You are not Alone!
149 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for March 2018
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
The perfect weapon for killing people.
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3-31-18 Indian lowest-caste Dalit man killed 'for owning horse'
A young farmer from the lowest rung of India's caste hierarchy - the Dalit community - has been beaten to death, apparently for owning and riding a horse. Police in Gujarat state said three upper-caste men had been detained for questioning. The victim's father said his son had been warned not to ride the horse as this was an upper-caste privilege. Owning a horse is seen as a symbol of power and wealth in parts of India. A senior police officer said other possible motives had not been ruled out. Pradeep Rathod, 21, was found dead in a pool of blood near Timbi village in Gujarat state late on Thursday. The horse was also found dead nearby, his father said. (Webmaster's comment: More evil from the most backward nation on earth. They even killed the horse!)
3-31-18 Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot
Electric carmaker Tesla says a vehicle involved in a fatal crash in California was in Autopilot mode, raising further questions about the safety of self-driving technology. One of the company's Model X cars crashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire on 23 March. Tesla says the 38-year-old driver, who died shortly afterwards, had activated Autopilot moments before the accident. But they did not say whether the system had detected the concrete barrier. "The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive," a statement on the company's website said. "The driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision." "The driver had about five seconds and 150m (490ft) of unobstructed view of the concrete divider... but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken," the statement added. Tesla's Autopilot system does many of the things a fully autonomous machine can do. It can brake, accelerate and steer by itself under certain conditions. (Webmaster's comment: The problem is the driver expects the autopilot to react to the hazard but then it does not. And by the time the driver realizes the autopilot is not reacting it is too late!)
3-30-18 Parkland student David Hogg rejects Fox News host's apology
A student survivor of a Florida high school shooting has brushed aside a Fox News host's apology after she mocked his university rejections. Twelve companies have said they are pulling ads from Laura Ingraham's programme after 17-year-old David Hogg tweeted a call for a boycott. On Wednesday, she accused the activist of whining after he said four colleges had declined his applications. He has been a target of online abuse since last month's attack in Parkland. Keeping up the pressure on Friday, David told the New York Daily News: "I would love to see her go." He tweeted on Thursday night: "I will only accept your apology only if you denounce the way your network has treated my friends and I in this fight. "It's time to love thy neighbour, not mudsling at children." The teenage activist - who has amassed nearly 700,000 Twitter followers since last month's attack - told CNN on Thursday: "I think it's great that corporate America is standing with me and the rest of my friends." TripAdvisor, JoS A Bank, Expedia, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Office Depot, Jenny Craig, Atlantis, Wayfair, Stich Fix, Nestlé and Nutrish have all announced they will withdraw commercials from The Ingraham Angle. But a TripAdvisor spokesperson said Ms Ingraham's original comments "cross the line of decency". Wayfair said "the decision of an adult to personally criticise a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values". (Webmaster's comment: Fox should fire this creature and all other media should blacklist her.)
3-30-18 Stephon Clark: Police shot unarmed man '7 times in back'
An unarmed US man killed by police this month was shot seven times in the back, according to an independent post-mortem examination. Stephon Clark was shot a total of eight times in the confrontation on the night of 18 March in Sacramento, California, said a forensic pathologist. Dr Bennet Omalu said seven of the bullets entered the 22-year-old father-of-two's back and side. He was holding a mobile phone, which police said they mistook for a gun. His death has sparked city-wide protests. Dr Omalu said Clark was also hit in the neck and thigh, and one shot resulted in a punctured lung. Authorities said that each officer fired 10 times. Any one of the eight bullets that struck Clark could have proved fatal, Dr Omalu said. "His death wasn't instantaneous," Dr Omalu said at a news conference on Friday. It took him three to 10 minutes to bleed to death. Dr Omalu said the seventh gunshot wound was to the side of his body, towards the back. He said: "You can reasonably conclude he received seven gunshot wounds from his back." Mr Crump said the post-mortem findings meant the officer's story about Clark moving towards them in a threatening manner could not be true. (Webmaster's comment: Another obvious murder of a black man by police.)
3-30-18 Fox host apologises for taunting Parkland student David Hogg
A Fox News host has apologised to a student who survived a Florida high school shooting that claimed 17 lives after accusing him of whining. Several firms have answered David Hogg's call for a boycott of Laura Ingraham's show after she taunted him. In an interview this week, the 17-year-old activist said four universities had rejected his applications. The teenager has been a target of online abuse since the 14 February shooting in Parkland. Ms Ingraham tweeted about him on Wednesday: "David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it." He later posted the names of 12 companies, encouraging his 611,000 Twitter followers to contact them. One of the firms, Nutrish, replied to his tweet, pledging to remove its commercials from Ms Ingraham's programme. Wayfair, a homeware retailer, and TripAdvisor, a travel website, also said they were pulling ads from the Fox show. A TripAdvisor spokesperson said in a statement that Ms Ingraham's comments "cross the line of decency". Wayfair said "the decision of an adult to personally criticise a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values". Nestle, the world's largest packaged food company, online streaming service Hulu, and travel website Expedia also said they planned to pull ads from the show. On Thursday, the Fox presenter struck a conciliatory tone, praising David's grades. (Webmaster's comment: She showed her true colors. Complaining about having friends killed by guns is just whining. She should be fired and blacklisted by all media organizations.)
3-30-18 Facebook 'ugly truth' growth memo haunts firm
A Facebook executive's memo that claimed the "ugly truth" was that anything it did to grow was justified has been made public, embarrassing the company. The 2016 post said that this applied even if it meant people might die as a result of bullying or terrorism. Both the author and the company's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have denied they actually believe the sentiment. But it risks overshadowing the firm's efforts to tackle an earlier scandal. Facebook has been under intense scrutiny since it acknowledged that it had received reports that a political consultancy - Cambridge Analytica - had not destroyed data harvested from about 50 million of its users years earlier. The memo was first made public by the Buzzfeed news site, and was written by Andrew Bosworth. "So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack co-ordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned. That's why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it."(Webmaster's comment: The true natue of corporate greed. Profits before even life itself.)
3-30-18 Vatican: Pope did not say there is no hell
The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis told a well-known Italian journalist that "there is no hell". The quote came in an article in Italy's La Repubblica daily. But the Vatican said "no quotations" in the article "should be considered as a faithful transcription" of the Pope's words. The Vatican said the article was based on a private meeting the Pope had with the daily's founder, Eugenio Scalfari. Catholic Church doctrine affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. The souls of sinners descend into hell, where they suffer "eternal fire", the Catholic catechism states. However, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, said "there's nowhere in Catholic teaching that actually says any one person is in hell". He told the BBC that the Pope was apparently exploring "the imagery of hell - fire and brimstone and all of that". "That's never been part of Catholic teaching, it's been part of Catholic iconography, part of Christian iconography," he said. (Webmaster's comment: What a great threat to get people to believe in. It gives the church enormous power over all those who believe in hell.)
3-30-18 Land of poison
More than half a century later, the effects of Cold War-era uranium mining are still killing the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is America's largest Native American reservation, home to some 250,000 people. Straddling the borders of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, the territory stretches across the southwest's sprawling mountains, deserts, and canyons. Quietly lying beneath this striking landscape is a resource that first invigorated and then decimated the Navajo: uranium. During the Cold War, uranium fueled the country's rapidly expanding nuclear program, bringing a boom to the Navajo's struggling communities. Thousands of Navajo men gravitated toward the promise of riches at the mines, desperate for income. Between 1944 and 1986, some 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the lands and eagerly bought by the U.S. government. But the bounty came with a steep price: An onslaught of radiation-related illnesses wreaked havoc upon these miners — breathing complications, kidney damage, heart disease, fibrosis, depression, and more, all caused by uranium exposure. Studies have found the Navajo workers are now three times more likely to die from lung cancer — and more than 500 miners did between 1950 and 1990. Worse still, the Navajo were never warned of these known risks of working with uranium, and many laborers came home covered in bright yellow uranium dust, exposing their loved ones to the same dangerous toxins. Decades later, the Navajo Nation continues to suffer from the irresponsible mining practices of the nuclear arms race. As recently as 2016, CDC researchers were still finding uranium in Navajo newborns' urine.
3-30-18 Obituary: Johan van Hulst, the teacher who saved Jewish children
Some of the children Johan van Hulst helped rescue were so young that they no longer remember the daring acts that saved their lives. Van Hulst, who died on 22 March aged 107, was a key part of the network that helped at least 600 Dutch babies and children escape the Nazis. Those children survived thanks to carefully orchestrated operations that smuggled them away right in front of the Nazis seeking to send them to concentration camps.
3-29-18 The CIA: Putting a ‘torturer’ in charge
“There is no way to sugarcoat this,” said Karen Greenberg in NBCNews.com. President Trump’s nominee to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director was “actively complicit” in torture. Gina Haspel, a 30-year veteran at Langley and current deputy director, ran a CIA “black site” in Thailand in the aftermath of 9/11. At these secret facilities, agents questioned terror suspects using so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical beatings, forced nudity, and “confinement in a coffin-like box” filled with insects. At least one suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was repeatedly waterboarded during Haspel’s tenure, and she participated in “the decision to destroy recordings of the interrogations.” If the Senate confirms Haspel, it’ll be a “tacit endorsement” of her actions, said Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe. With a known “torturer” heading the CIA, other nations will laugh at us when we “trumpet the importance of human rights.” The Senate must reject her.
3-29-18 Fox News off the deep end
“It’s easy to understand why conservatives, especially older conservatives, feel affection for Fox News,” said David French. When the network launched in 1996, it provided “a necessary, healthy dose of competition” to a left-leaning “legacy media.” But as Fox came to dominate conservative discourse, “it started to attract a constellation of cranks and grifters” peddling sensationalistic conspiracy theories and unhinged partisanship. Last summer, Fox reporters and commentators Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich relentlessly promoted the conspiracy theory that a Democratic operative named Seth Rich, whom police say was killed in a Washington, D.C., street robbery, was actually assassinated by Democrats. Without any evidence whatsoever, Fox claimed it was Rich—and not Russian hackers—who had actually given embarrassing Democratic emails to WikiLeaks. The network’s obvious goal: to debunk the Russian-hacking narrative and protect Donald Trump. Now Rich’s parents are suing the network, saying it used a fake story to portray their son as a traitor and exploit his death for political reasons. Conservatives do need an alternative to the mainstream media. But a network that traffics in “wild” conspiracy theories is anything but “fair and balanced.”
3-29-18 Facebook shaken by data harvesting scandal
Facebook faced withering criticism and the likelihood of multiple government investigations this week amid revelations that a political data firm hired by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign used the social network to harvest the personal information of more than 50 million users without their permission. In 2014, U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica paid University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan to collect data on Facebook users with a personality quiz app. Some 270,000 people took the quiz; by mining the Facebook profiles of their friends, Kogan built a database of 50 million users. Facebook told Kogan that the data could be used only for academic purposes, but Cambridge Analytica—co-founded by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and partly owned by conservative donor Robert Mercer—tapped it to build “psychographic” profiles of voters, who could then be targeted with highly tailored messages. Facebook knew Cambridge had violated its terms of service by late 2015 but suspended the firm from its platform only this week, shortly before exposés were published in The New York Times and Britain’s The Observer. Facebook’s stock plunged 10 percent following the revelations, losing $60 billion in value. Company founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted Facebook had “made mistakes,” and pledged to improve data safeguards. Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix this week after a British news program captured him on video telling an undercover reporter that the firm could destroy political targets using sex workers, while also bragging about the company’s role in electing Trump.
3-29-18 Colorado senator explains 'white privilege' to colleagues
Senator Irene Aguilar spoke out while the Colorado state Senate debated a bill which would allow business-owners to pre-emptively shoot intruders.
3-29-18 He didn’t realize his comments were anti-Semitic
A Washington, D.C., lawmaker blamed the area’s recent snowfalls on “the Rothschilds.” Democratic Council member Trayon White Sr. told constituents that the Jewish banking family is “controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man.” White later apologized, saying he didn’t realize his comments were anti-Semitic. (Webmaster's comment: Unbelievable!)
3-29-18 A little less shouting.
A little less shouting, after retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters resigned as a strategic analyst for Fox News, saying the network had become “a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration” and is “fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers.”
3-29-18 GDP matters less than hygge.
For much of the year, Finland has but a few hours of light and temperatures well below 0 degrees F. Yet the Finns are the happiest people in the world, according to the U.N.’s annual World Happiness Report. Norway is second, followed by Denmark and Iceland (also cold and dark). The U.S. dropped four places to 18th. (See Noted.) Now, happiness is no doubt hard to quantify, and this ranking should be taken as more suggestive than definitive. But why does our powerful and wealthy nation—whose founding promise is the individual pursuit of happiness—consistently fall into a second tier…and keep sinking? Human beings, anthropologists and social psychologists tell us, are social creatures. Much of our happiness flows from our connections to other people, our sense of community and joint purpose. On these measures, America—despite its economic dynamism and vibrant culture—is in distinct decline. Trust in government, the media, and other institutions has plunged. Most people feel the system is “rigged” in favor of corporations, coastal elites, or some tribe other than their own. Work, and the ceaseless hunt for money, security, and consumer goods, dominate most people’s lives; time for family and friends, and the activities that build community and meaning, is often scarce. Loneliness is epidemic. So are consoling addictions to painkillers, unhealthy food, and technology. The most alienated among us load up on weapons and express their soul-sickness in blood. Finland, Norway, and Denmark are not without problems, but researchers say what sets the happier nations apart is the premium their cultures place on time spent in nature, and in harmonious, intimate contact with friends and family. The Danes even have a word, “hygge,” that describes these cozy, high-quality social interactions. If there is a suggestion we can collectively and personally take from the happiness ranking, it’s this: Richness comes from human connection. GDP matters less than hygge.
3-29-18 Self-driving fatality
Uber suspended all tests of its self-driving cars this week after one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a woman in Tempe—marking the first known pedestrian fatality from a driverless vehicle. A preliminary investigation seemed to indicate that the Uber car wasn’t at fault, said Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir. The Volvo SUV, which had an emergency backup driver behind the wheel, was traveling down a dimly lit road in autonomous mode when Elaine Herzberg, 49—who police believe may have been homeless—allegedly stepped suddenly into the road and tried to cross outside a designated crosswalk. “The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” said Moir. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode.” Police added that the vehicle was traveling at 38 mph in a 45 mph zone and made no attempt to brake.
3-29-18 Bigfoot lives
A California woman is suing the state after it told her that the hairy, scary creature she saw in the woods was a bear—not a Bigfoot. Claudia Ackley, 46, was hiking with her two daughters when, she says, they spotted a Sasquatch staring menacingly at them through a split tree. She called California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and was told she had probably seen a bear. Furious, she filed a lawsuit demanding that the state recognize Sasquatch as a distinct species—an essential first step, she says, to protect the public from potentially dangerous Bigfoots. “If I can save one life,” Ackley says, “it will be worth it.”
3-29-18 The U.S. medic who documented the horrors of Nazi camps
In March 1945, Anthony Acevedo found a diary and fountain pen in a Red Cross care package at the Nazi slave labor camp where he was imprisoned. For the next month—until the day he was liberated by Allied forces—the 20-year-old U.S. Army medic meticulously documented his Holocaust ordeal. Keeping the pen’s ink topped up with snow and urine, Acevedo recorded a grim roster of inmate deaths, from dysentery, heart attack, jaundice, influenza, gunshot, and starvation. It was a rare firsthand account of Nazi atrocities by an American prisoner of war. “Prisoners were being murdered and tortured,” said Acevedo, the first Mexican-American to be designated a Holocaust survivor. “I tried keeping track of who they were and how they died. I’m glad I did it.” But he still endured extreme brutality—on one occasion, “his German captors subjected him to a savage gang rape.” As the Allies closed in, Acevedo and his fellow prisoners were evacuated and forced to march 217 miles in 17 days, said CNN.com. U.S. soldiers found the POWs on April 23, 1945, in a barn where they’d been left by their German guards; Acevedo, who weighed 149 pounds when he was captured, was down to 87 pounds. He “settled into a successful aerospace engineering career” back in the U.S., but didn’t speak about his wartime experiences until 2008. Two years later, he donated his diary to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “People have to know what happened,” he said. “This is how low man can get.”
3-29-18 'Lost' film predicting rise of Nazism returns to screen
A silent film from 1924 predicting the rise of Nazism was found in a Paris flea market in 2015 after being lost for decades. Thanks to a huge fundraising campaign, it has now been restored and returned to cinemas, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna. An Orthodox Jew is set upon by three taunting men. A woman shopping at a market stall becomes outraged at the high prices. She starts pelting a passing Jewish man with fruit. Later, huge protesting crowds gather outside the chancellor's office. Inside, the leader consults with an adviser. "It is awful to expel the Jews," he says. "But one must satisfy the people." The incidents portrayed in the Austrian film The City Without Jews (Die Stadt Ohne Juden) are eerily prophetic. It was made nearly 20 years before the Holocaust, at a time when the Nazi party was banned in Austria, and when Adolf Hitler was in jail in Germany, working on his book Mein Kampf. It is based on a dystopian, satirical novel by the Austrian Jewish writer and journalist, Hugo Bettauer. "At the beginning of the 1920s, just after Austria's First Republic was founded, political anti-Semitism was growing incredibly, much more than during the monarchy," says Nikolaus Wostry, director of collections at the Filmarchiv Austria. Bettauer was trying to combat rising intolerance and racism, at a time when Jews displaced after World War One were arriving in Vienna. "Hugo Bettauer was a person who really tried to make society more tolerant - towards Jews, towards homosexuals, toward women taking part in political life," says Mr Wostry. "That all brought him into big conflicts with the right wing in Austrian society, which was quite dominant at that time." (Webmaster's comment: Just substitute immigrants, Muslims and dark skinned people for Jews and you've got America and Trump!)
3-29-18 Bursting your Twitter bubble actually makes you more extreme
Republicans and Democrats had their social media bubbles popped. Rather than opening them up to new ideas, it strengthened what they already believed. Maybe we should stick to our own echo chambers after all. People forced to pop their social media bubbles were more likely to strengthen their political beliefs than soften them, according to a new study. Over the course of a month, a team from Duke University, New York University, and Princeton got regular Republican Twitter users to follow a bot that retweeted tweets from Democrat politicians, pundits and journalists, and vice versa for Democrat Twitter users. More than one thousand people took part. The team measured the political leanings of the participants before and after the trial. They were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements such as “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient” and “homosexuality should be accepted by society”. Rather than becoming sympathetic to ideas retweeted by the bots, their views became more entrenched. Overall, after leaving their echo chambers, Republicans became substantially more conservative, and Democrats became slightly more liberal. The results have lessons for those who want to reduce polarised views. “Well intentioned attempts to introduce people to opposing political views on social media might not only be ineffective, but counter-productive,” said the team in the paper. The study also suggests that though a simple Twitter bot couldn’t drastically alter people’s views, it could still influence them by making them stronger.
3-29-18 Parkland student David Hogg urges boycott of Fox presenter
A student at the Florida school where 17 people were shot dead last month has called for a boycott of a Fox News host who disparaged his exam results. In an interview this week, 17-year-old David Hogg revealed four universities had rejected his applications. Fox presenter Laura Ingraham took to Twitter to accuse him of whining and having average grades. He tweeted: "Soooo @IngrahamAngle what are your biggest advertisers ... Asking for a friend. #BoycottIngramAdverts". He later posted the names of 12 companies, and asked his Twitter followers to contact them. One of the firms, Nutrish, replied to his tweet, saying it will remove its commercials from Ms Ingraham's programme. The teenage activist, who gave a speech at last weekend's March for Our Lives gun-control protest, has been a target of conservative online abuse since the 14 February shooting in Parkland. In his interview on Tuesday with TMZ, he revealed he had been turned away from four colleges in the University of California system. "It's been kind of annoying having to deal with that and everything else that's been going on but at this point, you know, we're changing the world," he told the celebrity gossip website. "I think there's a lot of amazing people that don't get to college not only that do things like I do, but because their voices just aren't heard in the tsunami of people that apply every year for college in such an economic impacted school system which we have here in America where people have to go into massive amounts of debt just to go to college and get an education." He also said that he has a 4.2 grade-point average (GPA) and scored a 1270 on the SAT, a key college placement exam. Both scores are considered above average. (Webmaster's comment: The attack by conservatives on those who want to stop the mass killing of school students has only just begun!)
3-28-18 For Parkland students, high profiles bring wave of personal attacks
The attacks on survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida began almost immediately. Within hours, they had been accused of being "crisis actors" - an old conspiracy theory, recycled from previous school shootings, that claims survivors are actors parachuted in to promote gun control. In the weeks since the 14 February shooting, a group of Parkland survivors has really taken on the mantle of advocating stricter gun control, culminating in a massive march in Washington DC on Saturday and hundreds of others across the country. Their efforts have brought them a huge new public profile, and with it a wave of personal attacks. David Hogg, 17, and Emma Gonzalez, 18, are two of the most prominent among the young activists. In the week after the attack, Hogg was forced to deny that he had been coached by his father, a former FBI agent, on what to say. This week, the right-wing blog Breitbart published a round-up of tweets falsely suggesting Mr Hogg performed a Nazi salute at the march in Washington. The prominent right wing personality Alex Jones took footage of Mr Hogg speaking at the march and dubbed it over with a speech by Hitler. Ms González was subjected to a viral video, doctored to show her tearing up the US constitution. In fact, she was tearing up a gun target. She has also been attacked by a Republican congressman for wearing a Cuban flag patch - her father is Cuban - and by a Republican state house candidate for her appearance - a "skinhead lesbian". In the days after the shooting, in which 17 people died, it was easy to assume the fallout would follow a similar trajectory to previous school shootings. Thoughts and prayers, some calls for reforms, and then a swift return to the business-as-usual politics of gun control. (Webmaster's comment: The conservative answer to gun control supporters, threats and intimidation!)
3-28-18 Florida shooting survivor: Making friends wouldn't stop gunman
A survivor of the Florida school shooting says the idea that killers can be stopped if people make friends with them is a "slap in the face". Isabelle Robinson is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people in February. The #WalkUpNotOut hashtag has been used to suggest students should make friends with potentially dangerous classmates. Writing in The New York Times, Isabelle says that is a "dangerous sentiment". "The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors," Isabelle says. A campaign for stricter gun controls in the US has been growing since the school shooting on Valentine's Day. That movement has been largely led by students from the school. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the US calling for tighter gun control on 24 March in the March For Our Lives.In the essay for The New York Times, Isabelle describes her first meeting with Nikolas Cruz when she was 12. "I was eating lunch with my friends, most likely discussing One Direction or Ed Sheeran, when I felt a sudden pain in my lower back," she writes. "I turned around and saw him, smirking... his eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry. "The apple that he had thrown at my back rolled slowly along the tiled floor." "I don't remember if Mr. Cruz was confronted over his actions, but in my 12-year-old naivety, I trusted that the adults around me would take care of the situation. "Five years later, hiding in a dark closet inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I would discover just how wrong I was." A year later Isabelle became Cruz's tutor, helping him with work. "Looking back, I am horrified," she writes. "I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality." (Webmaster's comment: That we should make friends with those who only wish to do us harm is an obscenity!)
3-28-18 The Parkland kids have triggered conservative snowflakes
Over the weekend, the March for Our Lives event featured gigantic rallies across the nation, including one in Washington, D.C., that drew several hundred thousand people — depending on estimates, perhaps the largest single rally there in American history. It was an inspiring demonstration of American citizens exercising their democratic liberties. But it also badly triggered the hyper-sensitive snowflakes in conservative politics and media, who apparently need a safe space from political assemblies to petition the government for redress of grievances. They have been in continuous meltdown ever since. Hypocrisy aside, it's a good indication of the political threat they perceive from the post-Parkland gun control movement. The long-term prospects for the extremist views of movement conservatives on gun regulation do not look good. Let's roll the tape. At National Review, Rich Lowry wrote a post entitled "The Teenage Demagogues" operatically bemoaning how the "braying spirit of the student gun-control advocacy" is "making our public debate even more poisonous and less civil." Why? Because the teenagers (hyperbolically) suggest that the NRA is basically fine with clockwork massacres of schoolchildren, if the alternative is modest regulation of gun manufacturers or restrictions on gun purchases. (Webmaster's comment: And They Obviously Are Fine With It! Nothing must interfere with American's right to buy weapons whose sole purpose is the mass killing of other human beings!)
3-28-18 Stephon Clark's brother storms Sacramento council meeting
The brother of US shooting victim Stephon Clark has stormed a public meeting of the Sacramento city council, amid continuing anger over his killing by police earlier this month. Leading protesters into the chamber on Tuesday, Stevonte Clarke sat on a table and said the mayor and the city had "failed all of you". The incident happened as the council was debating the death. Stephon Clark, 22, was unarmed when he was shot dead by Sacramento police. Hundreds of people attended Tuesday's meeting, which was called after California's attorney general joined the investigation into the killing. Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn asked for the attorney general's involvement, citing the "extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city". Two police officers shot 20 times at Mr Clark in his own backyard on 18 March, while investigating nearby break-ins. Mr Clark was believed to be armed but only a mobile phone was found on his body. The officers have not been named by authorities, who say they are concerned for their safety. They have been put on leave. Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Clark family, said in a statement: "We fully expect that the California Attorney General's Office will do a complete and thorough investigation." Mr Crump has previously represented the families of shooting victims such as Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager killed in 2012. After protesters stormed the council chamber, they gathered around the Golden 1 Centre, the scene of an earlier protest. (Webmaster's comment: Many whites are going crazy in their support for the killing! After all he was only a black person! These white's true nature is being revealed!)
3-27-18 The inequality delusion: Why we’ve got the wealth gap all wrong
A dislike of economic inequality supposedly runs deep in our psychology, but the evidence suggests that we actually prefer it that way. YOU are probably aware that there are high levels of inequality in the world and that inequality is getting worse. But it is unlikely that you appreciate just how unequal things are. So here is a way of visualising it. Take the wealth of the eight richest people on the planet and combine it. Now do the same for the poorest 3.5 billion. The two sums are the same, £350 billion. Correct: just eight people own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. That is just one of many eye-watering measures of inequality. Consider that in the US, almost 85 per cent of the wealth is owned by just 20 per cent of the population, and the bottom 40 per cent own just 0.3 per cent of it. In 1960, a chief executive in the US typically earned 20 times as much as an average worker. Today it is more like 354 times. Most people find these numbers shocking, even obscene, and inequality has become one of the world’s most serious issues. Early in his second term, President Obama called it “the defining challenge of our time”; Pope Francis has described it as “the root of social evil”. The general public also rank it highly. When the Pew Research Center asked people in 44 countries whether they thought the gap between rich and poor was a “big problem”, a majority in all 44 said it was. A majority in 28 said it was a “very big” problem. The idea that inequality needs to be reduced now almost goes without saying. I agree – but my training as a cognitive scientist warns me we should be careful how we go about it. Some fights for equality, such as against racial prejudice, are morally straightforward. But the battle against economic inequality isn’t so simple. As surprising as it might seem at first, some economic inequality is actually morally good. I recently explored this issue in the journal Nature Human Behaviour with two of my colleagues at Yale, Christina Starmans and Paul Bloom. We concluded that a crucial step in fighting inequality is realising that it is not all bad. If we want to beat inequality, we must first distinguish between the bad sort and the good sort.
3-27-18 Has gun reform reached a tipping point?
Believers in gun control are starting to feel as intensely as gun rights supporters. Here's why that's a big deal. For about two decades now, pretty much everyone has accepted that on a national level, any kind of change in gun laws is impossible. Why is that? "The power of the National Rifle Association" is a common answer, but dig one layer deeper and what you'll hear is that the NRA's power comes from gun owners themselves, and how they're fundamentally different from your average voter who would rather see more restrictions on guns. Let's imagine them as two next-door neighbors, Mitch and Alice, who are represented by all the same officeholders. Mitch owns a few guns and is a member of the NRA. He cares deeply about his Second Amendment rights — so deeply, in fact, that he won't consider voting for any politician who doesn't pledge to uphold them. The NRA helpfully offers him a regular stream of emails, texts, and written material telling him which politicians are on the right side. When they send out an alert asking him to contact his member of Congress or the state legislature about some pending gun issue, he does it. Meet him in a coffee shop or in his office, and Mitch is ready to talk guns, with well-honed arguments he's learned from listening to pro-gun media figures and talking to other gun owners. Alice, on the other hand, thinks it's terrible that there's so much gun violence in America. But she doesn't do anything in particular about it. She's not big on signing petitions or pestering lawmakers. She has a lot of issues she cares about, and guns isn't always at the top of the list. She'd rather have representatives who reflect her views on guns, but if a candidate who's right on the other things she cares about is also pro-gun, she might vote for them anyway.
3-27-18 Argentine government mocked over heterosexuality tweet
A tweet posted by Argentina's government office for human rights has been mocked online. The tweet reads: "Whatever your orientation, we're all part of the sexual diversity.#MakingVisible." It is followed by a picture with the motto: "Heterosexuality is part of sexual diversity." Many readers reacted with incredulity and asked if the official government account had been hacked. Others posted memes of people rolling their eyes. Most pointed out that a campaign to make people more visible is usually aimed at minorities and not those who are in the majority. Twitter user @agostinaaznar wrote [in Spanish]: "I've never been discriminated against for being heterosexual and as such I'm already quite visible... You'd be better off giving more visibility to LGBT people, who are oppressed and in need [of such a campaign]." Fernando Rey (@ferReyPG) posted [in Spanish]: "After years of fighting for the LGBT movement, a stupid and reactionary government wants to make us invisible by saying such a stupidity. Do heteros also get beaten up because of their sexuality?" LGBT rights groups have been critical of President Mauricio Macri and his centre-right administration. While Argentina was the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage in 2010, rights activists say it still has a long way to go to guarantee the rights and safety of the LGBT community. They say that both same-sex marriage and groundbreaking legislation which allowed for gender to be legally changed without having undergone reassignment surgery were passed under former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and that little has moved since Mr Macri took power.
3-26-18 Why America is asking for more wars
The announcement that John Bolton will become President Trump's new national security adviser is the most alarming news since Trump won the election in the first place, for two reasons. First, Bolton is perhaps the most bloodthirsty warmonger in the entire Republican elite firmament (and the bar for that statement is extremely high). Second, there is little reason to think that the rest of the governing class will be able to mount an effective challenge to Bolton's all-but-certain push for new wars. America stands a solid chance of waging another senseless, criminal war of aggression because it never reckoned with the wretched foreign policy failures of the new century. The 15-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion was last week, prompting another round of retrospectives on the incomprehensible scale of the disaster. In the sense of narrow American self-interest, it was one of the worst strategic errors in the history of U.S. foreign policy, ending the lives of thousands of American soldiers, maiming tens of thousands more, spending hundreds of billions of dollars directly and trillions more indirectly — and all in the service of deeply harming the national interest and reputation. It was also a grievous crime. Iraqi injuries and fatalities were two to three orders of magnitude greater than American ones. A war of aggression is the most serious violation of international law that exists, but the incompetent reactionary ideologues who set up the new Iraqi pseudo-state — complete with a drastically lowered corporate tax and total legal immunity for foreign mercenaries — did one better by doing their torturing in the exact same dungeon that Saddam Hussein had done his. It was, quite literally, stuff that got Nazis hanged at Nuremberg.
3-26-18 Remington: Oldest US gunmaker files for bankruptcy
The oldest gun manufacturer in the US, Remington Outdoor, has filed for bankruptcy in the wake of slumping sales. The firm, founded more than 200 years ago, filed for bankruptcy protection to cut a deal with its creditors. Remington's chief financial officer said the company's sales dropped significantly in the year before its bankruptcy, court papers show. The filing comes amid fresh demands for greater gun control in the US. A shooting at a Florida high school in February has revived the debate on gun control, and on Saturday hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of US cities. Some US retailers have raised the age limit for certain firearms purchases to 21 or stopped stocking semi-automatic weapons. The FBI processed a record number of background checks on gun purchases during the election year in 2016, but the rate of background checks plunged following Mr Trump's election. Analysts say more Americans were buying guns two years ago because they feared a possible Hillary Clinton presidency could usher in gun control policies. It is thought that gun sales slowed after Mr Trump took office because firearms enthusiasts generally do not fear a Republican president will try to deprive them of their constitutional right to bear arms. Remington, best known for its rifles and shotguns, was founded in 1816. After it emerged a Remington rifle was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, victims' family members filed a lawsuit against the gunmaker. (Webmaster's comment: It needs to go out of business, not just bankrupt!)
3-25-18 March For Our Lives: Six key takeaways from the US gun control rallies
It was the biggest gun control protest in a generation. Hundreds of rallies were staged across the US and beyond as marchers filled the streets calling for the implementation of tighter measures following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida school in February. That incident not only ignited the #NeverAgain movement, but also Saturday's mass demonstrations, which took place under the banner of March For Our Lives and were led by a rally in Washington DC attended by some 200,000 demonstrators, according to CBS News. With events not just in the US but as far afield as London, Paris, Mauritius, Tokyo, Stockholm, Sydney, Geneva and Berlin, the day was made up of powerful messages delivered by articulate students and children, most of whom have already in some way experienced gun violence. Here are six key moments from some of the biggest US rallies since the Vietnam War era.
- Survivor shows the power of silence
- MLK's granddaughter also has a dream
- Girl, 11, inspires America
- Sandy Hook survivors say 'thank you'
- Celebrities lend their support
- Signs that grabbed attention
3-24-18 Naomi Wadler - the girl inspiring America?
Naomi Wadler is only 11 - but her strong voice at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, is still reverberating across the US. The fifth grader from Alexandria, Virginia, said she represented African-American girls ignored by the media and suffering from gun violence. Last week, she co-led her elementary school's walk-out, joining a national movement seeking stricter gun controls in the wake of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month. Naomi told the Guardian newspaper her school's walkout was longer - it was also honouring 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington who died in a school shooting in Alabama on 7 March. The elementary school's principal was not initially "completely supportive" of Naomi and her friend Carter Anderson's efforts, but was won round after observing their determination. "I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren't told - to honour the girls, the women of colour who were murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation."
3-24-18 March For Our Lives: Mass rallies on US gun control begin
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are gathering for nationwide rallies in support of tighter gun control. March For Our Lives grew out of a movement calling for change after 17 people were killed by a gunman at a high school in Florida last month. On Friday, the White House said it would ban bump stocks, which give semi-automatic guns rapid-fire capability. But many activists are calling for more extensive legislation. The main march is taking place in Washington DC, with more than 800 sister protests taking place across the country and around the world, including London, Edinburgh, Geneva and Sydney. Organisers have said it may become "standing room only" in Washington, as the swelling crowds could make it hard to move. The march there begins at 12:00 local time (16:00 GMT). Participants want to seize on public outrage in the wake of the 14 February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to convince US politicians to finally take decisive action, including by banning the sale of assault weapons. However, the issue divides Americans. The right to bear arms is protected under the 2nd amendment of the US constitution and the National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby remains highly influential. Organisers say up to half a million people could rally in Washington DC, which would make it the largest protest since last year's women's march. The singer Ariana Grande and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind hit musical Hamilton, are set to perform. (Webmaster's comment: Chants: No More NRA! No More Guns! Thoughts & Prayers Do Not Save Lives!)
3-24-18 Fox News: School shooting survivors 'extremists'
Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his Friday night show that a couple of student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were extremists. He singled out David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, two of the most outspoken survivors from last month’s mass shooting, accusing them of ignoring the opinions of gun-rights adherents. "If you honestly don't care what the people who disagree with you think, if you believe they want to, quote, murder more children, then who are you? (Webmaster's comment: They probably don't want to murder more children but they certainly are willing to allow it in order to own guns!) "Well you're angry, you're definitely not fit to be making policy for the rest of us. You are by definition an extremist. "You should not have power if you really believe anyone who disagrees with you is evil and wants to kill the innocent." (Webmaster's comment: They probably don't want to kill the innocent but they certainly are willing to allow it in order to own guns!) While he supported Hogg and Gonzalez's right to express their opinions, Carlson argued they were too traumatised by February's massacre to partake in the debate. The presenter said of Hogg: "He is a kid. He has just been through unspeakable tragedy. And that's why adults shouldn't be using him or his friends to push their agendas to the rest of us." (Webmaster's comment: One conservative idiot suggests we have buckets of rocks in school rooms and for children to throw rocks at scholl shooters! That will certainly work to stop a shooter armed with an assault rifle with 30 to 100 rounds of ammunition!)
3-24-18 Florida school shooting: Pennsylvania students get stones
A Pennsylvania superintendent has described his unique measure to protect students from potential school shooters - arming them with buckets of stones. Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel told state lawmakers earlier this month that some classrooms had been given river stones to throw at attackers. He said the stone defence was intended as a last resort if evacuations failed. The unlikely defence was revealed amid a national discussion on gun violence. The national gun debate was re-ignited after 17 people died in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month. "Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone," Mr Helsel said at the state's House Education Committee on 15 March. "If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full of students armed with rocks and they will be stoned. "We have some people who have some pretty good arms. They can chuck some rocks pretty fast." The unique defence initiative started circulating on Thursday after a video of the exchange was published online and picked up by local news. The measure has been in place in the district's schools for two years already, Dr Helsel told Buzzfeed news. He emphasised the measure was intended as a "last resort" and that lockdowns and evacuations were also in their planning. He said he hoped to publicise the existence of the stones so they would serve as a deterrent for any would-be attackers. (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)
3-24-18 Trump signs new transgender military ban
President Trump has signed a memorandum that bans some transgender people from US military service but rolls back the blanket ban he ordered last year. The new directive adopts recommendations from Defence Secretary Jim Mattis that "transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition" cannot serve. But it gives the Pentagon and other agencies some discretion in the matter. The earlier blanket ban was blocked by federal judges. The new memorandum says that transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria are barred from military service "except under certain limited circumstances". The Department of Defence (DoD) had submitted a report to the president which said allowing those with a history of gender dysphoria to serve entailed "substantial risks" and could, by exempting them from existing physical, mental and sex-based standards, "undermine readiness... and impose an unreasonable burden on the military". It said the Obama administration's decision to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military was largely based on a 2016 study by the Rand think-tank, which "contained significant shortcomings". The report found that allowing transgender people to serve openly would have a minimal impact on force readiness and healthcare costs. The new policy approved by President Trump allows current transgender service members with gender dysphoria to continue serving if they were diagnosed after the Obama administration's policy took effect.
3-23-18 Why science still can’t pinpoint a mass shooter in the making
A dearth of research means the science of rampage shootings simply doesn’t exist. Immediately after a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day, people leaped to explain what had caused the latest mass slaughter. By now, it’s a familiar drill: Too many readily available guns. Too much untreated mental illness. Too much warped masculinity. Don’t forget those shoot-’em-up video games and movies. Add (or repeat, with voice raised) your own favorite here. Now the national debate has received an invigorated dose of activism. Inspired by students from the targeted Florida high school, as many as 500,000 people are expected to rally against gun violence and in favor of stricter gun laws on March 24 in Washington, D.C., with sister marches taking place in cities across the world. But a big problem haunts the justifiable outrage over massacres of innocents going about their daily affairs: Whatever we think we know about school shootings, or mass public shootings in general, is either sheer speculation or wrong. A science of mass shootings doesn’t exist. “There is little good research on what are probably a host of problems contributing to mass violence,” says criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections in St. Paul. Duwe has spent more than two decades combing through federal crime records and newspaper accounts to track trends in mass killings. Perhaps this dearth of data is no surprise. Research on any kind of gun violence gets little federal funding (SN Online: 3/9/18; SN: 5/14/16, p. 16). Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University in Boston has argued for more than 20 years that crime researchers mostly ignore mass shootings. Some of these researchers assume that whatever causes people to commit any form of murder explains mass shootings. Others regard mass killings as driven by severe mental disorders, thus falling outside the realm of crime studies.
3-23-18 New spending bill mostly boosts money for science research
Language in agreement could pave way to federal funding for work on gun violence. After some initial waffling, President Trump signed a budget bill March 23 that lays out spending details for the rest of fiscal year 2018, which goes through September. The $1.3-trillion spending deal boosts funding for nearly all science agencies, avoiding cuts the White House had proposed. These increases stem largely from February’s budget deal, which raised caps on discretionary spending. The National Institutes of Health, which got a $3 billion bump over the 2017 level, comes out especially well, as does the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. It receives an $868 million boost, a 16 percent increase. Climate science research and programs across several agencies also avoided big cuts that the administration had proposed. The one outlier: the Environmental Protection Agency. At about $8.1 billion, its budget remains flat at the 2017 level. CDC: The agreement includes wording clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t barred from studying gun violence under a 1996 amendment. The CDC has shied away from such research since that time. On Twitter, some celebrated the news, but others hailed it as a partial victory. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and researcher at Brown University in Providence, R.I., who studies firearm injuries, tweeted the “announcement changes nothing. The issue has been, and continues to be, lack of appropriations for research.” EPA: The agency’s overall budget remains flat as do projects with EPA’s Office of Science & Technology. Although not research related, the agency’s regulatory programs are cut by $23.5 million. The bill includes wording that prohibits the regulation of lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle and exempting livestock producers from EPA greenhouse gas regulations.
3-23-18 John Bolton: Five things new Trump security adviser believes
John Bolton, an ultra-hawkish conservative who rose to prominence in the George W Bush administration, will be the new National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump. A firm defender of American power and a confrontational advocate for wielding that strength abroad, Mr Bolton has never shied away from making his strong views known - whether from a government perch, in the pages of newspapers or from a Fox News pulpit. Here are five things he believes.
- A pre-emptive strike against North Korea is perfectly justified
- Bombing Iran is probably OK, too
- He's not the biggest fan of the UN
- The Iraq War wasn't a mistake
- Russia needs to be dealt with strongly
(Webmaster's comment: This warmonger supports military power and war as the only means of dealing with the world. He will advocate war and would kill ten's of millions of innocent people as the only answer to any nation that disagrees with our control of the world. How does that support the freedom and liberty of the rest of the world? Who made us world ruler?)
3-23-18 US wants first drones that can kill people truly independently
Small drones that can automatically spot, identify and target vehicles and people are planned by the US military, although humans would still be overseeing them. The US Army wants to develop small drones to automatically spot, identify and target vehicles and people. It may allow faster responses to threats, but it could also be a step towards autonomous drones that attack targets without human oversight. The project will use machine-learning algorithms, such as neural networks, to equip drones as small as consumer quadcopters with artificial intelligence. Current military drones have little onboard intelligence, sending raw video back to analysts who pick out and identify targets. At the moment, you can have dozens of people monitoring the video feed from military drones, who then decide what action to take says Paul Scharre at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington DC. The US Army already fields miniature drones that can highlight moving objects or pursue a target autonomously once the operator locks on to it with the camera. Several thousand have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But the new project goes much further. It will detect, recognise, classify, identify and target, which covers the entire process from finding a person to aiming weapons at them. “This does sound like they are moving very close to lethal autonomous weapon systems,” says Stuart Russell at the University of California, Berkeley, who has recently raised concerns about such drones. (Webmaster's comment: Death from the skies! For everyone we dislike or by mistake. Soon to be used by your local police!)
3-23-18 Stephon Clark: Police video shows fatal shooting of unarmed man
California police have released footage showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed man whose phone was apparently mistaken by officers for a gun. Authorities said they thought Stephon Clark, 22, had a weapon when they shot at him about 20 times on Sunday night. Sacramento police said a man was seen breaking into at least three vehicles and a neighbour's home. Bodycam and helicopter footage do not clearly show what Mr Clark was doing before he was shot in his own backyard. It is dark in the clip, but a figure is seen hopping over a fence and running into a backyard. Police officers' body cameras show them running along the side of a house to confront the suspect. Two officers who shot Mr Clark are purportedly heard asking him to show his hands and shouting, "gun, gun, gun", before opening fire. Police said the suspect approached the officers with an object extended in front of him, which they thought was a handgun. Footage from the helicopter shows Mr Clark collapsing as officers begin to fire, according to the Sacramento Bee. One officer suggested disarming him with a non-lethal weapon, but stopped his thought mid-sentence, according to the footage. "Let's hit him a couple of times with that before we uh...," he is purportedly heard saying. While discussing whether to perform CPR, one officer said: "Hey, mute". The audio went silent for two minutes. Mr Clark was pronounced dead at the scene. (Webmaster's comment: Why are the police allowed to mute their recorders? So they can commit murder and get away with it!)
3-23-18 Stephon Clark: Protests over police shooting shut NBA arena
Protesters in Sacramento, California blocked a motorway and basketball arena over the killing of an unarmed black man. Scores first gathered at the city hall, holding signs and urging action. The protests were sparked by the release of police video showing the killing of Stephon Clark, 22. Police shot Mr Clark about 20 times on Sunday night in the backyard of his grandparent's home while responding to reports of break-ins in the area. Officers said they thought Mr Clark had a gun, but none was found at the scene - only a mobile phone. (Webmaster's comment: This would never happen to a white man!)
3-23-18 President Trump is making this warmongering lunatic his national security adviser
John Bolton will be succeeding H.R. McMaster to become President Trump's national security adviser. This should send a chill down the spines of every American — and indeed of every person on the planet. In a country with a less bellicose foreign policy establishment, Bolton would be considered a warmongering lunatic. But America's foreign policy establishment inclines toward reflexive militarism (on the grounds that American bombs, troops, and special operations forces are invariably a force for good in the world), and so Bolton comes off as merely somewhat more unhinged than his peers. But that shouldn't blind us to the enormous danger confronting us all now that he's ascended to such a powerful position in the Trump administration. Bolton thinks that war — by which I mean everything from the launching of missiles to the deployment of ground forces to foreign theaters of battle — is the solution to every problem the United States confronts in the world. That is not an exaggeration. I challenge readers to find any statement Bolton has made against any American act of war at any time anywhere. And no, Bolton's harsh words for the Obama administration's plans for a limited air strike against Syria in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons in the country's civil war doesn't count, since the criticism amounted to the argument that the bombing would be too limited in scope. The pattern goes all the way back to the Vietnam War, which Bolton supported as a young man (while personally avoiding deployment to Southeast Asia by joining the Maryland National Guard). Like most Republicans, he supported Ronald Reagan's confrontational stance against the Soviet Union and George H.W. Bush's Persian Gulf War to turn back Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. During the Clinton administration, he advocated military interventions in the Balkans and the use of force to topple Saddam Hussein. He strongly advocated for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as recently as 2015 defended the latter as the "correct" decision, despite our failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that were Bolton's primary reason for supporting the war in the first place.
3-23-18 Karen McDougal: Trump 'tried to pay ex-playboy model for sex'
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, has said he tried to pay her for sex. In an interview with CNN, Ms McDougal revealed that she cried on the way home after Mr Trump offered her money during their first encounter. She also apologised to the president's wife Melania for the alleged 10-month affair, saying: "I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me." Mr Trump has denied the affair. Ms McDougal signed a deal worth $150,000 to tell her story exclusively to a tabloid newspaper in 2016. However, the article was never published and Ms McDougal insists she was tricked into silence about the relationship. She is now suing the publication to end the deal. Ms McDougal is one of three women who have launched law suits over affairs or sexual assault claims involving the president. These are the other two; The porn star: Stormy Daniels. The Apprentice contestant: Summer Zervos.(Webmaster's comment: Trump appears to have been a full-time sexual predator!)
3-23-18 America's happiness deficit
For much of the year, Finland has but a few hours of light and temperatures well below 0 degrees F. Yet the Finns are the happiest people in the world, according to the U.N.'s annual World Happiness Report. Norway is second, followed by Denmark and Iceland (also cold and dark). The U.S. dropped four places to 18th. Now, happiness is no doubt hard to quantify, and this ranking should be taken as more suggestive than definitive. But why does our powerful and wealthy nation — whose founding promise is the individual pursuit of happiness — consistently fall into a second tier ... and keep sinking? Human beings, anthropologists and social psychologists tell us, are social creatures. Much of our happiness flows from our connections to other people, our sense of community and joint purpose. On these measures, America — despite its economic dynamism and vibrant culture — is in distinct decline. Trust in government, the media, and other institutions has plunged. Most people feel the system is "rigged" in favor of corporations, coastal elites, or some tribe other than their own. Work, and the ceaseless hunt for money, security, and consumer goods, dominate most people's lives; time for family and friends, and the activities that build community and meaning, is often scarce. Loneliness is epidemic. So are consoling addictions to painkillers, unhealthy food, and technology. The most alienated among us load up on weapons and express their soul-sickness in blood. Finland, Norway, and Denmark are not without problems, but researchers say what sets the happier nations apart is the premium their cultures place on time spent in nature, and in harmonious, intimate contact with friends and family. The Danes even have a word, "hygge," that describes these cozy, high-quality social interactions. If there is a suggestion we can collectively and personally take from the happiness ranking, it's this: Richness comes from human connection. GDP matters less than hygge.
3-23-18 Reddit: Guns, beer and tobacco transactions now banned
Gun Deals, Beer Trade and Cigar Market are three of the latest communities to be banned by Reddit in a move to distance the social website from transactions of "illicit or strictly controlled" goods. Drugs, personal information and "paid services involving physical sexual contact" are also on the list of banned transactions announced on Thursday. A Reddit spokesperson said "users who attempt to conduct [these transactions] will be banned from the site", but declined to answer any of the BBC's questions about the bans. One user put together a list of 38 communities, or subreddits, which had been banned since the announcement. They estimate that more than 50 were removed in total. Of this list, 12 subreddits relate to firearms. For example, the r/gundeals subreddit had 122,311 subscribers as of 27 January 2018, according to the Wayback Machine digital archive. The cumulative subscribers of only five other banned communities suggest that at least 250,000 people have been affected. A Reddit spokesperson clarified that "transactions that are either illicit or strictly controlled" are now prohibited. While the sale of firearms is not illegal in the United States, it is heavily regulated. A Reddit representative explained that "there are very specific conditions necessary to make their sale legal" and added that the website "is simply not set up to ensure that those legal conditions are being met".
3-23-18 America's Weimar moment
The right and left grow more polarized every day, with each side hating the establishmentarian center nearly as much as it does the extremists on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. As each camp becomes more politically formidable, it draws on covert support from powerful domestic and international allies who have much to gain by the collapse of the liberal establishment. The center, meanwhile, strives to defend the liberal order in the face of powerful challenges but ends up engaging in tactics that violate democratic norms and undermine its own legitimacy, thereby contributing to the very centrifugal forces that imperil the system as a whole. If this sounds like a distillation of contemporary politics in the U.S. and Europe, that's because it is. But it's also a partial summation of the plot of the best television show to debut this winter. That Netflix's Babylon Berlin takes place in Germany in 1929, just four years before Adolf Hitler's National Socialists rose to power and brought an end to the Weimar Republic, should give us pause. The show is a fractured mirror in which it's possible to catch glimpses of ourselves. The image isn't flattering, but it's very much worth thinking and worrying about. I say that as someone inclined toward skepticism about viewing President Trump and his European analogues as the leading edge of fascism. There's no reason to suppose that our political polarization and cultural turbulence will end in the same totalitarian and genocidal place that it did in Germany eight decades ago, and ample reason to think that it won't. Yet there nonetheless remain deeply troubling parallels between the pre-history of fascism's rise to power and our own moment, and Babylon Berlin explores them in a uniquely electrifying way.
3-22-18 The plight of black men
Black men, especially poor ones, face uniquely brutal oppression from the criminal justice system. What is the shape of American racism? This thorny question received an interesting and extensive look from a recently released study examining the outcomes of a nationwide sample of people between 1989 and 2015. Their life history can help answer this question. The big headline result was a huge gap in intergenerational mobility between black and white men — but surprisingly, only for men. Black women's mobility was almost exactly the same as white women. One very likely culprit for this difference is America's criminal justice gulag, a vastly disproportionate share of whose victims are black men. Put together by researchers from Harvard, Stanford, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the study measured generational mobility by ranking household income, then ranking the children after they grew up and got jobs of their own. It found that black men (and American Indians) had significant downward mobility relative to whites, Hispanics, Asians, and even black women. The researchers examine and discard several potential explanations for why black women seem to be doing so much better than black men. It's not wages, working hours, or employment rates, all of which are fairly similar to white women from similar income ranks — though one should note there is still a large overall income gap between black and white women because there are a lot more black women further down the income rankings. Black men, by contrast, have a large income gap even compared to white men from a similar household income rank. The fact that blacks marry less does mean more single-earner households, but that only reduces the overall gap somewhat. The researchers conclude that the black-white intergenerational mobility gap really is a peculiarly male-driven phenomenon.
3-21-18 Canada introduces new gun control measures
Canada's federal Liberals have unveiled long-awaited gun control measures. They include tougher background checks, including screening people with a history of violence. Proposed measures also include making retailers keep records of gun inventories and sales and giving police access to the records when warranted. Crime rates in Canada have been on a long decline but gun-related homicides and gun violence have increased. The party campaigned in 2015 on a promise to make it harder to procure and use handguns and assault weapons. Gun violence in Canada is much lower than in the United States, but higher than in Europe and other many Western countries. Firearm offences have also been on the rise in Canada in recent years. In 2016, here were 2,465 criminal violations involving firearms, an increase of 30% since 2013, according to federal government figures. Toronto, Canada's largest city, has seen a steady increase in gun violence, with 392 shootings in 2017. Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada. However, 18.2% of the murders in Australia were committed with guns and 10% in the UK. Gun control has often sparked divisive debates in Canada, which has a large rural population where guns are widely owned and used. The new measures could cost the Liberals support in rural ridings in the coming 2019 federal election. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday the government is protecting the rights of legal gun owners and called the legislation "a sensible, practical package".
3-21-18 Justine Damond shooting: US policeman charged with murder
US prosecutors have laid a murder charge against a policeman who shot and killed an unarmed Australian woman. Officer Mohamed Noor, 32, turned himself in over the death of Justine Damond in Minneapolis, prosecutors said. He is accused of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ms Damond died in July last year after calling police to report a possible sexual assault outside her home. A lawyer for Mr Noor said his client had acted in line with police training. But in announcing the charges, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman alleged Mr Noor had "recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun". "There is no evidence that Officer Noor encountered a threat, appreciated a threat, investigated a threat or confirmed a threat that justified his decision to use deadly force," Mr Freeman told reporters. If convicted, Mr Noor could face up to 25 years in prison on the murder charge, and up to 10 years on the manslaughter charge. The death of Ms Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, caused an outcry in both the US and Australia. Mr Freeman said Mr Noor was sitting in the passenger seat of a police patrol car when he shot Ms Damond through a window. After she was shot, Ms Damond put her hands on a wound to her abdomen and said, "I'm dying" or "I'm dead", according to Mr Freeman. The incident prompted the resignation of Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau last year. It was described by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as an "inexplicable" and "shocking killing". (Webmaster's comment: This policeman should on trial for his life!)
3-20-18 America's gun culture in 10 charts
Students across the United States will join a national march to call for tighter gun control and to highlight the issue of school safety. The March for Our Lives was organised by pupils at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a former student is accused of killing 17 people last month. The shooting, one of the worst in US history, renewed debate about gun laws and the rights of gun owners.
- What do young people think about gun control?
- How does the US compare with other countries?
- Who owns the world's guns?
- How do US gun deaths break down?
- Attacks in US become deadlier
- What types of guns kill Americans?
- How much do guns cost to buy?
- Who supports gun control?
- Who opposes gun control?
3-20-18 Self-driving Uber death should halt tech’s race to the bottom
A pedestrian has become the first to die after being hit by a self-driving car. The autonomous vehicle regulatory free-for-all must end, says Mark Harris. Around the world, vehicles kill more people than HIV/AIDS – about 1.3 million each year. In the vast majority of cases, it is the inattentive and error-prone humans operating those cars and lorries who are at fault. Events in Arizona mark a new phase in this story. Pedestrian Elaine Herzberg died after being struck by an autonomous Uber car on Sunday as she crossed a road – the first time that a self-driving vehicle has claimed the life of another road user. Local police said that the vehicle was in autonomous mode, travelling at about 65 kilometres an hour, had a human safety driver behind the wheel at the time and did not appear to have been braking. Investigators have drawn no conclusions about fault so far. Rewind to 2011. Google went public with its self-driving car programme (since rebranded as Waymo) that year, with the goal of reducing road fatalities. A car with superhuman attentiveness and senses, such as laser ranging, radar and 360-degree vision, should be able to deal with navigation and road hazards far more reliably than fallible humans, it argued. Then along came Uber with its own message. Founder Travis Kalanick called autonomous vehicles “existential” to Uber’s future, believing that the first company to develop a cheap driverless taxi would force rivals out of business. (Webmaster's comment: Remember in America it's profits first, safety second!)
3-20-18 YouTube's neo-Nazi music problem
A BBC Trending investigation has found inconsistencies in how YouTube deals with neo-Nazi music tracks which advocate murder and violence. The company admits that it has "more to do" when it comes to hate music videos. The songs glorify violence and frequently talk about the mass killing of Muslims, Jews and other groups in celebratory detail. And they can be found on the world's most popular video-sharing platform, YouTube. On the site, neo-Nazi videos rack up hundreds of thousands or even millions of views, and attract hundreds of comments. Among the tracks found by the BBC was one titled Fire up the Ovens by a band called the Bully Boys. It celebrates the Holocaust, references anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and includes the lyric "we love to kill." Other songs by other bands call for burning Turkish people and call Muslims "sub-humans" and include other, much more derogatory slurs. In some countries, such material is illegal. And the Google-owned company's guidelines prohibit "content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes" including race, ethnic origin, religion and a host of other categories. (Webmaster's comment: YouTube is inciting hate-crime which should be illegal in any civilized country. Arrest these music groups, lock them up, and throw away the key!)
3-20-18 Uber halts self-driving car tests after death
Uber said it is suspending self-driving car tests in all North American cities after a fatal accident. A 49-year-old woman was hit by a car and killed as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona. While self-driving cars have been involved in multiple accidents, it is thought to be the first time an autonomous car has been involved in a fatal collision. Uber said that its "hearts go out to the victim's family". "We're fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident", the company said in a statement on Twitter. Police said the accident happened Sunday night while the car was in autonomous mode. A human monitor was also behind the wheel. Police said the woman, Elaine Herzberg, had not been using a pedestrian crossing. Herzberg, who police say may have been homeless, was taken to a local hospital where she died. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were sending teams to Tempe. Companies including Ford, General Motors, Tesla and Waymo are investing heavily in research to develop self-driving cars, which are often characterised as the future of the industry and hailed as a way to reduce traffic accidents. Many states across America have welcomed the tests in the hope of keeping themselves at the forefront of new technology. However, there have been warnings that the technology is being deployed before it is ready.
3-19-18 First pedestrian death from a self-driving car fuels safety debate
The autonomous vehicle hit a woman crossing the street. The first known pedestrian fatality involving a fully autonomous self-driving car will most likely raise questions about the vehicles’ safety. But “until we know what happened, we can’t really know what this incident means” for the future of self-driving vehicles, says Philip Koopman, a robotics safety expert at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Only when we know more about the crash, including details on the actions of the pedestrian as well as data logs from the car, can we make judgments, he says. The incident took place late Sunday night when a self-driving car operated by Uber hit and, ultimately, killed a woman crossing the street in Tempe, Ariz. Early reports indicate that a human safety driver was at the wheel, and the car was in autonomous mode. In response, Uber has suspended testing of its fleet of self-driving cars in Tempe and other cities across the nation. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, the New York Times reports. The NTSB has previously conducted an investigation into the 2016 death of a man who was driving a partly autonomous Tesla, concluding that the driver ignored multiple safety warnings. (Webmaster's comment: Faulty engineering and Faulty humans can be a fatal combination!)
3-19-18 An Uber self-driving car has killed a pedestrian in Arizona
An Uber self-driving car has crashed into a 49-year-old woman in Arizona. This is the first time a car in autonomous mode has killed a pedestrian. A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Tempe police said the woman was walking outside the pedestrian crossing when she was struck by a self-driving car in autonomous mode. There was a vehicle operator in the car at the time of the crash, but no passengers. The 49-year-old woman was taken to a local hospital, where she died of her injuries. This is the first reported pedestrian fatality due to a self-driving vehicle. Uber has said it will cooperate with the police investigation and that it has paused its self-driving vehicle operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transport Safety Board say they are sending teams to Tempe to investigate the incident. (Webmaster's comment: They ought to paint these things very bright red and put a very big sign on them that says Look Out Danger!)
3-19-18 Trump's vindictive political purging puts America's democracy at risk
One by one, Trump is ensuring that anyone who stands between him and total control is eliminated. Every year, the non-partisan, D.C.-based organization Freedom House issues a report scoring every country in the world along two dimensions of human liberty. Its scorching 2018 report, called "Democracy in Crisis," singles out America for "an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties." The United States no longer features the freest combined score of 1 on the group's benchmark political and civil rights index. While the U.S. is not yet anywhere close to what I like to call a "Seagram's State" (countries that get the worst possible score of 7 and 7 on the political and civil rights indices, like North Korea), it is very much trending in the wrong direction. Friday evening's bizarre firing of former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is yet another reason to believe that Freedom House is right: The U.S. is at dire risk of democratic backsliding. After McCabe, a career FBI official just hours away from retirement, was humiliatingly sacked by Sessions in a way that seemed intentionally designed to deny him his pension benefits, President Trump took to Twitter to continue his unprecedented and childish public smear campaign against any individual inside the federal bureaucracy who dares to defy him. "Andrew McCabe FIRED," America's febrile president tweeted shortly before midnight. "He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!" That outburst kicked off a weekend-long Twitter bender for the president, who peppered his usual stream-of-consciousness logorrhea with a refrigerator magnet set of phrases like "No collusion," "Fake news media," "Witch Hunt," and the old standby: "Crooked H." (Webmaster's comment: Trump, the new Hitler, is laying the groundwork for his dictatorship!)
3-19-18 Cambridge Analytica, Trump and Facebook – here’s what we know
A former Cambridge Analytica employee has claimed the firm accessed Facebook data without permission, and used it to target ads for the Trump campaign. Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which says it can “change audience behaviour,” had access to information on millions of Facebook users, according to the Observer and New York Times. Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump campaign prior to his 2016 presidential election victory, however, the firm has said it did not use any Facebook data. Christopher Wylie, who used to work for Cambridge Analytica, has claimed that University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan privately built an app that gathered data from around 270,000 users who completed surveys. At the time, Facebook’s more permissive privacy settings also gave the app access to data on millions of people who were friends with those users. In an email to staff at Cambridge University’s psychology department on Sunday, seen by New Scientist, Kogan said the collected data included name, location, age, gender and page likes. Wylie claims that the data was then passed on to Cambridge Analytica without the users’ knowledge, and used to help target political advertising campaigns by making predictions about their personality. But in his email, Kogan disputed the usefulness of the data, saying that many of their predictions about personality traits were significantly more likely to be wrong than right, and that using the data would do more harm to a political campaign than good. In a statement, Facebook said that it has now suspended Cambridge Analytica from its services. It added that it found out about the acquisition of user data by Kogan’s company, Global Science Research, in 2015.
3-19-18 Two Broad Approaches to Preventing School Shootings
Americans continue to be more likely to say that policy makers in Washington should focus on making major changes to school security measures and the mental health system than on making major changes to laws on the sale of guns and ammunition. However, more favor focusing on gun laws than did so five years ago. By 56% to 41%, Americans are more likely to say the government should change laws related to "school security and mental health system" rather than the "laws on the sales of guns and ammunition" as the best way to prevent future school shootings. Republicans and Democrats have overwhelmingly different responses to this choice. Eighty percent of Republicans favor the safety and mental health approach, while 61% of Democrats favor focusing on guns. Of the four proposals Americans favor most, three deal with school safety protocols and mental health, while one -- background checks -- deals with gun regulations. Smaller majorities of Americans favored raising the age at which guns can be purchased and banning sales of semi-automatic weapons. (Webmaster's comment: Again, the killing will not stop until we outlaw the ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic weapons!)
3-19-18 Florida shooting: How teenagers started a political campaign in 30 days
"Someone's shooting up the school at Stoneman Douglas." That Valentine's Day, the lives of 3,300 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pupils in Parkland, Florida, changed forever. The shooter killed 17 people. Others are still fighting for their lives in hospital. It's become an almost unremarkable event in modern America: This was already the sixth school shooting of 2018 in the US. But this time was different. Because instead of just accepting it for part of daily life, this group of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds decided that guns were tearing apart communities and that too many innocent people were dying. This is the story of how they started a political movement in just a month. They have a clear message: "Never Again". The seed of the campaign was planted less than 24 hours after the attack. Gathering in a local park with candles, students were embracing their friends, talking to the media or grieving quietly. "That's when we all held hands together and said 'This is where there's going to be change. This is where it's going to be different'," Jared, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, tells Newsbeat. That was a Thursday. By the weekend, the Never Again movement was up and running. It was amplified on social media with hashtags including #NeverAgain, #MarchForOurLives, #WhatIf and #IWillMarch. But this time, it was much more than an online movement which politicians could ignore. Tweeting "thoughts and prayers" wouldn't be enough this time. It was a real movement, with real people, in real life. (Webmaster's comment: The real question is do they have the stamina to stick with it and put the gun supporters out of office and elect legislators that will get rid of all semi-automatic weapons!)
3-19-18 Video console death: US boy, 9, 'kills sister, 13, over controller'
A 13-year-old girl in Mississippi has died after allegedly being shot by her nine-year-old brother over a video game, police say. They said the boy grabbed a gun on Saturday afternoon after his sister would not give up the controller. He allegedly shot her from behind, and the bullet entered her brain. A local sheriff announced on Sunday that the teen had died of her injuries in a Memphis hospital. It was unclear how the boy obtained the gun. It is also unclear what consequences the nine-year-old will face. "He's just nine," Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell told the Clarion Ledger. "I assume he's seen this on video games or TV. I don't know if he knew exactly what this would do. I can't answer that. I do know it's a tragedy." (Webmaster's comment: Obviously we need more guns so that children can defend themselves in shoot-outs at home. Everyone should be packing!)
3-16-18 Chuck Schumer's war on black people and the poor
To see how, look no further than Reid's successor, New York's Chuck Schumer. The new Democratic leader is providing crucial assistance to Republicans and President Trump to get a sweeping rollback of Dodd-Frank pushed through Congress. It is political and policy malpractice — and amounts to announcing open season on African-Americans and the poor, so that his state's marquee industry can bleed them for profit. Let's quickly review what this bill does. It quintuples the assets needed for a bank to be considered "systemically important" and thus subject to stricter regulation (from $50 billion to $250 billion). It exempts banks with less than $10 billion from the Volcker Rule, and opens a huge legal loophole for the very largest banks to reduce their capital requirements. It also exempts 85 percent of banks from collecting data used to prevent lending discrimination, and rolls back regulations on mobile home loans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the risk of financial crisis will be increased. As I have previously argued, this deregulation is profoundly racist both in general and in its specifics. Deregulated banks cause economic crises that hit black Americans by far the worst — for example, during the foreclosure crisis the percentage of black households underwater on their mortgage spiked over 20-fold, while over the same period the corresponding white figure increased "only" 6-fold. Meanwhile, if they aren't carefully prevented from doing so, Wall Street preys on black people. That's a constant in American history going back to before the revolution.
3-16-18 Most U.S. Teachers Oppose Carrying Guns in Schools
Arming teachers and school staff as a way to handle the United States' problem with school shootings will be a tough sell to those who would have to carry it out -- teachers across the nation. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. school teachers oppose the idea of training certain teachers and staff to carry guns in school buildings. Nearly six in 10 teachers think it would make schools less safe, and about seven in 10 teachers think carrying guns would not effectively limit the number of victims in the event of a shooting.
- 73% of teachers oppose teachers and staff carrying guns in schools
- 58% say carrying guns in schools would make schools less safe
- 18% would be willing to carry a gun in school buildings
3-15-18 The history of the NRA
How a gun hobbyist club morphed into one of the most powerful political organizations in the U.S. The NRA used to tout its independence from gun manufacturers—branding itself as the century-old voice of average-joe hunters and sport shooters. Today, though, the organization bolsters its funds with million-dollar donations from 22 different gun makers, including Smith & Wesson and Beretta USA. The NRA received up to $52.6 million in industry donations between 2005 and 2013, according to one report—and from some gun and ammo companies, it makes $1 from every purchase. The gun manufacturers’ influence is clear: Today, the NRA’s answer to every mass shooting is more firearms—even in schools and churches. “Today’s NRA is a virtual subsidiary of the gun industry,” said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control organization. “While the NRA portrays itself as protecting the freedom of individual gun owners, it’s actually working to protect the freedom of the gun industry to manufacture and sell virtually any weapon or accessory.
- When was the NRA founded? In 1871, by two Civil War veterans in New York—one of them a former New York Times reporter.
- What restrictions did they endorse? The NRA backed the nation’s first federal gun laws after the Prohibition Era, when tommy gun–wielding gangsters warred in the streets of Chicago.
- How long did that position last? Right through the 1960s, when assassinations and street violence rocked the nation.
- When did things change? By 1968, there were rumbles of rebellion against gun control within the NRA.
- How did it build its power? The NRA began grading politicians from A to F on gun-control legislation.
- What about recent years? Led by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, the NRA continues to exert huge political influence.
- The corporations calling the shots: The NRA used to tout its independence from gun manufacturers—branding itself as the century-old voice of average-joe hunters and sport shooters.
3-15-18 New Series: Teachers' Views on Carrying Guns, School Safety
In the wake of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, Americans are demanding action to prevent these tragic events. Emotional students and parents of school shooting victims descended on the White House last month to participate in President Donald Trump's listening session on the issue. Students across the nation participated in a walkout on Wednesday to protest gun laws that leave them feeling unsafe at school. And many polls, including Gallup's, have found that there is broad agreement among Americans for various proposals to curb school shootings. However, one critical voice has been largely missing from these debates: U.S. teachers. To that end, Gallup conducted a nationally representative poll of nearly 500 teachers across the U.S. to uncover and amplify their views on how to keep their students safe.
3-15-18 Trump, too, caves in to the NRA
Shortly after the Parkland school massacre in Florida, said Eugene Robinson, President Trump accused Republican members of Congress of being “afraid of the NRA.” He spoke of the need for commonsense gun-control laws, such as raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles from 18 to 21; aides even suggested he was considering a ban on AR-15s. To no one’s surprise, this week Trump “made a cowardly, cynical, and monumentally stupid retreat on guns”—effectively adopting the NRA’s position that the solution to mass shootings is more guns. Trump came out in favor of arming “highly trained expert teachers” with concealed weapons, arguing that shooters attack schools because they’re “gun-free zones.” That’s based on the ridiculous assumption that school shooters—who are often suicidal and by definition unhinged—would be deterred by “the fear of getting shot by a teacher.” It also assumes that when shots ring out, amid screaming and panic, trained teachers would rush toward an armed assailant and engage in a firefight without accidentally hitting students—or being shot by confused cops. At Parkland, even armed police officers shied away from confronting a mass killer armed with an AR-15. “Sorry, students. Trump has wimped out.”
3-15-18 Scott defies NRA
Florida Gov. Rick Scott broke with his longtime allies in the National Rifle Association last week to sign a sweeping set of new gun regulations passed in the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland school massacre. The law, known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm in the state from 18 to 21; imposes a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns; and bans the possession of bump stocks. The legislation, which was passed 67-50 by the Republican-led state legislature, also establishes a program to arm some teachers, though superintendents at the state’s largest school districts have already said they would not provide teachers with guns. “I am going to do what I think are commonsense solutions,” said Scott, who until now had a 100 percent, A+ rating with the NRA. The gun group immediately filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Florida measure violates the Second Amendment.
3-15-18 Students walk out
An estimated 185,000 students walked out of their classrooms this week to demand action on gun violence, a month to the day after a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Around 3,100 schools, from Philadelphia to Atlanta to Louisville to Seattle, participated in the demonstrations, which lasted 17 minutes—one minute for each of the Parkland victims. At Cooper City High, near Parkland, students gathered around empty desks outside and released doves; in Newtown, Conn., demonstrators recited the names of victims of gun violence. Thousands of others demonstrated outside the White House, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho / The NRA has got to go!” Max Poteat, a North Carolina student, said he was deeply moved by the protests. “It really hit me that these were teenagers just like us and that their lives were taken,” he said.
3-15-18 Satisfaction With Direction of U.S. Down in March
Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. dropped in March from its recent high last month, as the post-State of the Union bump in enthusiasm faded and headlines were dominated by one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. The current 28% who say they are satisfied with the direction of the country is down eight percentage points from 36% in February, returning to where it was in January. These data were collected in a March 1-8 Gallup poll, which found a sharp jump in mentions of guns and gun issues as the top problem facing the U.S. after a high school shooting in which 14 students and three school staff members were killed in Parkland, Florida.
- U.S. satisfaction dips eight percentage points to 28%
- Satisfaction among Republicans drops 15 points
3-15-18 Drug overdoses rising
The opioid epidemic gripping the U.S. is getting worse, not better, according to a grim report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between July 2016 and September 2017, suspected opioid-related overdoses increased by 30 percent across 45 states, reports NPR?.org. A more specific analysis of emergency room visits in 16 states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, found a 54 percent increase in overdoses in major metropolitan areas; in Delaware and Wisconsin, they surged by more than 100 percent. Overdose rates increased among men and women of all age groups, the report showed. Furthermore, children who have gained access and exposure to their parents’ drugs have become secondary victims of this health crisis. A separate study found that since 2004, hospitalizations for opioid overdoses have nearly doubled among kids between 1 and 17 years old. “We have an emergency on our hands,” says acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat. “The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating.” Opioids have become more dangerous in the past few years as dealers have been cutting their drugs with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, but cheaper and easier to obtain.
3-15-18 Trump administration sets new record for censorship
The Trump administration has set a new record for the censorship of public records. Out of 823,222 requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act last year, the government censored or failed to provide records in 78 percent of cases. When appeals were filed, the Trump administration admitted to improperly withholding information in more than 33 percent of those cases.
3-15-18 Farrakhan: Why the Left won’t disown him
You’d think progressives would want nothing to do with Louis Farrakhan, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. The Nation of Islam leader has been a vicious anti-Semite for decades, and has taken up railing against homosexuals and transgender people while demanding that women stay home to cook for their men. Nevertheless, some progressive organizers apparently have “a soft spot for the lunatic minister.” That includes Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the nationwide Women’s March against President Trump in 2017. Mallory recently attended Farrakhan’s annual Saviours’ Day conference, during which he declared that “time’s up” for the “satanic Jew.” In the ensuing uproar, Mallory has refused to explicitly denounce Farrakhan, saying instead that the black community is “complex.” Sadly, “this is no isolated incident,” said Cathy Young in Newsday. Mallory has praised Farrakhan several times over the years, as have her fellow Women’s March leaders Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour. “Progressives who denounce bigotry on the Right need to start by cleaning house.”
3-15-18 Religious leaders defend profanity, ridicule, and cruelty
“It is remarkable to hear religious leaders defend profanity, ridicule, and cruelty as hallmarks of authenticity and dismiss decency as a dead language. President Trump’s presidency has coarsened our culture, given permission for bullying, complicated the moral formation of children, undermined standards of public integrity, and encouraged cynicism about the political enterprise. His tribalism and hatred for ‘the other’ stand in direct opposition to Jesus’ radical ethic of neighbor love. Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, and others are providing religious cover for moral squalor—winking at trashy behavior and encouraging the unraveling of social restraints. These evangelical leaders have ceased to be moral leaders in any meaningful sense.”
3-15-18 Putin blames Jews
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election last week, saying that the meddling could have been the work of Jews. During an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Putin was asked about the 13 Russian nationals charged last month by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly attempting to spread political discord in the U.S. ahead of the vote. “Maybe they’re not even Russians,” Putin said. “Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews—just with Russian citizenship. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card. Maybe the U.S. paid them for this.” Jewish groups and U.S. lawmakers protested. “It is deeply disturbing,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, “to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years.”
3-15-18 Government brutality
The United Nations has condemned the Honduran government for its “excessive” and “intentional” use of lethal force against protesters following last year’s elections. Of at least 23 people killed in the protests, the U.N. says military and police shot dead at least 16 of them, including two children. The conservative, U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández, had been expected to lose his re-election bid on Nov. 26. But as the vote tally appeared to be going against him, authorities suspended the count—and then declared Hernández the winner three weeks later. Alleging fraud, protesters poured into the streets, and police met them with tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition. No one has been charged in any of the killings.
3-15-18 Trump's CIA pick is a torturer. How can any Christian support her?
For anyone who has committed their life to Christ, torture is categorically unacceptable. na Haspel is President Trump's pick to replace his new secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She is also a torturer. This is not a label I use to be inflammatory. It as a simple statement of fact. As was widely reported when she took her current role of deputy CIA director in 2017, Haspel is a career spook who supervised the fruitless torture of two suspects at a CIA black site in Thailand 16 years ago and helped destroy video evidence of the brutality. She has participated in extraordinary rendition, sending suspects abroad so foreign intelligence agents could torture them on the CIA's behalf. So grim is her record of abuse that in Haspel the United States could have a CIA director unable to travel to Europe without risking arrest thanks to an ongoing legal complaint against her. Had former President Obama prosecuted those responsible for the torture he prohibited, she might be in jail today. This nomination is unlikely to cause much angst among the president's most analyzed class of supporters, white evangelical Christians. Why would it? The president himself is a torture enthusiast. Haspel was selected for her present job without much uproar last February, and in that position she already runs the bulk of the CIA's operations. And anyway, if the president's wilder escapades — the alleged porn star dalliance, the confirmed boasts of sexual assault, the implied and explicit racism, and so on — can't tip the scales against his empty lure to values voters, a little-known official getting a big promotion certainly won't do the trick.
3-15-18 Young people are cleverly using imagery to change the conversation on gun violence
On Wednesday, students at nearly 3,000 schools walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. They used the occasion to demand change in a variety of ways and on a variety of platforms. If it was a stunning demonstration of political outrage, it was also, more crucially, proof of a form of generational solidarity we haven't seen in some time. There's a lot these events can teach us about what digital natives can achieve when local activism hooks up with decentralized platforms like Twitter. There might even be some hints here about what the leadership of the future will look like. The first startling fact is that, unlike every previous outrage cycle over gun violence after a mass shooting, these protests aren't diminishing. In fact, they're growing. They're adapting to include a long and painful history of record-breaking mass shootings, from Columbine to Sandy Hook. And they're adapting to include the less sensational but more pervasive effects of everyday gun violence as well. "Black Lives Matter has been advocating for gun control for years," one student in Idaho said. "If teachers were to have guns in the classroom, we and other students of color would be more likely to be victims of violence." Some 600 students in Atlanta elected to take a knee to protest gun violence in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick's protest against the rash of unarmed black citizens killed by police. Students at North Lawndale College Prep in Chicago marched with red tape over their mouths and carried crosses with photos of murdered loved ones to call attention to how they're asked to silently endure everyday gun violence. It's stunningly effective. Students at Excel Academy in Baltimore commemorated not just the 17 students murdered at Parkland but also the seven students they've lost to gun violence in one year — and other Baltimore victims like Freddie Gray and Korryn Gaines. "As a black boy, I hope that one day I have as many rights as a gun," read one young man's poster.
3-15-18 Broad Agreement on Most Ideas to Curb School Shootings
Americans strongly favor a number of proposals for reducing mass shootings at schools, including increasing training for police officers and those who respond to active shooters, background checks for all gun sales, higher levels of security at schools, and new programs to identify and manage students who may pose a threat. These proposals are essentially noncontroversial given their enormously high public approval. Two other actions -- raising the legal age for purchasing certain firearms from 18 to 21 and banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 -- receive lower levels of support, although still well above a simple majority. The only approach among those tested in Gallup's March 5-11 update that less than half of Americans favor is "having teachers or other school officials with appropriate training carry guns at school," although the 42% who back it is still substantial.
- More than nine in 10 favor background checks, better school security training
- 42% favor, 56% oppose arming teachers
- Most proposals are viewed as potentially at least somewhat effective
3-15-18 Oklahoma mother will go to jail for marrying her daughter
An Oklahoma mother who married her daughter after the pair "hit it off" has been sentenced to two years in prison. Patricia Ann Spann, 45, pleaded guilty to the felony offence of incest and admitted wedding her biological daughter, Misty Velvet Dawn Spann, 26. The mother lost custody of her children and reunited with her daughter in 2014. The two married in March 2016 after same-sex marriage became legal in the state. Investigators later discovered Patricia Ann Spann had previously wed her son. Her son, who was 18 years old at the time, annulled the marriage on incest charges in 2010 after tying the knot with his mother in 2008, according to the Oklahoman. The married mother and daughter were discovered by the Department of Human Services during a child welfare check-up. According to the Oklahoman, Misty Spann also had the marriage annulled in October last year after arguing she had been fraudulently induced into it. She said her mother had lied about consulting "three separate attorneys who advised there would be no problems with the marriage", reports the newspaper. Patricia Ann Spann said she believed the union was legal, since she was not listed as the biological mother on her daughter's birth certificate and had only come into contact with her two years ago beforehand. (Webmaster's comment: Why should anyone care? They are adults and should be free to marry anyone they want. Watch the video in this news article on why the United States had 200,000 child marriages in the last 15 years and most are not immigrants.)
3-14-18 U.S. Preference for Stricter Gun Laws Highest Since 1993
Sixty-seven percent of Americans say the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter. This represents an increase of seven percentage points since last fall and is the highest in any Gallup survey since 1993. These results are based on a March 1-8 Gallup survey, the first conducted after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in mid-February. The seven-point increase in public support for stricter gun laws follows a five-point increase seen in Gallup's October 2017 survey, conducted just after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. In the wake of the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings, Americans' desire for stricter gun laws has reached levels not seen since December 1993. The first time Gallup asked this question in September 1990, a record-high 78% wanted stricter gun laws. In the early 1990s, the violent crime rate in the U.S. was at an all-time high -- something the public was well aware of, with more than eight in 10 U.S. adults saying there was more crime in the U.S.
- 67% want stricter laws covering the sale of firearms
- All party groups show increased support for stricter gun laws
- Record-high percentage mention guns as important problem
3-14-18 Florida shooting: US high school students stage mass walkout
Students and school staff across the US are commemorating the Florida school shootings with a walkout, exactly one month after the killings. They are stopping lessons for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A former pupil has been charged with the killings. Organisers of the protest accuse Congress of failing to tackle gun violence adequately. The White House revealed a plan this week to deter school shootings which does not include President Donald Trump's repeated calls to raise the age for buying semi-automatic rifles to 21. Instead, it moves ahead with his controversial proposal to provide firearms training to school employees. The walkouts were scheduled to begin at 10:00 (10:00 EST is 14:00 GMT) across America's time zones. Organisers of the National School Walkout, who were also behind the Women's March in January 2017 against Mr Trump's inauguration, are calling on "students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies" to take part. On their website, they accuse Congress of "inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing" schools and neighbourhoods. "Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day," they say. "We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address[es] the public health crisis of gun violence." The disruption to the school day is opposed by some schools, notably in one Texas district where students who walk out have been told they face a three-day suspension. "We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50, or 500 students involved," said Needville schools superintendent Curtis Rhode. (Webmaster's comment: Punishing those opposed to gun violence. Unbelievable! The only thing to do is vote against those in power if they do not support outlawing all semi-automatic weapons.)
3-14-18 Far-right activists barred from entering UK
Three activists with big social media followings from Austria, Canada and the US have been barred from entering the United Kingdom, in a move that some say is part of a crackdown on the far right. Brittany Pettibone and her boyfriend, Martin Sellner, were refused entry to the UK when they landed at Luton Airport on Friday. They were detained for two days, and then deported. Another activist, Lauren Southern, was refused entry by the Border Force near Calais on Monday. She had planned to meet with the couple and the former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson. was due to make a speech in Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. He was the leader of a "Defend Europe" campaign last summer, responsible for targeting boats run by NGOs trying to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. On his social media accounts, Robinson says he plans to deliver Sellner's speech in Hyde Park on Sunday. In a statement about the activists, a Home Office spokesperson said: "Border Force has the power to refuse entry to an individual if it is considered that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good." Pettibone, an American, tweeted an image of the letter she says was handed to her by an immigration officer. It states that her planned activities posed "a serious threat to the fundamental interests of society and are likely to incite tensions between local communities in the United Kingdom". The letter also cites Sellner's possession of leaflets which referenced "possible violence at his speech" and calls Robinson "a far right leader whose materials and speeches incite racial hatred." Pettibone was one of the most prominent online voices spreading the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory which falsely claimed that top Democratic officials were keeping child sex slaves underneath a Washington, DC pizza restaurant. (Webmaster's comment: Shun and cast out all members of the far-right the same as you would carriers of the black plague or mad dogs!)
3-14-18 Brain back-up start-up 'will be the death of users'
A start-up that claims it will one day allow people to back-up their brains admits it will come at the ultimate price: death. Nectome has said it will one day be capable of scanning the human brain and preserving it, perhaps running a deceased person's mind as a computer simulation. However, its current process requires a fresh brain. The product is "100% fatal", the team behind it told MIT Technology Review. The company is backed by Y Combinator, an organisation that picks a group of new companies each year to fund and mentor in the hope they receive major funding further down the line. According to the company's website, Nectome claims it will one day be possible to survey the brain's connectome - the neural connections within the brain - to such a detailed degree that it will be able to reconstruct a person's memories even after they have died. "Imagine a world where you can successfully map and pinpoint a specific memory within your brain," the site reads. "Today’s leading neuroscience research suggests that it is possible by preserving your connectome." Nectome will be part of Y Combinator's demo days next week - an event where start-ups pitch their new companies to an audience of investors and journalists. Previous Y Combinator firms include Dropbox and AirBnB. The firm is also backed by a $960,000 (£687,000) grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health, which said it saw a "commercial opportunity" in brain preservation. According to MIT Technology Review, the team has consulted lawyers familiar with California's relatively new laws on dignified end-of-life measures. The company plans to focus on working with terminally ill people in the testing phase. The company uses an embalming process to preserve minute details of the brain in microscopic detail. Its work won a prize for furthering the field of brain preservation when it tried the method on a rabbit. Taking that further, the team said it had already attempted its technique on a just-deceased woman in Portland, Oregon. However, even a delay of just a couple of hours meant the brain was already badly damaged, it said. The next stage is to find someone planning to die via doctor-assisted suicide.
3-13-18 The case for conservative universities
Liberals dominate universities. But even they should recognize that America needs a flourishing conservative intellectual culture on university campuses. izona State University likes to brag that it's #1 in the country for "innovation." That may sound like a buzz phrase, but the Sun Devils really are innovating new ways to expand the ideological horizons of the liberal academy. To wit: the new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, a transdisciplinary program that aims to increase "ideological diversity" on the Tempe campus. Yes, it's what you're thinking. It's a school for conservatives. Conservatives have long been a minority in higher education, but even liberals have recently started suggesting that the imbalance may be egregious enough to call for corrective measures. Arizona's state legislature set aside special funds for a conservative-friendly course of study, with the Charles Koch Foundation adding a sizable contribution. Not everyone has been pleased by this development. Critics want to know: Is this just affirmative action for conservatives? And don't conservative "leadership" programs tend to focus heavily on the work of privileged, dead, white males? It may be, and they often do. Nevertheless, these conservative-focused academic programs are a good idea, which more universities should replicate. They might save universities. They might even save the nation. (Webmaster's comment: The only thing they'll save is ultra-religious white supremacists full of hate and greed! This article is full of threats. Support conservatism or else!)
3-12-18 Deadly Texas parcel bomb attacks 'linked'
Two parcel bombs that left a teenager dead and two others injured in Austin, Texas are believed to be linked to a case earlier this month, police say. A 17-year-old boy died after opening a parcel and a woman in her 40s was wounded in the explosion, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. A 75-year-old Hispanic woman was also hurt when a parcel exploded elsewhere in the city on Monday, he said. Police say they have yet to determine a motive in the three attacks. The two explosions on Monday came less than two weeks after a similar blast killed a 39-year-old black man at his home in the Texas capital. "This is the third in what we believe to be related incidents over the past 10 days," Chief Manley said while speaking to reporters near the site of Monday's second explosion. Authorities are looking into whether race played a role as the victims in two of the cases were African American while the third blast injured a Hispanic woman. Mr Manley had earlier suggested that the attacks could have been hate crimes, but later said police have yet to establish a motive. "We are not ruling anything out at this point," he said. "We are willing to investigate any avenue that may be involved." Investigators said at the time they believed that the explosion in north-east Austin on 2 March was an isolated incident. But on Monday Austin police said they suspect the earlier fatality, initially treated as a suspicious death, was linked to Monday's death. Both are now being investigated as homicides. (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious these are hate crimes. Another attack on the American people.)
3-12-18 Florida shooting: Trump backs off on assault rifle curbs
White House proposals to tackle the threat of mass shootings in US schools fall short of a call by President Donald Trump himself to raise the age limit for buying assault rifles. Mr Trump said he would work to raise the limit from 18 to 21 but his actual action plan passes the issue to a new federal commission on school safety. The plan also proposes to fund firearms training for teachers. Seventeen people were shot dead at a Florida high school last month. Former pupil Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 of attempted murder. He told investigators he had used an AR-15 assault rifle, which he had bought legally, to fire into classrooms during the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on 14 February. Under US federal law, Americans must be 18 years old to buy a rifle or shotgun and 21 to buy a handgun from licensed dealers. Unlicensed sales, such as those at gun shows, are federally allowed at any age for rifles and shotguns, and 18 for handguns. (Webmaster's comment: The mass killings will go on thanks to the NRA, the President, and our legislators!)
3-12-18 Why gun control isn't a factor in this Pennsylvania election
Democrats are hoping for a “blue wave” to win back seats in Congress during the midterm elections. But can they win over Trump districts when it comes to divisive issues like guns?
3-12-18 America needs a driver's license for gun ownership
Americans absolutely have a right to own guns. But the government can and must ensure they exercise this right responsibly. There's an obvious answer to America's gun problem. It should please both aggressive gun control reformers and gun rights loyalists. And it would prevent a lot of deaths. It's simple. As the Supreme Court has made clear, the Bill of Rights gives Americans a personal, individual right to bear arms. However, exercise of that right can and should be regulated. Want to own a gun? Go right ahead: But it should be contingent on not only preliminary, but continuous training and background checking requirements. Such requirements would naturally vary by state. But they should include serious background checks, including a psychiatric evaluation. To buy a gun, you would have to go through rigorous training in shooting, firearm security, and perhaps first aid and crisis response — in other words, something like a driver's license for guns. More importantly, you would have to pass a basic proficiency test at least once a year. America should also consider mandating that gun owners obtain membership in a properly licensed gun club. The idea isn't just that it would ensure better training and proficiency, but also that somebody in danger of going off the rails might be noticed by a fellow shooter, who might report something. The model here would be Switzerland, where around two million firearms — more than one for every three residents —are privately owned, and yet gun violence is practically nonexistent. (Webmaster's comment: But the problem is the Many American Males that just want the right to kill when they get angry!)
3-10-18 Claudette Colvin: The 15-year-old who came before Rosa Parks
In March 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks defied segregation laws by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did exactly the same thing. Eclipsed by Parks, her act of defiance was largely ignored for many years. She herself didn't talk about it much, but she spoke recently to the BBC. "There was segregation everywhere. The churches, buses and schools were all segregated and you couldn't even go into the same restaurants," Claudette Colvin says. "I remember during Easter one year, I was to get a pair of black patent shoes but you could only get them from the white stores, so my mother drew the outline of my feet on a brown paper bag in order to get the closest size, because we weren't allowed to go in the store to try them on." Going to a segregated school had one advantage, she found - her teachers gave her a good grounding in black history. "We learned about negro spirituals and recited poems but my social studies teachers went into more detail," she says. "They lectured us about Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and we were taught about an opera singer called Marian Anderson who wasn't allowed to sing at Constitutional Hall just because she was black, so she sang at Lincoln Memorial instead." On 2 March 1955, Colvin and her friends finished their classes and were let out of school early. "We walked downtown and my friends and I saw the bus and decided to get on, it was right across the road from Dr Martin Luther King's church," Colvin says. "The white people were always seated at the front of the bus and the black people were seated at the back of the bus. The bus driver had the authority to assign the seats, so when more white passengers got on the bus, he asked for the seats."
3-10-18 Florida shooting: NRA sues as Florida enacts gun-control law
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is suing Florida after it passed a gun control law in the wake of a school shooting that left 17 people dead. Governor Rick Scott, a staunch ally of the gun lobby, enacted the bill, which the NRA says violates the constitution. The law raises the legal age for buying rifles in Florida, but also allows the training and arming of school staff. It does not ban semi-automatic rifles like the one used in the 14 February massacre in Parkland. But it does introduce a three-day waiting period on all gun sales and a ban on bump stocks, a device that enables semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute. The NRA filed its lawsuit on Friday just an hour after the bill was signed by the governor. One of its arguments is that the legislation violates the rights of young women as they are unlikely to commit violent crime. President Donald Trump has voiced support for arming teachers and so has the NRA. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, signed the bill into law on Friday, after lawmakers at the Florida state level voted in its favour. As he signed it, he said he was an NRA member, and that some members would agree with the new law while others would not. "It's an example to the entire country that government can and has, moved fast," he said. Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi said the changes were "the right thing to do". "This bill is not perfect, and sadly it will not bring back the 17 lives lost in the horrific school shooting, but the safety of our children is not a political issue," she said. (Webmaster's comment: Nothing will stop the killings except total banning of ownership of automatic or semi-automatic weapons. The NRA will support the ownership of these weapons no matter how many people are killed!)
3-9-18 What we do and don’t know about how to prevent gun violence
Lack of research makes it hard to determine laws’ effect on saving lives. In the fraught days following a mass shooting, people often ask if an assault weapons ban or allowing concealed carry permits would reduce the likelihood of further violence. But reliable evidence on the effects of those policies can be hard to find. Now the largest comprehensive analysis of research on U.S. gun policy in years offers some answers, but also troubling little guidance. A glaring finding of the study, published by the RAND Corporation March 2, is how little work has been done to know which policies work. “The research literature on gun policies is really very thin,” says Andrew Morral, a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonpartisan institute based in Santa Monica, Calif. Ideally, solid research leads to effective public health policies, which then reduce deaths, be it from guns, car accidents or fires. But when it comes to gun research, good science is lacking, says Morral, who led the study. So legislators typically turn to experts and advocates who can disagree vehemently about the effects of laws. The goal of the report is to help people understand “what is reasonably well-known and what isn’t,” says Morral. “Hopefully we can work from there and identify where research can be most helpful.” Compared with other leading causes of death, research into gun violence is among the least funded, an analysis of U.S. mortality data and federal funding from 2004 to 2015 reveals. Funding for research on gun violence is 1.6 percent of what would be expected, given the number of gun deaths.
3-9-18 Immigration agents detain mother in front of screaming children
Perla Morales-Luna was arrested by plainclothes officers in front of her three screaming daughters in National City, California. She is suspected of a role in a smuggling ring and being in the US illegally. (Webmaster's comment: Getting rid of the non-white people one way or another.)
3-9-18 Young babies disapprove when they see adults acting immorally
Even four-month-old infants expect adults to go comfort another baby that is crying – a finding that suggests we may be born with a foundation of morality. Even four-month-old infants expect adults to comfort crying babies. The finding suggests that we may be born with a foundation of morality that becomes the basis for more advanced moral and social behaviour in later life. Psychologists have long debated whether moral behaviour is innate or learned. In 2007, Kiley Hamlin and colleagues at Yale University found that 6-month-old and 10-month-old babies prefer people who help others, and show an aversion to those who don’t. But to understand how we develop our moral beliefs, we need to know not just whether babies prefer those who help others, but also whether they expect such behaviour. To find out, Renée Baillargeon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her colleagues played videos to babies aged 4 months and 12 months. The videos showed an unfamiliar woman folding laundry, with a stroller at the back of the room. In some of the videos, the stroller began to shake, and there was the sound of a baby crying, suggesting that the stroller contained an infant in distress. In one video, the woman went to rock the stroller and stop the baby crying. In another, she just continued to fold laundry, ignoring the baby. It’s well known that when infants are surprised by something that does not follow their expectations, they spend longer looking at it. The team found that the infants looked significantly longer at the video in which the adult ignored the baby, suggesting they expected her to comfort it.
3-9-18 The authoritarian moment
History, it turns out, is not over. Liberal democracies have not won the war of ideas. In his influential 1992 book, The End of History, political philosopher Francis Fukuyama surveyed a world in which the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Cold War was over, and the West had won — seemingly for good. Free-market democracies, Fukuyama said, had proven they were the "final form of human government." But that victory's permanence was an illusion. In the 21st century, liberal democracy is in retreat all over the world, as autocrats and populist extremists seize the levers of power. In China, President Xi Jinping has made himself an emperor. In Russia, the modern czar Vladimir Putin leverages the West's social media and free speech to deepen our divisions and interfere in our elections. Poland, Hungary, and Turkey are all devolving into autocracies; far-right populist parties are on the rise throughout Europe. "Twenty-five years ago, I didn't have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward," Fukuyama recently told The Washington Post. "And I think they clearly can." In a new book, The People vs. Democracy, political scientist Yascha Mounk explains what Fukuyama failed to foresee. Center-left and center-right mainstream parties, Mounk says, have failed to address the powerful economic and cultural anxieties created by globalization, immigration, and multiethnic societies. Faith in democracy is waning; the belief that the system is "rigged" is growing. That's opened the door to nationalist strongmen who claim to speak for "the people," with simplistic solutions to their complaints. If democracies and mainstream parties do not adapt, Mounk warns, the center will not hold; authoritarians on both the left and right may carve up the world. Here and abroad, the threat to free speech, individual rights, and the rule of law is very real. History is still being written, and it's a real page-turner.
3-9-18 Trump holds games violence meeting
US President Donald Trump has met video games company representatives to discuss violent content. The meeting came in the wake of last month's shooting at a school in Florida in which 17 people died. The president has in the past expressed the view that violent games were "shaping young people's thoughts". But the games industry has defended itself, saying there is no evidence to suggest a link between violent games and real-life violent actions. The White House said Mr Trump's discussions with the group "centred on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitise our community to violence". The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which represents the games industry in the US, attended the meeting, which it had said would provide "the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices". Also at the meeting was the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organisation responsible for offering age and content guidance for games. Critics of the industry included Brent Bozell from the Media Research Center. He has frequently called for a reduction of violence in games. (Webmaster's comment: Classical misdirection away from the real problem: The ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons designed for killing people.)
3-9-18 The egregious overreach of transgender activism
Inspiring awareness, sympathy, and respect for transgender people is obviously very good. But browbeating critics into accepting the dubious truth of radical claims is not. erica's "transgender moment" has dramatically increased awareness of the struggles faced by the roughly 0.6 percent of Americans who are transgender. If such awareness ends up inspiring sympathy and respect, as well as greater legal protections, for this vulnerable population, it will be a very good thing. What is much less good, and indeed downright pernicious, is the way that transgender activists have lately begun going about trying to achieve these worthwhile aims. They make extremely radical claims about the character of transgenderism and then browbeat critics into accepting the dubious truth of these assertions by insisting that the rejection of them amounts to transphobia, trans bashing, and other gratuitous moral offenses. This approach runs a very real risk of sparking a dangerous backlash against transgender people. And if it does, that backlash will be all the more damaging because it will be at least partially justified. Consider an illuminating contrast highlighted in Ryan T. Anderson's informative, provocative, but also obnoxiously titled and sometimes rhetorically reckless new book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. In 2005, the advocacy and lobbying group Human Rights Campaign described the gender dysphoria that accompanies the desire to transition medically from one gender to another as a person's "discomfort from the strong internal sense that their true gender identity does not match their physical sex."
3-8-18 Fake news travels six times faster than the truth on Twitter
Despite the belief that armies of bots are spreading misinformation, it is people who are most likely to share incorrect information. An analysis of news stories tweeted by three million people between 2006 and 2017 shows that fake news spreads significantly more than the truth on social media. Sinan Aral and his colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) cross-checked the spread of 126,000 stories on Twitter against a database of stories fact-checked by six independent organisations, including Snopes, Politifact and Factcheck. “What we found was scary,” says Aral. “False news travels farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in every category of information – many times by an order of magnitude.” Truthful tweets took six times as long as fake ones to spread across Twitter to 1,500 people – in large part because falsehoods in the sample were 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than the truth, even after accounting for account age, activity level and their number of followers. The most viral fake news was political in nature. Despite the belief that armies of bots are sowing discord and spreading information, it is people, rather than automated accounts, most likely to share incorrect information. Aral and his colleagues analysed the diffusion of information with accounts they identified as bots both included and removed. Although bots did spread fake news, they also shared true news at the same rate. (Webmaster's comment: Twitter is the home of liars, cheats, frauds, and thieves!)
3-8-18 On Twitter, the lure of fake news is stronger than the truth
An analysis of 4.5 million tweets shows falsehoods are 70 percent more likely to get shared. There’s been a lot of talk about fake news running rampant online, but now there’s data to back up the discussion. An analysis of more than 4.5 million tweets and retweets posted from 2006 to 2017 indicates that inaccurate news stories spread faster and further on the social media platform than true stories. The research also suggests that people play a bigger role in sharing falsehoods than bots. These findings, reported in the March 9 Science, could guide strategies for curbing misinformation on social media. Until now, most investigations into the spread of fake news have been anecdotal, says Filippo Menczer, an informatics and computer scientist at Indiana University Bloomington not involved in the work. “We didn’t have a really large-scale, systematic study evaluating the spread of misinformation,” he says. To study rumormongering trends on Twitter, researchers examined about 126,000 tweet cascades — families of tweets composed of one original tweet and all the retweets born of that original post. All of those cascades centered on one of about 2,400 news stories that had been verified or debunked by at least one fact-checking organization. (Webmaster's comment: Twitter is the home of liars, cheats, frauds, and thieves!)
3-8-18 Xi: The rise of the authoritarians
Chinese president Xi Jinping “has joined the planet’s most exclusive club,” said Nic Robertson in CNN.com. China’s Communist Party last week proposed eliminating term limits for Xi, effectively making him emperor for life and enabling him to rule the world’s most populous nation “without recourse to real checks and balances.” Other autocrats who’ve carved out virtualy unchallenged power include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Xi’s power grab has shaken European political and business leaders, said Steven Erlanger in The New York Times. With the U.S. abdicating its global leadership role under President Trump, Europe had hoped China would become “‘a responsible stakeholder’ in the global order.” But Xi’s vision for his nation is internally authoritarian and externally aggressive, and “few still believe China is moving toward the Western values of democracy and rule of law.” In the 21st century, dictatorships are “making a comeback,” said Brian Bremner and Peter Martin in Bloomberg Businessweek. “The global liberal democratic order” that once seemed destined to spread to other nations is in retreat. Even the current U.S. president seems down on democracy, with Trump last week calling Xi’s ascension to permanent power “great,” and quipping, “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” China’s authoritarianism is no joke, said Charlie Campbell in Time.com. Xi has brazenly torn up four decades of post-Mao reform, and he will also have “few qualms” about flouting international norms that Beijing perceives as constraining its interests. China’s “lurch toward one-man rule should worry us all.” (Webmaster's comment: And Trump wants to be next!)
3-8-18 Gun control: What happens next?
It’s been nearly a month since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reignited the national debate on guns, said German Lopez in Vox.com, and “we still have essentially no idea” where President Trump stands. At first, Trump focused on arming teachers, but last week, Trump blindsided gun-rights advocates by calling for expanded background checks and saying the government should be able to seize weapons from anyone who seems mentally unstable. “Take the guns first,” Trump said, “go through due process second.” The very next day, the NRA tweeted that Trump had assured them that he’s still firmly against gun control. On this divisive issue, it will be impossible to push through any federal legislation if the president’s “policy positions are constantly in flux.” It doesn’t really matter what Trump wants, said Alexander Bolton in TheHill.com. Republican congressional leaders know from experience it’s only a matter of time before Trump loses interest in the issue. “The bottom line is, there is little impetus among Republicans on Capitol Hill to vote on gun-control legislation anytime soon.” Still, Trump’s embrace of gun-control measures was significant, even if it didn’t last, said Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker. “The primitive sensors by which Donald Trump divides the world into winners and losers were telling him that for now, at least, the proponents of unfettered gun rights smell like losers.” Recent polling shows that 88 percent of Americans now support universal background checks, while 68 percent support a ban on assault-style weapons. The politics of guns is shifting.
3-8-18 Viewpoint: Tim Kreider in NYTimes.com
“It has been inspiring and thrilling to watch the furious, clear-eyed teenagers [of Parkland] shame and vilify gutless politicians and soul-dead lobbyists for their complicity in the murders of their friends. This uprising of the young against the ossified, monolithic power of the National Rifle Association has reminded me that the flaws of youth—its ignorance, naïveté, and passionate, Manichaean idealism—are also its strengths. Young people have only just learned that the world is an unfair hierarchy of cruelty and greed, and it still shocks and outrages them. Revolutions have always been driven by the young.”
3-8-18 Guns and Suicides
The rate of suicides carried out with guns is as much as 43 percent higher in states with loose gun laws than in states with strict gun laws, a new study has found. Researchers said their findings indicate that troubled people without guns will not necessarily find another way to kill themselves. In 2016, 61 percent of the 38,511 deaths caused by firearms were suicides.
3-8-18 Corporate activism: Companies join the culture wars
Corporate America is growing a conscience, said Derek Thompson in TheAtlantic.com. Under intense social pressure, companies in the Trump era are taking stands on issues ranging from guns to global warming to immigration. In recent weeks, 20 major firms, including Delta, Hertz, Avis, Symantec, and MetLife, have cut ties with the National Rifle Association in response to the Parkland, Fla., school massacre. Dick’s Sporting Goods has stopped selling the AR-15 rifle, and both it and Walmart have raised their minimum age for firearm purchases to 21. Last year, Disney’s CEO quit a White House business council after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord; drug company Merck’s CEO left after Charlottesville. It’s “hard to understand” why anyone would care whether a pharmaceutical firm or car rental company has chosen sides in the latest political debate, said Michael Strain in Bloomberg.com. “But apparently many people do”—and CEOs are speaking out in response.
3-8-18 The benefits of business regulations
President Trump has made removing private-sector regulations one of his top priorities, said David Lazarus. Getting rid of outdated and burdensome rules, he assures us, will supercharge economic growth and create more jobs. But numbers released by his own administration undercut the idea that “regulations are bad for the country.” Last week, “when no one was looking,” the Office of Management and Budget published a congressionally mandated report that finds that the “benefits of regulations far outweigh the costs.” Government analysts examined 16 major rules that were “fully quantifiable,” meaning their costs and benefits could be measured. That includes, for instance, “the cost of imposing clean-air and clean-water rules on factories versus the benefit to ordinary people of not getting cancer and running up huge hospital bills.” The findings: In 2016, such rules cost $4.9 billion to impose but resulted in $27.3 billion in benefits. That’s “a hell of a good investment” by any measure. Other estimates have put the benefits far higher, at $833 billion for the past decade, “or 12 times what these rules cost industry to impose.” And despite Trump’s deregulatory push, economic growth actually slowed in the past quarter, to 2.5 percent from 3.2 percent. His own numbers spell it out: “Take away rules and regulations, and all you end up doing is shortchanging the American people.”
3-8-18 Why Quebec doctors have rejected a pay rise
Doctors from the Canadian province of Quebec have shocked the world by turning down a pay rise. Why would anyone turn down a pay rise? For doctors from Quebec, the answer is simple: patient care. An eight-year, retroactive deal struck in February would see about 20,000 of the province's medical specialists and general practitioners receive an annual salary increase ranging from about 1.4% to 1.8% each year. That would mean that the province, which subsidises the bulk of doctors' salaries, would be on the hook for an additional C$1.5bn ($1.2bn, £840m) by 2023. It is a fair agreement, according to the unions representing Quebec doctors, who pushed for the deal with the province. But not all physicians are on board - more than 700 physicians, both GPs and specialists, have signed a petition from Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public saying they do not want the rise, and they would rather have the extra money go to patient care and services. The group represents doctors in the province who strongly support public access to healthcare. "We, Quebec doctors, are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be cancelled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of the healthcare workers and to provide health services worthy to the people of Quebec," the letter posted on 26 February states. Within weeks, the number of signatures has grown from about 250 to more than 700. There are about 20,000 doctors in Quebec. Their cry for fairer distribution of government funding comes at a time when the healthcare system is under intense scrutiny. (Webmaster's comment: This would never happen in America! The home of greed!)
3-8-18 Court rules parents do not need to lie about Easter Bunny
A Canadian couple should not have had their foster children taken away after they refused to lie and say that the Easter Bunny was real, a judge ruled. Frances and Derek Baars, a religious Christian couple, said they would host an Easter egg hunt, but that was not enough to satisfy their case worker. The agency removed the children, aged three and five, closed their foster home, and barred future adoptions. The couple sued the Children's Aid Society (CAS) as a result. The CAS, which receives taxpayer funding, provides child protection services on behalf of the province. The non-governmental organisation has frequently been criticised, and some - including those featured in 2011 documentary "Powerful As God" - have argued it wields too much power. Justice Andrew Goodman wrote in a scathing decision released on Tuesday: "There is ample evidence to support the fact that the children were removed because the Baars refused to either tell or imply that the Easter Bunny was delivering chocolate to the Baars' home. "I am more than satisfied that the society actions interfered substantially with the Baars' religious beliefs." As devout Reformed Presbyterians, Derek and Frances Baars said they did not believe in celebrating Halloween or lying about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. CAS support worker Tracey Lindsay acknowledged that the girls were well cared for, CTV News reported. The CAS contended Ms Lindsay "never asked (the Baars) to lie or betray their faith". But the Baars argue she told them it was their duty as foster parents to teach the children about the Easter Bunny, according to court documents. (Webmaster's comment: It's bad enough that parents lie about these fabrications but forcing them to is rediculous!)
3-8-18 America’s homelessness crisis
The number of homeless people in the U.S. is rising for the first time in years. What’s behind the increase?
- How bad is the problem? About 554,000 people in the U.S. were homeless on any given night in 2017—including nearly 58,000 families with children—meaning they didn’t have a safe, permanent place to sleep.
- Do all homeless people live on the street? No, in fact about two-thirds of homeless people in the U.S. live in some kind of shelter or temporary housing, staying with friends or family or in a motel.
- Why is homelessness rising? While some people become homeless because of mental illness and drug addiction, more than 75 percent simply can’t afford a place to live.
- What’s being done to help? With no signs of the problem disappearing, some communities are turning away from punitive approaches.
- How can cities get people off the street? Many experts believe the best solution is to simply put the homeless into low-cost or free apartments, without preconditions.
- Would that work elsewhere? Finding vacant homes is a challenge in crowded, booming states like California, which would need to build 180,000 new housing units each year—100,000 more than are currently being built—simply to keep up with population growth.
- Working while homeless: While many people associate the homeless with begging, about 25 percent of the homeless population has a job, according to the Washington,
3-8-18 Millions lose homes
At least 7.6 million Brazilians, or one every minute, have been forced out of their homes since 2000 by droughts, floods, and the building of dams and other infrastructure projects. An analysis released this week by Brazil’s Forced Migration Observatory found that 6.4 million lost homes because of natural disasters, and another 1.2 million were relocated for massive construction projects. Dam companies often resettle the newly homeless in shoddily built housing. Some 30,000 indigenous rain forest dwellers displaced by the Belo Monte dam in 2014, for example, have ended up in slums in the nearby city of Altamira, where the murder rate has skyrocketed more than 1,000 percent since 2000. “They tossed us into a field of violence,” fisherman Raimundo Braga Gomes told TheGuardian.com. (Webmaster's comment: Corporations are the enemy of the people.)
3-8-18 Racist podcast
A Florida school district last week removed a middle school teacher from her classroom after HuffingtonPost.com reported that she was the secret host of a white nationalist podcast. Dayanna Volitich, 25, who teaches social studies at Crystal River Middle School, is accused of producing the podcast, “Unapologetic,” under the pseudonym Tiana Dalichov. During her shows, Volitich allegedly praised neo-Nazis, including former KKK grand wizard David Duke; said Muslims should be eradicated from the earth; and asserted that science proves certain races are smarter than others. She is also believed to have boasted about “infiltrating” her school and attempting to spread her white nationalist beliefs among the students. “I’m pretty hyperaware that [colleagues] will be watching,” said Volitich, during a conversation with one podcast guest. “I’m getting a little more underhanded.” Volitich could not be reached for comment; the school said an investigation was ongoing.
3-8-18 Trump is a Racist
57% of Americans—including 80% of blacks, 75% of Hispanics, and nearly 50% of whites—say Trump is a racist. 85% of Democrats believe he is a racist, compared with just 21% of Republicans.
3-8-18 Gruesome attack on athlete
A top South African triathlete was attacked while training this week by three men who tried to cut off his legs with a chainsaw. Mhlengi Gwala, 27, was bicycling when the men hauled him into some bushes and began sawing into his right calf. “He was screaming and crying, but there was no help from no one because it was the early hours of the morning,” said his training partner, Sandile Shange. The attackers stopped when they hit bone, and Gwala managed to crawl to a road and flag down a car. His right leg was severely damaged, with the muscle and nerves cut through; doctors think they will be able to save the leg, but it’s unclear whether Gwala will ever race again. He was due to compete in the South African national championships this month. (Webmaster's comment: White supremacists can only win using violence against physically superior blacks.)
3-8-18 Florida shooting: Gun control law moves step closer
New gun control measures for Florida have passed another legal hurdle, weeks after one of the worst school shootings in US history. The state's House of Representatives passed a bill raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 and imposing a three-day waiting period on all gun sales. The bill, already passed by the Senate, now goes to the state governor. Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February. Expelled former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged in the attack. He was formally indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday on 34 counts, including 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is suspected of using a legally bought AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to carry out the 10-minute attack, gunning down teachers and students. In addition to raising the age and bringing in the three-day waiting period, the legislation:
- Introduces a voluntary armed "guardian programme" for schools, named after Aaron Feis, a coach who died in the Parkland shooting. It allows school personnel to be armed, subject to school district approval and specialist training.
- Classroom teachers are excluded from carrying arms unless they have a security forces background.
- Bans devices, such as bump stocks, that modify a semi-automatic weapon to fully automatic.
- Raises mental health funding and increases the power to seize or ban guns under mental health concerns.
The legislation does not include a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons like the AR-15, despite it being a key demand of Parkland students and their parents. Florida law already mandates a three-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun but a person as young as 18 can buy a rifle with no waiting period. (Webmaster's comment: This law is a milksop, and in only one state, and will do virtually nothing to stop the mass murder of people using guns designed to do just that.)
3-8-18 Trump to hold games violence meeting
US President Donald Trump is to meet video games company representatives on Thursday to discuss violent content. The meeting comes in the wake of last month's shooting at a school in Florida in which 17 people died. The president has in the past expressed the view that violent games were "shaping young people's thoughts". But the games industry has defended itself, saying there is no evidence to suggest a link between violent games and real-life violent actions. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which represents the games industry in the US, said it would be attending. "The upcoming meeting at the White House will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices," it said in a statement. Also at the meeting will be the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organisation responsible for offering age and content guidance for games. Critics of the industry will include Brent Bozell from the Media Research Center. He has frequently called for a reduction of violence in games. (Webmaster's comment: This a blantant attempt to misdirect the gun control debate away from the real cause of gun violent. The availablity and ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons designed for the mass murder of people.)
3-8-18 Stormy Daniels: Trump lawyer obtains restraining order
US President Donald Trump obtained a restraining order against an adult film actress to prevent her from speaking publicly about their alleged affair, legal documents show. Mr Trump's personal lawyer obtained the order against Stormy Daniels in private arbitration proceedings last month. It bars her from sharing "confidential information" about their alleged relationship, US media report. Mr Trump says allegations against him are all false. (Webmaster's comment: Then why silence her? Doesn't she have the right of free speech?) White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that the president had won arbitration proceedings against the actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. "This case has already been won in arbitration and anything beyond that, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel," she said. But the attorney representing Ms Clifford told CBS News that he was "dumbfounded" by the White House's comment. "For the White House spokesperson to stand up and claim that Trump won the case in arbitration is ludicrous," Michael Avenatti said. "How do you win something when the other side is not even invited?" he said.
3-7-18 Allow lesbians to use ‘three-parent’ baby IVF to have children
Mitochondrial replacement techniques should be used to help same-sex female couples have children genetically-related to both partners, says Alex Pearlman. Advances in assisted reproduction technology are never without controversy. Questions of ethics and policy plague each innovation, along with concerns about safety and efficacy. But once a technology is available to the public, finding new uses for it is never far behind. Mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) are the latest example. These involve combining genetic material from the nucleus of one woman’s egg, DNA from the mitochondria of another woman’s egg and a sperm. After a long wait, doctors at Newcastle University in the UK have been licensed to use this to produce somewhat misleadingly named “three-parent babies”. At least two such babies are expected to be born this year. In these cases, the technique was chosen because mothers risked passing on serious diseases from the mitochondria in their eggs. Now discussion has inevitably turned to other potential applications. Perhaps most prominent is the idea of helping same-sex female couples produce genetically related children. In the absence of other means to share genes between two eggs, and despite the low level of genetic relatedness between the mitochondrial donor and the child (about 0.2 per cent), MRTs seem an obvious way to fulfil this need. For same-sex female couples, other options have ranged from not having their own children at all, to only one parent being related to the child, such as where one donates the egg and the other carries the fetus.
3-7-18 We need to be mindful as we develop thought-reading tech
Mass thought control may not be on the cards just yet, but mind-reading tech is developing fast. We need to be prepared. HOWEVER much technology knows about you – and you would be surprised how much it does (see “I exposed how firms and politicians can manipulate us online”) – there is one firewall that it can’t penetrate: your skull. Unless you choose to share your thoughts, they remain private. But for how much longer? Increasingly, a combination of brain scanning and artificial intelligence is opening the black box, gathering signals from deep inside the mind and reverse-engineering them to recreate thoughts. For now, the technology is limited to vision – working out what somebody is looking at from their brain activity (see “Mind-reading AI uses brain scans to guess what you’re looking at”) – but in principle there appears no reason why the entire contents of our minds couldn’t be revealed. This line of research inevitably raises fears about the ultimate invasion of privacy: mind reading. It is not difficult to imagine some sort of device that can simply be pointed at somebody’s head to extract their thoughts. Not difficult to imagine, but extremely difficult to realise. At present, the scanning part is done by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This requires an extremely large and expensive piece of equipment and, crucially, the total consent of the brain being scanned. Subjects have to enter a narrow tunnel on a gurney with their head held perfectly still, and submit to a lengthy examination. On top of that, fMRI is still a fairly crude device for mind reading. It has been criticised for producing colourful cartoons of brain activity but not much actual data.
3-7-18 Gary Cohn: Key Trump economic policy adviser resigns
US President Donald Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning, the White House has said. It is the latest in a series of high-profile departures from President Trump's team. There has been speculation that Mr Cohn, a supporter of free trade, was angered by Mr Trump's plans to impose tariffs on aluminium and steel imports. In a statement released by the White House, Mr Cohn said it had been "an honour to serve my country". The 57-year-old former president of the Goldman Sachs bank had helped Mr Trump push through his sweeping tax reforms late last year. Gary Cohn and President Trump were never believed to be close. Mr Cohn wasn't specific about the reasons, saying in a statement it had been "an honour to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform". Once that mission had been achieved, a number of differences may have prompted the departure, including the possible looming trade tariff war and his differences on that issue with trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (Webmaster's comment: The land for Free Enterprize and Liberty is not so much for Free Enterprize as we would like to think!)
3-7-18 World's youngest billionaire warns on Trump
US political climate is having an effect on new talent, says John Collison. Anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the White House is deterring software developers from going to the US. That's according to the world's youngest self-made billionaire, 27-year-old Irishman John Collison. Stripe, the company he founded with his brother Patrick, provides the payments plumbing for hundreds of thousands of online businesses. Collison said that his fast-growing business had noticed the difficulty in luring top talent to Silicon Valley. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the Limerick man said he feared the same may prove true for the UK because of Brexit. "People are less willing to move to the US," Collison said. "They don't even want to enter the visa process because of the perceived political climate here and how welcoming it is to immigrants and I think the perception (of the UK) will also make it harder to recruit in the UK" He said the stakes were high as it ultimately risked the UK's ability to produce a vibrant and successful technology sector. Collison has accepted there is no going back but says the government should be a sending a clear message that international talent was welcome in the UK. "What's done is done but what I think we can now affect is the perception of the UK as an attractive place to live, work and do business, " he said. "It's something we are screwing up in the US and I think there is a very clear opportunity to send a message that the UK is a good place to emigrate to." Collison's frustration is compounded by the fact that these perceived forces of deterrence fly in the opposite direction to the way the world of commerce and technology are evolving.
3-7-18 'Haunted by nightmares' of working for US Border Patrol
Francisco Cantú grew up near the Mexican border then returned as a Border Patrol Agent in 2008 to experience immigration issues firsthand. Now, he's written a book about the experience, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border.
3-7-18 Kansas man admits murder of Indian tech worker in sports bar
A Kansas man has pleaded guilty to killing a tech worker from India and injuring two others at a pub last year. Adam Purinton, 52, shot Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe in February 2017. Witnesses said Purinton opened fire with a handgun after shouting: "Get out of my country!" Mr Kuchibhotla died and Mr Madasani was injured. Bystander Ian Grillot was shot and injured as he tried to intervene. Mr Kuchibhotla and Mr Madasani, both Indian nationals, were working as engineers at tech firm Garmin. After the attack, the gunman drove away before stopping at a restaurant in Missouri to tell a staff member he had just shot two Iranians. Purinton, who is white, waived his right to a jury trial in state court on Tuesday. He admitted one count of premeditated first-degree murder in Mr Kuchibhotla's death. Appearing in Johnson County District Court, he also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder in the shootings of Mr Madasani and Mr Grillot. Purinton still faces a federal case over the attack - including hate crime charges - that could carry a possible death sentence. (Webmaster's comment: And he deserves no less!)
3-7-18 South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala in hospital after attack with saw
South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala has reportedly been attacked while training by three men attempting to cut off his legs with a chainsaw. Gwala's training partner Sandile Shange told the BBC the 26-year-old is stable in hospital and his injuries are not life-threatening. The attack reportedly happened in the early hours of Tuesday in Durban while Gwala was on a training ride. The men cut into both of Gwala's legs before he was able to escape. Police spokesperson Nqobile Gwala told the BBC that a case of attempted murder is being investigated. "He thought they were coming to rob him, stopped and gave them his phone but they didn't want his phone, didn't want his watch or bicycle," Shange said. "They dragged him to the side of the road to some bushes, took a chainsaw and started cutting his legs."When he spoke to doctors they said they will be able to save his leg and he will be able to walk and run again but it is a long walk to recovery," Shange said.(Webmaster's comment: The only way white supremacists can win over physically superior blacks is to damage black's bodies beyond repair!)
3-6-18 Opioid crisis: Overdose rates jump 30% in one year
Opioid overdoses were up 30% in the last year across the United States, a study by a federal agency has found. The US Midwest was worst hit with overdoses surging by 70%, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Vital Signs study tracked emergency room visits due to an opioid overdose between 2016 June and September 2017. The US opioid crisis claimed 63,600 lives in 2016, the National Center for Health Statistics has previously said. The CDC said tracking hospital visits was more comprehensive than counting overdose related deaths. "Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses," said acting director Anne Schuchat. US Midwestern states - Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri - noticed the highest jump in cases. The highest jump among the Midwestern states was 109% in Wisconsin. Research shows that people are more likely to have a second overdose when they have already had one, said CDC behavioural scientist Alana Vivolo-Kantor. (Webmaster's comment: Our drug companies have developed the perfect product, a painkiller that creates an absolute addition. They'll make billions!)
3-6-18 Australia’s cervical cancer vaccine might eradicate the disease
A national school-based vaccination program has seen the number of young women with human papillomavirus (HPV) infections fall from 22.7 to 1.5 per cent. Australia is on track to become the first country to practically eradicate cervical cancer. A national school-based vaccination program has seen a sharp decline in human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, which cause over 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. Since 2007, all girls aged 12 or 13 in Australia have been offered a free HPV vaccination. A decade later, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-old women with HPV has fallen from 22.7 to 1.5 per cent. This means the number of Australian women diagnosed annually with cervical cancer should drop from 3000 to just a few by the year 2050, says study author Suzanne Garland at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. Only 53 per cent of women have received the full three doses of the vaccine, but this still provides herd protection, says Garland. “Vaccinated women do not acquire HPV from, or infect, unvaccinated men and these men in turn do not transmit the virus to future unvaccinated female partners,” she says. This herd effect has been further bolstered by the extension of the vaccination program to all boys aged 12 to 13 since 2013. The original vaccine protected against four HPV strains that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancer. The latest version – which was rolled out in Australia in January – protects against nine HPV strains that cause 90 per cent of cases. (Webmaster's comment: This vaccination program would never work in America because of the ignorance and misbeliefs of the American people.)
3-6-18 Florida shooting: State lawmakers pass gun control measures
Florida lawmakers have voted to enact new gun control measures, weeks after one of the worst school shootings in US history took place in the state. The Senate narrowly passed a bill that would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 and require a three-day waiting period for most weapons. Senators voted 20-18 in favour, after an amendment removed a provision to arm classroom teachers. The law now requires approval from the House of Representatives and governor. Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Florida city of Parkland on 14 February by former student Nikolas Cruz. Many of the surviving students had called on politicians do more than give "thoughts and prayers" and protested for greater gun control. The national minimum age to buy a handgun is already 21, with a three-day waiting period. However, a person can be as young as 18 to buy a rifle in Florida, with no waiting period. Mr Cruz was 18 years old when he purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he turned on students and school staff, authorities said according to Reuters. Senators listened to three hours of often emotional testimony before voting. "Do I think this bill goes far enough? No! No, I don't!" Democratic Senator Lauren Book told the AP news agency. She said she hoped for a ban on assault weapons, but the Senate had already rejected the provision at the weekend. (Webmaster's comment: This law is a joke! Until we ban ownership of all automatic and semi-automtic weapons the killing will go on!)
3-6-18 Guns banned on dating app Bumble
Dating app Bumble has banned members from posing with guns in their profile pictures, following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The company said it would screen new and existing photos and remove pictures featuring weapons from the app. However, military and law enforcement officers in uniform will be allowed to show weapons in their photos. Bumble said it was taking "an opportunity to make our platform safer". "As mass shootings continue to devastate communities across the country, it's time to state unequivocally that gun violence is not in line with our values, nor do these weapons belong on Bumble," the company said in a statement. In February, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since then, survivors have campaigned for stricter gun control in the US. Bumble says it has 30 million members worldwide, and the company already employs 5,000 moderators. They will now filter out photos of guns in addition to nudity, knives and hate speech. However, photos displayed on a Bumble profile from a linked Instagram account will not be screened. "Online behaviour can both mirror and predict how people treat each other in the real world. Bumble has a responsibility to our users and a larger goal to encourage accountability offline," the company said in a statement. (Webmaster's comment: This movement is not about hunting and law-biding gun owners. It is about not killing people and the guns designed solely for the purpose of killing people!)
3-5-18 The double life of a teacher and her white nationalist podcast
A Florida teacher has been "removed from the classroom" after it was discovered she had a double life hosting a white nationalist podcast. By day, Dayanna Volitich taught social studies at Crystal River Middle School in Florida. By night, the 25-year-old took on the pseudonym Tiana Dalichov and presented a podcast voicing white nationalist rhetoric. In an episode from the Unapologetic podcast - which at the time of writing is accessible online - a guest calls for white supremacist teachers in schools and Ms Volitich as Tiana Dalichov replies: "I'm absolutely one of them." The local school governing body, Citrus County School District, stated on Facebook that Ms Volitich has been "removed from the classroom" while they investigate. And according to local news reports, a statement has been released on behalf of Ms Volitich describing the podcast as "political satire and exaggeration", and adds "none of the statements released about my being a white nationalist or white supremacist have any truth to them, nor are my political beliefs injected into my teaching of social studies curriculum". On Twitter, Tiana Dalichov courted controversy. In tweets which have since been deleted, she claimed that "Islam's entire ideology is literally built on violence" and says she was once banned from Twitter for "educating people on the horrors of Islam". In an episode called Growth of Islam from her podcast, Ms Volitich - under the Tiana Dalichov pseudonym - calls it "scary" that "your political opinions all of a sudden have so much influence over your job", adding: "If you say something against Islam, and someone gets offended by what you have said, your job is literally on the line and oftentimes you will lose it." Ms Volitich appeared to be concerned that she was correct with this assertion, as she attempted to delete all evidence of Tiana Dalichov online, including removing her Twitter account and the podcast's website. (Webmaster's comment: Just another white supremacist pig filled with hate for all but white christians!)
3-5-18 AI reconstructs whatever you see just by reading a brain scan
An algorithm can reconstruct pictures a person is looking at from brain scans, could one day be used to tell what someone is thinking. AI can pluck images directly from a person’s brain. Given an fMRI scan of someone looking at a picture, an algorithm can reconstruct the original picture from the scan. Though the results aren’t yet perfect, they are still often recognisable and hint at what may be possible in the future. Guohua Shen at Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute and his colleagues experimented with three types of images: “natural” pictures of things like bats, snowmobiles and stained glass, artificial shapes like squares and plus signs, and alphabetical letters. The shapes and letters were identifiable, but the reconstructions of the natural images tended to be blurry and difficult to parse. Once improved, AIs like this might allow computers to know what we’re thinking about. “These decoding methods could be used for human-computer interaction in the future,” says Haiguang Wen at Purdue University in Indiana. “It is exciting that you could be able to know what a person is dreaming or thinking just by analyzing the brain signals.” Most neural networks of this sort have two steps: first they decode the data from your brain scan into a few specific features that the algorithm can understand, then they either reconstruct or identify the picture that those features represent. In order to do this, the network is trained on a pre-assembled set of images, sometimes using over a million pictures. Guohua Shen at Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute and his colleagues experimented with three types of images: “natural” pictures of things like bats, snowmobiles and stained glass, artificial shapes like squares and plus signs, and alphabetical letters. The shapes and letters were identifiable, but the reconstructions of the natural images tended to be blurry and difficult to parse. Once improved, AIs like this might allow computers to know what we’re thinking about. “These decoding methods could be used for human-computer interaction in the future,” says Haiguang Wen at Purdue University in Indiana. “It is exciting that you could be able to know what a person is dreaming or thinking just by analyzing the brain signals.” (Webmaster's comment: Reading minds is not that far away.)
3-5-18 This Michigan dad lived in America for nearly 30 years. Then he was deported to Mexico.
Standing outside his new home sloped on a bumpy street, Jorge Garcia turns his head and gazes down the block of a working-class city about an hour northwest of Mexico City. Roving vendors hawk everything from tamales to gasoline, yelling out the names of their products. A few houses down, a rooster crows. His new neighbors glance at him warily. "I feel like I'm lost," Garcia says, his eyes taking in the valley and hills of the city of Nicolás Romero on a Friday morning in January. "I don't fit in here, at all." Two weeks earlier, Garcia was deported from Michigan to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30 years, forced to leave behind his family, friends, and a solid job in landscaping. Now the married father of two finds himself alone in an unfamiliar country, with an uncertain future. "Since I've got here, I haven't had a good night's sleep," he explains, fingers fidgeting with one another as he speaks. "It's like my body wants to rest, but I'm not able to with all this thought I've got on my mind and the stress. During the night, out of nowhere in my sleep, I start thinking about the whole situation and I lose my sleep." Garcia recites a Hail Mary and the Lord's Prayer every night before bed, but it's not enough to calm him down. "I just keep tossing and turning. Tossing and turning." After the Detroit Free Press reported on his deportation on Jan. 15, Garcia became a symbol for immigrant advocates, who say his removal is an example of the government's overzealous crackdown on illegal immigrants. He was only 10 years old when an aunt brought him to the U.S. without authorization. Now 39, he had lived his entire adult life in the U.S. before his removal. Garcia has no criminal record, but the U.S. says that anyone without legal status can be removed. ICE has defended his deportation.
3-5-18 Patrik Hermansson: 'I went undercover in the alt-right'
An anti-racism campaigner spent a year infiltrating the fringes of the white nationalist alt-right, and saw the real-world effects of extremist online ideology in Charlottesville. Patrik Hermansson had thought the day's drama was over. He had arrived at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, early in the morning of 12 August 2017. There he joined a group of far-right and alt-right activists who were protesting against the removal of a statue of a Confederate US Civil War leader, Robert E Lee. He found himself at the centre of an angry protest when the gathering was declared unlawful and armed alt-righters were marched out of the park by police. He witnessed scuffles and was sprayed with mace by an anti-fascist counter-protester. After a walk to another venue outside the city, it was time for some rest. "I switched out of my clothes and walked back into town," he says. "I was just out getting lunch when I saw this big demonstration walk past." These protesters were marching in opposition to the white nationalist and alt-right gathering in the park. Patrik stopped to watch. That's when a car drove straight into the crowd. "It ploughed through the demo and stopped five or 10 metres away from me," he says. "And then everything happened after that." One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by the car, and 35 others were injured. A man faces murder and other charges in connection with the attack. The violence in Charlottesville that day drew new attention to the rising subculture of the alt-right - an amorphous collection of nationalists, traditionalists, race obsessives, hardcore Trump supporters and others who found each other online. They are a subgroup of the wider far right and often claim to be a new political vanguard, although critics say they are nothing but fascists who have learned how to use social media. And Patrik Hermansson was well-placed to make sense of the events in Charlottesville and their wider impact. By then he had been undercover in the alt-right - in the UK, Europe and the US - for a year.
3-4-18 Florida school shooting: One mother, two gun attacks
It's a story that sounds impossible. Lightning never strikes twice, so they say. Except when it does."I want our story to remain shocking forever - but I'm worried that already we're not alone," Celia Randolph says. On the surface they are a normal family - mum, dad, four kids. They've lived in small towns in America that seemed safe. Celia's children speak carefully and precisely, like their mother. "I'm not an emotional person," Celia explains. "But I'm now very angry and I'm very sad. America has failed our kids. What happened to my daughter in 2006 shook me and my husband to the core." Then on Valentine's Day this year she got a text. Celia saw the words: "You're not near Parkland are you? There's been a shooting." "I kept saying to myself, 'Not again, not again.'" Celia dropped everything: "When it happens, you run. You run." Her son Christian is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida. The first time someone called Celia to say a gunman was in her child's school was 12 years ago. She and her husband Jason were 50 miles from home. "We raced to get to her." Chelsea was 14 years old and they were living in Bailey, a small mountain town in Colorado. The Columbine massacre, in which 13 people were killed, had happened in 1999 just under an hour away but the beautiful forest and mountains gave their home a secluded, quiet feeling. When Chelsea tells her story - which she's never spoken about publicly before - she's anxious: "What happened to other families is worse. Don't overshadow them." (Webmaster's comment: This killing of innocents is now so common place it can happen to your family twice!)
3-3-18 Is economics an art or a science?
Two questions: Is it good or bad that professional athletes earn 400 times what nurses do, and is string theory a dead end? Each question goes to the heart of its discipline. Yet while you probably answered the first, you'd hold an opinion on the prospects of string theory only if you've studied physics. That annoys economists, who wonder why everyone feels free to join economic debates instead of leaving them to the experts, as they do with physics or medicine. What economists don't usually admit is that, on a range of topics they examine, they often had an answer to the question before they began their studies. Scientists are supposed to reach their conclusions after doing research and weighing the evidence but, in economics, conclusions can come first, with economists gravitating towards a thesis that fits their moral worldview. That shouldn't surprise us. Economics has always been an ethical and social exercise, its purpose being to produce the rules by which a community organizes its production. It's not accidental that Adam Smith, whose work The Wealth of Nations (1776) is often seen as the founding text of economics, was a moral philosopher. Yet ever after, it was the holy grail of economists to make their art into a science, using it to uncover the codes supposedly buried in their heart of human existence. They experimented with mathematics and pondered Charles Darwin's revolution in biology, but it would be the late 19th century before economics finally found a model for itself. It found it in physics. (Webmaster's comment: The Libertarian hero, Alan Greenspan, helped propagate a movment which supported dictatorships as long as they practiced so-called Free Market Principles. Never mind all the tortures, the missing, and the dead!)
3-3-18 Florida school shooting: US investment giant pressures gun firms
The world's biggest investment management firm is stepping up pressure on companies that make and sell guns after the Florida school shooting. BlackRock Inc is considering offering investors the chance not to invest in gun firms, and is asking those firms how they monitor safe use of weapons. The US corporation said the Florida shooting on 14 February, in which 17 people died, required a response. It is the largest shareholder in two of the biggest US gun manufacturers. "As it has for many people, the recent tragedy in Florida has driven home for BlackRock the terrible toll from gun violence in America," the corporation said on its website. "We believe that this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors." It is the world's largest fund manager. BlackRock manages more than £4 trillion ($5 trillion) worth of investments and pension funds worldwide and is often consulted by governments. The company is the largest shareholder in leading gun makers Sturm, Ruger & Co and American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson). BlackRock is also a large shareholder in firms such as Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods which sell guns. But these shares represent a tiny fraction of its total assets.
3-3-18 Tasmania election: Gun control row clouds Liberals victory
In 1996 Australia suffered the deadliest mass shooting in its history; 35 people gunned down in the popular tourist spot of Port Arthur in Tasmania. The Australian government's response was tough. Strict and highly successful new gun laws that have been highlighted by activists in the US as a possible way forward there after the recent killings at a Florida school. So given the sensitivity, proposals by Tasmania's ruling Liberal government to ease firearms laws as it headed into Saturday's state elections created a fierce debate. Not least because of how apparently low-key the Liberals had kept the plans; laying them out in a letter to a firearms consultation group but not posting them on the party website. State Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management Rene Hidding wrote the letter in early February but the contents only became known on the eve of the election. The Liberals have now been returned with a majority, their opponents have conceded defeat, but the controversy over the gun issue is unlikely to go away.
3-2-18 Florida school shooting: US airline to lose tax break over NRA row
Legislators in the US state of Georgia have passed a bill denying Delta Air Lines a tax break after the firm cut ties with the US gun lobby. The Atlanta-based airline ended its discount for members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) after a Florida school shooting left 17 people dead. Georgia Republicans vowed to strip a bill of a jet fuel tax exemption that would benefit the carrier as a result. Delta is one of several firms to end relations with the NRA in recent days. The state House of Representatives and Senate, both controlled by Republicans, passed a sweeping tax package within hours of each other on Thursday that was amended to exclude a $50m (£36m) sales-tax exemption. Delta irritated state lawmakers on Saturday after it dropped its discount for NRA members in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on 14 February. The suspect in the attack, Nikolas Cruz, was said to be obsessed with guns and bought the semi-automatic rifle he allegedly used at the school in Parkland legally last year while aged 18. The shooting has renewed a national debate on gun control. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump met the NRA's top lobbyist at the White House on Thursday. Both sides said they had a "great" meeting. (Webmaster's comment: A direct assault on the people of the United States for their political beliefs by our elected legislators in the pay of the NRA!)
3-1-18 Gun control: The teens demanding change
America’s gun lobby is “facing its greatest threat yet,” said Sebastian Murdock in HuffingtonPost.com: “Generation Z.” Two weeks after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Fla., survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High are refusing to let the issue of gun control drop out of the headlines. In Florida, students have traveled to the state capitol in Tallahassee to demand better background checks and other measures, and thousands of schoolkids in other states, including Minnesota and Colorado, have staged class walkouts. Over the next month, there are plans for more rallies, a nationwide school walkout, and a march on Washington, D.C. Spearheaded by “impassioned, articulate” Stoneman Douglas students who know how to harness the power of social media, the budding #NeverAgain movement has a simple message: Don’t let us die in our schools. Young people have driven “nearly every major social movement” in recent history, from the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter, said John Blake in CNN.com. Can America’s high schoolers do the same for gun control?
3-1-18 Gun-control effort inches forward
As new details emerged of police failings in the run-up to last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the push for stricter gun-control laws intensified this week, with President Trump urging lawmakers to take action and major companies severing ties with the National Rifle Association. In the weeks since the massacre, which left 17 dead, the president has voiced support for several reforms: shoring up the federal background check system; banning bump stocks; raising the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21; and arming some teachers. (See Controversy.) In a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers this week, Trump chided Congress for its past inaction, saying, “You’re afraid of the NRA!” But the gun group and Republican lawmakers continued to oppose major gun-control measures. Gun-control advocates, aided by social media–savvy teenage Parkland survivors, had more success, pressuring at least 23 major companies, including Delta, Hertz, and MetLife, to scrap discounted rates for NRA members. Separately, one of the nation’s largest sports retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, announced it would no longer stock assault-style rifles, or sell any firearms to under-21s.
3-1-18 School shootings: Should teachers carry guns?
“It’s time to fight fire with fire,” said Kyle Lamb in TheFederalist.com. With the nation still reeling from last month’s high school massacre in Parkland, Fla., President Trump this week repeated his call for some teachers to be armed and trained to help defend their students in the event of a school shooting. The liberal media, of course, promptly mocked and distorted Trump’s proposal, suggesting he wanted every teacher to carry a gun. But to much of America the idea of some educators being armed doesn’t sound so outlandish. At least eight states—including Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming—already allow approved teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus; another six are considering similar laws. During the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two heroic staff members—athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis—tried to confront the deranged shooter, said Ned Ryun in TheHill.com. Both men paid with their lives. As we mourn these two heroes, along with 15 innocent students who were in their care, we can only wonder: What “if they had been armed?”
“It’s hard to catalog” all the reasons why giving teachers Glocks is a terrible idea, said Michael Cohen in BostonGlobe.com. Every gun on campus is another weapon that can be discharged by accident, seized by a student, or even fired in anger by a stressed-out teacher. As for that single-digit handful of our 3.6 million teachers who will ever face a mass shooter, even trained police turn into “lousy shots in pressure-packed situations”; New York City cops hit their targets only 13 percent of the time in shoot-outs. And yet we expect a panicking math teacher in a classroom full of screaming children to somehow neutralize a shooter without injuring or killing others? Take it from a former Marine, said author and college professor Anthony Swofford in NYTimes.com, injecting armed civilians into the chaos of a real-world mass shooting is just a recipe for more “carnage and confusion.”
3-1-18 Our other example for America
The U.S. has long ignored Australia’s example on gun control, said Crispin Hull, but there may yet be something it can learn from us. Every time there is a mass shooting in America, someone notes how there hasn’t been a similar massacre in Australia since 1996, when we banned rapid-fire guns and organized a buy-back of prohibited weapons following the Port Arthur mass shooting. Polls suggest many Americans would support such policies. But passing sensible firearms controls “is far more difficult in the U.S. than in Australia.” Protest rallies, vigils for the dead, “and even solidly rational argument backed by conclusive evidence simply do not cut any ice” with National Rifle Association–funded U.S. politicians. But Australia has an answer for that: Our “GetUp!” progressive citizens’ movement—sort of like an American political action committee—has raised $42 million in a single year and mobilized grassroots campaigns to protect everything from coral reefs to gay rights to voting access. A comparably sized movement in the U.S. would raise at least $630 million, more than enough to fund attack ads suggesting that pro-gun U.S. politicians “support child murder.” Not only would it “instill the fear of democracy into the hearts and minds of U.S. political candidates,” it could even “wean them off the NRA tit.”
3-1-18 Gun blessing
A Pennsylvania church is holding a “gun blessing” service for congregants with AR-15s. The Unification Sanctuary believes that the Book of Revelations’ prophecy that Christ will return to Earth and rule with “a rod of iron” clearly refers to the popular assault rifle. “The rod of iron is the AR-15, in today’s terms,” says church leader Tim Elder. (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)
3-1-18 Employment opportunities
Employment opportunities, after the Vatican launched a major training program for exorcists. Church officials say the need for exorcisms has tripled over the past few years, due to the use of fortune-tellers and Tarot readers who “open the door to the devil.” (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)
3-1-18 America interferes in elections, too
“Russia isn’t the only one meddling in elections,” said Scott Shane. Most Americans have been shocked by revelations of the Kremlin’s use of hacking, leaking, and social media mischief to spread discord in the run-up to the 2016 presidential vote. To many, this was “an unprecedented attack” on democracy. But our own government has long practiced such chicanery—using both overt and covert operations to steer foreign elections toward a more favorable conclusion. In the 1940s, CIA agents dumped “bags of money” at a Rome hotel for non-Communist Italian candidates. Half a century later, the agency planted scandalous stories in Nicaraguan newspapers to discredit the leftist Sandinista government. The CIA has “helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala,” and plotted assassinations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. One Carnegie Mellon study found the U.S. waged 81 election-influence operations between 1946 and 2000, compared with 36 by the Soviet Union and Russia—and that’s not counting what the CIA has covertly done in recent years. Russia’s 2016 election meddling might have used new technologies, but it “was fundamentally old-school espionage.”
3-1-18 Tariffs will punish U.S. workers
Tariffs on foreign steel “would cost more jobs than they save,” said The Wall Street Journal. In a bid to bolster the domestic steel industry, President Trump is considering a range of punitive trade moves, including either a 24 percent tariff on all steel imports or a 53 percent tariff on steel from a dozen countries, including China. The ostensible motive is that U.S. steelmakers could be run out of business by cheaper imports, imperiling national security. But “there’s little risk that the U.S. couldn’t procure sufficient steel for defense even during a war”; U.S. steel mills have “ample slack” to increase production if called upon. What’s more, slapping a tariff on foreign steel would dramatically raise costs for American companies in the construction, transportation, and mining industries. That could put many people out of work: “About 16 times more workers are employed today in U.S. steel-consuming industries than the 140,000 American steelworkers.” In 2002, when George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs, more people lost their jobs (200,000) than were employed in the entire steel industry at the time (187,500). The U.S. steel industry already benefits enormously from Trump’s economic and deregulatory agenda. Why would the president “undercut his achievements with trade barriers that harm American workers and consumers?”
3-1-18 Fewer cases and lower penalties
The Securities and Exchange Commission has pursued significantly fewer cases and lower penalties under President Trump. From last February through September, the Wall Street regulator brought 15 cases and collected $127 million in civil penalties. In a comparable period in 2016, it brought 43 cases and collected $702 million in penalties.
3-1-18 SCOTUS rejects bail hearings for immigrants
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that immigrants held in detention don’t have the right to periodic bail hearings while the federal government decides if they should be deported, opening the door to indefinite detentions. The court voted 5 to 3, with conservative justices in the majority, to reverse a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requiring hearings every six months. The justices’ ruling said that current immigration laws don’t specifically authorize the hearings, sending the case back to the 9th Circuit to decide whether indefinite detentions without a chance for bail are unconstitutional. Immigrants detained by the government, including legal permanent residents arrested on minor charges, are held for 13 months on average. (Webmaster's comment: More injustice uphelp by the conservatives!)
3-1-18 Georgia teacher fires gun in empty classroom
A Georgia teacher who barricaded himself in his classroom and fired a handgun is in police custody. Jesse Randall Davidson, 53, locked his students in the hallway and fired a shot when the principal opened the door, according to US media reports. No students were hurt by the alleged gunfire but one sprained her ankle. The incident came two weeks after 17 were killed at a Florida high school and President Trump called for teachers to be armed to tackle mass shooters. Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said that the Dalton High School teacher barricaded the door when his students tried to enter. When the headmaster, Steve Bartoo, attempted to open the door with a key, he heard a gunshot. The school in Dalton - a city about 90 miles (145km) northwest of Atlanta - was placed on lockdown, the spokesman said. A standoff lasted up to 45 minutes before Mr Davidson was taken into custody. Mr Bartoo said the teacher made "nonsensical noises" during the exchange. (Webmaster's comment: Maybe arming all the teachers isn't such a good idea!)
3-1-18 Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart announce new gun restrictions
Two major US retailers have announced new restrictions on gun sales following the shooting at a Florida school where 17 people died. Dick's Sporting Goods, which has more than 600 shops, said it would no longer sell assault-style rifles, and backed "common sense gun reform". Walmart later said it was raising the minimum age for anyone buying guns or ammunition to 21 years. It came as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pupils returned to classes. Grief counsellors were on hand as students and teachers arrived at the campus, two weeks after 17 of their peers were shot dead by an expelled former student with an AR-15 rifle. In the aftermath of the 14 February shooting, pressure has mounted on US politicians to act on gun control and for corporations to cut ties with the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA). Firms including Hertz car rental, United airlines and Delta airlines have ended discounts to NRA members. Walmart, the largest seller of guns in the US, said it would remove items from its website that resembled assault-style rifles. The retailer stopped selling high-powered rifles in its shops in 2015, citing low demand. In a statement, Walmart said: "We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms." In Washington, President Donald Trump urged a group of lawmakers with diverse views to come up with a comprehensive bipartisan solution in a televised meeting. Republican leaders in Congress have rejected raising the minimum legal age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, but Mr Trump said he "would give pretty serious thought to it", despite opposition from the NRA, which supported him as a candidate. He told the lawmakers: "Some of you people are petrified of the NRA, you can't be petrified." Also on Wednesday, a teacher in the state of Georgia was arrested after barricading himself in a classroom and firing a handgun. No-one was injured. (Webmaster's comment: Sounds like arming teachers may not be the best idea!)
3-1-18 Trump at odds with Republican lawmakers over gun reforms
US President Donald Trump has stunned lawmakers from both parties by accusing them of being "petrified" of the National Rifle Association (NRA). In a break from his party's anti-gun control stance, Mr Trump urged lawmakers during a televised meeting to come up with a "strong" reform bill. The NRA said that Mr Trump's remarks "made for great TV", but "would make for bad policy" if implemented. The US gun debate has been reignited by a deadly school shooting in Florida. "I want you to come up with a strong bill - and really strong on background checks," Mr Trump told lawmakers at the White House on Wednesday, pushing them to work together on bipartisan legislation. In the meeting, which was broadcast live from the White House, Democrats looked gleeful as Mr Trump suggested expanding background checks for gun buyers and raising the legal age to buy rifles from 18 to 21. The Republican president said the NRA has "great power over you people", but that the lobby has "less power over me". The president also accused Senator Pat Toomey of being "afraid" of the NRA, even though the Pennsylvania Republican has worked on a bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchases. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre occurred, agreed with the president. He said the NRA has a "veto power" over any gun control legislation in Congress. Mr Trump said he had previously told NRA officials: "It's time. We've got to stop this nonsense. It's time." Breitbart News, a strident backer of the president, criticised him in a bright red headline that said, "TRUMP THE GUN GRABBER". (Webmaster's comment: Raising the legal age and expanded background checks will make little difference. The only thing that will stop most of these massacres is total banning and confiscation of all semi-automatic and automatic weapons!)
3-1-18 In pictures: US gun-blessing ceremony
Hundreds of members of World Peace and Unification church get their guns blessed in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of couples packed a World Peace and Unification Sanctuary church in Pennsylvania to bless their weapons on Wednesday. The church believes the gun is the "rod of iron" cited in the Book of Revelation. Guns were blessed with holy water during the event, scheduled before 17 people were shot dead in a Florida school. The church believes the Florida shooting could have been avoided had teachers been armed. Students from a school near the church were moved for the day while the event took place, and protests were held outside. (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely SICK!)