60 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for November 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
11-18-17 How studying humanities can help you get a job
Forget the tut-tutting of politicians. The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. "If you're studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there's not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set," Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin declared in September, at a conference about higher education. Bevin's skepticism about the humanities and arts isn't an anomaly; politicians regularly joke about the supposed uselessness of non-STEM training. In 2014, President Barack Obama told students to major in trades rather than art history. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott of Florida said that it wasn't of "vital interest" to his state to have students major in anthropology. And so on. Math, engineering, science, trades: Those are practical, politicians agree. Literature, art, and anthropology? Those don't help you get jobs. In fact, the reverse is true: The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. The humanities teach students to understand the different rules and expectations that govern different genres, to examine social cues and rituals, to think about the audience for and reception of different kinds of communications. In short, they teach students how to apply for the kinds of jobs students will be looking for after college. This is not the usual argument in defense of the humanities. Usually, those rebutting STEM-obsessed politicians point to the spiritual role of the arts, or evoke the general benefits of critical thinking. "The humanities conserve and safeguard those aspects of our being that intersect with the meanings of human existence beyond industry," Sarah Churchwell, chair of public humanities at the University of London, writes.
11-17-17 Skeletons could provide clues to who wrote or protected the Dead Sea Scrolls
Few women or children have been found at Qumran burial site, suggesting similarities to Byzantine monastery cemeteries. A decades-long debate over who once occupied a settlement located near the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found has taken a chaste turn. Analyses of 33 newly excavated skeletons of people buried at the West Bank site, Qumran, supports a view that the community consisted of a religious sect of celibate men. Anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented the findings November 16 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Preliminary radiocarbon dating of one of the Qumran bones indicates that the interred bodies are around 2,200 years old — close to the same age as the ancient texts, which are estimated to have been written between around 150 B.C. and A.D. 70. Plus, reexamination of 53 previously unearthed human skeletons from Qumran’s cemetery, now housed in France, found that six of seven individuals formerly tagged as women were actually men, Nagar said. A small number of children have also been excavated at Qumran.
11-17-17 When your face reveals everything
Facial recognition technology could revolutionize everyday life. But at what cost? It scans faces, either in person or on a photograph, and measures distinguishing facial features such as eye position, eyebrow shape, and nostril angle. This creates a distinctive digital “faceprint”—much like a fingerprint—which the system then runs through a database to check for a match. Law enforcement agencies have had faces on file for decades; their databases provide them with the identified person’s name, age, address, and any criminal history. But facial recognition is increasingly being used by commercial firms too. Facebook’s system for “tagging” a photo—identifying who is in the picture—is now as accurate as users doing it themselves. Apple’s new iPhone X can be unlocked when its owner simply looks at it. As the technology becomes more widespread, there are growing fears that it will erode privacy and be misused by bad actors. “We need to ask ourselves,” says Kelly Gates, author of Our Biometric Future, “whether a world of ubiquitous automated identification is really one we want to build.”
- How does the technology work?
- Who uses this technology?
- What else is coming?
- In what way?
- What are the other risks?
- Is there any regulation?
- Beating the algorithm
11-17-17 Americans stressed out over politics
"The lowest point in our nation's history" Americans are having a collective freak-out. Fear and anxiety about politics and the future of the country are a significant source of stress for nearly two-thirds of adults in the U.S., new research has found. The American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey paints a grim picture of the nation’s collective mental health. Nearly 60 percent of the 3,440 people polled say they consider the present day to be the “lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember,” reports Fortune.com. Pessimism is highest among Democrats and Millennials, but also affects most Republicans and older adults who lived through World War II and Vietnam. “We’re seeing significant stress transcending party lines,” says Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association. The uncertainty and generalized anxiety people have about the country, he said, “feels unique to this period in recent history.” Social divisiveness worries 59 percent of Americans, 43 percent are stressed about health care, and 35 percent are fearful about the economy. Other causes of anxiety are distrust of the government, media negativity, crime, terrorism, and international conflicts. Many of those surveyed admit they are losing sleep and experiencing headaches or other physical signs of stress. When stress becomes chronic, Evans says, it “can have real health consequences.”n
11-17-17 The three richest people in the U.S.
The three richest people in the U.S.—Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett—own as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population, according to the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. The trio is worth a combined $248.5 billion, equal to the assets of the 160 million least rich Americans. (Webmaster's comment: How does that make any sense?)
11-17-17 Americans don’t pay enough taxes
We’re “having the wrong debate” about taxes, said Robert Samuelson. The argument over the GOP’s proposed tax bill has focused on two issues: Will lower taxes stimulate economic growth? And does the plan unfairly favor the wealthy over the middle class? “Interesting questions, to be sure, but mostly irrelevant to the nation’s long-term well-being.” The fact is, we simply cannot afford to reduce taxes. Or, to put it another way, “Americans are undertaxed.” In only five of the past 50 years have tax revenues covered federal spending. The rest of the time, we’ve run deficits—during peace and war, “with strong economies and weak, with low inflation and high.” From 1990 to 2016, borrowing represented nearly 14 percent of annual federal spending. “That’s one dollar of every seven.” And the budget deficit, already $666 billion, will only grow as more Baby Boomers retire and claim Social Security and Medicare, putting us at true risk of a financial calamity. To rebalance the budget, painful steps would have to be taken: some programs cut, some taxes hiked. But that’s not a vote-winning message. “Americans like big government. They just don’t like paying for it.”
11-17-17 Blinded by our love for the troops
I’m a proud Army veteran, but “I’m getting very worried about our nation’s military-worship,” said David French. As anyone who’s served knows, our armed forces are as prone to incompetence and corruption as any other institution. Last week we discovered that the Texas church shooter was able to buy the guns he used to kill 26 innocents because the Air Force failed to alert law enforcement about his violent past. A few days later, it was revealed that 440 active-duty and retired personnel, including 60 admirals, had been implicated in the Navy’s so-called Fat Leonard corruption scandal. In any other government agency, such scandals would have triggered a public crisis of confidence. Yet the public’s faith in the Department of Defense remains resolute—a product of our growing civil/military divide. Too many civilians, politicians, and pundits who haven’t served view members of the military “with a degree of deference, sometimes even awe, they haven’t always earned.” Combine this awe with ignorance and it’s easy to see how military scandals can fester and grow into something terrible—like “mass murder in Texas.” Loving the troops and supporting the military should mean we hold both accountable. “Honorable soldiers don’t fear scrutiny. But when you worship the military, you hurt the military.”
11-17-17 Columbine goes into history
After the church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last week, the 1999 Columbine school shooting is no longer among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in postwar America. When it occurred, Columbine was the first mass shooting in nearly eight years that killed 10 or more people—and after 1999, seven years would pass without one. By comparison, five of the past six years have included at least one shooting with 10 or more deaths.
11-17-17 Gay marriage wins
Rainbow flags were waved across Australia this week after the country voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing gay marriage. In a national postal survey, nearly 62 percent of respondents said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. While the mail-in referendum was nonbinding, all political parties had pledged to act on the results, and the shockingly large participation of 80 percent of eligible voters gave it political legitimacy. The conservative government said it would allow a bill on marriage equality to proceed before the end of the year. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “They voted ‘yes’ for commitment. They voted ‘yes’ for love.”
11-17-17 The deadly problem with US college fraternities
Penn State University student Tim Piazza was pronounced dead in the early hours of 4 February. Like 13 other pledges to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the 19-year-old had been taking part in a "run the gauntlet" event at the chapter's house, which involved drinking a mix of alcoholic drinks at a fast pace. Authorities announced on Monday that the FBI had recovered a surveillance video they believe was intentionally deleted. They say it showed that Tim was given at least 18 drinks in the 82 minutes before he fell 15ft (4.6m) down the steps of the fraternity house's basement. But it would take about 12 hours before any of his fraternity brothers called emergency services. Medical reports say he had a fractured skull and irreversible traumatic brain injuries. His spleen had ruptured in multiple places, causing extensive internal bleeding and haemorrhagic shock. Now 26 members of Beta Theta Pi are facing charges related to his death that range from hazing to involuntary manslaughter. While horrific, this incident is not isolated. Three other students at different US universities have died since Tim's death - two in the last couple of weeks. There have been 70 student deaths attributed to hazing since 2000. This does not include cases dismissed as accidents.
11-17-17 Frat death charges
Ten more college students were charged this week in connection with the hazing death of a 19-year-old fraternity pledge at Pennsylvania State University, after investigators recovered deleted surveillance footage from the frat house’s basement. The video shows sophomore Tim Piazza being given at least 18 alcoholic drinks in less than 90 minutes during a Beta Theta Pi pledge night in February. Piazza became so drunk that he fell down the basement stairs, fracturing his skull and rupturing his spleen, but fraternity members waited until the next day before calling an ambulance. Members initially told police that the security cameras weren’t working, but detectives later discovered that a member in charge of the house’s security system intentionally deleted the video just as investigators arrived to seize it. At least 24 people now face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to tampering with evidence.
11-17-17 Poland: The far right shows its strength
Warsaw was an ugly sight on Poland’s independence day, said Florian Hassel in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany). Some 60,000 ultranationalists and neo-Nazis marched through the capital last week, waving banners reading “White Europe,” “Europe Will Be White,” and “Clean Blood,” and shooting off red and white fireworks—the colors of the Polish flag. A banner on a bridge read “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.” The march’s far-right sponsors included the All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp, which is styled after the virulently anti-Semitic 1930s Polish fascist movement of the same name. These groups believe that the recent influx of Syrian Muslim refugees into Europe is part of a conspiracy driven by Jewish financiers who want to destroy Europe’s Christian character. For their new motto, some of them are using a line from an old Polish religious song that U.S. President Donald Trump quoted in Poland in July: “We want God.” (Webmaster's comment: Amazing. The first country that Nazi Germany destroyed now embraces the Nazis!)
11-16-17 Roy Moore is putting tribalism to the test
So much of the Alabama Senate race, like so much of our politics today, comes down to this question: Who do you hate? In a Senate race already far more, shall we say, colorful than most, this development in the special election in Alabama stood out: Apparently, voters have been getting robocalls in which someone putting on an obviously fake, nasally impression of Woody Allen says, "Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I'm a reporter for The Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old, willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000." As political dirty tricks go, it was pretty ham-handed. But I must confess, I couldn't help wonder whether it was really a two-bumper bank shot, in which the forces behind of the robocall made it ludicrously anti-Semitic on purpose, knowing it would get a bunch of media attention and outrage from liberals, spreading farther the rumor that the D.C. media are looking for phony stories, which would only reinforce to Republican voters exactly who is out to get Roy Moore. We may never know. But so much of this race, like so much of our politics today, comes down to this question: Who do you hate? That's the essence of tribalism, the division of the world into us and them, and it's the thing that until his predilection for teenage girls was revealed, was almost sure to carry Moore to the Senate. Moore has always been a tribal political figure, one whose identity was built on standing up to godless heathens from Washington, D.C., or wherever else they might be found. He was a star on the fundamentalist Christian circuit, telling audiences that a war is being waged against the followers of Jesus, and in that war, considerations like the opinions of man's courts or the words of man's law sometimes have to be put aside. He was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court twice for refusing to abide by lawful court orders. He has suggested that 9/11 might have happened because America allows abortion and sodomy. He wrote that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress. He believes that there are communities in Illinois and Indiana living under Sharia law. In other words, Roy Moore was already an extremist loon before any of the charges about teenage girls emerged. And he was all but guaranteed to become a United States senator, because there's one identity that can't be abided in Alabama, at least among its white voters: Democrat.
11-16-17 China 'gay conversion': Accounts of shocks and pills
Powerful first-hand accounts from people in China who have been subjected to forced "gay conversion therapy" have emerged in a new report. The country's controversial practice has long been known about, but the Human Rights Watch study offers detailed testimony of a kind rarely shared from China. "Gay conversion therapy" has been declared unethical, unscientific and harmful by the World Psychiatric Association - and it is effectively illegal in China. But the report highlights 17 cases of forced "gay conversion therapy" between 2009 and 2017. The case studies detail verbal and mental abuse, forced medication and electric shock therapy taking place in Chinese hospitals. According to the advocacy director of the gay rights programme at Human Rights Watch, Boris Dittrich, it is also profitable. Doctors and clinics can charge up to 30,000 yuan ($4,530; £3,440) to "treat" gay people. The group is urging the Chinese government to ensure an end to such practices. Verbal abuse is the tip of the iceberg, according to the report. It says 11 of those interviewed were forced to take medication without being informed about its purpose or side-effects. One 29-year-old gay man who underwent "treatment" at a public hospital in Fujian province three years ago said the doctors and nurses did not tell him what pills he was taking. "They just told me they were supposed to be good for me and help with the progress of the 'treatment'," he explained. Zhang Zhikun, a transgender woman, said she was forced to watch gay porn while being injected with a "colourless liquid". Five of those interviewed were subjected to electric shocks while being shown images or videos - or given verbal descriptions - of homosexual acts. (Webmaster's comment: Vice-president Pence thinks homosexuality should illegal and gays should be given electro-shock therapy to "cure" them. Just burn their brains and burn it out of them!)
11-15-17 Grand delusions: Why we all believe the weirdest things
The human mind is the perfect breeding ground for bizarre beliefs, so we shouldn’t be surprised that fake news has such a powerful influence. THREE Messiahs walk into a psychiatric unit… No, this isn’t the set-up to a tasteless joke, but the beginning of a study done in the 1950s by Milton Rokeach at Ypsilanti State Hospital, Michigan. Rokeach brought together three men, each harbouring the delusion that he was Jesus Christ, to see if meeting the others and confronting their mutually contradictory claims would change their minds. Two years and many arguments later, their beliefs had barely budged. For each Jesus, the other two were fakers, while they were the real deal. As delusions go, the Messiah complex is extreme. Most delusions are far more mundane, such as an unfounded belief that you are exceptionally talented, that people are out to get you or that a celebrity is in love with you. In fact, more than 90 per cent of us hold delusional beliefs. You may find that figure shockingly high – or perhaps you see evidence all around, in the willingness of so many people to swallow fake news, in the antics of politicians and celebrities, and even among your Facebook friends. Either way, what exactly does it mean? Why are some of us more prone to delusions than others? How do false beliefs get a hold in our minds? And can we all learn to tame our delusional tendencies? First we need to be clear about what a delusion is. “There’s a loose way of talking about delusions – like when we talk about the ‘God delusion’ – which simply means any belief that’s likely to be false and is held despite lack of evidence, or even in spite of the evidence,” says Lisa Bortolotti at the University of Birmingham, UK. The psychological take is more nuanced. Delusions are still seen as irrational, but they are also idiosyncratic, meaning the belief is not widely shared. That rules out lots of things including most religious beliefs, conspiracy theories and the denial of climate change. Furthermore, the idiosyncratic nature of delusions makes them isolating and alienating in a way that believing, say, a conspiracy theory is not. Delusions also tend to be much more personal than other irrational beliefs, and they usually conform to one of a handful of themes.
11-15-17 Trump picks ghost hunter to be federal judge
One of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees is a ghost hunter who has written several novellas about paranormal activities. The appointment of Brett Talley, 36, for a lifetime post as an Alabama federal judge is raising eyebrows because he has never tried a case. It also emerged he failed to disclose on a conflict-of-interest questionnaire that his wife is a White House lawyer. But he did divulge his Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group membership. Mr Talley was approved last week by the Senate committee on a party-line vote, and he is likely to be confirmed by the full chamber soon. His nomination is part of President Trump's efforts to expand the presence of conservative jurists in American courtrooms, say analysts. The Harvard-educated lawyer was unanimously deemed "not qualified" by the American Bar Association to serve an appointment on the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Mr Talley, who has practised law for three years, has written right-wing blog posts critical of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, whom he labelled "Rotten", according to US media. He also maintains a horror blog online, when not searching for ghosts. In a questionnaire form submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr Talley revealed his 2009-10 affiliation with the phantom chasers. (Webmaster's comment: Talking about scraping the bottom of the barrel.)
11-15-17 Australians decisively support same-sex marriage
Australians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll. The non-binding postal vote showed 61.6% of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing. A bill to change the law was introduced into the Senate late on Wednesday. It will now be debated for amendments. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas. "[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," Mr Turnbull said after the result was announced. "They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love." The issue only went to a voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about amending Australia's Marriage Act. The result on Wednesday brings an end to what was at times a heated campaign. The vote itself had been criticised by same-sex marriage supporters, many of whom said it was unnecessary when parliament could debate the issue directly.
11-15-17 How one country persuaded teens to give up drink and drugs
Iceland used to have a big teenage smoking, drinking and drug problem. Now it doesn't. This is how it made the change.
11-14-17 Why do people still think the Earth is flat?
The Flat Earth International Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, attracted hundreds of attendees who believe the shape of the Earth is a disc instead of a sphere. (Webmaster's comment: Unbelievable! These believers present no evidence! They are think the whole world of science is a lie!)
11-13-17 FBI: US hate crimes rise for second straight year
The number of reported hate crimes in the United States has risen for the second straight year in 2016, according to statistics released by the FBI. The number of hate crimes in 2016 was 6,121 - about a 5% jump from 2015. About half of those incidents were motivated by race, the agency says. The latest statistics are based on voluntary reporting from nearly 16,000 US law enforcement agencies. The FBI did not give a reason for a rise in reported hate crimes. "No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, of how they worship," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Monday. Mr Sessions added that he would await a Department of Justice Crime Reduction and Public Safety task force report to determine what actions should be taken to address the increase. According to the FBI, hate crimes can range from property vandalism to violence and murder. In incidents where the perpetrators were identified, the FBI found that about 58% of crimes were motivated by the victims' race, ethnicity or ancestry. Meanwhile, 21% of crimes were motivated by religion and nearly 18% by a victim's sexual orientation. About half the 1,273 incidents involving religion were against Jews while Muslims were targeted in 307 religion-based crimes. The FBI's report was consistent with a report released earlier this year by a civil rights group that found an apparent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups this past year. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit which tracks hate groups, attributed the bump to the 2016 presidential election, in which Donald Trump assailed Muslims and Hispanics as extremists and illegal immigrants.
11-13-17 Roy Moore and the moral mirror of hatred
Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions' ascension to attorney general, has long been a purveyor of pietistic hate speech. The self-proclaimed Christian has used racial slurs in public speeches, blamed 9/11 on godlessness, and said that homosexual behavior should be illegal. But last week, The Washington Post uncovered multiple allegations that Moore had made sexual advances on teenage girls when he was in his 30s. The most egregious accusation involved a girl who claims that Moore groped and kissed her when she was only 14 years old. The Post's bombshell was painstakingly reported, and several friends and family members testify that this accuser disclosed the incident to them years ago. Court records confirm the timeline of her account. (For his part, Moore denies ever engaging in any sexual misconduct.) Many Americans have expressed shock and dismay at the news that a public figure who presented himself as a model and guardian of Christian morality could have violated those morals in such a profound way. But it must be said: These allegations should sadden everyone but surprise no one. We've been here before. In the 1980s, televangelist Jim Bakker achieved celebrity status preaching conservative Christian values through his nationally broadcast religious television show. It was later revealed that he had swindled his fans by misappropriating millions of dollars in donations and had paid hush money to his former secretary so she would remain silent about their affair. After Bakker resigned and was headed for the big house, televangelist Jimmy Swaggert lambasted Bakker as "a cancer on the body of Christ." A year later, Swaggert resigned from his own ministry and admitted that he too had had an affair.
11-13-17 Why people ruin others’ lives by exposing all their data online
Doxers causes devastation by revealing targets' sensitive information to the worst elements of the internet. Now the first study to examine doxing shows who is most affected – and a potential fix. “I’ve spoken to people that have had websites set up in their name requesting child pornography, their bank accounts hacked and money stolen from their account, and their employer phoned and told they were alcoholics,” says Amy Binns at University of Central Lancashire. Some women have had profiles set up soliciting violent sex with strangers. All these people were doxed – that is, someone published their personal information against their will, in a public forum intended for dissemination and abuse, instigating a torrent of attacks from strangers. “It’s incredibly scary and could result in losing your livelihood,” says Binns. But despite many individual cases catching the public eye, up until now there has been very little research examining the scale of the problem and who is involved. A new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and New York University changes that. The team gathered 5,500 dox files – documents intended to disseminate stolen private information – from nearly two million files posted to the most popular websites that tend to host them. To find them, the team created an artificially intelligent tool that could automatically detect possible cases. The majority of such files include home addresses, phone numbers, information about family members, and email addresses, with many also containing usernames, passwords, and credit card information.
11-11-17 TPP trade deal talks move forward despite Canada wobble
Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed a new framework to revive the proposed trade deal, following the US withdrawal earlier this year. Meeting on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Vietnam, the remaining eleven nations released a joint statement saying they were committed to free and open trade. Canada had been accused of stalling. However its trade minister said good progress has now been made. François-Philippe Champagne also denied that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had deliberately skipped a leaders' meeting on the TPP on Friday and blamed his no-show on a scheduling mix-up. "There was never an intention not to show up at any meeting," he said. Mr Trudeau said earlier in the week that Canada would not be rushed into a renewed TPP deal. The country's delegation said labour and environmental rights would be crucial pillars of a new agreement, but added that a lot of work still needs to be done. Canadian officials said Canada was not the only country that wanted more time to work through the agreement. (Webmaster's comment: The world moves forward without the United States. America is not needed. It's a has been of it's own making!)
11-11-17 What the world's largest shopping day says about China
I still remember growing up in communist China in the 1970s, when my mother and neighbours would use their ration tickets to buy meat at a state-run store. Very little thought went into shopping because there was not much to buy. People simply bought what little was available. Even in the 1980s, shopping in Beijing was little better. Back then, shopping was just something you had to do to get what you needed. It certainly wasn't the big extravaganza it has become with the popularity of Singles Day. Now in its ninth year, the day is officially called the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. 11.11 stands for the 11 November when it is held. The two numbers were chosen to symbolise wishes by single people to be in a relationship, as two elevens next to one another appear like two couples. It was originally a non-commercial festival started by male college students who didn't have a girlfriend. They created a day to get together to celebrate bachelorhood. But the Chinese retailer Alibaba caught onto it and has turned it into the largest online shopping day in the world. Alibaba says more than one million retailers worldwide are participating this year, including the US department store Macy's. They say that last year's sales amounted to $18bn (£14bn). This year's total has already surpassed this. And here's what impressed me the most: Alibaba handled 175,000 transactions every second during a peak period in last year's Singles Day. (Webmaster's comment: Last year's Singles Day sales amounted to $18 billion (£14 billion). Just another sign of the end of American world dominance.)
11-10-17 French politicians protest over Muslim street prayers in Paris
About 100 French politicians have marched on a street in a Paris suburb in protest at Muslims holding Friday prayers in public. The politicians, wearing tricolour sashes of office and singing the national anthem, disrupted about 200 worshippers on a street in Clichy. Police kept the two groups apart but some scuffles broke out. Critics say the prayers are an unacceptable use of public space in France's strictly secular system. The worshippers, however, say they have nowhere else to go since the town hall took over the room they used for prayers back in March. France has about five million Muslims - the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe. (Webmaster's comment: It seems that not only America has a hatred of Muslims problem. It's hard to believe America and France were once the beginning of Freedom and Liberty!)
11-10-17 An anti-Trump wave boosts Democrats
Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won a bitterly fought race for Virginia governor this week, capping off a wave of victories for the Democratic Party as voters delivered a stinging rebuke of President Trump on the first anniversary of his election. Northam defeated his opponent, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, by 9 points, amid the highest turnout for any gubernatorial race in 20 years. While Gillespie refused to campaign directly with Trump, the Republican candidate adopted many of the president’s positions on cultural issues, defending Confederate monuments and linking Northam to the MS-13 Central American gang. Trump had recorded a robocall and tweeted in support of Gillespie, but disavowed him after his defeat—saying that the Republican “did not embrace me or what I stand for.” The Democratic sweep extended both down the ballot and in races across the country. Democrats were on the verge of regaining control of Virginia’s House of Delegates pending a recount, with transgender activist Danica Roem unseating state lawmaker Robert G. Marshall, who described himself as the state’s “chief homophobe.” In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie’s lieutenant governor suffered a landslide gubernatorial defeat to former banker Phil Murphy, while in Maine, a Democratic-supported initiative to expand Medicaid passed by a nearly 20-point margin. Democrats also took control of the Washington state senate. “This is a tidal wave,” said polling expert David Wasserman. “Democrats are the current favorite for control of the House in 2018.”
11-10-17 Roy Moore: Conservatives back firebrand after abuse report
Hardline conservatives are circling the wagons round embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore a day after he was accused of sexually abusing a girl. While establishment Republicans suggested the ex-judge should quit the race, many others are standing by him. The Republican firebrand has branded a Washington Post report that he preyed on a 14-year-old as "completely false". One of his defenders was quoted as saying he would vote for him over a Democrat even if the claim were true. The Republican party's Senate campaign wing ended its fundraising pact with Mr Moore on Friday. But at a speech in New Hampshire, former White House adviser Steve Bannon poured scorn on the allegations. He compared the report to the release of a videotape last year that showed Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women's genitalia. Mr Bannon dismissed the "Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post" on Thursday night as being "purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party".
Roy Moore beliefs: Things the Republican has said
- Homosexuality should be illegal. He has likened it to bestiality.
- God's wrath is felt on Earth. 9/11 attacks were a sign of God's divine anger.
- 'Red and yellows' don't get along and are fighting. Also Blacks and Whites fighting.
- Darwin was wrong. "There's no such thing as evolution."
- Islam is a 'false religion'. Sharia law is being enforced in Illinois and Indiana.
- The law comes from God. "God is the only source of our law, liberty and government."
- He thinks he's like Putin. Directly praised Putin for his gay rights stance.
- Obama might not be US-born. Trump's predecessor was disqualified to be president.
- He writes poetry. Gives live renditions.
- A Ten Commandments sculpture is worth fighting for. Refused a federal order to remove a massive statue of the Ten Commandments from inside his courthouse.
11-10-17 Trump’s authoritarian instincts
President Trump’s view of the U.S. criminal justice system is a disturbing mix of “ignorance with contempt for constitutional values,” said Ruth Marcus. After New York City suffered a terrorist attack on Halloween, the president objected to trying the suspect in court, saying we need “punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than these animals are getting now,” and denounced our justice system as “a joke” and “a laughingstock.” This is the head of our government speaking? Trump’s slander is factually wrong: Since 9/11, more than 620 people have been convicted of terrorism-related charges, including Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death. Even more alarming was Trump’s “unhinged fury” after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted three of the president’s campaign aides. Trump said in interviews he’s “very frustrated” that he can’t just order the FBI and the Justice Department to go after Hillary Clinton. “The American public deserves it!” he tweeted. So far, the Justice Department has resisted Trump’s pressure to prosecute his 2016 political opponent, but “presidential wishes are hard to ignore, day after day.” If Trump had his way, our criminal justice system would become a laughingstock. (Webmaster's comment: Look at history. Trump is simply a wannabe Hitler! He says the same things and acts the same way as Hitler did before Hitler assumed dictatorial powers.)
11-10-17 Kelly: Was the Civil War unnecessary?
It’s time to abandon the notion that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is the “wise, sane ‘gray head’” restraining President Trump’s “ignorance and malice,” said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. The retired Marine general last week echoed his boss’s backward views on the Civil War, claiming that the conflict was the result of a “lack of compromise” between the two sides—implying that if the North had not been so darn negative about slavery, secession and war could been avoided. Adding to his “depressingly retrograde views,” Kelly then claimed Confederate general Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” who fought out of loyalty to his home state of Virginia. The truth is that “the history of the Republic to 1860 is literally a history of compromises” on slavery, said Jelani Cobb in NewYorker.com. The 1820 Missouri Compromise and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act expanded the number of slave states and gave new territories the right to decide for themselves. The North’s repeated appeasement of the South kept black people in chains for many decades—but couldn’t “stave off a national reckoning” on the issue forever. (Webmaster's comment: How can one ever compromise with those who support slavery? That would be a comprimise with PURE EVIL!)
11-10-17 The price of crying ‘racist!’
“Is American conservatism inherently bigoted?” asked Peter Beinart. For many liberals, the answer is obviously “Yes.” President Trump’s attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities, combined with his half-hearted repudiations of white supremacists, have made Republican racism almost an article of faith in Democratic politics. But efforts to shame conservatives have backfired horribly. “Outrage at political correctness—fueled by the conviction that charges of bigotry are used to shut down legitimate discussion—has become more central to American conservatism.” After being constantly stigmatized as racists and homophobes, conservatives have adopted a siege mentality and are expressing more racial and cultural resentments. “Liberals would be wise to recognize this vicious cycle” and stop wielding the epithets “racist,” “bigot,” and “anti-Semitic” so promiscuously. Republicans do bear responsibility for renouncing egregious racists in their midst, as well as policies, such as Voter ID laws, that clearly have racial consequences. But to halt “the downward spiral” of cultural division, self-righteous liberals should remind themselves that values evolve over time, and that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly opposed gay marriage until five years ago. Were they bigots until 2012? “Hatred and scorn” are easy. Empathy and persuasion are hard—but without them, our divisions will only deepen. (Webmaster's comment: But nothing will change the fact that Republicans and Conservatives are the ones backing racist laws. How could one ever compromise with a racist who in his soul wants to go back to segregation and even back to slavery?)
11-10-17 Obamacare enrollments surge compared with 2016
The number of people who signed up for Obamacare health insurance plans surged last week compared with the same period last year, despite the Trump administration’s steep cuts in marketing for the enrollment period. More than 200,000 Americans enrolled in a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 1, the first day of open enrollment—twice as many as signed up on the first day of coverage in 2016. More than 1 million people visited HeathCare.gov, a 33 percent increase in traffic from 2016. However, fewer people may sign up overall this year, given that the Trump administration has cut the open enrollment period from 12 weeks to 6 weeks.
11-10-17 A gunman’s deadly rampage in a Texas church
Trump is right, said Ben Shapiro in NationalReview.com. New gun laws won’t fix anything when we can’t enforce those we already have. Kelley “should not have been able to own or obtain a gun under federal law,” yet he was able to buy four weapons in five years. It was only thanks to a law-abiding gun owner that more people weren’t killed. That’s why we have the Second Amendment, “so that Americans can preserve their own lives when government falls short.”
Willeford was undoubtedly heroic, said German Lopez in Vox.com, but more than 40 people were shot before the “good guy with a gun” arrived to help. Of all mass shootings between 2000 and 2013, only 3 percent were stopped by armed civilians. All the while, for every criminal killed in self-defense by a gun, 34 people are killed in gun homicides, 78 people in suicides, and two in accidental gun deaths. “Guns are enabling much more death of the innocent than they are protecting people from a similar fate.”
It’s domestic violence that’s the common thread in these atrocities, said Karen Attiah in The Washington Post. Fifty-four percent of mass shootings involve a partner or another family member being killed, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Investigators believe Kelley was motivated by a family dispute; his mother-in-law attended the church in Sutherland Springs but luckily wasn’t there at the time of the massacre. Instead of stigmatizing the mentally ill, “it’s beyond time to treat violence against women as a serious threat to our national security.”
11-10-17 A victim’s tax on gunmakers
Imagine you’re in a church, movie theater, concert, or school, and a mass shooter opens fire with an assault-style weapon designed to kill dozens of people in seconds. You wake up in a hospital with grievous wounds, having lost the ability to walk or care for yourself. You should be able to sue the manufacturer and gun dealer and use the money to pay your mammoth medical bills, said Mark Joseph Stern, but under a federal law passed in 2005, gun dealers and manufacturers cannot be sued by people hurt by their products. Indeed, “firearms are the only consumer products,” including vaccines, drugs, and automobiles, exempted from all liability. Why? Every day, an average of 315 people are shot in this country, and 222 survive, often with serious injuries that drive them into bankruptcy. A Congress cowed by the gun lobby will clearly not change the liability law, but states can help survivors by imposing a new tax on gun sales and firearms revenue, and creating a fund for victims. The firearms industry has made billions by creating and flooding the market with ever more destructive weapons, fueling a terrible crisis of gun violence. “It should be required to pay for it.” (Webmaster's comment: The right to keep and bear automatic weapons of any kind is the right to kill large numbers of people for any reason or no reason. Americans are supporting the seeds of thier own destruction!)
11-10-17 Mass shootings can happen anywhere, at any time.
“Mass shootings can happen anywhere, at any time. When you’re out in public, before settling into your seat or spot, ask yourself, if there’s an attack, what will I do? At theaters and concerts, consider choosing seats on the aisle and close to exits. At restaurants, sit with your back to the wall and face the entrance. Before you relax, identify your escape routes and exit points, including turnstiles, doors, scalable fences, and accessible windows. Get out of the kill zone. It’s your best option.” (Webmaster's comment: How did we come to this?)
11-10-17 The West is descending into chaos
What on earth is happening to the West? asked the Global Times. Not so long ago, the U.S. and Europe were stable, prosperous places, happy to lecture others about the superiority of their democratic systems. Today, they have much less to boast about: Their angry electorates have voted in populists who care little for “traditional values and political order”; terrorist attacks have become almost routine in their cities; and now separatists in Catalonia and elsewhere threaten to break apart their nation-states. “This series of events may not be a temporary phenomenon but instead reflect a deeper problem.” The old order has been shaken by the rapid evolution of technologies—including social media and the increased automation of work—and Western democracy has utterly failed to adapt to this new world. Political parties have moved to the ideological extremes, which has eroded their ability to compromise and pass legislation. And rather than trying to build unity, Western elites instead simply blame one another for society’s disintegration. “The slogan of ‘change’ has frequently appeared in Western election campaigns, but the so-called changes are all formality.” Until its leaders rediscover their “political authority and moral compass,” the decline of the West will continue.
11-10-17 Medical cannabis vendors must stop making bogus health claims
There are enough real benefits of medical marijuana, so why are people making them up? It’s time to stop overhyping what weed can do. Cannabis can make scars disappear, reverse Alzheimer’s disease and even cure cancer – that is, if you believe some of the wilder health claims made by US firms in states where medical marijuana has been legalised. Unfortunately, such assertions aren’t based on a shred of good evidence. Not only are consumers being ripped off, but sometimes their health is being endangered. Little wonder that the US cannabis industry is sometimes dubbed a Wild-West operation. Although marijuana is best known as a recreational drug that gets you high, the plant has a long history of therapeutic use. Modern researchers have found some supporting evidence for a range of benefits that include relieving pain, muscle spasms, nausea, epilepsy and aiding sleep. It’s hard to know the exact nature and scale of the effects because there are few large-scale, good quality trials. This is partly because research has long been stymied by the plant’s classification as an illegal drug. It can take researchers years to get past the red tape and official disapproval. In the meantime, thanks to changing public attitudes, there has been a spreading decriminalisation of cannabis in various forms, including in Spain, Portugal, Uruguay and Canada. More significantly, 29 US states and Washington DC now allow medical use.
11-10-17 1917 Russian Revolution: The gay community's brief window of freedom
In January 1921 Russian Baltic Fleet sailor Afanasy Shaur organised an extraordinary gay wedding in Petrograd. The guests included 95 former army officers along with members of the lower ranks of both the army and navy, and one woman, dressed in a man's suit. The city had never seen anything like it. Shaur pulled out all the stops. He did not think guests would come if it had just been a party. But he gambled - rightly - that a proper wedding with all the Russian traditions, bread and salt, a blessing from the proud parents, and a concert to follow, would be irresistible. At the time Russia's gay community was enjoying a brief window of tolerance. After the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks scrapped and rewrote the country's laws. They produced two Criminal Codes - in 1922 and 1926 - and an article prohibiting gay sex was left off both. But the wedding in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) was not all it seemed. Afanasy Shaur was in fact a member of the secret police, and at the end of the festivities the guests were all arrested. It emerged that Shaur had arranged the whole event as a way to curry favour with his bosses. He claimed these former military men were counter-revolutionaries who wanted to destroy the young Red Army from the inside. But despite Shaur's efforts, the accusations did not stick. The case was eventually closed and the "counter-revolutionaries" got away with nothing more than a fright.
11-9-17 Power really can corrupt people. Here’s what to do about it
Sleazy scandals show the link between power and bad behaviour. To stop people at the top getting away with it, we need much more scrutiny, says James Bloodworth. Over recent weeks, the UK parliament has been beset by accusations about powerful men sexually harassing female MPs, journalists and party activists. Those revelations followed hard on the heels of similar claims levelled against big names in Hollywood. Most recently, the leak of financial documents known as the “Paradise Papers” exposed a network of tax-avoidance schemes used by the world’s super-rich and famous. A cascade of damning revelations about those in positions of authority, high-level instances of sleaze, avariciousness and dishonesty is hardly new of course. In 1887, the historian Lord Acton famously wrote: “Power tends to corrupt…” This latest clutch of scandals seems another depressing example of the apparent connection between unethical behaviour and the holding of power. What is the truth about that relationship? A number of studies suggest that when people obtain the whip-hand over others, it can unleash an unsavoury side of their personality. The most famous example is the 1971 Stanford prison experiment, in which one group of students were assigned to serve as prison guards over another group. The experiment was halted after people assigned as guards began to abuse those in their charge. Similarly, a 2014 study in Switzerland in which participants were asked to play a “dictator game” found that even those who started the experiment with good intentions weren’t immune to power’s corrupting influence.
11-9-17 Why moms should put down the wine and pick up the weed
Many women say using marijuana makes them better mothers. Why are we still judging them for liking pot? "Motherhood, powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine." That's a common trope these days: Moms drink wine. Lots of wine, from the sound of it. Motherhood is hard, and nothing makes hard stuff easier than sipping a little rosé and watching Netflix. We know it, everyone knows it. Boozy moms are a thing, especially boozy millennial moms. What's less commonly known is that moms, particularly stay-at-home moms, live with depression at a higher rate than other folks. And alcohol can increase feelings of depression because of the way it interacts with certain neurotransmitters. So stay-at-home moms sometimes struggle with depression and anxiety, then drink wine to feel a little better, relieve some stress, and relax at the end of a long day. But the wine they're drinking actually has a tendency to make them feel worse, not better. For some moms, the answer lies not in the wine glass but in the bong. Today's mothers are turning to recreational marijuana to take the edge off after a long day of child-rearing, or even help treat more serious problems, like postpartum depression. "Once I became a mom I never even considered using it, but I wasn't the same after experiencing postpartum depression with both of my daughters in various forms," says Celia Behar, a life coach and cannabis advocate. A friend recommended she try pot. "I balked at first but eventually, out of desperation, I did it and it worked better than anything else I had tried." Indeed, cannabis has been shown to improve symptoms associated with clinical depression and some anxiety disorders. (Webmaster's comment: My mom should be a pothead?)
11-8-17 Russian scientists take aim at paranormal TV shows
A group of Russian researchers have decided to call out TV shows about clairvoyants for promoting fake science. The group, led by scientist Alexander Panchin and sceptic Mikhail Lidin, say they will use the latter's YouTube channel to "show viewers why they shouldn't believe everything they see on their TV screens," Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports. They are the people behind Russia's Harry Houdini Prize, which regularly invites the stars of psychic shows to replicate their feats under controlled conditions for a prize of one million roubles ($17,000; £13,000). Mikhail Lidin told the paper "these programmes lead to people using faith-healers and fortune-tellers, signing up for worthless or even potentially harmful psychic training courses, and handing over money to swindlers". In response to suggestions that viewers should have enough sense to know they are watching an entertainment programme, Mr Lidin points to the consistently high levels of belief in the paranormal in Russia, especially since the fall of he Soviet Union. The shows should at least carry an on-screen warning that "everything you see here is fiction", he adds. Apart from explaining how various feats of clairvoyance can be faked, the campaigners highlight more serious matters such as times when psychic TV shows have tried to intervene in the conduct of legal cases. The impressive fees and free airtime the stars receive do not go unexplored either, they say. Russia's education ministry has also shown concern over paranormal programmes, and gave an "anti-prize" to the TNT entertainment channel's Battle of the Clairvoyants as part of its True Science awards earlier this year. Some officials have suggested recognising "achievements in unmasking pseudo-science" as part of these awards.
11-8-17 This mortician wants to fix our broken relationship with death
We treat death as an emergency and hand it over to professionals. We shouldn't be afraid to spend time with the body and get involved in the process, says Caitlin Doughty. For so long in the US and the Western world, we’ve taken the attitude that having an interest in death is morbid. But in fact, it’s morbid to try to cover it up, sterilise it and not think about death. Death positivity doesn’t mean that when your mother dies, you are just supposed to accept it and buck up. It means that it’s OK to be interested.
- You advocate the idea of “death positivity”. What does that mean?
- Why do we need to be positive about death?
- What’s the typical interaction with death in the US?
- Why do many people in the West maintain such a distance from death?
- Wasn’t death taken out of our hands for good reason – to prevent the spread of disease?
- You recently travelled the world to learn about death rituals in other cultures. How do they compare with those in the US?
- You seem to suggest that many other cultures have a more intimate relationship with death. Why is it important to have that?
- So you think people in the West need to be more hands-on in death rituals?
- What about the people who don’t want to interact with their dead loved ones?
- “Having my dead body consumed by vultures is something I really want”
11-8-17 US 'loses 60% of career ambassadors' since January
The United States has lost 60% of its career ambassadors since January, according to the head of the labour union that represents US diplomats. "Leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed," Barbara Stephenson, head of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) chief, wrote. Ms Stephenson, a former ambassador to Panama, says there has been a "decapitation" of top talent. The BBC has asked the Department of State for a comment. "The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events," Ms Stephenson writes. The former ambassador to Panama writes in a forthcoming issue of the Foreign Service Journal that the art of diplomacy must be defended under an administration that she argues appears bent on "dismantling government as we know it".
11-8-17 Transgender politician makes history in Virginia
Danica Roem becomes the first openly transgender legislator in Virginia. The 32-year-old defeated a man who had dubbed himself "chief homophobe".
11-8-17 Danica Roem: Transgender lawmaker a first for Virginia
Voters in the US state of Virginia have elected their first openly transgender state legislator. Danica Roem, a 32-year-old journalist, ousted pro-Trump incumbent Republican Bob Marshall. Mr Marshall had described himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe". The district that elected Ms Roem, which includes outer suburbs of Washington DC, strongly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Ms Roem championed gay, transgender and immigrant rights during her campaign, but the race mostly focused on the state's transport infrastructure.
Headlines of the night:
- In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in a bitter governorship race
- Within minutes of Northam winning, President Trump criticised Gillespie
- A Democrat will succeed Republican Chris Christie as New Jersey governor
11-8-17 Deliverance for the Democrats
One year into the Trump era, voters handed Democrats big wins, signaling trouble for the GOP. Last night, in the first major electoral test since President Trump's fluke victory almost one year ago to the day, Democrats sent a powerful, unmistakable message to America's reeling, incoherent president and his Republican congressional allies: Your agenda is toxic, your leader is a detested albatross, and both will be repudiated every year, in every election, in every district, and every state until you're out of power. All the king's miscapitalized tweets and all the king's desperate race-baiting tactics were not enough to deliver a single meaningful victory to the GOP. The sound you heard last night was the Trump tide receding rapidly back into the ocean and washing scores of Republican legislators out to sea with it. They were warned. And they will not be missed. Just a few hours before the returns rolled in, uncertainty reigned across the political spectrum as partisans overreacted to every turnout anecdote and exit poll. Conservatives optimistically believed they had closed the gap in Virginia and that President Trump's ugly, divisive politics could deliver a win in a critical bellwether state, blunting the Democratic momentum seen in special elections over the past 10 months that had nevertheless not yet yielded a major win. Political junkies on the left settled in for a nervous night of nattering and return-watching, fighting PTSD from the year-ago Black Tuesday that delivered the White House to Trump and Congress to the GOP. They didn't have to wait long for deliverance. In an unusually nationalized off-year election, Democrat Ralph Northam scored an early and decisive 9 point victory over his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie for the Virginia governorship, despite the latter's lurid final-month binge of anti-Latino ads and his shameless capitulation to the dark forces of President Trump's white nationalism. Virginia's voters decided they cared more about how they were choking on the acrid smell of democracy burning over the Potomac in D.C. than they did about the confederate monuments Gillespie so faux-gallantly defended. Beyond the topline races, Democrats scored victory after victory across the board. In Virginia, as of this writing, Democrats threatened to capture at least 14 of the 17 seats necessary to take back the state's House of Delegates, an outcome that seemed unthinkable even a week ago thanks to the heavy-handed 2010 Republican gerrymander. Virginia also elected the state's first openly trans legislator to office, sent an African-American lieutenant governor to Richmond, and elected a gun control activist — the boyfriend of a journalist who was murdered on live TV — to the legislature. A coalition of the demonized.
11-8-17 How YouTube Kids can solve its Peppa Pig cannibalism problem
When a flesh-eating Peppa Pig ends up on a channel for young viewers, it means YouTube must put its house in order, say Charlie Beckett and Sonia Livingstone. Anyone who hasn’t checked out children’s media for a while is in for a shock. Most prominently, the digital diet of YouTube for children can appear strange and pointless. Unboxing videos. Weird animations. Spoofs on favourite characters. And tutorials in just about anything. Some of the anxiety adults feel about what children watch today is moral panic about social shifts: change is often unnerving, and we look for someone to blame, even if that means criticising children’s pleasures or parents’ supposedly lax standards. But children can survive and, indeed, thrive on narratives that adults find perplexing and irrational. Far from needing a saccharine diet of safe and cheerful images, children can tap into narrative dissonance and even darkness, and some would argue that they should have the opportunity to do so. If you think about it, previous generations’ toddler diet of talking tank engines and rabbits wearing waistcoats was also pretty surreal. But there seems to be something more sinister going on that we are right to worry about. There is a growing furore over the failure of YouTube to police the content that children see, even on its dedicated channel for them, YouTube Kids. There are some violent and disturbing videos creeping through, partly because any monitoring is largely left to algorithms. Peppa Pig eating her father or being tortured in the dentist’s chair, for example. Worse still, a growing proportion of the content is created deliberately to exploit the virality of the platform, using keywords and bots to amplify reach in a way that is often unaccountable and unedited by humans and so lacking in control. (Webmaster's comment: We are on the way to creating some really sick and disturbed children who will turn into some really sick and disturbed adults. Freedom of speech has its limits when it comes to children!)
11-8-17 Google promoted Texas gunman fake tweets
Google says it is "not happy" that its search results displayed false information about Texas gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people. The search engine displayed a carousel of posts "popular on Twitter" that contained false stories that Kelley was a Muslim and a left-wing extremist. Google's Danny Sullivan said the tweets were promoted by the site's "ranking algorithm", which would be improved. "We want to get this right," he said on Twitter. Google was criticised in October after the Top Stories section of its search results contained fake news about the Las Vegas shooting. Mr Sullivan, who is Google's public liaison for search, said changes to the site's algorithms had prevented the same situation happening with the Texas shooting. "We took deserved criticism after our Top Stories section carried misleading information after the Las Vegas shooting," he wrote. "Early changes put in place after Las Vegas shootings seemed to help with Texas." (Webmaster's comment: White Male Supremacists, Republicans, Conservatives, Right-Wingers, The Alt-Right, and Libertarians will promote any lie or fake news to further their agendas. They have to since the facts never support what they want to do!)
11-8-17 Germany to recognise third gender for intersex people
Germany's top court has ruled that there must be the option of registering a third gender on birth certificates. It would make Germany the first European country to offer intersex people the choice of identifying as neither male nor female. The case was brought by a registered female whose chromosome test confirmed they were neither one sex nor the other. Activists described it as a "small revolution". The constitutional court in Karlsruhe has given the government until the end of 2018 to pass a law specifying a category other than male or female. It said current regulations on civil status were discriminatory against intersex people. The category could be called "inter" or "various". A German government spokesperson said the government would comply with the ruling. The activist group Third Option - which has been campaigning for official recognition - said on Twitter that it was "completely overwhelmed and speechless". Intersex people are born with a mixture of male and female sex characteristics. The UN says the condition affects up to 1.7% of the world's population. They are already recognised on official documents in countries including Australia, India, New Zealand, Nepal and the US, where the first intersex birth certificate was issued last year.In Germany it has been possible since 2013 to leave the gender box blank on the birth certificate for people born with characteristics of both males and females. Before that, if there was any doubt, officials would enter either male or female.
11-7-17 Why are US mass shootings getting more deadly?
Three of the worst five shootings in modern US history have happened in the last 16 months. It began - more or less - with 13, the number killed in 1949 in Camden, New Jersey, one of the earliest mass shootings in the US. An army veteran, Howard Unruh, killed his neighbours. Over the next several decades, the numbers went up: 16 in Austin, Texas, on a campus in 1966, and 21 slain at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, in 1984. The past month or so have been especially brutal, as two attacks unfolded - in Las Vegas (58 dead) and Sutherland Springs, Texas (26). They followed a June 2016 assault in an Orlando nightclub in which 49 people were killed.
The reasons for this disturbing trend are many and complex, and people across the US and around the world have struggled to understand the violence. Here analysts discuss some of the factors that may lie behind the grim numbers:
- Weapons are more powerful - and shoot faster
- Assailants choose their sites more carefully
- The shooters are inspired by media accounts
- The shooters compete with each other
(Webmaster's comment: The semi-automatic guns being sold are the weapons of war, not of hunting and home or personal defence. Ban all semi-automatic weapons!)
11-7-17 The adolescent cult of the AR-15
What do the perpetrators of the massacres at Sandy Hook, at Aurora, at Orlando, and at Sutherland Springs have in common? They were all men under 30 and they all used versions of the same kind of firearm, the AR-15, the semi-automatic version of the military's M-16 and the bestselling gun in America. It might be difficult to make this connection because as I write this, the section on the use of AR-15s in mass killings has been deleted from Wikipedia by a user called Niteshift36, who claimed that including such a section at all was inherently biased. According to his user profile, this no-doubt scrupulous and disinterested editor of the world's most widely used work of reference is "proud to be an American," "a native speaker of the English language," "skeptical of anthropogenic global warming," and "supports concealed carry laws." He is also a veteran, a Tom Clancy and 24 fan, someone who thinks we should "say NO to political correctness," and a self-professed "Jedi." With all apologies to Jedi Master Niteshift36, this is ridiculous. If the killers had all worn Mickey Mouse sunglasses or been found with Metallica tattoos, it would be considered noteworthy. It's not biased except in the sense that reality itself is biased against childish gun enthusiasts. But whether he wins his edit war or nay, he has done a great service by reminding us what we're dealing with whenever we try to argue. He fits a profile, of revoltingly adolescent, video game-addicted LARPers who think that their hobby of playing dress-up with murder weapons is a constitutional right. The AR-15 is not just a gun. It is a hobby, a lifestyle, an adolescent cult. An entire industry has grown up around the endless array of accessories and modifications that allow these weapons to fire more quickly and more accurately with greater ease, to be reloaded more efficiently, and to resemble their military-issued cousins more closely. (Webmaster's comment: Stop the mass killings! Take away what the killers need. Ban all semi-automatic weapons!)
11-7-17 US sets final date for Nicaraguan immigrants' protected status
The US has announced that in January 2019 it will terminate a programme which gave Nicaraguan immigrants protection from deportation. The decision will affect thousands of Nicaraguan living in the US, who will have to seek "an alternative lawful immigration status" or leave the US. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Nicaragua was introduced in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America. It has been repeatedly renewed since. Both the Bush and Obama administrations argued that Central American nations which were granted TPS after Hurricane Mitch could not cope with the return of thousands of their nationals and extended the programme's duration. But critics say the programme, which was created to offer temporary protection in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, has become a permanent fixture and allowed some immigrants to stay for almost two decades by renewing their visas time and time again.
Temporary Protected Status programme:
- Grants temporary visas to more than 435,000 people from 10 countries ravaged by natural disasters or war
- Applies to immigrants who came to the US during the period their countries were covered by the presidential decree
- 2,550 Nicaraguans and 57,000 Hondurans are expected to reapply for TPS
- 195,000 Salvadoreans and 46,000 Haitians are waiting for a decision on whether their TPS will be renewed
(Webmaster's comment: Why throw them out? Because they aren't white!)
11-6-17 Ex-Guantanamo prisoner sues Canada government for $40m
A former Guantanamo Bay detainee is suing Canada's government, accusing it of complicity in abuse he says he suffered in the US military prison. Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian, was not charged with a crime, and he denies any links to terrorism. The lawsuit, which seeks damages of C$50m ($40m, £30m), was filed in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday. Mr Ameziane was released in 2013 after serving 11 years; his allegations have not been proven in court. In the last few months, Canada has made a number of settlements to former detainees in Guantanamo Bay and the Middle East who were imprisoned and tortured in part because of information Canadian security officials shared with foreign government in the wake of 9/11. Former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr received C$10.5m and an apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this summer. In 2010, Canada's Supreme Court concluded that Canada's conduct in connection with Khadr's detention violated his constitutional rights. The court noted he was subjected to sleep deprivation to make him "less resistant to interrogation". In October, three Muslim-Canadians who were tortured in a Syrian prison received a C$31m settlement from the federal government. "For many years, I had the idea of suing the Canadian government but didn't know how and honestly didn't know it was possible until I read the news about the settlement of Omar Khadr, who was my fellow inmate in Guantanamo Bay," Mr Ameziane told the Canadian Press. (Webmaster's comment: The only thing that Guantanamo doesn't have is the ovens for incinerating the dead!)
11-6-17 The depressing ritual of mass murder in America
Yesterday afternoon, the tenuous peace of the country was interrupted yet again by the latest in a long, seemingly endless line of unfathomable mass killings, this one carried out inside a church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas. Before he was finished, one man had murdered at least 26 churchgoers in cold blood and wounded many more before dying in a fusillade of gunfire. Americans recoiled in horror. Twitter convulsed with anger and indignation. The country though, by all indications, will quickly move along. America's mass shooting ritual is, by now, so familiar that it is beyond parody, beyond cynicism, indeed, beyond any reasonable explanation at all other than that we are too weak and too divided to make obvious changes to our laws and society to prevent more such tragedies. Sutherland Springs is Las Vegas is Sandy Hook is Orlando is Columbine. The names of the dead change but the political impotence remains very much the same. Bet on this: Republican elected officials will tweet their "thoughts and prayers," a shoebox currency so degraded it can barely buy a week of freedom from these atrocities. Someone will post that Onion article, the headline of which contains an irrefutable indictment of America's policies and responses to gun violence. You know the one. Someone will offer Dan Hodges' endlessly retweeted observations that, "In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over." If you're honest with yourself, you can predict with eerie precision exactly what everyone you know will say after every mass shooting. (Webmaster's comment: And Americans will not be strong enough to get rid of semi-automatic weapons which is what makes these mass killings possible!)
11-6-17 Does the size of the universe prove God doesn't exist?
The weight of galaxies, and the press of years, seem to sweep us towards atheism. ientists now know that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies. It's a mind-scrunchingly big place, very different to the conception of the universe we had when the world's major religions were founded. So do the astronomical discoveries of the last few centuries have implications for religion? Over the last few decades, a new way of arguing for atheism has emerged. Philosophers of religion such as Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt have asked us to consider the kind of universe we would expect the Christian God to have created, and compare it with the universe we actually live in. They argue there is a mismatch. Everitt focuses on how big the universe is, and argues this gives us reason to believe the God of classical Christianity doesn't exist. To explain why, we need a little theology. Traditionally, the Christian God is held to be deeply concerned with human beings. Genesis (1:27) states: "God created mankind in his own image." Psalms (8:1-5) says: "O Lord … What is man that You take thought of him … Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!" And, of course, John (3:16) explains God gave humans his son out of love for us. These texts show that God is human-oriented: Human beings are like God, and he values us highly. Although we're focusing on Christianity, these claims can be found in other monotheistic religions, too. If God is human-oriented, wouldn't you expect him to create a universe in which humans feature prominently? You'd expect humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time. Yet that isn't the kind of universe we live in. Humans are very small, and space, as Douglas Adams once put it, "is big, really really big." Scientists estimate that the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe. Our own planet is 150m kilometres away from the sun. Earth's nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light years away (that's around 40 trillion kilometres). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars. Humans occupy the tiniest fraction of it. The landmass of planet Earth is a drop in this ocean of space. To paraphrase Adams, the universe is also really, really old. Perhaps over 13 billion years old. Earth is around four billion years old, and humans evolved around 200,000 years ago. Temporally speaking, humans have been around for an eye-blink. Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the kind of universe we would expect a human-oriented God to create, and the universe we live in. How can we explain it? Surely the simplest explanation is that God doesn't exist. The spatial and temporal size of the universe gives us reason to be atheists.(Webmaster's comment: But size doesn't matter! One can not prove anything about a negative. Anyone can make up any God they want and no one can prove it doesn't exist! The burden of proof has to be on those that claim the existance of a God! And they can't!)
11-6-17 Mexico police detain US 'sect leader' after triple murder
Police in Mexico have arrested a suspected US sect leader in the northern state of Chihuahua. Police raided three houses and two ranches belonging to Orson William Black Jr, 56, who is wanted on charges of child abuse in the US. Prosecutors say he is also a suspect in the killing of three US citizens in the area in September. Twenty-six other people living on the properties were also detained. The arrests come less than two months after 23-year-old Jesse Barlow and brothers Robert and Michael Black, aged 19 and 15 respectively, were shot dead at Rancho El Negro. It is not clear if they were relatives or followers of Mr Black, or if they had been taken to the property against their will. The ranches are located in a colony set up by a Mennonite Christian group in 1922. After fleeing the United States in 2003, Orson William Black Jr settled in the colony, where he is believed to have set up his own polygamous sect, set apart from the Mennonite group living there. Mr Black had previously been a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), whose former leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides. The child abuse charges against Mr Black were brought in the state of Arizona in 2003 after two teenage girls he took as his "brides" became pregnant. Shortly after the charges were brought, a US reporter traced Mr Black to the Mennonite colony in Chihuahua. He is believed to have been living there ever since with his four "wives", his children and a number of fellow US citizens.
11-3-17 How a drag wrestler broke the mould for LGBT representation in wrestling
The wrestling industry isn't known for LGBT representation, but drag wrestler Rick Cataldo is hoping to change that. Rick has been a professional wrestler since 2004 but his career took off in 2014 when he formed The Fella Twins. As part of the duo, he says he was able to pay tribute to the female wrestlers who inspired him as a child. "At an early age I was attracted because even in such a violent atmosphere there could be beauty and colour," he tells Newsbeat. "Plus, the big boobs and the blonde hair? That wasn't so bad either." Growing up idolising WWE Divas such as Sable, Terry Runnels and Dawn Marie, Rick started wrestling at 14 but struggled to find a place in the industry. He never wanted to be like other male wrestlers and instead worked with female wrestlers. "I was always the joke and the comedy relief," he says. "I was trying to find my place and what would get me bookings." He says male wrestlers had pretended to be gay, but found that being open about his sexuality outside the ring proved to be a major hurdle. "They'd throw my bags out of the locker room because they found out I was gay and it wasn't just a character [I was playing]," he explains. "To this day, independent companies won't book me because of a fear of what families might say." In 2014 he started wrestling in drag, reinventing his act and finding the success he craved once he proved doubters wrong. "I wanted to turn up at every show looking just as beautiful as the girl wrestlers on TV," he says. "I've stuck with it for three years because it's working and finally people are like, 'OK, Rick is doing something here.'"
11-2-17 Americans' Fear of Walking Alone Ties 52-Year Low
Americans Fearful of Walking Alone Near Their Homes at Night: 30%. Three in 10 Americans are afraid to walk alone at night in an area within a mile of where they live. This ties the lowest level of concern since Gallup first asked this question in 1965 and is substantially below the high point of 48% recorded in 1982.
- Fear of walking alone was as high as 48% in 1982
- Americans' worry about 11 different crimes generally stable since 2001
- Slightly less worry now about home burglary and terrorism
The average level of worry about walking alone at night since 1965 is 38%. This year's 30% worry level matches the previous low reading in October 2001. At that time, about a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans may have felt safer from conventional crime and a bit more positive about local public safety efforts, or perhaps less willing to admit fear. Americans were most likely to express worry about walking alone at night from 1972 to 1993 -- when 40% or more of U.S. adults consistently said they were worried, including the 48% high point in 1982. Concern began to fade in the mid-1990s and has not exceeded 40% since 1993. The drop in worry about walking alone since the early 1990s is coincident with national crime statistics indicating that U.S. crime rates have fallen since the early 1990s.
11-1-17 What Citizens' Happiness Can Tell Us About a Country's Future
Listen to "What Citizens' Happiness Can Tell Us About a Country's Future" on Spreaker. How do we measure happiness? And what can this measure tell world leaders about the citizens they serve? Gallup Managing Partner Jon Clifton drops by to talk about Gallup's tracking of happiness around the world. He covers which countries are at the top and bottom of the list and how these measures can foreshadow major world events, such as Brexit.
11-1-17 The good, the bad, and the ugly of President Pence
Why liberals and anti-Trump conservatives alike would be disappointed by President Pence. With the water slowly rising in the West Wing, even those of us who've expressed repeated skepticism about the possibility of impeaching President Trump have begun to think more seriously about what would follow the sinking of the Trump administration. Though former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's key role in selecting Mike Pence as Trump's running mate raises the intriguing possibility that the vice president could also go down with the ship, leading to the ascension of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to the presidency, the more likely scenario is that if President Trump goes down, America would end up with President Pence. And that raises its own set of troubling questions. Many on the left regard the prospect of Mike Pence in the Oval Office as potentially worse than Donald Trump — since in place of the current president's full-spectrum ignorance and incompetence, we'd get someone who actually knows how to enact an agenda that would match or perhaps even surpass Trump's in its right-wing extremism and brutality. Many Never Trump conservatives and establishment Republicans, meanwhile, think Pence would be a vast improvement on Trump. Yes, he's been a loyal member of the Trump campaign and administration, defending a multitude of indefensible statements and actions. But deep down, Pence knows better, and once he's freed to be his own man, he'll revert to his pre-Trump positions on a range of issues and govern honorably as a center-right conservative in the mold of George W. Bush. Both predictions are partially wrong, and in ways that illuminate something important about the distinctive dangers of a Pence administration.
11-1-17 Rivers and forests need the same legal rights we grant to people
Environmental campaigners want the Colorado river to get the right to sue in US courts. It's not as crazy as it sounds, says Richard Schiffman. Does a river have rights? A coalition of US environmental groups thinks so. They have filed a lawsuit in Denver that says the Colorado river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve” has been violated by its namesake state. Controversially, they want to represent it as a “person” in court and list it as a plaintiff. The Colorado provides water to 36 million people in seven arid US states and north-west Mexico. Thanks to irrigation, it greens thousands of square kilometres. But the river, which is severely overused for agriculture and rendered stagnant by a series of massive dams, is visibly shrivelling. By the time it reaches the sea in the Gulf of California, it is a toxic sludge of salts, agrochemicals and heavy metals. Most years, it dries up before it even gets there. If we treated people with this level of abuse, we would be hauled into court. Yet there are few legal remedies when the same is dished out to a river, a wetland or an old growth forest. That is because ecosystems currently have no legal standing in the US. But that may be about to change. A century ago in the US, women couldn’t vote. Child labour was still a problem. Fortunately, the law evolves. Human rights are now firmly established. The extension of rights to animals has moved in the past decade from being a fringe interest to a mainstream concern debated worldwide.
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Atheism News & Humanism Articles for October 2017