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

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

11-14-19 Analyzing Surveys on Banning Assault Weapons
Where does the American public stand on the issue of banning assault weapons? Based on new research conducted over the past several months, and on a review of other recently published results, our summary conclusion is that a clear majority of about six in 10 Americans currently support such a ban.

11-14-19 US Senator blocks move to say Armenian mass killing was genocide
A US Senator has blocked a resolution to formally recognise the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One as a genocide. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said lawmakers should not "sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it". Mr Graham's objection came hours after he attended a meeting with US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The vote on the issue was viewed by Turkey as highly contentious. To become official policy, the resolution needed to be approved by both houses of Congress and then be signed by the president. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 405 to 11 in October, shortly after Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish fighters - allied to the US in fighting the Islamic State (IS) group - in northern Syria. The resolution was blocked by Mr Graham on Wednesday when it reached the Senate. Under Senate rules, a single senator can block any resolution. "I just met with President Erdogan and President Trump about the problems we face in Syria by the military incursion by Turkey. I do hope that Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem," he told the Senate floor. Mr Graham is a staunch ally of President Trump, but has vocally criticised his administration for withdrawing troops from north-eastern Syria ahead of the Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces. Last month Mr Erdogan described the House of Representatives vote as "worthless" and the "biggest insult" to Turkish people. In contrast, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hailed the move as "a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice". (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans and Trump are unlikely to sign anthing that finds an old dictorship guilty of anything!)

11-13-19 Deepfakes are terrible for democracy, but Facebook is a bigger threat
This changes everything | Doctored videos are a menace, but we have more to fear from unscrupulous politicians taking advantage of Facebook's targeted ads, writes Annalee Newitz. PUNDITS in the US are arguing over a technology that is used almost exclusively for elections and pornography. I am referring to deepfakes, videos manipulated with simple apps to swap out faces, distort words and make it look like politicians are starring in hot XXX movies. The fate of deepfakes could change the course of democracy. And that feels very on-brand for the US right now. Technologists first warned about the power of machine learning to create convincing doctored videos back in 2017. Some deepfakes are so well done that it is impossible to distinguish them from legitimate footage. What if political operatives created a video making it appear that their opponents were doing something illegal or worse? After all, President Donald Trump has already assisted an attempt to undermine the credibility of Californian Democrat and House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi by tweeting a deepfake of a speech where her voice was distorted to make it seem like she was drunkenly slurring her words. Fearing more scenarios like this, California passed a law last month that will forbid the use of deepfakes in the 2020 presidential election. Politicians are voicing legitimate concerns, but they are worried about the wrong targets. Dutch cybersecurity firm Deeptrace released a report last month showing that nearly 96 per cent of deepfakes are revenge porn, videos where a victim’s face has been swapped onto a porn star’s body. We have yet to see the expected avalanche of deepfake political propaganda. In fact, bracing for the onslaught of such deepfakes has distracted us from the real fake menace: targeted political ads on social media platforms.

11-13-19 Idaho library user 'hides books criticising Trump'
A librarian in the US state of Idaho says a mystery visitor is hiding books that criticise President Donald Trump or contain liberal viewpoints. Bette Ammon, a librarian in Coeur d'Alene, said the patron had left a note saying they wanted to keep "propaganda" away from young people. As well as anti-Trump literature, books on LGBTQ+ issues, gun control and women's suffrage have been hidden or refiled as fiction. No-one has been caught as yet. Ms Ammon told the BBC that some of the books were found hidden in the gaps behind books already on the shelves. The note she received read: "I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds." The note, written on a comment card left for the library, added: "Your liberal angst gives me great pleasure." Although library staff reportedly have their suspicions about who is moving the books, no-one has been caught in the act so far. After a local TV station ran a story about the library, someone contacted Ms Ammon praising the actions of the individual, saying the library only stocks "liberal" books, according to the New York Times. Ms Ammon said the library contains books with a wide variety of views, including those praising President Trump. "There's a saying that a good library has something in it to offend everyone and we're pretty proud that we fit that criteria. We have books serving a diverse community," she added. If caught, the mystery patron will face what Ms Ammon called the "ultimate punishment" - being banned from the library.

11-13-19 Cirque du Soleil founder detained for growing cannabis on private island
The co-founder of global circus company Cirque du Soleil has been detained for growing cannabis on his private island in the South Pacific. Billionaire Guy Laliberte turned himself in to police in French Polynesia. The Canadian entrepreneur is due to appear in court on Wednesday. In a statement, Mr Laliberte's company Lune Rouge denied he was growing the plant on his private island of Nukutepipi for commercial gain. It said that he used cannabis for "medical" and "strictly personal" purposes. "Guy Laliberte completely dissociates himself from any rumour implicating him... in the sale or traffic of drugs," it said. Local television station Polynesie Premiere reported that police questioned an associate of Mr Laliberte weeks ago on suspicion of drug possession. They reportedly found images of marijuana plantations on the associate's cell phone. In 2015, Cirque du Soleil was sold to US and Chinese investors, but Mr Laliberte retains a minority stake in the company.

11-12-19 Is China gaining an edge in artificial intelligence?
"China is betting on AI and investing in AI and deploying AI on a scale no other country is doing," says Abishur Prakash, a futurist and author of books about the effect of artificial intelligence (AI) on geopolitics. As developments in AI accelerate, some in the US fear that the ability of China's powerful central government to marshal data and pour resources into the field will push it ahead. The country has announced billions in funding for start-ups, launched programmes to woo researchers from overseas and streamlined its data policies. It has announced news-reading robots and AI-powered strategy for foreign relations. Perhaps most alarming to the US are its efforts to incorporate it into its military. In the last few years, Washington has toughened oversight of Chinese investments, banned US firms from doing business with certain Chinese companies and increased criminal prosecution of alleged technology theft. "What the Trump administration is doing is a sign... the US knows that its geopolitical power will be redefined and reconfigured by this era," said Mr Prakash, who works at the Toronto-based Center for Innovating the Future. These developments come amid political tension between the two nations. Yet, some analysts worry the US response is counterproductive, arguing that cutting off access to US microchips, for example, could simply accelerate Chinese efforts to develop their own alternatives. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods - retaliation for "unfair" practices it says are aimed at giving China an advantage in the field. The White House has also pressed universities to review their relationships with Chinese partners and threatened to restrict student visas. It is even said to be looking at rules against certain US investments in China - once nearly unthinkable in free-market America.

11-12-19 Daca: US Supreme Court seems to back Trump on key immigration case
The US Supreme Court appears ready to overturn an Obama-era programme that protects nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation. The White House tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) policy in 2017 as part of an immigration crackdown. During oral arguments, the court's conservative justices seemed sympathetic to the White House stance. A ruling is due by June 2020, just before the US presidential election. President Barack Obama set up Daca in 2012 to protect immigrants who as young people entered the US illegally or overstayed a visa. These 660,000 migrants, mostly Hispanic, are known as "Dreamers". Questions asked by the court's five conservative-leaning justices on Tuesday did not indicate any doubt over whether President Donald Trump's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had the authority to cancel the programme. As the hearing began, hundreds of Daca supporters rallied outside the Capitol Hill court, forcing police to temporarily close the street in front of the Supreme Court. The court has nine justices and five of them are viewed as conservative leaning. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were both appointed by Mr Trump, asked questions on Tuesday that were interpreted by observers as well-disposed towards the president's position. Justice Kavanaugh called the White House's decision to cancel the programme a "very considered decision" that adequately weighed the policy's legality with its impact. Justice Gorsuch noted that even if the court ruled in favour of the "Dreamers" it would only prolong uncertainty for them. "What good would another five years of litigation... serve?" he asked. Chief Justice John Roberts - who was appointed by Republican President George W Bush - is expected to be the pivotal vote in the case. His questions on Tuesday did not reveal how the likely-tie breaker plans to ultimately vote.

11-12-19 Poland reacts angrily to Netflix Nazi death camp documentary
Poland's prime minister has written to streaming company Netflix insisting on changes to The Devil Next Door, a documentary about the Nazi death camps. Mateusz Morawiecki said a map shown in the series locates the death camps within modern-day Poland's borders. This misrepresents Poland as being responsible for the death camps, when it was actually occupied by Germany in World War Two, Mr Morawiecki said. Netflix told Reuters it was aware of concerns regarding the documentary. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the war. The Germans built concentration camps including at Auschwitz, killing millions of people, most of them Jews. Mr Morawiecki said in his letter to Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, that it was important to "honour the memory and preserve the truth about World War II and the Holocaust". He accused "certain works" on Netflix of being "hugely inaccurate" and "rewriting history". The prime minister attached a map of Europe in late 1942 to the letter, as well as an account by Witold Pilecki, who was voluntarily imprisoned in Auschwitz and wrote about his experiences after successfully escaping. "I believe that this terrible mistake has been committed unintentionally," Mr Morawiecki added. Last year, Poland introduced laws criminalising language implying Polish responsibility for the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. However, an international outcry prompted the government to remove the threat of three-year jail terms. More than five million Poles were killed during World War Two, including up to three million Jews who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. The death camps were planned and operated by occupying German SS units. There were, however, some Polish atrocities against Jews and other civilians during and after the war. In 1941, Polish villagers in Jedwabne, perhaps at the instigation of the Nazis, rounded up more than 300 of their Jewish neighbours and burned them alive in a barn.

11-12-19 Millions in U.S. Lost Someone Who Couldn't Afford Treatment
More than 13% of American adults -- or about 34 million people -- report knowing of at least one friend or family member in the past five years who died after not receiving needed medical treatment because they were unable to pay for it, based on a new study by Gallup and West Health. Nonwhites, those in lower-income households, those younger than 45, and political independents and Democrats are all more likely to know someone who has died under these circumstances.

  • 34 million adults know someone who died after not getting treatment
  • 58 million adults report inability to pay for needed drugs in past year
  • Little progress seen by Trump administration in limiting rising drug costs

11-12-19 DACA is doomed
No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the program remains in danger. The Supreme Court is scheduled today to hear arguments about the future of DACA. That it has to address this issue at all is bizarre. The Court, after all, is where the country goes to resolve its biggest and most intractable disagreements. But the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which protects many young migrants from deportation — is something Americans of all stripes actually support. As many as nine in 10 poll respondents say the so-called "DREAMers" should have a path to citizenship. Crucially, that is a view shared by most Republicans, even though President Trump announced the end of the program in 2017. DACA is popular. So it shouldn't be that difficult to save the program, right? Bipartisan majorities of Congress — the Democratic House and the Republican Senate — could vote to make DACA permanent. In the face of such popular majorities, the president might sign it. (He has occasionally signaled a willingness to do so in exchange for border security guarantees.) The DREAMers could stop worrying about their future and settle down, secure in their American-ness, to helping build this country that they claim as their own. That hasn't happened. And while it would be nice if the Supreme Court could just step in and fix that issue for everyone — assuming that the newly conservative majority on the Court is inclined to do so — the truth is that DACA will probably remain an endangered program no matter what happens today. Why? The case before the Court turns on a pretty narrow question of law. The debate isn't whether Trump had the right to bring DACA to an end, but whether his administration gave the wrong reason for doing so. The administration said that former President Obama overstepped his authority when he created DACA by executive order in 2012, and that the White House had no legal choice but to end the program. The Supreme Court might agree. Or it could decide — as lower courts have — that Obama had the authority to create DACA, and that the Trump administration's reasoning for ending the program was based "on an erroneous view of what the law required." If that happens, the Trump administration would probably be given the chance to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proper reason for ending the program. Still, if Obama had the discretion to create the program, there is little question that Trump has the authority to pull the plug — what a president can make, a president can unmake — even if he didn't quite go about it properly the first time around.

11-12-19 Daca: Dreamers take fight with Trump to Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court is to hear arguments in the case of an Obama-era immigration programme the White House has sought to end since 2017. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) policy protects 700,000 undocumented youths from deportation. The top court took up the case after lower courts ruled the administration did not adequately explain why it was ending the programme. A decision is expected in 2020, months before the presidential election. The lower court rulings do not contest the administration's right to end Daca, but they have criticised its "capricious" explanations for why it was doing so. However, the case could lead the Supreme Court to issue a key ruling on a president's power regarding immigration policy. Immigration has been one of President Donald Trump's signature campaign issues. The Daca programme affects an estimated 700,000 young people who entered the US without documents as children. Another million people were eligible but did not apply for the scheme. Most of them are from Mexico and other Latin American countries. A 2012 executive order created by former President Barack Obama shields these so-called "Dreamers" from deportation and provides work and study permits. President Obama signed the order following failed negotiations for immigration reform on Capitol Hill. In order to qualify for Daca, applicants under the age of 30 are required to submit personal information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including addresses and phone numbers. They must go through an FBI background check and have a clean criminal background, and either be in school, recently graduated or have been honourably discharged from the military. In exchange, the US government agrees to "defer" any action on their immigration status for a period of two years. It is only available to individuals residing in the US since 2007. (Webmaster's comment: Since the Republicans and Trump control the Supreme Court the People will lose.)

11-12-19 'I was detained for speaking Spanish in the US'
Ana Suda and a friend were stopped by police in Montana for speaking Spanish. The video of the incident in May 2018 went viral and Ana's life has since been turned upside down.

11-12-19 Poland nationalists hold huge Warsaw march
Far-right groups turned out in force to mark Polish Independence Day. They and other nationalists took over the centre of the capital Warsaw. Speakers praised Catholic, conservative traditions and some attacked the EU. Poland won independence in November 1918, but lost it when Nazi Germany invaded in 1939. (Webmaster's comment: The Nazis are back by the tens of thousands!)

11-10-19 People with more empathy may actually increase political divisions
You might think that a little more empathy would help to heal the divisions in US politics, but it could actually worsen the situation by increasing polarisation. Elizabeth Simas at the University of Houston, Texas, and her colleagues surveyed 1000 people in the US. The team found that those with a disposition for “empathic concern”, one of several traits that make up general empathy, seem to be more politically polarised. They hold a more favourable opinion of their own preferred party, whether Republican or Democrat, along with a more unfavourable opinion of the opposing one. To explore this further, Simas surveyed around 1200 students, randomly splitting them into two groups. Each participant was shown a different version of an article about a protest on a university campus. The article told the story of a public event with either a Democrat or a Republican speaker, which is halted by protests from the other side. When the police try to move in, a bystander is struck by a protester. In a series of questions afterwards, students with low empathic concern took the same view on whether the speech should have been stopped, irrespective of the speaker’s party. Students who were more empathic, however, were happier to censor speakers they disagreed with. They did care more overall about the bystander’s welfare, but that concern showed a partisan bias too, being less sympathetic if the bystander wanted to hear a speaker from the side the student disagreed with. “It’s like an emotional contagion to a certain degree,” says Simas. “I’m sharing the pain with somebody I connect with, so I don’t like the cause of the pain… We’re certainly not claiming that empathy is horrible and bad. Our presentation is saying, ‘Look, this is a complex thing’.” “Moral emotions evolved to help us navigate a world where tribal solidarity likely offered a huge advantage in survival. Thus, it makes good sense that empathy might be in-group oriented,” says Eric Groenendyk at the University of Memphis, Tennessee.

11-8-19 Trump wants whistleblower named despite 'physical danger'
US President Donald Trump has called for the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry to be unmasked, ignoring a cease-and-desist warning. On Thursday a lawyer for a whistleblower told the White House that Mr Trump's rhetoric was placing his client and family in physical danger. Undeterred by the letter, Mr Trump renewed his attacks on the whistleblower and lawyer on Friday. The individual's identity has so far been fiercely guarded by Democrats. In August the whistleblower filed a report that eventually triggered impeachment proceeding against Mr Trump. The report expressed concern over a phone call a month earlier in which Mr Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, a Democratic front-runner for the 2020 US presidential election. In Thursday's letter, sent to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, the whistleblower's lawyer Andrew Bakaj cites many examples of the president's "fixation" on the identity of his client in his comments to the media, at rallies and on Twitter. "Such statements seek to intimidate my client - and they have," Mr Bakaj writes. He continued: "Should any harm befall any suspected named whistleblower or their family, the blame will rest squarely with your client." (Webmaster's comment: The bottom line is that Trump is all but issuing a "License To Kill!" How is that possible in a nation that supports rights to life like America?)

11-8-19 Subpoena upheld
A federal court rejected President Trump’s effort to block his accounting firm from turning over eight years of personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors this week. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the Supreme Court should hear an appeal, noting, “The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our republic.” Trump’s lawyers have argued he has absolute immunity from state and federal criminal investigation—an immunity his lawyers say would extend even to shooting someone on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Judges, though, said they were not convinced that this case differs from the Supreme Court precedent ordering President Nixon to supply a grand jury with White House tapes. However, in its decision the court sidestepped the question of presidential immunity, saying that since the subpoena was served not on Trump but on his accountants, “compliance does not require the president to do anything at all.”

11-8-19 The economy: Has Trump helped or hurt?
Welcome to “‘The Greatest Economy in American History!’” said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. That, at least, is how President Trump tweet-greeted last week’s news that the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.9 percent in the third quarter. Once upon a time, under President Obama, Trump tweeted that a 1.9 percent growth rate portended “deep trouble for the economy!”…so was he right then or is he right now? The truth is that most economists think 2 percent growth will now be typical for the U.S., but it’s “way lower than you’d expect given the massive fiscal stimulus policymakers have been pumping into the economy.” Government spending has surged under Trump, with the annual deficit now nearing $1 trillion. Trump promised that the GOP’s $2 trillion tax cut in 2017 would boost growth to “4 percent, 5 percent, and even 6 percent.” Instead, corporations have largely used the windfall they got from having their tax rate cut from 35 percent to 21 percent to buy back shares, rather than investing it in equipment and workers. The numbers don’t lie, said Greg Ip in The Wall Street Journal. Trump’s “tax cut has underdelivered,” which can only be good news for the Democratic candidates seeking to replace him and reverse it. “Unemployment isn’t falling for everybody,” said Andrew Van Dam in The Washington Post. Thanks to Trump’s reckless trade war with China, which was supposed to help American workers, the U.S. manufacturing sector actually shrank over two straight quarters this year, putting it technically in recession. Investment in new factories and offices plunged by an alarming 15.3 percent in the third quarter, and unemployment is actually rising in manufacturing-dependent states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—which of course are vital to Trump’s reelection chances. Mining jobs are down, and so are exports. Trade-war uncertainty is making even nonmanufacturing companies skittish about new investment, said Robert Samuelson, also in The Washington Post. Yet the only policy proposal we hear from the White House is the “monstrously bad idea” of more tax cuts.

11-8-19 Barr backlash
British officials were taken aback by the Trump administration’s request that they help it investigate American intelligence agencies, British media reported last week. Attorney General William Barr is overseeing a criminal investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence concluded unequivocally that Russian hacks and covert social media campaigns were aimed at helping President Trump win the election; some commentators have speculated that Barr wants to discredit that conclusion. “They are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services,” one diplomat told Independent? Barr has also asked Italy and Australia to investigate. (Webmaster's comment: The second most evil man in America!)

11-8-19 Preaching the gospel of Trump
President Trump has appointed a “shameless religious grifter” as the White House’s adviser to faith-based groups, said Bonnie Kristian. Televangelist Paula White belongs to the “prosperity gospel” movement, which teaches that God will reward those who demonstrate their faith with worldly success, money, health, and happiness. Conveniently, this often means sending a check to preachers like White, who’s been married three times and lives in an opulent mansion. An “offering” of $75 or more, White’s website says, “WILL release you from your past and align your future for [God’s] blessing!” Prosperity gospel is a perversion of basic Christian teachings, in which God becomes “a divine vending machine.” It also preys on the desperate and vulnerable. Polling has shown those making $10,000 a year or less are twice as likely to believe in prosperity gospel than those making $35,000 to $50,000. Trump has borrowed from the same fraudulent playbook. “He promises his base a newly great America bristling with strong farms and reliable factory jobs.” But both sectors have gone into decline as a result of his disastrous policies. White “is a perfect fit for this presidency”: Like Trump, she is a grifter who specializes in “giving desperate people false hope for personal gain.”

11-8-19 Faith-based organizations?
The Department of Health and Human Services says it is ending an Obama-era rule prohibiting organizations receiving federal grants from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. The rule change, affecting organizations collectively receiving about $500 billion annually in grant money, will enable any faith-based organization to refuse to hire gay or transgender people or to work with people who don’t share its religion.

11-8-19 Acid attack
A white man told a Latino U.S. citizen to “go back to your country” before throwing battery acid in his face outside a Mexican restaurant this week. Mahud Villalaz, 42, who left Peru 19 years ago, says a stranger asked him, “Why did you come here and invade my country?” before splashing him with a container of acid, causing second-degree burns on his face and third-degree burns on his neck. Police arrested Clifton Blackwell, 61, who’s under investigation for a possible hate crime after a surveillance camera captured the assault. Villalaz says Blackwell confronted him for parking too close to a bus stop, and after Villalaz moved his truck, Blackwell continued to berate him on the sidewalk in the heavily Latino neighborhood. “This anger toward people from other countries is being fed by our president,” Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett said.

11-8-19 War crimes
Afghan paramilitary forces trained and backed by the CIA have committed war crimes, Human Rights Watch said last week. In a 53-page report that followed a two-year investigation, the group said the units carried out executions of civilians, launched bloody attacks on medical facilities, and ordered indiscriminate airstrikes—all violations of international law. The CIA said that unlike the Taliban, it conducts its operations “under a robust system of oversight.” The U.S. military provides the paramilitaries with intelligence and air support, and CIA contractors and Army Rangers often patrol with them. Since President Trump loosened the rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan two years ago, civilian deaths from airstrikes have soared, from 142 in 2016 to at least 579 so far this year.

11-8-19 American racist deported
An American white supremacist was detained in Norway this week just hours before he was to speak at an international far-right conference in Oslo. Greg Johnson, who promotes a “white genocide” conspiracy theory through his Counter-Currents Publishing group, was to address the Scandza Forum, a network that promotes anti-Semitic and racist views. “He stands for and communicates an extreme right-wing ideology,” police spokesman Martin Bernsen said. “There’s a danger that it can result in violence.” In a 2012 blog post, Johnson wrote that he had “respect” for Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people—most of them teenagers—in 2011. Johnson said authorities had misrepresented his views on Breivik and that he does not condone violence. Johnson was deported to Hungary, where he has a residence permit.

11-8-19 Far-right protests greet Georgia gay film premiere
Protests have been taking place in Tbilisi over the premiere of Georgia's first LGBTQ film, And Then We Danced. Directed by Levan Akin, the film tells the story of how Merab, a traditional Georgian dancer, discovers his sexuality while training in the National Georgian Ensemble. In an interview with Variety magazine, the award-winning Georgian-Swedish director said he wanted to show "the challenges of dealing with homosexuality in a conservative society, the hope in a new generation and the roles of art and tradition". And Then We Danced has already won several awards, including at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Sarajevo Film Festival. It has also been screened at other film festivals, including in Cannes and London. Sweden has selected the film as its entry for the best international feature film award for the Oscars. However, it has attracted controversy with protests from both church-goers and conservative groups. Mr Akin has already condemned nationalist groups calling on people to fight against "dark forces" in Georgia. A Georgian LGBTQ rights group, the Equality Movement, asked the police to provide security at the premiere. Georgia's Orthodox Church criticised the film's premiere, calling the screening "an attack against the church". Social media users have been quick to enter the debate. Nationalist group Alt-Info posted a video in which a man "Zurab Makharadze" calls on everyone who shares the same ideology to join the protest. Zurab also mentions "an informational and ideological war between conservatism and liberalism" and says the film premiere is only a part of the war.

11-8-19 Four-day workweek
Microsoft tested a four-day workweek in Japan and saw sales per employee rise 40 percent compared with a year earlier. The number of pages printed out fell by 59 percent, electricity consumption dropped 23 percent, and 94 percent of employees were satisfied with the program.The Washington Post

11-8-19 The 1950s were not really great
People on both sides of the political aisle are “waxing nostalgic for the 1950s,” said Noah Smith. “Many on the right wish for a return to the country’s conservative mores and nationalist attitudes, while some on the left pine for the era’s high tax rates, strong unions, and lower inequality.” But most objective measures show that things are much better now. At the end of the 1950s, “more than half of black Americans lived below the poverty line.” Many people now remember the decade as a time when a single breadwinner could provide for a family. But “a third of women worked in the ’50s, showing that many families needed a second income even if it defied the gender roles of the day”—and the women who did work had little chance for fulfilling careers. The “good old factory jobs” were often hard and dangerous. And Americans spent more time working: 2,264 hours a year in 1952, compared with 1,707 today. And what did workers call home? The average floor area of a single-family house in 1950 was 983 square feet, the size of a one-bedroom apartment today. Yes, the 1950s were a decade of progress and hope, but “the point of progress and hope is that things get better later.” And they did.

11-8-19 How Many Americans Believe in God?
Though a 2018 Gallup poll found that U.S. church membership has reached an all-time low of 50%, and one in five Americans does not identify with any religion, most of the country still expresses belief in God. Exactly how large that majority is, however, depends on how nuanced the response options are. Gallup has asked this question three different ways in recent years, with belief varying across them from 87% to 64%. The highest level of belief (87%) comes from a simple yes/no question, "Do you believe in God?" which Gallup last asked in 2017. Belief drops to 79% when respondents are given three options, one being God is something they believe in. The rest are either not sure whether they believe in God or firmly say they do not believe in God. Belief in God appears even lower when isolating just those from the five-part question who say they are "convinced" God exists, 64%. While all three measures of belief have exhibited declines, this group's drop has been the steepest. The array of Gallup results leads to the conclusion that putting a percentage on Americans' belief in God depends on how you define "belief." If the standard is absolute certainty -- no hedging and no doubts -- it's somewhere around two-thirds. If the standard is a propensity to believe rather than not to believe, then the figure is somewhere north of three-quarters.

11-8-19 The medieval Catholic Church may have helped spark Western individualism
Early religious decrees transformed families and, in turn, whole societies, a new study says. During the Middles Ages, decrees from the early Catholic Church triggered a massive transformation in family structure. That shift explains, at least in part, why Western societies today tend to be more individualistic, nonconformist and trusting of strangers compared with other societies, a new study suggests. The roots of that Western mind-set go back roughly 1,500 years when a branch of Christianity that later evolved into the Roman Catholic Church swept across Europe and beyond, report human evolutionary biologist Joseph Henrich and colleagues in the Nov. 8 Science. Leaders of that branch became obsessed with what they saw as incest, the researchers say, and launched a “marriage and family program” that eventually banned marriages between even distant cousins, step-relatives and in-laws. Church policies also encouraged marriage by choice instead of arranged marriages, and small, nuclear households, with couples living separately from extended family members. Using historical, anthropological and psychological data, Henrich and his colleagues show that the Church’s policies helped unravel the tight, cohesive kin networks that had existed. In places under the Church’s influence, a Western-style mind-set has come to dominate, the team says. “Human psychology and human brains are shaped by the institutions that we experience and the most fundamental of human institutions are our kinships [and] the organization of our families,” says Henrich, of Harvard University. “One particular strand of Christianity … got obsessed with this and altered the direction of European history.”

11-8-19 Judge orders Trump to pay $2m for misusing Trump Foundation funds
A New York judge has ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2m (£1.6m) for misusing funds from his charity to finance his 2016 political campaign. The Donald J Trump Foundation closed down in 2018. Prosecutors had accused it of working as "little more than a chequebook" for Mr Trump's interests. Charities such as the one Mr Trump and his three eldest children headed cannot engage in politics, the judge ruled. Mr Trump hit out at the ruling, saying "every penny" went to charity. "I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity ($19m), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State," he wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. He accused New York's attorney general, Letitia James, who brought the civil lawsuit, of "deliberately mischaracterising this settlement for political purposes". Judge Saliann Scarpulla said Mr Trump had "breached his fiduciary duty" by allowing funds raised for US veterans to be used for the Iowa primary election in 2016. "I direct Mr Trump to pay the $2,000,000, which would have gone to the Foundation if it were still in existence," she wrote, saying it must be paid by Mr Trump himself and should go to eight charities he has no relationship to. Mr Trump said the case had been resolved and that he was "happy to donate" $2m to the Army Emergency Relief, Children's Aid Society, City Meals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha's Table, United Negro College Fund, United Way of Capital Area and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ms James said Mr Trump had admitted to "personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation". She had asked Judge Scarpulla to ban Mr Trump from ever running a charity again. However, this was not imposed. Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump - who were also directors of the Trump Foundation - are required to undergo mandatory training "on the duties of officers and directors of charities", Ms James said. The case was opened following an investigation into the Trump Foundation by the Washington Post in 2016.

11-7-19 Megan Rapinoe on racism, equal pay and LGBT rights
Megan Rapinoe is one of the biggest names in sport after leading the USA to victory at the Women's Football World Cup this year. Don’t be fooled by the pink hair and big smile though, Rapinoe is using her platform to lead the fight for equality in sport. In a wide ranging interview with Radio 1 Newsbeat’s sports reporter Eleanor Roper she chats about racism in football, equal pay, LGBTQ+ rights and the possibility of a career in politics.

11-7-19 Italy Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre under guard amid death threats
An 89-year-old Holocaust survivor in Italy has been assigned police guards for protection after receiving hundreds of threats on social media. Liliana Segre, who was sent to the notorious Auschwitz death camp at 13, has been subjected to a barrage of anti-Semitic messages in recent days. It comes after Ms Segre, an Italian life senator, called for parliament to establish a committee to combat hate. The motion passed despite a lack of support by Italy's right-wing parties. Members of the nationalist League party, led by Matteo Salvini, the centre-right Forza Italia and the far-right Brothers of Italy all abstained from the vote in Milan last week. The motion called for the establishment of an extraordinary commission in Italy to combat all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, incitement to hatred and violence on ethnic and religious grounds. Ms Segre said after the vote that the abstentions made her feel "like a Martian in the Senate". "I appealed to the conscience of everyone and thought that a commission against hatred as a principle would be accepted by all," she said at the time, Italy's La Repubblica reported (in Italian). Since then, she has reported receiving as many as 200 hate messages a day. Some of the threats have been so serious that the prefect of Milan, Renato Saccone, held a meeting on Wednesday with the committee for security and public order, where it was agreed that Ms Segre needed police protection. The measures that were approved include Ms Segre being accompanied in public by two paramilitary carabinieri officers. Meanwhile, the Milan public prosecutor's office said it had opened an investigation into the hate messages targeting the senator and had requested the assistance of Italy's anti-terror police. (Webmaster's comment: The Nazis are back and a threat to all of mankind!)

11-7-19 Milwaukee man charged with hate crime over parking spot acid attack
Police in Wisconsin have charged a man with a hate crime after a Peru-born US citizen had acid thrown in his face and was told to go back to his country. Mahud Villalaz, 42, suffered second-degree burns to his face on Friday in a dispute over a parking spot in Milwaukee, says a criminal complaint. Clifton Blackwell, 61, is charged with first-degree reckless injury in a hate crime using a dangerous weapon. Mr Villalaz became a US citizen in 2013. Mr Villalaz told BBC's US affiliate CBS News: "He just approached me with those hated words, 'Go back to your country.'" He added that the liquid, which he believes was battery acid, burned through two layers of his clothing. Three days after the attack, authorities searched Mr Blackwell's residence and found "muriatic acid, four bottles of brand name Kleen-Out sulfuric acid, two bottles of Kleen-Out drain opener (100% lye), and Parkerizing cleaner", the criminal complaint says. If convicted on all three counts, Mr Blackwell could face up to 35 years in jail. The charge of first-degree reckless injury carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, with an additional five years each for using a dangerous weapon and committing a hate crime. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Villalaz said he was feeling better and would like to move on from the incident. "It has been wonderful to see that there are many people who worry about others, not only Latinos but white people... everybody," the welder said in Spanish, according to CNN. "Let's unite and live in peace with our neighbours." Milwaukee Alderman Jose Perez condemned the attack as "heinous".

11-7-19 Martin Luther King's name removed from Kansas city street
Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, overwhelmingly approved the removal of Martin Luther King's name from a major road, months after it was renamed. The proposal to remove Dr King's name claimed almost 70% of a public vote, preliminary results show. The council voted in January to rename The Paseo, a 10 mile (16km) boulevard in the city's mostly black east side. But the change sparked a battle, with opponents arguing that residents had not been properly consulted. Some residents said they felt their neighbourhood was losing its identity. Opponents of the name change set up the Save The Paseo group earlier this year. In April, it gathered enough signatures to put the removal to a vote. More than 1,000 streets worldwide are said to bear the name of Dr King, with at least 955 found in the US. Kansas City is one of the only major US cities without a street named after the civil rights icon. Those who wanted Dr King's name removed said they respect his legacy, but criticised the council's decision to push the change through by waiving a requirement that 75% of property owners on the boulevard should approve it. "I overwhelmingly heard from my constituents that they did not want it," Alissia Canady, who served as councilwoman for the district that encompasses The Paseo, told the BBC. "There were African American property owners that did not agree with this way of honouring Dr King." Ms Canady, who is black, said the council had been aware that "the political will was not there". "They rushed to put the signs up with the hope that once the signs were up people would be afraid to take them down. That was the rhetoric: Kansas City can't be the city that takes Dr King's name down," Ms Canady says. The Kansas City Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) - an organisation founded by Dr King - led efforts to keep the street's name in his honour. They did not respond to a request for comment.

11-6-19 Tucson: Voters in liberal US city reject sanctuary city status
Voters in Tucson have overwhelmingly rejected a move to become a "sanctuary city" - a city with policies to aid undocumented immigrants. The measure would have put more restrictions on how police enforce immigration laws. Activists pushed the bill to give a voice to the Latino community in Arizona state's second-largest city. But opponents argued Tucson was already immigrant-friendly and that the measure would do more harm than good. In an interview before the vote on Tuesday, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was quoted by AP news agency as saying: "The city of Tucson, in all respects except being labelled as such, operates as a sanctuary city." The mayor and city council members - who are all Democrats - were worried about unintended consequences of becoming an official sanctuary city, like losing millions of dollars in state and federal funding. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised sanctuary cities and has threatened to withhold their access to funding. A federal court ruled in June that the administration could consider a city's enforcement of immigration laws when deciding how to distribute federal funds. Mr Rothschild also said the initiative would have placed unnecessary burdens on officers even on issues unrelated to immigration. The ballot measure was intended to counter a 2010 Arizona immigration law known as SB1070, which sparked mass protests and boycotts of the state. After revisions to the bill, courts upheld the requirement for police officers to check immigration status of people they suspected to be in the US illegally. While Tucson voters rejected the sanctuary city measure, they also elected the city's first Latina mayor, Regino Romero.

11-6-19 Buffalo Wild Wings customers speak after racist incident
Players, coaches, and parents of two youth basketball teams demanded further action at an emotional press conference on Tuesday, after being asked to move seats at a restaurant in Naperville, Illinois. A customer had complained about sitting next to the party because of their race. Buffalo Wild Wings said they fired two managers involved and banned the customers who made the complaint permanently from all of the restaurant's locations nationwide.

11-6-19 Virginia elects woman who gave president the finger
A woman who was fired for raising her middle finger at US President Donald Trump's motorcade has been elected to local office in Virginia. Juli Briskman's hand gesture went viral in 2017, leading to her losing a job with a government contractor. The single mother won more than 52% of the vote to be elected district representative in Loudoun county. At the state level, US Democrats have seized full control of the Virginia legislature. A picture of Ms Briskman cycling and "flipping off" President Trump's motorcade as it passed her spread across the internet in October 2017. Shortly after, Ms Briskman used the image as a profile picture on her social media accounts. Her employer, Akima LLC, said the image was "lewd" and "obscene" and fired her for violating its social media policies, she told the Huffington Post. The company did not respond to the BBC's request for comment at the time. Ms Briskman had reportedly been working as a marketing analyst for the government contractor for six months, but said she didn't regret making the gesture. On Tuesday night, Ms Briskman celebrated her election in a tweet linking to the offending image. Ms Briskman told AFP she ran on a platform prioritising education, woman's rights and environmental issues. She added her campaign showed she was more than "just the person that rode my bike one day and flipped off the president". The results of the state elections mean the Democrats have full control of both legislative chambers in Virginia for the first time in more than 20 years.

11-6-19 Naomi Oreskes asks "why trust science" in an age of denialism
In Why Trust Science?, Naomi Oreskes's asks bold questions but knows there are no clear answers – and critiques herself as the book unfolds. “I DON’T want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.” That is what climate activist Greta Thunberg told the US Congress in September when she offered a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rather than her own words as testimony. But why would anyone choose to listen to carefully dehumanised, committee-speak science over the impassioned, but not impartial, rhetoric of real human beings? Because facts outweigh opinions, say science insiders. The trouble is, as Naomi Oreskes points out in her fascinating new book, Why Trust Science?, that is because we have faith in science. In the end, none of us can actually come up with a convincing answer to the question at the heart of this discussion: why trust science? Maybe because it works. Surely the results of social experiments like vaccination speak for themselves? Death and damage from diseases such as measles and smallpox have been radically reduced by inoculation. Or we could cite the laws of physics: if you blanket Earth in a gas that absorbs infrared radiation, trapping heat, it has to experience significant warming. Ah, but how do outsiders know this is true? Frustrating as it seems, Oreskes argues that this is a valid question. Scientists, she says, “need to explain not just what they know, but how they know it”. But attempts to do this can confound the problem. Take IPCC reports. They are the voice of scientific consensus on climate change: thousands of scientists contribute, and their findings, researched over decades, are distilled into a digest of objective facts by teams of scientist-writers. These reports aren’t designed to be page-turners, nor to convey scientists’ anguish at the dire situation. They are cool presentations of the scientific conclusions and how they were reached. “In suppressing their values and insisting on science’s neutrality, scientists have gone down a wrong road” Perhaps, Oreskes suggests, that is why they have made so little impact on global policy-makers. “The dominant style in scientific writing is not only to hide the values of the authors, but to hide their humanity altogether,” she says. “The ideal paper is written… as if there were no human author.”

11-6-19 The many benefits of a 4-day work week
Why even companies might want their employees to work less. An old idea might be slowly creeping back into the economic mainstream: A four-day work week. The latest flirtation happened in Japan, where Microsoft's local division tried giving its employees five consecutive Fridays off over the summer — and found sales per employee jumped 40 percent during the period. Meeting times were cut, the office consumed fewer resources, and nearly everyone said they were satisfied with the program. Nor is Microsoft the first company to find that experiments with shorter work weeks actually improve the bottom line. In fact, a four-day work week could come with all sorts of benefits: In productivity, in lower stress, in happier lives, and in more economic justice. Back in the 1930s, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that work weeks would eventually fall to 15 hours — or roughly two-day weeks — as technology advanced and economies became more productive. The logic for this is pretty simple: If a society increases the amount of wealth an hour of labor can produce, people can take the benefits of that in one of two ways: They can work more and take home more income, or they can take the same income home and work less. Of course, it hasn't worked out that way. Advanced economies have cut the amount of hours their workers put in each year by all sorts of amounts. At the cutting edge, the Netherlands has roughly a four-day work week already. But most advanced countries fall well short of that mark, never mind two-day weeks. And none fall shorter than America. As my colleague Ryan Cooper lays out in a new paper, America barely reduced hours for its average employee at all over the last five decades. As much as news stories paint Japan as overworked, the U.S. is even worse: In 2016, the average American put in 1,781 hours on the job — more than any other advanced nation. The amount of GDP we produce per hour is greater than just about any other developed Western economy. But the total hours we work is much higher. We haven't translated more productivity into more leisure at all.

11-6-19 Virginia elects woman who gave president the finger
A woman who was fired for raising her middle finger at US President Donald Trump's motorcade has been elected to local office in Virginia. Juli Briskman's hand gesture went viral in 2017, leading to her losing a job with a government contractor. The single mother won more than 52% of the vote to be elected district representative in Loudoun county. At the state level, US Democrats have seized full control of the Virginia legislature. A picture of Ms Briskman cycling and "flipping off" President Trump's motorcade as it passed her spread across the internet in October 2017. Shortly after, Ms Briskman used the image as a profile picture on her social media accounts. Her employer, Akima LLC, said the image was "lewd" and "obscene" and fired her for violating its social media policies, she told the Huffington Post. The company did not respond to the BBC's request for comment at the time. Ms Briskman had reportedly been working as a marketing analyst for the government contractor for six months, but said she didn't regret making the gesture. On Tuesday night, Ms Briskman celebrated her election in a tweet linking to the offending image. Ms Briskman told AFP she ran on a platform prioritising education, woman's rights and environmental issues. She added her campaign showed she was more than "just the person that rode my bike one day and flipped off the president". The results of the state elections mean the Democrats have full control of both legislative chambers in Virginia for the first time in more than 20 years.

11-6-19 The many benefits of a 4-day work week
Why even companies might want their employees to work less. An old idea might be slowly creeping back into the economic mainstream: A four-day work week. The latest flirtation happened in Japan, where Microsoft's local division tried giving its employees five consecutive Fridays off over the summer — and found sales per employee jumped 40 percent during the period. Meeting times were cut, the office consumed fewer resources, and nearly everyone said they were satisfied with the program. Nor is Microsoft the first company to find that experiments with shorter work weeks actually improve the bottom line. In fact, a four-day work week could come with all sorts of benefits: In productivity, in lower stress, in happier lives, and in more economic justice. Back in the 1930s, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that work weeks would eventually fall to 15 hours — or roughly two-day weeks — as technology advanced and economies became more productive. The logic for this is pretty simple: If a society increases the amount of wealth an hour of labor can produce, people can take the benefits of that in one of two ways: They can work more and take home more income, or they can take the same income home and work less. Of course, it hasn't worked out that way. Advanced economies have cut the amount of hours their workers put in each year by all sorts of amounts. At the cutting edge, the Netherlands has roughly a four-day work week already. But most advanced countries fall well short of that mark, never mind two-day weeks. And none fall shorter than America. As my colleague Ryan Cooper lays out in a new paper, America barely reduced hours for its average employee at all over the last five decades. As much as news stories paint Japan as overworked, the U.S. is even worse: In 2016, the average American put in 1,781 hours on the job — more than any other advanced nation. The amount of GDP we produce per hour is greater than just about any other developed Western economy. But the total hours we work is much higher. We haven't translated more productivity into more leisure at all.

11-5-19 Trump fiddles while California burns
President Trump is an awful president even when he isn't committing high crimes and misdemeanors. We were reminded of that truth Monday, when his administration notified the international community that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. The decision is entirely Trump's to make. There is no abuse of power, no illegal quid pro quo, no undermining of democracy involved. Leaving the accord is simply a terrible, selfish decision. Also on Monday, California continued to burn. Over the last two years, in fact, wildfires have burned 5,000 square miles in the state. The two stories are related, of course. An August study in the journal Earth's Future found that climate change has driven a fivefold growth in the annual size of the state's burned area since the early 1970s. "Human-caused warming has already significantly enhanced wildfire activity in California, particularly in the forests of the Sierra Nevada and North Coast, and will likely continue to do so in the coming decades," the study's authors wrote. So it was galling to see Trump's allies greet Monday's accord withdrawal by taking a victory lap. "The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet. "Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model." It is true that U.S. emissions declined for much of the decade preceding Trump's election — an overall drop of 12 percent between 2005 and 2017, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. But it is also true that Trump's policies have tried to reverse some of the factors that led to the decline. According to the center, during those 12 years "electric power sector emissions fell 27 percent as a result of a shift from coal to natural gas, increased use of renewable energy, and a leveling of electricity demand." The Trump administration, of course, has done everything it can to reverse the decline of coal — on Monday, for example, it announced a rollback of Obama-era rules that limited the amount of heavy metals and ash that coal plants allowed in the nation's groundwater. The White House has also sought to make big cuts at the federal department that funds clean energy research.

11-5-19 Xiaomi smartphone has 108 megapixel camera
Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has unveiled the world's first mainstream handset to feature a 108 megapixel camera. The extra high-resolution sensor was developed by Samsung, which has yet to feature it in its own products. The firms say the benefit is that it delivers "extremely sharp photographs that are rich in detail". However, one early test of the tech indicates that its images contain more digital distortions than those produced by lower-resolution smartphones. For now, the Mi CC9 Pro Premium has only been announced for the Chinese market, where the base model costs 2,799 yuan ($400; £310). But Xiaomi has said it will use the same component in the Mi Note 10, which will be be launched on Wednesday and sold more widely. The firm is currently the world's fourth-bestselling smartphone vendor, according to research firm Canalys, with a market share of 9.1%. Its sales are rapidly growing in Europe and it has just announced its intention to expand into Japan in 2020. Until now, 100MP+ sensors have typically been the preserve of medium-format digital cameras, which can cost tens of thousands of pounds. Trying to squeeze lots of resolution into a smaller smartphone component runs the risk of increasing cross-talk, a phenomenon where the electrical activity of one pixel spills into its neighbours, as they are packed so closely together. This results in digital noise in the final image. In addition, since each pixel needs to be smaller than normal to fit into the same space, each receives less light, causing further problems in low-light conditions. Samsung's Isocell Plus sensor partly addresses these problems by being larger in size than most smartphone sensors. But its key innovation is that its pixels are arranged in groups of four, with each set sharing the same colour filter to detect red, green or blue light.

11-4-19 Recalled US ambassador felt 'threatened' by Trump
A recalled US ambassador at the centre of the Trump impeachment inquiry said she felt threatened by a cryptic remark the president made about her on a call. Ex-envoy to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told Congress she was "very concerned" by President Donald Trump's comment in the phone call with Ukraine's leader. Mr Trump told his counterpart: "Well, she's [Ms Yovanovitch] going to go through some things." Democrats have just released the first transcripts from closed-door testimony. The Republican president is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his US political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked with a Ukrainian gas company. During the 25 July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky - a rough transcript of which has been released by the White House - the US president also described Ms Yovanovitch as "bad news". That call triggered the current congressional impeachment investigation that could seek to remove Mr Trump from office for alleged abuses of power. In her testimony from 11 October released on Monday, she said she had been "shocked" by what the president said. "I didn't know what it meant," Ms Yovanovitch said. "I was very concerned. I still am." The House Intelligence Committee released Ms Yovanovitch's testimony on Monday. The career diplomat said that when she sought advice from the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor, he suggested Ms Yovanovitch tweet praise of the president. "You need to go big or go home," Mr Sondland allegedly told her. Ms Yovanovitch testified that she did not think she could follow the advice. Ms Yovanovitch added that Mr Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had begun efforts to discredit her in late 2018 as he effectively ran a shadow foreign policy on Ukraine. Mr Giuliani wanted to investigate Mr Biden and his son in order to find information "that could be possibly damaging to a Presidential run", the diplomat testified. Mr Giuliani also enlisted Ukraine's chief prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, to spread "falsehoods" about her in order to "hurt" her "in the US", according to Ms Yovanovitch.

11-4-19 64% of Americans Want Stricter Laws on Gun Sales
Nearly two in three Americans say that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter (64%), while 28% say the laws should be kept as they are. Few Americans (7%) would like the laws to be made less strict.

  • 28% want current laws to remain the same; 7% want them to be less strict
  • Desire for stricter laws much greater among Democrats than Republicans
  • National handgun ban remains unpopular: 29% support outright ban

11-4-19 Can neighborhood outreach reduce inner-city gun violence in the U.S.?
Researchers are looking into how intervention programs cut homicide rates. The gunshots ripped through a house party before dawn on Chicago’s South Side. By the time the 27-year-old victim arrived by ambulance at a hospital, he was dead from multiple bullet wounds. Unlike the violence seen in classic turf wars among gangs fighting over, say, control of an illegal drug market, no gang leader had ordered the Sept. 1 killing of Yarmel Williams. Instead, he had apparently been targeted following a war of words over social media. Known on the street and online as 051 Melly, Williams belonged to one of Chicago’s many informal, neighborhood groups, or cliques, of young, African-American men who follow a deadly code: perceived slights and past slayings of friends by rivals must be avenged through the barrel of a gun. Neighborhood clique members “live in their own, isolated culture that glorifies gun violence and warps how they see themselves as black men,” says Lance Williams, a professor of urban studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago who is not related to Yarmel Williams. Cliques have names and members who formerly belonged to different, even rival, Chicago gangs that have since dissolved. But unlike gangs, cliques have no top dogs. Instead, each person decides on his own, often spontaneously, whether to shoot someone. Personal beefs can quickly turn deadly. Well-intentioned laws won’t stop shootings by young men competing over whose clique has scored the most fatalities, Williams says, who has studied youth violence and worked 30 years among Chicago gang and clique members. So currently proposed gun control legislation is unlikely to deter this inner-city violence. Instead, some researchers are looking into the effectiveness of outreach programs that deal directly with violence-prone individuals to dissuade them, and perhaps peers they later encounter, from gun crime. Williams calls for innovative education, job opportunities and gun violence prevention programs. “Policy makers need to understand that we have to rebuild healthy identities and world views,” he says.

11-4-19 UAE prisoners denied HIV treatment - Human Rights Watch
Foreign detainees in at least one United Arab Emirates (UAE) prison are being denied lifesaving HIV treatment, according to Human Rights Watch. Former prisoners of Dubai's central jail told the group that treatment was often delayed, interrupted or denied altogether. International guidelines on human rights in prisons say inmates have a right to medical services. The BBC has contacted the UAE's embassy in London for comment. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that non-citizen prisoners were not given the same access to treatment as Emirati prisoners in Dubai's Al Awir Central Jail. "The UAE has an obligation to provide health care, including antiretroviral medicines, to all prisoners in their custody without discrimination," said Michael Page, HRW's deputy Middle East director. Foreign HIV-positive prisoners previously held at Al Awir said they received regular testing every three to six months, but were not granted consistent access to treatment. They also said prison officials were "indifferent" to requests for care, and that some prisoners were detained without charge "because they tested positive for HIV". Prisoners with HIV are kept separate from other inmates and report experiencing stigma and systemic discrimination. One source told HRW that a prisoner recently fell ill after nearly four months without treatment, and had test results showing warning signs for the onset of Aids. As a member state of the United Nations, the UAE is committed to a worldwide effort to end Aids by 2030. UN standards on human rights and prisons state that prisoners should be provided with necessary medical treatment. Earlier this year, UN human rights experts condemned the poor conditions in which a UAE activist was being held. They said Ahmed Mansoor - imprisoned for "defaming" the country on social media - had no bed or water in his cell and was subject to prolonged periods of solitary confinement that might amount to torture.

11-3-19 TUS judge blocks Trump immigrant health insurance rule
A US judge has temporarily blocked a rule proposed by President Donald Trump that would require immigrants to prove they will have health insurance within 30 days of arrival in the US, or can pay for medical care. Judge Michael Simon, a district judge in Oregon, granted a preliminary injunction against the proposal. Seven American citizens and an NGO had filed a lawsuit opposing the rule. They argued it would block hundreds of thousands of legal migrants. The lawsuit said the number of immigrants who enter the US with family-sponsored visas would drop considerably, or be eliminated altogether. Judge Simon said the potential damage to families justified a US-wide ban. "Facing a likely risk of being separated from their family members and a delay in obtaining a visa to which family members would otherwise be entitled is irreparable harm," his legal order read. Would-be immigrants had been struggling to establish how to get the required insurance coverage. The US healthcare system is complex, and has not generally catered to people yet to arrive there. The policy is part of Mr Trump's effort to shift the US away from a family-focused immigration system. Judge Simon's 28-day temporary restraining order will prevent the rule from coming into effect on 3 November, but the legal battle is likely to continue. The Trump administration has argued that legal immigrants are about three times more likely to lack health insurance than US citizens, and that taxpayers should not bear their medical costs. However, US policy experts say immigrants are less likely to use the healthcare system than American citizens. Research from George Washington University found that recent immigrants without insurance made up less than a tenth of 1% of US medical fees in 2017.

11-3-19 UFC: Raucous reception for Trump at Mixed Martial Arts
Donald Trump was met with raucous boos - and some cheers - on Saturday as he attended the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in New York. The US president attended the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event with high-ranking Republicans and his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. A small anti-Trump protest was held at the Madison Square Garden arena. It comes less than a week after the president was booed at the baseball World Series in Washington DC. Chants of "lock him up" echoed around the stadium earlier in the week - a reference to a chant sometimes heard at Mr Trump's political rallies, which calls for the imprisonment of his former presidential rival Hillary Clinton. The reception was mixed on Saturday night, however, with cheers and clapping heard from some spectators, and boos and profanities from others. Signs reading "Remove Trump" and "Impeach Trump" were also spotted in the crowd. Mr Trump is currently facing an impeachment probe relating to allegations he pressured Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his rival in the 2020 White House race, former Vice President Joe Biden. As video of the crowd spread on social media, his son Donald Jr hit back on Twitter, saying the reception had been "overwhelmingly positive" and that UFC President Dana White - a long-time friend of the president's - had called it "the most electrifying entrance he's seen in 25 years".

11-2-19 Why televangelist Paula White is the perfect Trump administration hire
Though she rejects the label, televangelist Paula White is part of the prosperity gospel movement, which goes by many names: "Name it and claim it." "Health and wealth." "Word of faith." "Seed faith." Even just "faith." What these titles to varying degrees reveal and obscure is the transactional nature of this scam at the fringes of Christianity. God wants to give you money, good health, and happiness, the prosperity gospel preacher says, but you've gotta work with him a little first. You have to demonstrate the sincerity of your faith — do for him before he'll do for you — and as it turns out, a really great demonstration of faith is sending a check to this very preacher, who just happens to be in the market for a new personal plane. White also happens to be the latest Trump administration hire, reportedly brought on to advise on the White House's Faith and Opportunity Initiative. This is exactly right. A shameless religious grifter is a perfect fit for this presidency, an administration built on giving desperate people false hope for personal gain. To the outside observer, the prosperity gospel may look like a mere extension of more theologically conservative and liturgically demonstrative types of Christianity, a close relative of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, or Pentecostalism. There is overlap with each, to be sure, but the prosperity gospel is a unique creature. Though popular around the world, especially in the Global South, it has American roots and what Kate Bowler, a professor of religion at Duke Divinity School, has described as a "triumph of American optimism over the realities of a fickle economy, entrenched racism, pervasive poverty, and theological pessimism." There are two chief problems with the prosperity gospel. One is its clever theological perversion, which offers a funhouse mirror take on basic Christian affirmations that God loves us, wants good things for us, and is working through his people toward a final victory over evil, sin, and death itself. In the prosperity gospel's telling, God is a divine vending machine: You put in your coin of faith (check or credit also accepted) and out pops your health, wealth, and victory, the latter degraded from a cosmic triumph to positive feelings about your personal life. The New Testament speaks often of the necessity of self-denial, the reality of suffering (including suffering because of your faith), and the dangers and temptations of wealth. The prosperity gospel offers "your best life now," purchasable escape from pain, and wealth as proof of God's favor. God here is a means, not an end. The second problem with the prosperity gospel is its utterly inexcusable targeting of vulnerable people. This movement does not flourish among the upper class. Those who make $10,000 or less per year are twice as likely to adhere to the prosperity gospel as those making $35,000 to $50,000 per year. It is but a slight exaggeration to say the only people getting the promised wealth are those making the promises. The reality of poverty is not overcome by opportunistic religious lies.

11-2-19 Dresden: The German city that declared a 'Nazi emergency'
A city in eastern Germany has declared a "Nazi emergency", saying it has a serious problem with the far right. Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has long been viewed as a bastion of the far-right and is the birthplace of the anti-Islam Pegida movement. Councillors in the city - a contender for the 2025 European Capital of Culture - have now approved a resolution saying more needs to be done to tackle the issue. But opponents say it goes too far. "'Nazinotstand' means - similar to the climate emergency - that we have a serious problem. The open democratic society is threatened," local councillor Max Aschenbach, who tabled the motion, told the BBC. Mr Aschenbach, from left-leaning satirical political party Die Partei, said he believed it was necessary to take action because politicians were not doing enough to "position themselves clearly" against the far-right. "The request was an attempt to change that. I also wanted to know what kind of people I'm sitting with in the city council of Dresden," he said. The resolution acknowledges that "right-wing extremist attitudes and actions... are occurring with increasing frequency" and calls on the city to help victims of far-right violence, protect minorities and strengthen democracy. Mr Aschenbach said adopting the motion showed the city council's commitment to fostering "a free, liberal, democratic society that protects minorities and resolutely opposes Nazis." Mr Aschenbach's resolution was put to a vote by Dresden's city council on Wednesday night. It was approved by 39 votes to 29, with Germany's governing Christian Democrats (CDU) among those to have rejected it, according to local media reports. (Webmaster's comment: Nazis are pure EVIL! Anything we can do to curtail them should be legitimate!)

11-1-19 Anti-Semitism has increased
84% of Jews in America say they believe anti-Semitism has increased over the past five years. Since 2014, 23% of Jews have experienced an anti-Semitic remark through phone, mail, or in person, and 21% have been attacked online. 31% say they have publicly avoided wearing things that would identify themselves as Jews. 47% say that Jewish institutions they have been a part of have been attacked in some way.

11-1-19 Booing the president: Was it justified?
President Trump is “an avid sports fan,” yet he “stays away from most sporting events,” said Christine Brennan in USA Today. “Now we know why.” After the Washington Nationals’ public address announcer introduced him during Game 5 of the World Series, the hometown D.C. crowd greeted him with “intense and long-lasting” boos. A lusty chant of “Lock him up!” followed “for several minutes” from the outfield and upper deck. Trump, who rarely travels beyond the protective bubble of his rallies and properties, is the only president since William Taft in 1910 not to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. He hasn’t even attended a single game. “Odds are, he won’t come back anytime soon.”

11-1-19 “Way too out there with his gayness.”
A Missouri jury has awarded nearly $20 million to a gay police officer who was told to “tone down” his gayness. Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was passed over 23 times for promotion, with superior officers describing him as “fruity” and “way too out there with his gayness.” The jury foreman said the award sends a message that “if you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price.”

11-1-19 Boeing: How could the CEO know so little?
Members of Congress this week confronted Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg with evidence that “numerous people inside Boeing were aware of the potential dangers” of Boeing’s troubled emergency warning system, said David Gelles and Natalie Kitroeff in The New York Times. Rep. Pete DeFazio (D.-Ore.) produced an email showing that as early as 2015 Boeing employees asked what would happen if the airplane’s “angle of attack” sensor failed. Other documents showed that Boeing knew pilots could face “catastrophic” failure if they “took 10 seconds to respond” to the sensor’s warning. With victims’ families seated behind him, Muilenburg acknowledged that, “We have work to do.” The most revealing exchange in Muilenburg’s Senate hearing was with Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas), said Brooke Sutherland in Pressed by Cruz, Muilenburg said he was “generally aware” of documents that raised questions about the Boeing 737 Max, but he “relied on his counsel to provide that information to the appropriate authorities.” Muilenburg passing the buck left Cruz fuming. And he was right to fume. Muilenburg said he found out about “bombshell” messages from Boeing’s test pilots “over the last couple of weeks when it became public news.” A full year after the plane’s first crash, that kind of ignorance from the CEO is “inexplicable.” (Webmaster's comment: It's profits first, safety second as always for executives!)

52 Atheism News & Humanism News Articles
for November 2019

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for October 2019