You are not Alone!
139 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for October 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
10-31-17 Trauma surgeon studies gun violence stats — and was one
Personal experience drives Joseph Sakran to try to affect U.S. policy on firearms. A new study estimates there were roughly 25 visits to the emergency department for gun-related injuries per 100,000 people from 2006 to 2014. Joseph Sakran knows more about the horrific impact of firearm-related injuries than the average trauma surgeon. A bullet nearly killed him 23 years ago. He was 17. At his high school’s season-opening football game, a fight broke out and someone fired into the crowd. “A .38-caliber bullet ripped through my throat and ended up in my shoulder,” he says. He had multiple surgeries and spent six months with a breathing tube in his windpipe. His recovery kept him home for most of his senior year. He still has a paralyzed vocal cord, which leaves his voice raspy at times. The experience inspired Sakran to become a surgeon, and it compelled him to work at the intersection of medicine, public health and public policy. His goal: “to reduce gun violence in our communities across this country.” One way to do that is with data. Sakran and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine looked at data from more than 900 U.S. hospitals from 2006 to 2014 and estimated that, nationwide, almost 705,000 people landed in an emergency department with a gun-related injury. Nearly half of victims were shot in an assault, 35 percent were shot unintentionally and 5 percent had attempted suicide. Gun-related ER visits and hospital stays cost about $2.8 billion annually, the researchers estimate in the October Health Affairs.
10-31-17 John Kelly: US Civil War caused by 'lack of compromise'
President Trump's chief of staff, General John Kelly, claims an inability to compromise caused the American Civil War. Speaking to Fox News, Gen Kelly was discussing efforts to remove Confederate monuments and symbols. Confederate symbols have been a source of controversy in the US. Some see them as an offensive reminder of America's history of slavery while others view their removal as an effort to subvert US history and southern culture. His remarks prompted a furious discussion on social media. The phrase "Civil War" was trending in the US - used more than 30,000 times on Twitter since Mr Kelly made his remarks on Monday night. Chelsea Clinton and Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, were among those to voice their opposition. (Webmaster's comment: AND JUST WHAT IS THE COMPROMISE ONE IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE ON SLAVERY?)
10-30-17 Chill factors: The everyday things that make us see ghosts
Seeing ghosts is all too human, but what spooks us and why are some more susceptible? Surveys of "haunted" sites and gameplay are unmasking clues. I’M WANDERING the corridors of a derelict hospital. The place was abandoned following the mysterious disappearances of a woman in a coma, then several other patients. Strange noises have been reported coming from inside. Nobody knows what’s going on. It’s pretty spooky in here – dimly lit, with peeling paint and rusty doors. I screw up the courage to open one of them and – BAM! – a bloodied zombie girl leaps out at me. My heart starts racing. That zombie gets everyone, says Connor Lloyd at Buckinghamshire New University, UK. He should know. He designed the game and has all his players wired up so he can monitor their heart rate, breathing and sweating to find out what scares players. “I’m interested in how games affect people’s minds,” he says. But when Ciarán O’Keeffe, head of psychology at the university, came across the game, he realised it could do much more. O’Keeffe is now adapting it to study ghosts. Rationalists may scoff, but it’s only human to feel haunted. Many more people believe in ghosts and claim to have encountered one than you might suppose (see “Anyone for ghosts?”). “I think it’s quite arrogant of us to ignore these experiences and to say they’re all deluded,” says O’Keeffe, who is one of only a handful of researchers studying ghost sightings and supposedly haunted locations. Of course, he doesn’t believe ghosts are real. What he wants to know is why we get spooked. Over the years, researchers have singled out various physical, psychological and environmental factors. But debate continues about which ones are actually involved, how they create ghostly experiences and why some of us are more affected than others. An immersive game could be the best way to find answers.
10-30-17 George Papadopoulos: Biggest Trump-Russia news wasn't about Manafort
On Monday morning Paul Manafort and business associate Rick Gates were charged with 12 counts of money laundering, undisclosed foreign lobbying, lying to government investigators, and various and sundry other serious-sounding offences. It turned out that wasn't the biggest news of the day. Indictments had been telegraphed since news reports on Friday evening mentioned they were signed, sealed and soon-to-be-delivered. Manafort's name was at the top of most lists of possible targets. It was the follow-up revelation from Robert Mueller's independent counsel team, however, that caught most of Washington by surprise. George Papadopoulos - hardly a household name - had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his contacts with Russian nationals and connected individuals while he was serving as a foreign policy with the Trump campaign. Where the Manafort indictment was somewhat expected and covered business dealings prior to his time as head of the Trump campaign, the Papadopoulos news sits at the heart of Mr Mueller's investigation into possible Trump team collusion with Russia. Here are three reasons why Papadopoulos is a key piece of the puzzle. And lest we give the Manafort case short shrift, here are three more reasons why it could end up being even more explosive.
- Papadopoulos was an intermediary
- Papadopoulos heard about Clinton "dirt"
- Papadopoulos is co-operating
- Manafort hire shows bad judgement
- Manafort move could set stage for more indictments
- Will Manafort co-operate?
(Webmaster's comment: The NOOSE is tightening!)
10-30-17 Judge blocks Trump's transgender military ban
A US federal judge has temporarily blocked Donald Trump's attempt to bar transgender people from the military. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overruled a presidential memo issued by Mr Trump, which sought to reverse an Obama administration policy change. Ms Kollar-Kotelly's injunction returns the US military to the status quo - allowing transgender personnel to serve openly and new recruits to join up. The case was filed against in August by a group of unnamed plaintiffs. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs' assertion that the president's directives were "not genuinely based on legitimate concerns regarding military effectiveness or budget constraints, but are instead driven by a desire to express disapproval of transgender people generally". She went on to say that the president's reasons for seeking to ban transgender personnel in July "do not appear to be supported by any facts" and had been rejected by the military. Judge Kollar-Kotelly ruled against a second injunction sought by the plaintiffs, over a Trump directive prohibiting the use of military resources to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures. She said the court did not have jurisdiction to grant the injunction because no plaintiff demonstrated that they would be substantially affected by the prohibition. A June 2016 policy change by the Obama administration allowed transgender military personnel to serve openly and set a one-year deadline for the military to begin allowing new recruits. In July 2017 the military delayed the accession part of the policy by six months, saying it needed more time to prepare.
10-30-17 Hey Trump, the 1970s called and it wants its drug policies back
President Trump is right to declare the opioid crisis an emergency but his strategy is a mishmash of failed policies from last century, says Samantha Murphy. The Trump administration, finally yielding to a screaming chorus of pleas to fulfil a promise made two months ago to tackle America’s opioid crisis, last week declared it a “national public health emergency”. Between pledge and action, 10,000 more have died of an overdose. The declaration, his officials explained, would increase access to emergency federal funding… eventually. At 175 deaths per day, 64,000 deaths per year and with overdoses now the leading cause of accidental death in the US, we finally all agree that the opiate epidemic is a crisis. President Trump described it accurately when he said: “No part of our society – not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural – has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids.” But the rest of his plan seemed to forget that, and all the lessons of failed anti-drug campaigns between 1970 and 2017. Like many Trump policies, this one appears to be a mishmash of defunct policies freshly extracted from a time capsule with an overlay of grandiose promises directly contradicted by the administration itself. In other parts of his announcement, he relaunched Richard Nixon’s 1971 “War on Drugs”, a series of aggressive law enforcement strategies comprising a mixture of crackdowns and prohibitions that were long since deemed to be a “failure” by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in 2011. He also relaunched Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign from the 1980s, peddling the very concept of teaching abstinence to students as his own original contribution to the cause, despite common knowledge that drug use soared in that decade. Especially cocaine abuse. He even promised a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign to drive home the impact of drug use, reminiscent of the “this is your brain on drugs” commercial that became a US pop culture sensation, circa 1987.
10-30-17 The Americans who can't read
The US has more citizens who are illiterate - some 16 million people - than many of its developed counterparts. Why is that? Many complain that the system fails those who need extra help and there is a big disparity between rich and poor areas. Being illiterate prevents people from getting jobs. But it is not only that. Peggy Fleming, who lives in Kentucky, one of the worst-performing states, said she wanted to set an example for her children by being able to read and write. "I wanted to be a better mum," she says.
10-29-17 The young man who shook the Catholic Church to its core
Five hundred years ago, a young German monk began the Protestant Reformation, shattering the authority of the Catholic Church. Centuries later, there are signs that the churches have put aside their differences. In an early scene from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet's mother Gertrude begs him not travel to Wittenberg. She believes that her son's studies in a provincial German town on the banks of the River Elbe may be a threat to their security and the Catholicism of his upbringing. She had good reason to be worried. For that is precisely what happened when a monk called Martin Luther engaged in the concentrated study of scripture at the University of Wittenberg. It would lead him to some Biblical beliefs - particularly the doctrine of justification by faith alone - that would transform Luther's understanding of church, God and eternal life. It would also result in him hammering 95 theses - arguments and objections - to the doors of the Schlosskirche, or University church. With each blow, the authority and stability of the Catholic Church was challenged as never before. "He wanted to rediscover Christ," says Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Germany's most senior Protestant bishop, "and he fought against certain practices of the Church of his time." "And since it was not possible to agree upon these things and to find a way forward to reform the Church, he started something new. And many people went with him," adds the bishop. The anniversary of Luther's protest will be marked in Wittenberg on 31 October, 500 years after he hammered on the University church's doors.
10-29-17 Puerto Rico governor: Scrap Whitefish energy grid deal
Puerto Rico's governor has called for a contract given to a tiny Montana firm to help reconstruct the island's power grid to be cancelled, his office said. An official with Ricardo Rosselló's office told the BBC that the governor would ask the Puerto Rican authorities to scrap the deal. The contract was given to Whitefish Energy, which has little experience of work on such a scale, without a public bid process. Several probes are under way. The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) distanced themselves from the deal last week. The company is headquartered in the town of Whitefish, the hometown of US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Mr Zinke has denied any involvement or wrongdoing. Whitefish has said that it secured the $300m (£228m) deal in a legitimate manner. The company did not immediately return BBC News' request for comment on the governor's statement. Some 75% of Puerto Ricans have no power five weeks after Hurricane Maria. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has denied claims by The Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the US territory's main utility, that it reviewed the deal. The contract states that "Prepa hereby represents and warrants that Fema has reviewed and approved of this Contract". In a statement on Thursday, Fema said: "Any language in any contract between Prepa and Whitefish that states Fema approved that contract is inaccurate." (Webmaster's comment: Whitefish was a big contributor to Trump's campaign.)
10-27-17 Danish companies queue to grow cannabis
Companies have begun applying to Denmark's medicines regulator to grow cannabis plants ahead of the drug becoming legalised for medicinal purposes next year, it's reported. Some 13 companies have already submitted applications for growing cannabis plants to the Laegemiddelstyrelsen, so that they can help treat Danes suffering from painful illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. From January 2018, the drug becomes legalised as part of a four-year trial and patients in the country can obtain cannabis on prescription, the Copenhagen Post reports. But parliament is still working on the specific details of how the scheme will work, meaning that some horticulturalists, including Jorgen K. Andersen of the Dansk Gartneri firm, have chosen not to apply. Mr Andersen tells the fyens.dk website that his company is put off by what he foresees "will be a very complicated set of rules" to grow the plant. Some companies, however, are hoping to cultivate a Danish cannabis industry and export the drug to other regions where it is legal, to help drive down costs for domestic patients, Danmarks Radio says. Currently, it would cost some 6,000 krone ($935; £715) a month to adequately treat an average patient, Lars Tomassen, director of Danish Cannabis tells the radio. With permission to export, "we are aiming to at least half the cost," he says.
10-27-17 Inmates who fight fires
Inmates who fight fires
Women serving time in California prisons are routinely deployed to fight the state’s wildfires, said Jaime Lowe. For less than $2 an hour, they do strenuous and dangerous work with relatively little training. Shawna Lynn Jones climbed from the back of a red truck with “LA County Fire” printed on its side. Ten more women piled out after her, on the border of Agoura Hills and Malibu, in Southern California. They could see flames in the vicinity of Mulholland Highway, from a fire that had been burning for about an hour. Jones and her crew wore helmets and yellow Nomex fire-retardant suits; yellow handkerchiefs covered their mouths and necks. Each carried 50 pounds of equipment in her backpack. As the “second saw,” Jones was one of two women who carried a chainsaw. She was also one of California’s 250 or so female-inmate firefighters. Jones worked side by side with Jessica Ornelas, the “second bucker,” who collected whatever wood Jones cut down. Together they were responsible for “setting the line,” which meant clearing potential fuel from a 6-foot-wide stretch of ground between whatever was burning and the land they were trying to protect. If they did their job right, a fire might be contained. But any number of things could quickly go wrong—a slight wind shift, the fall of a burning tree—and the fire would jump the break.
Connections, after Montana’s Whitefish Energy won a $300 million, no-bid contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid despite having only two full-time employees. Whitefish was founded by a major donor to President Trump, and the CEO is a friend of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who grew up in Whitefish.
10-27-17 Puerto Rico, lost in limbo
Puerto Rico, lost in limbo
Why is Puerto Rico part of the U.S.? Puerto Ricans had no choice in the matter. A Spanish colony since Ponce de León established a settlement there in 1508, Puerto Rico had just acquired voting rights and its own constitution in 1898 when the U.S. invaded the island during the Spanish-American War. The generals promised the locals—descendants of Spanish colonists, former slaves, and indigenous Taino—a free future, and many sided with the U.S. against Spanish rule. But once the war was over, and Spain had ceded the island along with the Philippines and Guam, the U.S. did not recognize the local parliament and instead set up a colonial administration. The U.S. president appointed governors, who chose their own cabinets. Puerto Rico was effectively a colony and officially a territory.
Why isn’t it a state? For racial reasons. Most U.S. territories did become states; Oklahoma, for example, became a territory in 1890 and a state in 1907. The difference was that Oklahoma was settled largely by English-speaking whites, who displaced the Native Americans. Starting in 1901, the same Supreme Court that had approved “separate but equal” segregation for black Americans, in the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson case, ruled in a series of decisions that Puerto Rico and other territories that were “inhabited by alien races” were not ready to be governed by “Anglo-Saxon principles.” Puerto Rico was declared an “unincorporated territory”—different from the Alaskan and Hawaiian incorporated territories—and the path to statehood was closed off. Unlike Plessy v. Ferguson, the Insular Cases, as these rulings are known, were never overturned.
- Why is Puerto Rico part of the U.S.?
- Why isn’t it a state?
- Can Puerto Ricans vote?
- Why does that hurt the island?
- What status do Puerto Ricans want?
- What’s Puerto Rico’s future?
- The Navy’s toxic legacy
10-27-17 LeBron’s sense of responsibility
LeBron’s sense of responsibility
LeBron James feels the burden of being black, said Mark Anthony Green in GQ. One of basketball’s greatest players ever, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward believes that many of the fans who passionately cheer him on court also harbor deep-seated racial resentment. During this year’s NBA playoffs, someone scrawled the N-word on the front gate of his house in Brentwood, Calif. “People may love the way I play the game,” says James, 32, “but at the end of the day, [they] are gonna resort back to who they are.” The four-time MVP—who recently called President Trump “a bum” for his criticism of other black athletes—often has conversations with his sons, ages 10 and 13, about being black in America. “I let them know this is what it is, this is how it’s going to be. Be respectful to cops. When you get pulled over, call your mom or dad, put it on speakerphone, and put your phone underneath the seat.” He warns his sons that many people will always define them by their skin color. “No matter how great you become in life, no matter how wealthy you become,” he says, “if you are an African-American man or African-American woman, you will always be that.” James holds nothing against prominent athletes who decline to speak out on social issues, but says it’s a no-brainer for him. “It’s my responsibility. I believe that I was put here for a higher cause.”
10-27-17 White nationalist violence
White nationalist violence
. Three supporters of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer were charged with attempted murder last week after one of them shot at demonstrators who were protesting Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida. Tyler Tenbrink, 28; William Fears, 30; and Colton Fears, 28, allegedly approached a small group of protesters at a bus stop and began shouting “Hail Hitler” and giving Nazi salutes. In the ensuing argument, Tenbrink pulled out a gun, and the other two men urged him to “kill them.” Tenbrink fired a single shot, which struck a building. The three men, all from Texas, then fled, but were arrested 20 miles away. Prior to the shooting, one of the accused spoke to a local newspaper about his support for the white nationalist movement. “It’s always been socially acceptable to punch a Nazi,” William Fears said. “We’re starting to push back. We want to show our teeth a little bit.”
10-27-17 Only in America
Only in America
A Colorado Cub Scout has been kicked out of his den for asking a state senator why she backed a bill that would let domestic violence offenders buy guns. At the time, GOP State Sen. Vicki Marble praised Ames Mayfield, 11, for his “thorough” questioning. But later, the den leader told Mayfield’s mom the question was too political, and the boy was no longer welcome. “I don’t feel I did anything wrong,” Mayfield says. (Webmaster's comment: Shut that kid up!)
10-27-17 Legal pot is the new gay marriage
Legal pot is the new gay marriage
American public opinion has been gradually shifting on the question of legalizing marijuana. In the last couple of years, the proportion of the country in support has reached critical mass: In a Gallup poll released Wednesday, fully 64 percent of Americans support legalization — including a majority of Republicans. It's in many ways quite similar to what happened with gay marriage. However, unlike when the gay marriage public opinion wave started to crest in 2012 and 2013, as of yet few high-profile Democrats have come out for legalization. It's long since time the party came around on this issue — not just on policy or political grounds, but to get out ahead of a more corporate legalization approach. Now, there are some exceptions, most prominently Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who to his credit introduced a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level in August. In fact, Booker's bill is considerably more aggressive than even Bernie Sanders' bill from 2015, which would have merely allowed states to legalize marijuana — thus formalizing the quasi-legal status of the eight states and D.C. that have legalized marijuana to varying extents. In comparison, Booker's bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, pressure states into legalizing it, expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes, allow marijuana convicts in federal prison to petition for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to rebuild places hit hardest by the war on drugs. It's a great start. The war on drugs is an abject failure, and it's long since time we treated marijuana more sensibly.
10-27-17 Opioid crisis: Trump suggests telling young people drugs are bad
Opioid crisis: Trump suggests telling young people drugs are bad
Trump has declared the US opioid crisis a national public health emergency. He thinks telling young people that it’s “really easy not to take them” will help. Back in August, Donald Trump announced that he intended to declare the US opioid crisis – which is killing tens of thousands of people a year – a national emergency. Now he’s done it. “Effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law, and why I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis,” he said in a speech on 26 October, before signing a presidential memorandum. The directive calls for increased access to telemedicine in rural areas with doctor shortages, a shuffling of federal funding so more can be applied to the crisis, and some easing of regulations and bureaucratic delays that could otherwise slow down efforts. However, because the emergency was declared through the Public Health Services Act, it doesn’t automatically come with any additional funding, and President Trump hasn’t yet requested any. Rather than pushing for emergency aid that could be used to directly help those already suffering from opioid addictions, Trump discussed ways the US could prevent use to begin with. The president suggested that targeted advertising campaigns could curtail opioid use. “The fact is, if we can teach young people — and people, generally – not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them,” he said. “Really tough, really big, really great advertising, so we get to people before they start, so they don’t have to go through the problems of what people are going through.” (Webmaster's comment: It doesn't get much dumber than this. That advice will work just as well as Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No To Drugs!" campaign.)
10-27-17 Anti-Semitism in soccer
Anti-Semitism in soccer
The Italian soccer federation has ordered that a passage from Anne Frank’s diary be read aloud before all games this coming week, after fans of a top team used an image of the young Holocaust victim to taunt their rivals. Lazio supporters defaced Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with stickers depicting Frank—murdered by the Nazis at age 15—wearing the jersey of rival team Roma. Far-right Lazio fans associate their Roma counterparts, with whom they share the stadium, with being left-wing and Jewish. Lazio Chairman Claudio Lotito said he would intensify efforts to combat bigotry among fans. In 1998, Lazio supporters unfurled a banner toward Roma fans that read “Auschwitz Is Your Country; the Ovens Are Your Homes.”
10-27-17 Israel honours first recognised Arab Holocaust saviour
Israel honours first recognised Arab Holocaust saviour
The only Arab to be awarded Israel's highest honour for saving Jews during the Nazi Holocaust has posthumously received his award. Egyptian doctor Mohamed Helmy hid a young Jewish woman and helped her family in Berlin, where he lived and had worked before World War Two. A descendant of Dr Helmy, who died in 1982, was presented with the award at a ceremony in the city. Some 70 Muslims are among 26,500 non-Jews recognised by Israel as saviours. Mohamed Helmy had settled in Berlin in 1922, where he studied medicine and worked at a hospital. He himself suffered racial discrimination under the Nazis, lost his job and was twice arrested. As persecution of Germany's Jews intensified, Dr Helmy provided a hiding place for one of his patients, 21-year-old Anna Boros, at a property he owned in the city. He managed to shelter her from the Gestapo and provide assistance to her mother, stepfather and grandmother until the end of the war in 1945. (Webmaster's comment: Another blow to Nazi white male supremacists.)
10-26-17 Nazi forums closed as Reddit purges 'violent content'
Nazi forums closed as Reddit purges 'violent content'
Reddit has closed down several extremist forums after updating its policy regarding violent content. The newly banned and removed pages include r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, r/whitesarecriminals and r/far_right. Reddit's new policy says: "Do not post content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people." One legal expert has said the policy may be difficult to enforce. The updated policy notes that violent content may sometimes be posted as part of educational, newsworthy or artistic material but adds that the context and reason for posting such content should be made clear. Material that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals, such as bestiality, is also now being removed. In 2015, Reddit updated its policy to deter harassment - a move that resulted in the shutting down of forums including r/fatpeoplehate. However, Reddit has sometimes allowed material that would commonly be banned on mainstream social media sites. The new crackdown suggests the site is trying to position itself as a more mainstream business, said legal expert Prof Eric Heinze of Queen Mary, University of London. As companies grow, "they start caring about social norms, they care about PR, regardless of whether they had a more maverick origin," he told the BBC. Prof Heinze also said people with controversial views may find ways of dodging the crackdown. "Instead of a gross attack against black people, for example, it'll just be things about 'preserving our identity'. They find a coded speech that everyone understands," he said. (Webmaster's comment: If they are Nazis BAN THEM! Europe does. It knows what the Nazis can do!)
10-26-17 Nazi forums closed as Reddit purges 'violent content'
Nazi forums closed as Reddit purges 'violent content'
Reddit has closed down several extremist forums after updating its policy regarding violent content. The newly banned and removed pages include r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, r/whitesarecriminals and r/far_right. Reddit's new policy says: "Do not post content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people." One legal expert has said the policy may be difficult to enforce. The updated policy notes that violent content may sometimes be posted as part of educational, newsworthy or artistic material but adds that the context and reason for posting such content should be made clear. Material that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals, such as bestiality, is also now being removed. In 2015, Reddit updated its policy to deter harassment - a move that resulted in the shutting down of forums including r/fatpeoplehate. However, Reddit has sometimes allowed material that would commonly be banned on mainstream social media sites.
10-26-17 Disney Channel makes history with first gay storyline
Disney Channel makes history with first gay storyline
The Disney Channel is introducing a gay storyline for the first time in its show Andi Mack. The channel is to set to make history when its season two premiere airs on Friday in the US. It will see best friends Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and Cyrus (Joshua Rush) both admit they are attracted to the same boy. A Disney spokesperson says the show "sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity". The statement added that the show's creator, Terri Minsky - who also made the hit Disney show Lizzie McGuire - and her team took "great care in ensuring that it's appropriate for all audiences." The series is a coming-of-age show that revolves around 13-year-old girl Andi and her friends Cyrus, Buffy and Jonah. In the season premiere, Andi is dealing with feelings for a boy she knows when her best friend Cyrus realises that he has feelings for the same boy. Cyrus's story develops in later episodes as he begins to understand himself better with the help of his friends and family. Rush said he was proud to bring the "groundbreaking storyline" to life.
10-25-17 American Airlines accused of racism after 'disturbing incidents'
American Airlines accused of racism after 'disturbing incidents'
A top African-American rights group has warned black flyers to exercise caution when flying American Airlines after a string of "disturbing incidents". The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a "national travel advisory". The organisation warned the airline "could subject [travellers to] disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions". The airline insisted it does "not tolerate discrimination of any kind". The NAACP "national travel advisory" was issued as the advocacy group cited a series of incidents suggesting a "corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias" at the airline. It warned black travellers that American Airlines could subject them to "disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions". In the advisory, the NAACP listed four incidents in which black passengers said they were discriminated against by AA employees. One incident on a Washington DC to Raleigh, North Carolina, flight involved a NAACP state chapter president, who sued the airline. He said he had been required by flight attendants to give up his seat after he responded to "disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers". In another incident, a black woman was moved to the coach section at the ticket counter despite having booked first-class tickets for herself and a travelling companion. The woman's travelling companion, who was white, remained assigned to a first-class seat, according to NAACP. Another incident involved a black woman who was ordered removed from a New York to Miami flight after a pilot overheard her complain to a gate agent about a change to her seat assignment without her consent, said NAACP. (Webmaster's comment: America, the home of freedom and liberty and equal rights as long as you're white!)
10-25-17 Who can you trust? How tech is reshaping what we believe
Who can you trust? How tech is reshaping what we believe
We've lost faith in experts, but increasingly rely on strangers we meet online. Is it wise to replace long-evolved instincts at the click of a button? THE first thing Paul Zak bought on eBay was a pair of ice skates. They came with a handwritten note: “I hope your daughter enjoys these as much as my daughter did.” It made Zak’s day. As someone who studies the neurological basis of trust, Zak knew exactly what was going on. Feel-good chemicals had flooded his bloodstream, changing how he felt about a stranger over the internet. But that didn’t stop him leaving a shining review. Human interactions are built on trust. We trust others to hand over the goods when we pay them. We trust banks with our money and doctors with our lives. We trust governments to run our countries and newspapers to tell us how they are doing it. The more trust in a society, the better it fares. Put another way: without trust, society would collapse. But something strange is happening. Public trust in our institutions has plummeted in the past decade. Nearly half of people in the US mistrust lawmakers, according to a poll carried out in June. In the UK, fewer than 1 in 4 people trust the press. And yet we are putting more trust than ever before in people we meet on the internet. The sharing economy is booming. It is normal to invite strangers to sleep on our sofas, meet us for dates, pick us up in their cars and look after our pets. The internet has brought us to a tipping point, fundamentally changing who we trust and why. Technology allows us to make informed decisions and vet individuals. But should we really be letting our guard down? Trust is a human instinct that is essential to our survival. It first evolved when we lived in small tribal groups, and probably provided benefits in times of conflict. Groups that were better at working together – more trusting – were more likely to survive than less cooperative rivals.
10-25-17 Luther’s legacy: Did a religious revolt create science?
Luther’s legacy: Did a religious revolt create science?
A rebel monk's challenge to the Catholic church's teaching 500 years ago fired Europe with radical thinking. Did it spark the scientific revolution?. “I CANNOT and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me.” There is something thrilling about how the rebel monk Martin Luther defied his accusers. According to his supporters, he uttered these eloquent words of defence in 1521 before the Diet of Worms, a papal council, when his liberty and possibly his life were on the line. It was four years earlier, on 31 October 1517, now almost exactly 500 years ago, that tradition says he nailed his “95 theses” decrying the practices of the Roman Catholic church to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg in present-day Germany, and so kicked off what became the Protestant Reformation. Popular history says that Luther showed more guts than Galileo a century later, when the Catholic Inquisition insisted he deny that Earth moves around the sun. Elderly and cowed by the veiled threat of torture, Galileo did what the cardinals said. A muttered “and still it moves” was said to be his only, almost certainly apocryphal, dissent. Some historians directly link these two challenges to Rome’s authority: Luther’s theological revolution and the ensuing scientific one. Luther opened the intellectual floodgates, the story goes, pitting open, forward-thinking Protestantism against conservative, anti-science Catholic dogma. The Enlightenment took root in the northern European countries that embraced Lutheran ideas, while the south languished under the Catholic yoke. It took the Roman Catholic church until 1992 to formally declare Galileo right. It’s an appealing story. But is it true? (Webmaster's comment: No it is not! Arabs first used the scientific method in the 10th century!)
10-25-17 A smart city in China tracks every citizen and yours could too
A smart city in China tracks every citizen and yours could too
Hangzhou’s smart city project optimises the city by tracking each citizen – and it’s been so successful that the concept is set to be exported around the world. FOR the past 12 months, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has been slurping up video feeds, social media data, traffic information and other data from Hangzhou city for its City Brain project. The stated goal was to improve life in Hangzhou by letting artificial intelligence process this data and use it to control aspects of urban life. It seems to have worked. The trial has been so successful that the company is now packaging the system for export to other places in China – and eventually the rest of the world. Using AI to optimise Hangzhou has had many positive effects. Traffic congestion is down, road accidents are automatically detected and responded to faster, and illegal parking is tracked in real time. If someone breaks the law, they too can be tracked throughout the city before being picked up by the police. “In China, people have less concern with privacy, which allows us to move faster,” said Xian-Sheng Hua, the deputy managing director of AI at Alibaba, speaking at World Summit AI earlier this month. Consider the example of traffic flow. Using hundreds of thousands of cameras dotted throughout the city, Alibaba can track almost every car on every road. It can instantly detect crashes, blockages or parking violations, and automatically notify the police to deal with them. The system can predict the traffic flow 10 minutes ahead of time with 90 per cent accuracy, and responds by changing traffic light patterns to even out congestion. It can even send text messages to people to help them plan different routes. “City Brain is about comprehensive cognition,” said Hua.
10-25-17 Using high-nicotine e-cigarettes may boost vaping and smoking in teens
Using high-nicotine e-cigarettes may boost vaping and smoking in teens
Teens who vaped liquids containing higher concentrations of nicotine reported heavier and more frequent smoking and vaping six months later. Vaping e-cigarettes with high amounts of nicotine appears to impact how often and how heavily teens smoke and vape in the future, a new study finds. In 2016, an estimated 11 percent of U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes. Past research has found that that teen vaping can lead to smoking (SN: 9/19/15, p. 14). The new study, published online October 23 in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first look at whether vaping higher amounts of nicotine is associated with more frequent and more intense vaping and cigarette use in the future. Researchers at the University of Southern California surveyed 181 10th-graders from 10 high schools in the Los Angeles area who had reported vaping in the previous 30 days, then followed up six months later, when the students were 11th-graders. The teens answered questions about how much and how often they had smoked and vaped in the past 30 days and about the amount of nicotine in their vaping liquid. The researchers categorized the amount of nicotine as none, low (up to 5 milligrams per milliliter), medium (6 to 17 mg/mL) or high (18 mg/mL or more). With each step up in nicotine concentration, teens were about twice as likely to report frequent smoking versus no smoking at the six-month follow-up. Teens who vaped a high-nicotine liquid smoked seven times as many cigarettes per day as those who vaped without nicotine.
10-25-17 How science transformed the world in 100 years
How science transformed the world in 100 years
In an essay for the BBC, Nobel Prize-winner and Royal Society President Sir Venki Ramakrishnan contemplates the nature of scientific discovery - how it has transformed our worldview in a short space of time, and why we need to be just as watchful today about the uses of research as we've ever been. If we could miraculously transport even the smartest people from around 1900 to today's world, they would be simply astonished at how we now understand things that had puzzled humans for centuries. Just over a hundred years ago, people had no idea how we inherit and pass on traits or how a single cell could grow into an organism. They didn't know that atoms themselves had structure - the word itself means indivisible. They didn't know that matter has very strange properties that defy common sense. Or why there is gravity. And they had no idea how things began, whether it was life on earth or the universe itself. These days because of fundamental discoveries we can answer or at least begin to answer those mysteries. That has transformed the way we see the world and often our everyday lives. Much of what we take for granted today is a result of an interplay of fundamental science and technology, with each driving the other forward. Almost every modern invention has one or often many fundamental discoveries that make it possible. Sometimes, these fundamental discoveries were hundreds of years old. Neither jet engines nor rockets would be possible without a knowledge of Newton's laws of motion. There are big moments in science, like the discovery of the structure of DNA that shift our perspectives. But even that discovery was a milestone that built on work by Darwin and Mendel and presaged today's biotechnology where the entire DNA of a human being - the human genome - has been sequenced. That in turn has given us the ability to figure out how things go wrong in genetic diseases and potentially how to fix them. Scientists were recently able to modify the genes of a young girl to cure her cancer. We are no longer a complete black box, although our complexity is such that we are only just beginning to understand how our genes regulate the body and how they interact with our environment.
10-25-17 Why white people think they're the real victims of racism
Why white people think they're the real victims of racism
When you see a story with a headline like "New research finds that prosecutors give white defendants better deals than black defendants," you may not be surprised. After all, it's just one of a myriad of ways in which researchers have identified ongoing racial discrimination, whether it's in housing or employment or the way people are treated by law enforcement. On the other hand, you might dismiss it as fake news, knowing that the real victims of racial discrimination are white people. If that sounds silly to you, I have some bad news: There are millions of people who think that's what the state of racism in America is. According to a new poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 55 percent of white Americans believe that whites suffer from racial discrimination in America today. This isn't the first time we've seen a poll result like that. Earlier this year, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found 52 percent of working class whites saying discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities (though the number was smaller among whites with higher education levels). (Webmaster's comment: Note the source, a white christian organization!) And last year, Gallup found 43 percent of whites saying discrimination against whites is "widespread" in America. What form is this discrimination against whites supposed to take? Are they getting pulled over and searched by the police? Followed around by security guards in stores? Subjected to invidious stereotypes as people and institutions regard them not as individuals but primarily as undifferentiated members of a racial category? No, probably not. If you asked, a lot of those respondents would probably say "Affirmative action!", though in reality that affects only a tiny number of people. (Webmaster's comment: The basic cause of racism in America is Male White Supremacists! They have one objective: The literal elimination of all non-whites and non-christians in America!)
10-25-17 Who will be the doctors of death in a time of assisted suicide?
Who will be the doctors of death in a time of assisted suicide?
If a patient has the right to die, who should administer the final treatment? Medical assistance in dying (MAID) became a reality in Canada when legislation was passed in July 2016. This is the hastening of death through a lethal dose of medication — either by self-ingestion (assisted suicide) or physician injection (euthanasia). More than 2,000 Canadians have received MAID, administered by a number of physicians. Few of those doctors are palliative care specialists, who are purposely keeping their distance from MAID to avoid further stigmatization as the physicians of death. They do not want to be associated with treatment failure, or viewed as only providing care to those who have either given up or been deemed hopeless. This has left MAID without leadership or coordination, leading to unequal access and confusion among the public and health-care providers. I am a palliative care physician at Queen's University who teaches medical students, residents, and other health-care providers. I am adjusting to the new reality of palliative care in the MAID era. Many patients and families ask me about it and a fair number receive it. One patient asked me to be there for his MAID death. I speak to nursing and physician groups and at public events where I can be simultaneously applauded and criticized for not providing doctor-assisted suicide as part of my palliative care. At these events, there is always uncertainty about MAID: the ethics, legalities, practicalities (how, where, by whom). And there are questions about the comfort of health-care providers with an intervention aiming to administer death rather than stave it off.
10-25-17 Record-High Support for Legalizing Marijuana Use in U.S.
Record-High Support for Legalizing Marijuana Use in U.S.
Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana use: 64%. Americans continue to warm to legalizing marijuana, with 64% now saying its use should be made legal. This is the highest level of public support Gallup has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement.
- Support for legalization at highest point in nearly five decades
- Majority of Republicans now support legalizing marijuana
10-25-17 Marijuana compounds made in GM yeast could help epilepsy
Marijuana compounds made in GM yeast could help epilepsy
Sneaking cannabis DNA into yeast can create enormous quantities of any marijuana component, from those with medical applications to the ones that get you high. Cell-sized cannabis factories could soon be producing medical treatments for epilepsy. A non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana plants called cannabidivarin (CBDV) has shown promise in the treatment of severe cases of epilepsy. However, to treat just 10 per cent of people with epilepsy would require around 1500 tonnes of pure CBDV. To obtain this amount using current methods, you would need to plant large quantities of marijuana and extract their small supply of CBDV. “There’s so little of this chemical in plants it would actually be impossible to harvest it by traditional means,” says Kevin Chen, who runs Hyasynth Bio, a start-up in Montreal, Canada. That’s why the firm has turned to cellular agriculture, in which crops are made from cell cultures. It has added the chunk of cannabis DNA that codes for CBDV into yeast DNA, which turns the yeast into CBDV production plants. This allows for rapid, large-scale CBDV creation with none of the concerns around growing marijuana. “It can be very inefficient to extract these compounds from plants,” says Tom Williams at Macquarie University in Australia, “and that can consume a lot of valuable resources like land and fertiliser.” The work was presented at the New Harvest conference in New York this month. Once optimised, using microbes like yeast will make harvesting compounds such as CBDV efficient and cost-effective, says Williams. The medical applications could be far-reaching. Epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide and those diagnosed with it are three times more likely to die prematurely. Around 30 per cent of those with epilepsy don’t respond to available treatments.
10-24-17 A smart city in China tracks every citizen and yours could too
A smart city in China tracks every citizen and yours could too
Hangzhou’s smart city project optimises the city by tracking each citizen – and it’s been so successful that the concept is set to be exported around the world. For the past 12 months, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has been slurping up video feeds, social media data, traffic information and other data from Hangzhou city for its City Brain project. The stated goal was to improve life in Hangzhou by letting artificial intelligence process this data and use it to control aspects of urban life. It seems to have worked. The trial has been so successful that the company is now packaging the system for export to other places in China – and eventually the rest of the world. Using AI to optimise Hangzhou has had many positive effects. Traffic congestion is down, road accidents are automatically detected and responded to faster, and illegal parking is tracked in real time. If someone breaks the law, they too can be tracked throughout the city before being picked up by the police. “In China, people have less concern with privacy, which allows us to move faster,” said Xian-Sheng Hua, who manages AI at Alibaba, speaking at World Summit AI earlier this month. Consider the example of traffic flow. Using hundreds of thousands of cameras dotted throughout the city, Alibaba can track almost every car on every road. It can instantly detect crashes, blockages or parking violations, and automatically notify the police to deal with them. The system can predict the traffic flow 10 minutes ahead of time with 90 per cent accuracy, and responds by changing traffic light patterns to even out congestion. It can even send text messages to people to help them plan different routes. “City Brain is about comprehensive cognition,” said Hua. But some see clear downsides. “A fully ‘smart’ city means that pretty much every aspect of your life is tracked,” says Paul Bernal at the University of East Anglia, UK. (Webmaster's comment: This will not be acceptable in America. Americans feel they must have the liberty and freedom to commit crimes and get away with them.)
10-24-17 US refugees: Stricter screening as 120-day ban expires
US refugees: Stricter screening as 120-day ban expires
US President Donald Trump will allow refugee admissions to the US to resume while announcing stricter rules for vetting applicants, US media report. It comes as the 120-day ban on refugees expires on Tuesday. It had been part of Mr Trump's executive orders that came to be known as the "travel ban". Last month Mr Trump announced the lowest cap on refugee resettlements ever set by a US president. The decision comes after a diplomatic and intelligence review, officials say. The temporary ban on all refugees worldwide, as well as a permanent ban on Syrian nationals, was announced by Mr Trump in January during his first week at the White House. It also included a 90-day ban on citizens from seven Muslims-majority nations. After it was challenged in court, the White House replaced the order with one that excised the Syria ban, and a judge ruled in June that the travel restrictions could go into effect. Under the new rules to be announced on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security will collect more biographical data such as the names of family members and places of employment, officials told US media. White House officials said they would seek to "enhance procedures for refugee entries" by "raising standards" for vetting. Those standards would be applied "across the board", they added. Under current policy, men are vetted more stringently than women and children. (Webmaster's comment: The US policy will be to block as many as possible and just let most of them die.)
10-24-17 America's appalling inattention to war
America's appalling inattention to war
The imperial machine is running on autopilot and headed for Niger. President Trump's grotesque antics over the past week have had the side effect of shining a dim light on little-known American military operations. For the last several days, in classic Trumpy fashion, the president has been feuding with a pregnant war widow, Myeshia Johnson, whose husband was killed in Niger on Oct. 4. In an interview on Good Morning America, she said that when Trump called her, he failed to remember her husband's name. Trump denied it, of course, though it's hard to imagine someone with less credibility than the president at this point. However, this absolutely appalling controversy also demonstrated to many people for the first time — among them Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — that America had troops in Niger in the first place. It's symptomatic of an imperial machine that is operating on autopilot, without debate or even knowledge of what's happening. So what are American forces doing in Niger? The operation dates back to 2013, when President Obama asked the Niger government for permission to build a drone base there, to provide air support to French forces that were backing the (authoritarian) government of Mali in a civil war. That incredibly complicated conflict, which still flares up on occasion, is over the attempted creation of a new state out of northern Mali, and the failure of the government to defeat the rebels in 2012. (Webmaster's comment: America's killing machine has over 6,000 soldiers setting up the means to kill anyone in Africa anywhere, at anytime, for any reason. Drones indiscriminately kill "suspects" without trial as well as innocent men, women and children. Nobody is even held accountable for all the extra deaths. These killers are nameless faces behind video screens.)
10-24-17 Amazon cannabis delivery: Orlando couple shocked by find
Amazon cannabis delivery: Orlando couple shocked by find
A couple in the US state of Florida got a surprise when opening an Amazon delivery after finding 65lb (30kg) of cannabis inside, local media report. The pair from Orlando spoke anonymously to local media about the unwanted drugs drop. They ordered plastic containers to use for storage, but the package arrived weighing far heavier than expected. They said that Amazon had offered them $150 (£110) in compensation for the incident via email. Police in Florida told local news station WFTV9 they had seized the drugs and were investigating the incident, but said that no arrests had been made. "When the first officer got here, she was in disbelief," one of the customers reportedly said. "We were still pretty fearful our home would be broken into, and we didn't sleep there for a few days." In a statement, Amazon told the BBC: "Our customer service team worked directly with the customer to address concerns and will work with law enforcement to investigate the case, as needed."
10-24-17 The IQ test has a dark history
The IQ test has a dark history
Why screening for intelligence is still so controversial. Education systems use IQ tests to help identify children for special education and gifted education programs and to offer extra support. Researchers across the social and hard sciences study IQ test results also looking at everything from their relation to genetics, socio-economic status, academic achievement, and race. Despite the hype, the relevance, usefulness, and legitimacy of the IQ test is still hotly debated among educators, social scientists, and hard scientists. To understand why, it's important to understand the history underpinning the birth, development, and expansion of the IQ test — a history that includes the use of IQ tests to further marginalize ethnic minorities and poor communities. In the early 1900s, dozens of intelligence tests were developed in Europe and America claiming to offer unbiased ways to measure a person's cognitive ability. The first of these tests was developed by French psychologist Alfred Binet, who was commissioned by the French government to identify students who would face the most difficulty in school. The resulting 1905 Binet-Simon Scale became the basis for modern IQ testing. Ironically, Binet actually thought that IQ tests were inadequate measures for intelligence, pointing to the test's inability to properly measure creativity or emotional intelligence. Alongside the widespread use of IQ tests in the 20th century was the argument that the level of a person's intelligence was influenced by their biology. Ethnocentrics and eugenicists, who viewed intelligence and other social behaviors as being determined by biology and race, latched onto IQ tests. They held up the apparent gaps these tests illuminated between ethnic minorities and whites or between low and high-income groups. A few years before, American psychologist and education researcher Lewis Terman had drawn connections between intellectual ability and race. In 1916, he wrote:
"High-grade or border-line deficiency … is very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stocks from which they come … Children of this group should be segregated into separate classes … They cannot master abstractions but they can often be made into efficient workers … from a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding."
10-23-17 Narcissists aren’t very conservative but believe in inequality
Narcissists aren’t very conservative but believe in inequality
Probing the views and personalities of 2000 people has found that narcissists don't much care about traditional values, but they are more racially prejudiced. Are narcissists more likely to be right-wing conservatives or rebellious liberals? A study of narcissistic personalities reveals they typically combine elements of both, helping to explain some of President Trump’s actions. Social scientists have long tried to understand how personality influences political beliefs. Studies have found that people who are open-minded, creative and curious are more likely to be liberal voters, whereas people who like convention and orderliness tend to vote more conservatively. But few studies have looked at how political attitudes are shaped by narcissism – a personality trait characterised by a sense of superiority, self-admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Aleksandra Cichocka at the University of Kent, UK, and her team decided to look at two attitudes typically seen to be right-wing: a belief in social dominance – that inequality is the natural order of things – and in right-wing authoritarianism, the idea that traditional values need protecting.
10-23-17 How American women are left to rot in jail
How American women are left to rot in jail
When it comes to mass incarceration, men get most of the attention — and for obvious reasons. Men commit roughly 80 percent of violent crimes, and they make up over 90 percent of prisoners. However, by industrialized country standards, America's imprisonment of women is arguably even worse than it is for men — and as a new analysis from Aleks Kajstura at the Prison Policy Initiative shows, a great many of those women do not need to be behind bars. Kajstura did a lot of painstaking work to create a full picture of the state of women's incarceration in America. As usual with such studies, the underlying data is from several sources, and some of it is somewhat scanty or old — but America simply doesn't have rigorous, up-to-date information on all people under criminal supervision. Until data collection is overhauled, this is the best that can be done. Where this differs from the overall picture of Americans behind bars is in the much larger share of female prisoners in jails. Whereas the total prison population is roughly two-thirds in state prisons, women prisoners are about equally split between jails and prisons. (The Prison Policy Initiative has not yet done a male-only breakdown, but given that women are less than 10 percent of the total prison population, removing them from the overall chart would not change the result very much.) This matters because, as I have written before, a large majority of people in jails have not been convicted of a crime — they are either stuck in pre-trial detention, or simply can't afford bail. Fully 60 percent of women in jails have not been convicted of a crime — and due to the greater jail share of the total female incarcerated population, over a quarter of women behind bars have not been convicted.
10-23-17 California fires: Cannabis farm fundraisers shut down
California fires: Cannabis farm fundraisers shut down
Crowdfunding efforts to help legal cannabis farms damaged in California's wildfires have been closed down because of fear of contradictory national laws. More than $13,000 (£10,000) was raised for the dozens of businesses. Medical cannabis is already legal in California and it is set to be sold recreationally from January next year. However under US federal law it is illegal to manufacture, distribute or sell the drug - making it difficult for legal growers to get help. As it stands 29 US states allow medical cannabis and eight have approved recreational use - but it is still classed as a schedule one drug nationally, alongside other drugs such as heroin and ecstasy. The crowdfunding website, Youcaring, said they had no choice but to cancel the fundraisers because fundraising for cannabis-related purposes is banned by its payment providers, WePay and PayPal. The fundraising could technically be classified as money-laundering under the federal laws, despite the businesses being legal within the state of California. It had been set up by Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, aiming to raise $25,000 for at least 34 businesses affected, according to CNN. The US justice department released guidance in 2013 instructing federal prosecutors to not pursue cases where the state allowed the action, and other federal agencies have had to issue similar guidance on how to operate legally within the contradicting laws.
10-22-17 Denmark: With Basic Needs Covered, Pursuing Passions Is Easier.
Denmark: With Basic Needs Covered, Pursuing Passions Is Easier.
The country frequently claims the top spot in the annual World Happiness Report, a reflection of its government-supported education, health care, and financial safety net. Danes grow up believing they have the right to health care, education, and a financial safety net. University students draw a government stipend in addition to free tuition. New parents can take a yearlong government-paid parental leave at nearly full salary; this includes gay and lesbian parents. People work hard in Denmark, but on average less than 40 hours a week, with at least five weeks of vacation a year. The price for such lavish benefits is one of the world’s highest income tax rates, which starts at 41 percent and tops out at 56 percent—a field leveler that makes it possible for a garbageman to earn more than a doctor. (Webmaster's comment: We can be a lot happier! We just have to stop all the greed and the me only thinking! )
10-22-17 America, armed and dangerous
America, armed and dangerous
Would tighter gun control laws reduce America's unparalleled levels of gun violence? Would tighter gun control laws reduce America's unparalleled levels of gun violence? Here's everything you need to know: How severe is the problem? It's worse than in any other nation in the civilized world. Every day, an average of 300 Americans are shot. There were 36,252 firearm deaths in the U.S. in 2015 — including 22,018 suicides and 12,979 homicides — and at least 85,000 injuries. Every day, an average of nearly two women are shot dead by their partners. Nearly 6,000 children are shot each year, a fifth accidentally, with 1,300 fatalities. Since 1982, there have been 81 mass shootings — using the definition in which four or more victims die in a public incident — including three this year. (Under an alternative definition of four or more people shot in one incident, there have been 273 mass shootings so far this year.) Over the past 50 years, more Americans have been killed by guns than in all the wars in the nation's history. The U.S. "suffers disproportionately from firearms," says Erin Grinshteyn, author of a recent study on U.S. gun violence. "They are killing us rather than protecting us."
- How severe is the problem?
- Does gun control work?
- What have they proposed?
- On what grounds?
- Could more gun laws be passed?
- Crossing the NRA
10-20-17 Anger over Donald Trump's UK crime tweet
Anger over Donald Trump's UK crime tweet
Donald Trump has been accused of fuelling hate crime with a tweet erroneously linking a rise in the UK crime rate to "radical Islamic terror". He said crime in the UK had risen by 13% amid the "spread" of Islamist terror - despite the figure referring to all crimes, not just terrorism. The Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, said the statement was "inflammatory and ignorant", while ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Trump was "a moron". The Home Office declined to comment. (Webmaster's comment: Reminder: More people died in the Las Vegas shooting than in UK terror attacks this decade. It is angry white males that commit most of the terrorism in the United States!)
10-20-17 Richard Spencer speech at Florida campus sparks mass protest
Richard Spencer speech at Florida campus sparks mass protest
Protesters chanting "Go home Nazis" have disrupted a white supremacist's speech at the University of Florida. Richard Spencer's address in Gainesville prompted Florida's governor to declare a state of emergency. Outside the event, police officers stood guard as hundreds of demonstrators shouted: "Go home, Spencer!" His speech comes two months after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, left a woman dead. Several dozen supporters of Mr Spencer in the campus auditorium were overwhelmingly outnumbered by protesters who shouted down the speaker. "I'm not going home, I will stand here all day if I have to," Mr Spencer said, calling the crowd a mob of "shrieking and grunting morons". Audience members continued to heckle him, chanting "Nazis are not welcome here" and "Let's go, Gators!" - a reference to the college mascot. The university said it did not want to let "vile" Mr Spencer speak, but was obliged under law to do so. (Webmaster's comment: The Russians knew what to do with the Nazis, they sent them all to Siberia. We should do the same!)
10-20-17 A young leader shifts the country rightward
A young leader shifts the country rightward
Wunderkind! Austria’s likely new chancellor is an energetic young “political entrepreneur,” said Peter Ulram in Die Presse (Austria). In 2013, at age 27, Sebastian Kurz became the country’s youngest-ever foreign minister. Last week, the now 31-year-old Kurz led the center-right People’s Party to first place in Austria’s national election, winning 31 percent of the vote. Before Kurz took over as party leader last May, polls showed the far-right Freedom Party—founded by ex-Nazis—with a clear lead. But the Freedom Party ended up finishing a hair behind the center-left Social Democrats, each getting about 27 percent. Far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache claimed Kurz stole his supporters by adopting his anti-immigrant, tough-on-crime platform, but that can’t be the whole story, since the Freedom Party also picked up votes. Austrians flocked to Kurz partly for his low-tax populism and partly because they credit the foreign minister with halting the flow of migrants through the country in 2015. Kurz will now be given the first chance to try to form a government, probably with the Freedom Party as a junior coalition partner. If he succeeds, the wunderkind will become one of the world’s youngest national leaders. (Webmaster's comment: We've seen Wunderkind before. They first arose in Nazi Germany!)
10-20-17 Opposition cries foul
Opposition cries foul
Supporters of Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro won 17 of 23 state governorships this week in a vote the opposition said was neither free nor fair. The leftist government severely restricted the opposition’s airtime, relocated hundreds of polling centers in opposition districts at the last minute, and provided fewer voting machines in opposition neighborhoods than in pro-government ones. Some anti-government activists said the opposition should have boycotted the vote—as it did the July election for a new constituent assembly that was declared superior to the opposition-dominated national legislature. Maduro said the triumph of his allies in the latest vote proved that Venezuela had “the best electoral system in the world.”
10-20-17 Armed and dangerous
Armed and dangerous
Would tighter gun control laws reduce America’s unparalleled levels of gun violence? It’s worse than in any other nation in the civilized world. Every day, an average of 300 Americans are shot. There were 36,252 firearm deaths in the U.S. in 2015—including 22,018 suicides and 12,979 homicides—and at least 85,000 injuries. Every day, an average of nearly two women are shot dead by their partners. Nearly 6,000 children are shot each year, a fifth accidentally, with 1,300 fatalities. Since 1982, there have been 81 mass shootings—using the definition in which four or more victims die in a public incident—including three this year. (Under an alternative definition of four or more people shot in one incident, there have been 273 mass shootings so far this year.) Over the past 50 years, more Americans have been killed by guns than in all the wars in the nation’s history. The U.S. “suffers disproportionately from firearms,” says Erin Grinshteyn, author of a recent study on U.S. gun violence. “They are killing us rather than protecting us.” Republican politicians aren’t the only ones who dare not defy the NRA. In 2000, Smith & Wesson agreed to a deal with the Clinton administration to develop a “smart” gun and help prevent firearms from falling into criminals’ hands. The NRA was incensed. Denouncing the company as “the first gunmaker to run up the white flag of surrender,” the organization released the CEO’s phone number and encouraged its members to complain. So many death threats followed—“I’m a dead-on shot,” one caller told him—that another executive took to wearing a bulletproof vest. When the NRA then initiated a boycott of Smith & Wesson, it prompted a sales drop-off so severe that two factories temporarily shut down, and the company’s stock plunged 95 percent in 10 months. Smith & Wesson has since repaired its relationship with the NRA—and hasn’t forgotten its ill-fated attempt to compromise. “It almost took down the company,” says current CEO James Debney. “We won’t make that mistake again.”
- How severe is the problem?
- Does gun control work?
- What have they proposed?
- On what grounds?
- Could more gun laws be passed?
- Crossing the NRA
10-20-17 Active shooter insurance
Active shooter insurance
A growing number of U.S. businesses are purchasing “active shooter insurance.” The policies compensate companies for the cost of lost business after a mass shooting, any lingering “brand stigma,” and claims for damages by victims or their families. One insurer tells the International Business Times that demand for such policies is being driven by the fact that “you can’t prevent crazy.”
10-20-17 Firearms are virtually illegal in Japan
Firearms are virtually illegal there in Japan
Crime in Japan has become so rare that police often have nothing to do. In 2015, there was just one gun homicide. Firearms are virtually illegal there.
10-20-17 What happens when you slash welfare
What happens when you slash welfare
Homelessness is soaring in Britain, said John Harris. Nearly a quarter of a million people are homeless, and thousands of them are sleeping on the streets. These numbers have doubled over the past seven years, not coincidentally during the time that the welfare-slashing Conservative Party has been in power. Anyone could have predicted that “if you cut and cap benefits, leave a snowballing housing crisis untouched, and fail to question the specious morals of the market,” people will be priced out of housing altogether. Worst hit are low-income single people under age 35, whose rent subsidies have been reduced to almost nothing. Young housing-benefit recipients who are lucky enough to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment will, starting in 2019, be forced to switch to the kind of shared housing that is increasingly hard to find. “You’d think you were looking at a policy designed specifically to increase homelessness.” Worse, the new universal credit system, which rolls six types of benefits into one monthly payment, has a lag of six weeks between application and payment. During those six weeks, people dependent on benefit money can’t pay their rent or bills, so they are getting evicted. The “obscenities of current homelessness” are a direct result of the Conservative Party’s “streak of cold cruelty.”
10-20-17 Is the president ‘unraveling’?
Is the president ‘unraveling’?
When Sen. Bob Corker likened the Trump White House to an “adult day-care center” last week, he was merely echoing what people close to the president are privately telling journalists, said Gabriel Sherman in VanityFair.com. Ten months into his chaotic presidency, White House insiders describe Trump as “increasingly unfocused” and “unraveling,” and say his top aides wage a daily battle to restrain his worst impulses. Growing public criticism of Trump’s behavior, tweets, and other public comments—including the embarrassing revelation that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “f---ing moron”—has left Trump “consumed by dark moods.” When Trump is heading down a particularly dangerous or vindictive path, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other Cabinet officials will try to soothe his temper with flattery, said Ashley Parker in The Washington Post. Failing that, they will try to “delay his final verdict” by offering to study the issue, “hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.” The president “chafes at the impression that his aides coddle him or treat him like a wayward teenager,” and resents that Kelly limits his access to sycophantic friends and family members. “I hate everyone in the White House!” Trump recently complained. This is getting scary, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. Trump’s public behavior lately has shown “a sharp decline even from his previously unhinged and malevolent incoherence.” His “executive sabotage” of the health-care system, his undermining of his own diplomats on Iran and North Korea, and his threats to punish TV networks and newspapers for stories he doesn’t like (see Talking Points) are no longer part of any discernible “agenda.” He seems now to be a grouchy, “71-year-old Fox News viewer” lashing out at the world in a fit of “mindless nihilism.” The time for “whispered criticism and quiet snickering is over,” said Michael Gerson in WashingtonPost.com. It’s time for Republican leaders and even Trump’s loyal minders to address out loud the question on everyone’s mind: Is Donald Trump “psychologically and morally equipped to be president?”
10-20-17 Trump’s third travel ban blocked
Trump’s third travel ban blocked
A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban this week, hours before it was set to take effect, ruling that the executive order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” The order, which would have barred residents from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia, and Yemen, “plainly discriminates based on nationality,” said Judge Derrick Watson. Travel restrictions imposed on citizens of North Korea and Venezuela were not challenged under the suit. Hours later, a federal judge in Maryland issued a second halt to the ban, saying that Trump’s comments on the campaign trail and Twitter had convinced him that the travel restrictions represented an unconstitutional Muslim ban.
10-20-17 In Boston, some churches are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants
In Boston, some churches are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrant
First-time visitors to Sunday morning services at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston are met with smiles, handshakes, and even hugs. To call it a warm welcome would be an understatement. Bethel AME is no stranger to political activism. But the mostly African-American congregation has taken up a new mission. In late September, the parish decided to give shelter to a man from El Salvador facing deportation. Church officials turned down a request for a face-to-face interview with the man, a father of five, who's now living at Bethel AME. But Rev. Ray Hammond explained the church's thinking behind becoming a sanctuary church. "This is not a political issue. Ultimately it's a human issue," says Hammond, who co-founded Bethel AME with his wife, Gloria White-Hammond, a fellow physician and pastor herself. The couple started the church in 1989. It has done work on various social justice issues, including with youth, prisoners, and the impoverished. "For a number of years, we've been concerned about the immigration crisis in our country," Hammond says. "We've been deeply concerned about the way in which the immigration issue — rather than being dealt with honestly, openly, justly, humanely — has become increasingly a political football." Hammond says he was a little surprised at how much support there was among congregants for taking this latest step. "I expected perhaps more opposition. Historically, sometimes there has been tension between the African-American and Latino community, between what African-Americans see as 'native-born' versus 'immigrant,'" Hammond says. A couple members of the congregation expressed some doubts about giving shelter to someone at risk of being deported, Hammond adds. But that was about it. "The vote was almost unanimous to support it. And people certainly wanted to understand the protocols and how we're going to make sure that this work. But the support was overwhelming," Hammond says.
10-20-17 Trump’s many successes
Trump’s many successes
When President Trump said last week he was “substantially ahead of schedule” in implementing his agenda, liberals laughed in derision, said Yascha Mounk. Most of the outsize promises Trump made on the campaign trail have failed to materialize: Obamacare has not been repealed, the wall isn’t being funded or built, and tax cuts remain a distant, unpopular fantasy. But “there is much more truth to Trump’s claim than the gleefully mocking responses to it would suggest.” Trump may not have built anything new of his own, but he’s been quite effective in his chosen role as a wrecking ball, as he destroys the Obama legacy and the norms of democracy and American foreign policy. Just as he promised, Trump has treated our European allies with disdain, withdrawn from the Paris climate accord, and is close to blowing up NAFTA and the Iranian nuclear deal. At home, Trump has used his bully pulpit to deepen our racial and cultural divisions and convince nearly 40 percent of the country that the press is the enemy, and even to hate the NFL. “If Trump can turn his base against the NFL, then what can’t he get them to do?” Trump is pursuing “a truly radical agenda,” and he may leave this country fundamentally changed.
10-20-17 NFL backs players
NFL backs players
The NFL will continue allowing players to kneel during the national anthem at games, commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week after a meeting with team owners, despite an ongoing barrage of Twitter criticism from President Trump. NFL owners came to their decision after gathering at the organization’s Manhattan headquarters for a daylong meeting, during which they spoke with several players about how teams can show support for players who want to protest social issues. Goodell had indicated last week in a memo that he would prefer all players to stand during the national anthem, following threats by Trump to cut the NFL’s tax breaks. The owners reportedly also discussed how to respond to a legal grievance filed under the league’s collective bargaining agreement by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling movement last season to protest police brutality. Kaepernick has accused all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league for that protest.
10-20-17 Trump campaign subpoenaed
Trump campaign subpoenaed
Lawyers representing a former Apprentice contestant who accused President Trump of sexual harassment have subpoenaed Trump’s campaign for all documents relating to the various groping allegations against him, BuzzFeed?.com reported this week—setting up a potential legal showdown between the sitting president and his multiple female accusers. Summer Zervos accused Trump during the 2016 campaign of kissing her on two separate occasions and groping her breast. She is suing him for defamation after he labeled her accusation “total fiction.” Zervos’ lawyers have asked that Trump’s campaign not only provide all communications with or about the Apprentice contestant, but also “all documents concerning any women who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched [them] inappropriately”—a total of 17 women. Trump called the subpoena “disgraceful” and “totally fake news”; his lawyers have sought to have the suit dismissed or delayed until he is out of office.
10-20-17 Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Crops would die, the sun would go dark, and many would starve. The greatest concern derives from relatively new research which has modeled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads. In this event, an estimated 20 million people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fire, and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic — more deaths than in the entire of World War I. But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject large volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere. In the India-Pakistan scenario, up to 6.5 million tons of soot could be thrown up into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and causing a significant drop in average surface temperature and precipitation across the globe, with effects that could last for more than a decade. This ecological disruption would, in turn, badly affect global food production. According to one study, maize production in the U.S. (the world's largest producer) would decline by an average by 12 percent over 10 years in our given scenario. In China, middle season rice would fall by 17 percent over a decade, maize by 16 percent, and winter wheat by 31 percent. With total world grain reserves amounting to less than 100 days of global consumption, such effects would place an estimated 2 billion people at risk of famine.
10-20-17 Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller, after Hustler publisher Larry Flynt took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post offering $10 million for information leading to the impeachment of President Trump. “We need to flush everything out into the open,” Flynt wrote in the ad.
10-20-17 Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade
Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade.
An epidemic of anxiety and depression is affecting American teenagers. In 1985, 18 percent of incoming college freshmen said they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” the previous year. By last year, that number had surged to 41 percent. Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade.
10-20-17 To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Mississippi school district has removed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird from its eighth-grade curriculum because it “makes people uncomfortable.” The book is a harrowing tale of racial injustice in a 1950’s Southern town. James LaRue of the American Library Association objected to the removal, saying that the “classic” novel “makes us uncomfortable because it talks about things that matter.”
Trick-or-treaters, after creationists in Kentucky began distributing fake $1 million bills to be given to kids on Halloween. “Have you ever lied, stolen, or used God’s name in vain?” the bills say. “The penalty for your crimes against God is death and eternal hell.” (Webmaster's comment: The naked EVIL of Creationists is unbelievable!)
10-20-17 Political outsiders
Political outsiders, with reports that a Republican congressional candidate from Miami, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, has claimed she was abducted by aliens when she was 7. Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, said the aliens were tall and blond and that their spaceship was powered by quartz rocks, “not like airplanes.”
10-20-17 Xi’s thinking big
Xi’s thinking big
Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out an ambitious vision for China’s future this week as he opened the Communist Party’s congress, held every five years. In a speech that lasted three and a half hours and had party bigwigs sneaking glances at their watches, Xi said the world’s most populous country would eradicate poverty in the next six years and become a “fully developed nation” by 2049. He continued his push to win China a more prominent role in world leadership, saying Beijing was now the leader in fighting climate change, and noting that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” could be a model for other developing nations.
10-20-17 New Zealand to hold cannabis referendum within three years
New Zealand to hold cannabis referendum within three years
New Zealand will hold a referendum on legalising the recreational use of cannabis in the next three years, its prime minister-elect has pledged. Jacinda Ardern said she did not personally support imprisoning people for using cannabis but wanted to hear New Zealanders' views. Ms Ardern received a standing ovation at a meeting of her Labour Party. She will head a three-way coalition with the Greens and nationalist party New Zealand First (NZF). Ms Ardern, 37, emerged as the surprise new leader after weeks of negotiation following September's inconclusive election, which resulted in a hung parliament. The incumbent National Party won 56 seats - two more than the Labour-Green bloc - but was unable to agree a governing coalition.
10-20-17 Malawi cracks down on 'vampire' lynch mobs
Malawi cracks down on 'vampire' lynch mobs
Police in the south-east African state of Malawi say they have arrested 140 members of lynch mobs who attacked people suspected of being vampires. At least eight people are believed to have been killed, including two men on Thursday in the second city, Blantyre. One was set on fire and the other stoned, according to police. Two others were arrested for threatening to suck people's blood but police say have no medical reports of any actual bloodsucking. Vigilante mobs started attacking people suspected of drinking human blood as part of magic rituals in September. James Kaledzera, Malawi's national police spokesperson, told BBC News that police patrols had been stepped up in areas affected. (Webmaster's comment: Primative savages are still with us.)
10-18-17 US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
Cady Mansell, a nine-year-old from Indiana, was banned from her First Communion ceremony because she wanted to wear a white suit. Cady's mom shared their story on Facebook. Now she tells the BBC why they've moved churches. (Webmaster's comment: The Catholic church wants to control your life and you must obey. Even the clothes you wear can not be your choice.)
10-18-17 Trump NFL row: NFL won't make players stand for anthem
Trump NFL row: NFL won't make players stand for anthem
The NFL will not force its players to stand during the national anthem despite backlash over recent protests, the league's commissioner says. Roger Goodell said he would "encourage" players to stand, but would not punish them if they refused to do so. The NFL chief said he was "not looking to get into politics" and wished instead to keep the focus on football. President Donald Trump has criticised NFL stars kneeling in protest against perceived racial injustice. "We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem," Mr Goodell told reporters on Wednesday after a second day of meetings with team owners and player representatives in New York. "That's an important part of our policy." The commissioner continued: "We want our players to stand, we're going to continue to encourage them to stand." He added: "Our players will state to you publicly they are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag, but they also understand how it's being interpreted, and that's why we're trying to deal with those underlying issues." (Webmaster's comment: They will probably stand when the racism and wanton killing of blacks by police stop.)
10-18-17 Police body cams were meant to keep us safer. Are they working?
Police body cams were meant to keep us safer. Are they working?
Equipping police officers with body-worn cameras was intended to defuse tense situations, but footage of brutal incidents keeps going viral. POLICE body-worn cameras have taken off like a flash. The UK has deployed more than 17,000 in the past year, the US is in the midst of rolling out 50,000, Australia has introduced 10,000 since 2015 and other countries are following suit. The idea behind them is simple: recording interactions between cops and citizens should reduce aggression and help to convict either party if they cross the line. However, a string of recent, often racially charged, incidents has shaken public confidence in these devices. Last week, outrage was sparked by newly released video of Salt Lake City police officer Clinton Fox killing Patrick Harmon when he ran away after being pulled over on 13 August for cycling across six lanes of traffic and lacking a rear light. The footage, captured by body cams worn by Fox and his fellow officers, shows him yelling “I’ll fucking shoot you!” before firing. The district attorney’s office ruled that the killing was legally justified, saying that in slowed footage, Harmon turned to face Fox while holding a knife. The FBI has been asked to review the case. In another incident, last month footage went viral of a Salt Lake City police officer roughly handcuffing a nurse in full view of his colleague’s body cam. And in Australia, an officer is being investigated for punching a drunk teenager after his colleague switched off his camera. (Webmaster's comment: The police have learned that they will not be convicted of murder even when the body cam shows that the murder was unjustified. So why worry about what the body cam shows?)
10-18-17 Quebec bans niqab for public services with neutrality law
Quebec bans niqab for public services with neutrality law
A Canadian province has passed a controversial religious neutrality law that bars people from wearing face coverings when giving or receiving a public service. Quebec recently expanded the law to include services provided by municipal and public transit services. Women who wear a burqa or a niqab will now have to show their faces while receiving a government service. Quebec's National Assembly passed Bill 62 by a 66-51 vote. The provincial Liberals, who have been in power since 2014, tabled the bill two years ago. Bureaucrats, police officers, teachers, and bus drivers, as well as doctors, midwives, and dentists who work in publicly funded hospitals and health centres, will have to have their face uncovered. The law will also stop provincially subsidised childcare services from offering religious education. Quebec's Bill 62 does not specifically mention the Muslim faith. (Webmaster's comment: Seeing a person's face is essential for identification and preventing crimes. Hiding one's face is often used by those who wish to do a crime. The women are free to hide their faces at home and in their places of worship.)
10-18-17 Trump's latest travel ban blocked by second federal judge
Trump's latest travel ban blocked by second federal judge
US President Donald Trump's latest bid to impose travel restrictions on citizens from eight countries entering the US has suffered a court defeat. A federal judge slapped a temporary restraining order on the open-ended ban before it could take effect this week. The policy targets Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as some Venezuelan officials. Previous iterations of the ban targeted six Muslim-majority countries, and were widely referred to as a "Muslim ban". The state of Hawaii sued in Honolulu to block Mr Trump's third version, which was set to go into effect early on Wednesday. Hawaii argued in court documents that the revised policy was fulfilling Mr Trump's campaign promise for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", despite the addition of North Korea and Venezuela. It also argued the president did not have the powers under federal immigration law to impose such restrictions. US District Judge Derrick Watson, who blocked Mr Trump's last travel ban in March, issued the new restraining order.
10-18-17 What Trump's spurious claim about fallen troops suggests about his future military decisions
What Trump's spurious claim about fallen troops suggests about his future military decisions
If you woke up Monday asking, "What utterly classless thing will the president of the United States do today?" it took all the way until the afternoon for you to get your answer. Asked at a press conference why he had said nothing publicly about the four American soldiers who were killed in Niger two weeks ago, President Trump took it for some reason as a question about him calling the family members of those soldiers, and told a truly revolting lie about his predecessors and how they treated the families of the fallen. "If you look at President Obama and other presidents," he said, "most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls." Asked later in the press conference how he could make such an obviously false claim, he backtracked a bit, saying, "President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told." In other words, he had no idea what he was talking about, but decided to smear Obama and other presidents in order to make the insane claim that only he displays the proper caring and concern for Gold Star families. That Trump is a liar, we know. That he is obsessed with comparing himself to Barack Obama — a man possessed of many of the virtues Trump so obviously lacks — we also know. But this may give us some hints about what may or may not be going through Trump's mind when he is faced with a decision about sending American service members into situations where they might be killed.
10-17-17 Americans Widely Support Tighter Regulations on Gun Sales
Americans Widely Support Tighter Regulations on Gun Sales
The great majority of Americans are in favor of more stringent regulation of the sale and ownership of guns in three ways that go beyond current law in most states. U.S. adults offer near-universal support for requiring background checks for all gun purchases, backed by 96%. Also, three-quarters favor enacting a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases and 70% favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police.
- More than nine in 10 Americans favor mandatory background checks
- Waiting periods and gun registration also favored by most U.S. adults
- Gun owners support checks and waiting periods, but not registration
10-17-17 Online dating may be breaking down society’s racial divisions
Online dating may be breaking down society’s racial divisions
Racial segregation has eased in the US over the past two decades. Could hooking up online be responsible? PEOPLE often marry people who are just like them – similar in terms of social background, world view and race. Online dating may be changing that, however, breaking us out of our existing social circles. Economists Josué Ortega at the University of Essex, UK, and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna, Austria, suggest it could even lead to more integrated societies. Before the first dating websites appeared in the 1990s, most people would meet dates through existing networks of friends or colleagues. But the rise of dating sites like Match.com and apps like Tinder has made online dating the norm for many. It is the second most common way for heterosexual partners to meet and the most common for homosexual partners. More than a third of marriages now involve people who met online. Ortega and Hergovich claim that if just a small number of online matches are between people of different races, then social integration should occur rapidly. “A few connections can really change the panorama of diversity,” says Ortega. They tested their hypothesis with a simulated social network of male and female “agents” who were looking for a partner of the opposite sex. Initially, each agent was highly connected with agents of their own race, and only poorly so with agents from other races – mimicking real-world relationships in societies with a large degree of segregation. But when they started dropping in the random connections that strangers make on a dating site, their model predicted an increase in the number of interracial marriages.
10-17-17 Welcome to the post-liberal world
Welcome to the post-liberal world
The presidency of Donald J. Trump is an American phenomenon. But it's not just an American phenomenon. It makes sense to see the rise of a right-wing cultural populist with authoritarian instincts as an outgrowth of American trends, from the long-term evolution of the Republican Party to the outsized influence of Fox News and talk radio rabble-rousers. But these American developments aren't happening in isolation. For complicated reasons, similar developments are happening in countries around the world — in Russia, India, Turkey, and all over Europe. A couple of months ago, after elections in the Netherlands and France in which anti-liberal parties underperformed, it was possible to believe that the populist wave had crested and begun to recede on the continent. But not anymore. Those setbacks now look like a temporary hiatus in a much broader-based shift away from the centrist liberalism that, until recently, had prevailed in Europe uninterrupted since 1989. Hungary and Poland are already governed by anti-liberal populists (as are Slovakia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece). In last month's elections in Germany, a far-right populist party (Alternative for Germany) managed a stunning third-place showing with 12.6 percent of the vote, marking the first time since the end of World War II that such a party has won seats in the legislature. (It will hold more than 90.) And now, in an election on Sunday, the Austrian electorate just handed a victory to the center-right People's Party, which is led by 31-year-old populist firebrand Sebastian Kurz, and delivered a strong second-place showing to the far-right Freedom Party. The center-left Social Democratic party, meanwhile, came in third. This is just the latest example of the electoral collapse of the center-left in Europe. As Slate's Yascha Mounk has pointed out, the outcome of the Austrian vote is likely to be repeated later this week in the Czech Republic, where anti-establishment parties are on track to win a majority of the votes, and where the leading candidate for prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is a cross between Trump and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. Add a Babiš victory to recent populist advances in Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Austria, and we're left with a picture that's as clear as it is ominous. The last time European electoral trends were headed so starkly against liberalism was in the 1920s and '30, when liberty was extinguished across the continent.
10-17-17 America's opioid genocide
America's opioid genocide
America is in a war against opioids. Whose side is Washington on? There is a genocide going on in this country. And it is a judgment on this nation that we all but ignore it. We treat other lethal threats much more seriously. Many Americans are rightly concerned with the problem of seemingly unpredictable mass shootings carried out by terrorists or random murderous lunatics. It is easy to be cynical about solutions, but surely there is some reasonable middle ground to be sought between letting every American be his own Rambo and the systematic confiscation of privately owned firearms that would likely leave us with fewer corpses. Likewise, no one makes light of the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran, which is why President Trump is going to such extraordinary lengths to check the former. Why don't we treat our war against opioids with equal alarm? Some context here is helpful. Around 11,000 people are killed in firearm-related homicides in this country each year. Fewer than 10 Americans have died annually since September 11, 2001, at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile, what we have come to refer to so casually as our "opioid epidemic" has now taken more than 200,000 American lives — 30 times more than the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined, far in excess of the number of Americans who died fighting in our generation-defining misadventure of Vietnam and, indeed, roughly half the U.S. death toll in World War II. This is why it was so dispiriting to read in The Washington Post on Sunday about the casual cynicism with which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other members of Congress, including Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Trump's chosen candidate to be our nation's next "drug czar" — is there a more disgusting neologism in politics? — have effectively neutralized the ability of the Drug Enforcement Agency to go after drug suppliers working openly to supply crooked doctors serving the black market where abusers purchase the poison that will kill them. It is now, the Post reports, "virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies" involved in this activity. This was not a gross lapse of judgment on the part of these public servants. It was the bought-and-paid-for result of relentless lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry — $106 million in total was spent on this bill and related legislation between 2014 and 2016 alone. For their efforts on behalf of the industry in their respective chambers, Hatch received $177,000 and Marino just shy of $100,000. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
10-17-17 Transgender Georgians are being left to die
Transgender Georgians are being left to die
Velistsikhe is a small, quiet village about two hours from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. It is plain and remote, and in colder months, when snow and rain sweep south from the Dagestani border, cars are often stranded in its boggy, barely paved roads. Velistsikhe's best-known assets are its wineries. There are three major ones and even a winemaking museum. Almost everybody else makes their money from wine, too — the evidence for which is dotted everywhere in the shape of kvevri, giant earthenware pots, buried to the neck in dirt, in which grapes are left to ferment for up to six months. The prettiest part of the village is its cemetery, small but ornate and encircled by wrought iron and flower bouquets. This is where Sabi Beriani is buried. In November 2014, she was attacked and stabbed to death in her Tbilisi apartment. Her body was then set on fire. She was 23. In keeping with Georgian and regional tradition, most of the graves at Velistsikhe cemetery are marked by black marble headstones, with portraits of the dead rendered in photographic detail. Beriani's is no different. But while she died a woman, her headstone depicts a young, androgynous boy, perhaps in his late teens, staring dolefully at the viewer. It was the best Beriani's mother, Tamar, could do. The village rallied behind her when the news of Beriani's death reached Velistsikhe. After all, she was 40 and had lost her only child. But everybody also knew that Beriani was a transgender woman and activist, who regularly appeared on national television shows. It was a life few, if any, in Velistsikhe would condone. Beriani had spent her life campaigning to be recognized as a woman. Now dead, nobody besides Tamar — not even Tamar's own, deeply conservative father — would allow that identity to rest with her. Tamar is short, with rounded cheeks and striking, brown eyes. I met her on Orthodox Easter Sunday last year. In Georgia, it is customary to mark the day by visiting the graves of lost friends and family members. The cemetery was packed with mourners. As Tamar laid roses, panettone sweet bread, and Beriani's favorite soda beside the headstone, many of them stopped and stared. It was little surprise: Georgia, a former Soviet state in the Caucasus region, is a deeply conservative place. It claims to be the second country ever to adopt Christianity, in the fourth century. Research by Gallup in 2015 found the small nation of 3.7 million people to be the most religious nation on Earth: Eighty-three percent of Georgians adhere to the Georgian Orthodox church. Barely 1.5 percent either do not follow a religion or declined to disclose so for a 2014 national census.
10-17-17 Chechen 'gay purge' victim: 'No one knows who will be next'
Chechen 'gay purge' victim: 'No one knows who will be next'
Six months after reports emerged that gay men were being detained illegally and tortured in the Russian republic of Chechnya, a young man has spoken publicly for the first time about his ordeal. Maxim Lapunov has described being held for 12 days in a blood-soaked cell, beaten with sticks, threatened and humiliated by police. But despite reporting what he endured to the authorities, his lawyer says no proper investigation has been conducted. Mr Lapunov, who is 30 and from Siberia, had been working and living in Chechnya for two years when he alleges he was grabbed and dragged into a car one night in March by two men he didn't know. At a police facility he was interrogated, forced to name another man and beaten. "They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me," he recalled, speaking at a small gathering in Moscow convened by human rights activists. "Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on," he said quietly. "Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how."
10-16-17 Trump’s U-turn may see Iran join North Korea as a nuclear state
Trump’s U-turn may see Iran join North Korea as a nuclear state
In refusing to recertify the Iran nuclear deal, US president Donald Trump risks creating another North Korea – as another Republican president did before him. US president Donald Trump has refused to recertify the 2015 multilateral agreement freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. The impact of the decision – which was opposed by all of the other member nations party to the deal, Trump’s own officials, nuclear experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – won’t be immediate. But it could be very bad – North Korea bad, if history is anything to go by. The 2015 deal was heralded as a major success. At the time, Iran had the capability to make enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for 10 bombs in a few months. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed that year between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the EU and Germany, it drastically cut its production capacity and stockpile, and gave up making plutonium in return for the lifting of sanctions. This was backed by what Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, on 13 October called “the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime”. Those inspections, he said, verified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. But the US required its president to certify that the pact remained in US interests every 90 days, or Congress could re-impose sanctions. In a detailed statement on 13 October, Trump refused to certify it. He didn’t pull the US out of the JCPOA, but said it should be strengthened. He complained that the pact, which took 13 years to negotiate despite focusing only on nuclear weapons, didn’t also address Iran’s missile development or sponsorship of foreign insurgencies.
10-16-17 St Louis protests endure after police acquittal
St Louis protests endure after police acquittal
Six years after Jason Stockley shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a judge found the former St Louis police officer "not guilty". Hundreds came out to protest when the verdict was announced – and one month on, they're showing no signs of stopping.
10-16-17 Why America is coming apart at the seams
Why America is coming apart at the seams
America is tearing itself apart. People are angrier at each other, more resentful and contemptuous of each other, than they've been in living memory. Americans are experiencing a collective nervous breakdown, and there's no telling what happens if they don't find a way out of it. At the center of this is politics, which has become a tribal battle between Team Blue and Team Red. And quite often, at the center of our political battles is race. Race has always been an important and divisive issue in American politics, but there's no question things have become much more abrasive in recent years. Why is this? An obvious answer is "Donald Trump." And he certainly deserves more blame than any other living individual. His career in politics has been defined by racial demagoguery and by remaking the GOP in his image. In taking the White House, he has done more than anyone to make racial divisions deeper and more acrimonious. But Trump is not the whole story. Gallup has been tracking Americans' views of race relations, as good a proxy for the intensity of racial conflict as any, and we were doing okay until 2013-2014, when we start going into a tailspin. That's before Trump was on every TV screen every day. And it makes sense: Demagogues don't create new tensions — they tap into and exacerbate pre-existing anger and conflict, even as they intensify it on their way to the top. So if not just Trump, what or who is to blame? The answer is American political parties, which have become structurally designed to whip up racial anger and division to their maximum extent. The word "structural" here is important: This is bigger than any individual, or even any camp. It's the system.
10-14-17 Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat
Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat
Global powers, including key US allies, have said they will stand by the Iran nuclear deal which US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear apart. Mr Trump said on Friday that he would stop signing off on the agreement. The UK, France and Germany responded that the pact was "in our shared national security interest". The EU said it was "not up to any single country to terminate" a "working" deal. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the US was "more isolated than ever". "Can a president annul a multilateral international treaty on his own?" he asked. "Apparently he doesn't know that this agreement is not a bilateral agreement solely between Iran and the United States." The deal, signed in 2015, is between Iran and six international powers - the UK, the US, Russia, France, Germany, and China. It imposed curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in return for an easing of international sanctions. (Webmaster's comment: Trump continues to dig the United States into a deeper and deeper hole! Other countries should ignore the United States until we get a more rational president!)
10-13-17 What mass killers have in common
What mass killers have in common
Ideology can mask the real motive: the thrill of violent revenge on the world. Stephen Paddock left us a note. It provides no motive, but may still explain why he transported nearly two dozen weapons of war to his Las Vegas hotel room last week and turned an outdoor concert into a live video game, firing at 22,000 human targets, killing 59 and wounding nearly 500. The note, police say, consisted of a series of numbers that were the results of complex calculations: his elevation above the ground, the distance to the crowd, the angle of the bullets' drop to the flesh below. Paddock was "a numbers guy," a professional gambler who played high-stakes video poker for 14 hours straight and didn't much like anyone. In City Journal, Seth Barron offers the theory that Paddock's relentless pursuit of the dopamine hits that come with nonstop gambling left him with "no remaining capacity for pleasure or novelty." So for one last rush in an empty, blackhearted life, Paddock carefully planned and carried out a spectacular slaughter. His biggest jackpot ever. We may never know for sure what drove Paddock to kill, but this much is certain: Mass killings are a malignant meme deeply lodged in our nation's psyche. Paddock had no apparent racial, religious, or political grievances, but no doubt felt the same transgressive thrill as the faux warriors who shot up Columbine, the Pulse nightclub, the Aurora movie theater, the Charleston black church, the Newtown elementary school, the San Bernardino conference center, and other domestic killing fields. What these mass killers had in common was profound alienation from a world that seemed indifferent to their pain and humiliation, and easy access to weapons that amplified their rage. Radical Islam, white supremacy, and other ideologies can serve to justify violent vengeance, but they are optional. Paddock didn't need reasons; he just assembled an arsenal and did the math. For damaged souls in whom empathy has died, inflicting misery can be its own reward. (Webmaster's comment: Angry white male supremacists are our greatest terrorist danger!)
10-13-17 Fake news: Misinformation after the Las Vegas massacre
Fake news: Misinformation after the Las Vegas massacre
In the hours after a tragedy, “accuracy matters,” said David Pierson in the Los Angeles Times. “Facts can help catch the suspects, save lives, and prevent a panic.” But in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, “the world’s two biggest gateways for information,” Google and Facebook, repeatedly spread lies about the shooting, steering users toward fake news and conspiracy-laden fringe sites. Google’s Top Stories box linked to a discussion on 4chan, a notoriously noxious online message board frequented by internet trolls, identifying the wrong assailant and falsely claiming he was an anti-Trump liberal. Facebook “perpetuated the same rumors,” linking to a site called “Alt-Right News” on its official Crisis Response page and promoting a story that the shooter had been linked to ISIS. Google-owned YouTube promoted conspiracy videos suggesting the massacre was a staged “false-flag” operation, said Sam Levin in The Guardian. Even after family members of those killed complained, YouTube argued that the videos “did not violate its standards.”
10-13-17 Death toll rises
Death toll rises
The official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria rose to 45 this week, with that number expected to rise as communications are slowly restored across the storm-ravaged island. Just over a third of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million residents are still without running water, while 89 percent of the island continues to go without power. Nearly all of Puerto Rico’s hospitals have reopened, but many are facing shortages of medicine and supplies, including diesel fuel to run their generators. The island’s 6,000 dialysis patients have seen their treatment hours cut by 25 percent to conserve energy. Federal health officials said less than half of the territory’s medical personnel have returned to work since the Sept. 20 storm. The situation is so dire that many Puerto Ricans are expected to leave the island permanently. More than 100,000 people are expected to move to the Orlando area alone in the coming months. (Webmaster's comment: And these are the United States citizens that Trump wants to stop helping!)
10-13-17 Iran nuclear deal: Trump to reveal tough new strategy
Iran nuclear deal: Trump to reveal tough new strategy
US President Donald Trump is expected to set out a more confrontational strategy towards Iran, accusing it of pursuing "death and destruction". It is thought he will focus on its non-nuclear activities, particularly those of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), accused of supporting terrorism. The new strategy calls for stricter enforcement of the 2015 nuclear deal. He is expected to refuse to certify to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal. Official sources have told the Associated Press Mr Trump will say Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement but also that the deal is fatally flawed. While he may not ask for sanctions to be re-imposed, he may urge Congress to approve tough new requirements for Tehran to continue to benefit from sanctions relief. Mr Trump is under pressure at home and abroad not to scrap the deal under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the partial lifting of sanctions. If he did decertify it, it would not mean pulling out of the deal but it would open up a path under which Congress could eventually halt US compliance with the deal. During last year's election campaign, Mr Trump pledged to throw out the agreement concluded under his predecessor, Barack Obama. (Webmaster's comment: Iran will probably now proceed to build nukes. Thanks to Trump!)
10-13-17 Trump to end Obamacare subsidies amid strong criticism
Trump to end Obamacare subsidies amid strong criticism
US President Donald Trump will end subsidies to health insurance providers designed to help low income households, as he continues his attempts to dismantle Obamacare. The White House announced the move hours after Mr Trump signed an executive order allowing the sale of health insurance plans which are exempt from some of the law's regulations. The two decisions came after Congress repeatedly failed to repeal Obamacare. The moves were instantly criticised. Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement denouncing the end of subsidies as a "spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage" which would harm the poorest citizens. Meanwhile, critics of the initial announcement argued it could de-stabilise the Obamacare market by encouraging healthy consumers to leave their current plans, prompting a spike in premium costs for older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions. But Mr Trump says his plans will provide "relief" for people struggling to afford the rising costs, adding that ending the subsidies would "fix" the "imploding" Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.(Webmaster's comment: These changes are meant to bankrupt the poor to benefit the already rich!)
10-13-17 Religious freedom: Trump’s clear message
Religious freedom: Trump’s clear message
No doubt about it: “This is the Christian Right’s presidency,” said Jay Michaelson in TheDailyBeast.com. Under the guise of protecting “religious freedom,” the Trump administration last week “quietly unleashed a barrage of executive actions” that erase years of progress for women and LGBT people. First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government will no longer prosecute employers for discriminating against transgender people. Then he instructed government lawyers to prioritize religious freedom at all times—essentially giving religious organizations the green light to discriminate against gays in hiring. Finally, the administration expanded the exemption rules for the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate—so now all employers no longer have to offer their workers birth control coverage, provided they have a “sincerely held religious or moral objection.” The Trump administration is sending a clear “message to religious groups,” said Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.com. Whenever there’s a conflict between religious teachings and our nation’s discrimination laws, it will side with religion every time.
10-13-17 White House’s new demands for ‘Dreamer’ deal
White House’s new demands for ‘Dreamer’ deal
President Trump this week reversed a tentative deal he’d struck with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation, as the White House issued Congress a list of hard-line immigration demands. In exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA), which would shield 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, the administration said it would insist on complete funding for Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, the hiring of 10,000 new immigration agents, and tougher rules for claiming asylum in the U.S. It also demanded stricter limits on legal immigration, including restricting family-based green cards to children and spouses. Democratic leaders, who last month signaled they had reached a deal with Trump to grant Dreamers permanent legal status, reacted with alarm, and accused the administration of trying to scuttle formal negotiations before they even begin. They said the new demands clearly reflected the priorities of anti-immigration hawks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser. “If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said.
10-13-17 Sanctuary state
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week making California a “sanctuary state,” in a show of defiance against the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies. Senate Bill 54, which is aimed at protecting the state’s estimated 2.3 million undocumented immigrants, dramatically limits the extent to which state and local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The bill, which takes effect in January, bars officials from asking about people’s immigration status or from sharing information about them with federal immigration agents unless the individuals have been charged or convicted of a serious offense. Federal agents will still be able to enter county jails, but the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the bill would force the agency to conduct more large-scale raids on neighborhoods and workplaces to find undocumented immigrants.
10-13-17 Defend free speech — even when it offends you
Defend free speech — even when it offends you
Being a principled defender of free speech is never easy. And today's assaults on the right to the unencumbered exchange of ideas make the mission particularly grueling. In both the past and present, a sizable portion of the political right has insisted that the First Amendment shouldn't be used as a shield for things like flag burning, protests against police brutality, and pornography. Similarly, many on the left insist the Constitution doesn't protect things like amorphously defined "hate speech," paid political advocacy, and … pornography. Now, the culture on many college campuses — sometimes encouraged by professors — deems violent shutdowns of controversial speakers to be a form of free speech. But this only works under the logic that the loudest voice is the victor in the competition of ideas. That mob rule should be embraced by those claiming to represent the most vulnerable voices is disconcerting, and fails on a basic level to understand how the protection of unpopular, controversial, and subjectively offensive speech is the same protection that allows marginalized groups to fight against the tyranny of both government and the social majority. The idea that the First Amendment only protects from the incursion on free expression by the government is held by many, but it is wrong. Protest is free speech, but there is a line where it becomes an unconstitutional violation of another person's right to free expression. (Webmaster's comment: So we should defend the neo-Nazis right to call for the racism and racist genocide of a Nazi state. Look what that did to Germany 80 years ago!)
10-13-17 Nazis are bad
Nazis are bad
A new video game that features Americans violently fighting a Nazi takeover of the U.S. is being attacked on social media as “a hysterical leftist power fantasy” created in response to real-life neo-Nazi protests. The game publisher, Bethesda, denied any partisan intent in the video game’s theme, saying, “We don’t feel it’s a reach for us to say Nazis are bad.”
10-13-17 Trade: NAFTA negotiations at risk
Trade: NAFTA negotiations at risk
The fourth round of NAFTA talks began this week “amid increasing acrimony,” said David Lawder and David Ljunggren in Reuters?.com. Mexican and Canadian negotiators were taken aback by contentious new demands from U.S. officials, as President Trump made “fresh threats to terminate the 23-year-old agreement.” Negotiators have reportedly stumbled over U.S. demands to sharply increase North American parts requirements for automobiles; the U.S. has also called for “radical changes to NAFTA’s dispute arbitration systems and changes to intellectual property provisions.”
10-13-17 We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Whenever Ta-Nehisi Coates scrutinizes the state of the American soul, “expect no sugarcoating or coddling,” said Renée Graham in The Boston Globe. The 42-year-old essayist rose to prominence over the past decade by reminding readers that racism remained a toxic force in a nation that had just elected its first black president—that black Americans had not yet stepped into a “post-racial” age. Coates’ new book collects nine of the most significant essays he published between 2008 and 2017 and pairs all but the last one with new introductory commentary. The book’s arc is clear: Nine years ago, even Coates believed that Barack Obama’s rise foretold a day when America would be free of racism. Today, he’s concluded that racism is not a tumor that can be removed, but, in his words, a feature of the American body politic that’s “both native and essential to that body.”
10-13-17 Poll watch
72% of Republicans believe it should be illegal for citizens to desecrate the flag. 50% think that the media has “too much freedom” to say what it wants. 50% of Democrats, meanwhile, say the government should stop people from engaging in “hate speech” against minorities.
10-13-17 The aliens were coming next year
The aliens were coming next year
A Wyoming man who was arrested for public intoxication told police that he’d been sent from the future to warn humanity of an impending alien invasion. When Casper police detained Bryant Johnson, 27, he demanded to speak with the town’s “president.” He then claimed he’d traveled back from the year 2048 to tell locals to evacuate because “the aliens were coming next year.” Johnson—who had a blood alcohol concentration of .136—said he was drunk because time travel doesn’t work when you’re sober.
10-13-17 Sasquatch hunters
Sasquatch hunters, after legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, 83, said she’s open to the possibility that Bigfoot exists. Goodall said she has heard many witness accounts from tribal people of tall, hairy, bipedal primates. “I don’t want to disbelieve,” Goodall said.
10-12-17 How did driver escape this hail of police gunfire?
How did driver escape this hail of police gunfire?
Dashboard and body cam footage show how a call about a "suspicious vehicle" triggered a hail of police gunfire. Two of the officers are now under criminal investigation, and the suspect has not been found. (Webmaster's comment: During "The Thrill Of The Kill" it's hard for the police to shoot straight!)
10-12-17 Black man beaten in Charlottesville far-right rally charged
Black man beaten in Charlottesville far-right rally charged
A black man who was beaten at a far-right rally in Virginia has turned himself in to be formally charged in connection with the incident. DeAndre Harris, who is accused of unlawful wounding at the 12 August Charlottesville protest, was released on an unsecured bond. Photos and video of Mr Harris, 20, being attacked by white men at the event were widely shared online. Two alleged assailants were charged with malicious wounding in September. But many are incredulous that an African-American set upon by white attackers at a far-right demonstration could himself face a criminal case. Another individual alleged that Mr Harris attacked him, prompting the arrest warrant to be issued on Tuesday. Mr Harris's lawyer, S Lee Merritt, said his client did nothing wrong and authorities did not have probable cause to prosecute him. Mr Harris could face up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine (£1,880). The attorney said his client, a former special-education instruction assistant, suffered a concussion, a knee injury and a fractured wrist. The assault also left him with a head laceration that required stitches. "We find it highly offensive and upsetting," Mr Merritt told the Washington Post newspaper, "but what's more jarring is that he's been charged with the same crime as the men who attacked him." (Webmaster's comment: Racism is now so bad in America we charge blacks defending themselves with a crime.)
10-12-17 Canada drops asylum seekers hijab questionnaire
Canada drops asylum seekers hijab questionnaire
Canada has suspended the use of a questionnaire that appeared to single out Muslim asylum seekers crossing into the country. The Mounties used the form to screen refugee claimants entering into Quebec from the US. Public Safety Canada says the document was "inappropriate and inconsistent with government policy". Over 13,000 asylum seekers have crossed illegally into Canada since January, mostly into Quebec. Canadian immigration and refugee lawyer Clifford McCarten provided the BBC with a copy of the document. Many of the questions are standard, including queries related country of origin, basic health questions, and whether the respondent has friends or family in the US or Canada. But it also includes questions about the refugee claimant's opinion on the so-called Islamic State and the Taliban and how they feel about women who do not wear religious head-coverings like the hijab and niqab. Other questions asked more generally about affiliations with extremist or political groups, whether the respondent practises a religion and how often, and the person's opinion on religious freedom and equality between men and women. (Webmaster's comment: American's anti-Muslim hatred spreads to Canada!)
10-12-17 Trump loses patience with Puerto Rico
Trump loses patience with Puerto Rico
US President Donald Trump has griped about emergency relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, saying federal aid cannot continue "forever". In tweets, he spoke of Puerto Rico's "total lack of accountability", saying "electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes". The island, whose 3.4 million residents are US citizens, is 90% without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria. Congress is weighing a multi-billion dollar aid package for the territory. Lawmakers are expected to approve $36.5bn (£28bn) in emergency relief for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the US Virgin Islands, as well as wildfire-ravaged California. In Thursday's tweets, the US president noted it was up to "Congress to decide how much to spend". But he added: "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" (Webmaster's comment: Trump, you're one stupid, ignorant, nasty, evil bastard! THREE WEEKS IS NOT FOREVER! THESE ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT WHITE!)
10-11-17 Ten people charged for Louisiana State University hazing death
Ten people charged for Louisiana State University hazing death
Louisiana police have announced arrest warrants for 10 people accused of a role in forcing a university student to drink himself to death last month. All the suspects are affiliated with the social club that police say 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver was attempting to join when he died. One Louisiana State University student is charged with negligent homicide and nine others are charged with hazing. Police believe Gruver died after a fraternity ritual called "Bible study". According to a police affidavit, on the night of 13 September, Gruver had been forced to drink during a Phi Delta Theta initiation each time he incorrectly answered questions about the university's all-male club. Gruver died of "acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration", according to a post-mortem examination by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner. The Georgia-native had a blood alcohol level that was over six times the legal limit for driving. "Today's arrests underscore that the ramifications of hazing can be devastating," said university president F King Alexander on Wednesday. "Maxwell Gruver's family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences - all due to a series of poor decisions," he continued. (Webmaster's comment: All these bullies are old enough for severe punishments. Expulsion and prison time seems appropriate!)
10-11-17 Utah policeman fired for arrest of nurse who was doing her job
Utah policeman fired for arrest of nurse who was doing her job
A US police officer who forcibly arrested a nurse for refusing to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient has been fired. Footage showed nurse Alex Wubbels screaming for help as Detective Jeff Payne manhandled and handcuffed her at a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has lost his job and James Tracy, his watch commander, was demoted two ranks from lieutenant to officer. Their boss said their actions had undermined public trust.Mr Payne was sent to University of Utah Hospital on 26 July to collect blood from an unconscious lorry driver injured in a head-on collision with a suspect fleeing police in another vehicle. The patient was not suspected of wrongdoing. But Mr Payne did not present a warrant to collect the blood sample, as required by hospital policy, and state and federal law. Ms Wubbels, who was duty nurse that day, declined to tell Officer Payne where the patient was or let him draw blood. She even called her supervisor to get her to explain to the detective that the nurse was only following hospital policy. Lt Tracy instructed Det Payne to arrest Ms Wubbels and he proceeded to shove the screaming nurse out of the emergency room before holding her against a wall to handcuff her. (Webmaster's comment: The police officer should also be charged with assault, tried, convicted, and serve prison time!)
10-11-17 She helps trans refugees. Her family helped her transition
She helps trans refugees. Her family helped her transition
Ava Benach questioned her gender identity. But when she started helping transgender asylum seekers, it all became clear to her.
10-11-17 Diary of Anne Frank transformed into graphic adaptation
Diary of Anne Frank transformed into graphic adaptation
Seventy years after its first publication, Anne Frank's original diary is being transformed. Anne Frank was 15 when she died. She was an aspiring author, and one of more than a million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. Today her diary - which she nicknamed Kitty - is one of the most-read books in the world. Her teenage prose has spawned Hollywood screenplays, Broadway shows and countless other (re)productions. Now it has been adapted into comic-strip format, in a book produced by the creators of the Oscar-nominated animation Waltz with Bashir, and there is a film coming soon too. Accompanied by excerpts from her diaries and letters, the "graphic diary" depicts the story of how Anne Frank and her family went into hiding after her sister Margot received a summons to report to a Nazi work camp. They survived for almost two years, tiptoeing around in the dark, damp confines of the "achterhuis" (secret annex) before being discovered. Nazis emptied Anne's schoolbag to carry cash and jewellery looted from Jewish homes - her distinctive red-checked diary was recovered from the floor of the hideout.
10-10-17 Trump challenges Rex Tillerson to IQ test
Trump challenges Rex Tillerson to IQ test
US President Donald Trump has challenged his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to an IQ test, in the latest sign of discord between the two. He made the remark in a magazine interview when asked about reports that Mr Tillerson had called him a moron. "I think it's fake news," Mr Trump told Forbes, "but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win." Mr Trump is due to have lunch on Tuesday with Mr Tillerson. Reports have swirled of a schism in the Trump administration between the commander-in-chief and his top diplomat, as the US faces a host of vexatious foreign policy conundrums, from North Korea to Iran. Last week Mr Tillerson called a news conference to deny reports that he was considering quitting. But the former ExxonMobil chief executive did not refute an NBC News report that he had called his boss a moron after a July meeting at the Pentagon. Earlier this month, Mr Trump publicly undercut the former Texas oilman by tweeting that he was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with nuclear-armed North Korea. Last week the New York Times reported that Mr Tillerson was astonished at how little Mr Trump grasps the basics of foreign policy. According to the newspaper, quoting sources close to the secretary of state, Mr Trump has been irritated by Mr Tillerson's body language during meetings. Mr Tillerson is said to roll his eyes or slouch when he disagrees with the decisions of his boss.(Webmaster's comment: Unbelievable! This president talks like he's in a grade school schoolyard!)
10-10-17 This is the America we deserve
This is the America we deserve
America's grotesque political sideshow is now the main event. And it's our fault. Imagine a politically informed citizen from just about any prior era of post-Civil War American history being transported to this past Sunday afternoon to observe the viciously polarized, thoroughly scummy spectacle that has infected our public life. The person could come from the late 19th century, when both major parties were challenged by the upstart People's Party. Or from the darkest days of the Depression. Or from any moment during the destabilizing cultural upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It wouldn't matter. Nothing would have prepared them for what they saw here — the constant smarmy swirl of charge and counter-charge between the president and leading members of his own party, the anxious striving for continual outrage on the part of journalists, partisans, and pundits, who act like emotional drug addicts eager for an hourly fix of self-righteousness. And all of it coming at the end of a week when a major topic of debate involved the question of whether the secretary of state did or did not refer to the president of the United States as a "moron." In his astonishing multi-hour feud with the president on Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) claimed that the Trump White House is an "adult daycare center." He was too generous. The Trump White House may well be a dysfunctional mess, with staffers constantly scrambling, and often failing, to contain the ignorant, narcissistic malevolence and incompetence of the commander in chief. And Corker may even be right that Trump is setting the country on a "path to World War III." But that still doesn't capture the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves.
10-10-17 India navy discharges officer after sex change
India navy discharges officer after sex change
An Indian naval officer who underwent sex change surgery has been discharged from service. A navy statement said its "rules and regulations do not permit the sailor's continued employment" because of "irreversible gender reassignment". Sabi, formerly Manish Giri, has said that she will appeal to the military court against her sacking. It has sparked a debate on transgender rights in India, where it is legally recognised as a third gender. Sabi joined the Indian navy in 2010. She underwent gender reassignment surgery in late 2016 while on leave. When she returned to work, she alleged that she was confined to a psychiatric ward for nearly five months. "It was like being in jail," she told BBC Hindi's Sushila Singh. The Indian navy has not yet responded to the allegations, and has declined to comment when contacted by the BBC.
10-9-17 Kuwait’s plans for mandatory DNA da
Kuwait’s plans for mandatory DNA da
Kuwait has revoked the world’s first law requiring everyone to submit samples of their DNA, after a court found it would violate personal liberty. Kuwait has revoked the world’s first law requiring all citizens and visitors to submit samples of their DNA. Passed in 2015, the law was challenged last year by lawyers in Kuwait. Last week, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of personal liberty. “We have prevailed,” says Adel AbdulHadi of the firm Adel AbdulHadi & Partners. “I’m proud to have taken a part in this challenge, and very pleased to have worked and succeeded in a case which is of high importance to maintain the principals of privacy and human civil rights.” The government introduced the law ostensibly to allow identification of potential terrorists, but there were fears that any law mandating collection of DNA from all citizens could be abused. As well as potentially violating the personal privacy of all 3.5 million Kuwaitis and their visitors, it could also reveal unwelcome paternity issues, AbdulHadi’s team argued. Anyone refusing to yield their DNA would have faced up to a year in jail or a large fine. “If the law had been brought into force, Kuwait would have been the first country in the world to require the compulsory collection of DNA samples from all citizens,” the European Society of Human Genetics said in a statement. “[We] hope that other countries considering going down the same road will take note of this decision.”
10-9-17 Most science papers turn out to be wrong. It’s time to fix that
Most science papers turn out to be wrong. It’s time to fix that
Research findings often crumble under the microscope. Rows over the best way to fix this must end so we can stop trust in science crumbling too, says Robert Matthews. In these times of fake news, it’s good to know that there’s still one source we can rely on: the scientific community. Wielding rigorous standards of evidence, researchers can be counted on to give us trustworthy insights amid a sea of nonsense. Yet this, too, is fake news. For decades, scientists have been using flawed methods for turning raw data into insight about, say, the effectiveness of a new medical therapy or method of teaching. As a result, the research literature is awash with findings that are nothing more than meaningless flukes. No less shocking is the fact that researchers have been repeatedly warned about the problem, to no effect. This week, the American Statistical Association (ASA) hopes to change that. It is hosting a conference intended to get the scientific community to mend its ways. But what has this scientific crisis got to do with statistics? Last year, the ASA stated its concern about the misuse of the standard data analysis methods that researchers use to tell if they’ve found something worth reporting. Known as significance testing, these are suspected of playing a key role in the replication crisis in science, in which startling claims collapse when other researchers try to confirm them.
10-9-17 The ACLU is under attack. We must protect it.
The ACLU is under attack. We must protect it.
t's admit something up front: The American Civil Liberty Union's history of free speech activism has often placed it awkwardly on the side of the country's most notorious and least savory figures: Fred Phelps. Larry Flynt. Nazis. Now, nobody has ever really thought that the ACLU, a fixture in lefty politics, shared the reactionary positions of such extreme people and organizations. Instead, it was broadly understood that by fighting for the constitutional rights of people on the ugly fringe — and possibly needing a shower afterward — the organization was helping to preserve First Amendment rights for all of us to use. That venerable idea is now under attack. The ACLU is under fire, both internally and from the left, from those who say its free speech mission cannot be reconciled with the cause of racial justice — and that in a conflict between the two, it is free speech that must give. "Our broader mission — which includes advancing the racial justice guarantees in the Constitution and elsewhere, not just the First Amendment — continues to be undermined by our rigid stance," says a new letter signed by 200 ACLU staffers. The letter is just the latest such argument against the ACLU. In August, a former volunteer penned a New York Times op-ed urging the organization to "rethink" its commitment to free speech. And recently, Black Lives Matter activists at the College of William & Mary shut down a speech by an ACLU attorney with cries of "ACLU, you protect Hitler, too" and "liberalism is white supremacy." One irony of all of this, of course, is that the ACLU would be first in line to defend the rights of its critics to speak about this issue. (Webmaster's comment: But if the Nazis win popular support because of free speech and the United States becames a Nazi government with all it's murderous evil then what good did free speech in support of Nazis serve?)
10-9-17 Trump NFL row: Mike Pence walks out of game after players kneel
Trump NFL row: Mike Pence walks out of game after players kneel
Mike Pence said he abandoned the game because kneeling during the anthem "disrespects our soldiers." (Webmaster's comment: Standing during the anthem disrespects our black citizens murdered by police!) US Vice-President Mike Pence has walked out of a National Football League (NFL) game after several players refused to stand for the US national anthem. Mr Pence said he could not be present at an event that "disrespects our soldiers, our flag" after abandoning the game in his home state of Indiana. President Donald Trump tweeted that he had asked Mr Pence to leave if players kneeled and said he was "proud of him". Kneeling at NFL games has become a form of protest against racial injustice. Mr Trump has criticised players sharply for the protests and pressed the NFL to ban them.
10-9-17 Trump wall: New proposal ties Dreamer plan to border clampdown
Trump wall: New proposal ties Dreamer plan to border clampdown
The White House has tied any new deal on young undocumented immigrants to a clampdown on illegal immigration, including a border wall with Mexico. US President Donald Trump is asking for funding for the wall, speedier deportations and the hiring of thousands of new immigration officials. Last month he ended the Obama-era "Dreamer" programme which had protected some 690,000 immigrants. Leading Democrats in Congress have rejected the latest proposals. They accused Mr Trump of backtracking on a commitment not to include the border wall in negotiations over the status of young immigrants, who are mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, set up in 2012 under President Barack Obama, is due to expire in March, casting doubt on the future of those protected. What are Trump's demands? The list of "principles" delivered by the White House to Congress on Sunday includes:
- Constructing the border wall with Mexico
- Employing 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and 1,000 lawyers for the agency
- Hiring an extra 370 immigration judges and 300 federal prosecutors
- Banning immigrants from bringing their extended family members to the US
- Penalising "sanctuary cities" that have resisted the Trump administration's efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants
- Having companies use an E-Verify programme to keep illegal immigrants from getting jobs
(Webmaster's comment: Born here, raised here, throw them back across the ocean!)
10-8-17 Las Vegas shooting: Rate of fire - inside America's arsenal
Las Vegas shooting: Rate of fire - inside America's arsenal
The Las Vegas gunman fired hundreds of rounds, including at one point 90 bullets in 10 seconds. Such bursts of gunfire will have shocked many, especially outside the US, but everyday Americans own these powerful weapons too. Here's a guide to the firearms legally available in most US states, and the rate at which they fire bullets. (Webmaster's comment: 90 bullets on 10 seconds! These weapons have only one purpose; killing lots of people quickly. THEY SHOULD BE ILLEGAL!)
10-8-17 White nationalists return to Charlottesville
White nationalists return to Charlottesville
White nationalist protesters have returned to the US town Charlottesville two months after violent clashes there saw a woman killed. The town's mayor said the small group's appearance at the statue of a Confederate general was "another despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards". The brief torch-lit rally was organised by far-right figure Richard Spencer. In videos he posted protesters can be heard chanting "You will not replace us" and "we will be back". The statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee was also the venue for the "Unite the Right" rally in August, held to oppose plans to remove it. Counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a participant drove into a group of counter-protesters at high speed. Between 40 and 50 people are thought to have attended the rally in Emancipation Park by the statue of Gen Lee, which has been covered up while a legal challenge to its removal takes place. In the video live-streamed by Mr Spencer, he said Charlottesville had become a symbol of the suppression of free speech and destruction of historical monuments. The group, all dressed similarly and holding lit torches, could be heard chanting "the south will rise again" and "Russia is our friend". Another speaker said the group was there to "represent white America's interests" and criticised the local community and the media. Police said the group left the park shortly before 20:00 (0:00 GMT). Mayor Mike Signer said officials were looking at legal ways to prevent further events. Mr Spencer is the founder of a right-wing website and think-tank and has made a series of controversial comments at public events, including allegedly advocating "peaceful" ethnic cleansing.
10-8-17 Why the national anthem protests are failing
Why the national anthem protests are failing
The NFL's players and owners find themselves trapped in a collapsing pocket of their own creation — and at risk of getting sacked by millions of fans across the country. Two weekends ago, many team owners appeased their players by participating in national anthem demonstrations after President Trump's rather profane demand on Sept. 22 that owners fire any players who kneel. These demonstrations didn't go over well with many NFL fans — millions of whom are white, older, and conservative, and see any demonstration during the national anthem as fundamentally unpatriotic. So last weekend, some teams tried to innovate solutions — to no avail. The New Orleans Saints knelt during the coin toss in their London game against the Miami Dolphins, which mostly puzzled fans. Were they protesting random chance? Baltimore Ravens players took a knee prior to the anthem, prompting a cascade of boos from their hometown fans who assumed that they would continue the protest through the performance of the song itself. Other teams stood — but demonstrated by linking arms and having statements read by the public announcer. The nadir of this effort came on Monday night in Kansas City. The visiting Washington Redskins stood for the anthem, but three Chiefs players protested. Marcus Peters and Ukeme Eligwe sat on the bench, while Justin Houston knelt on the field. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, ESPN decided to carry the anthem live rather than sticking with pre-game analysis because of the mass shooting event in Las Vegas. The demonstrations infuriated many fans all over again. (Webmaster's comment: It's failing because these are "uppity" black men who 75 years ago would have been lynched. In many white minds these blacks should still be slaves!)
10-6-17 Canada settles with indigenous 'Sixties Scoop' victims
Canada settles with indigenous 'Sixties Scoop' victims
Canada has reached a major settlement with indigenous victims of the so-called Sixties Scoop. The federal government has announced a payout of C$800m ($635m; £488m) to some 20,000 victims. Starting in the 1960s, child welfare agencies removed thousands of indigenous children from their homes and placed them with non-indigenous families. Canada has been involved in years of litigation over the practice. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said on Friday the agreement reached in principle will see $750m spent on direct compensation and another $50m spent to fund an Indigenous Healing Foundation with a counselling, healing and education mandate. A further $75m will go to legal fees related to the national settlement. A tearful Ms Bennett called the agreement an essential step "to begin to right the wrong of this dark and painful chapter". The full details of the settlement must still negotiated and it has to be approved by the court. (Webmaster's comment: What gave the government the right? They were white!)
10-6-17 Tax reform: Who would benefit from Trump’s plan?
Tax reform: Who would benefit from Trump’s plan?
President Trump’s tax plan represents “the most pro-growth fiscal agenda” since Ronald Reagan unleashed the economy in the 1980s, said Charles Gasparino in the New York Post. Under the initial blueprint announced last week, the number of tax brackets would collapse from seven to three, simplifying our “messy tax system,” while the top individual tax rate would drop from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The bottom rate would rise slightly, from 10 percent to 12 percent, but lower- to middle-income folks would see their standard deduction double, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples, and enjoy an as yet unspecified increase in the child tax credit. Trump’s plan also “contains a mountain of incentives” for small and large businesses, said Larry Kudlow in NationalReview.com. It cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent—one of the highest rates in the world—to a much more competitive 20 percent, encouraging U.S. companies to expand and hire more workers. “This is a revolutionary change,” said Trump, “and the biggest winners will be the American workers.” insists that his plan favors middle-income Americans and not the rich. But an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that about 30 percent of taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $150,000 would see their taxes increase under the GOP plan. Meanwhile, by 2027, 80 percent of the plan’s benefits would go to the wealthiest 1 percent. Republicans howl about the national debt when a Democrats is president, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com, but don’t seem to care that their plan would explode the deficit by reducing federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over a decade. The GOP hopes to claw back about $1 trillion by closing loopholes and tax breaks, including eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes. But every existing deduction will be vigorously defended by its beneficiaries and lobbyists. Republicans could avoid their math problem by not giving “a tiny number of extremely affluent people” a big tax cut in the first place—but that’s “the motivation of the entire exercise.”
10-6-17 Kids’ health-care program lapses
Kids’ health-care program lapses
Congress missed a deadline this week to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to 8.9 million low-income children. CHIP, which lapsed Sept. 30, has broad bipartisan support, but reauthorization was pushed to the back burner in Washington amid GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Although no child is expected to lose his or her health insurance immediately, because states have reserves of CHIP funding they can draw on, 10 states are at risk of running out of money in the next two months, including California and Mississippi. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are now working on bills to extend CHIP funding by five years, while phasing out a 23 percent funding increase provided through Obamacare. (Webmaster's comment: The rich need more money. Children's lives are not important!)
10-6-17 Germany’s neo-Nazis terrify us
Germany’s neo-Nazis terrify us
Those of us who remember the Nazi occupation of Greece are appalled at the outcome of Germany’s recent election, said Pantelis Boukalas. The far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD)—made up of “the bigots, the migrant-hunters, in short the 21st century’s Nazis”—is now the third-largest bloc in the lower house of the German national legislature. Its adherents, many of them young, “refuse to feel any historical guilt or sense of responsibility” for their country’s horrific crimes during World War II. Instead, they “take pride in what the German soldiers achieved.” AfD supporters aren’t Holocaust deniers: They’re worse. They acknowledge that Hitler committed genocide in killing 6 million Jews, but they shrug it off as just one of those things that happens in war. If these Germans “treat Auschwitz as a detail, one does not want to imagine what they think of the Distomo killings,” the 1944 massacre of 214 Greek civilians, when SS soldiers went door to door in the village of Distomo, slaughtering civilians, even bayoneting babies, as punishment for Greek partisan resistance. Greeks are now gripped by “chills and fear” as we once again see the basest nationalism spreading across Germany. If the AfD imposes its leadership on other far-right parties across Europe, the cancer will only spread. “We cannot afford to drop our guard.”
10-6-17 Investigations of suspected white supremacists
Investigations of suspected white supremacists
The FBI is conducting about 1,000 investigations of suspected white supremacists or other types of domestic terrorists who might be planning violence, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress this week. The FBI has about the same number of investigations into suspects who may be inspired by ISIS.
10-6-17 Empathy Tent
Four people were arrested after a fistfight in an “empathy tent” at the University of California at Berkeley. The tent was conceived as a space for pro-Trump and antifa activists to find common ground, but passions ran so high last week that the tent was almost knocked over. “It’s tough,” said tent founder Edwin Fulch, “but we do what we can to foster dialogue.” (Webmaster's comment: You can not dialog with male brutes. They only understand violence. Prison is the only solution.)
10-5-17 Gallup Vault: Americans Favored Putting God in U.S. Pledge
Gallup Vault: Americans Favored Putting God in U.S. Pledge
Congress' addition of two little words to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1953 was significant enough at the time to warrant the attention of the Gallup poll. The change involved adding the words "under God" to the previously secular statement of fidelity to the nation's flag. And, according to a March 1953 Gallup poll, Americans largely backed it: 69% were in favor and 21% were opposed. The congressional resolution adding "under God" to the pledge was introduced by a Democratic congressman from Michigan who explained, "It is my hope that the recitation of the pledge, with this addition, 'under God,' by our schoolchildren will bring to them a deeper understanding of the real meaning of patriotism. Love of country is not just a blind adherence to an institution evolved out of the mind of man and established and maintained by human hands alone." President Dwight Eisenhower readily signed it into law.
10-5-17 Michigan mother jailed for refusing to vaccinate her son
Michigan mother jailed for refusing to vaccinate her son
A mother in the US state of Michigan has been sentenced to seven days in jail after she refused a judge's order to have her son vaccinated. Rebecca Bredow would not let her nine-year-old be immunised after initially agreeing with the father to do so. Her ex-husband has now been awarded temporary primary custody in order to get the boy the jab. Michigan parents are legally allowed to skip or delay their children's vaccinations due to personal beliefs. But Bredow fell foul of the law because she reneged on agreements with her former spouse dating back to November 2016 to have the boy immunised. The mother-of-two was sentenced on Wednesday for contempt of court after flouting a court order last week to have her son vaccinated. She and her ex-husband decided at the time of their child's birth that they would space out and delay jabs for their son. The couple separated in 2008, according to ABC News, but they shared parental custody and the father still wanted the boy vaccinated. (Webmaster's comment: These "personal beliefs" are a clear and present danger to all of us! We do not want to become a nation of sick disease carriers.)
10-4-17 Canada pastor and wife face 25 sex assault charges
Canada pastor and wife face 25 sex assault charges
A Canadian evangelical pastor and his wife are facing more than two dozen charges related to sex offences. British Columbia RCMP charged Samuel Emerson, 34, with 25 sex offence charges on Tuesday, including 13 charges of sexual assault. His wife, Madelaine Emerson, 37, is facing two sexual offence charges and one charge of uttering threats. The alleged assaults took place between 2014-17 but police believe there could be more victims. "Calling the police to report a sexual assault is a very difficult thing to do especially when the suspect is someone you knew and trusted, and can leave lifelong emotional scars," said police Cpl Scotty Schumann in a press release. "Our highly skilled investigators take sexual assaults very seriously, and, supported by our Surrey RCMP Victim Services workers, are here to listen and provide emotional support." The pastor preached at Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church, a non-denominational church in Surrey, British Columbia. He is charged with 13 counts of sexual assault, 11 counts of being in a position of authority and touching for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual touching of someone under the age of 16. His wife is charged with one count of sex assault, one count of being in a position of authority and touching for a sexual purpose and one count of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm. The church was not immediately available for comment.
10-4-17 Las Vegas: How US mass shootings are getting worse
Las Vegas: How US mass shootings are getting worse
Deadly rampages are happening more often and claiming more American lives. Here's how the US changed.
10-4-17 The US will not ban guns so must learn how to live with them
The US will not ban guns so must learn how to live with them
The political reality is that the US will never be rid of its weapons. The country must realise its gun epidemic is a public health crisis, and treat it as such. The horrific scenes in Las Vegas may represent the worst mass shooting in recent US history, but it’s a familiar story. Gun violence is responsible for a shocking number of deaths in the US – 33,000 each year. Firearms are the third biggest cause of death in children under the age of 17. Black Americans aged between 15 and 34 are more likely to die from gun crime than from anything else. For those outside the US, the solution is obvious: ban guns. After all, it worked in Australia, and other Western nations. But in the US, gun control is so heavily politicised that a ban is impossible any time soon. Tightening gun control laws has reduced gun deaths in a handful of US states, but at the national level, such laws struggle to get passed. It is no wonder the country has almost as many guns as people. Indeed, the death and injury rate is so significant that firearm violence is now considered a public health crisis by the American Medical Association. So the nation must treat the symptoms, not the cause, of its firearms epidemic. By diverting the focus to the victims of gun crimes, the US may be able to make more progress. To do that, people need to be able to study which interventions produce the most beneficial outcomes. Such research has played a key role in limiting the impact of other inventions that can also cause harm, such as cars and tobacco.
10-4-17 The problem is guns
The problem is guns
Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas over the weekend, killing at least 59 people and injuring over 500 more. It is, at the time of writing at least, the worst mass shooting (outside of pogroms of non-Mormons, black people, and Native Americans) in U.S. history. Once again, the country is awash with shock, horror, and grief. But what this shooting does is demonstrate unusually clearly where America's gun violence problem comes from. The problem is guns. Paddock set up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, nearly 500 yards from the music festival. He had a huge arsenal of weapons — indeed, far more than any one person could have realistically used. He broke two windows in the hotel room, which gave him a clear view into the festival across the street. Paddock's weapons were not exotic illegal machine guns, either. As this New York Times analysis of the shot pattern demonstrates, despite the closely spaced shots, Paddock probably did not have a fully automatic rifle, as it sounded much more like a semi-automatic equipped with a "bump-fire" device. This legal accessory achieves very rapid fire by using recoil to activate the trigger repeatedly. The shooting took place over a period of 10 minutes, and it's likely most of the dead were killed in the first minute or two, before people started to scatter and take cover. The right-wing vision of a "good guy with a gun" being an effective deterrent for any kind of shooting is and always has been ludicrous. But Paddock's actions expose this fantasy perhaps more explicitly than ever before.
10-4-17 The unsung Soviet officer who averted nuclear war
The unsung Soviet officer who averted nuclear war
anislav Petrov, a Russian hero of the Cold War, died in May at his home outside of Moscow. However, his death went unmarked until this month. Petrov, 77, was largely unheralded in his own country, despite an act of bravery that likely prevented nuclear armageddon and kept the world in course. To understand his choice, first dial the clock back to the summer of 1983. Even for the Cold War (not to mention now), it was a low point in U.S.-Russian relations. President Ronald Reagan had just declared the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire." A Soviet jet had sparked international outrage by shooting down a civilian Korean airliner, killing scores of people. In the Kremlin, hardliners were increasingly convinced a U.S. attack was imminent. Against this global backdrop, a 44-year-old colonel named Stanislav Petrov began his assignment at the Serpukhov-15 nuclear monitoring station outside Moscow, feeling lucky as can be. "Honestly, it was beyond my wildest dreams," Petrov recalled in a 2016 interview with The World. "I was working with the latest technology — working with satellites. And the fate of the country rested with those systems. I felt like I was right where I needed to be," he said. Little did he know how right he was.
10-3-17 Build an AI god? Beware the downsides of this weird tech plan
Build an AI god? Beware the downsides of this weird tech plan
What pitfalls or rewards might await the Silicon Valley whiz kid apparently intent on creating a benign superintelligent digital deity, wonders Jamais Cascio. For AI programmer Anthony Levandowski, the idea that a future superintelligent machine would be god-like is neither a metaphor nor a science fiction trope. It’s a goal, apparently. Levandowski founded a self-driving truck company that was bought by Google in 2016 (and is now the focus of an intellectual property lawsuit between Uber and Google robocar successor Waymo), so he knows a thing or two about artificial intelligence. His non-profit religious organisation, the Way of the Future, reportedly seeks to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society”. Although the Way of the Future was registered in September 2015, its existence was only recently revealed in the pages of Wired. The idea of working on an AI-based “Godhead” may be less outlandish than it seems. Behind it could lie a modified version of Pascal’s wager: the notion that, based on possible gains and losses, it is rational to believe in a god even if that deity might not exist. If superintelligent machines are possible, then they would be likely to appreciate you working to bring them about and reward you for showing faith. If they aren’t possible, then you have still made the world a better place by advancing computer science. (Webmaster's comment: Another nutty religion! Scientists can be their own worst enemy.)
10-3-17 The rise of agricultural states came at a big cost, a new book argues
The rise of agricultural states came at a big cost, a new book argues
Mobile groups traded health and happiness for settled societies. Early agricultural states that formed in Egypt and elsewhere were fragile creations, not least because of crowding, epidemics, droughts and popular resistance to taxation and conscription into armies, contends political anthropologist James C. Scott in his new book. Contrary to popular opinion, humans didn’t shed a harsh existence as hunter-gatherers and herders for the good life of stay-in-place farming. Year-round farming villages and early agricultural states, such as those that cropped up in Mesopotamia, exchanged mobile groups’ healthy lifestyles for the back-breaking drudgery of cultivating crops, exposure to infectious diseases, inadequate diets, taxes and conscription into armies. In Against the Grain, political anthropologist James C. Scott offers a disturbing but enlightening defense of that position. He draws on past and recent archaeological studies indicating that the emergence of state-run societies around 6,000 years ago represented a cultural step backward in some important ways. Scott has previously written about modern states’ failed social engineering projects and the evasion of state control by present-day mountain peoples in Southeast Asia. Exploring the roots of state-building was a logical next step. Neither agriculture nor large settlements, on their own, stimulated state formation, Scott argues. Middle Eastern foragers cultivated grains thousands of years before year-round villages appeared. Large, permanent settlements depending substantially on wild plants and marine food materialized in Mesopotamia well before agricultural states formed there.
10-3-17 America's gun culture in eight charts
America's gun culture in eight charts
The worst mass shooting in the United States has once again raised questions about gun ownership and whether there should be tougher controls. How does the US compare with other countries? About 40% of Americans say they own a gun or live in a household with one, according to a 2017 survey, and the rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm is the highest in the developed world. There were more than 11,000 deaths as a result of murder or manslaughter involving a firearm in 2016.
10-3-17 America's most radical gun nuts are the Republicans in Congress
America's most radical gun nuts are the Republicans in Congress
e American people are, as a whole, reasonably sane when it comes to guns. But we have the craziest gun laws in the developed world. Why is that? The biggest reason is the pernicious influence of a group of radical activists who would rather thousands upon thousands of Americans die every year from gun violence than the country take even the most modest steps to try to rein in the carnage. I speak not of the National Rifle Association, as important as it is. No, I'm talking about the Republican Party, particularly its politicians who populate the U.S. Congress and state legislatures around the country. After a gunman killed 59 people (as of this writing) and injured hundreds more in Las Vegas, we knew exactly what the response from elected Republicans would be. "Thoughts and prayers," naturally — thoughts and prayers for all, we're thinking and we're praying. And the insistence that this is not the time to "politicize" the tragedy by talking about why so many Americans get mowed down each year. If you asked them when would be a good time to talk about it they might respond: How about never? Would never work for you? Perhaps the two most critical facts about horrific mass shootings like the one that happened in Las Vegas are that they are made possible by our lax gun laws, and that they aren't the heart of our real gun problem. There's a reason that events like this one are vanishingly rare outside the United States, and it isn't that Americans are an inherently homicidal people. People murder each other all over the world, with whatever means they have at their disposal; the difference is that Americans can get their hands on as much weaponry as they want. Yet as horrifying as the shooting in Las Vegas was, it represents around two days' worth of gun homicides in America, where about 11,000 to 12,000 people are killed with guns every year. And that doesn't include gun suicides, which account for another 20,000 or so (the presence of a gun in the home vastly increases the chance that a suicide attempt will be successful). (Webmaster's comment: ALL AUTOMATIC AND SEMI-AUTOMATIC FIREARMS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED, and all rifles that carry more the 5 shots and all pistols that carry more than 6 shots. If you can't hit a deer in 2 shots with a lever action or bolt action rifle then you shouldn't even be in the woods hunting.)
10-3-17 Republican incompetence has now put 9 million children in danger
Republican incompetence has now put 9 million children in danger
Federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for almost nine million children, ran out on Saturday night. Everyone in Congress knew the deadline was approaching. By all accounts, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of lawmakers even wanted to renew it. Yet it didn't happen. The whole mess is a microcosm for the malignant incompetence of the Republican-led government. Created under President Clinton in 1997, CHIP was designed to provide decent medical coverage to children whose families make too little to purchase it on their own, but also too much to qualify for Medicaid. It covers everything from dental and eye care to immunizations to emergency visits and more. Under CHIP, routine doctor visits are free, and while there can be cost-sharing for other medical services, no one has to pay more than 5 percent of their annual family income. The program knocked the uninsurance rate for children down from 14 percent at its inception to 4.5 percent by 2015. Today, CHIP covers 8.9 million children — the vast majority from families who make twice the poverty level at most — and another 370,000 pregnant women. Like Medicaid, CHIP runs off a combination of federal and state funding, with the former contributing around $14 billion per year. Unfortunately, the federal contribution is not open-ended: It has to be renewed every few years. The last renewal was in 2015, for two years. It ran out on Sept. 30. The states have a little bit of a cushion. They don't burn through the federal money all at once, and leftover funds can be rolled over into the following year's funding. But the situation is tight. One projection shows Washington, D.C., Arizona, Minnesota, and North Carolina running through their remaining federal funds by the end of 2017. The worst-case scenario is that much bigger states like California also bleed dry by the end of the year. By June 2018, every state except Wyoming is expected to exhaust their federal money as well. (Wyoming will join them by September.) The inevitable results will be state budget chaos, confusion among enrollees, people denied enrollment, cuts to payments for care, and more. How did this happen? The answer, put simply, is the Republican Congress' obsession with killing ObamaCare. (Webmaster's comment: Wonderful! Obsessed with more money for the rich Republicans will let poor kids in America die!)
10-3-17 Egypt 'escalates LGBT crackdown' after rainbow flag display
Egypt 'escalates LGBT crackdown' after rainbow flag display
Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 22 people in the past four days as part of a campaign against LGBT people, Amnesty International says. Thirty-two men and one woman have now been detained since rainbow flags were displayed at a pop concert in Cairo last month, according to activists. Anal examinations have been reportedly carried out on five of those arrested. The flag-raising provoked a public outcry and prompted the public prosecutor to order an investigation. Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised under Egyptian law. But the authorities routinely arrest people suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct on charges of "debauchery", "immorality" or "blasphemy". The raising of rainbow flags at the concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila - whose lead singer is openly gay - on 22 September was a rare public show of support for the LGBT community in the conservative Muslim country. Three days later, after images went viral, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered State Security prosecutors to investigate an "incident" that "incited homosexuality". On Sunday, six men were charged in connection with the flag-raising and went on trial alongside at least 10 others arrested last week, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a local human rights organisation. A verdict in their trial is expected on 29 October. A woman suspected of raising a rainbow flag at the concert has also been charged with "promoting sexual deviancy" and "habitual debauchery". (Webmaster's comment: Don't forget our vice-president Pence supports making homosexuality illegal and electroshock therapy for gays.)
10-3-17 Why immigration in Canada is less divisive than in the U.S.
Why immigration in Canada is less divisive than in the U.S.
Canada has constructed a workable liberal nationalism in the age of mass-migration and populist backlash. Can America learn from it?
10-2-17 WHITE MEN HAVE COMMITTED MORE MASS SHOOTINGS THAN ANY OTHER GROUP
WHITE MEN HAVE COMMITTED MORE MASS SHOOTINGS THAN ANY OTHER GROUP
The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was shocking in its scale — but it wasn't a surprise that it was committed by a white male. Statistics show that since 1982, the majority of mass shootings — 54 percent — were committed by white men, according to data from Mother Jones. Black people were the second largest perpetrators of mass shootings based on ethnic background, but only accounted for roughly 16 percent of the total incidents during the same time period. The average age of the shooters was 35, however, making the perpetrator in Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, somewhat of an outlier. It is too early to say if mental illness played a role in Paddock's case, but it has in a number of mass shootings, though it is perhaps too frequently pointed to as the primary cause. Other research suggests white men commit mass shootings out of a sense of entitlement. James Holmes, for example, had failed out of his PhD program when he opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Dylann Roof was unemployed when he gunned down nine people at the end of a prayer service in a Charteston, South Carolina church. “There’s a feeling of entitlement that white men have that black men don’t," criminologist James Alan Fox told The Washington Post in 2012. "They often complain that their job was taken by blacks or Mexicans or Jews. They feel that a well-paid job is their birthright. It’s a blow to their psyche when they lose that. If you’re a member of a group that hasn’t historically experienced unemployment, there’s a far greater stigma to [losing a job] than those who have." But others say it's hard to point to any single factor in terms of why white men have comitted most mass shootings. (Webmaster's comment: It's not Muslims or Immigrants or Blacks or Hispanics you need to watch out for. It's the white male!)
10-2-17 Trump's weekend Twitter tirade was appalling — and dangerous
Trump's weekend Twitter tirade was appalling — and dangerous
Criticism of the speed of the federal response to the disaster in Puerto Rico came to a head on Friday when San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz issued a televised plea for help. "People are dying in this country," she said. "If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy." This clearly stung Trump, who has been offering a relentlessly upbeat assessment of the havoc in Puerto Rico and wasn't about to let some local politician — a Latina woman, no less — contradict him. In a series of tweets attacking the mayor of an American city flattened by a monstrous storm, the president called Cruz a poor leader, a tool of the Democrats, a complainer, and a "politically motivated ingrate." Still worse than that was his despicable assertion that disaster-stricken Puerto Ricans "want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort." The story out of Puerto Rico has been the degree to which communities have pulled together what meager resources remain to help each other in the absence of government aid. Trump dismissively brushed off that heroism born of misery and instead cast the island's population as ungrateful layabouts waiting on a handout. It was among the more disgraceful demonstrations of presidential behavior, combining healthy doses of racial condescension and absurd egotism. (Webmaster's comment: Our president is one sick puppy!)
10-1-17 NFL players continue protest in defiance of US President Donald Trump
NFL players continue protest in defiance of US President Donald Trump
NFL players continued their anthem protests in defiance of US President Donald Trump in Sunday's matches. About half of the San Francisco 49ers knelt for the anthem before their match at Arizona with their team-mates standing just behind with a hand on their colleagues' shoulders. The Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton celebrated his touchdown against New England Patriots with a raised fist. However, there were markedly fewer protests than last weekend. Several games - such as the Dallas Cowboys' home game with the Los Angeles Rams - appeared to go ahead without any protest. In the day's first game at Wembley, three Miami Dolphins - Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills - kneeled during the American anthem with the opposing New Orleans Saints squad opting to do so beforehand, but then standing while the anthem was played.
10-1-17 Germany gay marriage: Couple are first to marry under new law
Germany gay marriage: Couple are first to marry under new law
Two men have become the first gay couple to marry in Germany, on the day gay marriage became legal there. Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende, a couple for 38 years, exchanged their vows at the town hall in Schöneberg, Berlin. Registry offices in several German cities were opening, unusually, on Sunday to allow couples to wed on the first day it was legally possible. Getting married will give gay couples the same tax advantages and adoption rights as heterosexual couples. Germany has allowed same-sex partners to enter into registered partnerships since 2001, but these did not give couples exactly the same status in German law as marriage. The German parliament voted to introduce marriage equality in June, after Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly dropped her longstanding opposition to parliament holding a vote on the issue.