit back at the resolution shortly after the vote. "We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution," he said, reading a statement on behalf of the country's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr.

7-9-19 Florida headteacher removed from post for refusing to call Holocaust a fact
The headteacher of a US school has been sacked after telling a parent he would remain neutral on whether or not the Holocaust happened. William Latson wrote in an email he could not say "the Holocaust is a factual, historical event". His comments triggered a backlash, with more than 9,000 people signing an online petition to have him removed. More than six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany during World War Two, but Holocaust denial persists. Mr Latson's views were revealed in an email exchange with a parent last year, The Palm Beach Post reported. The parent, who has not been identified, had wanted to ensure that the Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, was making Holocaust education a priority. In an email published by the paper, Mr Latson said the school had "a variety of activities" on Holocaust education but added that lessons were "not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs". The parent wrote back asking for clarification, saying: "The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief." Mr Latson replied: "Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. I can't say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee. "I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly." On Monday, the Palm Beach County school authorities said Mr Latson was being reassigned "effective immediately". In a statement it said the headteacher had "made a grave error in judgment "and that his leadership had become "a major distraction for the school community". "In addition to being offensive, the principal's statement is not supported by either the school district administration or the school board," it said.

7-9-19 Teens less likely to use cannabis when it's legal, US study finds
Teenagers are less likely to use cannabis in places where the drug has been legalised, a new study suggests. Researchers at Montana State University looked at health surveys of US high school pupils between 1993 and 2017. While overall use of the drug among young people went up in the US, teen use declined by nearly 10% in states where recreational use was legalised. Some 33 states have legalised medical cannabis, while 10 states have also legalised recreational use. Cannabis use remains illegal in all states for people under the age of 18. Lead author of the study Mark Anderson told the Associated Press that the study, published in the medical journal Jama Paediatrics, "should help to quell some concerns that use among teens will actually go up". His team analysed data on about 1.4 million teenagers in the US, taken from the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys, an annual national survey carried out by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr Anderson said it was usually harder for teens to buy from licensed dispensaries - where proof of age is required - than from dealers, which could partly explain the drop. Cannabis sold in dispensaries is also often more expensive. Dr Anderson said that the researchers did not find a change after medical cannabis was legalised - only when the drug was legalised for recreational purposes. The results echo those of a previous study, published last December, that found cannabis use among teens in Washington dropped after the state legalised the drug in 2012. But the results contradicted a 2018 study from Colorado which found that the number of high school pupils who said they used cannabis stayed the same after recreational use was legalised in that state in 2014. Dr Anderson told the US broadcaster CNN that, because most states that have legalised cannabis did so recently, the team would need to continue to track the data and update their findings "in a few years".

7-8-19 US teens may be finding it harder to buy cannabis after legalisation
Does legalising cannabis make it easier for teenagers to access the drug? The largest study to date suggests not – and it may even have the opposite effect. In US states that have legalised recreational use of marijuana, fewer teenagers reported taking the drug after the laws were passed. The world is in the middle of a global reappraisal of the legal status of cannabis. Many regions have legalised or at least decriminalised its possession or trade in some form, including Canada, Spain, Uruguay and many US states. But critics argue that this might be particularly risky for teenagers, whose developing brains are thought to be more vulnerable to any harms. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and colleagues looked at existing data from an ongoing anonymous survey of teenagers’ behaviour, which has been carried out every other year since the 1990s. They wanted to see if there were any trends in drug use linked with changes in the law. The team got results from 27 states and Washington DC that have legalised its use for medical reasons and seven states that have legalised recreational use. They found there was little difference after medical use was legalised, but after recreational use was permitted, those surveyed were about 8 per cent less likely to say they had used the drug ever in the past month, or to have used it ten times or more. That might be because when cannabis has become legal, it starts being sold at licensed dispensaries that require proof of age, and these tend to displace criminal drug dealers. “Teens could just use fake IDs or have someone over 21 buy for them, but the point is that it is now more difficult than prior to the law being passed,” says Anderson.

7-8-19 U.S. Confidence in Organized Religion Remains Low
Americans' confidence in the church or organized religion continues to erode, with 36% now saying they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in organized religion, establishing another new low point in Gallup's trend.Confidence in organized religion topped confidence in all other institutions from 1973 to 1985, and, even after falling amid televangelist scandals in the 1980s, it registered at the majority level consistently until 2001. After the Boston Globe's 2002 expose revealed Catholic church leaders were aware of and did not take strong action to stop serial sex abuse by priests, confidence in organized religion dropped sharply to 45%. It recovered slightly in the years after the scandal broke, hovering around the 50% mark. Between 2010 and 2017, it regularly registered in the 40s. Since then, in 2018 and 2019, Americans' confidence in religion has been below the 40% mark. Gallup previously reported a drop in confidence among U.S. Catholics -- as well as declining church attendance and views of the ethical standards of clergy -- amid ongoing fallout from Roman Catholic priest sex abuse scandals. Currently, 36% of Catholics report having confidence in the church or organized religion, compared with 48% of Protestants. Just 8% of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation report having confidence in organized religion.

  • 36% of Americans have confidence in the church or organized religion
  • Americans remain most confident in the military, small business
  • Congress ranks lowest in confidence ratings

7-8-19 Is there a growing far-right threat online?
Far right activity on the internet threatens to spill over into violence in the real world, according to some observers. But are governments and tech companies doing enough to counter the danger? Two days before the attack, Australian Brenton Tarrant tweeted images of the weapons he was going to use. Half an hour before, he outlined what he was going to do in an online forum. A few minutes before, he emailed a "manifesto" explaining why. And as he began, he switched on a Facebook live stream for people around the world to watch. The attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which more than 50 people were killed, was an act of violence foreshadowed online. Tarrant, who appeared in court in June to deny the charges, was a lone individual. But he was also someone who inhabited an internet-based international subculture, one whose ideology is moving from the darker reaches of the internet into the political mainstream. The fear is that security services and tech companies have been slow to deal with this growing new threat.

7-8-19 US music festival cancels policy of charging white people double
A music festival in Detroit that was charging double fees for white attendees is reversing course after a backlash that drew national attention. Tickets for Afrofuture Fest were $40 (£32) for white people and $20 for "people of colour" - a term used in the US for racial minorities. The disparity caused one performer to pull out and ticket website Eventbrite to threaten to remove the event page. The policy was changed on Sunday after "threats from white supremacists". Afrofuture Fest said in a statement on Twitter that they were changing fees to $20 for all attendees "for the safety of our community". Organisers requested that white people make an additional donation. The previous price structure caused one rapper, Jillian Graham, who goes by the stage name Tiny Jag, to announce on Twitter that she would not perform. Ms Graham - who identifies as biracial - told the New York Times that when she heard about the policy she felt "an overall recognition that this is just wrong. "It wouldn't matter what race I was, I knew that I didn't agree with it," she said. In an interview with the Detroit Metro Times, she said: "It seems almost like it has spite, and unfortunately with spite comes hate, and that's just not obviously going to be a good direction for us to go if we're looking for positive change." Ms Graham said she had planned to perform songs that she had dedicated to her white grandmother. "How do you want me to come to a performance and perform these songs off a mix tape that is titled after this white woman that you would have charged double to get in here?" she said. "Like, it's just outrageous from so many different angles." (Webmaster's comment: Racism goes both ways!)

7-8-19 India Jains: Why are these youngsters renouncing the world?
Hundreds of young people belonging to India's Jain community have begun renouncing the material world to become monks who always walk barefoot, eat only what they receive as alms and never bathe or use modern technology. The BBC's Priyanka Pathak explores why. "I will never be able to hug my daughter again," says Indravadan Singhi, his voice breaking. He looks away, determined not to reveal emotion as he says, "I can never meet her eye again." Resignedly, he watches friends and family drift through his home, decorating his living room with gold and pink tassels to celebrate his daughter's renunciation of the world and entry into monastic life. In the days ahead of the ceremony, family came from around the country to spend her "last days" doing things she enjoyed - playing cricket in the local park, listening to music and eating out at her favourite restaurants. She will never be able to do these things again. As a nun, 20-year-old Dhruvi will never again address him and his wife as mother and father. She will pluck out her own hair, always walk barefoot and eat only what she receives in alms. She will never use a vehicle, never bathe, never sleep under a fan and never speak on a mobile phone again. The Singhis belong to the ancient Jain community, a religious minority comprising around 4.5 million believers. Devout Jains follow the tenets of their religion under the spiritual guidance of monks. These include detailed prescriptions for daily life, especially what to eat, what not to eat and when to eat. For the past five years, Indravadan Singhi and his wife have watched their only child - who loved ripped jeans and dreamed of winning the reality singing show Indian Idol - become increasingly religious and withdrawn. By undergoing deeksha, the Jain ritual of renunciation. Dhruvi is withdrawing from the life she knows. She is not alone. Hundreds of Jain youth are following the same path, their numbers rising each year, with women outnumbering the men.

7-7-19 Trump administration is 'inept and insecure', says UK ambassador
The Trump administration has been labelled "inept", insecure and incompetent in leaked emails from the UK ambassador to Washington. Sir Kim Darroch said that the White House was "uniquely dysfunctional" and "divided" under Donald Trump. But he also warned that the US president should not be written off. The Foreign Office said the leak of the memos to the Mail on Sunday was "mischievous" but did not deny their accuracy. The White House has not yet responded to the revelation of the contents of the memos, but it could test the so-called "special relationship" between the US and UK. In the messages, Sir Kim said: "We don't really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept." He questioned whether this White House "will ever look competent". Although Sir Kim said Mr Trump was "dazzled" by his state visit to the UK in June, the ambassador warns that his administration will remain self-interested, adding: "This is still the land of America First". Differences between the US and the UK on climate change, media freedoms and the death penalty might come to the fore as the countries seek to improve trading relations after Brexit, the memos said. To get through to the president, "you need to make your points simple, even blunt", he said.

7-7-19 China denies Muslim separation campaign in Xinjiang
China's ambassador to the UK has denied that Muslim children in western Xinjiang are being systematically separated from their parents. A BBC report found that hundreds of children from the Uighur minority ethnic group had had both parents detained, either in camps or in prison. At the same time, China has launched a large-scale campaign to build boarding schools for Uighur children. Critics say it is an effort to isolate children from their Muslim communities. However, Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming dismissed this. "There's no separation of children from their parents. Not at all," the ambassador told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. "If you have people who have lost their children, give me names and we'll try to locate them", he added. Evidence gathered by the BBC showed that in one Xinjiang township alone more than 400 children had lost both of their parents to some form of internment. Chinese authorities claim the Uighurs are being educated in "vocational training centres" designed to combat extremism. But evidence suggests that many are being detained for simply expressing their faith - praying or wearing a veil - or for having overseas connections to places like Turkey. More than a million people are thought to be held within the system. After parents are detained, formal assessments are then carried out to determine whether the children need "centralised care". One local official told the BBC that children whose parents had been detained in camps were sent to boarding schools. "We provide accommodation, food and clothes… and we've been told by the senior level that we must look after them well," she said. But Dr Adrian Zenz, who carried out the research commissioned by the BBC, said boarding schools "provide the ideal context for a sustained cultural re-engineering of minority societies."

7-7-19 How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours
What is the point of sending someone to prison - retribution or rehabilitation? Twenty years ago, Norway moved away from a punitive "lock-up" approach and sharply cut reoffending rates. The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby went to see the system in action, and to meet prison officers trained to serve as mentors and role models for prisoners. "OK, and now put your big toes together and put your bum behind you!" calls the enthusiastic yoga instructor in English to the 20 or so participants who are shuffling into child's pose on rubber mats spread out on the grass in the faint early morning sunshine. "Can you feel the stretch?" she gently asks a heavily tattooed man as she settles his ruffled T-shirt and smoothes his wide back with her hand. "It's OK, yeah?" It could be a yoga class at any holistic health retreat anywhere in the world but the participants here at Norway's maximum security Halden Prison are rather far removed from the usual yummy mummy spa clientele. Barefoot murderers, rapists and drug smugglers practise downward-facing dog and the lotus position alongside their prison officers, each participant fully concentrating on the clear instructions from the teacher. "It calms them," says prison governor Are Hoidal approvingly, as we watch from the sidelines. "We don't want anger and violence in this place. We want calm and peaceful inmates." Tranquillity does not come cheaply. A place at Halden Prison costs about £98,000 per year. The average annual cost of a prison place in England in Wales is now about £40,000, or £59,000 in a Category A prison. A uniformed prison officer on a silver micro-scooter greets us cheerily as he wheels past. Two prisoners jogging dutifully by his side, keep pace. Hoidal laughs at my nonplussed face. "It's called dynamic security!" he grins. "Guards and prisoners are together in activities all the time. They eat together, play volleyball together, do leisure activities together and that allows us to really interact with prisoners, to talk to them and to motivate them." When Are Hoidal first began his career in the Norwegian Correctional service in the early 1980s, the prison experience here was altogether different. "It was completely hard," he remembers. "It was a masculine, macho culture with a focus on guarding and security. And the recidivism rate was around 60-70%, like in the US." "Not 'guards'," admonishes Hoidal gently, when I use the term. "We are prison 'officers' and of course we make sure an inmate serves his sentence but we also help that person become a better person. We are role models, coaches and mentors. And since our big reforms, recidivism in Norway has fallen to only 20% after two years and about 25% after five years. So this works!"

7-6-19 Why more and more black Americans are moving to Ghana
Fed up with America's racism, young black people are turning their hopes to a different continent. When Lakeshia Ford decided she was going to pack up her life and her budding career and move from New Jersey to Ghana, her family could not understand why she wanted to make the trek to a country thousands of miles from home. Even more surprising, to some, was Ford's reason: the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident, which set off protests across the United States, was a tipping point for the 30-year-old Ford and her relationship with the country of her birth. "Mike Brown got shot and it just put this huge distaste in my mouth for, like, the country and the flag and what it means to be American and representing the American flag," Ford says. "I felt very detached from that identity. I felt very excluded." While that feeling was certainly shared by many across the country, Ford is part of a small but growing group of black Americans who have become so fed up with racism in the United States that they have decided to move to Africa. "I remember a moment. I remember sitting on my bed and visualizing like ... a transition," Ford recalls. "You know that image of Mike Brown with the blood, and he was just [lying] there [in the street]? The animation in my mind was like he rose with that blood and turned into water, and I floated back. Well, I didn't float back, but basically I use that blood in the water to get back to Africa." Four years later, Ford sits in a trendy hotel bar in Accra, the capital of Ghana, a small coastal nation in West Africa. As dusk settles, she sips water after a long day of work while other patrons laugh and catch up with friends. A communications professional with a background in finance and international relations, Ford once dreamed of serving as a foreign diplomat, but she soured on the idea of representing the United States abroad. Instead, she came here and set up her own business, Ford Communications, a strategic communications and public relations boutique. Ford found a niche servicing Ghana's booming tech industry. (Webmaster's comment: Whiteman's racism is driving the best people out of our country.)

7-6-19 Nicky Winmar: Statue of footballer's stand against racism unveiled in Perth
A statue of the moment an Aboriginal Australian football player stood up to racists has been unveiled in Perth. Nicky Winmar's team St Kilda had just won a match against Colingwood in 1993 when he made the iconic gesture that would go down in sports history. Rival fans hurled racist abuse at Winmar - so he lifted his shirt, pointed to his chest and declared: "I'm black, and I'm proud to be black." Winmar, now 52, said it feels "surreal" to be immortalised in bronze. "I hope this statue encourages more conversations and education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture," he said at Optus Stadium on Saturday, in comments reported by Australian Associated Press. Remembering that day's racist abuse, he told local paper The Age: "It was an attack on my family and me, they attacked who I was - something I couldn't change. "Footy is for everyone, no matter where you come from, who you are, men, women, children, black or white, rich or poor." St Kilda - also known as the Saints - played against Colingwood, aka the Magpies, at Victoria Park, a sports ground in Melbourne, on 17 April 1993. Magpies fans screamed racist slurs before, during and after the game, even spitting and throwing cans at Winmar and his Indigenous teammate Gilbert McAdam. Although this wasn't unusual - racism in sports was rife - WA Today reports that the abuse that day was so bad, McAdam's father left the stadium in tears. "We made a pact that we were going to go out there and do our best, and win the game," Winmar told photographer Wayne Ludbey in an interview last year. Mr Ludbey had been photographing the match for the Australian paper, Sunday Age. When the final siren declared the Saints' victory, Winmar blew kisses to the crowd. But the racist abuse was getting louder and more intense. It was then that Winmar lifted his team shirt to boldly expose his brown skin underneath. As the crowd continued to jeer, he shouted out to them: "I'm black, and I'm proud to be black."

7-6-19 Botswana to appeal ruling decriminalising homosexuality
Botswana's government will appeal against a landmark High Court ruling that decriminalised homosexuality, the attorney general says. Last month the court rejected colonial-era laws that imposed up to seven year jail terms for same-sex relationships, saying they were unconstitutional. The ruling was viewed by many as a step towards improving LGBT rights in Africa. But Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe said the judges had made a mistake. "I have thoroughly read the 132-page-long judgment and I am of the view that the High Court erred in arriving at this conclusion," Mr Keetshabe said in a statement on Friday. He added that he would take the case to the Court of Appeal, but did not give further details on the basis for the appeal. The High Court ruling last month was reached unanimously by three judges. "Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised," Judge Michael Elburu said at the time. "Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one's personality." The case had been brought to court by a student who argued that society had changed and homosexuality was more widely accepted, and the ruling was celebrated by human rights groups and activists around the world. Angola, Mozambique and the Seychelles have all scrapped anti-homosexuality laws in recent years. But laws outlawing same-sex relations still exist in many African countries, and it is punishable by death in northern Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and Mauritania. In May, Kenya's High Court ruled against overturning a law banning gay sex. (Webmaster's comment: These laws were encouraged and driven by American Evangelicals. Watch "God Loves Uganda": A searing look at the role of American evangelical missionaries in the persecution of gay Africans.)

7-5-19 LGBT+ scientists affected by discrimination
A report has found that 28% of LGBT+ people working in the physical sciences have considered leaving their jobs due to discrimination. This number increases to nearly half for the transgender workforce. The research examined conditions for LGBT+ people working in physics, chemistry and astronomy. About 60% said their workplaces had policies intended to support LGBT+ staff, but 17% found these policies were deficient or discriminatory. This was often because policies seemed to support members of staff who were "out" in the workplace. Studies suggest over half of the LGBT+ workforce are not "out" at work over fears of discrimination. The report was a collaboration between the Institute of Physics, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. A significant proportion of LGBT+ physical scientists have either experienced or witnessed harassment, bullying or exclusion in the workplace based solely on sexuality or gender identity, the report said. Transgender and non-binary respondents experienced the highest levels of exclusionary behaviour. Non-binary refers to people who identify as neither male or female. Dr Alfredo Carpineti, chair of Pride in STEM, which works to improve LGBT+ visibility and acceptance, said: "These figures need to remain at the forefront of the discussion, but they are a tiny slice in the much wider efforts for diversity we need to push for." He added: "There is a need for intersectional approaches, but there was no data on ethnicity or disability [in this survey]." Commenting on the survey, Dr Carpineti said: "It's a start, but we need to do better and continue to push for diversity". The survey included responses from a cohort of 637 staff working in physical sciences careers. The report's authors point out that they specifically targeted those who were LGBT+ or allies. Thus, the results were not representative of the whole physical sciences community. But the authors said: "They provide clear insight into of the experiences of LGBT+ people within physical sciences environments."

7-4-19 China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families
China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language in its far western region of Xinjiang, according to new research. At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way. Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region. Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison. Formal assessments are carried out to determine whether the children are in need of "centralised care". Alongside the efforts to transform the identity of Xinjiang's adults, the evidence points to a parallel campaign to systematically remove children from their roots. China's tight surveillance and control in Xinjiang, where foreign journalists are followed 24 hours a day, make it impossible to gather testimony there. But it can be found in Turkey. In a large hall in Istanbul, dozens of people queue to tell their stories, many of them clutching photographs of children, all now missing back home in Xinjiang. "I don't know who is looking after them," one mother says, pointing to a picture of her three young daughters, "there is no contact at all." Another mother, holding a photo of three sons and a daughter, wipes away her tears. "I heard that they've been taken to an orphanage," she says. In 60 separate interviews, in wave after wave of anxious, grief-ridden testimony, parents and other relatives give details of the disappearance in Xinjiang of more than 100 children. (Webmaster's comment: While in America we've separated 1,000's of children from migrant families, never to be seen again!)

7-4-19 America deserves this military parade
Trump's party is jingoistic, expensive, shoddily planned, self-serving, smacking of authoritarianism, and basically right for the state of the American empire. Giddy with an enthusiasm that resembles nothing so much as a small child breathlessly describing his birthday party plans, President Trump is finally getting something of the military parade he has long desired. Independence Day celebrations in Washington this year will layer over traditional festivities a campaign-style presidential address, Air Force flyovers, extra fireworks, VIP seating for GOP donors, and — most controversially — tanks. The whole shebang will run us unknown millions of dollars, and that's excluding any costs incurred if the heavy military equipment wreaks havoc on local infrastructure. Trump, predictably, insists the price is "very little compared to what it is worth," because we "own the tanks and all"! Many are unconvinced of the value of the affair. Trump's subsumption of July 4th is a "misuse of the military as props for his own partisan ends and personal glorification," griped The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin. He is "raiding of the Treasury for his personal aggrandizement," giving "preferential treatment for rich toadies," and, crucially, "misconstruing ... American traditions ... to transform a holiday about the greatest experiment in civilian self-government into a garish military Mardi Gras." This is not the way to salute our nation, Rubin and fellow critics argue. The Fourth of July should celebrate American principles of freedom and democracy, they say, and a gimcrack exercise in conspicuous militarism, wasteful spending, and presidential exaltation is wildly inappropriate. Or is it? Trump's party is jingoistic, expensive, shoddily planned, self-serving, and smacking of authoritarianism. It sounds terrible — and basically right for the state of the American empire. We may like to think our country is unsuited to this sort of display, but the evidence says otherwise. Unfortunately, a military parade may be exactly what America deserves.

7-4-19 Trump border wall: US president suffers new construction setback
US President Donald Trump has again been thwarted in his attempt to use military money to fund his wall along the border with Mexico. On Saturday, he lodged an appeal against a ruling by a judge blocking him from using defence department funds for anti-drug activities. But a panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the freeze, saying it was up to Congress to allocate funds. Mr Trump declared a national emergency over the wall earlier this year. He said he needed $6.7bn (£5.3bn) to it as a matter of national security. Building the wall was a major election campaign promise. Two of the three-judge panel in San Francisco agreed with the lower court's decision. "As for the public interest, we conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution's assignment of the power of the purse to Congress, and by deferring to Congress's understanding of the public interest as reflected in its repeated denial of more funding for border barrier construction," the two judges wrote in their ruling. In May, federal judge Haywood Gilliam temporarily blocked the use of defence department funds because it had not been approved by Congress. About 20 states, along with groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have filed lawsuits to try to stop the president using the emergency declaration to bypass Congress. The border wall has been a major political battle for the president. In February, Congress approved $1.38bn for the construction of "primary pedestrian fencing" along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas - far less than Mr Trump had sought. His declaration of a national emergency was designed to unlock multi-billion dollar funding for the wall, including $2.5bn from the department of defence and $3.6bn from military construction projects. That sum is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the barrier along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border. The House of Representatives is also taking legal action to stop the diversion of funds for the wall project.

7-4-19 Census 2020: Trump persists in citizenship question row
The Trump administration will push ahead with efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite announcing the plan had been dropped. President Trump sowed confusion on Wednesday and said he was "moving forward" with the controversial plan. This came a day after his own senior officials said the census papers would be printed without the question. It leaves the future of the census, which determines electoral districts and federal funding, in some doubt. The administration has argued that a citizenship question would bolster protections for minority voters, but opponents fear it would deter immigrant households from taking part. Democrats and civil rights groups believe the question could ultimately lead to millions of people - mostly Latinos and African Americans - not being counted. Last week, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the citizenship question and said the government's justification for including it seemed "contrived". Then, on Tuesday, the government appeared to back down altogether when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the census questionnaires were being printed without it. But in a series of later tweets, President Trump said he would do "whatever is necessary" to ensure the question was included. His latest tweet blindsided senior officials who have since been working frantically to find a legal means to include the question, US media report. "We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward consistent with the Supreme Court decision that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census," Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt told a Maryland-based federal judge on Wednesday. "We think there may be a legally available path. We're examining that, looking at near-term options to see whether that's viable and possible," he added. Tight print deadlines and a complex legal picture mean the administration is likely to face a difficult battle. The papers will reportedly be printed without the question while officials examine their options.

7-3-19 Edward Gallagher: Navy Seal found not guilty of killing IS teen in Iraq
A US Navy Seal has been found not guilty of killing a young Islamic State group prisoner in Iraq and other murder charges in a San Diego military court. Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 40, was accused of stabbing the injured teenager to death as well as randomly shooting Iraqi civilians. He was convicted of posing with the 17-year-old's corpse, but acquitted of all other charges. Another Seal had testified that he was the one who killed the prisoner. Gallagher, a decorated combat veteran who served eight tours, denied all the allegations against him. The seven-person military jury, which included five Marines and two sailors, delivered the verdict after about eight hours of deliberation. The maximum sentence for posing for photos with a corpse is four months - but Gallagher has already served nine months in pre-trial confinement. "We have a sentencing to do, but the maximum sentence of what they're about to sentence him on is much less than the time that they've already had him in the brig," Gallagher's lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said after the verdict, according to NBC News. "So he is going home." The allegations against the chief had come from members of his own platoon in the special operations branch of the US Navy. But in a surprising twist, Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott testified earlier this month that he had asphyxiated the wounded militant while the teenager was in US custody. The Seal medic said he had witnessed Gallagher unexpectedly begin stabbing the fighter after the two men had stabilised his injuries following an airstrike, but that the stab wounds had not appeared to be life-threatening. When the chief walked away, Mr Scott said he had plugged the youth's air tube as an act of mercy. When asked why, Mr Scott replied, "I knew he would die anyway." Mr Scott was granted immunity from being prosecuted for criminal charges before he testified. Prosecutors accused him of trying to protect Gallagher, alleging he had never mentioned committing the crime in previous interviews. (Webmaster's comment: So all the military personnel get away with the killing of a defenseless injured person. What a travesty!)

7-3-19 Census 2020: Trump drops plan for controversial citizenship question
The Trump administration has dropped a controversial plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. It comes just days after the Supreme Court blocked efforts to include the question, ruling that the government's justification seemed "contrived". The administration argued the question would bolster protections for minority voters. But opponents said it would deter immigrant households from taking part in the once-a-decade population count. Democrats and civil rights groups said the question could lead to millions of people - mostly Latinos and African Americans - not being counted. Last week, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the citizenship question and said the government had not provided adequate justification for it. President Trump initially touted the idea of delaying the census to allow time to provide new legal arguments, but on Tuesday his administration backed down. "The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. In a series of later tweets, President Trump said it was "a very sad time for America".

7-3-19 Amazon rainforest indigenous people in fight for survival
Indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest fear their survival is being threatened, as more and more trees are cut down to make way for farming and agriculture. They say Brazil's new president wants to allow deforestation in some of the 700 protected areas for indigenous groups within the Brazilian rainforest - which cover more than a tenth of Brazil's entire land area. Around 900,000 indigenous people live there - but that's a tiny proportion of Brazil's overall population.

7-2-19 Fox News' Tucker Carlson is right: Governments kill people
Calling in to his network after he tagged along to North Korea with President Trump on Sunday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson mounted a scandalizing defense of this administration's engagement with Pyongyang. "Yeah, I mean, there's no defending the North Korean regime," Carlson began, declaring leader Kim Jong Un's government "monstrous," "disgusting," and "the last really Stalinist regime in the world." But the Fox pundit didn't stop there. "On the other hand, you know, you've got to be honest about what it means to lead a country,” he said. Carlson deserves every bit of condemnation he's received insofar as he minimized the Kim regime's hideous violence. (Incidentally, downplaying North Korea's horrors will only undercut the vital case for diplomatic engagement as a route away from war.) Yet in a more general sense, Carlson isn't wrong: Governments do kill people. Outside of tiny, progressive, wealthy nations mostly concentrated in Western Europe in the last eight decades, leading a country does mean killing people. Indeed, possession of a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is considered a definitional characteristic of the modern state. Governments exist, significantly, to kill people. This is not only true about "a lot of countries ... including a number that we are closely allied with" — though certainly Saudi Arabia, Washington's child-executing, journalist-dismembering, war-crimes-committing buddy in the Middle East, verifies that claim all by itself. Carlson's line is also true about our own government. Take off the rosy glasses of nationalist patriotism and this is evident. Our military has been engaged in armed conflict of varying scale almost constantly throughout our history. At present, we are fighting at least five wars — Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — depending on how you count them. Our government launches drone strikes on weddings. It helps Saudi forces take out school buses full of kids. Leading this country "means killing people." Do we imagine any American president has hands clean of blood? Perhaps you think Carlson's comment was narrower in scope, applying only to Kim's domestic killing. Our government has done that, too. Think of the Trail of Tears, the de facto state endorsement of public lynching in the Jim Crow era, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, or the MOVE bombing in Philly, to name a few examples. Remember that half of our states still employ the death penalty, and that extrajudicial police killings have been a major feature of our national debate in the past five years. This is not the same, of course, as North Korea's all-encompassing system of brainwashing, torture, and genocide. Still, historically and in the United States today, government kills people. Our government kills innocent people all the time.

7-2-19 US migrant centres: Photos show 'dangerous' overcrowding
A report from an internal US watchdog has found "dangerous overcrowding" in migrant detention centres in the south and urged authorities to act. Jarring photos of facilities in the Rio Grande show 51 female migrants held in a cell made for 40 men, and 71 males held in a cell built for 41 women. Adults were packed in standing room only cells for a week, with others held in overcrowded cells for over a month. One facility manager called the situation "a ticking time bomb". "We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of [Department of Homeland Security] agents and officers, and to those detained," inspectors said in the report. The inspectors, from the US inspector general, visited seven sites throughout the Rio Grande valley in southern Texas. At the facilities, the inspectors found that 30% of the detained children had been held for longer than the 72 hours permitted. Some had no access to showers or hot meals and had little access to clean clothes. "When detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody," like facial hair, the report said. They described detainees clogging toilets with blankets and socks in order to be released while the cells were fixed. The report says these conditions directly contradict the US Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) own standards. The inspectors called upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take "immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding". According to the CBP, the Rio Grande has the highest volume of migrants on the southwest border, recording almost 250,000 apprehensions so far this year - marking a 124% increase from 2018.

7-2-19 US Border Patrol investigate ‘disturbing’ secret Facebook group
US officials are investigating a secret Facebook group where border patrol members allegedly posted racist and sexist jokes about migrants and others. The private group had about 9,500 members, including former and current border patrol agents, ProPublica reported. Some posts mocked migrant deaths, while others targeted Latino members of Congress, ProPublica said. The Border Patrol chief has called the posts "completely inappropriate". "Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable," Carla Provost said. The group was called "I'm 10-15", ProPublica said - 10-15 being Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody". According to ProPublica, members of the group mocked Latino members of Congress who visited migrant detention centres in Texas on Monday. Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Veronica Escobar were among those said to have been called "hoes" and "scum buckets" in the private postings. In one post, a member reportedly suggested throwing burritos at them, while another shared a doctored image depicting Ms Ocasio-Cortez performing a sex act on President Donald Trump. The BBC was not able to independently verify the existence of the private group, which is not publicly accessible on Facebook. Matthew Klein, an assistant commissioner at the CBP, said the Department of Homeland Security has launched a code-of-conduct investigation into the group. He said a number of CBP agents may be members of the group. Ms Ocasio-Cortez said the posts did not surprise her, and that they were "indicative" of what she had seen while visiting the migrant detention centre on Monday. "I see why CBP officers were being so physically and sexually threatening towards me," she tweeted after the trip. On Twitter, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said that border patrol officers had told women in cells to "drink out of the toilets". She added that during the visit, she "forced" herself into a cramped cell where the women inside "described their treatment at the hands of officers as 'psychological warfare'".

7-2-19 End the Border Patrol
This agency's culture is saturated with racism and indifference to human life. Time to tear it down and start again. It's time to tear down the U.S. Border Patrol. And I mean tear it down entirely: Fire its staff (Webmaster's comment: And arrest them for crimes against humanity!), close its detention centers, and start over from scratch. Why? Because new details confirm that this agency is fraught with problems. And extreme problems often require extreme solutions. This week put the agency under an unflattering spotlight. A ProPublica investigation into a Facebook group composed of current and former Border Patrol agents revealed these people "joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday, and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant." Awful. Disgusting. Reprehensible. But then things got worse. A group of congressional Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), visited migrant detention centers in Texas and found "appalling" conditions, operated by a staff apparently hostile to congressional oversight, where migrant women "were held in cells without water and told by officers to drink out of the toilet." "This has been horrifying so far," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We're talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats humans like animals." The agency's defenders accused Ocasio-Cortez of misconduct. Other Democrats who made the visit, however, corroborated her account. So yeah, this is a disaster for the Border Patrol. Let's shut it down. (Webmaster's comment: And arrest all the ICE male brutes who have been doing these crimes!) Even before President Trump arrived on the scene with his anti-immigrant agenda, the agency gave every sign of being a moral and ethical mess. In 2014, the former head of internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection — the Border Patrol is a subdivision of that agency — went public with accusations that Border Patrol leaders tried to change or distort facts to exonerate agents involved in more than two dozen deadly clashes since 2010. "In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand," James F. Tomsheck said at the time. Nothing seems to have changed: As recently as last year, court filings in the case of an agent accused of killing a migrant revealed racist text messages between the defendant and other agents.

7-2-19 American Pride Hits New Low; Few Proud of Political System
As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, their pride in the U.S. has hit its lowest point since Gallup's first measurement in 2001. While 70% of U.S. adults overall say they are proud to be Americans, this includes fewer than half (45%) who are "extremely" proud, marking the second consecutive year that this reading is below the majority level. Democrats continue to lag far behind Republicans in expressing extreme pride in the U.S. These findings are explored further with new measurements of the public's pride in eight aspects of U.S. government and society. American scientific achievements, military and culture/arts engender the most pride, while the U.S. political system and health and welfare system garner the least.

  • 45% are "extremely" proud, the second straight year of sub-50% readings
  • 22% of Democrats are extremely proud, down 10 points in one year
  • Americans most proud of U.S. scientific success, military; least proud of politics

7-2-19 US police probe arrest of black man using IV machine outside hospital
US police are investigating the arrest of a black patient in Illinois who was detained near a hospital while attached to an intravenous (IV) machine. Shaquille Dukes says he went for a walk on his doctor's orders, but was held after a white security guard accused him of trying to steal the machine. Mr Dukes has now filed a complaint alleging racial profiling. Freeport police say their officers acted "the best way they could", but have launched an independent probe. Freeport Health Network (FHN) Memorial Hospital has not commented on the incident, calling it a police matter. The incident took place on 9 June, and gained national press coverage on Monday after it was picked up by US broadcasters. On Monday, Freeport police told US media that an external investigator would assess whether officers handled the arrest appropriately. The 24-year-old from Chicago says he was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia while on holiday. He says in a Facebook post that "after receiving doctors orders to walk around, I was stopped by an overzealous, racist, security officer, who claimed that I 'was trying to leave the hospital to sell the IV equipment on eBay.'" He says the police were then called and arrested him for attempted theft. Mr Dukes says his IV was removed - "not by a doctor" - as police officers stood by. "They [the police] took my rescue inhaler and began to transport me to the city lockup, while in transit I began to have a seizure, and subsequently an asthma attack, I pleaded with officers for almost four minutes to retrieve my inhaler from the transporting officer, and finally, when I became unresponsive, it miraculously appeared." In a statement posted on Facebook, Freeport Police urged "the public to reserve judgment while a complete review of the incident is performed".

7-2-19 Trump orders tanks for Independence Day parade
President Donald Trump's plans to host a military parade on US Independence Day this week have left critics seeing red, rather than red, white and blue. At his "Salute to America" on Thursday, Mr Trump will address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC amid a parade of military tanks. But city officials have expressed dismay at the possible damage to roads at the 4 July event. A congressman dismissed the celebration as a presidential vanity project. "We're going to have planes going overhead - the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too," the Republican president told reporters at the White House on Monday. "And we're going to have some tanks stationed outside." He said the event will "be like no other, it'll be special". City leaders have spoken out against the idea. "We have said it before, and we'll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks," the District of Columbia council tweeted on Monday. The Democratic-controlled council also posted guidance from the Defence Department about a veterans' event in November last year, specifying that "no tanks" should be used in order to "avoid damage to local infrastructure". Mr Trump has ordered a flyover by the Navy's Blue Angels and the presidential jet Air Force One, the Washington Post reported. He also wants the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines standing next to him during the display, according to the New York Times. The military flyover will halt air traffic at the US capital city's main airport, Reagan National, for more than two hours on Thursday evening. The tanks, which weigh about 60 tons apiece, were reportedly transported from Fort Stewart in the US state of Georgia. City officials have expressed concern that the road surfaces will be damaged by the tank tracks. Some also wonder whether the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River is strong enough to carry such weight.

7-1-19 New York Pride: Bumper crowds attend LGBT march
Hundreds of thousands of revellers have thronged the streets of New York for WorldPride, one of the largest LGBT celebrations in the world. Around 150,000 people took part in the march, 50 years on from the Stonewall riots, with many more watching. The riots, after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, helped to energise the fight for gay equality. This year's march started outside the inn. It was billed as the biggest Pride march in history. LGBT groups held similar marches in other countries to mark the occasion, illustrating the global shift in attitudes towards gay rights. WorldPride brings together lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from all over the world to participate in a parade, rally and human rights conference. The event was last held in Lisbon in Portugal in 2017. The New York march is the first WorldPride march to be held in the US. This year's main parade - around 2.5 miles (4km) long - passed many LGBT landmarks, including the Stonewall National Monument and the New York City Aids memorial. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio joined the march outside the Stonewall Inn. A smaller Queer Liberation March and Rally was also held. The organiser, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, says that pride events, including the one in New York, have become too commercialised. In a statement, the group said the alternative march was returning "this event to the people, celebrating our victories and recommitting to fight our current battles". The New York Pride event was due to conclude with the WorldPride closing ceremony featuring performances from musical "The Prom." San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle were also hosting their own events. This has been a weekend like no other. New York has always been a major destination for LGBT pride festivals - but this weekend's events have been its biggest yet.

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Atheism News & Humanism Articles for June 2019