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

112 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for September 2018
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source


9-24-18 Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's court nominee, faces new sex allegation
A second woman has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump's US Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez, a Yale university classmate of the judge, told the New Yorker that Mr Kavanaugh had exposed his genitals at a dormitory party. The judge has denied both allegations, labelling the latest "a smear". The make-up of the nine-judge Supreme Court is crucial as it has the final say on often highly contentious laws. Before Judge Kavanaugh can take up the vacant seat, he has to be approved by the 21-strong Senate Judiciary Committee and then the whole Senate. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, called for the "immediate postponement of any further proceedings" relating to Judge Kavanaugh's nomination in an letter sent to the committee's Republican chairman on Sunday evening. Ms Ramirez alleges the incident occurred when she was a freshman at Yale University alongside Judge Kavanaugh during the 1983-4 academic year. She says they were both taking part in a drinking game at a dormitory party where people sat in a circle and selected others to drink. She says at one point, a plastic penis was pointed in her direction by one man, and later another exposed himself directly. "I remember a penis being in front of my face," she said. "I knew that's not what I wanted, even in that state of mind." Ms Ramirez said she was mocked and taunted when she remarked it wasn't real, and then ended up touching the genitals while attempting to push the man away. "I wasn't going to touch a penis until I was married," she said, referring to her devout Catholic upbringing. "I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated." She says she remembers Judge Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. (Webmaster's comment: Just the man we want on our Supreme Court.)

9-24-18 Wall Street's reefer madness
Weed is the new bitcoin. While the world of marijuana-related companies trading on U.S. stock exchanges is not large, one of the premiere examples had a roller coaster ride last week. Tilray, a Canadian-based medical marijuana company, first started publicly trading in the U.S. in mid-July. It bounced around $25 a share through mid-August, then shot up to a peak of $263 on Wednesday — roughly a ten-fold increase in about a month. Things got so crazy the Nasdaq actually halted trades in the stock multiple times that day. By Friday afternoon it had settled to around $130 a share. Other marijuana stocks, such as Canopy Growth and GW Pharmaceuticals, also surged recently, but not by nearly the same amount. And the whole ride still leaves Tilray with a market value somewhere in the vicinity of $12 billion — more than Macy's, for context. It's hard to see this as anything other than Wall Street betting that marijuana will soon be fully, or at least mostly, legal in America. And it's hard to see the specifics of most of these bets as anything other than foolish. Now, as mentioned, Tilray is based in Canada. The company's website describes its mission as “cultivating and delivering the benefits of medical cannabis safely and reliably." And Canada has actually already legalized recreational marijuana use, though the change doesn't take effect until October. In America, marijuana use is legal to varying degrees in some states, but remains illegal nationally. That means any American company that invests in marijuana runs the risk of bringing down law enforcement's wrath. Tilray and other Canadian firms (like Canopy Growth) have no such problems. But trace the saga of Tilray's rise, and it's pretty clearly about American enthusiasm.

9-23-18 Brett Kavanaugh: Judge accuser agrees to testify next week
The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has agreed to testify against him next week. Lawyers for Dr Christine Blasey Ford said she had accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee's request to appear before them to be questioned about the alleged attack at a party in 1982. A "tentative" deal has been reached for Thursday, US media report. Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations. The allegations, which emerged in the US media last week, have delayed his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Dr Ford, a university professor, had originally been granted a deadline of Friday to agree to testify. This was later extended to Saturday by Senator Chuck Grassley, the leading Republican on the committee. Dr Ford's lawyer Debra Katz said in a letter to the committee on Saturday that her client had accepted the request but wanted to "continue our negotiations" on the details. She also criticised the process and said some of what the senators had been proposing was "fundamentally inconsistent with the Committee's promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations" - but it was not clear to what she was referring. (Webmaster's comment: The rush to elected him is because the Republicans want him elected to our Supreme Court before the truth comes out! The truth will also be twisted so that she will be blamed for the assault. Anything but blame the man. He is never guilty.)

9-22-18 The impossible task of peering into the minds of others
Humans are really terrible at putting themselves in someone else's shoes. In April 2018, a viral challenge took Twitter by storm. It was posed by podcaster Whitney Reynolds: Women, describe yourself the way a male writer would. The dare hit a sweet spot. Many could summon up passages from books containing terrible, sexualized descriptions of women. Some of us recalled Haruki Murakami, whose every novel can be summarized as: "Protagonist is an ordinary man, except lots of really beautiful women want to sleep with him." Others remembered J.M. Coetzee, and his variations on the plot: "Tenured male professor in English literature sleeps with beautiful female undergraduate." It was a way for us to joke about the fact that so much great literature was written by men who could express perfectly detailed visual descriptions of the female body, and yet possessed such an impoverished understanding of the female mind. This is why the philosophical project of trying to map the contours of other minds needs a reality check. If other humans are beyond our comprehension, what hope is there for understanding the experience of animals, artificial intelligence, or aliens? I am a literature scholar. Over thousands of years of literary history, authors have tried and failed to convey an understanding of Others (with a capital "O"). Writing fiction is an exercise that stretches an author's imagination to its limits. And fiction shows us, again and again, that our capacity to imagine other minds is extremely limited. It took feminism and post-colonialism to point out that writers were systematically misrepresenting characters who weren't like them. Male authors, it seems, still struggle to present convincing female characters a lot of the time. The same problem surfaces again when writers try to introduce a figure with a different ethnicity to their own, and fail spectacularly.

9-21-18 Economy’s up, well-being is not
By the official statistics, 10 years after the fall of Lehman Brothers “the American economy has fully recovered,” said David Leonhardt. Look closely, however, “and you can see the lingering effects of the financial crisis everywhere.” Citizens anxious and angry about the economy have embraced a leader who has thrown the presidency into chaos. “So who are you going to believe: those statistics or your own eyes?” The trouble is that the measures that dominate the conversation mostly describe the “experiences of the affluent.” Stocks, for example, are worth 60 percent more than when the financial crisis began in 2007. But most shares are owned by the wealthy, and half of Americans don’t own stocks at all. The typical household’s net worth remains about 20 percent lower than it was in early 2007. Meanwhile, the most cited unemployment figure doesn’t count the millions of Americans who have given up looking for work. Indicators such as the unemployment rate and the stock market averages don’t capture “the realities of American life,” and by glossing over growing inequality they’ve become increasingly misleading. We need better ones. “The whole point of statistics is to describe reality. When a statistic no longer does so, it’s time to find a new one.”

9-21-18 Puerto Rico: Trump’s Maria conspiracy theory
Only a president with a “complete absence of empathy” would deny the deaths of Americans under his watch, said Max Boot in The Washington Post. Yet President Trump did just that last week, attacking the idea that Hurricane Maria could have caused nearly 3,000 deaths on Puerto Rico—as estimated by a recent government-commissioned study. He tweeted that when he left the island after a post-storm visit in September 2017, “they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths.” Democrats then inflated the death toll, he claimed, “to make me look as bad as possible.” What absolute nonsense, said The New York Times in an editorial. The rise in the death figures isn’t partisan trickery, but the result of researchers accessing better information than was available in Maria’s chaotic aftermath. That inconvenient data undermines Trump’s claim that his response to Maria was an “incredible unsung success” and so in his mind must be the product of a conspiracy. “The 3,000 lives lost, in other words, are all about him.”

9-21-18 Cops can’t act like criminals
The killing of Botham Jean is “the worst police shooting yet,” said David French. The 26-year-old churchgoing black man was alone in his Dallas apartment “when police officer Amber Guyger entered and shot him dead.” Guyger claims she thought she was entering her own apartment, though that doesn’t square with the testimony of witnesses. Even if it’s true that Guyger shot Jean after her “verbal commands” went unheeded, it’s not a defense. When Guyger pushed open Jean’s door, she was a criminal, “an armed home invader,” not “a police officer clothed with the authority of the law.” Yet Guyger is still getting special treatment. She forced open the door, “deliberately took aim,” and killed a man. Somehow, though, she’s only charged with manslaughter—recklessly causing a person’s death. “If Jean had mistakenly gone to Guyger’s apartment and then gunned her down in cold blood after demanding that she follow his commands, would he face a manslaughter charge?” We ask officers to bravely “face a much higher degree of danger than civilians,” but we also ask them to “be subject to the very laws they’re sworn to enforce.” Guyger’s “blue uniform should not grant her a single advantage in the investigation and prosecution to come.”

9-21-18 Values: Is it racist to question diversity?
In “a country that holds the melting pot among its foundational myths,” who could have a problem with diversity? asked Gabrielle Bruney in Esquire.com. “Tucker Carlson, that’s who.” On his Fox News show, the anchor railed against the idea that diversity is good for America. “How precisely is diversity our strength?” Carlson asked. “Can you think, for example, of other institutions, such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units, in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors or your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values?” Unbelievable. The immigrants and refugees demonized by the Right risk everything to come to America precisely because they share our values: freedom and opportunity for all. Carlson’s bigotry is the same as that of the Ku Klux Klan. He’s now “traded dog-whistle racism for bullhorn racism.” (Webmaster's comment: We've been a white racist nation for 242 years in spite of what we say otherwise.)

9-21-18 The Olympian who sacrificed everything
Tommie Smith knows better than anyone what Colin Kaepernick is going through, said Tik Root in The Atlantic. The Olympic sprinter was one of two black American athletes who famously raised their fists in protest of international human rights violations while receiving their medals at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith, who won the gold medal for the 200-meter dash and was then the fastest man on Earth, paid for this quiet gesture with his track career. He and his teammate, bronze medalist John Carlos, were expelled from the Olympic Village and banned from international competition. Returning home, they were deluged with hate mail and death threats. “I was knocked verbally and financially,” says Smith. Struggling to find work, he could barely afford to buy formula for his infant son. Since then, some Americans have reassessed his famous protest. In 2005, San Jose State erected a statue of Smith and Carlos, who were later awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from ESPN. Smith met with Kaepernick last fall, and the two bonded over the experience of being shunned by their sport for their beliefs. “He was on his knee and I was on my feet, but we represent the same thing. The brutality, inequality,” Smith says. “I’m not broken to a point that I can’t move forward. Colin Kaepernick is going to be the same way.”

9-21-18 Soda: Coke’s cannabis collaboration
“Coca-Cola is eyeing the cannabis market,” said Jen Skerritt and Craig Giammona in Bloomberg.com. The shares of Canadian cannabis-drinks maker Aurora Cannabis soared this week as the cola giant confirmed its interest. Coke is “the latest beverage company to tap into surging demand for marijuana products as traditional sales slow.” Coke is interested in developing drinks made with “the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that treats pain but doesn’t get you high.” Its discussions with Aurora have specifically focused on drinks that “ease inflammation, pain, and cramping.”

9-21-18 Weed now legal
South Africa’s top court has ruled that criminalizing the private, home use of marijuana by adults is unconstitutional, and ordered Parliament to pass laws legalizing consumption of the drug within two years. The Constitutional Court also ruled that growing weed, known in South Africa as dagga or ganja, should be legal for private consumption. As the ruling was announced, the public gallery erupted in cheers of “Ganja!” and members of the Dagga Party activist group celebrated. Unless Parliament goes further than the court directed, though, it will still remain illegal to smoke marijuana in public, to sell it, or to grow it for distribution.

9-21-18 Subliminal messages can make you forget memories without realising
Being told not to remember something makes you less likely to remember it in future – and now a study has found this can happen without you even realising it. If you try not to remember something, it really can become more difficult to recall it in future. Now a study of intentional forgetting has found that we can be told to forget things on purpose, and this can happen subliminally, without you even realising. We already knew that people can consciously suppress memories when asked to. A previous experiment used visual cues to tell volunteers to remember or forget words while they tried to learn a variety of word pairs. If told to forget a word, a volunteer was less likely to remember it later on. Now Raphael Gaillard, at the Hospital Sainte-Anne in Paris, France, and his colleagues have shown that this can work subliminally too. The team first conducted the same experiment with a new group of 44 volunteers, training them to remember or forget in response to clear, conscious cues. They found that volunteers recalled the second word in a pair 83 per cent of the time when given the “remember” cue, but only 77 per cent of the time when shown the “forget” cue. Next, the team ran an experiment where the same participants weren’t shown these clear cues anymore. Instead, as they tried to learn new pairs of words, the forgetting and remembering cues were flashed on screen for periods of time that were too short for anyone to consciously notice them. They found that these subconscious cues to forget lowered the average recall rate to 75 per cent, compared with 81 per cent when given subconscious cues to remember. This is the first study to provide experimental evidence that our memories are susceptible to unconscious distortions.

9-21-18 Brett Kavanaugh accuser sets out terms for testimony
The woman who accuses US Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982 has set out terms for her testifying before a Senate committee. Among the conditions, Christine Blasey Ford will not testify with Mr Kavanaugh in the room and wants him to testify first, her lawyer has said. It is unclear whether the committee will agree to all the terms. Judge Kavanaugh, 53, has repeatedly denied the allegations and has agreed to testify before the committee. It is the task of the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh before it passes to the full Senate for a vote. The choice of a new justice for the Supreme Court is pivotal, as it often gives the final word on highly contentious laws and its nine judges have an immense impact on US political life. What are the conditions? They were spelled out by Prof Ford's lawyer, Debra Katz, in a telephone call with the committee on Thursday. The six conditions are:

  1. Christine Blasey Ford will not testify with Mr Kavanaugh in the room
  2. Wants him to testify first
  3. There can be no appearance before next Thursday. The committee's chairman Chuck Grassley had called for written testimony by this Friday. Ms Katz rejected this and said a demand for Prof Ford to appear on Monday would be a "deal breaker"
  4. Questions to be posed preferably by senators and not outside counsel
  5. Mark Judge, who is reported to have been a witness to the alleged assault, should be subpoenaed to appear
  6. Agrees to a public hearing but wants limits on the media coverage

(Webmaster's comment: Bottom Line: The Republicans want to verbally attack her and intiminate her on camera. She is to be treated as the guilty person just like all sexually assaulted women are.)

9-21-18 Why people can take years to report sexual assaults
A sex assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which he denies, has some asking why the accuser waited decades to come forward. We don't know which of them is telling the truth. But two experts say such delays in reporting are common. Jim Hopper is a clinical psychologist and independent consultant, teaching associate in psychology, Harvard Medical School, and nationally recognised expert on psychological trauma. Vanessa Grigoriadis is the author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus.

9-20-18 Drug overdose deaths in America are rising exponentially
The problem is bigger than any one drug, researchers say. Even as the country’s attention is focused on the ongoing opioid epidemic, a new study shows that the United States has had a wide-ranging drug overdose problem for decades, and it’s growing ever worse. Analyzing nearly 600,000 accidental drug poisoning deaths from 1979 to 2016 shows that the country has seen an exponential rise in these cases, with the number of deaths doubling approximately every nine years, researchers report in the Sept. 21 Science. More than 63,600 Americans died from all drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers of accidental overdose deaths due to individual drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine, have varied during the 38-year time period. But combining the data, from the National Vital Statistics System, produces a clear — and troubling — pattern, one that portends that the overall overdose epidemic will continue in the future, the researchers conclude. “We need to focus on the entire epidemic,” not just a particular drug, to understand what’s driving the continued growth in drug overdose deaths, says coauthor Hawre Jalal, a health policy researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. “Without looking at the entire picture, we might not be hitting the root causes.”

Overdose Deaths

Overdose Deaths

9-20-18 Brett Kavanaugh: Sexual assault accuser 'needs more time'
The lawyer for a woman who accuses US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has said the Senate's "rush" to a hearing is "unnecessary". Lisa Banks says her client, Christine Blasey Ford, is willing to co-operate but wants a "full non-partisan investigation" ahead of her testimony. Prof Ford has been given until Friday to decide if she will testify. Judge Kavanaugh, 53, says the assault allegation, which dates back to his teenage years, is "completely false". President Donald Trump has again defended his nominee, saying it is very hard for him to imagine anything happened. Prof Ford and the Senate Judiciary Committee are engaged in a stand-off, and time is running out, the BBC's Gary O'Donoghue reports from Washington. The Republicans on the committee know they have to give her every opportunity to tell her story but they are adamant that this is not a matter for the FBI and that Democrats are using the case to simply stall the nomination process, our correspondent says. "Dr Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago," Ms Banks said in a statement. "Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this." The lawyer's statement repeats earlier reports of threats to Prof Ford and her family's safety, adding that she is "currently unable to go home". (Webmaster's comment: Kavanaugh's supporters have threatened to kill her and her family. Doesn't anyone realize how horrible that is? Is it any wonder she doesn't want to testify in a setting were some members support her being killed.)

9-20-18 Martin Sellner: The new face of the far right in Europe
In his T-shirt, skinny jeans and sharply styled haircut, Martin Sellner is the European far right's newest poster boy. The group he leads in Austria has attracted huge publicity. However, Sellner's insistence that his movement is non-racist and non-violent doesn't have everyone convinced. In April 2016, hundreds of people sat inside the University of Vienna's theatre watching The Suppliants, a play performed by asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. And then the stage invasion began. Members of a far-right group called Generation Identity (GI) rushed in, unfurling a banner calling the audience hypocrites and throwing fake blood over some of them. The performers screamed, fearing they were under attack. There were scuffles as some in the audience began shouting "Nazis raus" or "Nazis out" and tried to eject the protesters. Ima was one of the performers. She had fled Mosul in Iraq when it was taken over by the so-called Islamic State group. "We came from the land of fear," she says. And now, in the darkness and confusion, she was scared again. "We thought they were going to kill us. In my homeland it's just so much killing and dead people so that's what we believed." The young man who leads GI in Austria plays down the incident. "I actually don't think people were really traumatised," he says. "I don't know anybody who had a severe trauma or a medical condition." His name is Martin Sellner, and with his striking haircut, fashionable skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses, he looks like a typical style-conscious 29-year-old. Like many others of his generation, he can normally be found staring into the lens of a mobile phone - but in Sellner's case, it's typically to deliver a monologue about the evils of multiculturalism and how Muslims want to take over Europe. (Webmaster's comment: The gangs of Nazis are on the march again just as the brown-shirts were in Germany as Hitler rose to power!)

9-20-18 Trump urged Spain to 'build a wall' across Sahara, says minister
President Trump recommended building a wall across the Sahara to solve Europe's migrant crisis, Spain's foreign minister says. Josep Borrell, also a former President of the European Parliament, disagreed with the strategy. The comments came during a visit Mr Borrell made to the US at the end of June. Mr Trump's pledge to build a wall between the US and Mexico was one of his best-known election promises. Mr Borrell recounted his conversation with the US president at a lunch event in Madrid this week, Spain's foreign ministry confirmed to the BBC. "The border with the Sahara cannot be bigger than our border with Mexico," Mr Borrell quoted Mr Trump as saying. The US-Mexico border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km) long. The Sahara desert stretches for 3,000 miles. Spain has no sovereignty over the Sahara, but it does possess two small enclaves on the north African coast, Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Morocco by controversial wire fences. The enclaves have become magnets for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe and refugees fleeing persecution and conflict. Since January of this year, 35,000 migrants arrived in Spain, the highest number received by any EU country. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is anti-human! He is against helping any human that is non-white! )

9-20-18 Maine restaurant sedates lobsters with marijuana
A US restaurant is using marijuana to sedate lobsters before killing them. Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound, a restaurant in Maine, says the process is more humane as it lessens their pain before death. Lobsters are often cooked by being dropped into a pot of boiling water, seen as cruel by some. There is growing evidence the crustaceans feel pain. Customers at the restaurant can choose whether they want the marijuana-sedated lobster or not. A growing body of scientific findings suggest that not only lobsters but other invertebrates, such as crayfish and crabs, are able to feel pain. In January, Switzerland decided that lobsters must be stunned before boiling. The owner of Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound, Charlotte Gill, says eating the sedated lobster will not make customers high and using marijuana leads to better quality meat, as the animal is more relaxed when it dies. "If we're going to take a life we have a responsibility to do it as humanely as possible," Ms Gill told local newspaper Mount Desert Islander. "The difference it makes within the meat itself is unbelievable." Marijuana is legal in Maine and Ms Gill has a license to grow and supply it for medical purposes. Marijuana laws in the US vary from state to state. Nine states and Washington DC have legalised the drug.


9-19-18 People are more clued up about science than you might think
“Our survey reveals that the public has a surprising level of knowledge and appreciation of the issues” EVERY now and again, some newspaper or other runs a story lamenting the pig ignorance of the general public. In the run-up to the 2015 general election in the UK, for example, the Independent reported that 59 per cent of people in the country could not name the current prime minister. The Daily Mirror later reported a “shock” geography poll that found “ignorant Brits couldn’t find France or the USA on a map”. The credibility of these surveys has to be questioned – is it really plausible that six out of 10 British people do not know who the PM is? But they chime with a widespread belief that the great unwashed are really, horribly unwashed – obsessed with trivia and celebrities and wilfully ignorant of almost anything that matters. The thinking is that more people can probably name the cast of Made in Chelsea: Croatia or the stars of the Croatian football team than know anything about Croatian history or politics. In recent years this belief in mass ignorance has morphed into something more insidious. People are no longer ill-informed, they are well-misinformed. Echo chambers and lying politicians have ushered in an age of “alternative facts”. People have been given permission to believe whatever they want, and a cesspit of fake news to float their false beliefs upon. We thus live in a world where the US president can claim that authoritative reports of the death toll from a hurricane were fabricated by his opponents – and get away with it. Against this background you might expect public knowledge of science to be woeful. When we decided to conduct a survey of attitudes to science, technology, medicine and the environment, we feared finding that to be the case. But the results are a breath of fresh air.

9-19-18 Why your brain is hardwired to be bad at economics – and how to fix it
We have evolved intuitions about the economy and globalisation that aren’t just wrong, they are damaging our futures. Fortunately, some clear thinking can protect you. DURING the last US presidential election campaign, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton both promised to “protect” America against foreign imports. In Europe, right-wing populist politicians are gaining ground by claiming they will reduce immigration to create more jobs for local people. Left-wingers, meanwhile, promise to tackle growing wealth inequality by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. All these ideas reflect a shaky grasp of economics. Nevertheless, they are often attractive to voters. That is no accident. Most of us have little or no education in economics, but that doesn’t stop us holding beliefs about all sorts of things from the benefits of international trade, the effects of immigration and the origins of inequality, to the power of big business, the consequences of regulation and whether the state should provide education, transport and healthcare. These “folk-economic” beliefs are often vague, incoherent or just plain wrong. But they are not random – people everywhere seem to have similar intuitions. It is as if the human mind is designed to misunderstand the mass-market economies we have created. As a psychologist, this intrigues me. In my latest book, Minds Make Societies, I argue that folk economics has its roots in human evolution – and has profound consequences for today’s world. In modern democracies, political parties differ mostly in terms of their economic policies, meaning that politicians can capitalise on our mistaken intuitions to gain support. Fortunately, knowing where these beliefs come from, and the forms they take, can help us make more savvy economic and political judgements.

9-19-18 Christine Blasey Ford: Kavanaugh accuser 'faces death threats'
The woman who accuses US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her will not testify to the Senate next week, her lawyer says. Christine Blasey Ford's attorney told CNN her client has been "deflecting death threats and harassment". Lawyer Lisa Banks said before her client goes to Congress, she wants an FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh. The nominee, who denies the claim, has met officials at the White House for a second day. Prof Ford, a psychology lecturer in California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of drunkenly trying to remove her clothing in 1982 when they were both teenagers in a Washington DC suburb. She says he pinned her to a bed and clamped his hand over her mouth when she attempted to scream. Judge Kavanaugh, 53, has called the allegation "completely false". Prof Ford's legal team say they have written to the Senate Judiciary Committee declining its offer to testify. Her lawyer told CNN on Tuesday night: "It's premature to talk about a hearing on Monday because she [Prof Ford] has been dealing with the threats, the harassment and the safety of her family and that's what she's been focused on for the last couple of days." She said that since going public with her allegation in the Washington Post on Sunday, Prof Ford has been trying to work out where her family are going to sleep at night. The legal team's letter says that Prof Ford's family has been forced to move out of their home, her email has been hacked and she has been impersonated online. (Webmaster's comment: Death Threats for trying to tell the truth. The true nature of Kavanaugh's supporters is now apparent!)

9-19-18 The passage of time cannot absolve Brett Kavanaugh — or anyone
Distance lessens the severity of our experience of evil. We speak, unaffected, of the brutal death of dozens in a far off land. Comedy, as the saying goes, is "tragedy plus time." I've snickered at a 14th century description of Italian plague victims' corpses stacked "just as one makes lasagna with layers of pasta and cheese." A century after the sinking of the Titanic, children can scream in glee as they slip down an inflatable slide modeled on the moment panicked hundreds met an icy demise. This is the way our brains work, and it is undoubtedly necessary if we are to cope with the knowledge of good and evil in our world. But we delude ourselves if we think that lessened experience of evil lessens the reality of the evil in question. A sin does not, with age, cease to be a sin. Time does not itself absolve. Removal is not repentance. It is easy to understand this when we ourselves have been wronged. Forgiving an old offense absent due apology and atonement is difficult precisely because the evil has not changed with time. But we are apt to forget this indelibility when it is convenient, when it serves us or our own. That selfish lethe is on display now in the sexual assault allegation scandal surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Though I find her story credible, I don't know definitively whether Kavanaugh tried to rape Christine Blasey Ford when they were both teenagers at a house party in the 1980s, and I have no intention of trying to settle that perhaps insoluble debate. (Kavanaugh categorically denies the allegations.) My interest here is in Kavanaugh's defenders, particularly in the way many conservatives and Christians — I count myself among the latter, though no longer the former — have sought to preserve his path to our country's highest court. Some have simply argued that Ford's story is false or misremembered. Others have taken a fallback position in which two claims have dominated. Kavanaugh didn't do it, they say, but if he'd done it, this sexual assault would not be disqualifying because, one, it happened many years ago and, two, teenage boys are universally terrible creatures possessed of unformed brains and malformed morals.

9-19-18 Salzburg summit: Austria leads EU's anti-migrant drive
In the small Austrian border town of Spielfeld there are still vivid reminders of the 2015 European migrant crisis, when tens of thousands of people crossed on foot from Slovenia. Metal barriers and huge tents were erected at the border, where refugees and migrants were sheltered and fed while their asylum claims were processed. The Austrian government that has come to power in the wake of the crisis has made migration a priority of its European Union presidency. This week, along with Brexit, migration is set to dominate the informal summit of European Union leaders that starts in Salzburg on Wednesday evening. As political tensions on migrants run high in the EU, Austria has emerged as one of the hard-line voices. The tents of Spielfeld lie empty today, and deserted containers are still equipped with computers and finger-printing machines. They were last used on 6 March 2016, just after the Balkan route for refugees was closed, says Leo Josefus of Austrian police. The border management camp is still here "just in case", he says. "We need about 24 hours to get it working if the refugees come, but nobody knows." Some 90,000 people applied for asylum in Austria in 2015, about 1% of the country's population. But while the number of asylum seekers has now dropped dramatically, migration remains key for an Austrian coalition made up of conservatives and the far right. Taking a tough line on migration has helped conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as much as his Freedom Party partners at the ballot box. Mr Kurz has been at the forefront of calls to shift the focus, from relocating asylum seekers inside the EU to defending Europe's outer borders.(Webmaster's comment: The global rise in the call to help no one! Just let them die!)

9-19-18 China’s uniform approach for students is a bad fit for other countries
A disciplined schedule may benefit some students, but there’s more to success at school and in later life than turning up on time, says Michael Brooks. Get ready for the next trend in education theory. A new paper examining the habits of students at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China suggests that “orderliness predicts academic performance”. The study uses activity logged on student access cards to show that keeping a regular schedule (indicated by showering and eating at the same time every day) correlated with higher grades. Diligence, as measured by the amount of time spent in teaching buildings and the library, showed a similar positive correlation. For all the headlines – and even policies – that this finding is likely to generate, it pays to be orderly and diligent in our own analysis. The first and most obvious flaw is to believe that good grades are harbingers of success. The UK government has been particularly gullible in this, seduced time and again by the lure of high rankings in international tests such as PISA and TIMSS that measure academic achievement among school students. Certain Asian countries – China, Singapore and South Korea, for example – do very well here, outperforming most Western nations. Hence the steady flow of teachers and education experts going from West to East in search of insights, and East to West to offer advice. Yet research shows that achieving stellar grades is no guarantee of success in life, of creativity or of future economic achievement. The UK, for instance, may not produce students that rank highly in the PISA hierarchy, but it does consistently turn out people who are world class in technological hardware, software, the film industry, music and the arts.

9-19-18 Arrests in Georgia church for selling edible marijuana
Two women have been arrested after they were caught selling sweets and cakes containing marijuana in a church in the US state of Georgia. The marijuana edibles Ebony Cooper and Leah Pressley were offering included cereal treats, brownies and puddings, police say. The arrests occurred at an event the church, in the city of Savannah, was holding for local entrepreneurs. The pair were detained after the event and face felony drugs charges. In a Facebook post, the local counter-narcotics team in Savannah said they uncovered the women openly selling the marijuana/tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) edibles on social media sites and decided to approach them at the event. Police say Ms Cooper was displaying the drugs on a table at the event, although the church was unaware of the illegal activities. Marijuana laws in the US vary from state to state, with nine states and Washington DC having legalised the drug, but it is illegal in Georgia.

9-19-18 A mind-reading headset lets people fly drones using their thoughts
A group of people learnt how to pilot drones with their thoughts, using a headset that converts brain waves into flying instructions. I think, therefore I fly. Headsets that read brain waves are being used to fly drones, letting us control machines with just our thoughts. A team from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore trained 14 people to control a multirotor drone using commercially available EEG headsets, devices that use small electrodes to test the electrical activity in your brain. There have been other attempts to control multirotor drones using thought, but Subbaram Omkar, who led the research, believes the new system is accurate enough to control fixed wing drones – something which hasn’t been done before. Such aircrafts require more control because they move through the air continuously, whereas multicoptor drones can hover, whilst awaiting a command. Omkar says other systems that translate brain activity into drone motion cannot perform quickly enough to control a high-speed vehicle. To pilot the drones, people were asked to imagine four physical movements without moving any actual body parts: moving their left or right hand, and moving their left or right fingers and elbow. This thought process activates the sensory-motor cortex, even if no actual body parts are moved. An algorithm read the pilot’s brain waves at 90 hertz – corresponding to gamma waves, which are thought to be associated with perception – and when a thought pattern was clear enough used it to steer the drone.

9-18-18 Church protests halt Georgia cannabis law
Georgia's government has halted moves to legalise medical marijuana cultivation after protests led by the country's powerful Orthodox church. civil.ge news site reports. "False information is being spread, so we need to pay particular attention to informing the public, and then take the decision together," he said, adding that opponents of the cannabis bill had "misled" Georgians into thinking it meant all drug restrictions would simply be dropped. The interior ministry confirmed earlier this month that it wanted to approve the cultivation of medical cannabis strictly for export, emphasising that the sale of marijuana in Georgia itself "will remain a criminal offence", IPN news agency reported. The row over the seemingly-innocuous bill blew up in the wake of a dramatic summer of protests over police drug raids that activists said targeted gay-friendly night clubs in the capital Tbilisi. The libertarian New Political Centre Girchi party launched a legal challenge to the drugs laws on the back of the protests, and the Constitutional Court effectively decriminalised cannabis for personal use. The government denied any anti-LGBT agenda, but for the Church and its allies the whole question of drugs is tied up with their opposition to gay rights. Fr Andria Jaghmaidze, who often puts the Church point of view across to the media, told the BBC that "LGBT propaganda promotes a drastically liberalised drugs policy that contradicts Church teachings". The news about the cannabis cultivation bill prompted expressions of concern by senior bishops, culminating in a forthright sermon on Sunday by Patriarch Ilia II, the head of the Orthodox Church.

9-18-18 Kavanaugh and accuser to testify in Senate
The Senate has scheduled a public hearing on a sex assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for next week. Judge Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says he attacked her more than three decades ago, will both be able to testify. US President Donald Trump said earlier he expected "a little delay" to confirming his nominee. Judge Kavanaugh, 53, says the allegation is "completely false". He denies he was even at the 1982 high school party in question where his accuser, now a psychology professor in California, says he tried to rape her as his friend watched. The claim has jeopardised Judge Kavanaugh's formerly all-but certain-nomination for a lifetime job on the Supreme Court. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley confirmed next Monday's hearing in a statement. "As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr Ford has done deserves to be heard," said the Iowa Republican. Mr Grassley had earlier stopped short of calling for a public hearing, or for delaying the committee's vote on the nominee. The judge last week finished four days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a vote on his confirmation had been planned for Thursday of this week. But Democrats demanded a delay in the vote in order to let the FBI investigate. Mr Grassley said the standard procedure would be for committee members to conduct telephone calls with both witnesses about their forthcoming testimony. But in a statement, the panel's Democrats refused to join in any phone call with Judge Kavanaugh.

9-18-18 US slashes number of refugees to 30,000
The US says it will cap the number of refugees allowed into the country next year at a near record low of 30,000. It compares with a 45,000-refugee limit set by President Donald Trump for 2018 and 50,000 the year before. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced "the new refugee ceiling", adding the US would also process more than 280,000 asylum seekers in 2019. The refugee cap is the lowest since the aftermath of 9/11, when 27,131 refugees were allowed into the US in 2002. Over the past decade, the number of refugees admitted to the US has fluctuated from a low of 48,282 in 2007 to a high of 84,995 in 2016. The US refugee programme was set up in 1980. According to the New York Times, Monday's announcement represents the lowest ceiling any president has imposed on the programme since its creation. The Trump administration has pursued tight restrictions on immigration and critics have accused it of scaling back protection for the world's most vulnerable people. Eric Schwartz, president of the independent organisation Refugees International, called the new cap "appalling". In a statement published on the body's website, Mr Schwartz said the decision continues the Trump administration's "rapid flight from the proud US tradition of providing resettlement to those fleeing persecution around the world". (Webmaster's comment: So much for the words on our Statue of Liberty!)

9-18-18 Why wouldn’t you want to live forever? New Scientist editors debate
More than half of UK adults would turn down an offer of immortality. Emily Wilson doesn’t understand why – but Richard Webb certainly does. Only around 1 in 5 adults are keen to live forever, according to the 2018 New Scientist Asks the Public survey. In the survey, carried out in August by Sapio Research on a representative sample of 2026 UK adults, 21 per cent of people said they would be very likely to accept an offer of immortality. A further 30 per cent said they would be somewhat likely to take up such an offer, but around half of people appear to be reconciled to their own demise. New Scientist Editor Emily Wilson can’t understand why – but Features Editor Richard Webb sees their point. First off, I realise that if it was only me who got to live forever, the sadness of losing everyone I ever loved in a horribly short space of time, relative to my everlasting life, would be unbearably sad. That would make it a “no” from me, as would living forever in pain or perhaps even mild discomfort. But should the gift of eternal life become universally available, and good health was guaranteed, and the drastic environmental impact of legions of immortal humans living alongside generations of their descendants was also somehow magically done away with, then I would be a Yes. There are so many lives I would have liked to live, and would still like to if I had the chance. There are so many places I’d like to settle down, careers I’d like to have, hobbies I’d like to take up, people I would like to meet.

9-18-18 Only one in five UK adults would choose to live forever if they could
New Scientist Asks the Public has revealed that only 21 per cent of people would be keen to become immortal, should it ever become scientifically possible. Who wants to live forever? Only around 1 in 5 people, according to the 2018 New Scientist Asks the Public survey. In the survey, carried out in August by Sapio Research on a representative sample of 2026 UK adults, 21 per cent of people said they would be very likely to accept an offer of immortality. A further 30 per cent said they would be somewhat likely to take up such an offer, but around half of people appear to be reconciled to their own demise. The question posed in the survey was “if you were offered the chance to live forever, how likely are you to take it?”. While this is a hypothetical question, some gerontologists believe that radical life extension – if not actual immortality – may be available to people who are alive today. Even people who are already old may soon benefit from a range of interventions, from drugs to manipulation of their gut microbiota, that can extend their lifespan or at least improve their health in old age, according to a major review published this month in Nature. However, the survey found that more people are worried about radical life extension than are optimistic about it. The main concerns people have are overpopulation and a “nursing home world” full of geriatrics. Of those who expressed concern about radical life extension, 44 per cent agreed with the statement “I think we should just accept our natural lifespan”.

9-18-18 South Africa's highest court legalises cannabis use
South Africa's highest court has legalised the use of cannabis by adults in private places. Pro-marijuana activists cheered in the public gallery and chanted "Weed are free now" when the Constitutional Court gave its landmark ruling. In a unanimous ruling, judges also legalised the growing of marijuana for private consumption. South Africa's government's had opposed its legalisation, arguing the drug was "harmful" to people's health. It has not yet commented on the ruling, which is binding. Three cannabis users who had faced prosecution for using the drug brought the case, saying the ban "intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres". In his judgement, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: "It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption." It will, however, remain illegal to use cannabis in public, and to sell and supply it. The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa welcomed the ruling, and called on the government to drop charges against people found in possession of the drug.

9-17-18 Here’s how many U.S. kids are vaping marijuana
Nearly 1 in 11 middle and high school students have used pot in e-cigs, researchers say. More than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students — or nearly 1 in 11 — have vaped marijuana, a new study suggests. Based on reports of teens’ e-cigarette use in 2016, researchers estimate that nearly 1 in 3 high school students, or roughly 1.7 million, have used pot in the devices. Nearly 1 in 4 middle school students, or 425,000, have done the same, the team reports online September 17 in JAMA Pediatrics. The numbers are the first nationwide estimates of teens’ and preteens’ use of marijuana in e-cigs, based on data from 20,675 sixth- to 12th-graders who participated in the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The most widely used tobacco products among U.S. youth, e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat and vaporize liquids that usually contain nicotine (SN: 5/28/16, p. 4). But the devices can also vaporize dried marijuana leaves or buds as well as oils or waxes made from the plant’s primary active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The number of youth using marijuana in e-cigarettes isn’t surprising, says Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a developmental psychologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. “It’s easy; it’s accessible; they can be stealthy in using it.” Vaping marijuana can be done more discretely than smoking a joint because there isn’t as much of the telltale odor, if any. And legalization of marijuana in some states has led to increased access to the drug, she says, and a change in social norms regarding the drug’s use.

9-17-18 One in 11 US teens have vaped cannabis, new study finds
One in 11 US teenagers has used a vapouriser to consume cannabis, according to a new study which calls it an emerging and dangerous trend. The findings of the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey of more than 20,000 middle and high school pupils found that about 9% had vaped cannabis. Applied across the US, that would mean two million young people have used a vapouriser to get high off the drug. Officials say vapouriser companies need to do more to prevent public harm. The report - which was published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) Paediatrics edition - suggests that more and more children are using the electronic device to inhale marijuana vapour. "The use of marijuana in these products is of particular concern because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education," Katrina Trivers, epidemiologist and lead author of the study, told tech website The Verge. According to the study, 12.4% of high school students and 4.5% of middle school students, said they had vaped cannabis.

9-17-18 Coca-Cola 'in talks' over cannabis-infused drinks
Coca-Cola is best known for its eponymous caffeine-based drink, but the firm now appears to be experimenting with a different drug: cannabis. According to Canada's BNN Bloomberg, the drinks giant is in talks with local producer Aurora Cannabis about developing marijuana-infused beverages. These would not aim to intoxicate consumers but to relieve pain. "Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive cannabidiol as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world," Coca-Cola said in a statement. Cannabidiol, a constituent of cannabis, can help ease inflammation, pain and cramping, but has no psychoactive effect. It comes as Canada prepares to follow certain US states in legalising cannabis for recreational use, after years of permitting it for medicinal purposes. It has given rise to a large pot growing industry and some high-profile partnerships. Earlier this year, beer giant Molson Coors Brewing said it would make cannabis-infused drinks with Hydropothecary, while Corona-beer maker Constellation Brands invested $4bn more into pot firm Canopy Growth. A partnership between Coke and Aurora would mark the first entry of a major manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks into the market. (Webmaster's comment: We're well on our way to becoming a nation of Pot-Heads!)

9-17-18 Skin genetically engineered to destroy cocaine could prevent addiction
Engineered skin cells inserted beneath the skin of mice help destroy cocaine in the blood before it reaches the brain – and the therapy might work in people too. People with cocaine addiction may soon be invited to test a pioneering new treatment that destroys the cocaine they take before it can hit the reward centres in their brain, using genetically engineered versions of their own skin cells. Currently, there are no approved treatments for cocaine addiction and many who do successfully kick the habit will ultimately relapse. Approximately 5000 Americans die each year from cocaine overdoses. The new therapy might help tackle the problem. Skin cells would be taken from recipients and equipped in the lab with an extra gene that constantly makes human butyrylcholinesterase (hBChE), an enzyme that rapidly destroys cocaine in the bloodstream. Then the cells would be multiplied into a clump called an organoid that doctors would implant permanently under the recipient’s skin. Ming Xu at the University of Chicago in Illinois and his colleagues have trialled the therapy in mice. Xu’s team’s results show that the prototype strategy worked exactly as hoped. Within 20 minutes, six mice with an active implant had practically eliminated a standard dose of cocaine injected into their tummies, a job that took six control mice almost 2 hours. And unlike the control mice, the treated mice didn’t get a “pleasure hit” in the brain from the neurotransmitter, dopamine.

9-17-18 Brett Kavanaugh: Republican senators call for vote delay
A number of Republicans have said the vote on US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, should be paused while allegations of sexual assault are properly heard. It comes after Christine Blasey Ford accused Mr Kavanaugh of attacking her in the early 1980s. Mr Kavanaugh denies the allegation, which emerged days before the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on the post. Prof Ford is willing to testify before the committee, her lawyer has said. And White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Prof Ford should "not be insulted or ignored" and should testify under oath, although that would be up to the committee to decide. The Supreme Court is often the final word on highly contentious laws and its nine judges have an immense impact on US political life. If chosen for the lifetime appointment, Mr Kavanaugh would be expected to tilt the court's balance to the right. (Webmaster's comment: Their will be more accusations. A sexual predator cannot change its spots!)

9-17-18 Trump needs to keep his filthy mitts off Venezuela
The president is once again pondering a Venezuela invasion. Holy smokes. Poor Venezuela. The country has been suffering the worst economic crisis in its history for the last several years. Mass unemployment and hyperinflation are laying waste to the population. Adults, children, and beloved family pets are going hungry or even starving to death. Some 1.6 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015. Crime has exploded, with the murder rate soaring to 90 per 100,000. And there is no end in sight. This has led to various calls from "The Blob" — an Obama White House official's name for the bomb-happy foreign policy establishment — for military intervention. Marco Rubio suggested this in early September, while the Trump administration reportedly met with right-wing Venezuelan military officers to discuss a potential coup d'etat, after bringing up a "military option" last year. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, endorsed an Iraq invasion-style "coalition of the willing" to overthrow the government. These are monstrous suggestions. The United States cannot possibly do anything but make it all worse. Above all, any military led by President Trump must be kept as far away from Venezuela as possible. So what is going on in Venezuela? The crisis is extremely complicated, but observers generally argue it is rooted in two major developments: epic corruption and authoritarianism within the government, and the post-2014 collapse in the price of oil. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, and has long been heavily dependent on oil export earnings for basic economic stability. (Webmaster's comment: America just wants any excuse to steal their oil. The cost in human lives is irreverent if it makes our rich even richer.)

9-17-18 Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel backs same-sex marriage
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has backed same-sex marriage. The Cuban leader, who took over from Raúl Castro on 19 April, said he was in favour of recognising "marriage between people without any restrictions". In an interview with TV Telesur, he said doing so was "part of eliminating any type of discrimination in society". It comes as Cuba is in the process of updating its constitution, which had defined marriage as between "a man and a woman". The proposed constitution will replace the 1976 national charter once a popular consultation is concluded and the draft has been approved in a national referendum scheduled for February 2019. President Díaz-Canel's endorsement of same-sex marriage is in stark contrast to the persecution homosexuals suffered in the decades following the 1959 Cuban revolution. Official attitudes towards homosexuality on the Communist-run island have changed over the past decades partly thanks to the efforts of Raúl Castro's daughter Mariela. Ms Castro, who heads the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education, has been a vocal defender of LGBT rights. "We've been going through a massive thought evolution and many taboos have been broken," Mr Díaz-Canel told Telesur.

9-16-18 Serbia Pride: Gay PM Brnabic 'not wanted' at parade
It's the only Balkan country to have an openly gay prime minister - so why are some of Serbia's LGBT activists determined to keep PM Ana Brnabic away from Gay Pride? When Ms Brnabic was appointed last year, hopes were high in the LGBT community: not only was she the first woman to head the Serbian cabinet, she was also the first LGBT politician to hold such high office in the Balkans. She marched in the 2017 Pride parade in Belgrade, surrounded by posters reading "Ana is here," and took selfies with dozens of people. But one year on, progress is scant: LGBT rights have not improved, new laws are still far from being adopted and there has been no fall in the number of attacks on gay people. In largely conservative Orthodox Christian Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, discrimination and violence against the LGBT community are widespread. Ahead of 2018 Pride, a group of activists disappointed with the slow pace of reforms launched a campaign called "Say no". Its main goal is to prevent politicians from attending Pride marches, as campaigners believe they have done little to strengthen LGBT rights. Ms Brnabic is the main focus of their campaign, because her "work on strengthening LGBT rights has been disappointing," said a statement from the organisation behind the campaign, GLIC. Speaking at the 2017 parade, Ms Brnabic said that LGBT rights would be addressed only after important problems such as inflation, pensions and the standard of living had been resolved. "It was a scandalous statement," Predrag Azdejkovic, the head of GLIC, told the BBC. Unhappy with the efforts of other gay activists, Mr Azdejkovic started another parade in June. Its goal is to "bring the gay march back to ordinary people and away from politicians". "They say: 'You have a gay prime minister, two parades, you should be content'. But it's all just made up," said Mr Azdejkovic.

9-15-18 US Coast Guard employee removed for 'white power sign' on air
The US Coast Guard has removed a team member from duty after he was accused of making a "white power" sign on air. The unidentified employee was seen glancing at the camera during an MSNBC interview on Friday night before briefly making the hand gesture. He was at a desk in the background as the cable channel spoke to Coast Guard Commanding Officer Capt John Reed in Charleston, South Carolina. The agency responded swiftly to the ensuing social media backlash. The incident occurred as MSNBC covered the emergency response to deadly tropical storm Florence, which is drenching the Carolinas. "Whatever that symbol means, it doesn't reflect the Coast Guard and our core values," Coast Guard Lt JB Zorn told NBC News. "It won't be tolerated." The Coast Guard tweeted that it was aware of the "offensive video" and was investigating the matter. In a statement, the agency said it was a "frustrating distraction". A number of Twitter commentators were in no doubt about the nature of the momentary hand gesture. One user, @jgobble, tweeted: "Did you all see this guy flash White Power on TV? OUR OWN COAST GUARD!!! This needs to be investigated and this man needs to be ousted/removed/discharged!"

9-15-18 Puerto Rico hurricane: How was the 3,000 death toll worked out?
United States President Donald Trump has disputed official findings that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of last year's hurricane. He added that the death toll had been inflated by adding people who died of other causes. "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list," he tweeted. So is he correct to say this figure is wrong? Nearly every study and report into the hurricane estimates a significantly higher toll than the early official estimates mentioned by the president. The number of nearly 3,000 was released last month after an independent study by the George Washington University (GWU) in July, which was commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico. It found that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. Since the hurricane struck in September last year, several investigations by academics and journalists suggested the death toll was much higher than the official count, which for months stayed at 64. (Webmaster's comment: Our white supremacist govenment saw no reason to help non-white citizens! And Trump supported this.)

9-15-18 Can science answer the 'big' questions of the universe?
Why science is the best route to understanding ... well, everything. ience has proved itself to be a reliable way to approach all kinds of questions about the physical world. As a scientist, I am led to wonder whether its ability to provide understanding is unlimited. Can it in fact answer all the great questions, the "big questions of being," that occur to us? To begin with, what are these big questions? In my view, they fall into two classes. One class consists of invented questions that are often based on unwarranted extrapolations of human experience. They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self, such as Why are we here? and What are the attributes of the soul? They are not real questions, because they are not based on evidence. Thus, as there is no evidence for the universe having a purpose, there is no point in trying to establish its purpose or to explore the consequences of that purported purpose. As there is no evidence for the existence of a soul (except in a metaphorical sense), there is no point in spending time wondering what the properties of that soul might be, should the concept ever be substantiated. Most questions of this class are a waste of time in terms of science; and because they are not open to rational discourse, at worst they are resolved only by resort to the sword, the bomb, or the flame. The second class of big questions concerns features of the universe for which there is evidence other than wish-fulfilling speculation and the stimulation provided by the study of sacred texts. They include investigations into the origin of the universe, and specifically how it is that there is something rather than nothing, the details of the structure of the universe (particularly the relative strengths of the fundamental forces and the existence of the fundamental particles), and the nature of consciousness. These are all real big questions and, in my view, are open to scientific elucidation.

9-14-18 Obama: No longer on the sidelines
“No one does the cool burn quite so deftly as Barack Obama,” said Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post. Breaking with the norm of ex-presidents not criticizing their successors, Obama branded President Donald Trump “a threat to democracy” in a speech last week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is not normal,” Obama said of the chaotic Trump presidency, calling the current president “a symptom, not the cause” of the GOP’s embrace of “the politics of division, of resentment and paranoia.” Obama may have wanted to “remain above the fray,” said Robin Abcarian in LATimes.com, but the stakes have grown far too high. Trump’s presidency has been defined by the dismantling of Obama’s “legacy piece by piece, and making racists feel safe again.” It’s about time the 44th president re-emerged to call Trump what he is—a shameless fearmonger, a bully, and a demagogue.

9-14-18 The strategy behind voter ID laws
When Korean War veteran Floyd Carrier, 86, tried to vote in Texas several years ago, he handed his Department of Veteran Affairs card to the registrar—and was turned away, said Carol Anderson. He’d used that ID for more than 50 years, but Texas had passed a law that required voters to show a state-approved ID with photo, and he didn’t have one. “I wasn’t a citizen no more,” Carrier said. Denying people like Carrier the right to vote “has been a central electoral strategy for Republicans,” as they use voter ID laws to screen out blacks, Hispanics, the poor, and the young. Multiple studies have proven that “there is no epidemic of illegal voting,” and that, in fact, it is vanishingly rare. But Republicans fear that the country’s changing demographics will doom them. So they have created a concerted strategy to “block people of color from the ballot box.” In 2000, strenuous Republican efforts to purge voter rolls of blacks and interfere with the Florida recount led to George W. Bush’s victory by 537 votes. That victory taught Republicans to “lie without shame” about voter fraud, and to relentlessly pursue purges and laws designed to turn certain citizens into nonentities.

9-14-18 Kavanaugh: Did he pass the Senate’s test?
“If I didn’t know this whole thing was a monumental bag job, I’d think Brett Kavanaugh was in a lot of trouble,” said Charles Pierce in Esquire.com. President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee had to white-knuckle it through an ugly confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, as Democrats unveiled a trove of damning documents from his time as a lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House. While Kavanaugh promised to respect precedent on abortion, calling Roe v. Wade “settled law,” a 2003 memo he wrote suggests he thinks otherwise: “[The] Court can always overrule its precedent,” Kavanaugh said of Roe back then. He also contradicted his testimony from his first judicial confirmation hearing, in 2006, when he flatly denied receiving Judiciary Committee documents stolen from Senate Democrats by Republicans. Confronted with emails showing that he did in fact receive stolen material, with one email labeled “spying,” Kavanaugh admitted receiving the documents but claimed he didn’t know they were stolen. When Sen. Kamala Harris asked if he’d discussed the Mueller investigation with a lawyer working for President Trump’s personal attorney, Kavanaugh floundered and stalled, finally saying he’d had no “inappropriate” conversations about Mueller. At best, Kavanaugh was exposed as a highly partisan Republican operative. At worst, he is guilty of perjury. Republicans will vote for him no matter what, but he has no business being on the Supreme Court.

9-14-18 Brett Kavanaugh denies sexual misconduct in high school
US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied an allegation of sexual misconduct during his high-school days. Reports say an unidentified woman claimed in a letter to Democrats that Mr Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her at a party in the early 1980s. Senate Democrats on Thursday disclosed that they had referred a complaint to federal investigators. The judge faces a confirmation vote to join the Supreme Court next week. In a statement on Friday, the appeals court judge said: "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time." The alleged incident took place when Mr Kavanaugh was a minor and student at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Maryland. The woman - who asked not to be identified - was also a minor and a student at a nearby high school. Her letter alleges the now judge held her down and covered her mouth with his hand. They were in a room with a classmate of Mr Kavanaugh's, and both boys had been drinking, before turning up the music to muffle her sound of protests, she alleges. The woman was able to free herself, the New Yorker said. Although the alleged incident was decades ago, the woman said the memory had caused ongoing distress and she had sought psychological treatment. (Webmaster's comment: Republicans don't care about this. Sexual assault is a job perk to them!)

9-14-18 “Ride it out, baby. Play dead.”
“Ride it out, baby. Play dead.” That’s the counsel Fortune’s humor columnist, writing under the pen name Stanley Bing, once gave to executives asked for a public apology. Just wait. “The hungry badgers” sniffing around would soon find somewhere else to go. The advice was presented in jest, but there was a serious undercurrent. In his day job, Bing (real name: Gil Schwartz) was the longtime public relations chief for Les Moonves, head of the CBS television network. For years, the advice worked. Now, obviously, it doesn’t. This week Moonves resigned in disgrace, pursued by new allegations of brutal sexual assaults, harassment, and retaliation. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that he tried to hold on through the first round of charges, in July. What was it that he thought he had to gain? There he stood, like a punch-drunk boxer swaying on his heels and telling his foes to come at him just one more time. Until recently, Masters of the Universe never had to say they were sorry. As anyone who’s been in a schoolyard knows, most people defer to and even admire bullies. The key, titans like Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes instinctively knew, is to maintain the illusion that you are invincible. No one will dare to check if you really are. And even if they do, you can rely on the belief that you’re just Too Big to Fail. But as the dominoes continue to fall, U.S. companies are discovering that morally reprehensible executives, TV anchors, and other big stars are not indispensable. When they leave, replacements will step in, the gears will continue to turn, and the business will survive. All the thousands of people who’ve kept it going will keep doing their jobs. In fact, they’ll do them better, because they won’t have to worry about being sexually harassed, demoted, pushed out, or bullied by the boss.

9-14-18 No more food for you
Almost 2 million low-income Americans could lose food stamp benefits under a new House bill that would allow states to remove 8 percent of recipients from the rolls. Forty-two million Americans currently receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

9-14-18 Police officer charged
A police officer was charged with manslaughter this week after she fatally shot a man in his own apartment, sparking citywide protests. The officer, Amber Guyger, 30, was off duty when she returned to her apartment complex at 10 p.m. She claims to have mistaken 26-year-old Botham Jean’s unit for her own. Guyger says the front door was ajar, leading her to believe Jean was a burglar. Guyger told investigators that when Jean ignored her commands she shot him in the chest, only realizing she was in the wrong apartment after turning on the lights. Jean’s family lawyer cites witnesses who, before the gunshots, “heard the officer knocking at the door and repeatedly saying, ‘Let me in.’” Prosecutors said Guyger could still face stiffer charges. This deadly encounter between a white officer and a black man fueled tension in a county where just last month a white officer was convicted of murdering Jordan Edwards, a black teenager.

9-14-18 Why there are no grocery stores
A Cincinnati police officer has been placed on restricted duty after using his Taser on an 11-year-old girl. The child, who is black, had allegedly shoplifted $53 worth of merchandise from a grocery store, and bodycam footage shows Officer Kevin Brown, who is white, telling her after Tasing and handcuffing her, “This is why there aren’t any grocery stores in the black community.”

9-14-18 U.S. plotted coup
Trump administration officials held secret talks last year with dissident Venezuelan military officials seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. U.S. officials and a former Venezuelan commander told The New York Times that the rebels met multiple times with U.S. officials before the administration decided against helping the plotters, who abandoned their plan. One dissident officer said the rebels were encouraged to reach out to the U.S. after President Trump announced, in August 2017, that the U.S. had a “military option” for Venezuela. Maduro condemned the plots as “American imperialism” but added that he had survived multiple coup attempts, proving he was “invincible, invulnerable.” More than 2 million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years as its economy collapsed.

9-14-18 The decline of the coal industry
President Trump has promised to revive coal’s flagging fortunes. Is it possible?

  1. How big is the coal industry? Coal represents just a sliver of the American economy. At its peak, in 1923, coal employed 883,000 workers. Today, about 53,000 people work in coal mining—less than the number of people who work at nail salons, bowling alleys, or Arby’s.
  2. Is that solely because of environmental reasons? There are economic reasons, too. Demand for coal has plummeted over the past decade amid a flood of cheap natural gas from the U.S. fracking boom and advances in wind and solar energy.
  3. What has Trump done? True to his word, President Trump has tried to use federal power to revive the coal industry. Many of the White House’s actions closely mirror a policy wish list submitted early in the administration by coal tycoon Robert Murray, who contributed $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration.
  4. Are coal jobs coming back now? Not really. Only about 1,300 new coal jobs have been created during Trump’s presidency so far, and Trump’s efforts haven’t reversed the long-term problems facing the industry.
  5. Why the obsession with coal? The electoral map. For most of the 20th century, the Democrats’ alignment with labor unions such as the United Mine Workers helped them reliably win in the coal country of Appalachia.
  6. Can coal jobs be replaced? There are efforts underway to retrain coal workers for jobs in renewable energy or other industries. More than 260,000 Americans already work in the solar power industry, which has nearly tripled in size since 2010.
  7. What do coal miners make? Coal has a reputation for generating well-paid jobs that don’t require a college education. The average coal miner under a United Mine Workers of America contract makes at least $61,650 a year—usually closer to $85,000 a year with overtime

9-14-18 A crisis of law and order
Our orderly nation is breaking down, said Alessandro Peduto. Thousands of far-right supporters descended on the city of Chemnitz in the eastern region of Saxony last month to protest the murder of a German man who was allegedly stabbed by two migrants, one from Iraq and one from Syria. Neo-Nazis marched, raising their arms in Hitler salutes; mobs chased and attacked people who didn’t look German. It used to be that following such an appalling scene, Germans would blame Saxony—formerly part of communist East Germany—calling its residents backward and racist. Not this time, though. The country as a whole is suffering a “loss of confidence in the state.” The Iraqi suspect in the killing had his asylum request denied in 2016, yet had still not been deported—that lapse shows that “those responsible for migrants are badly overstretched.” The late and inadequate police response to the riots calls into question “the state’s monopoly on violence.” And the far right was much better organized than anyone had anticipated. Sure, this time it was Chemnitz, but other Germans now “recognize that it could happen in their city too.” Germans can no longer trust that their government will protect them, either from violent migrants or from neo-Nazi thugs. Can we still avert irreparable “harm to our democracy”?

9-14-18 How we talk about race. Or don’t.
President Trump’s racially charged rhetoric has changed how neighbors see one another, said journalist Greg Jaffe. In one South Carolina suburb, a swimming pool confrontation left an integrated community badly divided. Before he heard from neighbors about the confrontation at his subdivision swimming pool, Jovan Hyman saw a shaky video of it on his phone, where it was quickly going viral. He clicked the link, which opened on turquoise water and a white woman walking quickly toward three black teenage boys, one of whom is filming her with his cellphone. “Get out!” the woman yells, slapping at the phone in the teen’s hand. “Get out now!” As the three boys head for the pool exit, the woman follows and takes another swing at the boy and his phone. Hyman called his wife, Tameka, over and played it for her. “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me this was NOT where I think it is,” she typed in a Facebook post that linked to the video. At that point, the video, shot in late June, had only been online for about 10 hours. “In my neighborhood!” her husband added on Facebook a few minutes later. “This is totally uncalled for and downright embarrassing!” The video rocketed around the country and the world—one of more than a dozen online clips from the summer that captured whites accusing blacks, often improperly, of trespassing, loitering, and in one instance involving an 8-year-old black girl, selling bottled water without a permit. At least six of the videos took place at neighborhood swimming pools in places such as Indianapolis; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Pasadena, Calif.; and the community pool in Summerville, S.C., just a few hundred yards from Jovan and Tameka.

9-14-18 Botham Shem Jean: Police 'trying to smear' shooting victim
Dallas police have been accused of smear tactics after court documents revealed marijuana was found in a man's flat where he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer. Lawyers for 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean said police were trying to "criminalise the victim". Officer Amber Guyger, who shot him, says she mistook his apartment for her own and thought he was an intruder. She has been charged with manslaughter and has been released on bail. A search was conducted at Mr Jean's apartment after the deadly shooting. Court documents released on Thursday showed that police had found a small amount of marijuana at the property, along with other items such as a lunch box and laptop. Lawyer Lee Merritt, who represents the family of Botham Jean, said this showed investigators were trying to discredit the victim. "They immediately began looking to smear him," he said. Civil rights groups and activists have been outraged by the news. Many were also angered by a tweet from a local affiliate of the conservative-leaning Fox News. Several asked why the discovery of drugs was relevant to the case. Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, cited the notorious case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was murdered after a white woman accused him of making lewd remarks and touching her. (Webmaster's comment: We must blame the victim and protect our police when they murder a black person!)

9-14-18 Social media: Alex Jones wears out his last welcome
Twitter has finally put a limit on hate mongering, said Taylor Lorenz in The Atlantic. Last week the platform banned Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist best known for claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax staged by the government and gun-control activists. The ejection comes after years of “inaction and half-measures”—and, not coincidentally, one day after congressional hearings attended by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. His company has banned some controversial figures, including former Trump adviser Roger Stone, and has sanctioned Jones before. But it has long considered itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” and resisted calls for a comprehensive ban on Jones and his digital network, Infowars—until now. Apple, the other outlier among tech companies, has joined Twitter and pulled Jones’ Infowars app from its store.

9-14-18 STDs on the rise, again
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the U.S. in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. A record high of 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed last year—some 200,000 more than in 2016, itself a record-breaking year. Scientists say there is no single reason for the years-long uptick, reports The New York Times. Possible factors include the proliferation of dating apps, the opioid epidemic, and reduced funding for public sexual health clinics. “Most people with these STDs do not know they are infected,” says Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s division of sexually transmitted disease prevention. “They don’t realize that these diseases are spreading silently through the country.” The CDC warns that chlamydia and gonorrhea—which is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics—can lurk in the body without symptoms and lead to serious health issues if left untreated. The agency recommends that all women under 25, as well as men who have sex with men, undergo annual screenings for both diseases.

9-14-18 Another immigration backlash
“You’d think the lesson would sink in by now,” said John Fund. Political elites in both Europe and the U.S. continue to dismiss “deplorables” who object to a massive influx of immigrants, but those voters “are going to have their say.” Sweden is the latest country to pay the price for refusing to “grapple with the legitimate sentiments of working-class voters.” This week’s elections saw the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats (SD) take 18 percent of the vote—enough to deny a governing majority to the traditional left- and right-wing parties. The SD’s base is primarily concerned with “the poor assimilation of migrants to Sweden.” Liberal Sweden, with just 10 million citizens, proudly took in 165,000 asylum seekers in one year. Many of these mostly Muslim immigrants have struggled to find work or adapt to Swedish culture, resulting in insular neighborhoods where crime and gangs are rampant and many newcomers depend wholly on generous welfare programs. By making it “forbidden” to even discuss this, Sweden’s establishment fueled the Sweden Democrats’ rise—the same pattern that led to Brexit and President Trump’s election. When millions of voters believe their leaders “aren’t telling the truth” about sensitive issues, backlashes are inevitable.

9-14-18 Sweden: The far right falls short
Don’t get too worked up over Sweden’s “new political reality,” said Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) in an editorial. Yes, the anti-immigrant, far-right Sweden Democrats took third place in last weekend’s elections, receiving a record 17.6 percent share of the vote. But that was far short of the result expected by many pundits, who predicted the party—which has neo-Nazi roots—would take well over 20 percent and place second. Experts were tricked into overestimating support for the Sweden Democrats by the fact that their voters “scream so loudly.” With its opposition to the European Union and almost all forms of immigration, the party is little more than an adolescent tantrum, “a collective political puberty” that blames foreigners and elites for everything so no one else has to take responsibility for anything. But this far-right pitch failed at the ballot box because the “vast majority of voters are still in the middle.” The governing Social Democrats received 28.4 percent of the vote, the highest share for any individual party, and together with its center-left coalition partners took 40.6 percent. The center-right Moderates came in second with 19.8 percent, and their bloc received 40.3 percent. Sweden and its democracy “are still greater than the Sweden Democrats.”

9-14-18 Legal to be gay, in spite of government
How telling it is that India’s ruling party stayed silent on one of the most vital civil rights issues of our times, said Krishnadas Rajagopal. In a historic decision last week, the Indian Supreme Court overturned Section 377 of the criminal code—a 157-year-old colonial law that banned homosexual acts, making them punishable by up to 10 years in prison. One would have expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to take a stand on the issue—either for or against—but it declined to do so, saying it would leave the decision to “the wisdom of the court.” The court was not pleased with this abdication. Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud wrote that the government was derelict in offering no opinion about a law that “typecasts LGBTQ individuals as sex offenders, categorizing their consensual conduct on par with sexual offenses like rape.” That status had become a public health issue, he wrote, since the stigma associated with being part of a criminal class caused gay Indians to avoid public health providers, compromising the fight against HIV/AIDS. Gay and lesbian Indians are now celebrating: The ruling said their sexual orientation was “intrinsic to their dignity.” Their political leaders, though, still have no comment.

9-14-18 Mass trial:
Mass trial: Egypt has sentenced 75 people to death and another 600 to prison for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in protest that was brutally broken up by security forces. The Cairo protest was organized by supporters of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, after he was toppled by a military coup. At least 817 people were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. Those on trial, though, weren’t the police—who have immunity for any abuses they may have committed—but the survivors, who were accused of crimes ranging from property damage to murder. The verdict, said Amnesty International, was “a grotesque parody of justice.” Among those sentenced to death were Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi; the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, was given a life sentence.

9-14-18 EU vs. Orban
The European Parliament voted this week to punish Hungary for cracking down on democratic institutions, kick-starting a process that could ultimately lead to the country being stripped of its voting rights in the European Union. It is the first time the parliament has launched a disciplinary process against an EU member nation—the leaders of member states will now have to approve any punitive measures. The vote was a sign of the increasing disquiet in the bloc with the policies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who since taking power in 2010 has targeted opposition media outlets, undermined the judiciary’s autonomy, and banned NGOs from aiding migrants. Orban called the threat of censure a form of “blackmail” and an insult to Hungary.

9-14-18 No toking on duty
With the recreational use of marijuana becoming legal across Canada on Oct. 17, the Canadian military has announced tight new weed restrictions for service members. Certain personnel—including pilots, submariners, and flight surgeons—will be completely banned from using marijuana 28 days before reporting for duty. For all other troops, no use is allowed for eight hours before normal duty; for those handling weapons, the restriction is 24 hours. By contrast, soldiers must refrain from drinking alcohol for only six hours before going on duty. Marijuana will not be allowed on military aircraft or ships, or among troops deployed abroad. The new rules, said Chief of Military Personnel Lt. Gen. Chuck Lamarre, “will ensure that our men and women are ready at all times.”

9-14-18 Dalai Lama to meet alleged Dutch abuse victims
The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is to meet victims of alleged sexual abuse in the Netherlands. The group requested the meeting to discuss abuse reportedly carried out by former or current Buddhist teachers in several countries. "We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were violated in its name," they wrote. A spokesperson said the Dalai Lama was "saddened" to hear about the abuse and "constantly condemned" such behaviour. The victims will present their written testimonies during the meeting on Friday. The Dalai Lama is currently on a European tour. The meeting comes a week after Rigpa, an international Buddhist organisation active in the West, apologised for alleged abuse carried out by its founder Sogyal Lakar, also known as Sogyal Rinpoche. Mr Lakar is best known for his 1994 book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which sold over three million copies. Last month, an independent investigation by a lawyer commissioned by Rigpa found that some members of Mr Lakar's "inner circle" were "subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him". The report added that senior members of the organisation had knowledge of some of the issues and "failed to address them, leaving others at risk". Mr Lakar, who stepped down as the head of Rigpa last year, declined to be interviewed for the investigation due to health issues. (Webmaster's comment: Sexaul abuse by spiritual leaders and religious members is worldwide!)


9-13-18 Time for an intervention at the Vatican
"Men and nations behave wisely," Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once observed, "when they have exhausted all other resources." As the Catholic Church nears its 17th year of sexual abuse scandal, its hierarchy appears determined to fully exhaust every option before settling on the proper course of action: full disclosure and accountability. Even a recent step in the right direction raises issues as to whether the church recognizes the seriousness of the moment. On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has called a meeting of presidents from each conference of bishops to discuss new steps to prevent abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. The move bypasses the College of Cardinals, at least in form, and puts the field leadership of the church in direct conference with the pontiff rather than filtered through the Vatican curia. The announcement came out ahead of an urgent audience with the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, as well as other American bishops responding to pressure from their parishioners and the media. At the same time, Cardinal Donald Wuerl — mired in controversy after a Pennsylvania grand jury cited numerous occasions where he failed to act properly when dealing with abusers in the priesthood — will discuss resigning his post at the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., with Pope Francis. On the plus side, this convocation shows that the pontiff recognizes that the abuse scandal involves the entire church, and not just the anglophones. A leaked report from an independent investigation in Germany on the same day as the Vatican's announcement documented over 3,600 victims of sexual abuse over the last 70 years, involving more than 1,600 priests. Many of the records within the church had been "destroyed or manipulated," according to the report, meaning that the totals for both are likely well north of that mark.

9-13-18 Trump disputes Puerto Rico hurricane death toll
US President Donald Trump is disputing that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico after the island was hit by two hurricanes last year. "3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, without offering evidence for the claim. He added that Democrats had inflated the official death toll to "make me look as bad as possible". The official figure was released last month after an independent study. On Thursday, Mr Trump wrote in a pair of tweets that Democrats were attacking him "when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico". The Republican president suggested the hurricane death toll was artificially inflated by adding those who passed away from natural causes such as old age. "Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!" he tweeted. Mr Trump's tweets came as Hurricane Florence - a category two storm projected to bring catastrophic flooding - bears down on the US East Coast. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is using Hitler's lie tactic. Tell a big lie often enough and many people will believe you!)

9-13-18 Chemnitz protests: Hitler salute wolves displayed
In a country where Nazi symbols are illegal, the sight of snarling wolves performing a Hitler salute is unusual. But 10 bronze figures have now gone on display in the eastern German city of Chemnitz to protest against what organisers see as "growing hatred". Tensions have risen in the city in recent weeks after a German man was allegedly killed by two migrants. Far-right protesters reportedly used the Hitler salute and chased migrants and journalists. The organisers of the sculpture The Wolves are Back explain that the installation is based on the fact that both the Nazis and current-day right-wing radicals often describe themselves as "wolves". The wolves were created by artist Rainer Opolka and will be in front of Chemnitz's iconic Karl Marx statue until Thursday evening, together with signs accusing right-wing groups of "exploiting our fears" and describing right-wing radicalism as "the mother of all problems". Some of the figures are ready to attack, while others are blindfolded. The wolf statues were previously displayed outside a court in Munich during the sentencing of Beate Zschäpe, a member of a neo-Nazi gang who was found guilty of 10 racially-motivated murders in July, as well as in Berlin and Dresden. It is not the first anti-racism event in Chemnitz. More than 60,000 attended a free concert in the city last week to protest against the far-right.

9-13-18 Chile Church scandal: 'How I escaped the priest who abused me for decades'
In Chile, more than 100 Catholic clergy are being investigated over alleged sex crimes and attempts to cover them up. It's a scandal that haunts the reign of Pope Francis and has tipped the Chilean church into crisis. But it began decades ago with one man - Father Fernando Karadima, a parish priest in Santiago, who became Chile's most notorious sexual predator. "He offered you the vision of being called by the Lord. He showed you a very wonderful world," remembers Dr James Hamilton, a gastric surgeon now in his 50s. "He always told us he had a special gift - a kind of miracle gift - that he could see in every young person, if they had been called by God. He was almost a kind of saint." Father Fernando Karadima offered the adolescent James Hamilton refuge in the early 1980s. Chile had been under the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet for a decade. And in those troubled years of killings and disappearances, the church community created by this charismatic priest in the upmarket Santiago parish of El Bosque provided welcome reassurance. "For a young person, it was like the bee and the honey - it was sweet in a world of difficulties, when you were struggling with your family," says James Hamilton. His father had left the family home, so here was a teenager who was vulnerable - easy prey for a practised abuser. And, as a young idealist, he believed he had only two choices: "Join the people fighting against Pinochet, mostly through violence. Or, follow the road the Catholic Church showed you - the ways of the saints, of peace and to become the voice of Jesus. I wanted to study medicine, so my way was non-violence."(Webmaster's comment: Religious leader's sexual abuse of children runs rampant in every religion over the whole world!)

9-12-18 Is the rise of populism over or only just beginning?
Ten years after the financial crisis, a leading theory says the political upheavals that followed should now fade away. Is populism's bubble about to burst, asks Simon Oxenham. ON 15 September 2008, investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, precipitating a global financial crash. In the years that followed, politics took an apparently unexpected turn. We saw Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the rise of far-right movements in Europe after decades of steadily increasing social liberalism. Sweden is just the latest example. Many are now wondering if this is the new normal. In 2015, Manuel Funke, then at the Free University of Berlin, and his colleagues turned to data analysis for an answer. They found that over the past 140 years, every major financial crisis has been followed by a surge in support for far-right movements. The good news for liberalism is that this faded after 10 years. If this pattern holds once more, we should be on schedule to see the surge in populism petering out. Funke and his colleagues wrote: “After a crisis, voters seem to be particularly attracted to the political rhetoric of the extreme right, which often attributes blame to minorities or foreigners… Votes for far-right parties increase strongly, government majorities shrink, fractionalization of parliaments rises and the overall number of parties represented in parliament jumps.” Although some political after-effects are measurable for a decade, the political upheaval is mostly temporary, they add. Funke’s work is rooted in data analysis, finding evidence for the apparent link between political trends and financial crises, but not for deeper behavioural reasons behind that link.

9-12-18 US plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes, citing an "epidemic" of use among teens. The proposal, announced on Wednesday, is part of a broader effort to curb teen use of the nicotine devices. FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said: "The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we're seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end." The toughened approach comes after firms ignored prior concerns, he added. "I've been warning the e-cigarette industry for more than a year that they needed to do much more to stem the youth trends," he said. "In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate, and the existential threat to these products. "Well, I'm here to tell them that this prior approach is over." The FDA said it has sent more than 1,100 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to under-age vapers and issued fines to another 131 shops. Five of the biggest e-cigarette manufacturers - JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic - must also report to the agency within 60 days with plans to address the concerns, or face penalties, it said. (Webmaster's comment: Executive jail time would be a great deterrent!)

9-12-18 Trump's claim of success in Puerto Rico hurricane response derided
President Donald Trump has been criticised for hailing the US response to the deadly Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year as "tremendous". The mayor of its capital tweeted: "If he thinks the death of 3,000 people is a success God help us all." Puerto Rico only finished restoring full power last month, 11 months after the hurricane hit. A recent report says 8% left the island after the hurricane and many died due to poor health care and other services. The island's Governor Ricardo Rossello issued a statement on Tuesday night, describing Maria as "the worst natural disaster in our modern history. Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle". Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the US, is home to some 3.3 million people. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a bold-faced Liar! And he lies everyday!)

9-12-18 Georgia school to ask parents to paddle students as punishment
A school in the US state of Georgia is asking parents to consent to allowing their children to be spanked with a wooden paddle as a form of punishment. The Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics sent a letter to parents requesting to paddle students after their third behavioural infraction. Students who are not authorised to be paddled will instead face a suspension. Georgia is among 20 US states that allow corporal punishment - including paddling - in schools. "In this school we take discipline very seriously," Superintendent Jody Boulineau told local media. "There was a time where corporal punishment was kind of the norm in school and you didn't have the problems that you have," he added. "It's just one more tool that we have in our disciplinary toolbox that we can use," he told WRDW-TV. Though it is defined differently in each state, corporal punishment is considered the use of moderate physical force or contact to enforce rules and discipline students. In some US states, using force to the point of bruising is acceptable. The school, located in Hephzibah, roughly 20 miles (32km) south of Augusta, sent a form to parents outlining the new guidelines, saying: "A student will be taken into an office behind closed doors. "The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle." The form also says "no more than three licks should be given". (Webmaster's comment: This is the only language that a bully understands!)

9-12-18 Google, Facebook, Twitter face EU fines over extremist posts
Google, Facebook and Twitter must remove extremist content within an hour or face hefty fines, the European Commission's president has said. In his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker said an hour was a "decisive time window". Net firms had been given three months in March to show they were acting faster to take down radical posts. But EU regulators said too little was being done. If authorities flag content that incites and advocates extremism, the content must be removed from the web within an hour, the proposal from the EU's lead civil servant states. Net firms that fail to comply would face fines of up to 4% of their annual global turnover. The proposal will need backing from the countries that make up the European Union as well as the European Parliament. In response to the plans, Facebook said: "There is no place for terrorism on Facebook, and we share the goal of the European Commission to fight it, and believe that it is only through a common effort across companies, civil society and institutions that results can be achieved. (Webmaster's comment: Google, Facebook, and Twitter think they are protecting free speech by protecting terrorist posts. They are only protecting terrorist posts for the money from the increased ad traffic and because getting rid of them would mean spending a few millions of their billions to hire people to get rid of the posts! The deaths that result from these posts are criminal and Google, Facebook and Twitter executives should charged as accessories to murder!)

9-12-18 The country where Facebook posts whipped up hate
Decades of ethnic and religious tensions, a sudden explosion of internet access, and a company that had trouble identifying and removing the most hateful posts. It all added up to a perfect storm in Myanmar, where the United Nations says Facebook had a "determining role" in whipping up anger against the Rohingya minority. "I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended," Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in March. The company admits failures and has moved to address the problems. But how did Facebook's dream of a more open and connected world go wrong in one south-east Asian country? (Webmaster's comment: Where are the arrests of the Facebook executives who allowed this to happen?)

9-11-18 Trump may never leave the White House
When President Trump responded on Monday to reports about the contents of Bob Woodward's Fear with the suggestion that one day he would write a "real book," I shook my head. Not because it is impossible to imagine him finding a ghostwriter willing to collaborate on The Art of the Deal II: How I Saved Our Tremendous Flag, Our Booming Stock Market, and Our Beautiful Steel From Fake News CNN and Made America Great(est) Again. Rather because the idea of a post-presidential Trump has become unthinkable. I cannot be the only person for whom this is true. The degree to which Trump has saturated American media is unprecedented. Only some of this can be said to be the result of technology and parallel developments in journalism; we had a 24/7 news cycle and Twitter during the Obama administration, but days and even weeks could go by when the president was very far from the major stories of the day. No public figure in the history of this or any country has ever figured so prominently in the lives of its citizens, not even in the great authoritarian regimes of the 20th century, as President Trump. The cult of personality established by the Kim dynasty in North Korea is, at least in terms of its sheer reach, a jacket blurb in comparison with what cable news and our major newspapers have created, ostensibly in the spirit of independent reporting and criticism, for the former host of The Apprentice. I don't think it's reasonable to dismiss the possibility of a third term for this president as idle speculation. The 22nd Amendment can be repealed like any other, and both geography and math favor Republican attempts at amendment. The end of presidential term limits would not necessarily be, in the long term, a one-sided partisan affair. It is perfectly reasonable to imagine a future in which a popular young Democratic president is elected to third and even fourth terms, perhaps non-contiguously, with a four-year interlude from a lucky but ultimately ill-fated Republican challenger. (Webmaster's comment: You've been warned. Dictatorship on the horizon!)

9-11-18 Hungary PM Viktor Orban defiant as EU debates action
Hungary's PM Viktor Orban has accused the EU of "insulting" his country, as its parliament began considering disciplinary action against Hungary. MEPs are debating whether his right-wing government's policies on issues like migrants pose a threat to the EU. It comes just months after the European Commission took the step of launching similar proceedings against Poland. However, this is the first time parliament has tried to use the power, known as Article 7. Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, who wrote a report into Hungary and Mr Orban's Fidesz party, launched the debate. She said her report "comprehensively lists" attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law, that represent "a clear breach of the values of our union". (Webmaster's comment: Americans, does this sound familiar?)Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived late to the proceedings before launching a blistering attack on the EU and Ms Sargentini's report. He denounced it as an "abuse of power", and said it contained 37 "serious factual misrepresentations". "You think you know better than Hungarians themselves", he said, and vowed that Hungary "will not accede to this blackmail".

9-11-18 America will never win in Afghanistan
It's time to end the war and come home. Nearly two decades on, the longest conflict in U.S. history fades in and out of American consciousness — mostly out. The war has settled into grimly familiar patterns large and small. On a weekly and monthly level, the same headlines roll in again and again: A suicide bomber blows up a market, mosque, or other public venue, and dozens of innocents die. A coalition soldier is killed and a few more wounded. A high-ranking Islamic State, al Qaeda, Taliban, or other insurgency leader dies, and his role is soon refilled, hydra-like, by a new generation of radical. Then there are patterns on a larger scale. Three presidential administrations from two political parties have overseen five troop surges, none of which has successfully broken the stalemate fight that has claimed tens of thousands of American and Afghan lives and has cost us trillions in taxpayer dollars. We cycle through commanders, too. Last week, Gen. John Nicholson handed off leadership of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan to Gen. Austin Miller. Carefully unmentioned in the Defense Department press release on the changeover is the fact that Miller will be the 18th — 18th! — officer to fill this role, succeeding Nicholson and the 16 commanders of the previous NATO mission in Afghanistan. Nicholson is the only one of the lot to have lasted more than two years, and he ended his tenure with a simple message: "It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end."

9-11-18 John Bolton threatens ICC with US sanctions
The US has threatened sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it goes ahead with prosecutions against Americans. The court is currently considering prosecuting US servicemen over alleged detainee abuse in Afghanistan. National Security Adviser John Bolton called the court "illegitimate" and vowed the US would do everything "to protect our citizens". The US is among dozens of nations not to have joined the court. The court investigates and brings to justice people responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, intervening when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute. The ICC was established by a UN treaty in 2002, and has been ratified by 123 countries, including the UK. However several countries, including China, India, and Russia, have refused to join. Some African countries have called for withdrawal from the court over perceived unfair treatment of Africans. The US has been critical of the ICC since it was established - and Mr Bolton has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the court. In his speech on Monday in Washington, Mr Bolton attacked two areas of the court's work. (Webmaster's comment: United States has been committing war crimes for years in every war it has been in. Of course it is against being held accountable for its many murderous war criminals!)

9-10-18 US 'to close Palestinian mission in Washington'
The US is to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation's mission in Washington, Palestinian officials say. The PLO is the internationally-recognised representative of the Palestinian people. It opened its office in the US capital in 1994. PLO secretary general, Saeb Erekat, called the planned move a "dangerous escalation". The US national security adviser, John Bolton, is set to announce the closure in a speech. He will reportedly cite the Palestinians' efforts to persuade the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged Israeli crimes, and their "refusal" to resume peace talks. US President Donald Trump is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, but Palestinian officials have refused to engage with his envoys since he controversially recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. Last year the US state department warned the mission that under US law it faced closure if Palestinian leaders continued to urge the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged violations of international laws and norms regarding the treatment of people and property in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. In May, the Palestinian foreign minister formally asked the ICC's chief prosecutor to launch a full investigation, saying he had "ample and insurmountable evidence". Israel - which like the US has never ratified the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute - dismissed the move as a "cynical step without legal validity". In a speech to the Federalist Society in Washington on Monday, Mr Bolton is expected to say the US will close the PLO's mission in retaliation against its activities at the ICC. "The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel," he will say, according to a draft seen by the Wall Street Journal. "The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organisation, to constrain Israel's right to self-defence." (Webmaster's comment: In orther words just making a request for an inquiry is illegal? So much for justice in America!)

9-10-18 Swiss nurture cannabis for medicinal use
Mention Swiss farming and images of dairy cows spring to mind - not cannabis plants. But now the government says it wants to do more research into medicinal cannabis and make treatments with it more available. On a farm in lush green countryside, an hour from the capital Berne, Markus Lüdi proudly surveys his crop. It's almost harvest time, and this year, after the long hot summer, it's likely to be a good one. His plants are valuable - as shown by the high fence and electronic gate protecting them. Markus is actually a chemist, not a farmer, and his crop consists of hundreds of cannabis plants, which he uses to produce cannabis-based medicine. Switzerland has flirted with legalising cannabis for 25 years, without ever taking the plunge. Possession of the drug for recreational use has been decriminalised, but cultivating or selling large quantities of cannabis containing more than 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the key psychoactive element in the plant, is a crime. Not so for Markus, however, as his plants are designated for medicinal use. "We have a special permit from the Swiss Federal Health Office," he explains. This harvest will be turned into cannabis tincture, and cannabis oil. There will be enough to last several hundred patients across Switzerland for a year. And he can grow a 10% surplus, in case more patients are prescribed it. But Markus cannot export his products, despite demand from neighbouring Germany, where medicinal cannabis is permitted.

9-8-18 Afghanistan, the endless war
The U.S. war in the 'graveyard of empires' has lasted nearly 17 years. Will it ever end?

  1. What's the country like now? Afghanistan has changed a great deal since the U.S.-led coalition first invaded in December 2001 to topple a Taliban government that had given safe haven to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
  2. How many U.S. troops are there? When President Obama took office, there were 30,000 U.S. troops. His surge more than tripled the force, to more than 100,000 at its peak in 2011, in the hope that a decisive blow would bring victory.
  3. What about the Taliban? The Taliban are believed to number from 20,000 to 40,000 fierce and committed fighters — about the same as a decade ago, even though Afghan forces regularly report killing more than 1,000 a month. And the Taliban are rich, with an annual budget of an estimated $2 billion.
  4. Why can't the U.S. just pull out? Because the government would surely fall. Afghanistan would once again become a Taliban-ruled medieval society, and al Qaeda and ISIS would have free rein there to plan and carry out attacks on the U.S.
  5. Why is Pakistan so important? To date, Pakistan has played a double game. The U.S. relies on Pakistani land and airspace to supply its troops, yet the Pakistani military also allows the Afghan Tal­i­ban to retreat into its territory.
  6. An exorbitant cost Nearly 2,400 U.S. service personnel have been killed in the Afghan war, and more than 20,000 wounded, many severely. The cost in treasure is staggering. Most estimates put it at around $4 trillion so far, but if you add in the future costs of the war veterans and their health care, as well as the interest on the money borrowed to finance the war, the figure approaches $8 trillion.

9-8-18 Swedish election: PM says voting for anti-immigration SD is 'dangerous'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has begun the final day of the general election campaign by warning about extremism and fascism. Neither his centre-left Social Democrats nor the main centre-right party is likely to win a majority. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) is expected to win around 20% of the vote, becoming the second biggest party in parliament. Mr Lofven said an SD vote was "dangerous" and "counterproductive". He said it was "like trying to quench fire with alcohol", according to the Omni news site. Immigration has been a central issue of the election campaigns. The nationalist SD doubled its seats in the 2014 election and it is predicted to double them again on Sunday. On Saturday, SD leader Jimmie Akesson said Sweden had been "an extreme country in many ways, not least when it comes to immigration" and that his plan to take in fewer migrants would be regarded as "normal politics in the rest of Europe". The SD was linked for years to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups, only entering parliament in 2010. It has been working to rebrand itself, changing its logo from a flaming torch (similar to the one used by the UK far-right National Front) to a blue-and-yellow daisy, the colours of the Swedish flag. (Webmaster's comment: No matter how they brand themselves they are still Nazis and facists!) Traditionally appealing to working-class men, it wants to attract more women and more educated and higher-income voters. Mr Akesson, who became leader in 2005, says there is zero tolerance towards racism in the party and several members have been expelled. However, the party has still been embroiled in various racism scandals. One municipal candidate shared a song on Facebook with the lyrics "Swedes are white and the country is ours", according to a report in tabloid Aftonbladet. Last year, some of its ex-members went on to found the far-right Alternative for Sweden (AfS).

9-8-18 The Indian activist jailed for being gay
In a historic ruling, India's Supreme Court struck down parts of a colonial-era law that criminalised homosexuality. Jayshree Bajoria spoke to Arif Jafar, an LGBT activist who was arrested under section 377 and spent 47 days in prison. "It was very traumatic," recalls Arif Jafar, 47, outside the Supreme Court, where Thursday's landmark ruling was delivered. A short, bespectacled man, he wears a shiny pink button on his shirt supporting the cause dearest to his heart. "Being denied drinking water... being beaten up every day just because of my sexual orientation was a really horrible experience. It took me almost 17 years to even talk about it," he said. Mr Jafar is one of a clutch of petitioners who approached the top court, asking them to reconsider a 2013 ruling which upheld the colonial-era law, under which homosexuality was a crime. The law, a relic of British colonial rule, was rarely enforced. But it had long been used to discriminate against LGBT people and as a means for the police and others to harass, extort and blackmail them, members of the community say. But for Mr Jafar, who identifies as gay and is an LGBT activist based in Lucknow, the law went far beyond being a mere tool for persecution. Along with four of his colleagues at the Bharosa Trust, a community-based organisation providing information, counselling, outreach and peer support for homosexual and transgender people, Mr Jafar was arrested under section 377 on 8 July 2001. Before they were formally arrested, officers beat the men up in public. Police also raided their offices and seized literature on gender, sexuality and safe sex, and stacks of condoms, as well as a few sex toys used for demonstration purposes. All these were exhibited as evidence of their "perversion". "By evening, the [Indian television news channels] were splashing bulletins of a 'gay sex racket' and discussing theories of how I had taken funding from Pakistan to make all Indian men homosexual," Mr Jafar wrote in February 2018 when he finally broke his long silence about his 47 days in jail.


9-7-18 Church Leaders and Declining Religious Service Attendance
Church attendance has edged down in recent years. Gallup's latest yearly update from its daily tracking survey shows that in 2017, 38% of adults said they attended religious services weekly or almost every week. When Gallup began asking this question in 2008, that figure was 42%. Gallup has asked a different question in its polls going back to the 1950s: "Did you, yourself, happen to attend church, synagogue or mosque in the last seven days, or not?" That number, too, has been edging down over the years. It was as high as 49% in the mid-1950s, but has been in the mid-30% range in recent years. A lot of attention has been paid to reasons for the decline in participation in formal religious services. One potential explanation that doesn't receive as much attention as others is the impact of the quality of religious leaders at the church level. Much of our Gallup research for business and industry focuses on the importance of managers for employee engagement -- summed up by the statement, "Workers don't quit companies; they quit managers." It's certainly possible that churchgoers don't quit churches, but instead quit ministers, priests and rabbis.

9-7-18 Children still in federal custody
There are still 497 children in federal custody who were separated from their parents at the border, as lawyers for humanitarian groups try to track down the parents. Nearly two-thirds of those children have parents who were deported, including 22 “tender age” minors younger than 5 years old.

9-7-18 Citizens denied passports
The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration now extends to citizens with U.S. birth certificates. The government alleges that midwives in Southern border towns for decades falsified birth certificates for babies actually born in Mexico. The same midwives also delivered thousands of babies in the U.S., and the legitimate and illegitimate birth certificates are largely indistinguishable. Now hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Hispanics with U.S. birth certificates are being targeted for passport denial or revocation. The denial and revocation of passports to people delivered by midwives in Texas has been an issue for years, but cases appear to have skyrocketed, said The Washington Post, though the State Department insists there has been no change in policy. Those who try to appeal the denials have been subjected to months of bureaucratic scrutiny and asked questions that have included “Do you remember when you were born?”

9-7-18 European Union: A deep rift over migrants
The battle lines are drawn, said Henry Samuel in The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.). Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of Italy’s far-right League party, joined forces last week with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban “to launch an anti-immigration manifesto.” The two nationalists pledged to work together in the run-up to next spring’s European Parliament elections, aiming to elect anti-immigration candidates in as many countries as possible. Both are already defying criticism from the European Union in their efforts to stem illegal migration. Hungary has erected a razor-wire fence on its southern border to thwart crossings by migrants, while Italy is threatening to pull out of EU search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean unless other EU countries let rescued migrants land at their ports and not just in Italy. And in this battle, the enemy isn’t just migrants: It is the European leader who defends immigration and multiculturalism, French President Emmanuel Macron. “There are two camps in Europe,” said Orban, “and one is headed by Macron.” Macron welcomed the challenge, declaring, “I will give no ground to nationalists and those who spread words of hate.” Orban and Salvini understand that “nationalists need enemies,” said Laurent Marchand in Ouest-France (France). After more than 1 million desperate migrants arrived in Europe in 2015, when the Continent was still recovering from the 2008 economic crash, the far right encouraged angry citizens to believe that the new arrivals were the source of their woes. And now their hateful words are resulting in real pain. Salvini—whose League governs in coalition with the populist Five Star Movement—last month prevented 177 rescued migrants from disembarking in Italy for nearly a week, saying that other EU countries should take them instead. Worse, in both Italy and Germany, mobs have targeted foreigners, “something this continent never wanted to see again.”

9-7-18 The shameful truth about Puerto Rico
President Trump should not get “a pass on Puerto Rico,” said Mekela Panditharatne. George W. Bush’s presidency cratered in the wake of his botched response to Hurricane Katrina, yet Trump has managed to avoid a “presidency-defining censure” over his administration’s negligent response to Hurricane Maria. A new study by researchers from George Washington University has concluded that about 2,975 people died as result of the storm—not the 64 claimed by Trump—which is a far greater death toll than Katrina’s and equivalent to that of the 9/11 attacks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has admitted it was short thousands of workers to deal with a catastrophe on Maria’s scale, and took too long to respond. In the nine days after the hurricane, FEMA provided Puerto Rico with about a third of the meals and half as much water as it gave to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Trump, meanwhile, was “largely out of the picture,” showing up to praise himself and throw rolls of paper towels to a crowd. “Trump has defied many dogmas in politics,” but he should not be absolved of responsibility for the humanitarian disaster of Puerto Rico.

9-7-18 Pope Francis: The Catholic Church’s civil war
Just when “it seemed the news couldn’t get more troubling for American Catholics,” said James Downie in WashingtonPost.com, they have been hit with “another hammer blow.” On the heels of the horrific revelations about the widespread, organized rape of children by priests in Pennsylvania, and the church’s ensuing cover-ups, Pope Francis himself has now been credibly accused of enabling an abuser. In an 11-page “testimony” sent to Catholic publications, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò says that in 2013 he personally informed Francis of a “dossier this thick” full of allegations that prominent U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually harassed and abused young male seminarians. Viganò further claims that Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, had sanctioned McCarrick—ordering him to “withdraw to a life of prayer and penance”—but that Francis later lifted those sanctions, removing McCarrick from the ministry only this summer, when a 45-year-old claim of child abuse was substantiated. So far, Francis’ only comment is that Viganò’s letter “speaks for itself,” said Robert George in The Wall Street Journal, but Catholics deserve answers. If Francis turned a blind eye to McCarrick’s “grave sexual offenses” for at least five years, then “this papacy must end.” (Webmaster's comment: Based on the percentages across the United States over 7,000 priests are busy sexually abusing children.)

9-7-18 Attend Bible-study or else
An Oregon man is suing his former employer, a construction firm, for $800,000, claiming he was fired for not attending Bible-study classes. Ryan Coleman, 34, says that when he informed owner Joel Dahl that the Bible classes were “just not my thing,” Dahl fired him. Dahl’s lawyer said Coleman was “trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain.”

9-7-18 Labor: The state of the American worker
“Two Labor Days into Donald Trump’s presidency, what has happened to the working class?” asked E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. Trump campaigned as a populist who would fight for America’s “forgotten men and women.” But since taking office, he’s “done little for wage earners.” Real hourly wages actually dropped between July 2017 and July 2018, with a paltry wage gain of 2.7 percent completely wiped out by higher inflation. Meanwhile, Trump and the Republican Congress have “showered benefits on the wealthiest segments of society” with a $1.5 trillion tax cut. “By virtually any yardstick, the U.S. economy is doing great,” said David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times. But a booming stock market and record corporate profits haven’t translated into gains for ordinary workers. Under Trump, corporations have received 11 times more in tax cuts than they’ve paid in bonuses and wage hikes. “Much of the wealth now being created is landing in the laps of the 1 percent and not trickling down any further.”

9-7-18 Health costs are stealing your raise
Health care has sucked up the raises that should be going to American workers, said Robert Samuelson. Everything seems to be right for workers with one “glaring and puzzling exception”: Wages are inching up at a mere one-half of 1 percent annually. The reason “workers feel they’re not getting ahead” is because most aren’t. There are a lot of ideas, but the single main reason is health costs. Funds that in the past would have been reserved for wage increases are being diverted to employer-provided health insurance. It’s worst for low- and middle-income earners. For them, any wage gains they’ve received have been “wiped out by contributions for employer-provided health insurance.” Soaring health-insurance premiums gobbled up “every last cent” of recent pay increases, as health-insurance contributions averaged 30 to 35 percent of companies’ total compensation packages. This would be more tolerable if the medical system were improving, but “the opposite may be the case.” Our inability to contain health-care costs “is silently determining the nation’s priorities without anyone assigning it that role.” As insurance premiums continue to grow, millions of workers are condemned to stagnant or shrinking incomes. When health care becomes labor and economic policy by default, “we may all be among the injured.”

9-7-18 Turbulent confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh
President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, faced one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in Senate history this week, with his vote expected to give conservatives the power to shape American law for decades to come. Kavanaugh avoided giving direct answers to most of the pointed questions from Democrats, insisting that he will serve as an independent-minded justice. Kavanaugh declined to say whether Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to have an abortion, was properly decided, saying only that justices are bound to take the court’s precedents into account. Asked if a sitting president should be required to respond to a subpoena, or if President Trump can pardon himself for crimes, Kavanaugh said he could not answer “hypothetical” questions about cases that might come before him. “The person with the best arguments on the law is the person that will win with me,” Kavanaugh said. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to postpone the hearing altogether, demanding more time to review 42,000 pages of confidential documents from Kavanaugh’s work in George W. Bush’s White House, released the day before hearings began. The Trump administration has refused to release more than 100,000 additional pages of documents, on the grounds of executive privilege. Democrats pressed Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to adjourn while protesters shouted anti-Kavanaugh slogans from the gallery. “This is the most incomplete, most partisan, least transparent vetting for any Supreme Court nominee I have ever seen,” said Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

9-7-18 The White House looks for ways to quash Mueller’s probe
President Trump and his legal team are lashing out with increasing urgency at the special counsel’s investigation, with attorney Rudy Giuliani suggesting this week the White House will fight to keep much of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report from becoming public. The special counsel’s long-awaited conclusions would go to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been responsible for overseeing the investigation since his boss, Jeff Sessions, recused himself in March 2017. Any release of the report would need to be approved by Rosenstein—or by a new attorney general if Sessions is replaced. Giuliani, however, said that Trump could compel Rosenstein to hold back much of it on grounds of executive privilege. Trump last week announced that White House counsel Donald McGahn, who sat for some 30 hours of interviews with the special counsel, is leaving the White House. McGahn has reportedly intervened on two occasions to stop Trump from firing Mueller. Trump also continued his bullying of Sessions, this week disparaging the attorney general for failing to kill off criminal investigations of two Republican representatives—and Trump allies—under indictment for committing serious crimes. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time,” Trump tweeted. “Good job Jeff.” Several Republicans joined Democrats in disapproval. “The United States is not some banana republic,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said, “with a two-tiered system of justice--one for the majority party and one for the minority party.”

9-7-18 Lesbians caned
Two gay Malaysian women found guilty of attempting to have sex were caned in a sharia law court this week in front of some 100 people—the first such punishment conducted in public. Sharia law enforcement officers in the conservative state of Terengganu said they caught the women—ages 22 and 32—in a parked car in April; they were sentenced to a fine and six lashes each. Malaysia has a two-track justice system, and the nearly two-thirds of its 31 million people who are Muslim are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage, and personal issues. Homosexuality is illegal under both secular and Islamic laws, and in 2017, two gay men were lashed 83 times each for having sex. “This case shows a regression for human rights,” said Thilaga Sulathireh of the Malaysian rights group Justice for Sisters. “Not only for LGBT people, but all persons.”

9-7-18 A transgender study’s non-PC conclusion
A Brown University researcher has come to a stunning conclusion about transgender youth—one that the university is now trying to censor, said Joy Pullmann. The explosion in the number of teens (especially girls) who suddenly come to believe they are transgender, the study found, may be the result of “social contagion,” linked to having friends who identify as transgender and obsessively viewing YouTube videos about transgender youth. Lisa Littman, a behavioral and social sciences professor, examined clusters of “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” among young people and surveyed 256 parents of kids who’d come out as transgender. A full 87 percent announced they were transgender only after friends did and/or after immersing themselves in online videos and chats about transgender youth. None had expressed transgender feelings early in childhood. In one typical case, a popular coach came as out as transgender, and within a year, four of her students also announced they were transgender. When activist groups strongly objected to the study, Brown yanked it off its website and apologized. But if transgenderism really is “a fad” for at least some young people, that has important implications. Should parents agree to their kids’ demands for irreversible surgical and hormonal intervention at an early age?

9-7-18 Breastfeeding and marijuana
Now that marijuana has become legal for recreational use in eight states, and for medical use in 30, a growing number of people consider the drug largely harmless. But the American Academy of Pediatrics has a simple message for nursing mothers: Don’t touch the stuff. The AAP examined 50 mothers who used marijuana, with children ranging from newborns to toddlers more than a year old, reports CNN.com. The researchers found that tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in weed known as THC, could be detected in breast milk up to six days after use of the drug. While previous research has suggested that THC can cross to the fetus via the placenta, potentially affecting brain development, the AAP’s study didn’t look into how or whether the milk’s recipient could be affected. But the researchers concluded that until more is known, taking the drug while breastfeeding simply isn’t worth the risk. Study author Christina Chambers, from the University of California, San Diego said the findings should be a “call to action” for long-term research.

9-7-18 A forgotten history of oppression
Just “how cruel” were the Dutch to the Indonesians? asked Endy Bayuni. This country has not yet grappled with our history of oppression during three centuries of Dutch rule, when the Dutch East India Company controlled life in “the islands we now call Indonesia.” Each August, when we celebrate Indonesia’s independence day, we honor the 150,000 Indonesians who gave their lives fighting in the 1945–49 revolution. But our life before we cast off the colonizer is largely a blank—because the Dutch wrote the histories of that time, and they didn’t write about us. Only the most egregious events made it into the history books, such as the colonizers’ 1621 massacre of nearly all of the Banda Islands’ 15,000 inhabitants. We know only in an abstract way that islanders were “killed, tortured, raped, suppressed, enslaved at home, sold as slaves abroad, forced into hard labor,” and treated as “noncitizens on their own land.” How different from the U.S., where slave narratives and histories have given rise to books and films documenting the African-American experience. Indonesian historians must make an effort to uncover these stories, which surely “left a deep legacy in our psyche.” Without understanding our history of colonial subjugation, “we may never know who we really are.” (Webmaster's comment: How did the Dutch justify this? The Indonesians were not Christians!)

9-7-18 Michael Moore premieres Trump 'warning' film Fahrenheit 11/9 at Toronto
Oscar-winning documentary maker Michael Moore has said his latest film about Donald Trump is "a siren call" to a "despairing, dispirited public". Moore's film Fahrenheit 11/9 explores why Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election. Its title refers to 9 November 2016, the day of the election result, as well as his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11. His new film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, where he said: "We are in a war to get our country back." The documentary film-maker won an Oscar in 2003 for Bowling for Columbine, about the 1999 Columbine High School shootings and US gun culture. A year later, he made Fahrenheit 9/11, about the presidency of George W Bush and the War on Terror. Variety's critic said Moore was attempting to use his new film to send a "warning" to US voters, urging them to "take action now". It includes footage of Adolph Hitler, using Mr Trump's words alongside videos of Hitler's rallies. The Hollywood Reporter said: "Moore insists he isn't making a direct comparison between Trump and Hitler but rather making 'a serious point about fascism'." It quotes the director as saying: "The fascists of the 21st Century will convince the people to go against their own interests by using television and branding. I don't think we should be afraid to call this out for what it is." In the film, Moore also returns to his home town of Flint, Michigan, where there was a water crisis in 2016 when lead was found in the water system. Screen International said the film "frustrates as much as it rouses, bouncing from topic to topic without fully digging into any of them". But The Wrap added that the film "grows slowly from an exhausting movie that is all over the map to a rousing one that makes a call to arms in troubled times".

9-6-18 Brett Kavanaugh: Supreme Court pick 'questioned abortion ruling'
US President Donald Trump's choice for the Supreme Court questioned whether a ruling legalising abortion was settled law, emails show. Brett Kavanaugh, 53, made the comments while working as a lawyer in 2003 for then-President George W Bush. His record is being closely examined as his appointment is seen as likely to tip the court towards the right. The Supreme Court is America's highest and has the final word on many contentious matters. Judges are appointed for their lifetime and getting his nominee approved would mark a victory for President Trump and his supporters. The email shows Mr Kavanaugh considering an opinion piece which states "it is widely accepted by legal scholars across the board that Roe v Wade and its progeny are the settled law of the land", referring to the landmark ruling that legalised abortion in the US. In response, Mr Kavanaugh says: "I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since court can always overrule its precedent, and three current justices on the court would do so." The nominee is currently attending day three of a four-day confirmation hearing in Washington. Asked about the document, he repeated what he said on Wednesday that Roe v Wade was an "important precedent of the Supreme Court, reaffirmed many times". While campaigning for the presidency, Mr Trump promised to appoint pro-life judges, raising the possibility of Roe v Wade being overturned. (Webmaster's comment: Putting him on the Supreme Court would be a first step in abolishing all abortions in this country for any reason. Women have no rights in this regard in his thinking. They must bear the fruit of a man's loins.)

9-6-18 Twitter bans Alex Jones and Infowars for abusive behaviour
Twitter says it has permanently suspended the accounts of Alex Jones and his Infowars website. It made the move after a number of tweets that violated Twitter's abusive behaviour policy, the company said. A number of tech giants, including YouTube and Facebook, deleted the right-wing conspiracy theorist's content last month, citing hate speech. The radio host is best known for spreading unsubstantiated allegations about tragic events, including 9/11. He is currently being sued for defamation by the parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which he has repeatedly claimed was a "giant hoax". Twenty children under the age of seven and six adults died in the attack. Twitter said the ban was a result of "new reports of tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behaviour policy, in addition to the accounts' past violations". It did not specify what the violations were. It added that it does "not typically comment on enforcement actions... against individual accounts", but was "open about this action given the broad interest in this case". Mr Jones mostly uses his Twitter account to share content and videos from InfoWars with his 850,000 followers, and promotes conspiracy theories against liberals, Muslims and migrants.

9-6-18 Cécile Djunga: Belgian forecaster hits out at race insults
Cécile Djunga has been presenting the weather on Belgian public TV for a year, and after being subjected to a stream of racist comments she has decided to fight back. In a five-minute appeal on Facebook, Ms Djunga says one viewer rang into work to complain she was "too black and all people could see were my clothes". The video went viral, viewed by 700,000 people. Her employer, RTBF, has given full backing to its presenter. Its head, Jean-Paul Philippot, told Belgian radio on Thursday that Ms Djunga had passed on a string of messages she had received in recent months and had not reacted to them. "There's no place for this torrent of mud in Belgium," he said. "Racism is a crime, punishable by law." (Webmaster's comment: It should also be a crime in America and severely punished! That's the only language these racist male brutes understand!) As well as being a weather presenter on Belgium's French-language public TV, Cécile Djunga has carved out a career as a stand-up comic, with a show called Almost Famous. In her Facebook appeal she starts off saying "if you want a good laugh, I've got a good one for you today", before talking about the woman who rang in to say she was "too black". This complaint, she explained later, was for her the final straw. Speaking on Belgian TV late on Wednesday evening she said it was important to broaden the debate about racism and not focus just on her. Many people had told her of their own experience as victims of racism.

9-6-18 India court legalises gay sex in landmark ruling
In a historic decision, India's Supreme Court has ruled that gay sex is no longer a criminal offence. The ruling overturns a 2013 judgement that upheld a colonial-era law, known as section 377, under which gay sex is categorised as an "unnatural offence". The court has now ruled discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights. Campaigners outside the court cheered and some broke down in tears as the ruling was handed down. Although public opinion in India's biggest cities has been in favour of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities. But this ruling, from the top court, is the final say in the matter and represents a huge victory for India's LGBT community. One activist outside the court told the BBC: "I hadn't come out to my parents until now. But today, I guess I have." Thursday's decision was delivered by a five-judge bench headed by India's outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra and was unanimous. Reading out the judgement, he said: "Criminalising carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional." Another judge, Indu Malhotra, said she believed "history owes an apology" to LGBT people for ostracising them. Justice DY Chandrachud said the state had no right to control the private lives of LGBT community members and that the denial of the right to sexual orientation was the same as denying the right to privacy. The ruling effectively allows gay sex among consenting adults in private.

9-5-18 Ayanna Pressley: African-American woman wins Massachusetts primary
Ayanna Pressley is set to become the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress in Massachusetts, following a primary upset. The 44-year-old Boston city councillor beat House veteran Michael Capuano to secure the Democratic nomination. She will not face a Republican opponent in November's mid-term election. It is the latest in a series of victories for progressive, young and minority candidates representing the opposition party. 2018 has also seen a historic amount of female candidates run for Democratic nominations. In a speech after her win, Ms Pressley said: "Change is coming and the future belongs to all of us." She also referred to President Donald Trump as "a racist, misogynist, truly empathy bankrupt man" and hit out at wealth inequality in her seventh congressional district. It is the only state to have a majority non-white population. An emotional video of her finding out she had won has been shared thousands of times online. Her 66-year-old opponent has represented the district for two decades, and had not faced a primary challenger since he first won the nomination in 1998.(Webmaster's comment: The times they are a-changin' again!)

9-5-18 Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh hearing rocked by 'mob rule'
The confirmation hearing for US President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee has descended into "mob rule", a Republican senator said. John Cornyn of Texas spoke out as Democrats demanded an adjournment. Seventy people were arrested as protesters interrupted the proceedings. Brett Kavanaugh faces four days before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved, the conservative appeals court judge would be expected to tilt the court's balance to the right. Minutes after Mr Kavanaugh, 53, entered the committee rooms on Tuesday, the hearing was disrupted by angry shouts from members of the public and lawmakers alike. The mostly female demonstrators shouted out that Mr Kavanaugh would allow President Trump to pardon himself. Others claimed the judge would let people with pre-existing medical conditions be stripped of medical coverage. (Webmaster's comment: He also believes that Congress should pass a law to exempt a sitting president from criminal prosecution or investigation.)" This is a travesty of justice!" shouted one. Another cried: "Our democracy is broken!" Amid the almost continuous disruption, Texas Republican John Cornyn said it was "the first confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice I've seen basically according to mob rule". Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa bridled at the suggestion he had lost control of the proceedings.

9-5-18 Donald Trump condemns Bob Woodward book as 'con'
US President Donald Trump has condemned a book on his White House by renowned Watergate journalist Bob Woodward as a "con on the public". Mr Trump's chief of staff and defence secretary, in responses posted by the president on Twitter, described the book as "pathetic" and "fiction". In the book, senior aides are quoted as saying they hid sensitive documents to prevent Mr Trump signing them. They are quoted as calling him an "idiot" and a "liar". The book - Fear: Trump in the White House, scheduled for release on 11 September - reveals a chaotic administration having a "nervous breakdown of executive power" Woodward is a widely respected and veteran journalist who helped expose President Richard Nixon's role in the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. One of the main claims is that current and former aides kept sensitive documents off his desk to prevent him from signing them, or took different actions to those demanded by the president. This amounts to an "administrative coup d'état", Woodward says. The book says Mr Trump had ordered the Pentagon to arrange the assassination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "Let's [expletive] kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the [expletive] lot of them," Mr Trump is reported to have told Mr Mattis. The book says Mr Mattis acknowledged Mr Trump's request but then, after the conversation, told an aide he would not do "any of that". Mr Mattis is also quoted as saying Mr Trump had the understanding of "a fifth- or sixth-grader" - the age of 10 or 11 - in understanding foreign affairs. Woodward says chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and White House staff secretary Rob Porter removed documents from the president's desk to keep Mr Trump from signing them. The documents would have allowed the president to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and a trade deal with South Korea. "It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually," Mr Porter is quoted as saying.

9-4-18 Republicans' Medicaid work requirements are already proving disastrous
Ohio recently released a glowing report about the results of its Medicaid expansion. The uninsured rate was cut by half. Low-income people have gotten healthier. Recipients say they have fewer financial troubles to worry about. Ohio's experience with Medicaid expansion, which Gov. John Kasich enacted in 2013 over the objections of many of his fellow Republicans, is not an anomaly. Many states that expanded Medicaid have reported that low-income recipients are going to the doctor more and getting preventative treatments for chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. All of this, plus state budgets haven't ballooned like critics said they would! But it was too good to last. Early this year, the Trump administration signaled to states that it would allow work requirements in Medicaid for the first time, primarily targeting adults without (diagnosed) disabilities — a.k.a. the Medicaid expansion population. A number of Republican-led states, with leaders who are no doubt stalwarts of a "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" work ethic, hurried to apply to allow work requirements, with Kentucky being the first state approved. Indiana, New Hampshire, and Arkansas shortly followed, while a handful of other state applications (including one from Ohio) are pending, likely to soon be greenlighted. Arkansas was the first state to actually implement the work requirement, which started this past June; the state is phasing it in, beginning with adults aged 30-49. These Medicaid recipients were to create an online profile and log at least 80 hours of work per month. The results coming in from Arkansas are a good indicator of what is to come in the rest of the country. It isn't promising. Of the approximately 44,000 adults who were subject to work requirements in July, just 2 percent, or 844 people, reported 80 hours of work. About two-thirds of the larger pool were exempt from the requirements (because they were already working or met another exemption), but a full 29 percent, 12,722 people, didn't report 80 hours and are at risk of losing health coverage. All in all, over 5,000 people failed to meet the requirement for two straight months. If they fail to meet requirements for a third month — this August — they'll be kicked off Medicaid entirely.

9-4-18 How student debt devoured my life
Forty-four million borrowers in the U.S. owe a total of roughly $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, with no relief from lawmakers in sight. On Halloween in 2008, about six weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, my mother called me from Michigan to tell me that my father had lost his job in the sales department of Visteon, an auto parts supplier for Ford. Two months later, my mother lost her own job working for the city of Troy, a suburb about half an hour from Detroit. From then on our lives seemed to accelerate, the terrible events compounding fast enough to elude immediate understanding. By June, my parents, unable to find any work in the state where they'd spent their entire lives, moved to New York, where my sister and I were both in school. A month later, the mortgage on my childhood home went into default for lack of payment. In the summer of 2010, I completed school at New York University, where I received a B.A. and an M.A. in English literature, with more than $100,000 of debt, for which my father was a cosigner. By this time, my father was still unemployed and my mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. In January 2011, Chase Bank took full possession of the house in Michigan. Meanwhile, the payments for my debt — which had been borrowed from a variety of federal and private lenders, most prominently Citibank — totaled about $1,100 a month. My parents never lived extravagantly. College, which cost roughly $50,000 a year, was the only time that money did not seem to matter. "We'll find a way to pay for it," my parents said repeatedly. Like many well-meaning but misguided baby boomers, neither of my parents received an elite education, but they nevertheless believed that an expensive school was not a materialistic waste of money; it was the key to a better life than the one they had. Now 30 years old, I have been incapacitated by debt for a decade. The delicate balancing act my family and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organizing principle of our lives. I've spent a great deal of time in the last decade shifting the blame for my debt. Whose fault was it? My devoted parents, for encouraging me to attend a school they couldn't afford? The banks, which should never have lent money to people who clearly couldn't pay it back to begin with, continuously exploiting the hope of families like mine, and quick to exploit us further once that hope disappeared? Or was it my fault for not having the foresight to realize it was a mistake to spend roughly $200,000 on a school where, in order to get my degree, I kept a journal about reading Virginia Woolf?

9-3-18 The American Dream is slipping away faster than we thought
Anyone is supposed to be able to get ahead in the US - but social mobility is powerfully influenced by your parents' socioeconomic status. It’s the American dream that upward social mobility can be achieved through hard work, irrespective of a person’s status at birth. New data shows that the reality is rather different, demonstrating that the socio-economic status of someone in the US is more strongly influenced by that of their parents than previously thought. Sociologist Michael Hout of New York University examined data from more than 20,000 people collected between 1994 and 2016, ranked according to a socioeconomic index (SEI). This combines pay and credentials of people in an occupation to assign them a score on a scale from 0 to 100. Professionals such as judges and surgeons score close to 100, whereas people with low pay and few qualifications such as janitors, food prep workers and laundry workers score between 9 and 15. In particular, Hout was interested in a measure of social mobility called intergenerational persistence, which shows how a person’s occupational status is influenced by the kind of job undertaken by their parents, grandparents, and so on. Hout found that a person’s SEI score was strongly linked to that of their parents, rising on average by slightly more than half a point for each one-point increase in their parent’s status. This is because children born to parents with very low SEI scores tended to have higher SEI scores than their parents, and vice versa – and the trend in between was linear. So children born to parents with an SEI score of 10 can expect to achieve an SEI score of about 30, children born to parents with an SEI score of 20 can expect their SEI score to be about 35, and so on. There was a gender effect too: for instance, a son born to a father with an SEI score of around 90 would typically have an SEI score around 70, but a daughter born to the same man would achieve an SEI score of around 62 on average.

9-3-18 LGBT rights: Malaysia women caned for attempting to have lesbian sex
Two Malaysian women convicted of attempting to have lesbian sex in a car have been caned in a religious court. The Muslim women, aged 22 and 32, were each caned six times in the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu. According to an official, this is the state's first conviction for same-sex relations and its first public caning. Human rights activists reacted with outrage. Homosexual activity is illegal under both secular and religious laws. The caning was witnessed by more than 100 people, according to local news outlet The Star. Malaysian rights group Women's Aid Organisation told Reuters news agency it was "appalled by this grave violation of human rights". A member of the Terengganu state executive council, Satiful Bahri Mamat, defended the punishment, telling the agency it had not been intended to "torture or injure" and had been carried out in public to "serve as a lesson to society".


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