You are not Alone!
150 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for July 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
7-31-17 The White House revolving door: Who's gone?
The White House revolving door: Who's gone?
It's bloodshed in the White House. Who's Next!
Anthony Scaramucci, communications director - 31 July
Reince Priebus, chief of staff - 28 July
Sean Spicer, press secretary - 21 July
James Comey, FBI director - 9 May
Preet Bharara, New York federal prosecutor, 11 March
Michael Flynn, national security adviser, 14 February
Sally Yates, acting attorney general, 31 January
Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager, 19 August 2016
7-31-17 The White House revolving door: Who's gone?
The White House revolving door: Who's gone?
It's bloodshed in the White House. Who's Next!
- Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager, 19 August 2016
- Sally Yates, acting attorney general, 31 January
- Michael Flynn, national security adviser, 14 February
- Preet Bharara, New York federal prosecutor, 11 March
- James Comey, FBI director - 9 May
- Sean Spicer, press secretary - 21 July
- Reince Priebus, chief of staff - 28 July
- Anthony Scaramucci, communications director - 31 July
7-31-17 Mass Nigerian arrests for gay sex in Lagos State
Mass Nigerian arrests for gay sex in Lagos State
More than 40 men have been arrested in Nigeria over the weekend for performing homosexual acts, police say. They are due to appear in court later. Nigerian newspaper Punch reports that the police raided a hotel in Lagos State on Saturday afternoon and says the hotel was cordoned off while the investigation was carried out. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Nigeria, while gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are also banned. The BBC's Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja, reports that Nigeria has an influential Christian evangelical movement in the south and strong support for Islamic law in the north, both of which oppose homosexuality. Same-sex relations are explicitly banned in 72 countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
7-29-17 Fox News' Jesse Watters pines for Trump the dictator: 'Maybe we could repeal ObamaCare'
Fox News' Jesse Watters pines for Trump the dictator: 'Maybe we could repeal ObamaCare'
It's unclear which people Fox News' Jesse Watters has been talking to, but he claims "a lot" of them "wish President Trump was a dictator." Watters explained Thursday on The Five that if Trump were a dictator then "maybe we could repeal ObamaCare." "It would be a lot easier that way," he said, hours before the ObamaCare "skinny repeal" died on the Senate floor. Watters made the remark as the panel discussed a recent quote from Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), comparing Trump to King George III. Ellison said Trump's efforts to "intimidate people, to pack the courts, to intimidate the press" are all part of his plan to "just run everything himself." "We fought a war of independence against somebody — King George — who was trying to do that," Ellison said. But Watters seems to think that, for the sake of repealing the health-care law that insures more than 20 million Americans, it wouldn't be so bad for Trump to be a little more like the man who sparked the Revolutionary War.(Webmaster's comment: The Fox news media calls for Trump to be a dictator. Hitlers won over Fox!)
7-29-17 Police, civil liberties advocates reject Trump's push for 'rough' treatment of suspects
Police, civil liberties advocates reject Trump's push for 'rough' treatment of suspects
President Trump spoke to a group of police officers on Long Island, New York, Friday, sparking controversy for his encouragement of physically aggressive policing tactics. "When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, 'please don't be too nice,'" Trump said. "Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody — don't hit their head. I said, 'you can take the hand away,' okay?" Trump's comments were met with laughter from his law enforcement audience, but quickly came under broad criticism for their apparent endorsement of police brutality. "Law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect," said a statement from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy." Some individual police departments also issued statements rejecting Trump's advice, as did civil liberties advocates. "Trump's endorsement of police brutality will make it much harder to prevent unlawful police killings and end the culture of impunity," tweeted Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.
7-28-17 Trump to police: 'Don't be too nice'
Trump to police: 'Don't be too nice'
US President Donald Trump appeared to support police brutality towards those suspected of crimes during his remarks to police officers outside New York City on Friday. Under US law, criminal suspects must be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. (Webmaster's comment: Trump supports the thugs now prevailing in many of our police departments.)
7-28-17 Gallup Vault: Issue of Gays in Military Split Americans in 1993
Gallup Vault: Issue of Gays in Military Split Americans in 1993
As the U.S. grapples with President Donald Trump's surprise decision to ban transgender military personnel, the Gallup Vault looks back at 1993, when another controversy involving the LGBT community was top of mind in America -- allowing gays to serve in the military. The issue was front and center in January 1993, as newly installed President Bill Clinton was trying to make good on his campaign promise to end the longstanding ban on gays serving. A Gallup poll at the time found Americans closely split on the issue, with 43% approving of lifting the ban and 50% disapproving. The poll found emotions running high on both sides, with 67% of those in favor of lifting the ban and 78% of those opposed feeling strongly about their position. The issue also revealed societal cleavages in attitudes toward gay rights that have persisted through today. Women and Democrats were generally supportive of lifting the ban on gays in the military, as were those living in the East. By contrast, majorities of men, seniors, residents of the South, Republicans and adults with no college education opposed lifting it. Some of the sharpest differences were rooted in personal experience. U.S. veterans in the poll opposed the ban by about a 20-point margin, 59% vs. 38%. Meanwhile, most adults who reported they personally knew a gay person favored lifting it, 63% to 31%.
7-28-17 Gay 'dad dating' game is a surprise hit
Gay 'dad dating' game is a surprise hit
A dating simulator that lets people flirt with gay, bisexual and trans "dream dads" has become a top-seller on the online game store Steam. The BBC's Chris Foxx asked the co-creators of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator why they wanted to build the title and whether it was based on stereotypes.
7-28-17 The new monopolies
The new monopolies
The inexorable growth of Google, Facebook, and Amazon has raised fears these giants are becoming too powerful. Here's everything you need to know:
- How dominant are these firms?
- What's wrong with monopolies?
- Is that actually occurring?
- What about the others?
- Such as?
- Is there any pushback?
- Is there any pushback?
T.J. Stiles, a biographer of the 19th-century business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, says we are living in a second Gilded Age. "Our lives," he says, "are channeled once again through fewer and fewer companies controlled by a few men." When companies control a market, they tend to use their power to eliminate competition — often to the detriment of consumers. They can force suppliers to lower their prices, cutting their profits, and can bankrupt their rivals by undercutting them — or simply buy them out. Massive companies can also use economies of scale to eliminate jobs — particularly in the digital era, when much work can be automated. All this can result in reduced consumer choice, depressed wages, and a concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer people in fewer locations.
7-28-17 How they see us: America’s culture of violence
How they see us: America’s culture of violence
Australia wants answers, said The Australian in an editorial. Australian citizen Justine Damond, 40, was doing the right thing when she was killed by a Minnesota police officer. The yoga teacher, engaged to be married to an American casino executive, heard what she thought were sexual noises outside her Minneapolis home and feared a woman was being raped, so she called 911. When the police arrived, Damond ran out in her pajamas to greet them and may have tapped the squad car, causing a noise. As she approached the driver’s window, Officer Mohamed Noor opened fire from the passenger’s seat, past his partner, fatally striking Damond in the abdomen. The killing, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, is “inexplicable.” Damond’s grieving family here in Australia is “anxiously seeking answers,” but U.S. authorities are providing none. There’s no video record, because the two officers in the car both failed to activate their body cameras. And Noor, a jumpy rookie cop with “a long list of disturbing allegations” against him, won’t talk to investigators—and his bosses can’t make him. That’s simply not acceptable.
7-28-17 Authorizing grand theft by the police
Authorizing grand theft by the police
“Liberals and conservatives alike despise it.” It’s been proved to be rife with outrageous abuses, and the Obama administration and 24 states put strict limits on the practice. So why then did Attorney General Jeff Sessions insist last week on reviving civil asset forfeiture? asked Robert Gebelhoff. “Probably because police have become addicted to the revenue stream it provides.” Civil asset forfeiture, a legacy from the “war on drugs,” has allowed police to seize $29 billion worth of citizens’ cars, houses, cash, and other property and transfer it to the government—without a conviction or even a criminal charge. All that’s necessary is for local or state cops to contend that they have reason to suspect the property was used in the commission of a crime; the evidence can be a single marijuana cigarette or a large amount of cash in a motorist’s car. Not surprisingly, civil forfeiture has spawned jaw-dropping abuses, with police departments preying on passing motorists and the poor and using the seized property to expand their budgets, give themselves raises, and buy new cop cars and other goodies. Why overrule the states to bring back a policy almost everyone hates? Sessions hasn’t met a tough-on-crime policy he doesn’t like—regardless of what the facts show.
7-28-17 Wanted: Drug-free factory workers
Wanted: Drug-free factory workers
High-paying manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because factories are struggling to find workers who can pass a drug test, said Nelson Schwartz in The New York Times. At Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, co-owner Regina Mitchell says nearly half of the company’s job applicants test positive for drugs. Among those, Mitchell says, it’s split about evenly between marijuana use and harder drugs like opioids. Mitchell’s company isn’t unique. Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen recently “linked increased opioid abuse to declining participation in the labor force among prime-age workers.” A 2013 study estimated that opioid abuse cost the economy $78.5 billion in that year, not counting the impact of factors like lost productivity. “Imagine the money we could save or invest as a company if I were able to hire drug-free workers on the spot,” Mitchell says. “But that’s just not the environment we are in.”
7-28-17 Weed at the pharmacy
Weed at the pharmacy
Recreational marijuana is now fully available in Uruguay—the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, distribution, and sale of weed. Adults can buy marijuana at their local pharmacy, as long as they have registered with the government and get a fingerprint scan each time they purchase the drug, to ensure they don’t go over the approved personal limit. The price, about $13 for some 15 joints’ worth, is below the black-market rate, so users have an incentive to choose the legal system over street dealers. “The great responsibility we have in Uruguay is to show the world that this system of freedom with regulation works better than prohibition,” said Eduardo Blasina, founder of the Montevideo Cannabis Museum.
7-28-17 US healthcare: Senate 'skinny repeal' bill fails
US healthcare: Senate 'skinny repeal' bill fails
The latest attempt to repeal the Obama-era healthcare act has failed after a dramatic night in the US Senate. At least three Republicans - John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - voted against the bill, which needed a simple majority to pass. President Donald Trump said the three had "let the American people down". The so-called "skinny" repeal, which would have scaled back some of the more controversial provisions, is the third failed attempt to repeal Obamacare. It would have resulted in 16 million people losing their health insurance by 2026, with insurance premiums increasing by 20%, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The vote was delayed after Senate Republicans kept a procedural vote open before the actual Obamacare vote while they attempted to persuade their members to vote for the repeal. Vice President Mike Pence was seen talking to Mr McCain for more than 20 minutes. But Mr McCain then approached a group of Democrats, who appeared happy to see him. The bill was eventually voted down by 51 votes to 49 in the Republican-dominated Senate.
7-27-17 How Trump spectacularly misread the politics of his transgender ban
How Trump spectacularly misread the politics of his transgender ban
Watching President Trump attempt to navigate complex political issues reminds me of a crying child wobbling on the pony of a merry-go-round. His parents keep yelling at him to hold on to the pole. But the child is too scared, or too defiant, to listen. He just wants off. Time and time again, Trump has made life difficult for himself. In short-circuiting a Pentagon process to decide how to integrate transgender troops, he has increased the chances that he will not get his way, assuming, indeed, that he wants to rid the military of every serving transgender person and prevent anyone who identifies as trans from serving in the future. Yes, it's true that many evangelical Christians remain implacably opposed to transgender rights. A larger number of Americans might feel viscerally uncomfortable with transgender people. Soldiers are skeptical. A few "Christian leaders" at the top of the D.C. conservative lobbyist food pyramid need a solid win against cultural degenerates to convince their own flock that they remain relevant. But within moments of Trump's tweets, three conservative Christian senators — Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Joni Ernst of Iowa — said that Trump was wrong. All of them, in fact, said he was wrong in much the same way: "You ought to treat everyone fairly and give everyone a chance to serve," said Shelby. "Transgender people are people and deserve the best we can do for them," said Hatch. Ernst, a decorated veteran, asked a spokesperson to put it this way: "Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity."
7-28-17 White House: Spicer’s out, ‘The Mooch’ is in
White House: Spicer’s out, ‘The Mooch’ is in
“It hasn’t been easy being Sean Spicer for the past six months,” said Rob Crilly in CNN.com. From day one of his job as White House press secretary, Spicer was “called on to defend the -indefensible”—starting with the bizarre claim that President Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest ever, “period,” even though photos proved otherwise. From that point onward, Spicer painfully stumbled through briefing after briefing while lying in defense of Trump, garbling names, sputtering about “Holocaust centers,” and hiding from reporters in the White House bushes. Now, after 58 news conferences, a “perfect Saturday Night Live skewering, and countless packs of stress gum,” said Erin Gloria Ryan in The New York Times, a humiliated Spicer has given up. Trump’s appointment of Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director was the final indignity for Spicer, who resigned moments after it was announced. Goodbye, Spicey. “We’ll miss you.”
7-28-17 Scouts speech
In a stark break with tradition, President Trump delivered a hyperpartisan and sometimes vitriolic speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia this week—railing against his political rivals and the “fake media” in front of 40,000 teenage Boy Scouts. While past presidents have used the occasion to exalt the values of duty and good citizenship, Trump attacked Washington, D.C., as a “cesspool” and “sewer,” and bragged about his electoral victories in Wisconsin, Maine, and Michigan. He also mocked Hillary Clinton, encouraged the crowd to boo former President Barack Obama, and jokingly threatened to oust Health Secretary Tom Price if GOP lawmakers failed to repeal Obamacare. “He better get [the votes],” Trump said. “Otherwise I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’” As the blowback to Trump’s speech grew, the Scouts issued a statement that the group “does not promote any one political position, candidate, or philosophy.”
7-28-17 Moral Acceptance of Polygamy at Record High -- But Why?
Moral Acceptance of Polygamy at Record High -- But Why?
Polygamy, a practice that President James Garfield once said "offends the moral sense," is now seen by 17% of Americans as "morally acceptable," up from 14% in 2016 and the highest rate on record dating back to 2003. These results come from the May 3-7 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll. Despite growing acceptance of the practice over the last 15 years, polygamy, or having multiple spouses at one time, remains one of the most morally taboo social behaviors in the eyes of Americans. Indeed, for the first seven years (2003-2010) Gallup measured Americans' moral perceptions of polygamy, the rate of U.S. adults who said it was "morally acceptable" was always in the single digits. In 2011, the share of Americans who found polygamy "morally acceptable" rose slightly to 11%, but the increase coincided with a change in how the word "polygamy" was defined in the survey. Prior to 2011, polygamy was defined as being when "a husband has more than one wife at the same time." Beginning in 2011, this definition became gender-neutral, instead identifying polygamy as when "a married person has more than one spouse at the same time." While this change in question wording may have provided a slight bump in the percentage of Americans accepting of polygamy, it is probably not responsible for the more recent rise in this figure. Over the last five years, the percentage of Americans who think polygamy is morally acceptable edged up from slightly more than one in 10 (11% in 2012) to just under one in five (17% in 2017). (Webmaster's comment: This is all about more those men preceived as being powerful being able to have more wives. It's not about wives having more than one husband.)
7-28-17 Washington’s secret Doomsday plans
Washington’s secret Doomsday plans
For six decades, U.S. officials have been developing top-secret plans to keep the government functioning in the event of a catastrophic nuclear attack, said historian Garrett Graff. Attorney General Ed Meese arrived at Andrews Air Force Base before dawn on June 18, 1986, one of dozens of officials and staff from the Pentagon, State Department, White House, and intelligence community streaming onto the base in the Maryland suburbs, ready for nuclear war. Those meeting Meese knew the attorney general was stressed that morning, since Chief Justice Warren Burger had announced his resignation the day before. One official at Andrews looked at Meese and joked, “First a Supreme Court resignation, and now America’s in a nuclear war. You’re having a bad day.” War, though, wasn’t actually imminent. Officials were gathering instead for one of Ronald Reagan’s most secret initiatives as president: the effort to ready the nation to rebuild after nuclear war, part of a sprawling classified set of plans known as “continuity of government,” or “COG” for short. During the Cold War, the government secretly invested billions of dollars in a complicated set of plans that would determine what activities and processes would be needed following a nuclear attack—and even what totems of American culture should be saved. Once assembled, the officials at Andrews Air Force Base were shuttled to a relocation facility, one of more than 100 bunkers and special sites built around the country through the Cold War, as well as other more mobile locations that the administration was hurriedly preparing to help maximize the chance of avoiding a Soviet decapitation strike—armored command trains and convoys of lead-lined tractor trailers that could spread out across the country.
7-28-17 The prophet’s technological warning
The prophet’s technological warning
Yuval Noah Harari is one of the most fashionable thinkers on the planet right now—and some of his thoughts are deeply alarming, says Cole Moreton in the Mail on Sunday (U.K.). The Israeli academic believes humans will soon become “cyborgs, combining organic and inorganic parts.” He says the human brain “will still be the command-and-control center, but you’ll connect it more and more directly to all kinds of devices, whether it’s bionic arms or direct brain-computer interfaces.” Some of this is already happening, he points out. “People already have bionic arms and legs that work by the power of thought. And we increasingly outsource mental and communicative activities to computers.” Our growing technological dependency will have political ramifications, Harari says. The ruling class of this new world will be people who understand algorithms and biotechnology. And “the pendulum may swing back to dictatorships, because it will become easier to process information centrally.” Tyrants will be able to use technology to “construct a total surveillance regime that follows every individual all the time and surveys not just your emails and your physical movements, but even what’s happening inside your body.”
7-28-17 Being gay in the NFL
Being gay in the NFL
Ryan O’Callaghan planned to kill himself when his football career was over, said Cyd Zeigler in Outsports.com. The 6-foot-7-inch, 330-pound offensive tackle had been using the sport to conceal his sexuality since he was a teen—rising all the way to the NFL’s New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs in the process. “No one is going to assume the big football player is gay,” says O’Callaghan, 34. To hide his orientation from his friends and family, he threw himself into the brutal sport, acted “straight,” and made sure his teammates saw him with women. After six pro seasons, he realized with dread that injuries were bringing his playing career to an end. Convinced no one would accept him as a gay man, he began abusing painkillers and planning his suicide. O’Callaghan would be dead now, he says, if it hadn’t been for the Chiefs’ clinical psychologist, who became the first person to learn he was gay. “Just telling her was like a huge weight off my shoulders.” When he began confiding his secret to others in football and to his family, O’Callaghan was astounded by their nonchalant reactions. “Did everyone totally understand what it meant to be gay? No. But they knew what my alternative was. They were just happy I was alive.” The former Chiefs player is now speaking openly about his sexuality. “People need to understand that we are everywhere. We’re your sons, your teammates. You just don’t know it yet.”
7-28-17 Transgender ban
President Trump opened a new front in the culture wars this week when he announced he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” a reversal of an Obama administration decision. Trump tweeted that he made his decision following “consultation with my Generals and military experts,” adding that U.S. forces “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” The Pentagon was reportedly caught off guard, and an administration official said that the move was actually motivated by political calculations. “This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin to take complete ownership of this issue,” said the unnamed official. As many as 11,000 transgender individuals currently serve in active duty and the reserves. A Pentagon-commissioned study last year estimated medical costs for transgender service members to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year.
7-27-17 Transgender ban: No policy change for now, says top general
Transgender ban: No policy change for now, says top general
Transgender people will not be banned from serving in the US military until the president issues guidance to the Pentagon, military officials say. In a surprise tweet on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced that the government would not allow them to serve "in any capacity". It was not clear whether troops on active service would be forced out. But Gen Joseph Dunford wrote to senior commanders: "We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect." Transgender service members have expressed concern that they will be discharged, or unable to re-enlist after Mr Trump's announcement. Gen Dunford's letter, shared by a CNN correspondent on Twitter, said: "I know there are questions about yesterday's announcement on the transgender policy by the President. "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines." It was the Obama administration that allowed transgender people in the military to serve openly for the first time. The change was announced in June 2016 and was meant to come into effect on 1 July 2017 but the Trump administration delayed it by a further six months. Transgender people had to demonstrate they had been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months, and some have come out as transgender in the meantime.
7-27-17 US healthcare repeal law struck down at the eleventh hour
US healthcare repeal law struck down at the eleventh hour
A bill that could have led to 43 million uninsured people has failed to make it through the US Senate, failing by just one vote in the middle of the night. In the middle of the night, the US Senate voted on the latest bill intended to rewrite central parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation of 2010. It failed to pass by one vote. In a major reversal of course, Republican Senator John McCain – who returned to the Senate this week after being diagnosed with brain cancer – voted to halt the legislation, which, it has been estimated, would have resulted in drastic spikes in healthcare costs and 43 million people being without insurance by 2026. For now, the bill is dead. If any change is to be made to US healthcare law, Congress will have to begin the process of negotiating and writing a new bill again. Fractures within the Republican party have so far killed three separate bills for replacing or repealing the ACA over the last few weeks. Some moderate Republicans have held back their votes because they represent states gripped by the opioid painkiller epidemic, and the bills proposed so far have gone too far in slashing funding for treatment and services to fight this crisis. On the other hand, extremely conservative Republicans haven’t been happy with the previous bills because they didn’t completely repeal the ACA. Those divides may be too wide to bridge. (Webmaster's comment: That the REPUBLICANS WOULD EVEN CONSIDER a healthcare bill that would leave 43 million without healthcare tells what kind of people Republicans are!)
7-27-17 Boy Scouts apologise for Trump's speech
Boy Scouts apologise for Trump's speech
The chief scout of the Boy Scouts of America has apologised for the remarks made by President Donald Trump at the group's national event this week. Over 30,000 people attending the event, where Mr Trump promoted his agenda and criticised his political rivals. Michael Surbaugh says the president's invitation was customary. "I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree." He went on to say how the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have tried to avoid taking political positions since its creation. "We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting programme," he said. He added: "We teach youth to become active citizens, to participate in their government, respect the variety of perspectives and to stand up for individual rights." During Mr Trump's remarks in West Virginia, he assailed his former opponent Hillary Clinton, touted his election victory, and railed against the "fake news" media. "Who the hell wants to speak about politics?" Mr Trump asked the audience, before beginning his remarks. Many parents and members of the Scout community criticised the highly-politicised nature of the speech that followed.
7-27-17 Bronze Age DNA helps unravel true fate of biblical Canaanites
Bronze Age DNA helps unravel true fate of biblical Canaanites
DNA from five ancient skeletons confirms the Canaanites of biblical fame live on in modern day Lebanon. Whatever became of the Canaanites? Famously, they appeared on the losing side in one of the best known biblical conflicts – over the city of Jericho. They lived on further north, but because their territory was invaded many times in antiquity their ultimate fate has been a mystery – until now. Their DNA has now been found in the population of modern-day Lebanon. Many archaeologists have been fascinated by the Canaanites. They lived on the Mediterranean’s eastern coastal region several thousand years ago. They are credited with constructing the first alphabet. But paradoxically, they left few texts behind, which means much of what we know about the Canaanites comes from descriptions of them written by others – mostly their rivals including the Egyptians, Greeks and Israelites. The new account of the Canaanites comes from an impartial source: the ancient DNA from five skeletons unearthed from a Canaanite burial site in the Lebanese city of Sidon. The two males and three females date from the Bronze Age, 3700 years ago. Collectively, they yielded enough DNA for analysis even though the remains have been exposed for so long to the region’s forbidding temperatures, which normally destroy DNA. “We had a large sample of bones and tried the teeth, but got no DNA whatsoever,” says Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK. “The success was from the petrous bone in the skulls, near the ear, which contained well-preserved DNA.”
7-27-17 Ancient DNA offers clues to the Canaanites’ fate
Ancient DNA offers clues to the Canaanites’ fate
Modern Lebanese people descended from this ancient Levant group. An analysis of the complete genetic instruction books, or genomes, recovered from five Canaanite skeletons reveals how these ancient people fit into humankind’s family tree. DNA is setting the record straight on ancient Canaanites. For the first time, scientists have deciphered the complete genetic instruction manuals of Canaanites. By comparing five Canaanite genomes with those of other ancient and modern populations, the researchers identified the Canaanites’ ancestors and discovered their descendants, modern Lebanese people. The results, reported online July 27 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, give new insight into the origins and fate of a people whose story has largely been told through the secondhand accounts of its contemporaries. The Canaanites emerged in the Levant, a region east of the Mediterranean Sea, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. This cultural group, which established extensive trade networks and colonies across the Mediterranean region, left behind few written records, perhaps because they wrote on papyrus rather than clay. So most knowledge of the Canaanites comes from ancient Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek documents.
7-27-17 DNA of long-dead cows read from pages of Medieval books
DNA of long-dead cows read from pages of Medieval books
Texts written in the Middle Ages are a rich source of information about the past – but the DNA in the animal skin pages has its own story to tell. You could call it reading behind the lines. When medieval scribes sat down to preserve the literature and records of their day, they often wrote on parchment – a paper-like material made from animal skins. What they didn’t know was that the parchment holds DNA that can provide information about medieval life – and might even hold clues on how to preserve the ancient documents more effectively. Seven years ago, Matthew Collins at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and his colleagues had the idea of applying state-of-the-art genetic analysis techniques to the animal skin pages of medieval documents. “We realised all these dead cows have a date written on them,” he says. “We thought, ‘This is crazy, why aren’t we exploiting this’.” Collins and researchers from the University of York, UK, and Trinity College Dublin in Ireland turned to the York Gospels, among other texts, to see what the DNA could show. The York Gospels are thought to have been written around the year AD 1000. In standard ancient DNA studies, geneticists physically extract material from old animal bones for analysis. But this approach is too invasive to apply to priceless manuscripts.
7-27-17 Trump's transgender military ban 'not worked out yet'
Trump's transgender military ban 'not worked out yet'
The White House has not yet decided how it will implement the president's ban on transgender people serving in the US military. Mr Trump's surprise Twitter announcement on Wednesday has been met with criticism from rights groups. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration would work alongside the Pentagon to decide how to proceed. It is not yet clear how the announcement will affect current transgender service personnel. Transgender service members have expressed concern that they will be discharged, or unable to re-enlist. The timing also appears to have caught defence officials by surprise. "The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military," Donald Trump tweeted. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." He added that the decision came "after consultation with my Generals and military experts". Some US media outlets have questioned the spending justification. The Washington Post drew attention to an analysis that the US military spends almost $42m (£32m) a year on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra - several times the total estimated cost of transgender medical support. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has another early morning brain fart and turns the White House into a tizzy! I'm so proud of the sewer that Trump has created in Washington.)
7-27-17 'My stomach dropped': Transgender troops hit hard by Trump ban
'My stomach dropped': Transgender troops hit hard by Trump ban
Drill sergeant Kennedy Ochoa was putting on his dress uniform when he heard the news. President Trump had fired off a series of tweets saying the country would no longer "accept or allow" transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption". This was not the way it was supposed to go. For more than a year Sergeant Ochoa had served as a man, following an Obama-era policy change that paved the way for transgender troops to serve openly. Announcing the change, then-defence secretary Ash Carter called it "the right thing to do" for "talented Americans who are serving with distinction". Many transgender troops came out to their commanders and their colleagues and won the support of both. On Wednesday morning, Sergeant Ochoa was proudly putting on his uniform - the male regulation dress blues he has been allowed to wear for a year - and preparing to graduate from a training course that puts him on track for a promotion in September. Then he saw the president's tweets. "It was heartbreaking, my stomach dropped," he said in a phone interview. "I had to just try and compartmentalise it so I could enjoy today." Sergeant Ochoa is unwavering in his desire to continue serving his country. In five days he is due to re-enlist. "Now I don't even know if I can do that," he said. "It just seems like chaos, so many unknowns."
7-27-17 Chinese police detain 'female Jesus cult' members
Chinese police detain 'female Jesus cult' members
Police in China have detained 18 suspected members of a banned religious cult, state news agency Xinhua said. The group is notorious for some of its members beating a woman to death in a McDonald's restaurant in 2014 after she refused to give them her phone number. The Church of Almighty God cult was started in the 1990s and claims Jesus was resurrected as a woman in China. Chinese authorities frequently crack down on the cult, having arrested many of its members over the years. As part of the current detention, police also confiscated computers and books used by the cult for recruitment. The Church of Almighty God refused to give a direct response to the BBC and referred to its US-based website which contains multiple alleged testimonies of believers tortured by Chinese authorities. The cult's core belief is that "Almighty God, Christ of the Last Days" has returned to earth as a Chinese woman to wreak the apocalypse. The only person who claims direct contact with this woman is a former physics teacher, Zhao Weishan, who founded the cult 25 years ago and has since fled to the United States. The cult is also explicitly anti-communist, referring to China's communist party as the "red dragon". While many Christian sects find it hard to worship freely in China, the Church of Almighty God is accused of isolating members from friends and families and pressuring them to donate money in exchange for salvation. (Webmaster's comment: Christian Cults seem to have the same drive to kill for God as does ISIS. We should ban all KILLER cults!)
7-27-17 The polygamous town facing genetic disaster
The polygamous town facing genetic disaster
In a remote region of the US, a town is struggling with a chilling health crisis caused by a recessive gene. The reason? Here, polygamy is still practised. “We are to gird up our loins and fulfil this, just as we would any other duty…” said Brigham Young, who led the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, back in the mid-19th Century. It was a sweltering summer’s day in Provo City, Utah and as he spoke, high winds swirled dust around him. The holy task Young was speaking of was, of course, polygyny, where one man takes many wives (also known by the gender neutral term polygamy). He was a passionate believer in the practice, which he announced as the official line of the church a few years earlier. Now he was set to work reassuring his flock that marrying multiple women was the right thing to do. He liked to lead by example. Though Young began his adult life as a devoted spouse to a single wife, by the time he died his family had swelled to 55 wives and 59 children. Fast-forward to 1990, a century after polygyny was abandoned, and the upshot was only just beginning to emerge. In an office several hundred miles from where Young gave his speech, a 10-year-old boy was presented to Theodore Tarby, a doctor specialising in rare childhood diseases. The boy had unusual facial features, including a prominent forehead, low-set ears, widely spaced eyes and a small jaw. He was also severely physically and mentally disabled. (Webmaster's comment: Inbreeding and incest are really bad ideas even if your so-called religion and God supports it.)
7-27-17 This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction
This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction
Invisible men, time travel, flying machines, and journeys to other planets aren't just the products of the "Western" imagination. Think invisible men, time travel, flying machines, and journeys to other planets are the product of the European or "Western" imagination? Open One Thousand and One Nights — a collection of folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age, from the 8th to the 13th centuries CE — and you will find it stuffed full of these narratives, and more. Western readers often overlook the Muslim world's speculative fiction. I use the term quite broadly, to capture any story that imagines the implications of real or imagined cultural or scientific advances. Some of the first forays into the genre were the utopias dreamt up during the cultural flowering of the Golden Age. As the Islamic empire expanded from the Arabian peninsula to capture territories spanning from Spain to India, literature addressed the problem of how to integrate such a vast array of cultures and people. The Virtuous City (al-Madina al-fadila), written in the 9th century by the scholar Al-Farabi, was one of the earliest great texts produced by the nascent Muslim civilisation. It was written under the influence of Plato's Republic, and envisioned a perfect society ruled by Muslim philosophers — a template for governance in the Islamic world.
7-26-17 Donald Trump tweets plan to ban transgender people from military
Donald Trump tweets plan to ban transgender people from military
The US president says it’s too expensive and disruptive to let transgender people serve in the armed forces, but a study commissioned by the Pentagon disagrees. Donald Trump says that transgender people will not be allowed to serve “in any capacity” in the US military, reversing moves towards inclusivity begun under Barack Obama. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” the President wrote on Twitter. However, Trump’s statement contradicts a study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016, which found that only a small fraction of service members are transgender, and allowing them to serve as openly transgender armed forces personnel would cost little and have no significant impact on military readiness. According to the 2016 report by the RAND Corporation, the number of transgender personnel in active parts of the military is between 1320 and 6630, about 0.1 to 0.5 per cent of the total. The study estimated that only 29 to 129 people would seek any type of gender transition-related care in a given year. Extending this care to transgender personnel would cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year – around 0.1 per cent of healthcare spending for the active component of the military, the study estimated. The effect on staffing due to transition-related treatment would be a loss of less than 0.0015 per cent of total available labour-years, the study calculated. (Webmaster's comment: This decision is Trump pandering to hate groups. Hate groups are his strongest support base!)
7-26-17 Trump: Transgender people 'can't serve' in US military
Trump: Transgender people 'can't serve' in US military
US President Donald Trump says transgender people cannot serve in "any capacity" in the military. He tweeted that he had consulted with military experts and cited "tremendous medical costs and disruption". The Obama administration decided last year to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military. But in June, Defence Secretary James Mattis agreed to a six-month delay in the recruitment of transgender people. The Pentagon said this was to allow the different branches of the military to "review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces". Some Republicans have voiced opposition to allowing transgender people to serve at all. The independent Rand Corporation estimated in 2016 that 2,450 of the 1.2 million active-duty service members are transgender, though some campaigners put the figure higher. In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. "Critics of Mr Trump's move are contrasting it with his support for LGBT rights during last year's election campaign, when he said "I will fight for you". (Webmaster's comment: They don't make men any more two-faced than Trump!)
7-26-17 Obamacare: First Republican healthcare bill fails in US Senate
Obamacare: First Republican healthcare bill fails in US Senate
The US Senate has rejected a Republican plan to replace President Barack Obama's signature healthcare policy. The 57-43 vote defeat marks the start of a days-long debate on a sweeping overhaul that critics fear could deny healthcare to millions of Americans. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) was crafted over two months but attention now turns to other options. President Donald Trump has urged senators to pass a bill, without indicating which one he supports. A repeal-only bill, which would consign so-called Obamacare to history in two years, to give time to Republicans to devise a replacement, could be debated and voted on next. But that measure - which non-partisan analysts say will take health insurance from more than 30 million people - has already failed to win enough support in the Republican party. Other attempts to replace Obamacare have collapsed in recent weeks due to divisions in the party. President Trump had made scrapping the policy a key campaign pledge. He says the system is "torturing" Americans. He secured a victory on Tuesday when the Senate agreed to allow the debate on health care legislation reform to go forward, but only after Republican Vice-President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in support of the bill. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans are dead-set on removing healthcare insurance from 30 million people so that hospitals, clinics, and doctors can bill those patients whatever they want. It's all about getting as much money as possible out of the dying before they die.)
7-26-17 Reality Check: Is Trump right that US has highest taxes?
Reality Check: Is Trump right that US has highest taxes?
The claim: The US has the highest taxes in the world. Reality Check verdict: The total amount of tax raised by the United States as a proportion of the size of its economy is not the highest in the world. It also does not have the highest rates of taxes on households. By one measure, it does have the highest rate of corporation tax. At a rally in Ohio on Tuesday, President Trump claimed that the US had the highest taxes in the world. A broad measure of the level of taxes is to look at the total amount of tax taken by the government as a percentage of the amount produced by the economy (GDP). The US is clearly not at the top of this list based on figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2015, the US tax take came in at 26.4% of GDP, well below countries such as Italy at 43.3%, France at 45.5% and Denmark at 46.6%. So, for overall tax, the US is certainly not the highest. It may be that President Trump was referring to specific taxes. For high earners, PriceWaterhouse Coopers did some research in 2014, which looked at the G20 countries, and found that someone earning $400,000 (£240,000) in Italy would take home the smallest proportion of their earnings, with the US coming eighth on the list. For the 2017 tax year, the top rate of income tax was 39.6%, affecting single taxpayers whose income exceeds $418,400, or $470,700 for married taxpayers filing jointly. If you look at this list of top tax rates from KPMG, Sweden comes out on top at 61.85%. (Webmaster's comment: Anything trump claims is a big fat lie. ALWAYS! We need to pay more taxes and especially the rich need to pay a lot more taxes!)
7-26-17 Justine Damond death: Woman 'slapped police car'
Justine Damond death: Woman 'slapped police car'
nvestigators say that before Justine Damond was shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer, a woman "slapped" the back of his patrol car. The search warrant issued by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) does not say if that woman was the Australian yoga teacher. The document may shed light on the possible source of the "loud sound" that startled the car's driver. Damond was killed by Officer Mohamed Noor after calling 911 two weeks ago. The search warrant, which was provided to local news stations by investigators, stated: "Upon police arrival, a female 'slaps' the back of the patrol squad. "After that, it is unknown to BCA agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley." Mohamed Noor, who fired the fatal shot across his partner and through the driver's window, has so far refused to be interviewed by investigators. Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the police cruiser through the alley behind Damond's home, has told detectives that they were startled by a "loud sound" just before the shooting.(Webmaster's comment: Seems many police shoot to kill anybody for any reason.)
7-25-17 Trump boy scout Jamboree speech angers parents
Trump boy scout Jamboree speech angers parents
Parents have expressed anger after President Donald Trump delivered a highly politicised speech to tens of thousands of boy scouts. Mr Trump started by saying: "Who the hell wants to speak about politics?" But his speech to the Jamboree in West Virginia railed against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the "cesspool" of politics, drawing whoops and cheers. One parent wrote: "Done with scouts after you felt the need to have my kid listen to a liar stroke his ego." The Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America is held every four years and drew about 35,000 scouts from the ages of 12 to 18 to the latest event, held in Beaver, West Virginia, on Monday evening. The Jamboree had issued a warning on its blog about being respectful. It read: "Chants of certain phrases heard during the campaign (e.g. 'build the wall', 'lock her up') are considered divisive by many members of our audience, and may cause unnecessary friction." But in a rambling 35-minute speech, Mr Trump whipped up a response of boos, cheers, chants and jeers as he lambasted fake news, Hillary Clinton's election campaign and President Obama's failure to address a Jamboree in person. (Webmaster's comment: Would you want this man teaching your children his morals and values?)
7-25-17 'Alternative facts': 1984 on Broadway
'Alternative facts': 1984 on Broadway
After a successful run in London's West End - a play based on Orwell's 1984 has opened on Broadway, the latest political production to open in New York. The producers and others talk about what it means to be producing art in the age of Trump. (Webmaster's comment: Instead of 'Alternative facts' let's call them what they really are, 'Outright Lies'.)
7-25-17 Turkish police detain dozens for wearing a T-shirt
Turkish police detain dozens for wearing a T-shirt
Turkish security forces are on the look-out for a T-shirt they believe is linked to the banned Gulen movement and an attempted coup last year. Over the past 10 days, police have detained nearly 30 people for wearing T-shirts with the word "hero" on them, the CNNTurk news channel reports. "Some as they were going into an exam, others in university campuses… Almost everyone who wore that T-shirt was confronted by the police," the channel said, adding that arrests were continuing. The arrests appear to have started after Gokhan Guclu, a former soldier accused of participating in last year's failed coup, attended a court hearing earlier in July wearing the same shirt. (Webmaster's comment: This is what happens in a dictatorship, and it's coming to America soon!)
7-25-17 China set to launch an 'unhackable' internet communication
China set to launch an 'unhackable' internet communication
As malicious hackers mount ever more sophisticated attacks, China is about to launch a new, "unhackable" communications network - at least in the sense that any attack on it would be quickly detected. The technology it has turned to is quantum cryptography, a radical break from the traditional encryption methods around. The Chinese project in the city of Jinan has been touted as a milestone by state media. The pioneering project is also part of a bigger story: China is taking the lead in a technology in which the West has long been hesitant to invest. In the Jinan network, some 200 users from the military, government, finance and electricity sectors will be able to send messages safe in the knowledge that only they are reading them. China's push in quantum communication means the country is taking huge strides developing applications that might make the increasingly vulnerable internet more secure. Applications that other countries soon might find themselves buying from China. So, what is this technology into which the country is pouring massive resources? (Webmaster's comment: Again China takes the lead. They are not cutting their investments in science, unlike Trump is cutting ours!)
7-24-17 IMF downgrades UK and US growth forecasts
IMF downgrades UK and US growth forecasts
The UK and US economies will expand more slowly in 2017 than previously predicted, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It said "weaker-than-expected activity" in the first three months of the year meant the UK would grow by 1.7%, compared with an earlier 2% forecast. The IMF also revised down its US growth forecast from 2.3% to 2.1%. However, its overall global economic predictions - of 3.5% growth in 2017 and 3.6% in 2018 - remain unchanged. The UK growth forecast for 2018 remains unchanged at 1.5%, but US growth for next year is now predicted to come in at 2.1%, instead of the 2.5% previously forecast. (Webmaster's comment: America is "Getting Great Again" backwards.)
7-24-17 In Pakistan, these schools are putting morality back into the curriculum
In Pakistan, these schools are putting morality back into the curriculum
A new model of private education is integrating Islamic teaching with modern educational methods. With it, however, come a lot of questions. In an upscale neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan, the gates of a preschool open up to a front lawn with slides and pet cages. Each object in the garden has a piece of white paper affixed to it with its name in bold, large type, presumably so kids can expand their vocabulary at playtimes. But the cards aren't in English or Urdu, Pakistan's official languages. They're in Arabic. And the school's aim isn't just to educate kids — it's to raise them to be good Muslims. Educational institutions like this preschool, the Hidayah Montessori Preschool, are at the forefront of a new trend among the wealthy in Pakistan: integrating Islamic instruction with private education. In recent years, a slew of schools have opened up that offer a conventional education along with the opportunity to learn Arabic and memorize the Quran. Some schools go beyond just education in scripture, promising an all-encompassing Islamic environment. These schools aim to instill values and morals in their students while delivering an education swathed in religiosity. They are changing the notion of a traditional Islamic education, which is often construed as simply rote learning the Quran. And they're responding to a demand from parents, conservative and rich Muslims who have rediscovered their faith as adults and want a religious education for their children. (Webmaster's comment: "Child Mental Mutilation" not only occurs in Christian Religions, it also accurs in the Muslim religions.)
7-24-17 The unspeakable evil of the Tennessee eugenics program
The unspeakable evil of the Tennessee eugenics program
Under existing asset forfeiture laws, it is legal for government officials to seize your gambling winnings, your Dan Brown paperbacks collection, your Lucky Charms collectible cereal bowl and spoon sets, or a bag of paper clips you might have lying around. If you want to get out of jail early in White County, Tennessee, you might have to let them take your fertility too. I wish I were joking. But there is actually nothing amusing about Judge Sam Benningfield's standing order signed on May 15 awarding inmates 30 days worth of credit toward their jail sentences if they agree to undergo a sterility-inducing procedure — a vasectomy for male offenders, a Nexplananon implant for females. Both procedures are available free of charge courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Health. This is not some kind of innovative crime-reduction plan. It is eugenics. How exactly it is possible for a judge in a general sessions court with juvenile jurisdiction to impose this order and arrange the gratis performance of these operations with state funds is a question best left to legal experts. The ACLU has released a statement denouncing the program as "unconstitutional." The local district attorney has called it "concerning," citing the difficulties of reversing a procedure undergone by impressionable young offenders looking for a speedy way out of their difficulties. But I am not interested in the constitutionality of the program. It is evil.
7-22-17 Donald Trump attacks 'illegal' report on Sessions Russian meeting
Donald Trump attacks 'illegal' report on Sessions Russian meeting
US President Donald Trump has attacked "illegal leaks" following reports his attorney general discussed campaign-related matters with a Russian envoy. The Washington Post gave an account of meetings Attorney General Jeff Sessions held with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Mr Sessions has previously denied discussing the election campaign. US authorities are investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump team. The intelligence services believe Russia meddled in the vote to help Mr Trump win. Russia denies this, and Mr Trump says there was no collusion. The Post's report quoted current and former US officials who cited intelligence intercepts of Mr Kislyak's version of the encounter to his superiors. One of those quoted said Mr Kislyak spoke to Mr Sessions about key campaign issues, including Mr Trump's positions on policies significant to Russia. During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Mr Sessions said he had no contact with Russians during the election campaign. When it later emerged he had, he said the campaign was not discussed at the meetings. An official confirmed to Reuters the detail of the intercepts, but there has been no independent corroboration. (Webmaster's comment: More lies to cover lies. Every lie uncovered needs a new lie to cover it up again. It is now obvious that Trump and his campaign corroborated with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. This is nothing less than TREASON!)
7-22-17 What is Trump's plan to make the American economy great again?
What is Trump's plan to make the American economy great again?
If only it were that simple, said Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR. Most economists think that achieving consistent 3 percent growth, a level not seen since the 1990s, is "highly unlikely" in the current climate. For one thing, the U.S. needs a growing labor force and higher productivity to meaningfully increase growth, but Baby Boomers are retiring and birth rates are falling. Immigration could replace those lost workers, but Trump has vowed to curtail the flow of immigrants, both legal and illegal. That's one of the reasons why the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the president's agenda will deliver just 1.9 percent growth over the next decade. "It's not unheard-of for the White House to have a more optimistic estimate of how quickly the economy will grow," said Matthew Zeitlin at BuzzFeed. But the gap between these forecasts "is unprecedented." Neither the Bush nor Obama administration's growth projections were more than 0.4 percentage points off from the CBO's. Even if the White House gets all the pro-growth policies it wants, "it would still have to struggle with stubborn demographic facts." (Webmaster's comment: Besides megalomania ignoring facts and ignorance is what Trump is all about!)
7-22-17 Gay Germans' joy mixed with adoption angst
Gay Germans' joy mixed with adoption angst
Gay Pride Berlin is a riot of glitter, glam and rainbow flags. This weekend people will celebrate Germany's new law to allow equal marriage. But it is not necessarily "equal" for gay parents. Berlin drag kings wax their moustaches, the queens dust off their biggest beehives and huge rainbow flags adorn government ministries. This year Berlin's gay festival season has an unusually political edge. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier signed the new equal marriage law on Thursday, meaning that same-sex couples should be able to get married from October. Until now only civil partnerships were available, which lacked some rights. Jörg Hormann and his husband Patrick have been in a civil partnership for 9.5 years and have two young children. "We hope that now, finally, people will know that we are a completely normal family," said Jörg. "We're just happy that we're no longer seen as inferior." I met Jörg and his family a few weeks ago at a demonstration outside the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house, as lawmakers formally voted on the measure. Next to him stood a woman holding a placard saying "scrap homophobic adoption law". Journalists looked confused. "But I thought the new law sorts out adoption for gay people?" one asked her. In fact Germany's new equal marriage act allows gay couples to adopt. But it ignores the precarious situation of lesbian couples where one partner has a child.
7-22-17 Justine Damond shooting: Police chief Janee Harteau quits
Justine Damond shooting: Police chief Janee Harteau quits
A police chief in the US state of Minnesota has resigned after one of her officers fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman. Justine Damond was killed after she called the police to report a woman screaming outside her home in a quiet suburb of Minneapolis last week. Police chief Janee Harteau had earlier said it "should not have happened". The city's mayor accepted her resignation, saying she had lost confidence in Ms Harteau. Ms Damond's death provoked outrage in her homeland, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it "inexplicable" and "a shocking killing". The 40-year-old yoga and meditation teacher, originally from Sydney, was shot when she approached a police car after reporting a suspected rape. A lawyer for Ms Damond's family has called it "ludicrous" to suggest the two officers inside had feared an ambush. (Webmaster's comment: The wrong people are being punished. We need to punish the killers!)
7-21-17 Minneapolis police officer shoots two dogs
Minneapolis police officer shoots two dogs
A Minneapolis police officer shoots two service dogs while responding to a false alarm call, claiming they growled at him. (Webmaster's comment: Seems like the police in Minneapolis have adopted the Vietnam rules of warfare, "Kill Anything That Moves!")
7-21-17 Inmates offered reduced sentences for birth control procedure
Inmates offered reduced sentences for birth control procedure
A judge in the US state of Tennessee is offering to reduce jail sentences for any inmate that volunteers to undergo a birth control procedure. Since Judge Sam Benningfield signed the legal order in May, 32 women and 38 men have volunteered in exchange for 30 days shaved off their sentence. The order has drawn fire from the local prosecutor, and by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Vasectomies are offered for men and hormone implants in the arm for women. "I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility", the White County judge told WTVF-TV, "and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children. "I understand it won't be entirely successful but if you reach two or three people, maybe that's two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs." "I see it as a win, win," added Judge Benningfield, who was elected in 1998 to serve as judge for the rural county 100 miles (160km) east of Nashville. The procedures - vasectomies for men and Nexplanon implants for women - and are being offered for free by the Tennessee Department of Health, officials say. (Webmaster's comment: This is nuts! The principle should be that you pay for your crime by doing your time and then are released and your rights are restored.)
7-21-17 Trump wants cheers
Trump wants cheers
The White House has confirmed that President Trump’s state visit to Britain has been delayed until at least 2018, and the British media says that’s because Trump fears mass protests. According to a transcript of a phone conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May that was leaked to The Sun, the president said, “When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come, and not before.” Trump also asked May to “fix” his negative coverage in the U.K. press, saying it would “make things a lot easier.” Nearly 2 million people have signed a petition asking the British government to block an official visit by Trump, “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.” (Webmaster's comment: I understand 2 million people have theatened to "moon" him if he comes. It couldn't happen to a more deserving guy!)
7-21-17 Don’t rewrite constitution
Don’t rewrite constitution
More than 7 million Venezuelans voted this week in a nonbinding referendum to reject President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution. The turnout for the plebiscite—called by opposition parties—represented about 37 percent of the country’s electorate; 98 percent of those who cast a ballot said no to the president’s planned changes. Government supporters on motorbikes swarmed one polling station and opened fire on voters, killing a 61-year-old woman. Maduro has scheduled a vote at the end of the month to elect members of the constituent assembly, which is expected to rubber-stamp a new constitution that will grant him sweeping powers. Opponents of the leftist government blame it for turning the country into an economic basket case. (Webmaster's comment: Another dictatorship on its way!)
7-21-17 Justine Damond: Australia waits for answers in 'American nightmare'
Justine Damond: Australia waits for answers in 'American nightmare'
Many Australians were just arriving at work on Monday when the confusing first reports emerged that a Sydney woman had been fatally shot in Minneapolis. Days later, as the week drew to a close, Justine Damond's killing was still dominating the news in her home country - and there were only more questions. How had the former veterinarian from Sydney's northern beaches been shot by a policeman after simply trying to report a potential crime? It was branded an "American nightmare" in consecutive front page headlines in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Paul McGeough lamented that Minneapolis authorities were "not joining the dots" over how Officer Mohamed Noor had come to fire his weapon. (Webmaster's comment: America is an extreme violence nation with 400 mass killings a year and where police shoot and kill without reason. You come to America at your own risk!)
7-21-17 Justine Damond's death 'should not have happened'
Justine Damond's death 'should not have happened'
The fatal shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer "should not have happened", the city's police chief has said. Justine Damond, originally from Sydney, was shot when she approached a police car after reporting a suspected rape. A lawyer for Ms Damond's family has called it "ludicrous" to suggest the two officers inside feared an ambush. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said the killing was "the actions and judgement of one individual". Officer Mohamed Noor, who shot Ms Damond in the abdomen in an upmarket neighbourhood of the city, has refused to be interviewed by investigators, as is his legal right. (Webmaster's comment: But she never called it a unjustified homocide or murder which it clearly was. That's sets it up to get the killer off.)
7-21-17 Outrage over police shooting
Outrage over police shooting
A police officer shot and killed a woman who had called 911 for help—perhaps because he was “startled by a loud sound,’’ the officer’s partner said. Justine Damond, a 40-year-old yoga instructor and immigrant from Australia, was shot by a responding officer after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. As Damond approached the driver’s side window of the squad car, she was shot by the officer in the passenger seat, Mohamed Noor. Neither officer had his body camera turned on, and Noor refused to talk to investigators. The officer in the driver’s seat, Matthew Harrity, said he and Noor heard a loud sound in the alley just before the shooting. Damond’s death caused outrage here and in her native Sydney. “How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that?” said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
7-21-17 Officer indicted
A white former police officer was indicted for murder this week for the killing of an unarmed black 15-year-old who was leaving a house party. Authorities say Roy Oliver II, 37, was responding to complaints of underage drinking on April 29 when he shot Jordan Edwards, a popular high school freshman, in the head with an AR-15 rifle as the teen sat in the front passenger seat of a car with his two teenage brothers and two friends. Police initially said the shooting occurred after the teens drove toward Oliver “in an aggressive manner,” causing the officer to fear for his safety. But police were forced to change their account when body camera footage showed the car was driving away from Oliver when he shot Edwards. Oliver, who was fired from the police force in May over the incident, maintained this week that his actions were reasonable.
7-21-17 Marijuana emergency
Nevada state officials approved emergency regulations last week to help solve the acute marijuana shortage that developed just days after the state legalized recreational weed. Lines of customers have snaked outside the doors of the state’s 47 licensed dispensaries since legal marijuana was made available for sale on July 1, with a reported 40,000 transactions in the first weekend. The surge in demand caught sellers off guard, and with display cases emptying, they lobbied for a change to strict weed-distribution rules. Under the referendum approved by voters in November, only liquor wholesalers can move weed from growers to the dispensaries, and none were licensed when the law took effect. After the Nevada Tax Commission unanimously voted last week to expand the distribution licenses, dispensaries were able to restock. Nevada officials expect marijuana sales to generate $100 million in tax revenue over the next two years.
7-21-17 Mixed messages
Mixed messages, after the White House launched “Made in America” week to promote domestic products despite the fact that 100 percent of Ivanka’s fashion goods, and many other Trump-branded products, are made overseas. Spokesman Sean Spicer said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on that contradiction.
7-21-17 Dissenting opinions
Dissenting opinions, after a Washington, D.C., judge overturned the conviction of a political activist who was arrested by Capitol Police for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing. The judge said the conviction was “disconcerting.”
7-21-17 Do you have to rescue someone in danger?
Do you have to rescue someone in danger?
It is a harrowing video to watch: a man, crying out for help as he struggles to swim in the middle of a Florida pond. Off camera, the voices of five teens, mocking him. "They drowning, what the heck," one laughs. "Ain't nobody fixing to help you," another is heard to say. And, after his head disappeared under the water for the final time: "Oh, he just died." The body of Jamel Dunn - a 32-year-old disabled father-of-two - was found in the water three days later, on 12 July. Up until that point, no one knew where he had gone. No one had called 911 to report a man in trouble. No one even knew anyone had witnessed the drowning until the video emerged on social media, and Dunn's family members saw it. Its contents have shocked the community in the city of Cocoa, on Florida's east coast. But the teens, aged between 14 and 16, will face no charges, prosecutors have said: there is nothing on the statute books which deal with an incident like this, they say. The vast majority of states in America do not put a "duty to rescue" on their citizens, but 10 do. In fact, only a few countries in the world have a law which means people have to help or risk prison time, including Germany, where four people are currently being prosecuted for "unterlassene Hilfeleistung" (failure to provide assistance). (Webmaster's comment: If it's at no significant risk to oneself it should be illegal not to help. We're supposed to be a civilized country and we need to behave like it.)
7-20-17 US Republican asks Nasa if civilisation on Mars existed
US Republican asks Nasa if civilisation on Mars existed
US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, asked the scientist leading Nasa's Mars Rover programme if an ancient civilization existed on Mars. (Webmaster's comment: The ignorance of the American public, and those they elect to office, knows no bounds!)
7-20-17 Trump’s plan to cut global health research may cost US billions
Trump’s plan to cut global health research may cost US billions
President Trump wants to fund less research into diseases that affect poor countries, but an analysis suggests such research hugely benefits the US itself. US government proposals to spend less on global health research will be bad for many countries – but perhaps worst of all for the US. An analysis of US research into diseases of poor nations has found that it massively benefits the US. Between 2007 and 2015, the US spent $14 billion on global health research, according to the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), a group of organisations that promote such research, including the Gates Foundation and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. But according to the GHTC’s analysis, for each of those dollars spent, 89 cents remained in the US, paying for US researchers and their needs. This investment is calculated to have created 200,000 new jobs and added $53 billion to the US’s economic output. This is because government investment in research for diseases of the poor helps stimulate work on treatments that would otherwise be unprofitable for pharmaceutical and biotech firms to develop. “What really struck me was that every taxpayer’s dollar spent on basic research generates an additional $8.38 of industry investment over eight years,” says Jamie Bay Nishi, of the GHTC. The analysis calculated that by 2023, US government spending on basic global health research back in 2015 will have generated nearly $4 billion in private investment that will support US jobs and businesses.
7-20-17 Obamacare repeal plan 'would axe insurance for 32m
Obamacare repeal plan 'would axe insurance for 32m
Thirty-two million Americans would lose health coverage under a Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has forecast. The non-partisan office's analysis found the cost of a medical insurance policy would increase 25% next year and double by 2026. The repeal bill would also cut the federal deficit by $473bn (£363bn), predicted the CBO. The Republican-controlled Senate has twice failed to pass a healthcare bill. Its members plan to vote next week on a plan to repeal President Barack Obama's 2010 health law with a two-year delay. But the CBO estimates the number of uninsured would rise by 17 million next year alone if the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, were to be overturned. In the past two days he has switched position several times, urging the repeal and replace of Obamacare, just repealing it, allowing it to fail, before reverting to repeal and replace on Wednesday. (Webmaster's comment: Trump cares not a whit about how many people will die because they don't have insurance. This is just about the schoolyard bully being right.)
7-20-17 Is marijuana a secret weapon against the opioid epidemic?
Is marijuana a secret weapon against the opioid epidemic?
Research suggests pot could help save lives. As U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a crowd of federal, state and local law enforcement in March, the country "is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic." According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioid and heroin overdoses kill 91 Americans each day. But in the same speech, Sessions made clear that he thinks the drug crisis isn't limited to opiate abuse. "I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so, people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that's only slightly less awful," he said. Studies have shown a different link between marijuana and opioids, however. "Really, if we stopped medical marijuana programs that are now in place in 29 states and Washington, D.C. … the science suggests we would worsen the opioid epidemic," says Dina Fine Maron, a medicine and health editor at Scientific American, who wrote a recent story on the subject. She explains that states with medical marijuana programs have fewer opioid overdose-related deaths than states without medical marijuana — 25 percent fewer, according to a 2014 study cited in her article. "The reality is that the literature right now suggests that if anyone is using an opioid — whether it be a prescription painkiller or something like heroin — a prescription painkiller is more likely [than marijuana] to lead to drug abuse," she says, "because it's more addictive and obviously can be more lethal."
7-20-17 Germany warns citizens of Turkey risks amid arrests
Germany warns citizens of Turkey risks amid arrests
The German government has warned its citizens and firms they face the risk of "arbitrary" arrest in Turkey. "People who are travelling to Turkey for private or business reasons are urged to exercise increased caution," the German foreign ministry said. Firms face investment risks in Turkey because of Turkish legal deficiencies, the ministry said. Germany protested to Turkey's Berlin ambassador on Wednesday over the arrest of six human rights activists.The six include a German citizen, Peter Steudtner, and Amnesty International's Turkey director, Idil Eser. The Turkish foreign ministry hit back, calling Germany's complaint "unacceptable" and "direct interference in the Turkish judiciary". Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a huge purge of state institutions after rogue military officers tried to topple him a year ago. (Webmaster's comment: Turkey's new dictator is praised by Trump. He will soon emulate him.
7-20-17 Despacito censored: Malaysia bans 'unsuitable' hit from state stations
Despacito censored: Malaysia bans 'unsuitable' hit from state stations
Malaysia has banned state broadcasters from playing the hit single Despacito following complaints about the song's "steamy" lyrics, officials say. A senior minister said the single, featuring Canadian singer Justin Bieber on a remix, was considered un-Islamic. Malaysia has strict censorship laws and has banned sensitive material before. Despacito, by Puerto Rican artist Luis Fonsi, was earlier named the most-streamed song of all time, receiving 4.6bn plays worldwide in six months. "Despacito will not be aired by the government-owned broadcast stations because we received public complaints," Malaysia's communications minister Salleh Said Keruak told AFP news agency. "The lyrics are not suitable to be heard," he added. Meanwhile, privately-owned radio stations have been "encouraged" to "practice self-censorship," he said. Malaysia's opposition Islamic party, Parti Amanah Negara, had earlier urged the government to censor the Spanish song over its "sexy" content. Chairwoman of the party's women's wing, Atriza Umar, described the music as "porn" and unsuitable for young children, warning that its content could prove detrimental to society.
7-20-17 Justine Damond shooting: Minneapolis police ambush claim 'ludicrous'
Justine Damond shooting: Minneapolis police ambush claim 'ludicrous'
A lawyer for the family of an Australian woman shot dead by police in Minneapolis says suggestions officers feared an ambush were "ludicrous". Robert Bennett said Justine Damond was in her pyjamas when she approached them and "was not a threat to anyone". Ms Damond was shot after approaching two officers in their car on Saturday after reporting a suspected rape. Mr Bennett has acted in similar cases, including the high-profile police shooting of Philando Castile in 2016. Fred Bruno, the lawyer for Matthew Harrity, whose partner killed Ms Damond, 40, had said: "It is reasonable to assume an officer in that situation would be concerned about a possible ambush." But Mr Bennett told CBS News: "I think that's ludicrous. It's disinformation. It doesn't have any basis in fact." He added: "She obviously wasn't armed, was not a threat to anyone, and nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be." Officer Mohamed Noor, who shot Ms Damond in the abdomen in an upmarket neighbourhood of the city, has refused to be interviewed by investigators, as is his legal right. (Webmaster's comment: Mark my words: These evil bastards are going to get away with murder!)
7-20-17 Did Baltimore police officer plant drugs?
Did Baltimore police officer plant drugs?
Body camera video shows a Baltimore policeman planting drugs at a crime scene in January, lawyers say. One officer has been suspended. (Webmaster's comment: Police caught in the act planting evidence, just like in the movies. They will plant guns, drugs, whatever to cover up their shootings, get an arrest and conviction, and get promoted.)
7-20-17 Parrot witness case: Michigan woman guilty of husband's murder
Parrot witness case: Michigan woman guilty of husband's murder
A woman has been found guilty of shooting her husband five times in a Michigan murder case apparently witnessed by a parrot. Glenna Duram shot her husband, Martin, in front of the couple's pet in 2015, before turning the gun on herself in a failed suicide attempt. The parrot later repeated the words "Don't shoot!" in the victim's voice, according to Mr Duram's ex-wife. The parrot, an African Grey named Bud, was not used in the court proceedings. The jury found Mrs Duram, 49, guilty of first-degree murder following a day of deliberations. She will be sentenced next month. She suffered a head wound in the incident in the couple's Sand Lake home in May 2015, but survived. Mr Duram's mother Lillian said it "hurt" to witness Mrs Duram "emotionless" in court as evidence was presented in the case of her son's death, local media report. "It just isn't good; just isn't good. Two years is a long time to wait for justice," she said. Mr Duram's ex-wife Christina Keller, who now owns Bud, earlier said she believed the parrot was repeating a conversation from the night of the murder, which she said ended with the phrase "don't shoot!", with an expletive added. Mr Duram's parents agreed it was possible that the foul-mouthed bird had overheard the couple arguing and was repeating their final words. "I personally think he was there, and he remembers it and he was saying it", Mr Duram's father told local media at the time. (Webmaster's comment: Parrot means to mimic, and that's what parrots do. There is no good reason not to use the "recording" at a trial.)
7-19-17 In U.S., 45% Say They Have Tried Marijuana
In U.S., 45% Say They Have Tried Marijuana
As more U.S. states legalize marijuana use, 45% of Americans say they have tried marijuana at least once, a new high in Gallup's trend since 1969. When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, only 4% said they had tried marijuana. The rise in use over the past five decades has paralleled the increasing support for legalization -- last year, 60% said pot should be legal, a record high. Eight states allow recreational marijuana use, and these states comprise one-fifth of the U.S. population.
7-19-17 Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks
Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks
Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has come to defend a woman who wants to unseat him after she received hateful messages about her Muslim religion. Democratic candidate Deedra Abboud, 45, came under attack after she posted a campaign message on Facebook with an image of the US Constitution. The post prompted an onslaught of cyberbullying, including comments about Ms Abboud's religion. Mr Flake, 54, expressed his support for Ms Abboud on Twitter. "Hang in there @deedra2018. Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You'll find them," he tweeted on Tuesday. The senator also posted a link to an op-ed in The Arizona Republic calling out the online attack on Ms Abboud, which came after she posted a message about separation of church and state. "Almost 250 years ago a group of dreamers came together and sketched out a revolutionary vision. No longer would they be shackled to the whims of a distant government, nor bound to the religion of an idiosyncratic king. They set out to forge their own futures, determine their own destinies, and follow their own faith," she wrote. "In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers decreed that this nation would separate church and state, and in doing so protect both institutions. Government would be free from religious overreach, and religion would be free from government interference." Facebook users began flooding her page with comments saying there was "no room for Muslims in our government. Nice try though you are quoting the Muslim brotherhood". Another user wrote: "Nice try but your first love is Satan (AKA Allah) and your second love is to a litter box your 'people' come from. You are as American as Chinese checkers." "BAN ISLAM IN THE USA…WE HATE YOUR FILTHY DEATH CULT," another Facebook user said. (Webmaster's comment: Hatred in America empowered by Trump!)
7-19-17 How the opioid crisis may have saved US healthcare
How the opioid crisis may have saved US healthcare
Though Republicans in the US hold both Congress and the White House, Obamacare will not be repealed, meaning continued healthcare for millions of Americans. Republicans have discovered that changing the laws governing US healthcare is far easier said than done. Over the past three weeks, they have failed to pass three versions of a healthcare law to replace or repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That means, for now, millions of Americans hold on to their insurance. Healthcare makes up one-sixth of the nation’s economy, so reform was never going to be easy. Every decision on the subject is a political seesaw between those who finance congressional elections and the people Congress is elected to represent. This plays out in questions like: how can Congress reduce taxes for the wealthy and still subsidise affordable health insurance? How can they release insurance companies from requirements to cover basic health services and still meet the medical needs of a country where 91 people die each day from an escalating opioid crisis? Turns out, they can’t. Over the past seven years, Republicans have railed against Obamacare as an infringement on the rights of individuals and businesses. Following this lead, President Trump made the repeal of Obamacare a rallying cry during his campaign. But he left the complex details of doing so up to Congress. And despite the party holding power in both houses of Congress and the White House, the Republicans couldn’t deliver on that promise.
7-19-17 Albert Woodfox: My 43 years in solitary confinement
Albert Woodfox: My 43 years in solitary confinement
Albert Woodfox spent 43 years in solitary confinement. He was released in February 2016, but says he is still adapting to life outside. He had been in solitary confinement in Angola prison, the state penitentiary of Louisiana, since April 1972 for the murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, he was part of the group known as the "Angola 3". They had consistently denied their involvement over the killing. In February 2016, Mr Woodfox was the last of the three to be freed. He is now living in New Orleans near his daughter, grand-children and great grand-children. "I have been learning how to live as a citizen and a free individual, because of the length of time [in solitary confinement], everything is pretty much a first time experience," he says. (Webmaster's comment: The horror of our prison system from a man who was in it for 43 years.)
7-19-17 The party of failure
The party of failure
tch McConnell's last-ditch effort to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act crumbled to dust Tuesday, a little more than 12 hours after he proposed it in the wake of the GOP's repeal-and-replace effort having gone down in flames Monday night. And now, after offering a series of responsibility-shucking explanations for the GOP's utter failure to do anything on health care, President Trump is vowing to let ObamaCare collapse while somehow avoiding any responsibility for the consequences. This seems like a good time to reflect on just how comprehensively incompetent the Republican Party is. The GOP controls both houses of Congress. It holds the White House. For seven years its leadership railed against ObamaCare, and its rank-and-file members voted to repeal it, over and over again. Yet here we are, six months into the Trump administration, and what has the party managed to deliver? Nada. Zilch. Zero. Liberals like Jonathan Chait and Michael Cohen see this as a vindication of Obama's legacy, a sign that if Democrats "expand the welfare state, they (the voters) will come.” But this whole sorry spectacle has nothing to do with the strength of liberalism in general or ObamaCare in particular. It's a product of one thing and one thing only: The complete political ineffectiveness of the contemporary Republican Party. Yes, the GOP can win elections, thanks to gerrymandering and the formidable deployment of weaponized negative partisanship. That makes it a powerful party of opposition. But when it comes to actually doing something, the GOP's got nothing.
7-19-17 Los Angeles' homeless crisis goes from bad to worse
Los Angeles' homeless crisis goes from bad to worse
Los Angeles' entertainment industry nurtures the city's dreamy La La Land image. But while Hollywood laps up the attention, there is a growing crisis in the land of make-believe - a soaring increase in the number of homeless people living on its streets. Homelessness in Los Angeles County soared by 23% in the past year and it shows. The problem has become tangible and inescapable, with makeshift tent encampments cropping up across the sprawling metropolis. Tourists are shocked to find themselves stepping over people draped in filthy blankets and begging on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Shop owners routinely swill the pavements to wash away urine and the accompanying stench. "For the 31 years that I've been involved with homelessness... it has gotten worse far worse than I've ever seen before," says Ted Hayes, a long-time activist. Hayes says gentrification of the downtown area has begun to scatter a previously concentrated homeless population across the city. The yearly homeless count in Los Angeles County rose to 58,000 in 2017, up from 46,874 in 2016. Neighbouring areas, such as Orange County, are also experiencing the same upwards trend. Young people - aged 18-24 - are the fastest growing group of homeless people, up 64%. And children without a home increased 41%. (Webmaster's comment: Free Enterprize and Capitalism works so well!)
7-19-17 Justine Damond: Minneapolis police 'heard loud sound' before shooting
Justine Damond: Minneapolis police 'heard loud sound' before shooting
A Minneapolis police officer whose partner shot an Australian woman was "startled by a loud sound" just before the incident, investigators say. Justine Damond, originally from Sydney, was gunned down after calling police to report a possible crime. On a police radio recording, an officer mentions fireworks being let off near where the shooting happened. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants answers from the US over the killing. "It is a shocking killing, and yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family," he told Australian TV. (Webmaster's comment: Mark my words, they are going to get away with murder. Since when does hearing a loud sound justify blazing away at a women in pajamas with no weapon standing talking to you outside your police car window.)
7-19-17 Mental illness sufferer's fight for right to die in Canada
Mental illness sufferer's fight for right to die in Canada
Very few countries where assisted suicide is legal will grant it to people with mental illnesses. Adam Maier-Clayton had a mental condition which caused his body to feel severe physical pain. He fought for those with mental illness to have the right to die in Canada. Adam took his own life in April 2017.
7-19-17 Uruguay pharmacies start selling recreational marijuana
Uruguay pharmacies start selling recreational marijuana
Uruguay has become the first country in the world to legally sell marijuana for recreational use. Sixteen pharmacies started dispensing marijuana on Wednesday. Almost 5,000 people have signed up to a national registry to be able to buy marijuana legally. They will be able to buy up to 10g (0.35oz) a week and no more than 40g a month. The move comes four years after a law was passed which fully legalised the cannabis trade. Supporters of the law argue that it will help stop the illegal trade in marijuana and put drug dealers out of business.
7-18-17 Many European countries have no terrorism problem. Why?
Many European countries have no terrorism problem. Why?
The map is fascinating. Courtesy of The Telegraph's travel section, it offers a color-coded display of the global terror threat. Green countries, like Mongolia, Mexico, and Madagascar, are quite unlikely to experience terrorism in the near future. Yellow have some underlying risk, orange more still, and red nations have a comparatively high chance of experiencing a new attack sooner than later. Now, the crucial word here is "comparatively." This is a broad category that at once encompasses Iraq and Syria — where encountering a band of Islamic State militants is a completely plausible scenario — and the U.S. — where terrorism is statistically a far less common cause of death than mundane things like walking, biking, choking, "any force of nature," and your local police department. Still, there's no denying some countries are safer from terrorism than others. Particularly in Europe. Much of the region is a consistent, troubling red, but there are significant exceptions. Switzerland and Ireland are a low-risk green, while Portugal and Sweden are yellow, meaning they have only an "underlying" terror risk. These nations don't have the international import of their English, French, and German neighbors, of course, but they are geographically, politically, and culturally close — and yet much safer. (Webmaster's comment: Check out the map!)
7-18-17 Let Obamacare fail - Trump's new plan
Let Obamacare fail - Trump's new plan
President Donald Trump has said the new Republican healthcare policy should be to allow the current law to collapse. "As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!" he tweeted. Support for the Republican Senate bill fell apart on Monday when two more senators said they could not back it. The party's Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, immediately vowed to hold a vote to repeal Obamacare only. During a speech from the Senate floor on Tuesday, Mr McConnell said Republicans would "push forward" with a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a "two-year, stable transition" period to give Congress time to come up with a replacement plan. (Webmaster's comment: The latest plan of Trump and the Republicans, JUST LET PEOPLE DIE! Profits for the insurance, healthcare, hospital and medical companies are more important!)
7-18-17 Trump's Obamacare repeal: Back to drawing board for Republicans
Trump's Obamacare repeal: Back to drawing board for Republicans
In the end the death blow to the latest iteration of Obamacare repeal came from the right flank. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was always going to have to walk a fine line in his effort to keep both moderates and hardcore conservatives in the party on board with his healthcare reform proposal. After his first draft failed to garner sufficient support, he came out with a new version that moved farther to the right in key areas while throwing money to keep the moderates satiated. That strategy worked in the House, where Freedom Caucus arch-conservatives and just enough moderates came around to rescue the legislation from death's doorstep. In the Senate, the entire rickety structure came tumbling down. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran balked, citing insufficient tax and regulation rollbacks. Expect a stampede for the exits in the coming days, as everyone abandons what was always an unpopular bill. On Monday night the president himself led the way, calling for repeal without so much as a plan for what to do next. Then again, the Republican Party never really had a replacement plan, and its attempts to craft one on the fly - something that would perform better than Obamacare while costing less money - were like one of those hapless early airplane designs that flapped its wings or spun its wheels but never left the ground. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans will never put together a workable plan because to them it's always about the money.)
7-18-17 Republicans' deranged health-care nostalgia
Republicans' deranged health-care nostalgia
Well, let's have a little history lesson, for those whose memories of life before 2010 have gotten hazy. Because the truth is that how the insurance companies did business before the ACA is the whole reason we had a national consensus that we needed to reform health care. To begin with, the perfect wisdom of the free market had somehow left 50 million Americans with no coverage at all — and the GOP health plan would get us back near that number. Then let's consider pre-existing conditions. Maybe your family has some of them; mine does. Nothing life-threatening — an old injury here, a bothersome condition there — but in the past it was enough to get us denied coverage on the individual market. If it didn't happen to you, it probably happened to someone you know. The ACA outlawed those denials, and while most Republicans claim they want to keep those protections in place, the bill the Senate is considering would eviscerate them. A provision written by Ted Cruz that was recently added to the bill would allow insurers to offer bare-bones plans that provide little if any real coverage, as long as they also offered a plan that was compliant with the ACA's mandate that insurance cover "essential health benefits" like hospitalization, emergency care, preventive care, and prescription medications. Health-care experts warn that it would create a two-tier system in which young and healthy people buy the cheap coverage and those who are sicker and older buy the more comprehensive coverage, quickly leading to a "death spiral" of skyrocketing premiums in the latter. Those low-cost plans Cruz and other Republicans want to bring back are often referred to as "junk insurance," and they're essentially a scam on unsuspecting customers. People are attracted to the low premiums, then when they have a medical need they discover — often at the price of financial catastrophe — that they have almost no coverage at all. Premiums have risen, but what most people have forgotten is that before the ACA, premiums were rising at a much faster rate than they are now. For instance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for an employer-provided family plan rose an average of 63 percent over the five years between 2001 and 2006; over the five years between 2011 and 2016, the average increase was only 20 percent. The story on the individual market has been similar. "It would have been a lot worse if we had done nothing" may not be a politically effective argument, but sometimes it's the truth.
7-18-17 Canada town votes against having a Muslim cemetery
Canada town votes against having a Muslim cemetery
A Canadian town has voted to oppose a zoning change that would allow a Muslim cemetery to be built. The referendum was held on Sunday in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of about 5,000 located just outside Quebec City. Provincial rules meant only 49 people were eligible to vote; the nays won 19-16 and one ballot was rejected. The cemetery was proposed by the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, which was the site of a shooting that killed six people and injured 19 in January. "We never thought people could oppose the installation of a cemetery," the centre's president Mohamed Labidi told Radio-Canada. "What are they afraid of?" The Islamic cultural centre had purchased a plot of land in a wooded area next to an existing cemetery after the shooting. The only Muslim cemetery in Quebec is in Laval, hours from Quebec City. The town's decision to oppose the cemetery has led to an outcry amongst Muslims and civil-rights advocates across the country and may lead to a human rights complaint, Mr Labidi said. The mayor of the town supported the cemetery and has said he fears his town's reputation has been hurt. (Webmaster's comment: The Christian hatred for Muslims in America spreads!)
7-18-17 Afghan female robotics team land in US
Afghan female robotics team land in US
An Afghan all-girl robotics team who were initially denied visas finally arrive in the US, where they are taking part in a major competition.
7-18-17 Justine Damond: 'Why did the police not use their cameras?'
Justine Damond: 'Why did the police not use their cameras?'
Questions are being raised by officials about why a police officer who shot an Australian woman, and his partner, did not record the fatal incident. Justine Damond, 40, was gunned down on Saturday after calling police to report a possible crime in her quiet Minneapolis neighbourhood. State investigators say the officers whom she encountered failed to activate their body or dashboard cameras. Every police officer and squad car in Minneapolis is equipped with cameras. "I have the same questions everyone else does. Why weren't the police cameras on?" said Mayor Betsy Hodges. Minneapolis police are required to switch on their body cameras only during certain encounters, unlike in Los Angeles or Washington DC, where cameras must be switched on for any response to a call for service. Instead, there are more than a dozen situations in which cameras should be used, according to the police manual, which adds that failure to use the camera could result in job termination. "If a BWC [body-worn camera] is not activated prior to a use of force, it shall be activated as soon as it is safe to do so," reads the manual. (Webmaster's comment: Many of the the police in our country are out of control and can kill any one without any reason at any time and probably get away with it.)
7-17-17 Living in fear of President Trump's deportation drive
Living in fear of President Trump's deportation drive
In the early evening in a Hispanic township near Brownsville, Texas, curtains begin to draw, the streets are empty and the playground lies still. "Everyone locks their doors, they're scared," said Maria, who came to America illegally from Mexico 23 years ago. "We close blinds. It looks like a wasteland." Maria is afraid to walk her son to the school bus in the mornings. Maria is one of an estimated 11 million "undocumented immigrants", many of whom have lived in the US for decades, and have American-born children. The lives of many undocumented residents of Texas' Rio Grande valley have changed dramatically since President Trump took office with his pledge to crack down on illegal immigrants.Maria's 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie, is sitting slumped in her chair in the garden moaning quietly. Stephanie, a US citizen, has cerebral palsy and is also plagued by high fevers the local doctors can't explain. Her doctor says it's imperative that she sees a specialist doctor in Corpus Christi, 160 miles away. But that would involve driving through a Border Patrol immigration checkpoint. Maria does not dare risk the drive. "We're scared that her condition is going to deteriorate", said Maria. "But what I'm scared of is that I'll cross a check point and then who's going to take care of my children?"
7-16-17 Chinese gay video ban sparks online backlash
Chinese gay video ban sparks online backlash
A crackdown on a wide range of internet videos by Chinese censors has caused a backlash on the country's popular micro-blogging site Sina Weibo, with many users objecting to a decision to ban content which features same-sex relationships. On Chinese social media, many were left angry, baffled, and upset: "Aren't people born equal? ... What right do you have to discriminate against others?" said one. Another commented: "Aren't homosexuals normal? Why do you push them to a corner?" The outcry was prompted a decision by Beijing regulators to censor the portrayal of homosexual activity in online videos. The regulations, which came into force at the beginning of July, classify homosexuality as "abnormal" sexual behaviour and cover not only explicit sexual content but any portrayal of same-sex relationships, positive or negative - for instance in popular online dramas. On Weibo, the hashtag "Online Content Review Discriminating [Against] Gays" was viewed by millions and generated thousands of comments. And while the decision sparked the biggest backlash from Chinese social media users, the censorship extends further. There are 84 categories of material that were banned from online video programmes by Chinese censors, including prostitution, drug addiction, extra-marital affairs and what authorities deem to be "unhealthy" views of the family, relationships and money. A ban on the portrayal of "erotic behaviour" includes kisses which last for a long time.
7-16-17 Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d'Hiv deportation of Jews
Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d'Hiv deportation of Jews
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris to commemorate the victims of a mass arrest of Jews in Nazi-occupied France in 1942. More than 13,000 Jews were rounded up and detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d'Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps. Mr Netanyahu also held direct talks for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron. He is the first Israeli prime minister to attend the Vel d'Hiv commemorations. "I'm here to mourn the victims," Mr Netanyahu told an audience in Paris, which included Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors. "Seventy-five years ago, a heavy darkness descended on this city... It seems the values of the French revolution - equality, fraternity, liberty - was crushed brutally under the boot of anti-Semitism." He hailed the "great, great human beings" who had risked their lives to save Jews in France during Nazi occupation, and warned of a rise in "extremist forces" in modern society. More than 13,000 Jews were arrested by French police on 16 and 17 July 1942. About 4,000 were children. The families were taken to the Velodrome D'Hiver, a cycling stadium near the Eiffel Tower, or an internment camp set up just outside the capital at Drancy. They were then deported by train, mostly to Auschwitz concentration camp. Fewer than 100 people survived.
7-14-17 Fox News' Shep Smith tears into the Trump administration for its 'mind-boggling' deception
Fox News' Shep Smith tears into the Trump administration for its 'mind-boggling' deception
Fox News host Shep Smith's blistering rant about the Trump administration's "deception" left his fellow Fox News host Chris Wallace speechless Friday. Smith ran through the week's revelations, pointing to the meeting President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., set up with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the presidential election and the report that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to initially note more than 100 foreign contacts on his disclosure form. "We're still not clean on this, Chris," Smith said. "If there's nothing there — and that's what they tell us. They tell us there's nothing to this, that nothing came of it, there's a nothingburger, it wasn't even memorable, didn't write it down, didn't tell you about it, because it wasn't anything, so I didn't even remember it — with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower. If all of that, why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie?" Despite the "mind-boggling" deception, Smith contended that there are "still people out there that believe we're making it up." "One day they're going to realize we're not, and look around and go, 'Where are we and why are we getting told all these lies?'" Smith said. "I don't know what to say," Wallace responded.
7-14-17 US ranked worst healthcare system, while the NHS is the best
US ranked worst healthcare system, while the NHS is the best
An analysis of 11 wealthy nations, including Australia and Canada, has found that the US healthcare system is the worst, particularly for fair and easy access. A comparison of health systems in 11 wealthy nations has found the US falling short by multiple measures, while the UK’s National Health Service leads in several categories. “We measured performance quality across five domains, and the USA fell short in all five,” says Eric Schneider of the Commonwealth Fund think tank in Washington DC. The domains were ease of access to healthcare, how equal access is to people of different incomes, administrative efficiency, how well the care process works for people who use it, and how good the health outcomes are. The analysis included data from sources including the World Health Organization, the OECD, and questionnaires completed by people and their doctors in the 11 countries examined, which also included Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden. Overall, the US ranked last, although it ranked fifth in the care process category. The UK came top overall, but ranked tenth for healthcare outcomes – how well patients fare after treatment. The US fell particularly short when it came to access to healthcare. The study found that in the US, 44 per cent of people on low incomes have difficulty accessing healthcare, and even 26 per cent of those on high incomes report access problems. The equivalent figures in the UK are only 7 and 4 per cent. “A higher-earning person in the US is more likely to meet cost barriers than a low-income person in the UK,” says Schneider.
7-14-17 Trump vs. the media: It gets uglier
Trump vs. the media: It gets uglier
“Press freedom in America is in a wrestling match for its life,” said Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Daily News. President Trump’s ongoing feud with the mainstream media hit “a new rock bottom” in recent weeks after he launched a vicious personal attack on MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski—claiming he recently saw her “bleeding badly from a face-lift”—but then retweeted a video from a far-right supporter that showed Trump body-slamming a person with a CNN logo for a head. “Trump’s unholy jihad” against the press has resulted in an avalanche of death threats against journalists in recent months; at the G-20 summit last week, he happily agreed when Russia’s authoritarian President Vladimir Putin said that American journalists were “hurting” him. The goal of Trump’s “fake news” campaign is to persuade supporters not to believe anything they read or hear about him, said Will Oremus in Slate.com. “When there is no objective source of truth, the best liar wins—and that’s exactly how Trump wants it.” (Webmaster's comment: When Hitler came into power he did the very same thing, he demonized the media first before censoring them and finally shutting them down.)
7-14-17 America’s declining global leadership
America’s declining global leadership
Donald Trump has now proved that he has “neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world,” said Chris Uhlmann in ABC.net.au (Australia). At the G-20 summit in Hamburg last week, where the world’s leading nations came together to reaffirm their mutual commitments to free trade and combating climate change, Trump was the surly outsider, eschewing both causes. He failed even to mention the one issue the other leaders would have backed him on: condemning North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile test. The American president clearly has no convictions. He “craves power because it burnishes his celebrity,” and he “barks out bile in 140 characters” instead of promoting democracy and what used to be American values. He shunned U.S. allies and drooled all over Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has now ceded global leadership to China and Russia, “two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.”
7-14-17 Trump says US-Mexico wall may not need to cover entire border
Trump says US-Mexico wall may not need to cover entire border
President Donald Trump says his proposed border wall may not need to cover the whole US frontier with Mexico because of existing natural barriers. He told journalists travelling on Air Force One to France that it also needed to be transparent, to offer border guards visibility into Mexico. He also reiterated his desire the final design would involve solar panels. Building the wall, and having it paid for by Mexico, was one of Mr Trump's key campaign promises. Now, almost six months into his presidency, it seems he is acknowledging some of the geographical and practical difficulties of such a construction. On the flight to Paris from Washington, Mr Trump told reporters that a wall along the whole 2,000-mile (3,200km) US-Mexico border might not be necessary. "You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious," he said. "You have some areas that are so far away that you don't really have people crossing." Instead, all that was required was "anywhere from 700 to 900 miles of see-through wall". (Webmaster's comment: Trump backtracks again!)
7-14-17 Trump travel ban: Judge expands definition of 'close relative'
Trump travel ban: Judge expands definition of 'close relative'
Grandparents and other relatives of people living in the US cannot be barred from entering under President Trump's travel ban, a judge has ruled. The order, by District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii, is a fresh legal blow to Mr Trump's immigration crackdown. The judge said the ban had interpreted a Supreme Court ruling too narrowly. That decision, made last month, partly reinstated the ban on refugees and travellers from six Muslim-majority countries. It said only those with "bona fide" family ties would be let into the US. But the Trump administration decided that did not include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins. Judge Watson, however, disagreed - and ordered that those restrictions should not be enforced.
7-14-17 Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?
Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?
More than 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan are fighting deportation after being arrested in an immigration crackdown ordered by the Trump administration. Most were detained for visa violations, including past criminal convictions, that had been ignored by US officials for years, even decades. Many in the community supported Donald Trump's presidential campaign and say they never thought they would be targeted by raids. (Webmaster's comment: Why shouldn't they be targeted. They are here illegally. What different does being a Christian make?)
7-14-17 Trump is seen as unjust tyrant by his supporters
Trump is seen as unjust tyrant by his supporters
NPR’s reading and tweeting of the entire Declaration of Independence on July 4 sparked outrage among supporters of President Trump who mistook the founding document’s reference to an unjust “tyrant” for anti-Trump propaganda. “So NPR is calling for a revolution,” one Trump supporter responded. Said another, “This is why you’re going to get defunded.”
7-14-17 Poll watch
72% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believe that colleges and universities have an overall positive effect on the country. But 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel these institutions have a negative effect. Republicans also hold a negative view of the media by an 85% to 10% margin.
7-14-17 March for justice
March for justice
More than 1 million protesters braved 104-degree heat for an enormous rally in Istanbul this week, cheering the leader of the opposition as he concluded a 250-mile march on foot from Ankara. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the Republican People’s Party, called for the return of an independent judiciary and a free press, and for an end to the mass dismissals and arrests that began in the aftermath of last summer’s failed coup. Hundreds of thousands of people have been purged from their jobs or arrested. Marchers wore shirts and carried signs reading “Adalet,” or justice. “We walked for the rights of the oppressed, for the imprisoned lawmakers, the jailed journalists,” Kilicdaroglu said. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Istanbul on the day of the march but made no public reference to it. (Webmaster's comment: Protesting agqainst the new Turkey dictator.)
7-14-17 Here comes China
Here comes China
China is setting up its first overseas military base in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti, where the U.S. also has a base. Two Chinese warships carrying an unknown number of personnel set out this week for the port. An editorial in China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said the goal was to allow China to conduct humanitarian operations and combat piracy in the region. “It’s not about seeking to control the world,” said the editorial. Djibouti sits on a strategic strait that connects the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden. France and Japan also have bases there. (Webmaster's comment: Imperialism is alive and well.)
7-12-17 Artificial Intelligence ushers in the era of superhuman doctors
Artificial Intelligence ushers in the era of superhuman doctors
Non-human intelligence will soon be a standard part of your medical care – if it isn’t already. Can you trust it? THE doctor’s eyes flit from your face to her notes. “How long would you say that’s been going on?” You think back: a few weeks, maybe longer? She marks it down. “Is it worse at certain times of day?” Tough to say – it comes and goes. She asks more questions before prodding you, listening to your heart, shining a light in your eyes. Minutes later, you have a diagnosis and a prescription. Only later do you remember that fall you had last month – should you have mentioned it? Oops. One in 10 medical diagnoses is wrong, according to the US Institute of Medicine. In primary care, one in 20 patients will get a wrong diagnosis. Such errors contribute to as many as 80,000 unnecessary deaths each year in the US alone. These are worrying figures, driven by the complex nature of diagnosis, which can encompass incomplete information from patients, missed hand-offs between care providers, biases that cloud doctors’ judgement, overworked staff, overbooked systems, and more. The process is riddled with opportunities for human error. This is why many want to use the constant and unflappable power of artificial intelligence to achieve more accurate diagnosis, prompt care and greater efficiency. (Webmaster's comment: Every artificial intelligence diagnoses should be carefully reviewed by a human doctor. The AI doctor needs a lot more time in internship before we accept its recommendations without review.)
7-12-17 Marijuana shortage: Nevada considers emergency measures
Marijuana shortage: Nevada considers emergency measures
State officials in Nevada are considering emergency measures to deal with a lack of marijuana. Demand has been strong since recreational use was legalised on 1 July. There are plenty of outlets but not enough distributors, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. Legislation gave liquor wholesalers the right to distribute, but most do not meet the licence requirements, Nevada's tax department is quoted as saying. The department issued a "statement of emergency", which means state officials could adopt emergency measures to combat the shortage. The journal quotes tax department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein as saying that many of Nevada's 47 marijuana stores are running out amid "reports of adult-use marijuana sales already far exceeding the industry's expectations".
7-12-17 Nations of the world agree to ban nuclear weapons – now what?
Nations of the world agree to ban nuclear weapons – now what?
Most of the world’s countries have agreed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, but with the nuclear powers boycotting it, will it make a difference? On 7 July, most of the world’s countries voted to ban nuclear weapons. None of them, however, actually have The Bomb. Countries that do – or rely on a nuclear weapons for defence – boycotted the vote. Despite this its backers argue that a treaty making nuclear weapons illegal is a long-overdue step towards nuclear disarmament, a process that has withered under existing treaties. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, widely called the nuclear ban treaty, obliges countries “never, under any circumstances, to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons”, or transfer, use or threaten to use them, or help other countries do so. It calls eliminating nuclear weapons “a global public good of the highest order”, necessary for “human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and the health of current and future generations”. The treaty was supported by 3480 prominent scientists when negotiations began in March. (Webmaster's comment: If you have a bigger club than your neighbors you're not going to give it up. You can use it to intimidate them and get their food and women! It's just the drive to survive and breed at work.)
7-12-17 Japanese-American internment: 'They came for me'
Japanese-American internment: 'They came for me'
A new exhibit on Japanese-American internment camps in WW2 warns of the dangers of ignoring history. (Webmaster's comment: During his campaign Trump already talked about forcing Muslims to wear a Muslim label, and having camps for Muslims "until we know what's going on." Those ideas are right out of the Hitler playbook.)
7-11-17 Online harassment on the rise – but no one can agree what it is
Online harassment on the rise – but no one can agree what it is
People in the US want more policing of online harassment, but the varying ways it affects different groups make it difficult to agree on a definition. With great power comes great responsibility. Social media and online platforms let us have conversations across continents, but that discourse comes at a cost. In the US, 41 per cent of people have experienced online harassment, according to a survey published today by the Pew Research Center. This is a six per cent uptick since 2014, when Pew last conducted a similar survey. The rise may not seem enormous, but given how long we’ve been searching for solutions, some people are surprised the numbers are still going up. “Despite the attention from companies, policymakers, researchers and the public, harassment levels have stayed pretty consistent,” says survey author Maeve Duggan at the Pew Research Center in Washington DC. What’s more surprising is that people still can’t agree on a definition. That may be related to the finding that different groups experience online harassment in different ways. For example, men experience it slightly more often than women and are twice as likely to be targeted for their political views, but women are more likely to report abuse that targets them for their gender alone. One in five young women reported being sexually harassed. Black people reported far more incidents of being harassed online simply for being black, rather than in response to any particular view or comment. This difference in experiences may explain why people are divided on solutions: 45 per cent of people in the US say it’s more important to let people speak freely online, while 53 per cent say it’s more important to feel safe. (Webmaster's comment: What we're talking about is not free speech but the freedom to bully, the freedom to be a brute, no matter who you hurt. I say there is no such freedom. A brute is a brute, a bully is a bully, and he/she needs to be in prison until they realize they're not in the grade school playground anymore.)
7-11-17 Belgian face veil ban backed in European court ruling
Belgian face veil ban backed in European court ruling
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Belgium's ban on face veils does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights. It was a ruling in a case brought by two women who wanted to wear the niqab veil, which covers all but the eyes. Belgium banned the wearing of partial or total face veils in public in 2011. The court agreed that the ban sought to guarantee the concept of "living together" and the "protection of the rights and freedoms of others". The court came to a similar judgement on Tuesday in the case of a Belgian woman who was contesting a bylaw brought in by three Belgian municipalities in 2008 that also banned face veils. The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959 and rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. (Webmaster's comment: Wearing a face covering is the way a criminal aviods being recognized when he/she is committing a crime. Anyone could be behind that mask and they could get away with a crime. There is no reason society should take that risk for a barbaric religious practice.)
7-11-17 Italian uproar over fascist-themed beach near Venice
Italian uproar over fascist-themed beach near Venice
When a national newspaper revealed that a beach near Venice was styling itself on the fascist era of Benito Mussolini, police quickly raided the club. One sign said "Anti-democratic zone and regime" while another appeared to joke about the Nazi Holocaust, reading "Entry forbidden - gas chamber". The Venice prefect ordered "any references to fascism" to be removed. But now the row has spread to parliament, over a bill to tighten up laws against promoting fascism. Under the proposals put forward by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), propaganda praising the Mussolini or Nazi regimes would become a crime punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill is particularly geared towards material posted on the internet. (Webmaster's comment: The evil spreads! Just like we kill mad dogs we must protect ourselves from those who are driven by hate and act on it.)
7-11-17 Delays leave transgender military recruits in limbo
Delays leave transgender military recruits in limbo
When then-US Defence Secretary Ash Carter announced last June that transgender people would be permitted to serve openly in the armed forces it was a landmark moment for thousands of troops who had hidden their identities and put off medical treatment, as well as for potential recruits unable to join up. But a year on from that decision, progress opening the armed forces to transgender Americans has stalled amid delays and attacks from congressional Republicans. On the eve of the deadline for the Pentagon to begin allowing new transgender recruits, on the first of this month, Defence Secretary James Mattis announced a six-month delay so that the services could "evaluate more carefully" the impact of transgender troops on "readiness and lethality". Some congressional Republicans celebrated the delay and have since called for the policy to be reversed entirely. Vicky Hartzler, Republican for Missouri, introduced an amendment at the end of June to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for all transgender service members to be honourably discharged and for funds that would have been used for their medical care to be directed to buying new aircraft. (Webmaster's comment: The hatred for LGBTs is alve and well in the Republican party.)
7-11-17 Young, gay, and Chinese
Young, gay, and Chinese
How a new generation is coming out in a country where they may very well be shunned. When Piao Chunmei's son told her he was gay, she reacted the way many Chinese parents do, sleepless and crying for days due to the lingering shame of same sex relationships in China. But she eventually accepted her son and is now part of an expanding network of gays and their parents who help other families cope with the stress of coming out in a country which until 2001, classified homosexuality as a mental illness. Deep-seated cultural expectations for each generation to produce a male heir — heightened by China's "one-child policy," which expanded to two in 2015 — added to the pressure to conform. But a new generation is more willing to take a stand on their sexuality, despite what their relatives may think. Piao and her fellow volunteers bridge the generation gap. "We don't want to shut them in the closet where no one can see them," says Piao, an effervescent 54-year-old who works for a Shanghai cosmetics equipment company. Taiwan's top court recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Shanghai's low-key annual gay pride festival is in its ninth year, and opinion surveys increasingly indicate greater public acceptance of China's gays. On May 20, "Lover's Day" in China, a group of mothers, affiliated with the U.S.-founded PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), caused a stir by appearing at a Shanghai park where parents regularly display advertisements seeking marriage matches for their heterosexual children. The gate-crashing parents did the same for their gay children — before police escorted them out.
7-10-18 If democratic socialism is so bad, why is Norway so great?
The spectacular upset victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her recent New York congressional primary election has catapulted the topic of democratic socialism to the top of America's political discussion. Conservatives have argued that the leftist politics of Ocasio-Cortez represent a policy program guaranteed to fail, and a sure electoral loser for Democrats. (Plenty of moderate liberals, including my colleague Damon Linker, have cosigned the latter part of that argument, too.). Let's set aside electoral politics for now and focus solely on democratic socialist policies. Helpfully, we have a country that very closely approximates the democratic socialist ideal. It's a place that is not only very far from a hellish dystopia, but also considerably more successful than the United States on virtually every social metric one can name. I'm talking about Norway. Norway is not some destitute hellscape. Indeed, not only are Norwegian stores well-stocked with toilet paper, it is actually considerably more wealthy than the U.S., with a GDP of over $70,000 per person. Even when you correct for the moderately large oil sector (which accounts for a bit less than a quarter of its exports), it still has a cutting-edge, ultra-productive economy — far from some petro-state living off oil rents like Dubai. Socially, it routinely ranks as the happiest (2017) or second-happiest (2018) country in the world. The rest of the Nordics are also usually among the top five as well — even more remarkable when you factor in the phenomenon of seasonal affective disorder and the extreme northerly position of the Scandinavian peninsula. On a snapshot of other quality-of-life measures, Norway boasts: A life expectancy of 81.7 years, An infant mortality rate of two per 1,000 live births, A murder rate of 0.51 per 100,000, An incarceration rate of 74 per 100,000. How does all that compare to the United States? Well, our economy is somewhat less wealthy, with per capita GDP of $59,500 — but to be fair, that is about the highest outside of oil-rich or tax haven countries. Socially, however, the picture is much worse: America ranks in the mid-teens for happiest countries, while its life expectancy is two years behind Norway, and actually fell in 2016 and 2017. America's infant mortality rate is three times higher. Its murder rate is over 10 times higher, as is its incarceration rate.
7-10-17 Why Trump thinks he's knocking his presidency out of the park
Why Trump thinks he's knocking his presidency out of the park
Over the course of American history there have been great presidents, terrible presidents, and many in between. But here's a prediction: Even if Donald Trump is defeated soundly in 2020 and leaves office with record-low approval ratings, leaving behind him a trail of scandals and an agenda in tatters, he'll say to anyone who'll listen, "I was the most amazing president ever. Except for maybe Abe Lincoln, but maybe not. That went so terrific, believe me." Will he believe it himself? It's hard to tell what lurks in Trump's brain. But so far, he seems to believe that he's absolutely knocking this presidenting thing out the park. "Never has there been a president, with few exceptions — case of FDR, he had a major depression to handle — who has passed more legislation and who has done more things than what we've done," he said a few weeks ago, despite the fact that he has not signed a single significant piece of legislation. Every president and every White House engages in spin, of course — they express limitless optimism that success will be theirs once everyone realizes the wisdom of their plans and the purity of their intentions. But Trump has raised spin to an entirely different level, creating a world where everything he does is a smashing success, no matter how dissatisfied the public is and how little he manages to get done.
7-10-17 Is God boosting Stephen Colbert's ratings?
Is God boosting Stephen Colbert's ratings?
Before 2017, Jimmy Fallon dominated Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel in the late night talk show ratings wars. But Colbert has since emerged as the victor, besting his rivals in overall viewership for the recently concluded 2016-2017 season. Colbert ended the September-to-May season with an average of 3.19 million nightly viewers, compared to Fallon's 3.17 million and Kimmel's 2.2 million. (The previous season, Fallon absolutely crushed his competitors.) Given that Colbert's rise started the week of President Trump's inauguration, publications from Variety to Newsweek have credited the CBS comic's newfound popularity to his stinging criticisms of the president. There's obviously truth to this. Colbert routinely hammers Trump — far more often and usually far more effectively than either Fallon or Kimmel. Many liberal viewers love Colbert for this. But there's more to his rise than just throwing red meat to throngs of Trump-hating viewers. I'm talking about God. (Webmaster's comment: What follows in this article is absolutely nuts! God speaks to this guy directly!)
7-9-17 KKK rally in Virginia met with rivals and clashes
KKK rally in Virginia met with rivals and clashes
A rally by dozens of supporters of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) group in the US state of Virginia has been outnumbered by counter-protesters. Scuffles broke out and several people were arrested. (Webmaster's comment: Trump let the pigs out. We have to put them back in!)
7-9-17 KKK rally in Virginia leads to rival protests and clashes
KKK rally in Virginia leads to rival protests and clashes
A march by supporters of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) group in the US state of Virginia has been met by hundreds of rival demonstrators. Dozens of KKK members took part in an authorised march to protest at the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee from Charlottesville. General Lee oversaw the pro-slavery Confederate forces in the US civil war. The marchers, some carrying Confederate flags, were separated from rival groups by metal barricades and armed police. The KKK supporters were escorted to and from the rally on Saturday by police. They were greeted in the university town by large crowds chanting "shame" and "racists go home" shortly after they had gathered at Justice Park. "Police were deployed to secure access to the park and ensure the safety of all involved," a Virginia State Police spokeswoman said. Police declared the counter-protests "unlawful" and used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Several people were arrested, local media report. Defending the Confederate flag and monuments that recall the era of slavery have become a rallying cause for both old and new branches of the far right in the US. Some observers argue that US President Donald Trump's election to the White House has re-energised the far right movement across the United States. (Webmaster's comment: Note who the police attacked and who the police supported. Police are becoming increasingly supportive of right-wing male terrorists!)
7-9-17 US priest pulls out gun in Florida road rage incident
US priest pulls out gun in Florida road rage incident
A North Carolina priest faces assault charges after he pulled out a gun in a road rage incident, officials say. They say the priest, William Rian Adams, was driving near Palm City in Florida when a pick-up truck that had been following his Chevrolet Corvette closely tried to overtake him. Mr Adams, 35, then "pointed a semi-automatic hand gun" at the two people in the other vehicle, police say. The priest was arrested on Friday after the victims reported the incident. He is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. (Webmaster's comment: Another Christian leader filled with hate. I thought Jesus was supposed to teach love!)
7-9-17 China and Taiwan mixed up in White House gaffe
China and Taiwan mixed up in White House gaffe
A formal statement from the White House was issued with a very public error - mixing up China and Taiwan. A press release following Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit called him president "of the Republic of China". That is the official name of Taiwan. Mr Xi is, in fact, President of the People's Republic of China. Earlier, the White House had also labelled Shinzo Abe president of Japan. He is the prime minister. (Webmaster's comment: Symptoms of the shambles that are running rampant in the Trump administration! Never has our country been led by such incompetents!)
7-9-17 Turkey protest: Istanbul rally concludes anti-Erdogan march
Turkey protest: Istanbul rally concludes anti-Erdogan march
Tens of thousands of people are due to rally in the Turkish city of Istanbul at the end of a 450km (280-mile) protest march against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Huge crowds have joined the "justice" march since it began in the capital Ankara on 15 June. They are demonstrating against the mass dismissals and imprisonments that followed last year's failed coup. President Erdogan has accused the marchers of supporting terrorism. He said the Republican People's Party (CHP) - which has organised the march - had gone beyond political opposition and was "acting with terrorist organisations and the forces inciting them against our country". CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu launched the march after one of his MPs, Enis Berberoglu, was arrested for allegedly leaking documents purporting to show that the government was arming jihadists in Syria. Mr Berberoglu denies the charge. Sunday's rally is taking place in an area close to the jail in which he is being held. (Webmaster's comment: We'll need marches like this in America as Trump follows the lead of other upcoming dictators! There isn't a moral or ethical bone in his body!)
7-9-17 The interfaith philosophy of the Islamic world
The interfaith philosophy of the Islamic world
There was a time when Muslim, Jewish, and Christian philosophers worked together in their teachings. you were asked to name the most important philosopher of 10th century Baghdad, you would presumably not hesitate to say "al-Farabi." He's one of the few thinkers of the Islamic world known to non-specialists, deservedly so given his ambitious reworking of Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics and political philosophy. But if you were yourself a resident of 10th century Baghdad, you might more likely think of Yahya ibn 'Adi. He is hardly a household name now, but was mentioned by the historian al-Mas'udi as the only significant teacher of Aristotelian philosophy in his day. But ibn 'Adi is not just a good example of how fame wanes across the centuries. He is also a fine illustration of the inter-religious nature of philosophy in the Islamic world. (Webmaster's comment: The Islamic Moors ruled in Spain for over 700 years and lived peacefully side-by-side with Jews and Christians there. Watch the Movies: When the Moors Ruled in Europe, Cities of Light. It was the Christians who were filled with hate for other religions and who with their Crusades - watch the Movies: Crusades, The Crusades, Holy Warriors, Armies of Heaven-book, Holy Warriors-book, and their Inquisitions - watch the Movies: The Inquisition, Secret Files of the Inquisition, Gods Jury-book, and their continued hate brought us to the world of hate we have today.)
7-7-17 Canada 'paid $8m' to Omar Khadr, ex-Guantanamo detainee
Canada 'paid $8m' to Omar Khadr, ex-Guantanamo detainee
Canada has issued a C$10.5m ($8m; £6m) settlement to former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr. The federal government also apologised "for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm." Canadian-born Khadr, 30, was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan at the age of 15, and spent a decade in Guantanamo. He was convicted in 2010 by a US military commission of killing US Army Sgt Christopher Speer. "We hope that this expression, and the negotiated settlement reached with the Government, will assist him in his efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in his life with his fellow Canadians," said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in a statement. The Liberal government refused to officially disclose the the amount of the legal settlement despite the figure being widely leaked to numerous media outlets. Khadr was suing the government for $20m on claims Ottawa conspired with the US in breaching his constitutional rights. Khadr was the youngest prisoner ever detained at the US military prison in Cuba. He became a cause celebre for opponents of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and his case received international attention. Khadr said his confessions to US officials were made under duress. (Webmaster's comment: A 15 year-old boy child would confess to anything when tortured wouldn't he.)
7-7-17 China’s quantum satellite adds two new tricks to its repertoire
China’s quantum satellite adds two new tricks to its repertoire
Era of ultrasecure communication inches closer. China’s quantum satellite has met two more milestones, performing quantum teleportation and transmitting quantum encryption keys through space. Scientists teleported the properties of photons, or particles of light, from a ground station in Tibet to the satellite. A record-breaking quantum satellite has again blown away the competition, achieving two new milestones in long-distance quantum communications through space. In June, Chinese researchers demonstrated that the satellite Micius could send entangled quantum particles to far-flung locations on Earth, their properties remaining intertwined despite being separated by more than 1,200 kilometers (SN Online: 6/15/17). Now researchers have used the satellite to teleport particles’ properties and transmit quantum encryption keys. The result, reported in two papers published online July 3 and July 4 at arXiv.org, marks the first time the two techniques have been demonstrated in space. (Webmaster's comment: The Chinese have taken a clear lead in this cutting edge technology. In response Trump has cut our science budget.)
7-7-17 Trump takes 'American carnage' global
Trump takes 'American carnage' global
On the president's dark speech in Warsaw. has been more than five months since President Trump used his inauguration speech to paint an image of "American carnage" that could only be reversed by him alone. On Thursday, to great praise, he offered its direct sequel: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive," Trump told the enthusiastic audience spread out before him in Poland's Krasinski Square. Reportedly crafted by Trump's top speechwriter, Stephen Miller, as well as Ronald Reagan's former speechwriter, Tony Dolan, the president's speech in Warsaw, with its rhetorical flourishes and catchy lines, was immediately recognizable as being what "the White House sees as one of the most important speeches of his presidency," Axios writes. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol reluctantly raved that "Trump's speech in Warsaw was an appropriate, even eloquent, speech worthy of a president speaking for America," using the hashtag #CreditWhereCreditIsDue. Trump critic Dan Rather agreed, calling the speech the "best of his presidency." Roger Kimball, writing for PJ Media, went even farther: "If you want to know why Donald Trump will go down in history as a great president," he said, "listen to (or read, when it is available) his speech in Krasinski Square, Warsaw, today." But while Trump excluded the "America first" language of his inaugural speech while in Warsaw — the phrase "stings in places that aren't America," Axios wryly notes — the president's words on Thursday were no less ominous and nationalistic than those that followed his swearing in. The climax of the speech, which The New York Times deemed "dark and confrontational," is a frightening warning to America and its allies abroad: (Webmaster's comment: As I've said, Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States and the Planet!)
7-7-17 Walter Shaub: US ethics chief quits amid Trump tensions
Walter Shaub: US ethics chief quits amid Trump tensions
The US government's top ethics watchdog has announced his intention to resign, after repeatedly clashing with President Donald Trump. Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), will leave his post on 19 July. "In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics programme," he said. The White House said in a statement that it "appreciates his service". "The president will be nominating a successor in short order," it added. Mr Shaub was appointed to a five-year term in 2013, and had six months left. He will now join the non-profit Campaign Legal Center, which advocates tougher campaign finance laws, as its senior director of ethics.
7-7-17 View of Trump soured
View of Trump soured
The world’s view of the U.S. has soured under President Trump, according to a 37-country poll by Pew Research. Some 49 percent of respondents now have a favorable opinion of the U.S., down from 64 percent at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. A median 22 percent think Trump will do the right thing in foreign relations, compared with 64 percent for Obama. Trump outpolls Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel.
7-7-17 Gerrymandering: A GOP advantage?
Gerrymandering: A GOP advantage?
The Supreme Court will soon make “one of the most important rulings on political power in decades,” said David Savage in the Los Angeles Times. The nation’s highest court has agreed to rule on whether partisan gerrymandering—the redrawing of political districts to favor one party—is unconstitutional. The justices have previously struck down electoral maps drawn along racial lines, but never partisan ones. What’s changed? For one thing, advances in data analysis have made the practice significantly more effective. In Wisconsin, the subject of this case, Republicans won 48.6 percent of votes in 2012 state legislative races, yet “still won 60 of the 99 seats.” The plaintiffs have also cited a new “efficiency gap” formula, which measures “wasted votes”—those cast for a losing candidate, and for the winner beyond what was required to win—to calculate whether a map is unfair. Republicans have weaponized gerrymandering across the U.S., said Thomas Wolf in Time.com. One study found that up to 17 current GOP House seats were won with “extremely biased maps.”
7-7-17 Trump panders to the Miami Cubans
Trump panders to the Miami Cubans
Miami Cubans are an embarrassment, said Juana Carrasco Martín. When President Trump announced in Miami recently that he was curbing former President Obama’s détente with Havana, a crowd of Cuban exiles whooped and cheered his retrograde Cold War rhetoric, chanting “USA! USA!” and waving American flags. Yet this “small and intolerant group” is a minority, not just of Americans but also of Cuban-Americans, most of whom support increased ties, trade, and tourism between the two nations. It’s ironic that the man who pushed Trump to reverse diplomatic progress, Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, was not born in Cuba, has never visited it, and doesn’t “understand Cubans’ efforts, work, and sacrifices to safeguard their independence and sovereignty.” When Rubio addressed the rally, “he spoke in English,” like everybody else. But it turns out that Trump lied to the Miami Cubans. All his new directive does is slightly tighten travel restrictions for Americans. The U.S. Embassy in Havana will remain open, commercial flights and cruise trips to Cuba will continue, and the 22 accords that the Obama administration signed with Havana—on issues as diverse as maritime and air safety and cooperation on the environment—are still in effect. The Miami Cubans are just the latest dupes of this “arrogant, incoherent” excuse for a president.
7-7-17 American ignorance
38% of Americans know that the House-passed American Health Care Act would make major cuts to Medicaid funding. About 25% of voters said the bill would make “minor reductions.” 13% didn’t realize there were any proposed cuts. (Webmaster's comment: You'll be more than sorry when you get older.)
7-6-17 Hobby Lobby: Christian firm's artefact smuggling case settled
Hobby Lobby: Christian firm's artefact smuggling case settled
A major US arts and crafts company has forfeited thousands of smuggled ancient artefacts from Iraq it had bought for a Bible museum. Christian-owned firm Hobby Lobby has agreed to hand over the smuggled items and pay $3m (£2.3m) in a settlement. US attorneys say it violated federal law by importing thousands of clay tablets and tokens as "tile samples". Hobby Lobby said it "did not fully appreciate the complexities" of the import process when it began. The retailer is well-known for being at the centre of a 2014 US Supreme Court battle to avoid paying for female workers' contraception on religious grounds. Lawyers in New York said the company had imported "thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae" - a way of recording information before the widespread use of paper. The ancient artefacts were smuggled into the US through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel to Hobby Lobby's Oklahoma offices, with falsified shipping labels claiming the packages contained "ceramic tiles", and originated in Turkey and Israel. (Webmaster's comment: These so-called CHRISTIANS kind of forgot their GOD's 8th commandment didn't they!)
7-6-17 The biggest threat to science? The scientists themselves.
The biggest threat to science? The scientists themselves.
veral times in recent months, thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., to show their support for science. They came to stand up to the threat posed by the Trump administration, which has proposed draconian cuts to federal science programs, appointed an Environmental Protection Agency head who denies the scientific consensus on climate change, disbanded a commission to fix forensic science, floated a vaccine safety commission headed by a notorious vaccine "skeptic," and threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. This new level of political activism on behalf of science has set off a debate over whether it might backfire by turning scientists into just another partisan group. The concern that scientists will lose the public's trust if they engage in politics is almost certainly overblown. In an era when trust in almost all of our society's institutions has declined, trust in science has held steady. A recent Pew survey found that "public confidence in scientists stands out among the most stable of about 13 institutions" that have been rated in a survey conducted regularly since the 1970s. When asked which institutions are likely to act in the best interests of the public, survey respondents had the most confidence in the military, followed by scientists and medical scientists. Elected officials and business leaders ranked at the bottom. The public trusts science because it is obvious that science works. You don't have to work in a lab to directly see the results of science, which are apparent in our cars, our computers, and our cancer treatments. (Webmaster's comment: And don't trust the Evil Religious Groups who preach anti-science nonsense like there was no evolution and earth is 6,000 years old!)
7-6-17 Turkey police hold rights activists including Amnesty chief
Turkey police hold rights activists including Amnesty chief
Turkish police have arrested eight leading human rights activists including Amnesty International's Turkey director Idil Eser in Istanbul. Two trainers - from Germany and Sweden - were also arrested in the raid on a digital security workshop at a hotel in Buyukada. The police raid was "blatantly without cause", an Amnesty statement said. The group's whereabouts are unknown. Police have jailed more than 50,000 people since a coup plot a year ago. The police action "is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country", said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "Idil Eser and those detained with her must be immediately and unconditionally released." The workshop was organised by Netherlands-based rights group Hivos. (Webmaster's comment: And Trump supports this dictatorship. We'll be next.)
7-6-17 Canadian military who crashed indigenous ceremony suspended
Canadian military who crashed indigenous ceremony suspended
Five members of the Canadian Armed Forces are facing possible expulsion from the military after crashing an indigenous event on Canada Day. General Jonathan Vance, Canada's top soldier, has opened an investigation into the weekend incident and has called it "deplorable". Video from the day shows a tense exchange between the servicemen and people attending the ceremony. One claims they are members of an alt-right group called "Proud Boys". That group describes itself on Facebook as "a fraternal organisation of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologise for creating the modern world". Among the values they cite are minimal government, anti-political correctness, closed borders, anti-racial guilt, anti-racism, glorifying the entrepreneur and venerating the housewife. In video from Saturday's confrontation, the servicemen are seen carrying Canada's former "Red Ensign" flag, which includes the Union flag and went out of official use in 1965 after being replaced by the maple leaf design. One woman is heard asking: "What caused you to feel the need to bring a British flag?" One man responds: "Because it's a British colony." (Webmaster's comment: One thing is for sure is that these guys have never created anything except hate!)
7-6-17 Emily Lance threatened after urinating on US flag on 4 July
Emily Lance threatened after urinating on US flag on 4 July
A woman who shared a video of herself urinating on an American flag has asked that people stop targeting her family, saying they do not support her actions. Emily Lance received online threats of murder and rape after posting the video during Independence Day celebrations. Her account is no longer on Facebook but she previously posted that her father and his workplace had also been "targeted", reports say. Desecrating a US flag is not illegal due to strong freedom of speech laws. "What don't you people understand? You're celebrating freedom while damning me for doing the same. You can't have it both ways," she said. (Webmaster's comment: Dumb to do, but it is her right.)
7-5-17 The ethics issue: Should we impose population controls?
The ethics issue: Should we impose population controls?
Future generations risk inheriting an overcrowded, suffocating planet. Taking action may mean what was taboo is now common sense. Fears that we are too many are nothing new. As long ago as 1798, the English writer Thomas Malthus warned that a growing population would eat its way through the planet’s finite resources, condemning millions to die of starvation. We haven’t exhausted our supplies quite yet, but seven billion people later our planet’s ability to support us all comfortably does appear to be under threat. If we all lived like affluent Americans, say, resource consumption and carbon emissions would be at unsustainable levels. Given the clear and present dangers posed by climate change, how can we look after future generations without keeping half of the world’s population in poverty? For Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the answer is reducing birth rates – and not in the places you might expect. When it comes to climate change, says Rieder, “my American kid is way more problematic than the many children a family might have in poor, high-birth-rate countries”. And should the worst consequences of climate change come to pass, it will be the poorest that suffer most severely. So let’s assume that the West is incapable of slashing carbon emissions or finding a technological silver bullet (see “The ethics issue: Should we geoengineer the planet?“). In this case, we are obliged to explore all options, including the taboo subject of population control. “It’s the one variable we haven’t been prepared to talk about, but if we could reduce fertility, it would have a powerful effect on emissions,” says Rieder.
7-5-17 Is Congress finally going to take back its power to declare war?
Is Congress finally going to take back its power to declare war?
The war in Afghanistan — the longest sustained military conflict in American history — could soon come to an end. So could any number of "humanitarian interventions," "kinetic military actions," "surgical strikes," or any other euphemisms for war that the U.S. has relied upon for the past 16 years. And it could happen because one congresswoman who saw through the fog of fear and rage in the days after the 9/11 attacks — and presciently warned of the dangers of handing a blank check to the executive branch to wage war against an amorphous stateless enemy — was able to convince her colleagues that it was well past time for Congress to do its job with regard to sending our service men and women into battle. Last week, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) submitted an amendment into the House Appropriations Committee's 2018 defense spending bill that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force within 240 days of the bill's enactment. The one-page act "applies with respect to each operation or other action that is being carried out pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force initiated before such effective date." This means that authorization to continue the generation-long war in Afghanistan, the routine drone strikes in places like Pakistan and Yemen, and the global battlefield that includes anywhere al Qaeda or its offshoot ISIS have set up shop, would revert to Congress rather than the president.
7-5-17 Map charts early massacres of indigenous Australians
Map charts early massacres of indigenous Australians
Researchers have created what they say is the most comprehensive map yet to detail the massacres of indigenous Australians by European settlers. More than 150 locations feature on the online map, which presently covers only the nation's east coast. The total number of deaths following British settlement in 1788 has long been debated, but many historians estimate it numbered tens of thousands. Researchers hope the map will help with education and creating monuments. The project includes details about the number of people killed at each site, which weapons were used, and who was responsible. The information was compiled over four years and corroborated through sources including settler diaries, newspaper reports, court records and letters. "For many Australians, this kind of information will come as a shock," project author Prof Lyndall Ryan told the BBC. (Webmaster's comment: They need to create a map like this for the massacres of indigenous Americans (the Indians) in the United States. Only it would not be "tens of thousands", it would be MILLIONS! Killing off the "heathens" was a full-time job for many Americans. They were called indian fighters like Danial Boone and Davy Crockett, and the American Military!)
7-5-17 Turkey protesters stage long march against Erdogan
Turkey protesters stage long march against Erdogan
At 08:00, the motorway tarmac was radiating heat. There was no shade from the 30C heat, just the exhaust fumes of passing cars. Not the most pleasant route for a walk. But spirits were high. "Adalet!" chanted the thousands gathered - "Justice!" Their white T-shirts emblazoned with the word rapidly became soaked with sweat on day 19 of a 450km (280-mile) march from Ankara to Istanbul. The movement began when Enis Berberoglu, an opposition MP from the Republican People's Party (CHP), was arrested for allegedly leaking documents purporting to show the Turkish government arming jihadists in Syria, which he denies. But it has become a wider uprising against what participants see as an erosion of democracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "We are not happy in our country, we don't have any hope," said Leyla, a 70-year-old grandmother, as she joined the march for the first day. (Webmaster's comment: The Turkish people have remarkable courage to stand up against the world's newest dictator. We'll need that courage here in the United States soon!)
7-4-17 Ex-Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr to get apology and pay
Ex-Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr to get apology and pay
Canada will issue an apology and compensation to former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr for abuses he suffered while in prison, reports say. Canadian-born Khadr, 30, was convicted in 2010 by a US military commission of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan. He was captured in 2002 at the age of 15 and spent a decade in the US prison. In 2010, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that he was interrogated under "oppressive circumstances." He will reportedly be paid $8m (£6m). Khadr's lawyers met with justice department attorneys last month to reach the deal, the Toronto Star newspaper reported, quoting unnamed sources. The announcement of an official apology and compensation would be made next week, the reports added. When asked about the case, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, would not confirm any details. (Webmaster's comment: The United States should pay the compensation and those who imprisoned and tortured him should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for 10 years!)
7-4-17 Forty-one states are refusing to comply with Trump's voter data request
Forty-one states are refusing to comply with Trump's voter data request
Three more states — Delaware, Louisiana, and Maryland — on Monday announced they will not comply with President Trump's request for an exhaustive set of voter data via the new Election Integrity Commission to investigate Trump's belief that pervasive voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016. By CNN's count, this brings the total number of states refusing full compliance to 41 (plus the District of Columbia). The commission's request is that states list the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security digits, and 10-year voting history of each 2016 voter. The request was sent by the commission's vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who later clarified he is "not asking for [voter information] if it's not publicly available." However, state-level voter privacy laws universally prevent sharing at least one item on the administration's list: Social Security numbers. Indeed, the potential for violating state law is a primary obstacle in the 41 states that have taken issue with the commission demand, as are concerns about voter privacy and data security. Of the remaining nine states, some have yet to receive their request letter and some have received it but kept silent so far. Just three — Colorado, Missouri, and Tennessee (Webmaster's comment: blacklist these states!) — responded positively to the idea. (Webmaster's comment: If your state agrees to giving up your right to privacy and giving your personal data to the Federal government, LEAVE THE STATE!)
7-4-17 Trump administration fights to keep grandparents excluded by the travel ban
Trump administration fights to keep grandparents excluded by the travel ban
When the Supreme Court approved a modified version of President Trump's much-challenged travel ban last week, it provided the order could not be used to exclude visitors from the affected Muslim-majority countries if they have "bona fide relationships" with people already in the United States. Now at issue is what counts as "bona fide relationships," a category SCOTUS did not specifically define and which the White House says does not include grandparents, aunts, and uncles of American citizens and residents. The Department of Justice was in court Monday fighting to maintain that delineation, arguing the SCOTUS ruling should not be interpreted to allow "the broader, free-hand rules" of letting in grandparents. Pointing to established immigration law, the DOJ says close family relations that meet the Supreme Court's exemption are limited to "parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling (whether whole or half), and step relationships." Not on the list: grandparents. How that definition will fare in court remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it is under fire on social media. "Revised #travelban will #keepamericasafe from my 97yo #Iranian grandma & her radical belief that all meals need a glass of sherry & a cigarette." A #GrandparentsNotTerrorists hashtag sees U.S. residents with family ties in the six banned countries posting photos of their unthreatening grandparents in a plea for change. (Webmaster's comment: Grandma and Grandpa are very dangerous aren't they?)
7-4-17 Gay Chinese man wins legal battle over forced conversion therapy
Gay Chinese man wins legal battle over forced conversion therapy
A gay man in central China has won an apology and compensation from a mental hospital over forced conversion therapy, reports say. The man, identified only by his surname Yu, had been admitted by his wife and relatives to the hospital in the town of Zhumadian in Henan province in 2015. He was forced to take medicine and have injections over 19 days. But the court found that forcing him into a mental institution if he did not pose a danger infringed his rights. Last month it ordered the hospital - which had diagnosed Mr Yu with "sexual preference disorder" - to publish a public apology in local newspapers and pay the 38-year-old $735 (£570), AP said citing a copy of the judgement. However the court did not express an opinion on the practice of gay conversion therapy. Homosexuality was considered to be a mental disorder in China until 2001, and attitudes remain conservative. (Webmaster's comment: Vice-president Pence wants to force LGBT's to have electro-shock therapy to bring their sexual preferences into line with his religious beliefs!)
7-3-17 'Don't take away our healthcare' says Trump country
'Don't take away our healthcare' says Trump country
The Central Appalachian mountain ranges in Kentucky are home to some of the poorest - and most fervent - Trump supporters. But what happens in the next few weeks hundreds of miles away in Washington could shape their future. Dr Van Breeding is tireless and determined. He has been up since four and it's now late in the afternoon. He still has a roomful of patients to see, a late night clinic to run, and several medical students to mentor, but he simply smiles. "This is why I became a doctor. I have to be an advocate for my patients. My heart is in these hills and with these people, " he says. The 55-year-old with the frame of a boxer is fighting a war and right now he's not sure if politicians stand ready to help him or hinder him. Dr Breeding fears Washington is so busy looking at the politics of healthcare provision that they've forgotten about the kinds of problems he has to deal with daily. "There shouldn't be any sides. There are no sides to this. The only side is great health care for every American." He believes that they should be looking at the kind of healthcare models used in the UK and France. "Other countries have done it. They've set the groundwork for us. We can take what they've done and use it and build on it to make it the best programme in the world. "That's why the United States is as strong as it is. We've always taken things and made them better. Why can't we take a healthcare product and make it better instead of fighting over it." (Webmaster's comment: Because the already rich want more money and to stay alive the sick can be blackmailed for every cent they've got!)
7-3-17 Anti- and pro-Trump demonstrators square off in impeachment protests
Anti- and pro-Trump demonstrators square off in impeachment protests
Thousands of people rallied in several cities across the country on Sunday to call on Congress to impeach President Trump. In Los Angeles, several thousand people marched carrying signs saying "Worst President Ever" and "We demand the truth," and chanting, "Down, down, down with Trump — up, up, up with the people." "Every day when I wake up, something is more terrible than it was yesterday," said protester John Meranda, 56, of Long Beach. In many of the cities, the demonstrations were met with counter-protests by Trump supporters. "There's no reason at this point to impeach the president. He's committed no crimes. There's no reason," Jake Lloyd, who backs the president, said in Austin, Texas. "I don't think they understand what impeachment is."
7-3-17 Canadian baby 'first without gender designation' in health card
Canadian baby 'first without gender designation' in health card
An eight-month old Canadian baby has been issued a health card without a gender marker, in what could be the first case in the world. Parent Kori Doty - a non-binary transgender person who identifies as neither male nor female - aims to allow the child to discover their own gender. The health card has been issued with a "U" in the space for "sex", which could be for "undetermined" or "unassigned". Kori Doty is fighting to omit the gender from the birth certificate. The parent gave birth to Searyl Atli in November at a friend's home in British Columbia. Kori Doty, who prefers to use the pronoun they, argues that a visual inspection at birth is unable to determine what gender that person will have or identify with later in life. They want to keep Searyl's sex off all official records. "I'm raising Searyl in in such a way that until they have the sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are, I'm recognising them as a baby and trying to give them all the love and support to be the most whole person that they can be outside of the restrictions that come with the boy box and the girl box," the parent was quoted by CBC as saying.
7-2-17 Donald Trump posts video clip of him 'beating' CNN in wrestling
Donald Trump posts video clip of him 'beating' CNN in wrestling
The US President has tweeted a short video clip of him wrestling a person with the CNN logo for a head. The clip is an altered version of Donald Trump's appearance at a WWE wrestling event in 2007, in which he "attacked" franchise owner Vince McMahon in a scripted appearance. The animation appears to have been posted to a pro-Trump internet forum earlier in the week. CNN later accused the president of inciting violence against the media. One panellist on ABC's morning show, Ana Navarro - a Republican Trump critic and CNN contributor - said "it is an incitement to violence. He is going to get somebody killed in the media." But Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert, who had appeared earlier on the same ABC programme, said: "No-one would perceive that as a threat." The clip was submitted to a Donald Trump forum on the social media site Reddit four days ago, where it became one of the most popular posts. After the president's tweets, Reddit users expressed disbelief at the president's use of the clip. It was also retweeted by the official presidential Twitter account, @POTUS, operated by the White House. Meanwhile, the CNN Communications team tweeted a seemingly sarcastic response quoting White House press officer Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said on Thursday: "The President in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary." (Webmaster's comment: This video blantantly supports violently physically beating members of the media, especially those from CNN. It shows the President of our country literally punching the face of the CNN media member outside of the ring. The President should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned for advocating violence against another human being! This President does not support Freedom of the Press or Freedom of Speech!)
7-2-17 Here's which states are refusing Trump's voter data request and why
Here's which states are refusing Trump's voter data request and why
About half of all states have refused to fully comply with a Trump administration request for comprehensive voter data to investigate President Trump's suspicions of election fraud, a rejection Trump himself suggests is a sign the state governments are hiding something. Via The Washington Post, here's a breakdown of which states have said no — and why. Intriguingly, the Post's map shows the refusals aren't clearly partisan. Four of the 10 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have refused outright backed Trump in 2016, and 16 more red states have only agreed to partial compliance:
The rationales for denying the Election Integrity Commission's demand vary. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) said he would not "provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally." Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) labeled the investigation "at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country." Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) responded more colorfully, inviting the commission to "go jump in the Gulf of Mexico" in a statement citing concerns about privacy and federal overreach. Kansas and Indiana officials said some aspects of compliance would violate state law, while Alabama demanded proof the data would be stored securely.
7-2-17 Grimes: 'Not enough bourbon' in Kentucky to make commission's voter data request seem sensible
Grimes: 'Not enough bourbon' in Kentucky to make commission's voter data request seem sensible
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says she will not send "sensitive personal data" of Kentucky voters to a commission created by President Donald Trump to investigate voter fraud. Grimes, a Democrat, said in a statement late Thursday that her office had received a request from the commission for Kentucky records that includes names, personal information and voting history of 3.2 million Kentucky voters. "As the commonwealth's secretary of state and chief election official, I do not intend to release Kentuckians' sensitive personal data to the federal government," Grimes said in a statement. "The president created his election commission based on the false notion that 'voter fraud' is a widespread issue. It is not." In an interview with MSNBC on Friday, Grimes said there is "not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible. ... NOT ON MY WATCH are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relate to the privacy of individuals." Trump, a Republican, established the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May to investigate his claims that millions of illegal voters participated in last November's elections. The commission is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Grimes also said in her statement, "The president has repeatedly spread the lie that three to five million illegal votes were cast in the last election. Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country." (Webmaster's comment: On CNN I heard her statement. It was most powerful condemnation of trump's attacks on our privacy and liberty by anyone! If this person wanted to run for President I'd support her in an instant! We need more women like her in government!)
7-2-17 Trump lashes out at states for withholding voter data
Trump lashes out at states for withholding voter data
President Donald Trump has criticised the growing number of US states refusing to pass on voters' details to his commission on electoral fraud. "What are they trying to hide?", Mr Trump tweeted. At least 20 states have said that they will not or only partly comply with the request, citing privacy concerns. Democrats fear that the commission may be used to justify tightening voting procedures - changes which could make certain groups less likely to vote. The groups most affected by so-called voter suppression tend to vote Democrat. But it is not just Democrats who are opposed to the collection of such data by the federal government. Mississippi's Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in an official statement that his reply to the commission would be "they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from". Mr Trump set up the commission to investigate claims - unsubstantiated, but which he repeats - that millions of fraudulent votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.
7-1-17 US Defence Secretary Mattis delays lifting transgender ban
US Defence Secretary Mattis delays lifting transgender ban
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has approved a six-month delay to an Obama administration plan to let transgender recruits into the US military. The new policy, which will allow troops to transition gender while serving and set standards for medical care, will now come into effect on 1 January 2018. Pentagon officials say that different services are not in agreement about when to accept recruits. Rights activists have said they are disappointed with the delay. "Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces' ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman Stephen Peters in a statement. Mr Mattis said in a memo quoted by the Washington Post he had decided more time was needed to make a decision after consulting senior defence officials, adding that the delay "in no way presupposes an outcome". Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement that the delay was imposed so the armed services could "review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces." A study by the Rand Corporation last year, commissioned by the military, estimated that there were between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender active service members in a total force of 1.3 million, with an additional 1,500 to 4,000 among reserve units.
7-1-17 Singapore LGBT activists hold rally with no foreigners
Singapore LGBT activists hold rally with no foreigners
Thousands have attended an annual Singaporean gay rights rally, which foreigners are now banned from attending under new laws. Only citizens and permanent residents are allowed at the event, which has come under growing restrictions. Estimates suggested the number of those attending had dropped slightly - but organisers said the event was still over capacity. Gay sex is illegal in socially conservative Singapore. Previous Pink Dot rallies have been open to everyone. But because it is illegal for foreigners to take part in political protests in Singapore, they were technically there only as observers. Organisers said 20,000 Singaporeans and residents attended - compared with 25,000 or more in previous years. However, that did not include any foreigners restricted to the sidelines, or those who could not pass the security barriers after the park reached capacity. Long queues were seen snaking around Hong Lim Park, as participants lined up for security pat-downs and identity card checks. "Even with this restricted space that limits Singapore's true propensity for love, we feel that we have taken yet another important step in achieving true equality for all," spokesperson Paerin Choa said.
7-1-17 You can now legally buy recreational marijuana in Nevada
You can now legally buy recreational marijuana in Nevada
Recreational marijuana sales began Saturday in Nevada, the fifth state to legalize recreational pot use despite continuing federal prohibition, with some dispensaries opening at midnight Saturday morning. The legalization was approved by ballot initiative in November with 55 percent public support. Pot purchases are regulated much like alcohol, allowing buyers over 21 to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. However, it is still illegal to use recreational marijuana anywhere outside private residences, and it is also illegal to bring marijuana purchased in another state where it is legal, like Washington or Colorado, into Nevada. Legalization is expected to be a major tourist draw for Las Vegas as well as a significant new source of state revenue.
7-1-17 Danish Muslim politician confronts senders of hate mail
Danish Muslim politician confronts senders of hate mail
Özlem Cekic is one of Denmark’s first female Muslim politicians and she’s also a constant target for online trolls. But rather than ignore the abuse, she’s decided to confront the people sending her hate mail. Özlem believes face-to-face dialogue can help break down prejudice. In the past few years she has invited hundreds of people, who have sent her abusive messages, to sit down for a coffee and a chat. She asked the BBC to come along to her latest encounter, with a man called Stefan.