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

130 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for March 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source

We have a new Muslim Hate Crime in our country.
Anti-Muslim Immigration Laws!

3-31-17 Killing civilians in Iraq and Syria
Killing civilians in Iraq and Syria
In recent weeks, “we’ve started to get a good look at the Trump strategy to fight ISIS,” said Joshua Keating. Though the media consensus is that it’s almost identical to President Obama’s ISIS strategy, that’s not true in a very important way. Trump has swept away Obama’s bombing oversight rules, which were designed to minimize the civilian casualties that often cause hatred of the West and further radicalization. He’s essentially given the military free rein to do whatever it wants. The results have been a series of mass casualty attacks, with hundreds of civilian deaths. Locals say a strike on a mosque in Aleppo killed 50 civilians, while the U.S. admits that bombings of a neighborhood in Mosul killed more than 100 men, women, and children—perhaps as many as 200. The monitoring group Airwars says 1,058 civilians were killed by U.S. coalition airstrikes in March—double the number in December. During the campaign, Trump claimed to have “a secret plan” to defeat ISIS, which we now know is not true. But he also promised to “bomb the s--- out of them” and stop the “politically correct” effort to protect civilians. About that, he wasn’t kidding. (Webmaster's comment: Back to United States using war crimes to terrorize civilians, just like we did in Vietnam!)

3-31-17 Trump is hardly a dictator
Trump is hardly a dictator
“So much for Donald Mussolini,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. In the early days of the Trump presidency, the apocalyptic Left was using “Mussolini and Hitler analogies” in warning that the new president was destroying “democratic norms” and assuming near-dictatorial power. But nine weeks in, “the normal checks and balances of the American system are working almost to a fault.” The courts have blocked his immigration-ban order; Congress rejected the health-care bill he supported; and the FBI and congressional intelligence committees are investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Meanwhile, the federal government “is leaking like a tent in a monsoon,” and Trump “is getting the worst press of any president since the final days of Richard Nixon.” Rather than being too strong, the rookie politician might turn out to be “too weak and ineffective,” with no solid party base behind him to overcome the resistance of Democrats and a fractured GOP. In coming months, “perhaps Trump will find his bearings” and learn how to work the levers of government to push his reform agenda. But we can all now safely ignore the liberal academics and pundits “who sold American institutions short while predicting fascist doom.” (Webmaster's comment: Hitler started out as a work in progress too!)

3-31-17 The Bannon worldview
The Bannon worldview
As President Trump’s chief strategist, he plays a dominant role in crafting and driving the administration’s agenda. Bannon co-wrote Trump’s startlingly aggressive inauguration speech portraying America as an economically broken, crime-laden dystopia forsaken by its leaders; helped draw up the controversial travel bans that have been struck down by federal courts; and has become the first-ever political appointee to take a permanent seat on the National Security Council. His influence on Trump’s thinking is so great that many critics sarcastically refer to him as “President Bannon.” A self-proclaimed “economic nationalist,” Bannon, 63, sees himself as a defender of the “forgotten” white working class, and believes the Judeo-Christian values of the U.S. and the West are under attack from secularists, Islam, and other cultures. “There is a major war brewing,” he says, “a war that’s already global.”

  • What is Bannon’s job?
  • What’s his background?
  • Why?
  • What sort of crisis?
  • What does Bannon propose doing?
  • Bannon’s military obsession

3-31-17 Sanctuary city crackdown
Sanctuary city crackdown
Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week announced that the Department of Justice would strip so-called sanctuary cities of up to $4.1 billion in federal funding if they refuse to comply with a particular federal immigration law. Some 200 cities and counties across the country have adopted laws or policies that limit cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. Under the new DOJ policy, jurisdictions that block officers from telling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about undocumented immigrants in their custody will no longer be eligible for various law enforcement grants, worth millions of dollars each. Officials from New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago vowed to fight back in court. “[We will] become this administration’s worse nightmare,” said New York’s city council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

3-31-17 Wall-building ‘traitors’
Wall-building ‘traitors’
The Catholic Church in Mexico has denounced President Trump’s proposed $12 billion border wall, warning that the owners and shareholders of Mexican companies that get involved in its construction will be considered “traitors to the homeland.” An editorial in Desde la Fe, a weekly publication by the Mexican archdiocese, blasted the “fanatic Trump’s wall” as “a monument to intimidation and silence.” It said it was “regrettable” that more than 500 Mexican companies had expressed interest in supplying cement, paint, and other materials for the project. Mexico’s government told steel companies last week that it would not ban them from working on the wall, but said any firms that do will be judged harshly by Mexicans.

3-31-17 Death rates for white Americans
Death rates for white Americans
Death rates for white Americans without college degrees continued to rise in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015, according to a Princeton study. The mortality of white men ages 50 to 54 with a high school degree or less has now increased 130 percent since 1998; for white women, it has increased 381 percent during that period. Drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide were largely to blame for these “deaths of despair,” the study found.

3-30-17 Trump travel ban: Hawaii judge places indefinite hold
Trump travel ban: Hawaii judge places indefinite hold
A US federal judge in Hawaii has indefinitely extended the suspension of President Trump's new travel ban. Judge Derrick Watson's ruling means Mr Trump will be barred from enforcing the ban on six mostly Muslim nations while it is contested in court. In a lawsuit, the US state says the ban would harm tourism and the ability to recruit foreign students and workers. President Trump says his revised travel ban seeks to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. Judge Watson made the ruling late on Wednesday after hearing arguments from attorneys for the state of Hawaii and the US Department of Justice. The judge turned his earlier temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction that would have a more lasting effect. President Trump's executive order on 6 March would have placed a 90-day ban on people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and a 120-day ban on refugees. An earlier version of the order, issued in late January, sparked confusion and protests, and was blocked by a judge in Seattle.

3-30-17 US governor creates toolkit for undocumented parents
US governor creates toolkit for undocumented parents
The US state of Connecticut has created an online resource for undocumented parents who are worried about President Donald Trump's threats of mass deportations. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy unveiled the Connecticut Family Preparedness Plan on Wednesday. He has already clashed with the White House over immigration policy. The plan is a "step by step" toolkit, in English and Spanish, for parents in case they are detained or deported. Titled "Family Preparedness Plan: Preparing Your Family for Immigration Enforcement", it contains advice on legal rights and emergency child guardianship forms. State officials have created the resource in response to President Trump's hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration. The state's website says: "We hope that you never have to use your plan, but having one may help reduce the stress of the unexpected." Children of undocumented immigrants are legal citizens if they were born in the United States, even if their parents are not.

3-30-17 North Carolina 'bathroom' law: Deal reached on repeal
North Carolina 'bathroom' law: Deal reached on repeal
A late-night deal has been reached in North Carolina to repeal a controversial law that limits protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. A key element banned transgender people from using toilets in accordance with their chosen gender, earning the measure the "bathroom law" tag. The deal came hours before the state was to lose key basketball fixtures. However, the terms of the deal have angered LGBT activists. It must also still pass both the state House and Senate in votes on Thursday morning and it remains unclear whether it has enough support. The deal was announced late on Wednesday by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Republican state lawmakers. Mr Cooper, who ran for office on a platform of repealing the measure, known as House Bill 2, said: "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals HB2 and begins to repair our reputation." Majority Republican leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger said in a joint statement: "Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy." It creates a moratorium so that local government, state colleges and universities cannot pass measures extending non-discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity until December 2020. The compromise angered LGBT activists. Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro said before the proposal was agreed that it was "a train wreck that would double down on anti-LGBTQ discrimination. North Carolinians want a clean repeal of HB2, and we urge our allies not to sell us out". Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said: "At its core, it's a state-wide prohibition on equality." (Webmaster's comment: No compromise on Human Rights!)

3-30-17 Make America great again by finally making it green
Make America great again by finally making it green
How Democrats can create millions of jobs, achieve energy independence, and literally save the world. Tuesday, President Trump issued a sweeping executive order to roll back Obama-era regulations to combat climate change. Now, actually undoing Obama's rules may prove a lot harder than Trump realizes. But like the GOP's recent effort to nuke ObamaCare, it's an unpleasant reminder of how precarious Obama's gradualist achievements are. In fact, thanks to ObamaCare's brush with death, some Democrats are eager to stop fiddling around with minor improvements and just go all-in on single-payer the next time they're in power. Democrats should take the same moonshot attitude to climate change, too. Specifically, a 100-percent green energy economy should become the new demand of the Democratic Party. Democrats should insist on a massive government industrial policy and a full-blown World War II-style economic mobilization to get us there.

There are three core reasons for this.

  1. Democrats should tee off Trump's own stated goals: We need the jobs.
  2. This is the only way to truly achieve energy independence.
  3. Time is of the essence if we want to save the world.

3-30-17 The silently devastating landmines of Cambodia
The silently devastating landmines of Cambodia
The silently devastating landmines of Cambodia: A photographer's journey.(Webmaster's comment: Men, women, and children are still dying from the landmines the United States dropped in Cambodia, a nation that did not attack us or pose any threat!)

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: How to tell truth from lies
Inside knowledge: How to tell truth from lies
Fake news, dodgy experts, mendacious media: it’s more crucial than ever to work out what’s true ourselves. Doing that means first overcoming our own biases. POST-TRUTH was 2016’s word of the year, according to Oxford Dictionaries. Not least in the furious debates surrounding the UK Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election as US president, claims and counter claims of fake news, dodgy experts and media mendacity have been flying around. For a hardcore of relativist philosophers, that’s all a storm in a teacup – there’s no such thing as objective truth that exists outside our minds. Nonsense, harrumphs Peter van Inwagen of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. If a doctor says I have cancer of the gut, he says, “whether that is true depends on what is going on in my gut, and not on what is going on in my doctor’s mind”. Accept that, and the challenge – in the post-truth era as much as in the pre-post-truth era – is to ensure that our inside knowledge is aligned as far as possible with outside truth. That’s hard, not least because in a complex society we rely on the knowledge of others, even when we don’t realise it. Ask someone if they know how an everyday object such as a ballpoint pen works and they’ll generally say yes, until you ask them to explain it. It turns out that our confidence in our own knowledge is often based on the certainty that somebody else knows.

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: What separates fact from belief
Inside knowledge: What separates fact from belief
It's midday, and you're looking at a clock that says 12:00. But it's not so easy to say whether you really know the time – or just believe it. I’VE won the lottery. I haven’t checked my numbers yet, but I just know. You know what it’s like, when you just know you know. Knowledge is a slippery concept: what we know, how we know we know it, what we know others know, what others know of what we know, how what we or they know differs from what we just believe. You would probably argue that, until I see the winning numbers, I can’t know I have won the lottery – I can only believe it. Yet how do you know that? Most of us make our way through life without peering too closely under the bonnet of epistemology – the theory of knowledge. “We manage it intuitively, we don’t have to reflect and calculate,” says Jennifer Nagel, a philosopher at the University of Toronto, Canada, and author of Knowledge: A very short introduction.

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: The maximum any one person can ever know
Inside knowledge: The maximum any one person can ever know
The brain is like a petabyte memory stick, and no one has ever managed to fill theirs up. There's just one problem – our phenomenally low bandwidth. ARISTOTLE, of course, was the “last man to know everything” – everything useful to know about the world during his lifetime. No wait, it was Leonardo da Vinci. Or was it Goethe, or his equally brilliant Teutonic contemporary Alexander von Humboldt? The trope of the last universal polymath is a common one – along with the idea that, as our compendium of knowledge grew, at some point it outstripped the capacity of one brain to house it. If so, that happened a long time ago, says Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist at London’s Natural History Museum. “Given the diverse environments in which humans lived even before migrating from Africa, I doubt that any one human could have maintained all the required information needed to survive across the human range.” A similar “experential” limit still applies, but in today’s world the sheer amount of raw information to be processed undoubtedly far outstrips the capacity of any one person to process it. A human brain has roughly 100 billion neurons connected in labyrinthine ways by 100 trillion synapses. According to a 2015 estimate from the Salk Institute near San Diego, that amounts to an information storage capacity measured in petabytes – millions of gigabytes.

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: Why we’ll never know everything
Inside knowledge: Why we’ll never know everything
Our brains are a glorious, uproarious complex mess – and that's just one reason why we'll never achieve ultimate enlightenment about reality. ULTIMATELY, the jumbo shrimp tells us why we are doomed to never fully understand reality. But let’s back up a bit first. We know we live in a universe where there are hard physical limits to what we can know. Light’s finite speed restricts our ability to see in time and space, quantum uncertainty our understanding of subatomic particles. So what? Our largest telescopes look back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, while our sharpest microscopes can spy on individual photons escaping from atoms. The universe is as it is, and we work quite well within its limits. True, we can’t explain what happens at the big bang, or inside a black hole – but that’s just a matter of devising better theories of nature and ways to test them. So to know more we need to compute better. Easier said than done. Were we able to simulate the fine-grained movements of all the universe’s matter, we might predict its evolution and fate. But with current computing power, that would take more time than the universe has to offer.

3-29-17 Inside knowledge: What makes scientific knowledge special
Inside knowledge: What makes scientific knowledge special
There might be dragons and unicorns, a monster in Loch Ness, a God. Science can't prove a negative – but that's no reason to lose faith in it. NULLIUS in verba: “take nobody’s word for it”. The motto of the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, encapsulates the spirit of scientific enquiry. Do an experiment, record its outcome faithfully and objectively, and make that record available for doubters. This way of working means that, if knowledge is defined as the route to the truth (see “Knowledge: What separates fact from belief“), science is an expressway to enlightenment. Thanks to what science tells us about human physiology, the universe’s history, nature’s forces and Earth’s geology, flora and fauna, we know Earth isn’t flat, the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, and that there are no dragons or unicorns. We live longer and in more comfort, and can send space probes to the edge of the solar system. Pretty darn special, huh? But let’s take a more sceptical look, starting with that “we”. Some people do believe Earth is flat. Others say the universe is 6000 years old. Some doubt the theory of evolution by natural selection, or the reality of human-made climate change. We is not everyone.

3-29-17 Health care could be behind Canada's longer life expectancy
Health care could be behind Canada's longer life expectancy
Canadians are outliving Americans, in some cases, by as much as a decade. Is public healthcare the secret to longevity? When Erick Bauer was first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) as an infant, his parents were told he'd be lucky to make it to his 20th birthday. Now turning 32 and expecting his first child, Mr Bauer attributes his relatively good health to the close relationship he has with his medical team at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, which he says helps him maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. He takes about 60 pills a day to help control the hereditary disease, which can affect the lungs, pancreas and gastro-intestinal tract. "For all those younger CF patients who live with the disease right now, it is really important to just keep searching for that cure or that control for that disease," he told the BBC. "That is my hope for the future." Life expectancy for cystic fibrosis patients has increased much faster in Canada than it has in the US, a new study published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine found. Canadians living with cystic fibrosis lived on average 10 years longer than Americans with the same disease, in part because of the very different healthcare systems in the two countries, the study found. When severity of disease, age and other variables were taken into account, Canadians had a 34% lower death rate than American patients overall. US patients with private insurance had a similar life expectancy as their Canadian counterparts, whereas Canadians had a 44% lower death rate than Americans on Medicaid. The uninsured fared the worst - Canadians had a 77% lower death rate than Americans who had no insurance at all.

3-29-17 A shocking study just revealed one thing that reduces hospital deaths
A shocking study just revealed one thing that reduces hospital deaths
Send in the inspectors! Every couple of years, unannounced visits by inspectors from the Joint Commission trigger a frenzied response in hospitals, in which clinicians are instructed to do everything by the book to avoid potentially embarrassing violations. Recently, a new study revealed the impact of that all-hands-on-deck response when the accreditors are in town: significantly fewer patient deaths during inspection week than the weeks before and after the inspectors' visit. Researchers at Harvard University found the disparity was particularly pronounced at major teaching hospitals, where the heightened response, if applied for an entire year, would translate to 3,600 fewer deaths. The findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, did not link the lower death rate to adherence to specific best practices or standards. Rather, the researchers said, the improved performance appeared to be a result from a more generalized vigilance caused by the arrival of the inspectors.

3-29-17 HB2: North Carolina facing college sports boycott over 'bathroom bill'
HB2: North Carolina facing college sports boycott over 'bathroom bill'
A US sports body says it will stop holding events in North Carolina if the state does not revoke its controversial "bathroom bill". The National Collegiate Athletic Association says the state will forfeit 133 applications for events if it is not repealed in two days, reports say. Under House Bill Two (HB2), transgender people must use toilets that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. The bill also removed several anti-discrimination measures. North Carolina is under mounting pressure to repeal the bill, which has already led some businesses, entertainers and teams to boycott the state. The NBA moved its high-revenue 2017 All Star game from Charlotte and the NCAA itself moved seven games from the state during the current season. The state stands to lose up to $3.8bn (£3bn) over 12 years as a result of the boycott, AP news agency says. However state officials have failed to reach an agreement despite months of negotiations.

3-29-17 Row after Norway Muslim group appoints spokeswoman in full-face veil
Row after Norway Muslim group appoints spokeswoman in full-face veil
A Muslim organisation in Norway has been criticised for hiring a communications officer who wears a full-face veil, or niqab. The culture minister, Muslim MPs and other Muslim organisations have condemned the Islamic Council of Norway's move. It comes after the government gave the group 484,000 kroner ($55,000; £44,000) to improve interfaith dialogue. Norway's parliament has already supported banning the niqab in schools. A vote on the issue in last year had cross-party support and the ban is likely to be enforced later this year. Several European countries have banned the niqab in public places. (Webmaster's comment: Being able to identify a person by seeing their face is essential to preventing crime. That's why criminals wear masks when committing crimes.)

3-29-17 The terrifying rise of nationalist villains in India
The terrifying rise of nationalist villains in India
They say that when America sneezes, other parts of the world catch pneumonia. That certainly seems to be the case in India, where President Trump's anti-Muslim attitude is spreading like a virus. Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed Yogi Adityanath, the country's most vitriolic anti-Muslim Hindu priest, as chief minister (the governor, essentially) of Uttar Pradesh, the state that houses the world's greatest Muslim monument, the Taj Mahal. This is tantamount to appointing the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan the governor of Illinois — really — and would have been simply unimaginable without Trump in the White House. What's most distressing about this is that America is clearly losing its soft power to spread pluralism, tolerance, and other liberal values by its example. Instead of remaining a beacon for protecting vulnerable minorities, Trump's America seems to be turning into a giant green light for minorities' persecution around the world.

3-28-17 America's $4tn infrastructure time bomb
America's $4tn infrastructure time bomb
On the banks of California's Feather River, way below the tallest dam in the United States, is a ballet of steel and stone. The dancers are huge earth-moving machines, their costumes bright yellow. The movement is constant and mesmerising. The lorries trundle down to the water from the left, pause to accept their loads of rock, mud and debris, and then exit to the right. For weeks now this performance has been constant, day and night, as construction workers repair the Oroville Dam, once an engineering marvel, now an embarrassment. Last month, nearly 200,000 people were told to leave their homes when the dam overflowed amid fears that water pouring over a weakened emergency spillway was eroding the hillside beneath the structure. The average age of the 90,000 dams in the United States is 56 years. By 2025, seven out of 10 of them will be more than half a century old. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) warns that "many dams are not expected to safely withstand current predictions regarding large floods and earthquakes". Overall, says the society, $4.6tn (£3.6tn) will be needed by 2025 to bring US infrastructure to an acceptable standard. Less than half that amount has so far been allocated for the work.

3-28-17 South Africa: The Manenberg school which is top of the class
South Africa: The Manenberg school which is top of the class
Manenberg in Cape Town, South Africa, is infamous for its high crime rate, but it is now being associated with academic excellence, writes the BBC's Mo Allie. Looking from the outside at The Leadership College (TLC) with its basic structure and its small classrooms, surrounded by sandy waste ground, it is hard to imagine that this is the same school that has managed consistently to deliver top-class results since its inception seven years ago. Yet last year the school achieved a 92% pass rate in South Africa's national school-leaving examinations - far higher than the national average. That performance is in stark contrast with a finding of the report by the Johannesburg-based Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), which suggests large proportions of South Africa's graduating students are "functionally illiterate and innumerate". The report found that South Africa - one of the continent's richest countries - was performing worse than many far poorer African nations in terms of educating its children. (Webmaster's comment: And the United States stands at 81% and lags other developed countries. Seems the best we can acheive is an 8th grade reading comprehension skill.)

3-28-17 Measles outbreak across Europe
Measles outbreak across Europe
Measles is spreading across Europe wherever immunisation coverage has dropped, the World Health Organization is warning. The largest outbreaks are being seen in Italy and Romania. In the first month of this year, Italy reported more than 200 cases. Romania has reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016. Measles is highly contagious. Travel patterns mean no person or country is beyond its reach, says the WHO. For good protection, it's recommended that at least 95% of the population is vaccinated against the disease. But many countries are struggling to achieve that. Most of the measles cases have been found in countries where immunisation has dipped below this threshold and the infection is endemic - France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine.

3-27-17 Canada to legalise marijuana 'by 2018'
Canada to legalise marijuana 'by 2018'
Recreational marijuana use could be legal in Canada by 1 July 2018 under coming legislation, according to reports. The federal government will table legislation to legalise marijuana by April, public broadcaster CBC is reporting. Sources told the CBC that members of the governing Liberal party were recently briefed on the timeline. The party has long promised they would have legislation ready by spring. The CBC said the new regulations would broadly follow recommendations released in December by a federally-appointed pot task force. Those recommendations included proposals that Canada should permit the sale of recreational marijuana to people over age 18 and tax pot products based on potency.

3-27-17 Why Republicans dutifully defend Trump's most ridiculous lies
Why Republicans dutifully defend Trump's most ridiculous lies
In the past, presidents have told big lies mostly for one of two reasons. In the midst of scandal or failure, they told lies to protect themselves and deny that they had done wrong: I am not a crook, we did not trade arms for hostages, I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Or they lied to convince the public to go along with a policy initiative, whether a war or a tax cut or a new program, when the truth was insufficiently persuasive. Unlike his predecessors, President Trump lies for any reason at all. I imagine the sinking feeling his aides get when he blurts out another whopper. "Now I'm going to have to go out and defend this," they say with a sigh, then huddle together to arrive at the least laughable spin they can come up with, so they can rationalize the lie — which Trump will of course be unwilling to retreat from. White House staff have little choice but to reinforce, justify, and repeat their boss' lies, though I suppose they could retain some shred of dignity and integrity by quitting. But what about Trump's fellow Republicans, particularly the ones in Congress? They're in an uncomfortable position, knowing that he's still popular with the GOP base and so not having his back could have electoral costs. Being a "maverick" might sound appealing, but not when it's going to cost you lots of votes or hinder your ability to work with the rest of the party on your legislative priorities. So with just a few exceptions, Republicans have chosen to get in line when Trump goes off on one of his near-daily flights of fantasy. Or at the very least, they try to avoid the subject and run from reporters who might bring it up. But they can't escape the taint of this presidency, and the longer it goes, the more likely each one of them is to get dirty.

3-27-17 French Neo-Nazi group goes on trial in Amiens
French Neo-Nazi group goes on trial in Amiens
Eighteen people are going on trial in the northern French city of Amiens over a series of offences by a neo-Nazi gang known as the White Wolves Klan. Among those due to appear in court is the notorious far-right activist, Serge Ayoub. They face 35 charges including armed violence, theft and attempted murder. Serge Ayoub was forced to disband two far-right groups he led after sympathisers were involved in a brawl in which a left-wing activist died. Several of those on trial on Monday for their role in the White Wolves Klan were linked to the groups banned in 2013, the Third Way and the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth. Serge Ayoub himself is known as "Batskin" because of his fondness for baseball bats. (Webmaster's comment: Nothing but Neo-Nazi Brutes! Life sentences with no parole should do just fine!)

3-26-17 Ohio nightclub shooting: One dead, 15 injured in gunfight
Ohio nightclub shooting: One dead, 15 injured in gunfight
One person has been killed and 15 others injured in a shooting at the Cameo Night Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. A "dispute" between several men escalated into a gunfight in the crowded venue, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said. A 27-year-old man died in the incident, which occurred early on Sunday. There was no indication the shooting was terrorism-related, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference. He went on: "However, to the victims, what difference does it make?" Police Chief Isaac said a "couple of hundred people" were inside the "very large establishment" when the incident occurred. "Several local men got into some kind of dispute inside the bar and it escalated into shots being fired from several individuals," he said. (Webmaster's comment: A great idea. Give everyone lots of guns and let them settle disputes by shooting it out, and killing lots of innocent bystanders. What a STUPID, STUPID Libertarian idea!)

3-26-17 Why Spain has dodged far-right populism
Why Spain has dodged far-right populism
One word: Franco! Europe's far-right is on the rise. The trend is nationalist and anti-immigrant. Extremist parties are poised to make gains in elections across the continent, from France to Holland to Germany. But in Spain, no such movement has gained traction. And you'd think it would, given years of recession, high unemployment, and an influx of foreigners. To understand why Spain bucks the trend you might want to visit Villacañas, south of Madrid. This flat, dusty village was once abuzz with the sound of ... doors. Door factories. During Spain's home-building boom in the 2000s, Villacañas was the main door supplier for the country, cranking out tens of thousands of them a day. Then the bubble burst. As you drive into town there are signs of a ruined economy everywhere: Huge abandoned factories line the road, their windows busted out, their loading docks shuttered. Villacañas's mayor, Santiago Garcia, says it's been like this for the 10 years he's been in office. He worries about high unemployment and all the young people who continue to leave town. But one thing that's not even on his radar, he says: the possibility of a far-right backlash at the polls. "I think a far-right, xenophobic, populist movement has to have effective leadership to gain ground," he says. "And its messages [need to] coincide with what people are feeling." In Spain, apparently, the far-right has neither an effective message nor messenger. There is one far-right party, Vox, running candidates. But it has a tiny following. "Here in the last local elections," Garcia says, "Vox got three or maybe five votes. Not more." Nationwide, Vox fared just as badly. Given the hard-right swing across the European continent, what makes Spain different? (Webmaster's comment: Franco was a dictator, just like Hitler. And just like Trump wants to be!)

3-26-17 Guyana's transgender activists fight archaic law
Guyana's transgender activists fight archaic law
As a transgender woman living in Guyana, Petronella Trotman has grown accustomed to violence and daily abuse on the streets. But when she was physically attacked in January, while walking in Georgetown, the South American country's capital, she decided to seek justice. "The young man came up to me and asked if it was me who disrespected him the other night," she said, in reference to a previous argument with her alleged assailant. "And he joock [stabbed] me to my neck with scissors. I fell to the ground and when he left, I ran away. Then he came back with some glass bottles and pelted me down." "It happens a lot here in Guyana to transgender women," she added. "We live in a very homophobic society." Ms Trotman reported the matter to the police and the case went to Georgetown Magistrates Court. But seeking justice as a transgender woman is not easy in Guyana due to a colonial-era law, now 124 years old, that criminalises cross-dressing.

3-24-17 Religiosity Playing an Expected Role in Views of Trump
Religiosity Playing an Expected Role in Views of Trump
Gallup routinely asks Americans about the importance of religion in their everyday lives, and how often they attend religious services. We have not yet had an opportunity to ask these questions directly to President Donald Trump himself. And we have not asked Americans directly about Trump's religion. But I suspect that most Americans don't associate Trump with personal religiousness in the way that they did, for example, President Jimmy Carter. While we don't know what Americans think about Trump's religion directly, we do find that Trump's approval rating -- early in his presidency -- is significantly higher among highly religious Americans than among those who are not religious. Trump job approval by religiosity: Not Religious 32%, Highly Religious 51%.

3-24-17 Most Americans like science — and are willing to pay for it
Most Americans like science — and are willing to pay for it
Once people know how little the U.S. spends on science, they support more funding. U.S. taxpayer dollars go to fund science projects from weather tracking to duck monitoring. But most people have no idea how much — or rather, how little — government money goes to scientific research. Americans don’t hate science. Quite the contrary. In fact, 79 percent of Americans think science has made their lives easier, a 2014 Pew Research Center survey found. More than 60 percent of people also believe that government funding for science is essential to its success. But should the United States spend more money on scientific research than it already does? A layperson’s answer to that question depends on how much that person thinks the government already spends on science, a new study shows. When people find out just how much — or rather, how little — of the federal budget goes to science, support for more funding suddenly jumps.

3-24-17 Social change: The decline of men
Social change: The decline of men
Men without college degrees are in big trouble, said Thomas Edsall in The New York Times. Lower-income men of all races and ethnicities are “dropping out of the workforce, abusing opioids, and falling behind women” in education. Females now make up 56 percent of undergraduate enrollees, compared with 44 percent for males. While more women than men with middle-skill jobs lost their positions to offshoring and automation in recent decades, most of those women upgraded to high-skilled work; more than half of the men slipped into lower-paying jobs in retail and fast food. Others chose to give up work entirely. The divorce rate among non-college-educated men has climbed to nearly 51 percent, while many never marry, because most women don’t see them as good prospects. For tens of millions of blue-collar men, “the scaffolding that underpinned their fathers’ lives has been torn down.” The loss of manufacturing jobs was a staggering blow, said Alana Semuels in TheAtlantic.com. When factories abandoned rural and small-town America, they stripped workers of their comfortable, middle-class wages—and caused a cascade of severe social problems. A new study shows that when plants closed, many single men fled their communities to join the Army or move to cities with more jobs. Women were left with very few “‘marriageable’ men—men who are not drinking or using drugs excessively and who have a job.” Marriage rates declined, while the number of births to single moms soared—reshaping the very “structure of the American family.” “Enter the outlandishly male Donald Trump,” said Steven Watts in NationalReview.com. Trump’s macho persona “resonated” deeply with many workers during the 2016 election, coming during “a great spasm of cultural anxiety about masculine decline.” Trump promised a remedy for their plight—vowing to renegotiate trade deals, smack down smug big-city liberals, and restore blue-collar men to their former status and paychecks. Sadly, it’s an impossible mission, said Stephen Marche in TheGuardian.com. Automation is now coming for the predominantly male truck-driving industry, which employs 3.5 million Americans; a self-driving truck recently delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser. By 2050, a third of all men under 54 could be unemployed, according to one estimate. The situation is truly “disastrous”—“for them, for women, and for the wider economy.”

3-24-17 If you didn't like the Christian right, you'll really hate the post-Christian right
If you didn't like the Christian right, you'll really hate the post-Christian right
The world is still digesting what the Trump phenomenon means. One common way to understand President Trump's rise is as the Europeanization of the American right. Trump's economic nationalism, blood-and-soil patriotism, and authoritarianism had more to do with Marine Le Pen than with Ronald Reagan. But Trump's rise heralds a deeper and, I believe, more significant way in which the American right — indeed, American society at large — has become more "European": secularism. The rise of religious disaffiliation among Americans has been marked by pollsters for well over a decade now. The United States might not be completely secularizing in the European sense — more Americans report a belief in God than almost ever, for example — but religious affiliation among Americans is declining. Belief in God combined with the decline of institutional forms of religion means that Americans increasingly come up with their own, do-it-yourself styles of spirituality, in ways both good and bad. The rise of this DIY spirituality was best analyzed by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in his book Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics.

3-24-17 Allow immigrants to become citizens
Allow immigrants to become citizens
60% of Americans think that the government’s top immigration priority should be to develop a plan to “allow those in the U.S. illegally who have jobs to become legal residents.” 90% would support offering legal status to immigrants who hold a job, speak English, and pay back taxes. 26% think that the top priority should be to “develop a plan to stop illegal border crossings.” 13% want deportation to be the first priority.

3-24-17 Go back to Mexico
Go back to Mexico
A group of fourth-graders was told to “go back to Mexico” after winning a robotics competition in Indianapolis. The Pleasant Run Elementary School team, which consists of three Latino and two black students, was showered with racist slurs by rivals and parents after being awarded first place at a science fair. “I’m not surprised,” said winning-team member Elijah Goodwin, 10, “because I’m used to this type of behavior.”

3-24-17 Toronto school board ends all new US trips for students
Toronto school board ends all new US trips for students
Canada's largest school board is cancelling new school trips to the United States until further notice. The Toronto District School Board announced the decision citing "uncertainty" with regards to who may be affected by US President Donald's Trump's latest travel restrictions. Twenty-five already scheduled trips will go ahead as planned. The school board joins the Girl Guides of Canada and a few other schools in temporarily halting travel to the US. Under the new US travel ban, citizens from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen would not be permitted to enter the US, unless they have already been issued valid visas, for a 90-day period. However, the ban is suspended pending a number of court challenges. In a statement released on Thursday, Director of Education John Malloy said that the district school board faced "a difficult choice". "We strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border," said Mr Malloy. (Webmaster's comment: United States! A nation which turns away visiting children from a neighboring country!)

3-24-17 Lack of computer skills
Lack of computer skills
There are currently about 530,000 computing jobs open in the U.S., but only 60,000 students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in computer science in 2015. A government study predicted that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer ­science–related jobs available, but only 400,000 graduates with the skills needed to fill them.

3-24-17 Taiwan top court hears landmark gay marriage case
Taiwan top court hears landmark gay marriage case
A panel of judges at Taiwan's top court are hearing a case that could make the island the first place in Asia to introduce gay marriage. The case has been brought by a gay activist as well as municipal authorities from the capital, Taipei. Taiwan's parliament has also been debating whether to pass laws that would allow same-sex marriage. The movement has split society and prompted a conservative backlash, with vocal protests in recent months. A panel of 14 justices are hearing arguments and will debate whether a line in Taiwan's civil code, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

3-24-17 Norway is most happy
Norway is most happy
Norway is now the world’s happiest country, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report. Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland closely followed, based mostly on subjective evaluations of life quality by people in 155 countries. The U.S. dropped to 14th, largely because of poor social support and cohesion.

3-23-17 How free speech can become censorship – and how to solve it
How free speech can become censorship – and how to solve it
The more free speech, the better – or so we thought. But in a world of bots and misinformation, the online free-for-all is ruining debate. “The remedy is more speech, not enforced silence,” wrote US Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis in 1927 in his defence of freedom of speech. Ninety years on, his position is often taken as read: in the marketplace of ideas, eventually the truth will out. So it’s no surprise that many were aghast when, last week, Germany’s justice minister introduced a draft law that would fine social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, up to €50 million if they failed to remove hate speech within 24 hours of a complaint. (Webmaster's comment: It's about time. Civilization is more important than total Freedom and Liberty!) “If we were trying to do this with any other media, you’d be talking about taking books off people’s shelves and going into libraries and ripping up magazines,” Vint Cerf – recognised as one of the founders of the internet – told a recent forum on internet and liberty. “We seem to be doing this just because in this medium, we can.” For people like Cerf and many American companies, who view online speech through the lens of the US First Amendment, Germany’s approach may look like a heavy-handed suppression of the right of free expression. However, it may be a necessary first step in re-establishing a shared moral reality. In the age of bots, misinformation, and anonymity, free speech itself may be used to enact a kind of censorship.

3-23-17 Tales of deportation in Trump's America: Week Two
Tales of deportation in Trump's America: Week Two
The Trump Administration's immigration enforcement priorities have revived deportation orders ignored during the Obama Administration. On Monday, Mr Trump criticized local law enforcement agencies for refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to detain and deport people living in the US illegally. The administration started publishing a weekly "Declined Detainer Outcome Report", which calls out local agencies that ignored orders to detain undocumented immigrants arrested for unrelated crimes. The report names the immigrants in question and lists "crimes associated with those released individuals." Despite promising to focus on violent criminals and gang members, President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration and his executive memo to the Department of Homeland Security empowers Ice to deport virtually anyone living in the US without documentation. (Webmaster's comment: Totally arbitrary and capricious persecution of non-whites.)

3-23-17 These are the bald-faced lies Republicans are telling about health care
These are the bald-faced lies Republicans are telling about health care
House Republicans are supposed to vote on the American Health Care Act today. If they pass it, they will confirm just about every nasty thing that can be said about them. They will have proven that Republicans never took health-care policy seriously, never meant a word they said about repealing ObamaCare, and are too uncoordinated to back away from certain disaster. This health-care bill is a set of lies all the way down. The first lie is that this is a "repeal of ObamaCare." The House Republican plan leaves in place the regulations of insurance companies, like the ones that protect people with pre-existing conditions and keep kids on their parents' health-care plans well into adulthood. It keeps the expansion of Medicaid in place, though it does deprive it of funds. The second lie is that it's even a health-care bill at all. It's really more of a fiscal bill. The Medicaid cuts and tax cuts for high earners are almost perfectly matched dollar-for-dollar in the Ryan bill. Almost $900 billion in health-care-benefit cuts would, after this bill, become almost $900 billion in tax relief, mostly for high earners. Taxes would also be cut on medical device makers, and other health-care related entities. There are only two words that matter in American health-care reform: cheaper and simpler. The U.S. pays more for health care than any other country on Earth, while delivering less impressive results. And our health-care system is a worse bureaucratic mess than any other, with far more byzantine sets of third-party negotiators and payers. The Republicans have no plausible story about how their plan would lower health-care costs for insurers and end users, or make acquiring and maintaining health insurance simpler. In fact, the opposite. Health-care coverage would almost certainly become more expensive for seniors under the Republican plan.

3-23-17 Best evidence yet that hypnotised people aren’t faking it
Best evidence yet that hypnotised people aren’t faking it
It’s hard to tell whether hypnotism is real. Now researchers have used a trick of the mind to show that hypnotised people’s actions really do feel involuntary. You are feeling sleepy…or are you? In a hypnotism performance, ordinary people seem to somehow become puppets, made to talk in silly accents, or act like a baby or in other embarrassing ways. But have they really lost command of their bodies, or are they just pretending? Now we have some of the best evidence yet that people who are hypnotised really are acting involuntarily. When estimating split-second timings, hypnotised people behaved as though their actions were outside their control, in ways that would have been difficult to fake. Hypnotism has long been contentious. Sceptics think that rather than being in some kind of special state of altered consciousness, hypnotised people do as they’re told because it would be socially awkward not to. People who are highly susceptible to hypnosis – about one in ten of us – could just be especially suggestible and eager to please, say the cynics.

3-22-17 Best friends become first to co-parent in Canada
Best friends become first to co-parent in Canada
Natasha Bakht and Lynda Collins are best friends who fought a two-year-long legal battle to be officially recognised as co-parents to Natasha's disabled son, Elaan. It's the first time in Canadian history that two people who have never been in a romantic relationship have been legally recognised as parents.

3-22-17 Beetroot for AIDS: Fighting denialism in Mbeki’s South Africa
Beetroot for AIDS: Fighting denialism in Mbeki’s South Africa
HIV researcher and doctor Glenda Gray worked through the dark days of Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS denialism. In an era of fake news and climate scepticism, her story has lessons for us all. THE 1990s brought democracy to South Africa – but also an explosion in HIV infections. More than 1.5 million of my country’s 38-million population were infected with HIV when apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994. By 2000, 1 in 5 pregnant women were HIV-positive, with about 70,000 infected babies born each year. Under Mandela, I had been on the side of the government. I was drafting South Africa’s plan to tackle HIV and AIDS, including the roll-out of nationwide treatment. But in 1999 the political landscape shifted. A new president, Thabo Mbeki, had prejudices about science. Mbeki’s line was that poor nutrition, rather than HIV, was the cause of AIDS. I was stunned. Suddenly I found myself at loggerheads with the very officials I had been working well with for years – except now they were advocating beetroot and garlic to prevent AIDS! It was a nightmare. Around then, in Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – one of the largest in the world, in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg – virtually all the cribs were filled with terminally ill infants. AIDS was the biggest cause of death in children at the hospital. Most of them died before they turned 1. In adult wards, I watched young people waste away, their skin stretching across their skeletons before they died. As a doctor, I’d been trained to deal with death, but it was tough seeing such suffering every day, no hope in sight. (Webmaster's comment: Denial of science has deadly effects. A lesson for Trump and his Henchmen!)

3-22-17 Tomorrow’s menu: Termites, grass and synthetic milk
Tomorrow’s menu: Termites, grass and synthetic milk
The population is set to rise by 2.5 billion in three decades. We have plenty of ingenious ideas about how to keep us all fed, but will they be too tough to swallow? IN 1970, US biologist Norman Borlaug won the Nobel peace prize. Dubbed the father of the green revolution, Borlaug was credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. That figure may be a guesstimate, but there’s no doubting the success of the green revolution: in 25 years, it more than doubled cereal production in many parts of the world through the use of high-yielding varieties and modern farming technology. Today, the human population is almost twice what it was then, and in 2050 it could reach 10 billion. Even now, some 800 million people go hungry. Feeding ourselves without desecrating the planet is one of the biggest challenges we face. We are running out of land, water and time. To make matters worse, as the world warms, agriculture will get harder. Feeding the 10 billion will require some creative solutions – and unpalatable compromises. Perhaps we can learn to love algae, corn husks and crickets, but what about lab-grown meat, synthetic milk and genetic modification? How far are we prepared to go to kick-start green revolution 2.0? (Webmaster's comment: The problem is that human beings breed like rabbits and there is no check and balance.)

3-22-17 A little less ET, a little more astrophysics, if you please
A little less ET, a little more astrophysics, if you please
The role of science is to rule out the boring and tedious before we embrace the extraordinary, like alien signals or "megastructures", says Geraint Lewis. WHEN astronomy is faced with the unexplained, ET is sometimes invoked until we know better. There were the “canals” of Mars in 1877. And the idea of “little green men” was raised when Jocelyn Bell Burnell detected the regular “beep-beep-beep” of pulsar stars 50 years ago. Soon after, the discovery of the vast explosions of gamma ray bursts led to speculation of intergalactic war. Last year the media was abuzz with talk of Tabby’s star, a pretty unremarkable F-type star in the constellation of Cygnus in our galaxy. NASA’s Kepler satellite found its light varied in a complex and unexpected way. Natural explanations were proposed, including a lumpy disc of orbiting material, the chaotic break-up of a planet, or clouds of comets. But the media latched on to one idea in particular, that the dimming could be due to “alien megastructures”. So it was not a huge surprise when the headline “Harvard Scientists Theorize That Fast Radio Bursts Come From Alien Space Travel” appeared last week. First seen in 2007, these intense and mysterious flashes of radio waves come from the depths of space and last milliseconds. Their brevity means they must originate in cosmically tiny regions, some 100 kilometres across. Astronomers have suggested natural events that could fit the bill, such as neutron stars and black holes colliding or potent flares from extraordinary stars. But the Harvard idea proposes that we might be catching a glimpse of beams produced by advanced civilisations to propel spaceships with immense light sails between the stars. (Webmaster's comment: Even scientists can be a little rediculous at times.)

3-22-17 Germany to quash 50,000 gay convictions
Germany to quash 50,000 gay convictions
Germany's cabinet has backed a bill to clear men handed sentences for homosexuality after World War Two under a Nazi-era law. The notorious Paragraph 175 of the penal code was eventually relaxed in 1969, but not before 50,000 men were convicted. Many were sent to jail and some took their own lives because of the stigma. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said it was a flagrant injustice and those still alive would be given compensation. The German government's decision comes months after the UK said it was pardoning 65,000 gay and bisexual men who were convicted under the Sexual Offences Act that criminalised private homosexual acts in England and Wales until 1967 and later in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

3-22-17 The ugly truth of Canada's welfare state
The ugly truth of Canada's welfare state
The central project of the liberal welfare state is to build a society based on a high-minded ethic of altruism rather than narrow self-interest. The whole point is to create a new kind of person whose humane commitments are driven by a more cosmopolitan sensibility beyond his parochial attachments to self, family, and clan. But the opposite has happened: Protecting the welfare state from foreign moochers has become the single biggest stimulus for nativism in the West. That's true in America, Europe, and, most surprisingly, the paragon of compassion to America's north, Canada. The more the welfare state has tried to elbow self-interest out of our accepted understanding of a "just society," the more this self-interest has asserted itself — and in ever-more vexing ways. In America, the notion that immigrants are a drain on social welfare programs is as popular as it is fallacious. Literally every credible study shows that compared to similarly situated natives, not only do fewer immigrants use welfare, but the average value of the benefits they receive is lower too, including for low-skilled immigrants (many of whom are undocumented). Indeed, the taxes and economic contributions of immigrants — including the low-skilled — dwarf what they consume in public services. This is partly because the 1996 welfare reform act barred immigrants from most means-tested benefits. But the bigger reason is that immigrants come to America for jobs, not welfare benefits. The labor force participation rate of foreign-born men in 2010 was 80.1 percent, a full 10 percentage points higher than that of native-born men. Furthermore, immigrants tend to gravitate to states with the lowest per capital welfare spending — maybe because they have more jobs.

3-21-17 Electronic devices banned on US-bound flights from 8 countries
Electronic devices banned on US-bound flights from 8 countries
The US bans passengers flying from countries including Jordan and Saudi Arabia from bringing laptops and other electronics in their carry-on luggage. Passengers travelling to the US on flights from eight different countries will be banned from carrying laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in their carry-on luggage. The reason for the ban is not immediately clear. The ban was revealed on Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia. It will apply to non-stop flights to the US from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to a US official. Royal Jordanian said mobile phones and medical devices were excluded from the ban. Everything else would need to be packed in checked luggage. (Webmaster's comment: Making life difficult for every Muslim we can without reason. Make up whatever "threat" you need to.)

3-21-17 U.S. bans most carry-on electronic devices on flights from 8 nations in Middle East, North Africa
U.S. bans most carry-on electronic devices on flights from 8 nations in Middle East, North Africa
Early Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that passengers on direct flights from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa will not be allowed to bring electronic devices larger than a cellphone into the airplane cabin with them. The new rule is effective immediately, and any of the foreign airlines that fail to comply in 96 hours may be barred from flying to the U.S. Trump administration officials said the ban was not linked to any specific or credible terrorist threat and was meant to fill gaps in airport security in the eight countries — Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Kuwait, and Morocco. The Trump administration said foreign officials were informed of the ban starting Sunday, but it still caused confusion in the targeted nations Tuesday morning. Officials at Cairo's international airport said they have received no instructions from the U.S., and Royal Jordanian airlines says it has not yet started to ban laptops, tablets, and other electronics from the cabin. Aviation security expert Jeffrey Price pointed out some downsides to the indefinite ban. "There would be a huge disadvantage to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage," he told The Associated Press, including batteries exploding in the hull and a sharp increase in thefts from baggage, as happened when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006. (Webmaster's comment: Making life difficult for every Muslim we can without reason. Make up whatever "threat" you need to.)

3-21-17 Electronic devices banned on some US flights from Muslim states
Electronic devices banned on some US flights from Muslim states
The US has announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on passenger flights from eight Muslim-majority countries. Bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. The measure will affect nine airlines operating out of 10 airports. Phones are exempt from the new rules. The UK is to due to announce shortly a similar ban on certain flights. The Turkish government has said the US ban is wrong and should be reversed. Large electronic devices will only be allowed on board in checked baggage. Passengers on some 50 flights a day from some of the busiest hubs in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa will be required to follow the new rules. The nine airlines affected are Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. They have been given 96 hours, beginning at 07:00 GMT on Tuesday, to ban devices bigger than a mobile phone or smartphone from cabins, US officials said, adding that the ban had no end date. (Webmaster's comment: Making life difficult for every Muslim we can without reason. Make up whatever "threat" you need to.)

3-21-17 President Trump brags that no one will hire Colin Kaepernick because they fear Trump's Twitter wrath
President Trump brags that no one will hire Colin Kaepernick because they fear Trump's Twitter wrath
If former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is looking for someone to blame for his unemployment, President Trump just volunteered himself. At a rally Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump veered off topic to note a report that NFL owners don't want to hire Kaepernick because they don't "want to face Trump's Twitter wrath," CNN reported. Kaepernick, who drew attention last season for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, has yet to sign with another team since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers earlier this month. Last season, when Trump was still a presidential candidate, he slammed Kaepernick's protest, calling it a "terrible thing" and suggesting "maybe he should find a country that works better for him." "Your San Francisco quarterback, I'm sure nobody ever heard of him," Trump said Monday night, changing the topic abruptly from a "rebirth of hope" in inner cities. "It was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump," Trump said. "Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that." Trump said he wanted to tell "the people of Kentucky" about the report because he knows they "like it when people actually stand for the American flag." (Webmaster's comment: The President of the United States attacks and blacklists an American citizen for standing up for his beliefs!)

3-21-17 Trump’s tragic budget kills vital science to boost defence
Trump’s tragic budget kills vital science to boost defence
The US president's spending plan ramps up defence at huge cost to climate and energy research. The contradictions are beyond belief, says physicist Raymond Pierrehumbert. US president Donald Trump’s proposed budget is billed as an “America First” programme, but the only Americans who get to go to the head of the queue are defence contractors. The whole thing is driven by a 10 per cent increase in what is already the world’s most extravagant military spend. This is offset by savaging the government funding of a vast array of programmes that actually improve the lives of ordinary people and assure a more secure and prosperous future. This budget is an American tragedy on many levels, not least the damage to science. On that front, there is one crumb of good news – “good” measured against the very low expectations many scientists have of Trump’s presidency. The Earth Science branch of NASA’s budget hasn’t been savaged to the extent that might have been expected based on campaign rhetoric. Four Earth observation missions do get the axe: PACE (which would make observations relating to ocean ecosystems and marine clouds), OCO-3 (an International Space Station instrument to improve understanding of the global carbon dioxide budget) and CLARREO-Pathfinder (another space station instrument, testing techniques for improved measurement of climate forcing and feedback factors in the atmosphere). There is also the petty termination of DSCOVR (which would include observations related to climate, aerosols and ozone). This saves only a pittance because DSCOVR involves a satellite already bought, launched, paid for and returning data. All in all, $102 million is cut out of the original $1.9 billion Earth Science budget. (Webmaster's comment: Killing all proof and knowledge about global warming!)

3-21-17 Ongoing academic purge shows Turkey is heading to a dark place
Ongoing academic purge shows Turkey is heading to a dark place, says Caghan Kizil.
Scientists are among hundreds of academics sacked ahead of Turkey's referendum on handing more power to its authoritarian president. Spare a thought for Turkey’s scientists and other academics, who are still being made scapegoats after an attempted coup last summer. Another 300 were dismissed just weeks ago. Their crime? They had signed a petition for peace in a country where growing authoritarianism and the renewal of conflict with minority groups are a worry. They include 82-year-old professor Öget Öktem Tanör, who set up the country’s first neuropsychology clinic. A petition calling for her reinstatement has been launched. All this is harming Turkey’s science scene. Since last July’s failed coup, the government has purged more than 140,000 public employees, including nearly 5000 academics. It tries hard to portray these people as having links to the Gülen movement it says was behind the coup and to terrorists. On the contrary, the 330 ousted most recently include many from Academics for Peace (AfP), who strongly oppose violence. The truth is the government is using last summer’s events to try to silence progressive academics who may be critical of it. Those academics from the AfP – as well as many others from the education and science union Egitim Sen – who have been removed are struggling to get by. They have lost their jobs, pensions and the right to travel abroad. (Webmaster's comment: Another protege of Hitler just like our own Trump!)

3-21-17 YouTube responds to criticism of LGBTQ video 'blocking'
YouTube responds to criticism of LGBTQ video 'blocking'
YouTube has released a statement after criticism over videos discussing LGBTQ topics like dating and attraction being hidden on the site. Restricted Mode aims to filter out "more mature content" and is switched off by default. But some vloggers, including Tyler Oakley, say they're "perplexed" by non-explicit material being blocked. The site tweeted: "We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns." YouTube said: "LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive subjects may not be. "We are so proud to represent LGBTQ+ voices on our platform - they're a key part of YouTube what is all about." Stonewall campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Britain and says young YouTube users often get useful information from the site. A spokesperson said: "Classifying lesbian, gay, bi and trans content on its site as 'objectionable' sends a damaging message to all YouTube users. "Restricting this content implies that LGBT issues cannot be 'family-friendly' or age appropriate, which is worrying, as young LGBT people often look online to source information and look for support from their peers."

3-21-17 Queensland abolishes 'gay panic' as criminal defence for murder
Queensland abolishes 'gay panic' as criminal defence for murder
Parliament in the Australian state of Queensland has voted for legislation to remove a controversial "gay panic" defence from the criminal code. It had allowed defendants to reduce criminal responsibility by claiming provocation due to an unwanted sexual advance. In 2008, it was used as a partial defence to reduce two men's murder charges to manslaughter. The case prompted a campaign for the controversial law to be changed. Wayne Ruks was bludgeoned to death in a Maryborough church ground in 2008 by two men after one said he had grabbed his crotch. After successfully using section 304 of the Criminal Code [killing on provocation] the two men charged with his murder received lesser jail terms. One of his attackers was released after just four years of a nine-year manslaughter sentence. Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D'Ath said: "The passing of this legislation sends an important message that discrimination is not acceptable and that we value the LBGTI community."

3-20-17 US waiter fired after asking diners for proof of residency
US waiter fired after asking diners for proof of residency
Four women in Southern California were asked to prove they were legal residents by a waiter in a restaurant. Managers of Saint Marc, in Huntington Beach, later apologised and said they had fired the staff member. The original Facebook post about the incident has been shared more than 1,000 times and gained hundreds of comments. But the women have also received a backlash from people dubbing the story "fake news". Diana Carrillo, who has Mexican ancestry, told the BBC: "I've never faced discrimination like this in the past. The four of us who went to the restaurant were all born in the United States." The incident happened when they visited the restaurant on 11 March. Ms Carrillo said: "As soon as I sat down, the waiter approached the table and without welcoming us, asked me for my proof of residency. "I just handed it over to him. I didn't know what to say. I had no words. I felt paralysed literally for a few moments, just in a complete state of shock." She said the waiter then asked her friends and sister the same thing, adding: "I have to make sure you're from here before I serve you." (Webmaster's comment: Hatred of non-whites is permeating our country!)

3-20-17 Happiness report: Norway is the happiest place on Earth
Happiness report: Norway is the happiest place on Earth
Norway is the happiest place on Earth, according to a United Nations agency report - toppling neighbour Denmark from the number one position. The World Happiness Report measures "subjective well-being" - how happy the people are, and why. Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and and Finland round out the top five, while the Central African Republic came last. Western Europe and North America dominated the top of table, with the US and UK at 14th and 19th, respectively. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and those hit by conflict have predictably low scores. Syria placed 152 of 155 countries - Yemen and South Sudan, which are facing impending famine, came in at 146 and 147. The World Happiness Report was released to coincide with the United Nations' International Day of Happiness on 20 March.

3-19-17 The Syrian-American mayor with his own executive order
The Syrian-American mayor with his own executive order
Mohamed Khairullah is the Syrian-American mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey. He talks to the BBC about his experience as a Muslim mayor at a time of growing Islamophobia and his own executive order supporting refugees.

3-18-17 Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump 'nonsense' - NSA's Ledgett
Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump 'nonsense' - NSA's Ledgett
The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is "arrant nonsense", Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency (NSA) has told the BBC in an exclusive interview. A commentator on Fox News had claimed that GCHQ had carried out the activity on America's behalf, but Mr Ledgett said the claim showed "a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works". Each side, he said, was prohibited from asking the other partner to carry out acts that they were prohibited from doing. He also said the huge risks to the UK in carrying out such an act would completely outweigh any benefits. "Of course they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid," he told me. GCHQ had also dismissed the allegation as nonsense.

3-17-17 Trump travel ban: Move to appeal against Maryland travel ban ruling
Trump travel ban: Move to appeal against Maryland travel ban ruling
The US government has said it will appeal against a ruling by a judge in Maryland that has blocked President Donald Trump's latest travel ban. Department of Justice officials have filed legal notices announcing their intention to challenge the block. The 6 March order placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a longer ban on refugees. But judges in Maryland and Hawaii questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory. Their blocking rulings earlier this week were warmly welcomed by civil liberties groups and rights campaigners. They argued that the temporary ban on people from six predominantly Muslim countries - Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - was a violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees religious freedom. President Trump insists the move is to stop terrorists from entering the US and has complained of "unprecedented judicial overreach". White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the government would "vigorously defend" the president's latest executive order.

3-17-17 Tales of deportation in Trump's America
Tales of deportation in Trump's America
Are immigration detainees the 'bad dudes' Trump claims? In the weeks since President Donald Trump took office, he has laid out his immigration agenda through a spate of executive orders and memos to Homeland Security, with deportations taking place all over the country. "We're getting gang members out, we're getting drug lords out," Mr Trump said in late February. "We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before." US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) raids have been executed across the nation. Hundreds of people have been apprehended and deportation proceedings have been initiated for them. According to figures provided by Ice, there were 18,378 removals in January. Mr Trump took office on 20 January. Of those, 9,580 had some type of criminal record, or about 52%. In February, 17,226 people were deported - again, 52% had past criminal convictions. But who are the people behind the deportations? (Webmaster's comment: Fully half of these deportations are of non-criminals but because they are not white. White Facists Rule!)

3-17-17 Making US workers pass genetic test data to employers is wrong
Making US workers pass genetic test data to employers is wrong
A proposed law effectively allowing US employers to require workers to take DNA tests and hand over the results is misguided, says geneticist Martina Cornel. Letting companies require workers to have genetic tests and disclose the results sounds practically dystopian. But that’s the effect of a new congressional bill in the US. Employees can refuse to comply, but risk being penalised by having to fork out thousands of dollars in extra health insurance payments – the threat of which might be enough to coerce them into going along with it. This inflammatory proposal has been backed by Republican members of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. With US employers funding a large chunk of employees’ health insurance, they may, understandably, want to rule out staff having certain health risks, which would in turn keep premiums down. Sure, genetic tests can quantify some of those risks. But the bill blows a huge hole in the principle that genetic testing should be voluntary and directly undermines the US Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). What’s more, many of the risk-reducing options for those few genetic conditions where testing is considered a good guide to the chance of serious illness are highly personal decisions. These should have nothing to do with an employer. They include reproductive choices and prophylactic surgery. Such options would apply, for example, to those with a risk of passing on a serious genetic disease to children or with gene variants that dramatically increase risk of breast cancer. If there is coercion in testing, could there be coercion over such life-changing choices as forgoing a family or having major surgery? That should never be the case. Privacy is sacrosanct. People should be employed on the basis of skills and expertise, not future health risks.

3-17-17 Tough talk, followed by surrender
Tough talk, followed by surrender
For all his tough talk, President Trump is “a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” said Steve Chapman. After a federal court blocked his Muslim travel ban on constitutional grounds, Trump attacked the “so-called” judges and vowed to take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, “he caved in” and issued a revised, scaled-back ban “designed to appease the judiciary.” Remember when Trump took that call from the president of Taiwan, defying a decades-old U.S. policy of recognizing one China? “Conservatives applauded his manly bravado.” But then Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to speak to Trump until he displayed “the ancient Chinese art of kowtowing,” and Mr. Tough Guy announced he supported the one-China policy after all. After promising supporters he’d “build a border wall at Mexico’s expense,” Trump is now proposing to raid the Coast Guard and other U.S. agencies’ budgets for the funds. Remember when more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual assault? He vowed: “These liars will be sued.” When? “Maybe after he wins that fraud suit against Trump University.” Oh, wait—Trump capitulated and paid a $25 million settlement. Like most bullies, Trump backs down when confronted by people with a backbone. (Webmaster's comment: I wish I could make a billboard out of this!)

3-17-17 United States Healthcare Failure
United States Healthcare Failure
Our health-care system has a fundamental flaw: It’s far too expensive. Americans spend $3.3 trillion a year on health care, which is 50 percent to 100 percent higher per capita than in other developed nations. For our money, we get some of the world’s most sophisticated treatment of cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. But overall, U.S. health care is relatively mediocre, producing shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and worse health overall than the systems in such countries as the U.K., Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and Sweden. Ryancare won’t fix a broken system; Obamacare didn’t, either. Both were conceived as patches on an absurdly complex Rube Goldberg machine assembled over 75 years of haphazard decisions. Studies have found that 34 percent of the immense cost of our system is simply wasted, with no benefit to patients.

3-17-17 Trump-inspired racism on our border
Trump-inspired racism on our border
Under the Donald Trump presidency, brown-skinned Canadians are being denied entry into the U.S., said the Toronto Star. So far we’ve heard of just a few cases, but they raise troubling questions about whether U.S. border guards are taking Trump’s “aggressive language toward outsiders and especially Muslims” as license to bully our citizens. Manpreet Kooner, who works in a science lab at a Montreal college, was turned away at the border, while another Montrealer, Fadwa Alaoui, was questioned about her religious views and then denied entry. Both had valid Canadian passports. Yassine Aber, 19, was turned back when he tried to cross with his college track team. Nothing in Trump’s recent travel ban barring citizens from six Muslim-majority nations—but not from Canada—should have prevented any of those people from traveling to the U.S. One can only conclude “they were effectively profiled by border guards emboldened by Trump’s incendiary language to single out some Canadians only because of their race or religion.” Kooner even said a border guard told her, “I know you might feel like you’re being Trumped.” Cross-border traffic is vital to both our economies, for trade and tourism. The U.S. will be “shooting itself in the foot” if it transforms our shared border “from a model of international cooperation into a place of needless fear.” (Webmaster's comment: And the racist hatred spreads!)

3-17-17 King’s incendiary tweet
King’s incendiary tweet
Outspoken Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa was denounced on both sides of the political aisle this week after posting an inflammatory tweet in support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders that read, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” The post was praised by a neo-Nazi website and white supremacist David Duke, who tweeted, “God bless Steve King!” But King was strongly criticized by his fellow lawmakers. “Do I qualify as ‘somebody else’s baby?’” responded Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who is of Cuban descent. King, who was an early and outspoken supporter of President Trump, doubled down on CNN, saying he “meant exactly what I said.” He added, “I’d like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same.” King finished the interview by recommending a French novel set in a Europe overrun by immigrants. (Webmaster's comment: Racist to the core!)

3-17-17 Culture and Civilization
Culture and Civilization
“Today’s white supremacism tends to shy away from overtly racial terminology. Listen instead for words such as ‘culture’ and ‘civilization.’ The idea is that the United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave because its ‘civilization’ is ‘European’ or ‘Western’—euphemisms, basically, for ‘white.’ It’s a bunch of racist, ahistorical claptrap. Immigrants—both voluntary and involuntary—have shaped this nation since long before its founding. Americans have never been a single ethnicity, speaking a single language, bound by the centuries to a single patch of land. We have always been diverse, polyglot and restless, and our greatness has come from our openness to new people and new ideas.” (Webmaster's comment: I couldn't have said it better!)

3-17-17 The big hand and the little hand
The big hand and the little hand
The big hand and the little hand, after a new study found that only 20 percent of 6- to 12-year-olds in Oklahoma could read the time from an analog clock. (Webmaster's comment: Another low point in American education!)

3-17-17 Americans makin’ less whoopee
Americans makin’ less whoopee
Our culture is more sexualized than ever before, but people are actually having less sex than in the recent past. New research has found that Americans are getting busy significantly less often than they did in the 1990s, regardless of gender, race, marital status, or where they live, reports The Washington Post. The study, which analyzed the sexual habits of 25,000 people, showed that Americans on average had sex 53 times in 2014, down from 62 times a quarter-century ago. The drop-off was most pronounced among married people, who now have sex 55 times a year, compared with 73 times in 1990. There has also been a marked increase in the number of single people, who have sex about half as often as their coupled counterparts. Young people, too, are doing the deed less often than previous generations. There is no clear explanation for this sexual slump. The decline was sharper among people in their 50s, college-degree holders, and parents with school-age children; it was less acute in younger people, parents with children under 6, and those who watch pornography. Study author Jean Twenge speculates that one factor could be the rise of social media and on-demand entertainment. “People aren’t looking around saying, ‘Hey, it’s 10 o’clock, what are we going to do?’” Twenge says.

3-17-17 The rush to condemn the nuns
The rush to condemn the nuns
Stop the screaming, lurid headlines, said Brendan O’Neill. To read the Irish tabloids this week, you’d think that cackling nuns had dumped nearly 800 dead babies into a septic tank at a former Catholic-run women’s home. The home in the County Galway town of Tuam, where unmarried pregnant girls were sent in shame from the 1920s to the 1960s, was certainly “an awful, tragic place.” That much has been clear since at least 2014, when a researcher’s analysis of records revealed that 796 babies and children had died there over some 35 years. But the institution “was not necessarily a site of insanity or evil.” Here are the facts we’ve learned in recent days: An excavation has found human remains on the grounds, buried in a structure possibly related to sewage treatment. We don’t yet know how many bodies are buried there, whether the structure was ever used for sewage, or whether any ceremony accompanied the burials. The hysterical coverage condemns “evil nuns hurling tiny corpses” in with the feces. There is no proof such a thing happened. Yes, the infant mortality rate was too high, whether from “poverty or institutional neglect, or both.” But by demonizing these nuns as depraved monsters before the facts are in, we are acting just like the church we claim to criticize: showing “a preference for moral zealotry over reason.”

3-17-17 Headscarf ban OK
Headscarf ban OK
European firms can ban Muslim employees from wearing hijabs in the workplace so long as they ban all political and religious symbols, including crosses and yarmulkes, Europe’s top court ruled this week. The European Court of Justice upheld an earlier ruling by a Belgian court against Samira Achbita, a receptionist for security services giant G4S, who was fired after she wore a headscarf at work. Achbita said she was discriminated against on the grounds of her religion, but the European Court of Justice agreed that she had broken unwritten rules banning religious symbols at the company. The court also considered the case of Asma Bougnaoui, a French IT consultant who was sacked after a client complained that Bougnaoui’s headscarf made his staff feel uncomfortable. The court said a customer’s request was not sufficient to require an employee to leave religious symbols at home.

3-16-17 White House budget plan would slash science
White House budget plan would slash science
Fiscal 2018 proposal calls for deep cuts in spending for EPA, NIH and other agencies. President Donald Trump has released his budget request for fiscal year 2018. It includes deep cuts to some federal science agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, but other agencies, such as NASA, emerge relatively unscathed. Huge cuts could be in store for federal science spending if President Donald Trump’s vision for fiscal year 2018 becomes reality. Although details are skimpy, Trump’s $1.15 trillion budget proposal, released March 16, would make national security the top priority. The budget blueprint calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending for 2018, offset by an equally big reduction in nondefense activities. Among the biggest science losers are the Environmental Protection Agency, which could see its budget shrink by 31 percent compared with 2017, and the National Institutes of Health, which faces an 18 percent spending slash. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science could lose about 17 percent of its funding while DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E — which supports research on promising energy technologies — faces complete elimination.

3-16-17 Trump travel ban: US judges block new executive order
Trump travel ban: US judges block new executive order
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked US President Donald Trump's new travel ban, which was due to begin after midnight on Thursday. The order would have placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. Both judges questioned the legality of the ban, which critics say is discriminatory. President Trump insists the move is to stop terrorists from entering the United States. He complained of "unprecedented judicial overreach". An earlier version of the order, issued in late January, sparked confusion and protests, and was blocked by a judge in Seattle. In Hawaii, District Judge Derrick Watson cited "questionable evidence" in the government's argument that the ban was a matter of national security. US District Judge Theodore Chuang, sitting in Maryland, also ruled it was meant to be a ban on Muslims, and therefore violated the First Amendment. Hawaii state had argued that the ban would harm tourism and the ability to recruit foreign students and workers, while in Maryland the plaintiffs argued it discriminated against Muslims and illegally reduced to number of refugees being accepted for resettlement in the US. Hawaii's Attorney General: Religious hostility 'violates constitution'!

3-16-17 Trump budget to cut foreign aid to pay for defence boost
Trump budget to cut foreign aid to pay for defence boost
The Trump administration has laid out plans to boost US defence spending by $54bn (£44bn) while slashing funding for foreign aid. The federal government budget plan will be submitted to Congress on Thursday. The state department, which oversees foreign affairs, faces a budget cut of about 28%. And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in line for cuts to programmes President Trump does not agree with, such as climate change and renewables. These include initiatives intended to bring the US into line with its Paris Agreement climate deal obligations. The EPA could be cut by 31%, the New York Times reported. The increase in defence spending will be recouped through deep cuts elsewhere, the BBC understands. The defence department budget will be boosted by 10%, and homeland security will get a 6% boost. (Webmaster's comment: The United States spends 3 to 10 times as much as any other country on defense. And we still have inferior weapons! Why?)

3-15-17 A sixth of Americans to lack health insurance by 2026
A sixth of Americans to lack health insurance by 2026
Plans to replace and repeal the existing Affordable Care Act will leave an extra 24 million Americans without medical cover by 2026, a Congressional Budget Office report claims. SIMPLY avoid getting sick. That might be the only strategy left for the 24 million Americans expected to lose healthcare insurance if the Trump administration pushes through a law to replace the existing Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. An assessment by the politically impartial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that by next year, 14 million more Americans will be uninsured than under Obamacare, rising to 24 million by 2026. When combined with the 28 million who already lack insurance, this will leave a sixth of all Americans – 52 million people – without medical cover. Trump’s allies have dismissed the findings. “If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters last week. But many fellow Republicans are also concerned about the impact of the act, not least because some govern states where Obamacare has greatly improved the health of adults on a low income. Trump’s law will scrap enhanced funding for Medicaid, which helps low-income families, and instead awards states a fixed amount per person enrolled, effectively devolving the responsibility – and cost – of citizens’ welfare to individual states. The CBO also concluded that premiums could be 15 to 20 per cent higher, at least until 2020. Insurers will be able to charge older people five times as much as young people, compared with three times at present, as they are more likely to get sick. (Webmaster's comment: The poor must do without so the rich can get richer.)

3-15-17 See how bacterial blood infections in young kids plummeted after vaccines
See how bacterial blood infections in young kids plummeted after vaccines
Newcomer pneumococcal vaccines have led to huge reductions in blood infections among young children. To celebrate birthdays, my 2- and 4-year-old party animals got vaccinated. Measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough for the older one (thankfully combined into just two shots), and hepatitis A for the younger. Funnily enough, there were no tears. Just before the shots, we were talking about the tiny bits of harmless germs that would now be inside their bodies, teaching their immune systems how to fight off the harmful germs and keep their bodies healthy. I suspect my girls got caught up in the excitement and forgot to be scared. As I watched the vaccine needles go in, I was grateful for these medical marvels that clearly save lives. Yet the topic has become fraught for worried parents who want to keep their kids healthy. Celebrities, politicians and even some pediatricians argue that children today get too many vaccines too quickly, with potentially dangerous additives. Those fears have led to reductions in the number of kids who are vaccinated, and along with it, a resurgence of measles and other diseases that were previously kept in check. Doctors and scientists try to reduce those fears with good, hard data that show vaccines are absolutely some of the safest and most important tools we have to keep children healthy. A study published online March 10 in Pediatrics shows a particularly compelling piece of data on the impact of vaccines.

3-15-17 Canadian Girl Guides cancel US travel ahead of ban
Canadian Girl Guides cancel US travel ahead of ban
Girl Guides of Canada has cancelled all trips to the United States until further notice because it fears problems at the border. The announcement comes days before President Donald Trump's new US travel ban comes into effect on Thursday. In a statement, the group said the "ability of all our members to equally enter this country is currently uncertain". The suspension includes short trips and all travel through US airports. The group has also scrapped a planned summer camping trip to California in favour of an alternate destination. "We're diverse, we're multicultural. I don't want to speak to any one girl or situation, our main priority was making sure our girls who had been planning trips for up to a year sometimes weren't going to be turned away at the border because of one or more situations that were beyond their control."(Webmaster's comment: If you're not all white Christians don't come to racist bigoted America!)

3-15-17 The Great Recession clearly gave rise to right-wing populism
The Great Recession clearly gave rise to right-wing populism
Austerity is a powerful tool for bigotry and fascism. What's to blame for the resurgence of racist right-wing populism? Since the election of President Trump, the American left has been consumed with this question, with leftists blaming the failures of neoliberal economic policy and liberals leaning more on cultural explanations. Over at Vox, Zack Beauchamp has an entry in this debate on the latter side. He argues that left-wing economic policy actually causes people to be more racist, largely because welfare states tend to disproportionately benefit poor minorities and immigrants, and hence raise resentment among whites. But his account of economics is jarringly incomplete — in particular, skipping almost entirely over the financial collapse of 2008, the ensuing plague of austerity, and the ongoing eurozone currency crisis. And this provides by far the strongest evidence for the leftist case. Let's review. In 2008, the whole world was convulsed by a financial crisis, leading to mass unemployment in the United States and Europe. The initial response was fairly similar in both places, featuring immense public bailouts of ailing banks. But after that, there was a sharp divergence: America generally tried large fiscal and monetary stimulus, while Europe did the opposite with spending cuts and tax increases — that is, austerity — and tight money.

3-15-17 Australia to ban unvaccinated children from preschool
Australia to ban unvaccinated children from preschool
The government wants 95 per cent of Australian children vaccinated – a level that would stop infectious diseases spreading and protect those who can’t be vaccinated. No-jab, no play. So says the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has announced that unvaccinated children will be barred from attending preschools and daycare centres. Currently, 93 per cent of Australian children receive the standard childhood vaccinations, including those for measles, mumps and rubella, but the government wants to lift this to 95 per cent. This is the level required to stop the spread of infectious disease and to protect children who are too young to be immunised or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Childcare subsidies have been unavailable to the families of unvaccinated children since January 2016, and a version of the new “no jab, no play” policy is already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Other states and territories only exclude unvaccinated children from preschools during infectious disease outbreaks. The proposed policy is based on Victoria’s model, which is the strictest. It requires all children attending childcare to be fully immunised, unless they have a medical exemption, such as a vaccine allergy.

3-14-17 Trump wiretap claims: White House softens stance on unproven tweets
Trump wiretap claims: White House softens stance on unproven tweets
Unsubstantiated claims by US President Donald Trump that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama were not meant literally, the White House press secretary says. Sean Spicer said Mr Trump had broadly meant "surveillance and other activities" when he made the allegation in a tweet earlier this month. He also suggested the president was not accusing his predecessor specifically. Meanwhile, the justice department has asked for more time to provide information about the allegations. A congressional committee had set a Monday deadline for the department to provide any evidence of President Trump's claims but a spokeswoman said it needed "additional time... to determine what if any responsive documents may exist". The House Intelligence Committee said it would give the department until 20 March to comply with its request. (Webmaster's comment: Never has there been a United States government so full of liars, racists, bigots, and haters from the president on down as this one!)

3-14-17 Trump healthcare plan 'will strip insurance from 14 million'
Trump healthcare plan 'will strip insurance from 14 million'
An estimated 14 million people would lose insurance coverage in 2018 under the new Republican healthcare plan, according to a budget analysis. The long-awaited Republican plan was assessed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan group of budget analysts and economists. The CBO said the added number uninsured would rise to 24 million by 2026. President Donald Trump, who backs the new plan, had pledged while campaigning that no-one would lose their insurance. The CBO reports also found that the bill would reduce the federal deficits by $337bn (£275bn) over the 10-year period. Those savings could help House Republicans sell the new legislation - known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) - to some conservatives who remain sceptical about costs. (Webmaster's comment: The additional people who will die for lack of care are not the rich so who will care? So typical of the Conservatives and the Republicans! For them all of the rest of us are just rift-raft!)

3-14-17 EU workplace headscarf ban 'can be legal', says ECJ
EU workplace headscarf ban 'can be legal', says ECJ
Workplace bans on the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination, Europe's top court has ruled. But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally", said the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, it added. This is the court's first ruling on the wearing of headscarves at work. The ECJ's ruling was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at the security company G4S in Belgium. The issues of Muslim dress and the integration of immigrant communities has featured prominently in debates in several European countries in recent years. Austria and the German state of Bavaria have recently announced bans on full-face veils in public spaces. Rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday's ECJ rulings were "disappointing" and "opened a backdoor to... prejudice". (Webmaster's comment: A masked person is a problem since they cannot be identified. But headscarfs should not be a problem anywhere.)

3-13-17 Why you should be skeptical of scientific studies you read about in the newspaper
Why you should be skeptical of scientific studies you read about in the newspaper
Coffee's good for you. Or maybe it's bad for you. Ditto dark chocolate. And red wine. It often feels as though today's health headlines are some scientific version of Mad Libs. And now there's a study that provides evidence for that hunch. It's not news — so to speak — that credulous reporters too often produce nuance-free articles about research that deserves not only caveats but outright skepticism, nor how much coverage of science, and biomedicine in particular, suffers from "shiny object syndrome" — the uncontrollable impulse to chase after that latest thing to catch the eye, as long as it's pretty and uncomplicated. Now, however, researchers at the University of Bordeaux, France, have connected the dots with a study that shows the extent of the problem. Their analysis of media coverage indicates that studies written about in newspapers are highly likely to be later overturned. "This is partly due to the fact that newspapers preferentially cover 'positive' initial studies rather than subsequent observations, in particular those reporting null findings," the researchers note in their study, which appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

3-13-17 Why so many conservative Christians feel like a persecuted minority
Why so many conservative Christians feel like a persecuted minority
Is America a post-Christian nation? For many true believers, it certainly feels that way. This is largely the topic of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which may be the most important statement of its kind since Richard John Neuhaus' The Naked Public Square, the 1984 book that Dreher's implicitly seeks to supplant. Like Neuhaus, Dreher provides devout Christians with a gripping metaphor that both describes the present moment and sets out a course of action in response to it. Written in the wake of Ronald Reagan's first successful presidential campaign, in which evangelical Protestants played a decisive role for the first time, The Naked Public Square aimed to lend theological heft to an ascendant religious right. Jerry Falwell was correct: Devout Christians did constitute a "moral majority." But if they hoped to truly gain, hold, and wield political power, they needed to make their case in more sophisticated and civically appealing terms. Neuhaus provided those terms. "We insist," he wrote, that "we are a democratic society, yet we have in recent decades systematically excluded from policy considerations the operative values of the American people, values that are overwhelmingly grounded in religious belief." That's because a narrow elite of secular liberals had begun to insist, against all evidence, that the United States is a secular society. This elite actively worked to thwart democracy, creating a "naked public square" that has been thoroughly stripped of religiously based moral arguments. What was needed, then, was a movement to fight back against this elite — to win elections, appoint judges, pursue policies, and deploy rhetoric that would reclothe the naked public square. It didn't work out that way.

3-13-17 Steve King tweet backing Geert Wilders sparks social media backlash
Steve King tweet backing Geert Wilders sparks social media backlash
Senior Republican congressman Steve King has sparked a backlash on social media after tweeting his support for the Dutch anti-Islam politician, Geert Wilders. "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny," Mr King wrote on Twitter. "We can't restore our civilisation with somebody else's babies," he added. The US Republican representative of Iowa defended his comments on Monday, saying he "meant exactly what he said". "It's a clear message," he told CNN's New Day programme. "We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or a little more. And Geert Wilders knows that and that's part of his campaign and part of his agenda." He would like to see "an America that's just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective", he continued. Mr King is a strong advocate of putting a stop to birthright citizenship. All children born in the US currently get citizenship under the constitution, including the children of families living in America illegally. Mr King has pushed for radical reform of the interpretation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution so that it no longer gives the children of undocumented migrants the right to a US passport. (Webmaster's comment: White racist to the core!)

3-13-17 India is up in arms over the murders of Indian Americans. Why isn't America?
India is up in arms over the murders of Indian Americans. Why isn't America?
My 20-something nephew from India is thinking of canceling his planned summer trip to the U.S. because, as he explained to me, "of all the Indians getting killed in America." He was referring to the three recent shootings — two fatal — of Indians in America. The first one, in Kansas, involved a white army veteran, Adam Purinton, who allegedly opened fire on two Indian tech workers in a bar, killing one and injuring another, while shouting, "Go back to your country." The second shooting involved a Sikh man in a Seattle suburb who was injured in his driveway after a gunman opened fire, allegedly yelling the same thing. And in the third case, a South Carolina Speedie Mart owner who'd been in the country for 14 years was gunned down outside his house. The motive is still unclear. The wall-to-wall coverage of these incidents in the Indian press has spooked Indians, even leading to calls that the Indian government issue a travel advisory for America. Social media and newspapers have issued purple condemnations of President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, which many Indians assume to be driving the spate of killings. "Long years of struggle lie ahead, for the damage Trump has inflicted on the United States' most cherished values will, almost certainly, outlast his years in office," lamented an editorial by the Indian Express, one of the nation's biggest publications. Meanwhile, the coverage in American papers has been relatively muted. (Webmaster's comment: Why? Because they're COLORED, so in the new political climate whites no longer have to care!)

3-13-17 Australia considers childcare ban on unvaccinated children
Australia considers childcare ban on unvaccinated children
Unvaccinated children would be banned from childcare centres and preschools under an Australian government plan. Some Australian states already have "no jab, no play" laws, but PM Malcolm Turnbull is calling for nationwide legislation. Health groups have supported the push, arguing parents and the community have an obligation to protect children. An Australian Child Health Poll survey of nearly 2,000 parents showed 5% of children were not fully vaccinated. Mr Turnbull said more needed to be done, citing the case of a baby who died from whooping cough. "This is not a theoretical exercise - this is life and death," Mr Turnbull said. "If a parent says, 'I'm not going to vaccinate my child,' they are not simply putting their child at risk, they are putting everybody else's children at risk too." Vaccinating children is not a legal requirement in Australia, but failing to do so makes parents ineligible for childcare rebates. (Webmaster's comment: Isolate unvaccinated children and their families away from the rest of us so they only infect themselves!)

3-12-17 New Trump immigration order condemned by 134 foreign policy experts
New Trump immigration order condemned by 134 foreign policy experts
A letter signed by 134 members of the foreign policy establishment serves up a harsh critique of President Trump's new executive order pertaining to immigration and refugee admissions, The New York Times reported Saturday. Bipartisan signatories include former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and John Kerry; neoconservative Max Boot, a prominent advocate of the Iraq war; and Obama administration alumni like Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Susan Rice, former national security adviser. The revised order "suffers from the same core substantive defects as the previous version," the letter says, and, because it targets six majority-Muslim nations, "will send a message that reinforces the propaganda of [the Islamic State] and other extremist groups, that falsely claim the United States is at war with Islam." "The revised executive order is damaging to the strategic and national security interests of the United States," the letter concludes, urging that any future "vetting enhancements [be] necessary, non-discriminatory and otherwise consistent with the U.S. Constitution," by not targeting any nations or religions.

3-11-17 Trump travel ban: Judge declines to reinstate ruling
Trump travel ban: Judge declines to reinstate ruling
A US judge has declined to issue an emergency order banning President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. The ruling came from Seattle district judge James Robart, the same judge who had issued the order that in effect halted implementation of the first ban. Judge Robart said lawyers needed to file more extensive documentation. The new 90-day ban on citizens of six mostly Muslim nations is due to come into effect on Thursday but has sparked legal action in a number of states. Lawyers in Washington state had asked Judge Robart to extend his decision on the first ban to cover the second. But the judge cited procedural reasons for not doing so. He said a complaint or a motion would have to be filed before he could rule. The justice department had argued that since the initial travel order ban had been revoked, the judge's first ruling could no longer apply. Those opposing that argument said the new travel ban had the same effect as the original.

3-11-17 Slave auction project: New Jersey school under fire
Slave auction project: New Jersey school under fire
A school in the US state of New Jersey is under fire for an assignment that asked children aged 10-11 to create posters depicting slave auctions. Some parents reacted angrily when they attended the school and saw the posters hanging in a hallway. The principal apologised for any pain or offence caused. District officials said children needed to learn about the "uglier parts of our past", but accepted the posters should not have been hung without context. The assignment had been set by the South Mountain Elementary School in South Orange, near Newark. One of the posters depicted "available slaves", with a drawing of a 12-year-girl called Anne, offered as a "fine housegirl". One angry parent wrote on Facebook: "It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history." But one caregiver at the school, Andrea Espinoza, told the ABC 7 channel: "It's part of history, of course. It happened. I think it's good that they know." (Webmaster's comment: Our nation has a VERY EVIL PAST, and we must know about it or we'll certainly repeat it!)

3-11-17 The secret life of a lonely gay Christian in Yemen
The secret life of a lonely gay Christian in Yemen
As al Qaeda and ISIS encroach on this once-progressive city, one terrified young man has become the ultimate "infidel". The day after cautiously navigating the remains of churches and Christian graveyards burnt and defaced with graffiti and pockmarked by the bombs and bullets of al Qaeda and ISIS, Ahmed Nader — a pseudonym used for his protection — sits across from me. He is visibly nervous throughout our interview, even though we are in a secret location that took weeks for him to agree upon. Nader, in his mid-thirties, constantly asks for reassurance that no one can overhear our conversation. Sweat creates dark patches on his T-shirt. His shuffling feet move dust and dirt around the floor as only the afternoon sun illuminates the space. A resident of Aden, a regional capital in southern Yemen, Nader converted to Christianity from Islam more than two decades ago. He is also gay. "In Yemeni society I wish people would see me not as 'just gay' or 'just Christian,'" he says between numerous glances out an open window. "I am a human being, a person. I wish they would see me as that." Yemen law is based in part on the principles of Sharia, declaring homosexuality illegal and punishable by death. Yemenis like Nader are trapped, and receive little attention from international media or governments. As war broke out here, all of the country's foreign embassies shuttered their doors years ago, so he has nowhere to go for help.

3-10-17 Rise in anti-Semitism alarms Israel
Rise in anti-Semitism alarms Israel
Anti-Jewish bigotry has become acceptable in America, said Carol Nuriel in Yedioth Ahronoth. The “fiery presidential election campaign” that propelled Donald Trump to the White House “served as a catalyst for the rise of new and renewed anti-Semitic phenomena.” The U.S. Anti-Defamation League counted some 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets during the election campaign, many aimed at Jewish reporters. After the November vote, so-called alt-right groups felt so empowered by Trump’s victory that they held a Washington summit where white nationalists performed Nazi salutes and chanted “Hail Trump.” Since then, headstones have been toppled and smashed in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia, while scores of Jewish community centers across the country have received bomb threats. President Trump’s response to this anti-Semitic surge has been deeply muddled, said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. He rightly denounced the crimes as “horrible” last month. But last week, he reportedly suggested that threats against the Jewish community might have been staged “to make others look bad.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is eager to stay on Trump’s good side—because of the president’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and his support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank—and so hasn’t rebutted Trump’s absurd claim of a smear. Our leaders should quit being “sycophants and apologists” for Trump and demand he take real action against this wave of hate. (Webmaster's comment: And Trump's support of hatred for Muslims isn't even mentioned!)

3-10-17 Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast
A drive-in movie theater in Alabama has banned Beauty and the Beast over reports that one of the PG-rated Disney film’s characters is briefly revealed to be gay. The owner of the Henagar Drive-in said, “If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it.”

3-10-17 Can renaissance in psychedelic drug research survive Trump era?
Can renaissance in psychedelic drug research survive Trump era?
Psychedelics are poised to become treatments for mental illness and addiction but a renewed war on drugs could scupper this promise, says Kevin Franciotti. Research into psychedelic drugs has been undergoing a renaissance. In the past decade, preliminary trials with the likes of LSD have shown their promise as tools for understanding and treating mental illness. Later this year, those testing psilocybin and MDMA are expected to recruit hundreds of people for the final phase of human research before their possible approval as medicines. Yet more evidence of medical potential comes from studying people who used psychedelics outside of research settings. They have lower rates of depression and other mood disorders, psychoses and suicide. Now we can chalk up more findings on this front for another possibility: using psychedelics to tackle opioid addiction. Research published last month, of which I was a part, shows that people who took psychedelics recreationally were less likely to become dependent on opioids (Journal of Psychopharmacology, doi.org/b2vn).

3-10-17 SCOTUS won’t hear transgender case
SCOTUS won’t hear transgender case
In a blow to transgender rights campaigners, the Supreme Court said this week that it would not hear the case of a transgender teenager who is seeking to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school. The court also wiped off the books a lower court ruling in favor of 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who sued his school board over a rule requiring students to use restrooms corresponding with their “biological sex.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had sided with Grimm, deferring to the Obama administration’s guidance for transgender students in public schools. The Trump administration withdrew that guidance last month, prompting the Supreme Court to send Grimm’s case back to the lower court for further consideration.

3-10-17 One view available: pro-Erdogan
One view available: pro-Erdogan
How can a democratic referendum take place when voters hear only one side of the issue? asked Kareem Shaheen. Turks will vote next month on whether to amend the constitution to grant sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been in power since 2003, first as prime minister and then—after changing the laws to give the presidency more power—as president. If Turks approve Erdogan’s proposed constitutional changes, he will be able to rule with nearly total control until 2029. The vote is being held under the state of emergency imposed after a failed coup attempt last July. Since then, Erdogan has arrested tens of thousands of journalists, opposition politicians, bureaucrats, judges, teachers, and lawyers—in effect, the entire educated class that opposes him, and he has purged the police and military. This is “oppression on a grand scale,” and it has gutted the Turkish news media, leaving only pro-Erdogan outlets. The government claims that anyone voting no to Erdogan’s attempted power grab will effectively be supporting terrorist groups like ISIS and the Kurdish separatist PKK. This “intimidation of the No campaign” could, of course, be a sign that the government fears the electorate might reject its constitutional changes. But you’d never know that from Turkish media. As one media official told me, “Turkey debates in whispers right now.” (Webmaster's comment: The next Nazi state!)

3-10-17 Trump travel ban: US states launch legal challenges
Trump travel ban: US states launch legal challenges
Several US states have launched legal challenges against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. Mr Trump signed an executive order placing a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim countries on Monday. New York maintains the new directive is a ban on Muslims while Washington says it is harmful to the state. Oregon and Massachusetts later also joined. The ban begins on 16 March, with the White House saying it is "very confident" of winning in court. Mr Trump's original order was more expansive but it was defeated after a legal challenge initially mounted by Washington and Minnesota. Lawyers for those states say their original complaint applies to the revised order and are pursuing their cases. Other states have joined the bid too, while Hawaii has launched a separate action.

  • Oregon - said the order hurts residents, employers, universities health care system and economy
  • Washington - it has "same illegal motivations as the original" and harms residents, although fewer than the first ban
  • Minnesota - questioned the legality of the move, suggesting the Trump administration can't override the initial ban with a fresh executive order
  • New York - "a Muslim ban by another name", said the attorney general
  • Massachusetts - new ban "remains a discriminatory and unconstitutional attempt to make good on his campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban"
  • Hawaii - argued it would harm its Muslim population, tourism and foreign students

3-10-17 US immigration: 50 extra judges to help tackle backlog
US immigration: 50 extra judges to help tackle backlog
The US Department of Justice is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention centres to clear a backlog of more than half a million cases. The judges will boost President Trump's push to toughen enforcement of the law on illegal immigration. In January he issued an executive order aiming to speed up deportations and hold migrants in detention centres until their cases can be heard. But the court system is clogged up and the centres short of space. Mr Trump's executive order directed the secretary for homeland security to expand capacity and end the policy known as "catch and release", whereby immigrants held after crossing the border illegally are freed pending court hearings. Now the Department of Justice has confirmed that a letter was sent requesting the deployment of extra judges. They will work from detention centres to speed up the process of determining whether asylum is granted or deportation orders should be issued.

3-10-17 Chinese human rights report attacks US 'hypocrisy'
Chinese human rights report attacks US 'hypocrisy'
An annual report by China on human rights in the US has accused it of corruption, hypocrisy and brutality. "In 2016, money politics and power-for-money deals controlled the presidential election, which was full of lies and farces," it said. "There were no guarantees of political rights." The US regularly accuses China of ignoring human rights - its own annual report on human rights in almost 200 countries was released last week. The US report said Chinese civil society groups suffered "repression and coercion" and accused Beijing of curtailing freedoms in Hong Kong and Macau. As well as sharp criticisms of American democracy, Beijing's report - which drew heavily on US media coverage - also highlighted cases of police violence and racism. It accused the US of "wielding 'the baton of human rights'" while "paying no attention to its own terrible human rights problems". "With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," it said. Beijing strictly curtails freedom of speech and is frequently criticised for arbitrary detentions, official brutality, widespread corruption, a lack of transparency, a pliant judiciary and little in the way of democracy. It is also extremely sensitive to criticism and has cracked down on domestic critics.

3-9-17 Trump travel ban: Hawaii files first legal challenge
Trump travel ban: Hawaii files first legal challenge
Hawaii has become the first US state to file a suit against President Donald Trump's revised travel order. Its attorney general says the new version is fundamentally the same as the first, calling it "Muslim Ban 2.0". The directive, which takes effect on 16 March, places a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on all refugees. The previous order, which was blocked by a federal court, sparked confusion at airports and mass protests. "Nothing of substance has changed: There is the same blanket ban on entry from Muslim-majority countries (minus one)," Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said of the new order. It will bar entry of citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days. Iraq, which was included in the first ban, has been taken off the list. (Webmaster's comment: Hate of Muslims is Hate of Muslims no matter how you word it!)

3-9-17 Texas 'bathroom bill' passes key vote
Texas 'bathroom bill' passes key vote
Texas lawmakers have voted to advance a bill that would compel people to only use the public toilets that correspond with their birth gender. The measure is designed to prohibit transgender people from using toilets of the gender with which they identify. Republican supporters say the bill will protect women's privacy in bathrooms, but critics say it is discrimination. The Senate vote in Austin drew hundreds of protesters to the state capitol, but the committee voted 7-1 in favour. It will now go before the Republican-controlled Senate, where it will be highly-prioritised, lawmakers say. A similar law in North Carolina led to mass protests, business boycotts and cancelled events. (Webmaster's comment: Now those that hate Transgenders will be able to easily identify them in the bathrooms and physically assault them which was the intent all along!)

3-9-17 Desperate refugees are selling their own organs to survive
Desperate refugees are selling their own organs to survive
Mayar was just 17 when he left his family and his job at a cell phone shop in Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, for Cairo, Egypt. Clashes between the regime and the rebels had torn his neighborhood apart, and he feared being forcibly enlisted to fight a war he didn't support. Five years later, Mayar is among tens of thousands of Syrian refugees living in grinding poverty in Egypt. With no job or income, he's turned to Facebook to find a buyer for one of the only things he has left to sell: his kidney. "By God, I don't know how much money I can make from my kidney, but I have no other solution," said Mayar, whose last name has been omitted to protect his identity. "Life in Egypt is expensive." Mayar is one of a growing number of refugees scattered across the Middle East who are so desperate for cash that they are resorting to an illegal and dangerous practice: organ trafficking. Mayar hopes that by selling one of his kidneys, he'll be able to pay bills, buy food for himself and his wife, and one day save enough to afford the perilous journey by sea to Europe — which can run upward of $1,000 per person — where he believes he can make a better living. In January, Mayar posted an ad in the Arabic-language Facebook group "Sell Kidney Online," describing himself as a "young Syrian man living in Egypt…O positive blood type… interested in donating my kidney in exchange for a monetary sum so that I may be able to survive my circumstances. Please reply as soon as possible." A price list posted by the Facebook group's administrator showed that prices ranged for as little as $650 for a kidney from Moldova to sums as high as $300,000 for a kidney in Singapore. (Webmaster's comment: People die from the Human Trafficking organ trade. See the movie "Dirty Pretty Things." This has been going on for years. It is the dark underbelly of our civilization.)

3-7-17 Reality Check: Who released the Guantanamo re-offenders?
Reality Check: Who released the Guantanamo re-offenders?
The claim: One hundred and twenty-two prisoners freed by President Obama from Guantanamo Bay engaged in "terrorist or insurgent activities" after their release. Reality Check verdict: All but nine of the 122 released prisoners the US says were involved in "terrorist or insurgent activities" after leaving Guantanamo were not freed by Obama but by his predecessor, George W Bush. President Donald Trump tweeted on 7 March to criticise former President Obama's administration for releasing 122 prisoners from "Gitmo", a shorthand for the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre, who "returned to the battlefield". The detention facility, opened in 2002 to detain terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, is part of a US naval base in south-eastern Cuba. At least every six months, the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who oversees the US intelligence community, publishes details of how many former Guantanamo Bay prisoners are "confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorist activities after release or transfer". The DNI defines those activities as planning or financing terrorist operations, conducting an attack and recruiting others for terrorist activities. According to the most recent published statistics, dated 15 July 2016, 122 former detainees are confirmed to have directly been involved in terrorist or insurgent activities after they have been transferred out of Guantanamo. However, only nine out of the 122 were transferred after 22 January 2009, when Barack Obama took office. The rest - 113 - were released by his Republican predecessor, President George W Bush.

3-7-17 China is ready to step into America's role as world leader
China is ready to step into America's role as world leader
At a time when President Donald Trump is signaling an American withdrawal from a leadership role in global affairs, Chinese President XI Jinping is increasingly willing to pick up the slack. The Chinese state media, in recent days, has been stressing what it characterizes as a major shift in Beijing's posture toward the rest of the world. Recently, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Xi mounted a strong defense of global trade at the same time that the Trump administration was promising to withdraw from a major trade deal among Pacific nations that notably excluded China. The Davos speech was one of a number of times when Xi has asserted the desire for China to play a part in shaping the order of world where economic and other ties between nations are less regional and more global. But in recent remarks delivered at a national security seminar in Beijing, he went further, telling attendees that China needs to step in to "guide" the development of a new world order, taking the place of the U.S. "The United States may no longer want to be a provider of global security and public goods, instead, pursuing unilateralism and even nationalist foreign policy," he said, according to a state-run news website. The Xinhua state news organization quoted Xi saying, "The overall direction of multi-polarization of the world, the globalization of the economy and the democratization of international relations has not changed ... No matter how the international situation changes, we must maintain our strategic steadiness, strategic confidence, and strategic patience."

3-7-17 Supreme Court drops landmark transgender school bathroom case
Supreme Court drops landmark transgender school bathroom case
The US Supreme Court has reversed its decision to hear a landmark case on transgender bathroom rights. Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, sued his school board over their policy which prevented him from using male facilities. The Supreme Court had scheduled for a hearing on 28 March. However, it has now sent the case back to a lower court after Donald Trump's administration issued new policy guidance relevant to the case. The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit originally ruled in Mr Grimm's favour in April last year. It deferred to then-president Barack Obama's directive on the issue - which said that federal law banning sex discrimination in public schools extended to protecting transgender bathroom rights. The supreme justices later accepted a petition from Gloucester County, Virginia, to hear an appeal - in what would have been the first Supreme Court ruling on transgender rights.

3-7-17 History according to Ben Carson
History according to Ben Carson
There is history, and then there is history according to Ben Carson. The two are not always the same thing. "There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream." Needless to say, the portrayal of slaves as willing immigrants seeking opportunity in the States is incorrect. Mr Carson later acknowledged as much on his Facebook page, saying: "The slave narrative and immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences." One person who definitely did not agree was actor Samuel L Jackson. The only words of his tweet that are safe to publish here are: "OK!! Ben Carson....I can't! Immigrants? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!!" In 2013, Ben Carson said President Obama's healthcare reform plan was "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery" and then, in October 2015, compared women who seek abortions to slaveholders. Back in November 2015, Buzzfeed published a video of Mr Carson saying the pyramids were built by the Biblical figure Joseph for storing grain. In a speech to fellow Seventh-Day Adventists in 2012, he said the Big Bang was one of many "fairy tales" being peddled by "highfalutin scientists" and that the order in the solar system showed that creation was a planned event. Back in October 2015, when he was still second-favourite to win the Republican nomination, he suggested the Holocaust may have been avoided if people had been armed. His campaign backed away from his claim that he had been admitted to the prestigious US military academy at West Point. (Webmaster's comment: And this creature is now placed in charge of some of our government! Unbelievable!)

3-6-17 Humans control robots with their minds by watching for mistakes
Humans control robots with their minds by watching for mistakes
An EEG-based system uses the brain signals generated when we spot an error to correct an industrial robot’s movements as it works. Try again robot, you’re doing it wrong. A brain-computer interface lets people correct robots’ mistakes using the power of their thoughts. The system uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure a person’s brain signals as they watch a robot work. When it detects a signal suggesting the person has witnessed a mistake, it alters the robot’s course. The system could be used to let humans control industrial robots simply by observing them. “We’re taking baby steps towards having machines learn about us, and having them adjust to what we think,” says Daniela Rus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rus and her team used an EEG headset to measure how the electrical signals in five volunteers’ brains responded as they watched a robot reach towards one of two LED lights. In each test, one LED was randomly selected as the “correct” one. If the volunteer saw that the robot was reaching for the wrong one, the headset detected this in their EEG readings and sent a signal to the robot, making it reach for the other. The robot used was Baxter, an industrial robot made by Rethink Robotics in Boston, Massachusetts. When we witness a mistake, we generate brain signals called “error potentials”, says Ricardo Chavarriaga at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Error potentials have a distinctive shape, which makes them a good choice for controlling a robot, he says. In 70 percent of cases where the volunteers noticed that the robot was making a mistake, the system correctly recognised an error potential and altered the robot’s actions. The result was similar on a task where volunteers watched Baxter sort reels of wire and paint bottles into different boxes.

3-6-17 India 'human sacrifice': Arrests over 10-year-old's death
India 'human sacrifice': Arrests over 10-year-old's death
Police in the south Indian state of Karnataka have arrested three people in connection with the "human sacrifice" of a 10-year-old girl. Police told BBC Hindi that the child was killed on the instructions of a "sorcerer" to "cure" a paralysed man. The man's brother and sister have been arrested on charges of abducting and murdering the girl. The alleged sorcerer told them it was the only way to undo "black magic" affecting their sibling, police said. A 17-year-old boy has also been arrested for helping to abduct the girl, police said. "There are a few more people who have abetted the crime. We are investigating it from all angles. So more arrests cannot be ruled out," senior police officer B Ramesh told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi. The murder was discovered after residents discovered the body of the girl inside a bag. They also found materials which police believe were used to conduct "black magic" rituals. As news about the incident spread, a mob gathered outside the brother and sister's home and began throwing stones. Police had to use force to disperse the gathering. (Webmaster's comment: That this nation even pretends to be civilized is beyond imagination. They also burned over 8,000 wives alive with their dead husbands two years ago.)

3-5-17 Mexico opens legal defense centers at U.S. consulates: 'We have never seen this type of force'
Mexico opens legal defense centers at U.S. consulates: 'We have never seen this type of force'
Mexico on Saturday opened legal defense centers at its consulates in all 50 U.S. states in response to President Trump's hardline immigration policy. "We are not promoting illegality," said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. "Today we are facing a situation that can paradoxically represent an opportunity, when suddenly a government wants to apply the law more severely," he added. "It is becoming more than evident that to apply the law, which is the obligation of any state, would also imply a real economic damage to this country which highlights the need for immigration reform." Videgaray urged the United States to devise a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. At the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, nearly 500 people — 10 times the expected attendance — came to a seminar with immigration lawyers explaining their legal rights. In 20 years of practice, "we have never seen this type of force, so excessive that it seeks to find a way to deport immigrants in the U.S., and even legal immigrants, people with residency," said immigration attorney Barbara Melendez, who spoke at the event. The lawyers advised immigrants to know their rights, be honest with authorities, and never resist arrest.

3-5-17 Mexico opens legal aid centres to fight US deportations
Mexico opens legal aid centres to fight US deportations
Mexico has opened legal aid centres at consulates in 50 US cities, in a move designed to protect its citizens from tougher immigration enforcement. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray reaffirmed concerns about the human rights of Mexicans in the US. But migrant defence centres would not "promote illegality," he said. Mexico is worried about the impact that guidelines issued last month by President Donald Trump will have on the lives of its citizens. Mr Trump ordered federal agents to join local police and immigration officers to enforce deportation procedures. Millions of Mexicans who have lived in the US for many years are suddenly facing the prospect of fighting a lengthy and costly legal battle against deportation. The new defence centres will provide free legal assistance for Mexican citizens who feel that their rights in the US are being threatened.

3-5-17 Beauty and the Beast: Russia considers ban over 'gay moment'
Beauty and the Beast: Russia considers ban over 'gay moment'
Russian officials are coming under pressure to check if Disney's new film Beauty and the Beast breaches the country's law against "gay propaganda". Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said action would be taken after the checks while an MP described the film as "shameless propaganda of sin". The live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast features Disney's first ever gay character and love scene. A Russian law prohibits the spreading of "gay propaganda" among minors. The 2013 legislation, which has angered human rights activists and the international gay community, describes homosexuality as "non-traditional sexual relations". Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 and the country officially removed it from a list of psychiatric disorders in 1999. However, homophobic attacks have been documented in recent years.

3-5-17 Turkey's Erdogan makes Nazi jibe over Germany rally ban
Turkey's Erdogan makes Nazi jibe over Germany rally ban
Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out after German authorities cancelled rallies designed to woo ethnic Turkish voters in Germany ahead of a key referendum. "Your practices are not different from the Nazi practices of the past," Mr Erdogan said. About 1.4m Turks in Germany can vote in the April referendum, which could give Mr Erdogan sweeping new powers. Voters will be asked whether they back a new constitution, which would transform the country from a parliamentary republic to a presidential one. That would give Mr Erdogan, as president, new powers over the budget, appointment of ministers and judges, and the power to dismiss parliament, among others. (Webmaster's comment: This is how Hitler came to power! He removed civil rights, he removed the constitution, he removed the judges, he removed the legislature! In order to keep power this may soon be Trump's next move!)

3-5-17 Dubai residents will be able to ride in flying drone taxis by July
Dubai residents will be able to ride in flying drone taxis by July
Residents of gridlocked Dubai won't need to worry about getting stuck in traffic for much longer, said Jon Gambrell at the Associated Press. The Emirati city says that by July, self-piloted taxi drones should be flying above its car-clogged streets. Using an app, people will be able to hail a Chinese-made EHang 184 drone, an egg-shaped craft with four propeller-bearing wings. It can carry one passenger and a small suitcase, together weighing up to 220 pounds."After buckling into its race car–style seat, the passenger selects a destination on a touch-screen pad in front of the seat and the drone flies there automatically." The EHang 184, which can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes and has a range of up to 31 miles, "will be monitored remotely by a control room on the ground."(Webmaster's comment: Chinese engineers are taking the lead! In America college graduates are being fired because they can't do simple mathematics. You can't make a ignorant people great again by spending more money on military hardware and greating rid of public schools.)

3-4-17 The hunt for better psychiatric drugs
The hunt for better psychiatric drugs
Katie first spoke with a demon when she was 14. He perched on the edge of her bed, and would persistently urge her to do bad things — like blow up her Arkansas high school. She spoke to God, too. Her parents, Pentecostal Christians, believed her visions made her special. So she received no therapy, and no medications, and no diagnosis as her schizoaffective disorder began to take root. Katie, who is now 35, has been homeless and hospitalized several times. She tried "just about every drug there is," she said, before she found a medication — the antipsychotic risperidone — that works well for her. She's got a happy and stable life these days, living with her husband in Texas. But she knows it's tenuous. "The thing is: A lot of times, a drug will work for you for several years, and then it'll just stop," said Katie, who asked that only her first name be used to protect her privacy. "At some point, I know I'll have to find another drug." It's a common, and well justified, fear for people with psychiatric disorders. While scientists have made tremendous advances in decoding the genetics of physical illnesses, such as cancer, and developing precision therapies, treatments for mental health remain blunt tools. They work by blasting entire mechanisms in the brain, without addressing the specific chemical pathways that have gone awry. As a result, the side effects can be quite substantial — and the efficacy is often low. Some people develop resistance to a drug years into treatment, and then have to go through a long period of trial and error to find another.

3-3-17 There is hope
There is hope
“There’s no doubt that Trump has expressed on occasion authoritarian desires or instincts. In the campaign, he expressed his own hostility for the First Amendment, his own love of expansive government eminent-domain takings, endorsed and encouraged violent responses against protesters, and declared that he alone would fix our nation’s most pressing problems. But so far, not only has an authoritarian presidency not materialized, it’s nowhere on the horizon. Instead, he’s facing a free press that has suddenly (and somewhat cynically) rediscovered its desire to ‘speak truth to power’; an invigorated, activist judiciary; and a protest movement that’s jamming congressional town halls from coast to coast.”

3-3-17 Anti-Semitism: A national wave of bigotry
Anti-Semitism: A national wave of bigotry
I used to think that “wide-scale American anti-Semitism was a thing of the past,” said David Leonhardt in The New York Times. “I was wrong.” After Donald Trump’s presidential campaign emboldened white supremacists to come out of the shadows, a horrifying wave of anti-Semitism has spread throughout the country. In the first few months of 2017, more than 100 synagogues and Jewish community centers and schools have received bomb threats, while at least three Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated and tombstones overturned—including another 100 tombstones vandalized in Philadelphia this week. “That surge of anti-Semitic incidents was ignored by President Donald Trump” until last week, said Sarah Wildman in Vox.com, when he finally called them “horrible.” In the past, Trump has re-tweeted white supremacists, and strangely omitted Jews from his Holocaust Remembrance Day declaration. Trump may not be anti-Semitic himself, but there is definitely a growing sense among Jews “that their vulnerability is, at best, unimportant to the president.” Actually, this wave of bigotry is on a whole new level, said Peter Beinart in TheAtlantic.com. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,094 reports of bias incidents in the first 34 days since Election Day—more than double the rate in 2015, when the FBI logged 5,800 hate incidents over 12 months. (Webmaster's comment: But why is there no pressure on Trump to condemn anti-Muslim incidents, which make up an equal proportion of the recent bias attacks?)

3-3-17 Soldier’s father speaks out
Soldier’s father speaks out
The father of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen demanded an investigation into his son’s death this week, and revealed that he refused to meet with President Trump when the soldier’s casket arrived on U.S. soil. Bill Owens told The Miami Herald that he sat in a separate room when Trump arrived at Dover Air Force Base to receive the body of Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36. The elder Owens said “there were no boots on the ground in Yemen” until Trump took office and wanted to make a “grand display.’’ Owens was killed at an al Qaida compound when the commandos became embroiled in a 50-minute firefight with militants that left at least 14 civilians dead, including some children. Trump said this week the raid was something the generals “wanted to do” and assigned them responsibility for the firefight’s outcome. “They lost Ryan,” said Trump. (Webmaster's comment: How does America justify the dead women and children?)

3-3-17 We deport immigrants at our peril
We deport immigrants at our peril
President Trump’s deportation plan isn’t just cruel and unnecessary, said Joe Nocera, it’s also a recipe for “economic suicide.” If the administration does indeed begin to deport hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of undocumented immigrants, American businesses will pay the price. There were 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. The numbers have shrunk primarily because a booming Mexican economy has meant fewer Mexicans need to seek work north of the border. But that decline has hurt U.S. industries that rely on manual labor. Today, “many farms are as much as 50 percent short of the workforce they need.” If the government were to crack down on the undocumented workers now toiling in American fields, the result would be devastating. Native-born Americans “simply don’t want to pick crops,” so farmers would have to plant fewer acres or pay higher wages to lure legal immigrants. Those costs would be passed on to consumers, and more fruits and vegetables would be imported—likely from Mexico. “The building trades, which also rely on immigrants, have much the same problem: not enough workers for too much work.” America doesn’t need fewer undocumented workers. “It needs more of them. The economy depends on it.”

3-3-17 GOP anti-protest bills
GOP anti-protest bills
Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation to curb protesting in at least 18 states in the wake of President Trump’s election, in what civil liberties experts describe as a growing attack on First Amendment rights. In Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, and elsewhere, legislators have introduced or voted on bills that would increase punishments for blocking highways; ban protesters from wearing masks; or exempt motorists from liability if they hit demonstrators with their vehicles. An Arizona bill would have punished organizers of protests that turn violent with racketeering charges, a measure needed to tackle “quasi-professional agent-provocateurs,” said State Sen. John Kavanagh. The legislation was killed this week following complaints from voters.

3-3-17 Domestic Violence no reason for divorce
Domestic Violence no reason for divorce
A Mississippi lawmaker rejected a proposed bill to make domestic violence grounds for divorce. Rep. Andy Gipson, a Baptist minister who chairs a committee, argued that the state should be encouraging people to stay married, not “opening the floodgates” to more divorce. “If a person is abusive,” Gipson said, he needs to have “a change of heart.” (Webmaster's comment: So the women just has to stay married and take his rapes, beatings and bruises till he changes? This is just legalized evil!)

3-3-17 Dancing Allowed
Dancing Allowed
The town of Henryetta, Okla., last week abolished a 38-year-old, Footloose-style ordinance prohibiting dancing within 500 feet of a church or public school. Joni Insabella had planned a Valentine’s Day dance above her store, which stands 300 feet from a church, but Chamber of Commerce members accused her of flouting the law (which carried a $25 fine). “We know we’re in the Bible Belt,” Insabella said. “We just wanted a good, clean, fun event.” City officials decided to repeal the ordinance, and now Henryettans can dance wherever they please.

3-3-17 Confederate flag pair jailed
Confederate flag pair jailed
A couple who stormed an African-American child’s birthday party while waving the Confederate flag and threatening partygoers with a gun were sentenced this week to lengthy prison terms. Prosecutors said Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, were driving around Douglas County in 2015 in a convoy of pickup trucks when they spotted the festive group, who had erected a bouncy castle and were grilling hamburgers for an 8-year-old boy’s birthday. The drivers, who were connected to a group called Respect the Flag, parked their trucks nearby, and hurled racial slurs. Then Torres pointed a shotgun at partygoers and threatened to kill them. “The little ones can get one, too,” Torres added. Norton was accused of making similar threats. A state judge sentenced Torres to 13 years in prison and Norton to six years, saying their actions “were motivated by racial hatred.” (Webmaster's comment: The scum of the earth!)

3-3-17 Marijuana crackdown looms
Marijuana crackdown looms
The Trump administration said last week that it expects to begin enforcing federal law banning marijuana sales in states that have legalized recreational use of the drug. The Obama administration had announced that the federal government wouldn’t interfere in states that had legalized weed, saying it had “bigger fish to fry.” Eight states have legalized recreational use of marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. While House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump sees “a big difference” between medical and recreational use, and that there would probably be “greater enforcement” against the latter. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime opponent of weed legalization, reinforced Spicer’s comments, saying he opposed “marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.” U.S. cannabis stocks immediately slumped.

3-3-17 Transgender rights: Trump’s reversal
Transgender rights: Trump’s reversal
“Last spring, when I heard Donald Trump say that Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she wanted at Trump Tower, I breathed a sigh of relief,” said Jen Aulwes in The Washington Post. I felt confident that if Trump became president, he’d extend the same courtesy to my 7-year-old transgender daughter, who has wanted to live as a girl since she was 3. But last week, “that hope was destroyed” when the Trump administration rescinded the Obama administration’s federal order requiring public schools to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. That order was based on Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education. The Trump administration, however, now insists that bathroom policies are a matter of “states’ rights.” Will this reversal give “underhanded, whispered permission” to conservative states to ostracize trans kids like my daughter?

3-3-17 U.S. Lower Life Expectancy
U.S. Lower Life Expectancy
Life expectancy will jump across industrialized nations in the next two decades—but not in the U.S. By 2030, a new study found, women in South Korea will be able to expect to live to 91, while women in France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland will have life expectancies of 88. Average life expectancy in the U.S. will climb by less than three years in the same period, with women reaching 83 and men 79. Experts attribute the differences to diet, income inequality, and access to health care.

3-3-17 HIV rate soars
HIV rate soars
The Philippines has killed a plan to distribute condoms in schools even as HIV infections are soaring among youth in the heavily Catholic country. HIV infections in neighboring countries fell 30 percent from 2010 to 2015, but rocketed by more than 50 percent in the Philippines. Among gay youth, the rate rose a staggering 230 percent. The Health Department developed a plan to educate high school students on how to avoid HIV and other diseases, including by using condoms, and to offer voluntary HIV testing. But the church and conservative lawmakers opposed the program, and the Education Department scrapped it last month. Now, says Steven Kraus of UNAIDS, “the Philippines runs the risk of letting the infection get out of control.”

3-2-17 Tibet women's football team 'denied US visas'
Tibet women's football team 'denied US visas'
A Tibetan women's football team has claimed that they have been denied United States visas to take part in a tournament in Texas. They say they were told they had "no good reason" to visit the US. Most of the players are Tibetan refugees living in India, and had applied at the US embassy in Delhi. US President Donald Trump has imposed a travel ban (now frozen) on nationals from seven countries, but neither India or China is on the list. Tibet, a remote and mainly-Buddhist territory known as the "roof of the world", is governed as an autonomous region of China. Cassie Childers, the executive director of Tibet Women's Soccer and a US citizen, told the BBC that she had accompanied the group of 16 players for interviews at the embassy on 24 February.

3-2-17 How today's pro-immigrant activists are adopting the tactics of abolitionists
How today's pro-immigrant activists are adopting the tactics of abolitionists
Their plan to stop Trump's immigration crackdown: Resist. Rebuff. Repeat. Donald Trump has barely been president for six weeks. And already, he has declared a full-blown war on undocumented immigrants. America's 45th president has ordered deportation raids in at least half a dozen cities, issued an executive order making all undocumented immigrants — not just "bad hombres" — fair game for removal, and threatened to defund sanctuary cities. His agenda is harsh and may well set the stage for a moral showdown not unlike the one America saw in the run-up to the Civil War. At that time, a renewed crackdown against fugitive slaves generated a massive abolitionist backlash, ultimately ending slavery. Similarly, Trump's loathsome anti-immigrant actions are provoking a widespread resistance movement that may finally weaken immigration restrictionism. Now, obviously, I'm not trying to compare slavery itself to illegal immigration. But the same "rule of law" argument that was made to forcibly return fugitive slaves to bondage in the 19th century is now being made to forcibly return undocumented workers to their home countries, resulting in an escalating — and, paradoxically, ever more lawless — use of state violence.

3-2-17 Empathy device lets a friend’s brain signals move your hand
Empathy device lets a friend’s brain signals move your hand
One person’s brain activity triggers hand gestures in another person in a muscle stimulation system aimed at communicating mood and encouraging empathy. If you’re happy and you know it, clap someone else’s hands. A muscle stimulation system aims to evoke empathy by triggering involuntary hand gestures in one person in response to mood changes in another. “If you’re moving in the same way as another person you might understand that person better,” says Max Pfeiffer at the University of Hannover in Germany. Pfeiffer and his team wired up four people to an EEG machine that measured changes in the electrical activity in their brain as they watched film clips intended to provoke three emotional responses: amusement, anger and sadness. These people were the “emotion senders”. Each sender was paired with an “emotion recipient” who wore electrodes on their arms that stimulated their muscles and caused their arms and hands to move when the mood of their partner changed. The gestures they made were based on American Sign Language for amusement, anger and sadness. To express amusement, volunteers had their muscles stimulated to raise one arm, to express anger they raised an arm and made a claw gesture, and to express sadness they slowly slid an arm down their chest. These resemble natural movements associated with the feelings, so the team hypothesised that they would evoke the relevant emotion. Asked to rate how well the gestures corresponded to the emotions, the volunteers largely matched the gestures to the correct mood.

3-1-17 Transgender children are at greater risk of mental health problems
Transgender children are at greater risk of mental health problems
Federal government won’t pursue protections for transgender kids in public schools. Policies that curb transgender students’ rights could harm their health, studies suggest. Amid a flurry of cabinet appointments and immigration policies, the Trump administration has announced one thing it will not do: pursue policies that protect transgender children in public schools. The Feb. 22 announcement rescinds Obama administration guidelines that, among other protections, allow transgender kids to use bathrooms and participate in sports that correspond with their genders, and to be called by their preferred names and pronouns. In a Feb. 23 news briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that this is a states’ rights issue. “States should enact laws that reflect the values, principles, and will of the people in their particular state,” he said. “That's it, plain and simple.” But this “plain and simple” move could be quite dangerous, even deadly, science suggests. Transgender children, who are born one biological sex but identify as the other, already face enormous challenges as they move through a society that often doesn’t understand or accept them. Consider this: Nearly half (46.5 percent) of young transgender adults have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, a recent survey of over 2,000 people found. Nearly half. For comparison, the attempted suicide rate among the general U.S. population is estimated to be about 4.6 percent.

3-1-17 Madrid bans Catholic group's anti-transgender bus
Madrid bans Catholic group's anti-transgender bus
A bright orange bus emblazoned with an anti-transgender message has been forced off the roads in Spain, after activists, trade unions, and Madrid City Council united against it. The slogan on the bus read: "Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Do not be fooled." A Catholic group, Hazte Oir, had planned to take it on a nationwide tour of Spanish cities. The group said the ban was illegal and that it planned to acquire a new bus. One message on the side of the banned bus states: "If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be one." It is believed to be a response to posters put up in northern Spain by a transgender rights group, which read: "There are girls with penises and boys with vulvas. It's as simple as that."

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130 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for March 2017

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for February 2017