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

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

4-30-17 Donald Trump attacks US media at 100-day Pennsylvania rally
Donald Trump attacks US media at 100-day Pennsylvania rally
US President Donald Trump has launched a scathing attack on the media during a rally marking 100 days in office. He told supporters in Pennsylvania that he was keeping "one promise after another", dismissing criticism as "fake news" by "out of touch" journalists. Mr Trump decided to skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner - the first US leader to miss the event since an injured Ronald Reagan in 1981. Mr Trump's approval ratings hover at around the 40% mark - believed to be lower than any other president at the 100-day marker. At the rally in Harrisburg, the president said the media should be given "a big, fat, failing grade" over their coverage of his achievements during his first 100 days and told the cheering crowd he was "thrilled to be more than 100 miles from Washington". He quipped that at the same time "a large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling themselves" at the correspondents' dinner "that will be very boring". (Webmaster's comment: Demonizing the press is an up-and-coming dictators first step in suppressing free speech. Hitler did it, Stalin did it, Putin is doing it and so is Trump!)

4-29-17 Turkey sacks 4,000 more officials in coup-bid crackdown
Turkey sacks 4,000 more officials in coup-bid crackdown
The Turkish government has sacked almost 4,000 more public officials in what appears to be the latest purge related to a failed coup last July. They include more than 1,000 justice ministry workers, a similar number of army staff and more than 100 air force pilots, officials said. In a separate decree, Turkey banned TV dating shows - a move previously mooted by the government. Earlier on Saturday, Turkey blocked the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. The latest sackings follow the suspension of more than 9,000 police officers and the arrest of 1,000 more last Wednesday on suspicion of having links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Mr Gulen of instigating last year's coup attempt, a charge the cleric denies. The government said in its Official Gazette that all those sacked were suspected of links to "terrorist organisations and structures presenting a threat to national security". Mr Erdogan narrowly won a controversial 16 April referendum on increasing his powers. Opponents fear the vote, which has divided Turkey, brings him closer to authoritarian rule. The ban on TV dating programmes follows a warning in March by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus that the shows do not fit in with Turkish traditions and customs. "There are some strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity," he said at the time. Critics of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) say they fear the country is sliding toward conservative Islam under Mr Erdogan. However, AKP supporters say dating shows receive thousands of complaints and the ban is in the public interest. (Webmaster's comment: The world's newest dictator gets rid of all possible opposition.)

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

4-29-17 Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason
Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason
Turkey has blocked all access inside the country to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. Officials said "an administrative measure" had been taken, but gave no reason why. Turkish media said authorities had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers "supporting terror". Turkey has temporarily blocked social media sites including Facebook and Twitter in the past, usually following protests or terror attacks. The Turkey Blocks monitoring group said Wikipedia was unreachable from 08:00 (05:00 GMT). People in Istanbul were unable to access any pages without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website," Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority was quoted as saying, giving no further details. (Webmaster's comment: The world's newest dictatorship begins to flex its muscles.)

4-28-17 100 days of Trump: The worst of populism and the worst of the establishment
100 days of Trump: The worst of populism and the worst of the establishment
After President Trump's first 100 days in office, we have a very good idea of what the rest of the Trump administration will be like: Expect the worst aspects of populism combined with the worst parts of establishmentarianism. When he became president, Trump was an "unknown quantity" — because of his own erratic psychology, because of his ideological flexibility, because he said everything and its opposite during the campaign, because of his lack of experience in elected office, and because he won the White House riding a populist wave that drowned traditional categories of American politics. Thankfully, 100 days in, we can at least rule out some of the worst-case scenarios that were floated during the campaign (and that, at the time, looked disturbingly non-crazy). Trump probably isn't going to nuke Belgium in a fit of pique. While Putin's Russia almost certainly worked to help him win the election, evidence of active collusion between Trump and the Kremlin has been lacking, and he hasn't been acting like a Russian Manchurian candidate. (If anything, the fears of this seem to have driven him to a more-hawkish-than-is-prudent posture toward Russia.) Thus far, Congress and the courts have been able to check Trump about as much as they did previous presidents. And we don't seem to be slouching toward fascism at a noticeably faster speed than we were before. What's more, it's clear that Trump lacks the personal discipline or guile to engineer a shadow coup. Instead, it looks like the Trump administration, while not endangering the survival of the republic, will instead serve us with a mix of everything that's most horrible about American politics — and especially Republican politics.

4-28-17 DIY gun control: The people taking matters into their own hands
DIY gun control: The people taking matters into their own hands
With the Trump administration stripping away firearms legislation, can citizen scientists and technologists rein in the excesses of US gun culture? Since the start of the year, there have been 105 mass shootings in the US, including a murder-suicide shooting at a school in San Bernardino, California, and the murder video recently posted on Facebook. Legislators have always struggled to address this problem. But in the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s administration, new gun legislation has only expanded, not restricted gun rights. In short order, lawmakers made it easier for certain people with mental illness to buy guns, and pushed to expand the locations where people can carry firearms. Over the past few years, however, gun owners and sellers have started taking matters into their own hands and have come up with creative solutions to reduce the threat from guns. From working with public health organisations so gun sellers can recognise the signs of depression in a prospective buyer to developing biometric gun locks, citizen scientists are cobbling together measures they hope will stave off the worst aspects of US gun culture. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that 320 million firearms circulate in the US – about enough for every man, woman and child. According to the independent policy group Gun Violence Archive, there were 385 mass shootings in 2016, and it looks as if the numbers for 2017 will not differ wildly. Although the number of these incidents is alarming, it is dwarfed by the amount of suicides, which account for more than half of all firearms deaths. And last year, a report from the Associated Press and the USA Today Network showed that accidental shootings kill almost twice as many children as is shown in US government data.

4-28-17 Liberals are no strangers to confirmation bias after all
Liberals are no strangers to confirmation bias after all
A study shows they would give up the chance to win money to avoid hearing ideas they disagree with. So much for the champions of enlightenment. Touting slogans such as “Facts have a well-known liberal bias”, people on the Left have made clear they see themselves as the true heirs and defenders of the Enlightenment. New research, however, shows that they’re just as deluded as everybody else. One study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, concluded that conservatives and liberals were equally averse to listening to opposing viewpoints on hot-button issues, such as same-sex marriage. In fact, they were willing to give up the chance to win money just to avoid the unpleasantness of hearing an opinion they disliked. A meta-analysis of 41 studies recently published on the Social Science Research Network reached a similar conclusion: there was no difference in partisanship between liberals and conservatives. As it turns out, “open-minded” liberals are plagued by confirmation bias to the same extent as “closed-minded” conservatives. Consider Seattle, a city that voted 87 per cent for Hillary Clinton and is proudly one of the most progressive – and well educated – in the US. A warm embrace of scientific reality doesn’t come with the territory: Seattle isn’t terribly fond of biotechnology, rejecting GMOs and even vaccines. Rwanda’s childhood polio vaccination rate is higher than Seattle’s. As for other vaccines, including MMR, only five US states have higher exemption rates than Washington State. If liberalism translated into embracing science, we would expect places like Seattle to have vaccination rates of 100 per cent. Blame for “alternative facts” and “fake news” therefore, can’t be pinned solely on the Left or Right. Both are culpable.

4-28-17 HPV vaccine as cancer prevention is a message that needs to catch on
HPV vaccine as cancer prevention is a message that needs to catch on
New infection stats should be ‘a wake-up call’ to spur lagging vaccination rates. In the United States, HPV vaccination rates lag for girls and boys. The message that the vaccine prevents cancer isn’t getting out there, researchers say. Cancer prevention isn’t the first thing that comes to many parents’ minds when they consider vaccinating their preteens against human papillomavirus, or HPV. And the fact that HPV is transmitted sexually gives the vaccine more baggage than a crowded international flight. But what gets lost in the din is the goal of vaccination, to protect adolescents from infection with HPV types that are responsible for numerous cancers. Newly released estimates show just how prevalent HPV infections are in the United States. In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported for 2013-2014 that among adults ages 18 to 59, 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had genital infections with HPV types that put them at risk of developing cancer. That’s just a snapshot in time. For those who are sexually active, more than 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women can expect to become infected with at least one type of HPV during their lives. About half of those infections will be with a high-risk HPV type.

4-28-17 Broken People?
Broken People?
The mayor of San Antonio blamed poverty on “broken people” who are not in “a relationship with their creator.” Mayor Ivy Taylor, a Democrat and born-again Christian, told a meeting of the Christian Coalition that poor people’s lack of religion prevented them from being “productive members of society.” Taylor said criticism of her comments was “politically motivated.”

4-28-17 Opioid makers and legislators
Opioid makers and legislators
Opioid makers and suppliers have spent $880 million in the past decade lobbying state and federal legislators to block new regulations on their addictive painkillers and make the drugs more easily available. That’s eight times as much as gun makers spent on lobbying during that time.

4-28-17 Measles, mumps come back
Measles, mumps come back
Measles and mumps are vaccine-preventable diseases that once seemed all but eradicated. But now these highly contagious viral infections are enjoying a resurgence in the U.S., where herd immunity—when enough people are immunized to protect the whole population—is on the decline, thanks in part to the anti-vaccination movement. Texas health officials report the number of mumps cases in the state just hit a 22-year high; so far this year, 221 people have been diagnosed with the virus, which can lead to deafness, brain inflammation, and other complications. Mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which also protects against measles and rubella, but the recommended two doses are only 88 percent effective against the virus. Immunity against mumps also wanes over time. Recurring outbreaks have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider a third routine dose of the vaccine. Safety concerns about the MMR vaccine, however, have also allowed measles, which can cause lung and brain damage, to make a comeback. “Because some parents are withholding their children from vaccination,” infectious disease specialist William Schaffner tells MedicalNewsToday.com (Webmaster's comment: Unvaccinated people and children are ignorant disease carriers.)

4-28-17 President Trump and Republican Caitlyn Jenner
President Trump and Republican Caitlyn Jenner
President Trump has lost one of his most high-profile supporters. Republican Caitlyn Jenner voted for Trump last year and even attended the inauguration festivities. But when the new administration lifted federal protection for transgender students’ bathroom use, it was a bridge too far for Jenner, 67. “You mess with my community, you don’t give us equality and a fair shot, I’m coming after you,” she told 20/20’s Diane Sawyer. The former Olympic decathlon champ has decided to turn down the president’s offer to play golf. “It’s not a good idea,” she said, “and so I won’t be playing with him.”

4-28-17 Policing for profit
Policing for profit
Law-enforcement officials have seized billions from citizens through civil forfeiture. Is that process being abused? One of the most extreme recent uses of civil forfeiture took place in Tenaha, a tiny town (population: 1,172) in eastern Texas. In 2006, a highly decorated state trooper named Barry Washington persuaded the town to target money launderers for drug dealers. That operation proved very lucrative: Within six months almost $1.3 million worth of assets had been seized. But something wasn’t right. Very few of the suspected money launderers were charged, and almost all were black or Latino. Jewelry, iPods, and other items clearly unrelated to crime were being confiscated. And Washington and his colleagues—who made the seizures after pulling drivers over on routine traffic stops—were using ludicrously flimsy justifications, including saying that a car smelled “too fresh.” One woman was told that if she didn’t surrender her cash and valuables to the trooper, her children would be taken from her and put into foster care. The abuse led to a class action suit, which ultimately resulted in a settlement. “These cases tend to stay in the dark,” Vanita Gupta, of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The New Yorker. “There’s no telling how many Tenahas there are.”

  • What is civil forfeiture?
  • When was forfeiture created?
  • What about at the state level?
  • Is that true?
  • Who’s pushing back against forfeiture?
  • Small town, big profits

4-28-17 Confederate monument comes down
Confederate monument comes down
Working under the cover of darkness and the protection of police snipers, workers in New Orleans this week began removing the first of four controversial monuments linked to the Confederacy. The Battle of Liberty Place monument was erected to honor members of the Crescent City White League, a white-supremacist paramilitary group that fought against the city’s racially integrated police force following the Civil War. The city pledged to remove the memorial and three other statues—of Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard—in 2015, prompting death threats from pro-monument groups, who say the statues are part of the city’s history. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he would “no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal.” Masked workers began removing the Liberty Place monument in the early hours of April 24, the day that some Southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.

4-28-17 Thomas Jefferson the the epitome of white supremacy
Thomas Jefferson the the epitome of white supremacy
A group of Columbia University students draped a Ku Klux Klan hood over a statue of Thomas Jefferson and labeled the Founding Father “the epitome of white supremacy.” Protesters from the group Mobilized African Diaspora said the statue of the slave-holding Founding Father “validates rape, sexual violence and racism” and shows Columbia’s “hypocrisy” in recruiting black students as “mere tokens of the university.”

4-28-17 Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. spiked following the November election
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. spiked following the November election
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. spiked following the November election, and the pace of such incidents has accelerated over the past five months, according to the Anti-Defamation League. There has been an 86 percent increase in incidents of vandalism and bullying since January 1, and a total of 541 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017—including 161 bomb threats, 155 acts of vandalism, and six assaults. (Webmaster's comment: Every non-Christian in the U.S. is now at risk!)

4-28-17 Berkeley: The battle over free speech
Berkeley: The battle over free speech
Actually, students are entirely justified in trying to prevent bigots like Coulter from speaking at colleges, said New York University vice provost Ulrich Baer in The New York Times. Certain topics, such as the idea that “some human beings are by definition inferior to others,” simply aren’t debatable. Holocaust denial, for example, isn’t free speech—it’s a denial of the humanity of those who were exterminated by the Nazis. Similarly, it’s wrong to give a public platform to people who insist African-Americans are genetically less intelligent, or that transgender women are deluded men wearing dresses. This isn’t about censorship; Coulter has had plenty of opportunities to vent her spleen, and on the internet “all kinds of offensive expression flourish unfettered on a vast platform available to nearly all.” Why should a college help racists, homophobes, misogynists, and other reactionaries insult and demean oppressed groups? “The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks.”

4-28-17 Sanctuary city fight
Sanctuary city fight
President Trump suffered another blow to his immigration agenda this week when a San Francisco–based federal judge blocked the president’s executive order threatening to cut off federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities. In court, the Justice Department’s lawyers argued that the government had the right to hold back a small amount of grant money from cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration officials. But U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said only Congress has the right to withhold federal funds, and that Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had repeatedly said that they intended to use funding as “a weapon’’ to punish sanctuary cities harshly. Trump blasted the decision on Twitter. “First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban,” tweeted Trump, in reference to his controversial travel ban, “& now it hits again on sanctuary cities—both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!”

4-28-17 100 days: What might Trump's border wall look like?
100 days: What might Trump's border wall look like?
US President Donald Trump has continued to promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. But he'll have to get through a lot of obstacles first. There is plenty of support for President Donald Trump in this big, red Republican state but, along the frontier, precious few are fans of his wall. "I don't think people understand that the border is a very big place. In my district alone I have 820 miles (1,320km)," Congressman Will Hurd tells the BBC as he surveys the landscape. The Republican knows a thing or two about security. For nearly a decade he worked for the CIA in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Now he finds himself on the home front, resisting his own party's president. "Building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security," says Mr Hurd. Instead, he suggests, the US should invest in improving intelligence on drug-smuggling gangs as well as hiring extra border patrol agents and installing more cameras and motion detectors. "These are all things that are a better use of American taxpayer dollars, and we're going to see quicker and more successful results," he insists. Mr Hurd and others like him are a problem for the president, who needs Republican lawmakers to approve funding for the wall if it is to become a reality.

4-28-17 The trouble with ‘Buy American’
The trouble with ‘Buy American’
I’m old enough to remember when conservatives opposed this kind of anti-capitalist nonsense, said David Harsanyi in The?Federalist.com. “It’s hardly abusive for industries to decide whom they want to hire instead of letting government decide for them.” H-1B visas are vital for the tech industry, which is already grappling with a shortage of Americans trained in science and engineering. Many foreigners who have come in on H-1Bs have also gone on to found companies here in America, which in turn creates American jobs. As for ‘Buy American,’ “this is what Republicans used to call ‘picking winners and losers.’” If you opposed the government’s bailing out of auto companies that couldn’t compete in a global marketplace, why would you support propping up the steel industry? (Webmaster's comment: Why hire Americans too ignorant to do the work.)

4-28-17 Trump: Evaluating his first 100 days
Trump: Evaluating his first 100 days
It’s something of an “arbitrary deadline, yes,” said Amber Phillips in WashingtonPost.com, but every new president since FDR has been judged by his first 100 days in office. For Donald Trump, who reaches that milestone this week, the comparisons are not flattering. Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to sign major legislation in his first 100 days, despite Republicans enjoying full control of Congress. His approval rating hovers around a dismal 40 percent—by far the lowest of any modern president at the 100-day mark. In a tweet last week, Trump dismissed the “ridiculous standard of the first 100 days,” but during the campaign he released a “Contract With the American Voter” setting out what he explicitly called “my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” The contract listed 10 pieces of legislation Trump would try to pass in his first three months, including funding a border wall and launching a $1 trillion infrastructure program. “None of that has come to fruition.” Only one major piece of legislation—Trump’s disastrous attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—has even been introduced in Congress. Are we surprised to find Donald Trump in breach of contract? asked Ron Insana in CNBC.com. He’s a businessman who has “overpromised and underdelivered” his whole life, declaring bankruptcy six times, creating a faux university that defrauded students, and repeatedly refusing to pay contractors and laborers. His presidency is beginning to look like another “failed effort,” providing “theatrics” instead of substance.

4-28-17 The lowest approval rating for any president
The lowest approval rating for any president
42% of Americans approve of President Trump’s performance as president, while 53% disapprove—the lowest approval rating for any president at the 100-day mark in seven decades. The average approval to disapproval rating for previous presidents at this stage is 69% to 19%. But 96% of people who voted for Trump in November said they would do so again.

4-26-17 Trump immigration court defeat is 'bananas', says White House
Trump immigration court defeat is 'bananas', says White House
The White House has labelled "bananas" a ruling that blocks President Donald Trump's order barring funding for cities that shelter illegal immigrants. A San Francisco judge has placed January's executive order in limbo, but the White House is vowing to appeal. San Francisco and Santa Clara County sued in February. The Trump administration has warned so-called sanctuary cities they could lose federal funds if they do not co-operate with federal immigration officials. On Tuesday, Judge William Orrick issued a temporary injunction against the presidential order as the case continues in the courts. "It's the 9th Circuit going bananas," White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said, in reference to the San Francisco-based appeals court, which conservatives often accuse of liberalism. Mr Trump's measure cast doubt on the transfer of some $1.2bn (£940m) for San Francisco and $1.7bn to Santa Clara County, home to many Silicon Valley communities. It is another legal defeat for President Trump in his efforts to curb immigration - his plan to curtail travel from seven Muslim-majority nations was twice blocked in federal courts.

4-26-17 Trump backs down on border wall funding
Trump backs down on border wall funding
Donald Trump has indicated he will scrap plans to find cash for his border wall in this week's spending bill. The president's close adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said funding for the wall would be left out of a budget measure that must pass by Friday. Building the wall, paid for by Mexico, was a key campaign promise. Democrats had threatened to block the bill if money was earmarked for the wall, so its omission may now avert a government shutdown. But the president insisted on Twitter that he still supported the wall and that it would be built. He reportedly told a private meeting with members of the conservative media on Monday night that he might be open to funding the wall later in the year. And Ms Conway confirmed to Fox News that the wall does not need to be funded this week, but remains a "very important priority". (Webmaster's comment: The Mouth breaks more of his campaign "promises." They were all just lies to win an election!)

4-26-17 Trump seeks to slash tax for businesses
Trump seeks to slash tax for businesses
President Donald Trump is to propose slashing the rate of corporation tax when he announces his tax plan later. White House officials say the centrepiece of Wednesday's announcement will be a sharp reduction in the business tax rate, from 35% to 15%. Economists say the tax cuts will add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the tax plan "will pay for itself with economic growth". Mr Mnuchin declared it "the biggest tax cut and largest tax reform in history of this country", according to The Hill. (Webmaster's comment: More for the rich and less for everyone else again! Also means a big decrease in social services and a huge increase in the national dept.)

4-25-17 Ontario to try giving poor a basic income
Ontario to try giving poor a basic income
Canada's largest province is experimenting with giving poor people a basic income with no strings attached. The three-year study will test whether this basic income is better than current social welfare programmes. Randomly selected participants living in three communities in Ontario will be given at least C$16,989 ($12,600, £9,850) a year to live on. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said it is time to be "bold" in figuring out how to help society's most vulnerable. "This is no time to retreat, this is no time for government to cling to the status quo," she said when the pilot was announced on Monday. Ontario is not the only one trying this policy out. Finland recently launched its own trial in January, and the Scottish government has expressed interest. The idea is popular with both progressives and libertarians alike because it has the potential to reduce poverty and cut out red tape.

4-25-17 Medical marijuana may be a salve for the US opioid epidemic
Medical marijuana may be a salve for the US opioid epidemic
In US states where medical marijuana has been legalised, people seem to be switching from other prescribed drugs to cannabis as a treatment for pain. Does cannabis really have medicinal properties? As the trend to legalise medical marijuana continues, there is growing evidence that it does help relieve some conditions, leading to hopes that it may help curb the US opioid addiction epidemic. In the US, 28 states plus Washington DC have legalised medical marijuana in some form. An analysis has shown that compared with other states, those regions spent less money on prescriptions through Medicaid – the healthcare programme for people on low incomes – for five conditions sometimes treated with cannabis between 2007 and 2014. These conditions were pain, depression, nausea, psychosis and seizures. The study could not prove that medical marijuana was causing the difference in prescription medication use. But there was no difference found in prescriptions for conditions unlikely to be treated with cannabis, such as antibiotics for infections. “It’s consistent with patients switching to marijuana for the five conditions,” says author David Bradford of the University of Georgia, US. At the federal level, cannabis in plant form is still classed as an illegal drug that has no medicinal properties. “I hope that this will help encourage the Attorney General to change its status,” says Bradford.

4-24-17 New Orleans removes first of four Confederate statues
New Orleans removes first of four Confederate statues
Masked New Orleans workers in bullet-proof vests have removed a Confederate monument that officials said was a symbol of the US South's racist past. Watched by police snipers, the statue was gone before dawn in a stealthy operation designed to foil protests. The statues will be relocated to "a place where they can be put in historical context", the city said. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said workers had faced "intense" intimidation and threats. The last chunk of the Battle of Liberty Place obelisk was hauled away in lorries, whose registration plates were covered, by around 05:30 on Monday after four hours. (Webmaster's comment: What is it about Slavery that many Southern White people still love so much?)

4-24-17 Malaria: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi get first vaccine
Malaria: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi get first vaccine
The world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries - Ghana, Kenya and Malawi - starting in 2018. The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the jab had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. But it is not yet clear if it will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world. The vaccine needs to be given four times - once a month for three months and then a fourth dose 18 months later. This has been achieved in tightly controlled and well-funded clinical trials, but it is not yet clear if it can be done in the "real-world" where access to health care is limited. It is why the WHO is running pilots in three countries to see if a full malaria vaccine programme could be started. It will also continue to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination. (Webmaster's comment: Not getting vaccinated makes you a disease carrier and causes stupidity!)

4-24-17 The Holocaust: Who are the missing million?
The Holocaust: Who are the missing million?
Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War Two. In many cases entire towns' Jewish populations were wiped out, with no survivors to bear witness - part of the Nazis' plan for the total annihilation of European Jewry. Since 1954, Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem ("A Memorial and a Name"), has been working to recover the names of all the victims, and to date has managed to identify some 4.7 million. "Every name is very important to us," says Dr Alexander Avram, director of Yad Vashem's Hall of Names and the Central Database of Shoah [Holocaust] Victims' Names. "Every new name we can add to our database is a victory against the Nazis, against the intent of the Nazis to wipe out the Jewish people. Every new name is a small victory against oblivion."

4-23-17 In Pictures: Science marchers defy rain in Washington DC
In Pictures: Science marchers defy rain in Washington DC
Thousands joined the first-ever March for Science in the US capital, despite the rain. Thousands of scientists have taken part in demonstrations around the world in protest against what they see as a global political assault on facts. The main event was held in Washington DC in the United States. Thousands of protesters turned out despite the bad weather. Marchers came with plenty of protection against the rain. The event, timed to coincide with Earth Day, also called for action to protect the environment. Some protested against funding cuts for science and the environment. There was a festival atmosphere beside the Washington Monument, where a stage was erected for music and speeches. Organisers said it was a celebration of science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Marchers wanted to demonstrate "the vital role science plays in our democracy".

4-22-17 Bill Nye the Science Guy says lawmakers are 'deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science'
Bill Nye the Science Guy says lawmakers are 'deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science'
"Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States — any country, in fact — cannot compete on the world stage," Bill Nye the Science Guy told a cheering crowd at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. "Yet today we have a great many lawmakers — not just here, but around the world — deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided, and in no one's best interest." Nye touted the ways scientific discoveries have improved global quality of life, arguing that science is not merely "purview of a different, or special, type of citizen." "Our numbers here today show the world that science is for all," he said, and government must come to recognize that "science serves every one of us." The Washington event where Nye spoke was one of more than 600 marches scheduled around the globe on Saturday. "I think the profession of science is under attack," said scientist Lucky Tran, who helped organize the rallies, in an interview with NPR. "We haven't engaged in politics, we've left that open for politicians to come in and really hijack and obfuscate science for their own selfish needs." (Webmaster's comment: The current government in Washington has only one use for Science, making things to kill, terrorise and torture people.)

4-22-17 On the ground in Washington at the March for Science
On the ground in Washington at the March for Science
Thousands rallied and marched in the rain in the US capital to stand up for science and its place in politics. Jonathan Berman, the national co-chair of the March for Science, said his hopes for the day of the march were that it wouldn’t rain and that lots of people would show up. He got one of those wishes. When we turned up to the National Mall in Washington, DC on Earth Day, we joined thousands of people gathering for a rally, a teach-in, and a march. The crowds streamed in through the gates for hours, standing in lines several city blocks long by midday. The morning was devoted to talks from a lineup of speakers, which included scientists, science communicators – including Bill Nye and Michael Mann – and young students aspiring to become an astronaut, an engineer, and a clean energy researcher. In the crowd, the feeling was jubilant and reverent. Cheers went up at the images of famous scientific pioneers and at every mention of a field of science from the podium. During a video showing images of the earth from space, rally-goers silently lifted their signs like lighters at a rock concert. In fact, if it weren’t for the protest signs, you might think you were at a music festival. Jon Batiste, the bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, gave people something to dance to with funk, soul, and jazz music between speakers. Questlove, the leader of The Roots, acted as emcee for part of the rally and spoke of his own support of science: “We need to make sure science belongs to the people. It should be out in the open.” He wasn’t the only representative of the arts. As part of a teach-in co-hosted by the Earth Day Network, the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University had a tent where people could make blackout poetry from scientific texts. (Webmaster's comment: The true creators of our modern world are finally speaking up.)

4-22-17 March for Science: Rallies worldwide to protest against political interference
March for Science: Rallies worldwide to protest against political interference
Thousands of scientists have taken part in demonstrations around the world in protest against what they see as a global political assault on facts. The first-ever March for Science, which was timed to coincide with Earth Day, was aimed at promoting action to protect the environment. Organisers said it was a celebration of science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. The main event was held in Washington DC. The event's promoters said the march in the US capital was not aimed against President Donald Trump, while adding that his administration had "catalysed" the movement. At the demonstration in Washington DC, Dr Jonathan Foley, the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, said that research was being irrationally questioned, adding that attacks from politicians "amounted to oppression". "They're specifically targeting science that protects our health, our safety and the environment. Science that protects the most vulnerable among us," he said. "Some people will suffer, some could even die," Dr Foley added. From climate change and pollution to medicine, men and women who support science were motivated on Saturday by the coverage of the recent Women's March and are mobilising to make their concerns heard.

4-22-17 We went to the March for Science in D.C. Here's what happened
We went to the March for Science in D.C. Here's what happened
On April 22, 2017 — Earth Day — thousands of scientists, science advocates and general enthusiasts rallied on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., at the first-ever March for Science. The organizers estimate that over 600 sister marches also occurred around the world. The march may be “unprecedented,” sociologist Kelly Moore told Rachel Ehrenberg for a blog post giving a historical perspective on scientists' activism. “This is the first time in American history where scientists have taken to the streets to collectively protest the government’s misuse and rejection of scientific expertise.” The March for Science took place next to the Washington Monument, opposite the White House. Grounds opened at 8 a.m. and filled up quickly. The rally featured an array of speakers from scientists to teachers to advocates. Some speakers seemed keenly aware of fears of mixing science and politics, a common criticism of the event over the last few months, and didn't shy away from the intersection. Physicist Rush Holt is the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a sponsor of the march, and was a U.S. Congressman for 16 years. The rally also featured some pioneers of various sorts. Nancy Roman, aka "Mother Hubble," was the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA in the 1960s.

4-22-17 March for Science: Rallies worldwide to protest against political interference
March for Science: Rallies worldwide to protest against political interference
Thousands of protesters around the world have taken part in the first-ever March for Science. Thousands of scientists are protesting in hundreds of cities around the world against what they see as a global political assault on facts. The first-ever March for Science, which has been timed to coincide with Earth Day, is aimed at promoting action to protect the environment. Organisers say it is also a celebration of science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. The main event is due to take place later on Saturday in Washington DC. The event's promoters said the march in the US capital was not aimed against President Donald Trump, while adding that his administration had "catalysed" the movement. From climate change and pollution to medicine, men and women who support science have been motivated by the coverage of the recent Women's March and are mobilising to make their concerns heard.

4-22-17 The philosopher's guide to understanding the 'self'
The philosopher's guide to understanding the 'self'
According to Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origins in ancient Africa, a newborn baby is not a person. People are born without ena, or selfhood, and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time. So the "self"/"other" distinction that's axiomatic in Western philosophy is much blurrier in Ubuntu thought. As the Kenyan-born philosopher John Mbiti put it in African Religions and Philosophy (1975): "I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am." We know from everyday experience that a person is partly forged in the crucible of community. Relationships inform self-understanding. Who I am depends on many "others:" my family, my friends, my culture, my work colleagues. The self I take grocery shopping, say, differs in her actions and behaviors from the self that talks to my PhD supervisor. Even my most private and personal reflections are entangled with the perspectives and voices of different people, be it those who agree with me, those who criticize, or those who praise me. Yet the notion of a fluctuating and ambiguous self can be disconcerting. We can chalk up this discomfort, in large part, to René Descartes. The 17th-century French philosopher believed that a human being was essentially self-contained and self-sufficient; an inherently rational, mind-bound subject, who ought to encounter the world outside her head with skepticism. While Descartes didn't single-handedly create the modern mind, he went a long way towards defining its contours.

4-22-17 Why I'm marching for science
Why I'm marching for science
A few months ago, the organizers of the D.C. March for Science announced a date for the rally: Earth Day, April 22nd, 2017. The event could very well end up being the largest demonstration of scientists in our nation's history — hundreds of satellite rallies are planned across the country. There are millions of supporters across Facebook and Twitter — and observers are drawing comparisons to the massive Women's March held the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. Since the March for Science is taking place on Earth Day, there will probably be a special focus on environmental science, and on the particular threats climate science faces under a Trump administration that's openly hostile to objective truths they don't like. But above all, organizers hope the March for Science will be a celebration of science and the fact that scientists are citizens too — acknowledging the enormous debt we owe to those who devote their lives to furthering human understanding. (One recent episode of my podcast, Warm Regards, focuses on the tension that scientists now face under Trump and how scientists form a key part of the resistance to a post-fact world.)

4-21-17 Watch the March for Science in Washington, D.C.
Watch the March for Science in Washington, D.C.
Dozens of speakers are scheduled to take the stage April 22 at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Science News will be on the scene at the April 22 March for Science in Washington, D.C. Follow us on Twitter (@ScienceNews). The march may be “unprecedented,” sociologist Kelly Moore told Rachel Ehrenberg for a blog post giving a historical perspective on scientists' activism. “This is the first time in American history where scientists have taken to the streets to collectively protest the government’s misuse and rejection of scientific expertise.”

4-21-17 Should we zap liars' brains to make them honest?
Should we zap liars' brains to make them honest?
What makes people tell the truth, even when they have more to gain by being dishonest? Certainly, society puts plenty of effort into getting people not to lie. Pretty much all major religions, moral codes, and laws condemn it, and kids grow up on corny cliches like "Honesty is the best policy." Yet despite all those efforts, dishonesty remains commonplace, and the question of whether people tell the truth may just come down to a particular corner of the brain — a corner that researchers have now been able to stimulate, seemingly making people more honest. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, neuroscientists at the University of Zurich and the University of Chicago pinpoint where in the brain these calculations happen and shows it can be manipulated. (Webmaster's comment: No we should not zap liars' brains unless the liar himself or herself requests it.)

4-21-17 Here’s what to expect from Saturday’s March for Science
Here’s what to expect from Saturday’s March for Science
Despite criticisms of the organising committee and a perceived lack of a clear message, the march could be a turning point for how scientists approach government. The March for Science is set for tomorrow, when thousands are expected to descend on the National Mall in Washington DC. Hundreds of satellite marches are set to take place around the globe. Despite criticisms of the organising committee and a perceived lack of a clear message, it could be a turning point for how scientists approach government. In the days after the 2017 US presidential inauguration, resistance to the anti-science stance trumpeted during the 2016 campaign grew in online discussions on Reddit. Several people, including physiologist Jonathan Berman, proposed a march on Washington similar to the Women’s March in January. “There was this building desire among scientists to become more willing to enter into the political discussion, and we sort of got the timing right to become the fulcrum for that,” says Berman, who became one of the national organisers of the March for Science. Within a week of launching a website, the movement had gained a Twitter following of more than a million people, he says. On the morning of 22 April, environmental group the Earth Day Network will co-host a teach-in and rally near the Washington Monument, followed by the march through the streets ending at the US Capitol.

4-21-17 France’s populist uprising
France’s populist uprising
Le Pen sees Frenchness as under attack from three forces: Islam, the EU, and globalization. She would defend it by halting immigration from former colonies and amending the constitution to establish the primacy of Christianity. To throw off the tyranny of EU regulations made in Brussels, Le Pen promises a referendum on continued membership, raising the possibility of a “Frexit” that could utterly destroy the union. She also wants to take France out of the euro, the shared European currency, and bring back the franc. Her policy of “economic patriotism” would punish firms that relocated factories abroad and would protect French farmers with tariffs on imported food. (Webmaster's comment: Another Trump soulmate!)

  • What is at stake in the election?
  • Who’s running?
  • What would Le Pen do?
  • Who are her supporters?
  • How is Russia involved?
  • Who will win?
  • A legacy of anti-Semitism

4-21-17 Turkey: Now a one-man show
Turkey: Now a one-man show
“Turkey as we know it is over,” said Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar in The Guardian (U.K.). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has succeeded in transforming the country from a parliamentary democracy to a near dictatorship. In a referendum this week, voters narrowly approved—by 51 to 49 percent—a package of constitutional changes that grant the president sweeping powers, including more control over the judiciary and the ability to rule by decree. The prime minister’s office will be scrapped, and Erdogan, who has been in power as either prime minister or president since 2003, will be eligible to run for office twice more and potentially stay in power until 2029. This cements “the collapse of the rule of law” that has been occurring “in slow motion” since 2013, when Erdogan brutally cracked down on protests against his increasingly authoritarian rule. Following last year’s failed coup attempt, “an immense purge” has seen nearly 50,000 people arrested; some 100,000 police, judges, bureaucrats, and teachers fired; and independent media outlets shuttered. European monitors say the referendum was not free or fair because state media heavily promoted the Yes campaign and the election board allowed disputed ballots to be counted. (Webmaster's comment: Trump will follow suit! He is also following the Hitler playbook.)

4-21-17 Trump congratulates strongman
Trump congratulates strongman
President Trump became the first Western leader to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week and congratulate him on winning a referendum that will give Erdogan sweeping, near-dictatorial powers—a vote international monitors said was unfair. (See Best Columns: Europe.) Opposition parties alleged widespread vote tampering and in Istanbul, thousands of protesters took to the streets, chanting “Thief, Murderer, Erdogan!” Trump’s response to the result was at odds with that of the U.S.’s European allies, who urged Erdogan to investigate voting irregularities. U.S. critics noted Trump’s past history with Erdogan: In April 2012, the Turkish president joined the Trump family at the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.

4-21-17 Shock waves from the mother of all bombs
Shock waves from the mother of all bombs
President Trump is “hell-bent on pursuing a military solution” in Afghanistan, said S. Mudassir Ali Shah in Dawn (Pakistan). Washington didn’t send a single representative to Moscow last week for the latest round of talks on Afghanistan, in which diplomats from Iran, Pakistan, China, and Russia explored the prospects for peace between the central government in Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. Instead, a few hours before discussions began, the U.S. dropped its most massive non-nuclear bomb, the 21,600-pound “mother of all bombs,” on a complex of tunnels and caves in the Tora Bora mountains currently being used by ISIS. More than 90 militants were killed, and the blast was felt on the Pakistani side of the border as well, damaging a mosque and several other buildings. It’s ironic, of course, because those very tunnels were built “with massive funding from the CIA” in the 1980s, for the mujahedeen to use in their fight against the Soviets. The U.S. builds in Afghanistan, and the U.S. bombs what it has built to oblivion. It’s hard to disagree with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who denounced the “brutal use of our country as a testing ground for dangerous weapons.”

4-21-17 Favoring mines and factories
Favoring mines and factories
Coal miners aren’t the only ones suffering from economic change, said Paul Krugman. Amid President Trump’s loud promises to bring back mining and manufacturing jobs, he’s all but ignored huge job losses in the retail sector. Macy’s, for example, will close 68 stores and lay off 10,000 workers this year. Sears, “another iconic institution,” recently warned investors that it might not be able to stay in business. “Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they did in 2001. That’s half a million traditional jobs gone—about 18 times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same period.” Those laid-off retail workers “are just as much victims of economic change as laid-off coal miners.” So why don’t they attract the same kind of political posturing? One argument is that mines and factories act as anchors for their local communities, so it’s more painful when they close. But that’s “not the whole truth.” Shuttered mines and factories offer ready-made villains for demagogues who can blame job losses on liberal environmentalists or foreigners. “By contrast, it’s really hard to blame either liberals or foreigners for, say, the decline of Sears.” I’m not unsympathetic to unemployed industrial workers. “Their jobs matter. But all jobs matter.”

4-21-17 Sessions: The new sheriff’s old-school policies
Sessions: The new sheriff’s old-school policies
Jeff Sessions “is wasting no time” trying to bring back the good ol’ 1950s, said Jay Willis in GQ.com. Proclaiming this “the Trump era,” the attorney general traveled to the Mexican border last week to announce that his Justice Department would now prosecute and jail all undocumented aliens caught near the border—and file criminal charges against anyone who gave them shelter, even “their own family members.” As part of his Bull Connor–like crackdown on brown and black people, Sessions has advised sanctuary cities that he’ll withhold billions in federal funding if they don’t turn over undocumented immigrants arrested for crimes. Sessions is also moving to kill the Obama administration’s efforts to reform local police departments accused of brutality and racism, said Renée Graham in The Boston Globe. More than a dozen cities and counties had agreed to implement reforms to overcome systemic racial bias, but Sessions thinks such programs hurt “officer safety and morale.” The former Alabama senator is withdrawing the Obama administration’s protection for transgender students in public schools, saying that’s a local issue. He’ll seek to restore mandatory-minimum sentencing for drug offenses. And he’s reversed his department’s legal opposition to voter ID laws in several states. (Webmaster's comment: Another Trump (Hitler) henchman at work destroying tolerance in our society and re-establishing bigotism and racism!)

4-21-17 Religious liberty case
Religious liberty case
A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared this week to side with a religious school excluded from public funding, in a landmark case testing the separation between church and state. The case concerns a Missouri program that provides the state’s schools with grants to resurface their playgrounds with rubber to make them safer for children. Trinity Lutheran applied for a grant to fix its preschool playground, but state officials declined the application because of a state constitutional provision that public funds cannot be provided “in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.” In their questioning during oral arguments, a majority of justices, including new member Neil Gorsuch and liberal Elena Kagan, suggested that helping the school make its playground safer did not constitute state support of religion. Gorsuch said excluding the school from funding was clear “discrimination on the basis of religious status.”

4-21-17 Violently suppressing free speech
Violently suppressing free speech
Our nation is now lurching toward “an increasingly vicious, violent war for control of America’s streets,” said David French. Last weekend, police in Berkeley, Calif., were overwhelmed when hundreds of leftist “antifa” (anti-fascist) protesters battled pro-Trump “Oath Keepers,” bikers, and “alt-right goons,” with people on both sides being punched, kicked, and stomped. It won’t be the last of such violent clashes. Far-left campus activists and other social-justice warriors believe that it is their right and indeed duty to suppress the speech of Trump supporters and other deplorables, even to the point of physically attacking them, burning cars, and rioting. Every time the Left’s thugs get out of control, as they did when preventing alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous from speaking at Berkeley or conservative academic Charles Murray from addressing students at Middlebury College in Vermont, progressives politely tut-tut about the violence, “urge that it not distract from the alleged rightness of the underlying cause,” and then do nothing to punish the offenders. When free speech can be suppressed without consequence, the rule of law is in peril; sooner or later, one of these violent encounters will truly get out of hand. We are “one trigger pull away from a slaughter.”

4-21-17 Berkeley reverses decision to ban Ann Coulter from speaking
Berkeley reverses decision to ban Ann Coulter from speaking
The University of California, Berkeley, has reversed its decision to cancel an appearance by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. Her visit was cancelled on Wednesday by administrators citing "active security threats", but Republican students said it was an attack on free speech. "What are they going to do? Arrest me?" the best-selling author told Fox News. UC Berkeley officials later said the speech would be held on 2 May at an "appropriate, protectable venue". The campus has been the scene of several violent protests in recent months. Ms Coulter - author of In Trump We Trust - said the school, which gained prominence in the 1960s as the bastion of the so-called Free Speech Movement, had violated her rights. Speaking on Fox News, Ms Coulter urged US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the matter because she had been "unconstitutionally banned" from speaking. (Webmaster's comment: Hate speech has no place at our Universities or at our schools!)

4-21-17 'They want to exterminate us', says Chechen gay man
'They want to exterminate us', says Chechen gay man
Just a few weeks ago, "Ruslan" was with his wife and children in Chechnya. Now he's in a safe house for men fleeing detention and torture for being gay. Reports of a campaign against gay men by Chechen security forces have been trickling through since early April when they first appeared in a Russian newspaper. Now some of the alleged victims are starting to speak out. "When they brought me in, I denied everything," says Ruslan - not his real name. Even now, he is frightened of being identified. Homosexuality is taboo in deeply conservative Chechnya and, like Ruslan, men often marry to disguise their sexuality. But as the security forces hunted down gay men in Ruslan's town, someone singled him out. He says that after being detained at home, at night, he was held for over a week, beaten and humiliated. "If beating you with their hands and feet is not enough, they use electric shock," Ruslan says. "They have a special black box and they attach wires to your hands or ears. The pain is awful. It's terrible torture." His interrogators demanded the names of other gay men but Ruslan says he refused, and soon after his release he fled the republic. He had heard the police were hunting for him once again. "They used to detain people before all the time to blackmail them," he says. "Now [the aim] is the extermination of gay men, so that there are none left in the republic."

4-21-17 Legalizing weed
Legalizing weed
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled a key campaign pledge last week by introducing a bill to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. If it passes, as expected, Canada will become only the second nation, after Uruguay, to make weed legal for all adults. Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, but it does not have any consumer dispensaries, and the draft legislation leaves such arrangements to the provinces. The bill contains harsh penalties for people who sell or give marijuana to minors—a maximum of 14 years in prison, the same sentence handed down for producing child pornography. Trudeau admitted in 2013 that he had smoked weed while serving as a member of Parliament.

4-20-17 Grand Slam (bomb)
Grand Slam (bomb)
The "Mother of All Bombs" is nothing new and nothing special and we should not be impressed by it. It was invented 73 years ago by the British in World War II. They called it the Grand Slam! They dropped it 42 times!

The Grand Slam was a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) earthquake bomb used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War. It was the most powerful non-atomic bomb used in the war.

  • In service: 1945
  • Used by: Royal Air Force
  • Wars: World War II
  • Manufacturer: Vickers, Sheffield Clyde Alloy/Steel Company of Scotland, Blochairn, Glasgow.
  • Produced: 1944–45
  • No. built: 42 used, 99 built by Clyde Alloy plus others from the Smith Corporation of America.

4-20-17 Canadian woman faces human smuggling charges
Canadian woman faces human smuggling charges
A Saskatchewan woman has been charged with human smuggling following a months-long cross-border investigation. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested and charged Michelle Omoruyi, 43, as part of an investigation into asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada. She was stopped after crossing at the Saskatchewan border in a vehicle carrying nine foreign nationals. Those nine people from West Africa have since made refugee claims in Canada. (Webmaster's comment: The United States now joins the countries that people must flee from. The United States will soon become a source of refugees seeking asylum in other countries. We are no longer the land of the free!)

4-20-17 Why an American went to Cuba for cancer care
Why an American went to Cuba for cancer care
Cuba has faced more than 50 years of US sanctions. Now, for the first time, a unique drug developed on the communist island is being tested in New York state. But some American cancer patients are already taking it - by defying the embargo and flying to Havana for treatment. Judy Ingels and her family are in Cuba for just six days. They have time to go sightseeing and try out the local cuisine. Judy, a keen photographer, enjoys capturing the colonial architecture of Old Havana. And while she is in the country, Ingels, 74, will have her first injections of Cimavax, a drug shown in Cuban trials to extend the lives of lung cancer patients by months, and sometimes years. By travelling to Havana from her home in California, she is breaking the law. The US embargo against Cuba has been in place for more than five decades, and though relations thawed under President Obama, seeking medical treatment in Cuba is still not allowed for US citizens. (Webmaster's comment: And who's blocking us from receiving the best care? The Conservatives and Republicans of course!)

4-20-17 Ann Coulter vows to speak at Berkeley after speech cancelled
Ann Coulter vows to speak at Berkeley after speech cancelled
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter has vowed to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, after it cancelled next week's event. Her visit was cancelled on Wednesday by administrators citing "active security threats", but Republican students said it was an attack on free speech. "What are they going to do? Arrest me?" the best-selling author told Fox News. The campus has been the scene of several violent protests in recent months. Ms Coulter - author of In Trump We Trust - said the school, which gained prominence in the 1960s as the bastion of the so-called Free Speech Movement, had violated her rights. Speaking on Fox News, Ms Coulter urged US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the matter because she had been "unconstitutionally banned" from speaking. (Webmaster's comment: There is nothing in the Constitution that says we have to provide a forum or a venue for hate speech!)

4-20-17 Nigeria 'gay wedding' bust leads to charges
Nigeria 'gay wedding' bust leads to charges
Prosecutors in the northern Nigeria state of Kaduna have charged a group of 53 people with conspiring to celebrate a gay wedding. The accused, arrested last Saturday, have denied the allegations, with their lawyers saying they were illegally detained. The court released the group on bail and the case was remanded to 8 May. Homosexual acts are banned in socially conservative Nigeria and are punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

4-19-17 March for Science will take scientists’ activism to a new level
March for Science will take scientists’ activism to a new level
People rally not around a single issue but around science with a capital S. Thousands of pro-science citizens are expected to march in hundreds of cities April 22 during the first-of-its-kind March for Science. Scientists have been politically engaged in the past — here, supporters listen to scientists speaking out at a climate change rally in San Francisco in December — but historians are calling the upcoming march unprecedented. Lab coats aren’t typical garb for mass demonstrations, but they may be on full display April 22. That’s when thousands of scientists, science advocates and science-friendly citizens are expected to flood the streets in the March for Science. Billed by organizers as both a celebration of science and part of a movement to defend science’s vital role in society, the event will include rallies and demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and more than 400 other cities around the world. “Unprecedented,” says sociologist Kelly Moore, an expert on the intersection of science and politics at Loyola University Chicago. “This is the first time in American history where scientists have taken to the streets to collectively protest the government’s misuse and rejection of scientific expertise.”

4-19-17 Marchers, raise your banners for the tortoise pace of progress
Marchers, raise your banners for the tortoise pace of progress
The March for Science reflects the growing gap between slow, steady, vital scientific gains and quick-fire, opportunist US politics, says Dave Levitan. A WEEK is a long time in politics. Science, however, is in it for the long haul. Whether planning for rising sea levels or isolating proteins in fruit fly nerve cells so that many years down the line we might have a new drug for Parkinson’s, it does not square with the day-to-day, fixed-term imperatives of government. This produces obfuscations from some politicians. They back fracking ventures that quickly create jobs, but talk down long-term pollution. Others take credit for renewable energy progress, conveniently ignoring the decades of work to get there. The slow march of scientific progress does not match well with politics even on a good day. And today is not a good day. Preliminary budget outlines from US president Donald Trump have shocked the science community. Everything from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to NASA’s earth science missions would get a buzz cut. In a way this makes perfect sense. The impulsivity and lack of long-term thinking that places science at odds with politics seems less a feature and more a tenet of Trump’s view. Why fund the NIH properly, helping to produce the medical advances of 2030, when you can’t see past your next tweet? If politics couldn’t handle science’s tortoise pace years ago, it should be no surprise to see this disdain reach a new peak in a faster-moving age. On the bright side is the response of scientists and the public. That includes open letters from thousands of scientists, political action committees aimed at bringing expertise to government – and of course 22 April’s March for Science in Washington DC and other cities in the US and around the world.

4-19-17 Your true self: Why it’s morals that make the human
Your true self: Why it’s morals that make the human
Memories, personality, behaviour – there are many things we might use to define individuals. But digging deeper reveals a more unexpected source of the self. IN THE 1980s, evangelical Christian Mark Pierpont travelled the world preaching that homosexuality was a sin and promoting ways to resist gay urges. It was a deeply personal quest. He was himself wracked by the very yearnings he sought to excise from others – a contradiction he openly acknowledged. So here’s the question: which of Pierpont’s attitudes reflected his true self? Was his message about the sinfulness of homosexuality a betrayal of his essential, gay self? Or did it reflect what he was deep down, freed from the distorting influence of more primal urges? At first sight, it is a question of little scientific merit: psychologies are complex, individual things, and there’s no part of the brain, and no aspect of our personality, that stands out as being the seat of the true self, so we’re never going to discover a universally valid answer. “As a scientific concept, the idea of a ‘true self’ is not tenable,” says Nina Strohminger of Yale University. And yet she and other psychologists have set out to study it. Most of us are convinced that something like a true self lurks beneath our surface attitudes and behaviour. It might be a delusion, but it informs how we view human beings, ourselves included. If we could better understand what that delusion consists of, we might learn to get along a little better with ourselves and others.

4-19-17 Your true self: How your personality changes throughout life
Your true self: How your personality changes throughout life
You are not the person you were as a child, or even last year. The discovery that our characters change is unnerving, but embrace it and it can be empowering. AS A child, Wendy Johnson was extremely shy. “One of my report cards said: ‘Wendy is so shy, it’s painful to watch!” She’s not like that now. “I am definitely a person who learned to overcome overt shyness,” says Johnson, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She says shyness is an indicator of a low level of extroversion, a key measure of personality, which she studies. So does this mean Johnson has changed her personality? Undoubtedly, she says. That answer might surprise you. Most of us consider our personality to be an integral and unchanging part of who we are – perhaps the essence of that thing we call the self. In 1887, psychologist William James went so far as to argue that it becomes “set like plaster” by the age of 30. His idea stuck. Psychologists have long debated how to measure personality, settling eventually on the “big five” traits (see “What are you like?“). But at least they were able to agree on a definition: personality refers to an individual’s thought patterns and behaviours, which tend to persist over time. Now mounting evidence is undermining that notion. Personality is far more mutable than we thought. That may be a little unsettling. But it’s also good news for the almost 90 per cent of us who wish our personalities were at least a little different. There’s no doubt that personality is partly genetic. What’s less certain is how much is down to our genes and how much to nurture. Newborn babies don’t have personalities as such, but do have characteristic ways of behaving and reacting, something psychologists call “temperament”. This includes persistence in the face of setbacks, and “reactivity”. Very reactive babies are shy and avoid novel situations. Temperament is often viewed as the biological basis of personality, but it is far from innate. Genes and environment interact to influence it even before birth. For example, there’s evidence that mothers who are stressed during pregnancy are more likely to have an anxious child. (Webmaster's comment: And how much is nurture could well be dependent on your genetics.)

4-19-17 Your true self: The future is a foreign person
Your true self: The future is a foreign person
Present You regards Future You as someone else entirely. See past this mental blind spot, and Future You will be healthier, wealthier and wiser for it. Ten years from now, you will still be you, right? It depends on who you ask, and when. Present You, for one, is not so sure. That much is clear from several studies revealing that we often treat our future selves like complete strangers. In one, Emily Pronin, a psychologist at Princeton University, asked people to make decisions about how much of a disgusting cocktail to drink. Some chose for themselves, some for the next participant and some for themselves in two weeks’ time. When choosing for themselves, people opted for the smallest dose. But they went for a larger amount for another person – and for their future selves. Brain imaging points in the same direction: thinking about your current self fires up different brain regions than does thinking about your future self, which activates the same areas of the brain as when we think about other people. Another study focused on our tendency to value immediate rewards more highly than deferred benefits – what economists call “future discounting”. It’s the reason you struggle to save money or choose the healthy salad. The good news is that by getting better acquainted with Future You, you can make better choices in the here and now.

4-18-17 Why the wealthy live longer
Why the wealthy live longer
The wealthiest one percent of men live 14.6 years longer than the poorest one percent. America's inequality gap has increased over the last 40 years, new data suggests that the survival gap has expanded as well. Between 2001 and 2014, the wealthiest one percent of men lived 14.6 years longer than the poorest one percent. For women, that gap was 10.1 years, according to a recent study published in the Lancet, a U.K. based medical journal. "Health inequalities are particularly pernicious because they can reproduce and reinforce gaps in income and wealth, with negative feedback loops creating a health-poverty trap," the researchers wrote. Survival gaps for men were larger than for women, but the gap in life expectancy, along with health inequality, grew at a faster rate for women. Middle- and high-income Americans have lived over two years longer since 2001, while the country's poorest five percent have increased their life expectancy by nearly zero. In some categories, the life expectancy even dropped, such as for white women low income or without a high school diploma. Education plays an increasingly important role in determining income and consequentially health, the researchers found. This is based both on work opportunities a higher degree provides and on the individual health choices a person makes, such as condom use or quitting smoking. One reason the relationship between education and health has grown is because wages have increased for education-dependent work, while the demand for less skilled labor has declined.

4-18-17 Why are people freezing their bodies?
Why are people freezing their bodies?
When she tore the meniscus in her knee, former model and fitness instructor Heather O'Neill was out of a job. She couldn't teach with her injury. She needed to heal, and fast. So, she tried something different. She decided to freeze her body. Or, more accurately, she decided to try cryotherapy. Cryotherapy exposes your body to cold temperatures. And I mean extremely cold. In most cases, the client's body is enclosed in a chamber with temperatures ranging between -200°F and -240°F. After a few sessions, O'Neill was healed, and returned to work. Later, she used the same process to help heal a broken foot, and it worked again. She was so impressed with cryotherapy that she decided to open her own CryoFit studio. Cryotherapy may sound futuristic, but it has actually been around for years. In 1978, a Japanese rheumatologist named Dr. Toshima Yamaguchi began researching whether rapid, short-term exposure to cold temperatures would be more effective than ice baths. He found that this rapid freezing brought relief to those with rheumatoid arthritis. Since then, this treatment has spread to Europe, where further research was conducted. When top athletes started using whole-body cryotherapy to promote healing after sports injuries, the world took notice. Today, more than 400 cryotherapy treatment centers exist across the U.S.

4-18-17 Trump order to target foreign worker visa programme
Trump order to target foreign worker visa programme
President Donald Trump is to sign an executive order to review a temporary visa programme used to place foreign workers in high-skilled US jobs. The order will also direct agencies to enforce government rules on excluding foreign contractors from bids for government projects. He will sign the so-called Buy America, Hire America order on a visit to a tool factory in the US state of Wisconsin. The order is aimed at fulfilling his "America First" campaign promises. But it falls way short of Mr Trump's campaign pledge to end the H-1B visa programme. (Webmaster's comment: So who is going to fill the high-skilled jobs? The majority of Americans can only read at the 6th-8th grade level.)

4-17-17 More than 8 million people in the US have mental health problems
More than 8 million people in the US have mental health problems
More Americans are experiencing serious psychological distress than ever before. At the same time, their access to mental health services is getting even worse. Americans are experiencing serious psychological distress in higher numbers than ever before. More than 8 million adults in the US between the ages 18 and 64 have mental health issues – that’s 3.4 per cent of the nation’s population. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted an annual national health survey for the past 60 years. Respondents are asked how often over the past month they felt certain feelings, such as being so sad nothing could cheer them up, or that everything they did was an effort or worthless. The frequency of such feelings gives an indication of whether someone is in serious psychological distress (SPD). An SPD score is highly correlated with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It’s also linked to chronic disease, lower socio-economic status, smoking, drinking and a reduced life span. Judith Weissman, an epidemiologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center, studied the survey data from 200,000 respondents between 2006 to 2014. She found that SPD was more prevalent in women than in men, in middle-aged adults versus younger adults, and in Hispanic and black people versus white people. Weissman also found that while SPD rates were going up, access to mental health care was declining.

4-14-17 Trump's Lies
Trump's Lies
President Trump uttered at least 367 false or misleading claims during his first 81 days in office. He made 30 of them on Feb. 28, when he erroneously claimed that America has spent $6 trillion fighting wars in the Middle East (it’s actually $1.6 trillion from 2001 to 2014) and that he had performed better among Hispanics and African-Americans than past Republican presidential candidates.

4-14-17 Giving up our rights as citizens
Giving up our rights as citizens
“One of the happiest moments of my life was the day in 1999 when I became an American citizen,” said Lubana Adi. But after my recent experience at Los Angeles International Airport, I wonder if the Constitution still applies to U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslim. I had bought a ticket to Turkey to visit my mother and two brothers, who moved there as Syrian refugees, but was immediately sent to a separate security line. There I had my purse and carry-on completely emptied, and underwent two body scans and two very aggressive body searches, with a female TSA employee reaching between my legs. When they were done, I went to the gate—where several armed men and women searched my body again, demanded to know how I got a passport, and tested my feet for traces of explosives. When I finally boarded the plane, four armed men converged on me and interrogated me harshly, with one asking in Arabic if I was familiar with “Daesh”—that is, ISIS. Upon my return to the U.S., I endured a similar ordeal, with a three-hour interrogation and the examination of my cellphone’s contents. My fellow Americans, if they can do this to me, they can do this to you.

4-14-17 Sweden: Will a terrorist attack change the country?
Sweden: Will a terrorist attack change the country?
Stockholm has joined the long list of European cities attacked by Islamist extremists, said Peter Hjorne in Göteborgs-Posten (Sweden). Four people were killed and 15 more injured last week when an Uzbek-born ISIS sympathizer plowed a stolen beer truck through crowds of shoppers on a pedestrian street before smashing into a department store. Bloody bodies were strewn along the road, in a scene familiar to us from other recent vehicle attacks—Nice, Berlin, London. Our solace now is in one another. Our emergency services responded confidently, and the suspect, failed asylum seeker Rakhmat Akilov, 39, was quickly arrested. Our leaders are making it clear that we will not be cowed, nor will we demonize our Muslim neighbors. “We are an open, democratic society, and we will remain so,” said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. Crown Princess Victoria, when asked how the nation would move on, gave the best answer: “Together!” Much more needs to be done, said Aleksandra Boscanin in Göteborgs-Posten. It shouldn’t have been so easy for Akilov to drive a truck onto the nation’s busiest pedestrian street. Traffic barriers must be set up at all major plazas and more surveillance cameras installed. We must also reform our laws on freedom of association, and finally make it illegal “to be involved in a terrorist organization.” It’s not enough to repeat the mantra that we should “live our lives as usual”—we must also make it possible to actually do so. (Webmaster's comment: The United States should do the same with our 917 hate groups! LET'S GET RID OF THEM!)

4-14-17 Modern slave markets
Modern slave markets
Hundreds of West African migrants who trekked to Libya, hoping to journey to Europe, have been sold in slave markets, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reported this week. Victims told the IOM that after being captured by people smugglers or militia groups in Libya, they were taken to town squares or parking lots to be sold for between $200 and $500 each. Most of the men are used as day laborers, while the women become sex slaves. One Senegalese migrant told IOM that after he was sold, his captors held him in a prison-like building and regularly called his family at home demanding a nearly $500 ransom. He was then sold to a larger prison, where the ransom doubled. Men whose families didn’t pay up were eventually killed, he said. About 27,000 migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Italy from Libya so far this year; tens of thousands more are waiting in Libya for boats.

4-14-17 Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner reveals in a new memoir that she has undergone gender reassignment surgery, two years after announcing her decision to transition from male to female. In The Secrets of My Life, reports ­RadarOnline?.com, the former Olympic hero says she had the operation in January largely because her male anatomy had become burdensome, and that she was “tired of tucking the damn thing in all the time.” The complex procedure, which can cost up to $100,000, gives Jenner, 67, functioning female genitalia. “I am going to live authentically for the first time in my life,” she says. Jenner said she’s going public with the surgery to silence incessant questions. “This is the first time, and the last time, I will ever speak of it.”

4-13-17 Why the Trump administration is taking science out of forensics
Why the Trump administration is taking science out of forensics
Closing down the National Commission on Forensic Science cuts scientists out of advisory role, returning forensic science to lawyers and politicians - and may lead to more false convictions. On Monday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the government would dissolve the federal commission that had been working towards creating national standards in forensic science. Removing the new science-based policies could lead to more false convictions, especially given the Trump administration’s hard line on crime. Forensic standards vary by state. Some techniques have been found scientifically invalid and their use has led to false convictions. For example, after serving 20 years for the rape and murder of a high-school student, Steven Barnes was exonerated in 2009 when the shaky soil analysis on which a jury had convicted him decades before was contradicted by evidence from more modern DNA methods. At the time, the National Academies of Sciences issued a report broadly condemning forensic science practices in the US. With the exception of DNA testing, the authors wrote, no forensic method could consistently and reliably connect evidence to a specific individual or source. “It’s clear that in many forensic disciplines, experts have been overstating their conclusions, going farther than is supported by scientific evidence,” says William C. Thompson, a professor of criminology at the University of California, Irvine.

4-12-17 Mega-canals could slice through continents for giant ships
Mega-canals could slice through continents for giant ships
The Panama Canal may soon have a giant neighbour across Nicaragua – and two huge waterways could be built in Asia. Will they help or hurt the environment? AFTER years of protest, the world’s biggest civil engineering project yet is now cleared for takeoff. Late last month, the Supreme Court in Nicaragua turned down the last environmental claim delaying the construction of the $50 billion Interoceanic Grand Canal. It will carve a 273-kilometre channel through the small Central American country to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean – even though the Panama Canal, 1000 kilometres to the south, already does the job, and received a massive upgrade less than a year ago. Why the duplication? Proponents of the canal say it will ease congestion that the upgrade can’t address, and create new economic opportunities for Nicaragua. By shortening journeys, it could even help stem the rise in the shipping industry’s share of global carbon emissions, which could reach 17 per cent by mid-century. But the project also raises troubling questions about the environmental chaos that could ensue when alien species navigate between newly linked oceans. This matters even more given that Nicaragua’s mega-canal isn’t the only one in the works. On the other side of the world, backers of two others have been watching progress closely. One of them will make the Nicaragua project look downright petite. (Webmaster's comment: Slicing and dicing the world for profit. The good news: It will reduce American dominance of the world.)

4-11-17 Faith of the faithless: Is atheism just another religion?
Faith of the faithless: Is atheism just another religion?
The taunt that atheism is religious thinking in disguise undermines its claim to be a better way to run the world. The truth is more complex than you might imagine. I RECENTLY discovered that I am a member of a downtrodden minority, one of the most mistrusted and discriminated-against in the world. As a white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis-gender male, this is not something I’m used to. But my minority status is undeniable. I am an atheist. I’m not complaining. I live in one of the world’s most secular countries and work for a science magazine, so it hasn’t got in the way. But for atheists living in societies with a strong religious tradition, discrimination is a real problem. In the US, atheists have one of the lowest approval ratings of any social group. Non-believers are the only significant minority considered unelectable as president – and “unelectable” turns out to be a pretty low bar. Even when atheists don’t face open hostility or discrimination, we often have to endure put-downs about the sincerity of our (lack of) beliefs. One of the most common is that “atheism is just another religion anyway”. There is no way to prove or disprove the existence of god, the argument goes, so to deny it is a leap of faith. Ergo, atheism is just like a religion. If atheism really is just another religion, its claim to be a superior way to run the world is fatally weakened. All the criticisms it flings at religion – of being irrational, dogmatic and intolerant – come flying back with interest, and progress towards a more rational and secular society is undermined. So is it true? Is atheism just another religion? (Webmaster's comment: For what it's worth I have found that the Atheist community has at least as many intense haters as the Christian community does.)

4-11-17 Toronto's Peel District School Board in Muslim prayer row
Toronto's Peel District School Board in Muslim prayer row
A school board in Ontario has become a flashpoint in the religious accommodation debate over Muslim prayers in school. The board says the matter is settled but detractors say the fight far from over. Pages torn from a Koran. Cries of "that's a hate group" and "there is no peace in Islam". In March, a public meeting of one of Canada's largest public school boards descended into chaos over a policy of religious accommodation that has been in place for more than 15 years. The Peel District School Board says the debate over whether Muslim students can hold voluntary Friday prayer sessions on school grounds is settled and has been for a long time. They accuse some opponents of whipping up tensions with "deliberate misinformation" and say they are "appalled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice we have seen on social media, read in emails, and heard first-hand at our board meetings". Opponents of the policy say they are not done protesting against a practice they decry as "unequal and unfair".

4-11-17 Aboriginal Australian rules players demand end to racial abuse
Aboriginal Australian rules players demand end to racial abuse
Aboriginal players from Australian rules football's AFL have written an open letter to the sport's fans calling for an end to racial abuse. It comes after Port Adelaide Power's Paddy Ryder and Adelaide Crows player Eddie Betts were racially abused during a match at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. In the letter, the AFL players' indigenous advisory board said it had "had enough". "Racial vilification has been a part of our game for too long," it added. "That both Eddie and Patrick were abused because of the colour of their skin is absolutely unacceptable." The latest incident follows a Port Adelaide Power member being banned after she was filmed throwing a banana at Betts last year. "These are more than just words and the impact these slurs have on the player, their family, their children and their community is profound," continued the statement. "There's no room in our game for any form of vilification, whether it's based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. "Anyone who thinks that this is an acceptable way to act is no football fan."

4-11-17 African migrants sold in Libya 'slave markets', IOM says
African migrants sold in Libya 'slave markets', IOM says
Africans trying to reach Europe are being sold by their captors in "slave markets" in Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says. Victims told IOM that after being detained by people smugglers or militia groups, they were taken to town squares or car parks to be sold. Migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices, the head of the IOM in Libya told the BBC. Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 Nato-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. Hundreds of young sub-Saharan African men have been caught up in the so-called slave markets, according to the IOM report. A Senegalese migrant, who was not named to protect his identity, said that he had been sold at one such market in the southern Libyan city of Sabha, before being taken to a makeshift prison where more than 100 migrants were being held hostage. Women, too, were bought by private Libyan clients and brought to homes where they were forced to be sex slaves, the witness said.

4-11-17 Why the “bisexuality hormone” study is not as simple as it seems
Why the “bisexuality hormone” study is not as simple as it seems
A link between prenatal hormone exposure and later sexual orientation is intuitively intriguing – but the study's problems go beyond small sample size. “PRENATAL exposure to progesterone affects sexual orientation in humans”. A bold and unequivocal-sounding title for a scientific paper. And certainly important if true. But is it? The study claimed to show that women given extra progesterone during pregnancy, routinely prescribed to prevent miscarriage, bleeding or premature delivery, have children who are “29 per cent more likely” to later identify as bisexual. It would be a landmark finding, allowing us to also ground in biology the established social science contention that sexuality has more dimensions than straight and gay. We suspected that exposing a fetus to strong hormones can shape sexual orientation. But there are no animal models of sexual orientation, and doing this kind of experiment in humans would be deeply unethical. The next best thing would be a retrospective analysis looking at a birth cohort exposed to a specific hormone “in the wild”. And that’s what this study did. Lutocyclin did seem to have mild effects on sexual orientation: later in life, exposed individuals were five times more likely to self-identify as non-heterosexual, and were more likely to report relationships with the same sex, than unexposed controls.

4-11-17 Waste-munching bacteria could make nuclear stores safer
Waste-munching bacteria could make nuclear stores safer
Bacteria that thrive on radioactive waste may make it less likely to leak out of underground stores. Let them eat waste. Bacteria could not only thrive on nuclear waste dumped underground, but may immobilise it and make it safer. Experiments have shown that certain microbes can make use of radionuclides such as uranium and neptunium in place of oxygen. In doing so, they convert them from soluble forms to insoluble forms, making them less mobile. This should give us more confidence in waste disposal plans, says Jonathan Lloyd, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Manchester, UK, who presented the research at the annual meeting of the Microbiology Society in Edinburgh last week. The UK has accumulated around 4.5 million cubic metres of nuclear waste, enough to fill Wembley stadium four times. Most of it is currently stored in ponds and silos at surface level at Sellafield in Cumbria. The government plans to dispose of the most highly active waste deep underground, in repositories encased in cement, but has yet to decide on a site. These plans are designed to be safe based on physical and chemical barriers that will stop radioactive material from escaping for hundreds of thousands of years.

4-10-17 Trump has discovered the awesome powers of the presidency. Be afraid.
Trump has discovered the awesome powers of the presidency. Be afraid.
Donald Trump has done something presidential. And what a shame it came so soon. The president has no idea what he is getting himself, or his country, into. In punishing Bashar al-Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, Trump has found what his presidency has lacked from the start: the praise that he craves from the Washington establishment, its think tankers, and prestige journalists. He's also found the excitement of asking for something to be done and seeing it done immediately. But there are great dangers for his presidency in making regime change in Syria his policy. There is a sense of deja vu about the Syrian strike and its attendant developments. So much of it harkens back to 2002 and 2003. All the machinery of America's security apparatus suddenly clacks into motion in anticipation of the president's order to attack. The personnel shifts on the National Security Council, now that grave matters are at stake. Television anchors invoke the "beauty" of munitions firing from a naval ship into a dark night. PR gurus spring forth to deliver to the American people considered messages about the considered messages the American government is sending to the world through the considerable bombing of some godforsaken part of it. There's the American official, one who might be president someday, being congratulated for maintaining a tone of defiant moral purpose when talking about weapons of mass destruction at the U.N. It was Nikki Haley this time, not Colin Powell, and the cheers are coming in, as if her words were the hard-rock riff kicking off the dazzling third act of a comic-book movie. (Webmaster's comment: Get the body bags and coffins ready!)

4-8-17 Dutch protests against attack on gay couple holding hands
Dutch protests against attack on gay couple holding hands
Protests have been held across the Netherlands in support for a gay couple who were attacked last week, allegedly for holding hands. Rallies took place in Arnhem, the city where the incident took place, as well as Eindhoven and The Hague. About 2,500 protesters showed up in Arnhem - many waving rainbow flags. One of the men, Jasper Vernes-Sewratan, thanked the protesters and said "You have pulled us through this terrible week", AFP news agency reports. His partner Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes, who lost teeth in the attack when he was assaulted with a bolt cutter, was in tears during the rally, AFP added. After their story emerged, Dutch men began uploading pictures of themselves holding hands on to social media to stand against homophobia. The images were shared via the hashtags #handinhand and #allemannenhandinhand (all men hand in hand). Five teenagers handed themselves in to police after the attack, and appeared in court on Thursday, reports say.

4-8-17 This underground railroad took slaves to freedom in Mexico
This underground railroad took slaves to freedom in Mexico
Donald Trump said during the presidential campaign that he wanted to keep "bad hombres" out of the country. He told the Mexican president, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press, that he wanted Mexico to stop "bad hombres down there" from coming across the southern border of the U.S. The government has also started receiving applications from companies across the country to continue construction of a southern border wall. But going north across the border has not always been the objective. More than 100 years ago, for example, Americans were escaping into Mexico. Slaves in the U.S. famously took the underground railroad north into free states and Canada, but a similar path existed to the south into Mexico. Slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829 by Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed descent, including African heritage. That's why, on a cloudy day this winter, Roseann Bacha-Garza is walking through tall grass and trying not to step on tombstones that date back to the mid 1800s at the Jackson Ranch cemetery in San Juan, Texas. She manages the Community Historical Archeology Projects with Schools program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She says the Jackson family in south Texas played an instrumental role in smuggling slaves into Mexico. Bacha-Garza says, through her research, she has reason to believe the Jackson family became known for offering slaves refuge, a safe-haven on their paths to freedom. (Webmaster's comment: Anything to get away from White Supremacist America!)

4-7-17 Trump plans to revive nuclear waste plans axed by Obama in 2010
Trump plans to revive nuclear waste plans axed by Obama in 2010
The new president approved $120 million to resume licensing Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump, but researchers at the energy department have other plans. The Trump administration last month revived controversial plans to bury the US’s growing stockpile of highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants and weapons factories in tunnels dug into Yucca mountain in Nevada. But, with local opposition to the plan axed by President Obama undimmed, scientists at the Department of Energy are already hedging their bets. They are pursuing an alternative scheme to drop the hot radioactive waste down hundreds of deep shafts across the US, where it can mix with molten granite in the Earth’s crust. Next month, they are expected to announce the site for the first test drilling. The US currently has some 79,000 tonnes of spent fuel in at least 76 power-station cooling ponds and secure dry stores across the country. Another 2000 tonnes are added each year. The stores contain an estimated 444,000 petabecquerels of radioactivity, which is some 50 times more than released from all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. “US spent fuel pools are densely packed and at severe risk of a fuel fire in the event of an earthquake or terrorist attack that drained cooling water from the pools,” says Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC. Dry air-cooled stores are safer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says such stores could act as a stopgap for up to 160 years. But all agree that geological burial is eventually needed for waste that will be dangerous for tens of thousands of years. The question is where? (Webmaster's comment: How About Trump Tower?)

4-7-17 Twitter forces US to drop demand for Trump critic's details
Twitter forces US to drop demand for Trump critic's details
The US government has dropped its request for the identity of an anti-Trump Twitter account, just a day after Twitter went to court over the issue. @ALT_USCIS anonymously criticised President Trump’s immigration policy, and claimed to be run by employees at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. US government officials issued a summons for identifying information. But Twitter said that demand had been withdrawn after it filed a lawsuit. The @ALT_USCIS account's followers also ballooned from 38,000 to 158,000 during the lawsuit's single-day lifespan. The original summons from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency demanded "all records regarding the twitter account @ALT_USCIS to include, user names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and IP (computer) addresses". But the law cited by the agency - which is part of the Department of Homeland Security - is typically used to obtain records about imported goods. The summons also demanded the information by 13 March 2017 - a day before the request was even sent to Twitter.

4-7-17 Rally violence lawsuit
Rally violence lawsuit
A federal judge ruled last week that three protesters could move ahead with their lawsuit accusing President Trump of inciting violence at a Louisville campaign rally. The protesters said they were peacefully protesting Trump at the March 2016 event when they were physically attacked by three Trump supporters—one of them a member of a white nationalist group. Moments before the attack, Trump had pointed at the protesters and said, “Get ’em out of here.” One of the demonstrators, an African-American woman, said she was subjected to sexist and racist slurs by rally attendees. Trump had sought to dismiss the lawsuit on free speech grounds, arguing that he didn’t intend for his supporters to use force. But Judge David Hale said the protesters’ injuries were a “direct and proximate result” of Trump’s words. The three are seeking unspecified damages for incitement to riot and negligence against the Trump campaign.

4-7-17 ‘Bathroom bill’ repeal
‘Bathroom bill’ repeal
North Carolina lawmakers last week voted to undo the controversial “bathroom bill” that caused nationwide outrage in March 2016—though critics said the new legislation fails to fully repeal the original act. Businesses, sports groups, and entertainers boycotted the state when it passed the earlier law, known as HB2, which required transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to their sex on their birth certificates. The compromise repeal bill, signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, eliminates that requirement—though it also states that only state legislators, not cities, can make rules for public restrooms in the future. It also blocks local governments from passing ordinances that expand LGBTQ protections for nearly four years. The NCAA lifted its ban on holding championship events in the basketball-mad state following the repeal. But gay rights groups said that Cooper had made a “dirty deal” with GOP lawmakers.

4-7-17 Anti-gay purge
Anti-gay purge
Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya are rounding up, torturing, and killing gay men, Novaya Gazeta reported this week. Some 100 people—including two well-known local television personalities—have been detained, and at least three have been killed. The purge seems to have been motivated by a request from a Russian LGBT group to hold pride rallies in cities across the country. Chechen authorities denied the report, saying there are no gays in Chechnya. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” said Chechen spokesman Alvi Karimov. If there were gay Chechens, he added, “their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.” Russia outlawed “gay propaganda” in 2013, banning public discussion of gay rights and relationships.

4-7-17 Poll watch
Poll watch
20% of people ages 18 to 34 identify as LGBTQ, a big increase from Generation X (12%) and the Baby Boomer generation (7%).

4-7-17 Tech: More scrutiny for skilled-worker visas
Tech: More scrutiny for skilled-worker visas
The Trump administration is making it harder for Silicon Valley companies to hire workers from overseas, said Jing Cao and Joshua Brustein in Bloomberg.com. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued new guidelines last week for the H-1B work visa program, increasing scrutiny for applications from entry-level computer programmers. Tech and outsourcing companies are the biggest users of the roughly 85,000 H-1B visas issued each year and often say they can’t find Americans with the right skills to fill the jobs. President Trump promised to crack down on the visa program during the campaign. (Webmaster's comment: Many Americans don't want to be educated. It's to much like work. They just want a mindless job that pays them high wages. Why would anyone want to hire them? What good are they?)

4-7-17 Pence: When does Christian virtue become sexism?
Pence: When does Christian virtue become sexism?
It turns out President Trump and his straitlaced VP Mike Pence have something in common, said Jia Tolentino in NewYorker.com: They share “a stated inability to resist women.” Trump, of course, is on videotape attesting to his lack of self-control in the presence of beautiful women. Thanks to a profile last week in The Washington Post, however, we’ve learned that Pence, too, is evidently helpless in the face of female temptation. A devout Christian, the vice president refuses to eat alone with a woman not his wife, or work late with a female aide, or attend any party where alcohol is being served unless Karen Pence, his spouse of 31 years, is at his side. The Pences are entitled to run their marriage as they see fit, said Heather Schwedel in Slate.com. But their embrace of “the Billy Graham rule”—named for the evangelical leader who came up with it—does “point toward a pretty radically retrograde mindset” about women in the workplace. Pence, who calls his wife “Mommy,’’ seems to see women “primarily as sexual temptations,” rather than as peers whose ideas might be worth discussing over a sandwich, or even—heaven forbid—a glass of wine.

4-7-17 Putting a bigot in charge is a huge mistake
Putting a bigot in charge is a huge mistake
An outspoken Islamophobe is surely the last person a great Indian political party would choose to run a state containing some 44 million Muslims, said the Deccan Herald. Yet that’s exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has done. It has appointed Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist priest with a vile reputation for hate speech, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh—India’s “most populous and politically important state.” The priest has been named in several ongoing legal cases related to “his hostile and objectionable statements against Muslims”: He has threatened to force every mosque in the state to erect statues of Hindu deities, and has said that if a Muslim man marries a Hindu girl, “we will take 100 Muslim girls.” The BJP, which has moderated its own Hindu nationalism in recent years, has previously shrugged off such statements as the ravings of the fringe. But with this appointment, it has “legitimized all the outlandish and dangerous views” of the bigots that it once insisted were not official policy. The BJP seems to have calculated that putting a rabble-rouser in charge is the way to win votes. Forget about all the talk of “inclusive development” that Modi has so often mouthed. After this, who could possibly take him at his word?

4-7-17 Measles spreads
Measles spreads
A measles outbreak centered in Romania and Italy is spreading across Europe, and the World Health Organization is urging countries to get their people vaccinated. Romania, the worst-hit nation, has reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016, while Italy is thought to have had more than 450 cases since the start of this year. The outbreaks have partly been caused by mistrust of vaccines and partly by the fact that vaccines are difficult to obtain in some countries. In France, for example, people need to make an appointment with their doctor to get a prescription, then pick up the vaccine at a pharmacy and revisit their doctor to receive the injection. “Outbreaks will continue,” said WHO’s Zsuzsanna Jakab, “until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect its population.”

4-7-17 Poll watch
Poll watch
55% of white Republicans say that black Americans are economically worse off because they “just don’t have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty.” 26% of white Democrats agree. The gap between the two parties on this question is the biggest since 1977.

4-6-17 Rich black people have worse health than rich white people
Rich black people have worse health than rich white people
As the gap widens between rich and poor, the health of many in the US is declining. But for minorities, money isn’t the whole story – racism is bad for health too. America’s health is in poor shape. The health gap between the rich and poor is now far bigger than the difference in income – that’s one of the messages from a series of papers published in The Lancet today. But wealth is only part of the problem. Enduring personal and institutional racism means that African Americans and other ethnic minorities are faring worse than white people. For those groups, even a high income can’t buy better health, according to other new research. Life expectancy in the US is lower than that of most other wealthy countries. While people who live in Canada can expect to reach 82.2 years of age, for residents of the US this figure is 79.3. This is partly down to a lack of health insurance. The introduction of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, reduced the number of uninsured people, but 27 million people still don’t have coverage. Even those that have insurance can struggle to afford medical treatment and prescriptions, because insurance plans don’t always cover all healthcare costs. “Income inequality has increased dramatically, to levels not seen since before the Great Depression,” says Jacob Bor at Boston University in Massachusetts. Bor’s team has analysed data on the life expectancies of the US’s richest and poorest from 26 studies covering the period between 1980 and 2015. They found that not only is the health gap growing, but health is becoming more strongly linked to a person’s financial status. “Your income matters more for your health than it did a decade ago,” says Bor. “Poverty is becoming a more important risk factor for early death.”

4-5-17 How Democrats sold out the transgender community in North Carolina
How Democrats sold out the transgender community in North Carolina
Beware centrist appropriation of social justice rhetoric. Until a few years ago, when Hillary Clinton finally came out in favor of gay marriage, ideas like intersectionality, social constructivism, and microaggressions were largely the province of leftist college professors and radicals, while Clintonian centrist Democrats scoffed at such social justice notions. But virtually overnight, this vocabulary became the currency of the realm among the Democratic Party elite. These are important concepts, and it's certainly heartening to see them getting a wider airing. But centrists' true commitment to them is thin at best. For evidence, look no further than the repeal of the notorious transphobic "bathroom bill" in North Carolina, and its replacement by something nearly as bad — with the support of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who owes his election to the original anti-bathroom bill backlash. Let's review: The state's bathroom bill came in response to a city ordinance in Charlotte last year protecting LGBT people. Furious Republicans in the state legislature, pathologically obsessed with the idea of men using women's bathrooms, passed House Bill 2 (HB2) in response to Charlotte. HB2 prohibited any such local ordinances, and mandated people in public facilities (like schools and universities) use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate. It also prohibited any local regulation of minimum wages and limited damage awards for discrimination lawsuits.

4-5-17 Russia court considers Jehovah's Witnesses ban
Russia court considers Jehovah's Witnesses ban
Russia's Supreme Court has begun hearing a government request to outlaw the Jehovah's Witnesses and declare it an extremist organisation. The justice ministry has already placed its headquarters near St Petersburg on a list of extremist groups. More than seven million people worldwide are part of the Christian-based movement, best known for going door to door looking for new converts. It has 175,000 members in Russia and 395 branches across the country. As the case began in Moscow on Wednesday, lawyers representing the movement submitted a counter suit, asking the High Court to declare its members victims of political repression and the justice ministry's action unlawful. The ministry argues that the Jehovah's Witnesses' activities "violate Russia's law on combating extremism" and their pamphlets incited hatred against other groups. Jehovah's Witnesses representative Yaroslav Sivulsky told the BBC that the movement had nothing to do with extremism and he complained that in every case the courts never really listened to their arguments. One pamphlet quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy, describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery, according to BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford. (Webmaster's comment: We should go after the extremist hate groups in America too. OUTLAW THEM!)

4-5-17 'Undocumented students' in US face anxious future
'Undocumented students' in US face anxious future
Sitting in a lecture hall at the University of California, Los Angeles, Maria Marquez found her mind was wandering. The history undergraduate was wondering what would happen if she or a member of her family were to be deported from the United States. "I remember sitting in class and making a list of people I would contact," she says. "I made a list of the lawyers I would go to and the paperwork I would need." Ms Marquez, 25, is an "undocumented student". Her family moved from Guadalajara, Mexico to California without papers when she was just three years old and have lived there ever since. Hundreds of thousands of students are in a similar position. They have succeeded at school, and started university, with dreams of professional careers in fields such as medicine and law. But since the election of President Trump, and his tough talking on illegal immigration, they feel increasingly vulnerable. The subject of undocumented students' status has electrified US college campuses since the election. As students ramp up campaigns for immigrants' rights, university leaders are appointing full-time immigration lawyers and counsellors to support them, running "know your rights" classes and even lobbying the government on their behalf.

4-5-17 Will Trump's populism turn America into Venezuela?
Will Trump's populism turn America into Venezuela?
It wasn't so long ago that Wall Street had a fever — and the only cure was more Trumponomics. In December, frothy investors claimed stocks were surging over the mere anticipation of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress cutting taxes and regulation like crazy. In a viral LinkedIn post, hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio went positively metaphysical. He argued that Trump's pro-business attitude could "ignite animal spirits" across corporate America and "spark a virtuous circle" in which capital pours into America, boosting the economy and attracting even more capital. Lots has happened since then, including Trump bullying businesses to keep jobs in the U.S., his failed travel ban, and the humiliating collapse of health-care reform. Even tax cuts, the veritable raison d'être of the modern GOP, are looking surprisingly iffy. And lo and behold, for the past month, stocks have been drifting lower. Oh, and Dalio? He recently authored a 61-page report examining the rise of populist political leaders since 1900, an analysis that seems like a cautionary tale. Maybe you get an FDR, but more likely a Mussolini or Chavez. And you almost certainly get someone who doesn't much like banks, trade, or immigrants — you know, all the stuff Wall Street really likes. While Dalio earlier made Trump out to be a sort of Ayn Randian hero of free enterprise, he now refers to him as a populist about whom "we have more questions than answers." But we actually do have some answers. It's just that the Dalio report failed to mention some of the central research about populism, which can help us predict what might happen under America's populist president.

4-5-17 The spiritual agony behind America's opioid crisis
The spiritual agony behind America's opioid crisis
America is beset by an opioid epidemic ruining far too many lives in communities across the country. Many Americans have become increasingly aware of this drug problem over the last year. And that attention is welcome. But it's unlikely to do much to change the ghastly trends. That's in part because, as with so much else these days, our response to the facts is mainly a function of our prior political commitments. Conservative Republicans point to economic despair brought about by liberalism's fondness for big government (burdensome taxes and regulations). Democrats point to rising economic inequality and insecurity and blame both on the cold-hearted refusal of conservatives to support policies that would give struggling people the help and support they so desperately need. President Trump, meanwhile, prefers a populist approach, denouncing trade deals for driving jobs overseas and illegal immigrants for stealing the remaining jobs from "our people." There may well be some truth to each of these explanations, but they aren't likely to make a big difference in combating the opioid epidemic — and not only because each of them conflicts with the others and is supported by only a portion of the electorate. The deeper reason why they are unlikely to make much of a difference is that all of them see the opioid problem as rooted in economic circumstances when we have ample cause to believe its sources run much deeper. One might even call them spiritual.

4-4-17 US cinemas to show film 1984 in protest against Donald Trump
US cinemas to show film 1984 in protest against Donald Trump
Two hundred art house cinemas across the United States are screening an adaption of 1984 on Tuesday in protest against Donald Trump's administration. The United State of Cinema website says George Orwell's dystopian fiction has "never been timelier". Sales of the novel went up 9,500% after Mr Trump's inauguration. Organisers say the national screening day is a stand against the "simple truth that there are no such things as 'alternative facts'". It says: "By doing what they do best - showing a movie - the goal is that cinemas can initiate a much-needed community conversation at a time when the existence of facts, and basic human rights are under attack." Members of Trump's White House have been at odds with members of the media over what they describe as "alternative facts" The term "alternative facts" was coined by Donald Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to explain discrepancies between accounts of crowd sizes at the presidential inauguration.

4-4-17 Fewer than half of white men and rural Americans approve of Trump in brutal new poll
Fewer than half of white men and rural Americans approve of Trump in brutal new poll
When President Trump's approval rating dropped to 35 percent in Gallup's tracking poll last week, it appeared to be something of an outlier — in other polls, Trump's approval was at 38 percent to 45 percent. But while Trump has risen back up to 38 percent in Gallup, a new poll from Investor's Business Daily and TIPP released Monday pegged his approval at 34 percent, an 11-point drop from the IBD/TIPP poll last month; 56 percent disapprove of Trump's performance. Only 49 percent of white men and 41 percent of rural Americans approve of the president. And that's just the tip of the bad-news spear in the poll, conducted March 24-30.For example, just 37 percent of respondents rate Trump's handling of the economy as "good" or "excellent," down from 43 percent, and the GOP health-care bill he is trying to revive got a thumbs-up from only 25 percent of respondents who are paying attention, with a bare 52 percent of Republicans saying it would improve America's health-care system. Perhaps most galling for Trump, 49 percent of respondents said he is providing weak leadership for the U.S., versus 35 percent who say he's a strong leader. (Webmaster's comment: He's still riding on his election popularity! Even 35% will fall much further.)

4-4-17 US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking
US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking
The so-called HONEST Act promises to end secrecy in science, but will in effect cripple the EPA’s ability to develop public health regulations, say concerned scientists. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law. Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. “The HONEST Act requires EPA to base new regulations on sound science that is publicly available, and not hidden from the American people,” said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chair of the House science committee, who sponsored the bill, in a statement. “The days of ‘trust me’ science are over. “Allowing EPA’s data to be independently reviewed promotes sound science that will restore confidence in the EPA decision-making process,” said Smith. While this may sound like a laudable move towards increased transparency, it would actually hobble the agency’s ability to develop good, science-based public health regulations, says Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “It’s couched in terms of transparency, but is actually one of several actions intended to bring regulations to a halt,” he says. (Webmaster's comment: We might as well just read the bible!)

4-4-17 This is how American health care kills people
This is how American health care kills people
Matthew Stewart owes $62,668.78 for drugs, surgeries, and other treatment. With both bankruptcy and possibly fatal liver failure looming, he doesn't even bother opening his bills anymore, he told The Week. "There was no point. They just upset everyone," he says. Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get. But now he faces imminent bankruptcy and possibly death. (Webmaster's comment: He's just a source of wealth for the rich to milk dry until he's dead!)

4-4-17 Want that mortgage interest tax deduction? Pee in this cup first.
Want that mortgage interest tax deduction? Pee in this cup first.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (fun fact: he once ran for president) is a policy innovator with fresh ideas. Which is why he proposed this week that recipients of Medicaid, the program that provides health insurance to poor Americans and nursing care to the elderly, should have to get drug tested before they're allowed to receive the benefit. Is there an epidemic of drug use among Medicaid recipients? Well, no. There's zero evidence that it's a problem at all. And while drug testing has never been forced on Medicaid recipients before, some states have drug tested welfare recipients. Those programs have been failures, proving only that welfare recipients seem to use drugs at a lower rate than the population at large. But it doesn't really matter how many people you catch, defenders of drug testing say. This is about sending a message: You're not going to get a government benefit if you use drugs. You want the government to give you a hand? Then you'll have to prove that your bodily fluids are pure. (Webmaster's comment: Let's just drug test every one every day and then deny them food, water and medical services!)

4-3-17 Neo-Nazi threats force Jewish group in Sweden to close
Neo-Nazi threats force Jewish group in Sweden to close
A Jewish community association in northern Sweden has decided to close following a series of far-right threats, seven years since it opened. Their centre in the town of Umea was targeted with swastikas and daubed with messages like "we know where you live", and a car was vandalised. Local members said the authorities had been unable to provide enough security. Community spokeswoman Carinne Sjoberg said some people no longer dared to come to the centre. Neo-Nazi group Nordfront were behind the hate campaign, she said, initially targeting her but then other members of the community too. The last straw came at the weekend when the windows of a member's car were broken. "Our kids go to ordinary school, so members started to feel they didn't want to bring the children," she told the BBC. "My mother and father are (Holocaust) survivors, so this is not OK. Enough is enough. It was like stepping into their shoes in the 1930s." (Webmaster's comment: It's not the Muslims we need to worry about, it's the White Supremacists!)

4-3-17 Mexico newspaper stops printing after reporter shot dead
Mexico newspaper stops printing after reporter shot dead
A regional newspaper in Mexico says the violence against journalists and the lack of punishment for those responsible is forcing it to stop printing. In an editorial, Norte de Ciudad Juarez said Sunday's print edition would be its last. Its editor said the digital version would also be closed "soon". Miroslava Breach, a journalist who worked for the paper in Chihuahua city, was shot dead last month. She was one of three journalists killed in Mexico in March. Breach had reported extensively on the links between organised crime and politicians in Chihuahua state for Norte de Ciudad Juarez and for La Jornada, a national newspaper based in Mexico City. She was shot eight times in her car outside her home in the state capital, Chihuahua. One of her children was in the vehicle but was not hurt. The gunmen left a note saying: "For being a loud-mouth."

4-3-17 Medieval people mutilated the deceased to ward off zombies
Medieval people mutilated the deceased to ward off zombies
Analysis of bones from the 11th to 14th centuries from a village in Yorkshire, UK, shows they have been burnt and mutilated – in an attempt to keep them dead. Medieval people were trying to ward off the “living dead”, according to a study of human bones excavated from a deserted village in North Yorkshire. Analysis of the bones dating from the 11th to 14th centuries, which were excavated from a pit within the settlement at long-abandoned Wharram Percy, show they appear to have been burnt and mutilated. Theories that the strange treatment of the bodies was down to the dead people being outsiders or that the remains were cannibalised by starving villages have been discounted by experts. Instead the finds appear to represent the first good archaeological evidence of practices aimed at stopping corpses rising from their graves and menacing the living. Folklore in the Middle Ages suggested people could sometimes rise from the dead, roam their local area, spread disease and violently assault those who encountered them. The undead were commonly thought to be the result of a lingering malevolent life-force in individuals who had committed evil deeds or caused animosity when they were alive. Medieval writers described various ways of dealing with the living dead, including digging up the offending bodies, decapitating and dismembering them and burning the pieces in a fire.

4-2-17 Sandy Hook to Trump: 'Help us stop conspiracy theorists'
Sandy Hook to Trump: 'Help us stop conspiracy theorists'
It was one of the worst school shootings in American history, but some people insist that the Sandy Hook massacre never happened. They post YouTube videos and spread rumours online, and their false theories have been repeated by a media mogul conspiracy theorist who has been linked to Donald Trump. Now, after years of harassment, the families of the victims are fighting back online. Even in a country where mass shootings are common, Sandy Hook stood out. The pupils were so young, and there were so many of them. Hundreds were traumatised - and many still are - after witnessing the carnage and its aftermath. And yet despite extensive investigations and a report which determined that Lanza acted alone, conspiracy theorists have constructed a fake alternate reality in which the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, staged by the government to try to introduce strict gun control laws. And their theories have been picked up by one of America's most popular conspiracy theorists, a man who has been linked with President Donald Trump. And other Sandy Hook residents are pleading with President Trump, asking him to speak out and help stop the madness.

4-1-17 Federal judge rules lawsuit alleging Trump incited violence can proceed
Federal judge rules lawsuit alleging Trump incited violence can proceed
A federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, ruled Friday that President Trump cannot use a free speech defense to quash a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence at a campaign rally last year, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Saturday. Trump was speaking in Louisville in March of 2016 when he pointed to protesters and repeatedly told his supporters, "get 'em out of here." Judge David J. Hale ruled the injuries three protesters suffered while being removed by event attendees are a "direct and proximate result" of Trump's comments, which can be plausibly interpreted as "an order, an instruction, a command" for use of force.

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Atheism News & Humanism Articles for March 2017