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

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

10-16-17 Why America is coming apart at the seams
Why America is coming apart at the seams
erica 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
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
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
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
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!)

Worst mass shootings in the US since 1991

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.

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