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

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


12-12-18 2018 'worst year for US school shootings'
This year, 113 people have been killed or injured in school shootings in the United States. That's the sobering finding of a project to count the annual toll of gun attacks in schools. At the beginning of 2018, Education Week, a journal covering education in the US, began to track school shootings - and has since recorded 23 incidents where there were deaths or injuries. With many parts of the US having about 180 school days per year, it means, on average, a shooting once every eight school days. Another database recording school shootings says 2018 has had the highest number of incidents ever recorded, in figures going back to 1970. That database, from the US Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), uses a different way of identifying gun incidents in school, and says this year there have been 94. The idea behind the year-long Education Week project was to mark each shooting - so that attacks should never come to seem "normal" and that every victim should be remembered. But it was also an attempt to fill in the gaps in knowledge, because while there was intense media coverage of multiple-casualty shootings, there was much less clarity about the attacks happening across the country each month. Lesli Maxwell, assistant managing editor of Education Week, said this year has "definitely been an outlier" with two large-scale school shootings, which have contributed to such a high annual loss of life. Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, there were 10 killed, with both gun attacks carried out by teenage boys. "This year also stands out because of all the activism that followed Parkland, with students leading the charge," says Ms Maxwell. These included a shooting at a primary school in Virginia last month, when a parent collecting their child was shot in the leg when a gun in the pocket of another parent was accidentally fired. Or in March in a high school in Maryland, when a 17-year-old teenager shot and injured two students and then, after he was confronted, killed himself. One of the injured, a 16-year-old girl, died a few days later. The shootings are a bleak list of teenagers, guns and innocent victims. The perpetrators are as young as 12 but are mostly 16 or 17. (Webmaster's comment: The slaughter of the innocent continues!)

12-12-18 Pope demotes two cardinals over sexual abuse scandals
Two cardinals facing allegations linked to sexual abuse have been removed from Pope Francis's inner circle, the Vatican said. Australia's George Pell and Chile's Francisco Javier Errazuriz will no longer sit on the Council of Cardinals, set up by the pope as an international advice body. The pair were absent from the last meeting of the group in September. A spokesperson said the Pope wrote to them both in October to thank them. Cardinal Pell, who remains the Vatican treasurer, faces trial on sexual abuse charges in Australia - accusations the cardinal strenuously denies. His Chilean colleague, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, faces accusations that he covered up alleged child abuse while serving as Archbishop of Santiago, claims he also denies. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya has also left the group, spokesman Greg Burke said. The 79-year-old recently retired from his role as archbishop of Kinshasa, and has not been implicated in any scandals. The group, known as C9, has no plan to immediately fill its three empty seats, Mr Burke reportedly said.

12-11-18 Trump rolls back decades of Clean Water Act protections
The Trump administration has taken aim at removing environmental federal protections for wetlands and isolated streams from pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposal redefining US waters under the Clean Water Act. Farm and agriculture lobbyists have pushed for these changes since 2015. But environmentalists say they could result in contaminating millions of acres of waters with pesticides and other agricultural pollutants. The proposal seeks to remove protections on "ephemeral streams" - which only appear after rainfall - and wetlands not directly connected or adjacent to large bodies of water. The replacement regulation would not change protections for large bodies of water and neighbouring wetlands, and any state-imposed rules will also be unaffected. The changes would replace an Obama-era regulation, but the wetland protections impacted date back to the George HW Bush administration. Announcing the proposal on Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler described it as "an end to the previous administration's power grab". Mr Wheeler said the changes clarified what waters the federal government had jurisdiction over while respecting "the primary role of the states" in managing environmental resources. He added that the Obama-era definition of federal waters was "about power over farmers, developers, landowners". "Our goal is a more precise definition that gives the American people the freedom and certainty to do what they do best: build homes, grow crops, and develop projects that improve the environment and the lives of their fellow citizens."

12-11-18 Trump's border wall broken promise
The president promised to make Mexico pay for his ridiculous wall. He failed. Now he's holding the government hostage. It was one of the first promises Donald Trump made when he declared his candidacy for president, one he kept repeating as an applause line to raucous crowds throughout his campaign: He was going to build a wall along the Mexico border. And not only that: He promised Mexico would pay for it. "I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively," he said in 2015. "I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I'll have Mexico pay for that wall." It was a bad promise back then. It's a broken promise now. Two years into Trump's presidency, the wall still doesn't exist — though he keeps lying about that simple fact — and Mexico is understandably no closer to picking up the tab. So now, President Trump is looking to the American taxpayers to do the job that Mexico won't, asking Congress to pony up $5 billion so he can finally start building his precious border barrier. If he doesn't get what he wants, Trump says he'll shut down the government when funding expires Dec. 21. Let him. Trump thinks he holds all the cards with voters on the immigration issue, and it's true that his base responds positively to calls for increased border security. But his attempt to pressure House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) into helping him secure the $5 billion is failing — liberal Democrats might go into open rebellion if they did so. Trump simply doesn't have the leverage he thinks he does. (Webmaster's comment: He's nothing but a big mouth!)

12-11-18 Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018 honours journalists
Killed and imprisoned journalists - "The Guardians'" - have been named 2018's "Person of the Year" by Time. Four different Time covers feature journalists from around the world. Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi embassy in Turkey earlier this year, appears alone in one, while staff from the Capital Gazette, the US newspaper where five people were killed this year, feature in another. Pictures of Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo appear on the final two. Ms Ressa is the editor of Rappler, a Philippine news website critical of the country's leadership, while Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were imprisoned in Myanmar for investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. According to Time, they were chosen "for taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts, for speaking up and for speaking out". Last year, the magazine named "the Silence Breakers" - women and men who spoke out against sexual abuse and harassment - as its "Person of the Year". (Webmaster's comment: Journalists are now under full-blown assaults for free speech reporting. The assaults are encouraged by nation's autocratic leaders like Trump.)

12-11-18 Two nuns admit embezzling cash for Vegas gambling trips
Two nuns who worked at a Catholic school in California have admitted embezzling about $500,000 (£396,000) and using it to gamble in Las Vegas. Sisters Mary Kreuper and Lana Chang took the money from St James' Catholic School in the city of Torrance, near Los Angeles, to spend in casinos. The pair, who are said to be best friends, took funds from an account holding tuition fees and donations. The sisters, who recently retired, have expressed remorse for their actions. Mary Kreuper was the school principal for 29 years, while Lana Chang worked as a teacher for about 20 years. They are thought to have stolen the money over a period of at least a decade to spend on travel and gambling. On Monday, St James' Catholic Church said the nuns had expressed "deep remorse" over their actions, adding that while the police had been informed, no criminal charges would be brought against the pair. (Webmaster's comment: Why Not? They are just as guilty of a major crime as any punk kid who steals $500,000. Being sorry is not enough!)

12-11-18 Why are so many countries now saying cannabis is OK?
Around the world attitudes towards the use of cannabis are shifting. Mexico's new government plans to legalise recreational cannabis use, as does the incoming government of Luxembourg. Meanwhile, New Zealand's leaders are considering a referendum on what their approach should be. As public opinion - and that of governments - changes, it seems increasingly likely that other countries will follow, raising questions about how they work together to manage the use and supply of cannabis. What has led one country after another to move towards a relaxation of their laws and, in many cases, outright legalisation? It was only in 2012 that Uruguay announced it would be the first country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use. In large part, the move was aimed at replacing links between organised crime and the cannabis trade with more accountable state regulation. Later the same year, voters in Washington State and Colorado became the first in the US to support legalisation of the drug for non-medical use. Under President Barack Obama, a critic of the US-led war on drugs, the US government stepped back from enforcing federal laws and effectively gave states a green light to explore alternatives. Eight more states and Washington DC have since supported the legalisation of recreational cannabis and penalties are softening elsewhere. The use of the drug for medical reasons is allowed in 33 of the 50 states. In many ways the jury is still out on the effects of legalisation on society and individuals' health, but there is no question that public opinion and government policy has softened. The tide has crept across the Americas, with Canada legalising the sale, possession and recreational use of cannabis nationwide in October.

12-10-18 'Troubling' video shows NY police grabbing child from mum
New York City police are investigating an incident in which officers grabbed a baby from a mother during an arrest in Brooklyn. The video, shared on Facebook on Friday, shows police dragging 23-year-old Jazmine Headley across a floor as she yells: "They're hurting my son." She was arrested for refusing to leave a social services centre, police say. City public officials have condemned the actions and demanded answers from the police department. The New York Police Department (NYPD) confirmed that the department and Human Resources Administration (HRA) police have opened a review into the incident, in a statement emailed to the BBC. NYPD said the footage was "troubling" and the review will "include examination of all available video of the incident". The Facebook video has since received over 200,000 views and sparked public outrage over yet another case of alleged police brutality. The incident began on Friday at an HRA office in Brooklyn, where residents can apply for public assistance services like food stamps. Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, told reporters on Monday that Ms Headley had been waiting at the office for four hours to sort out daycare for her son. Ms Headley took a seat on the floor with her baby as there were no chairs, Ms Schreibersdorf said. A security guard asked her to move but there was nowhere to go. The two broke into a row and the guard called the cops. The NYPD officers on scene also asked Ms Headley to leave "numerous times", the police statement said. When she refused again, HRA peace officers dragged her to the floor as police attempted to arrest her. In the recording, officers can be seen grabbing at Ms Headley's baby, trying to pull him out of her arms as they restrain her. She shouts repeatedly: "They're hurting my son." An officer then points what appears to be a taser at Ms Headley as she says, "I'm begging you." (Webmaster's comment: She's black! She has no rights! No one cares!)

12-10-18 Anti-Semitism pervades European life, says EU report
Anti-Semitism is getting worse and Jews are increasingly worried about the risk of harassment, according to a major survey of 12 EU countries. Hundreds of Jews questioned by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency said they had experienced a physical, anti-Semitic attack in the past year, while 28% said they had been harassed. France is identified as having the biggest problem with anti-Semitism. Germany, the UK, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands also saw incidents. The Vienna-based FRA paints a picture of synagogues and Jewish schools requiring security protection; of "vicious commentary" on the internet, in media and in politics; and of discrimination at school and work. The report comes weeks after a gunman murdered 11 people at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh. (Webmaster's comment: The United States probably tops all EU countries for hatred of Jews.) Six years after its initial report, the FRA has surveyed Jews in the 12 EU states where most Jews live. The report says anti-Semitic abuse has become so common that most victims do not bother reporting the incidents. Among the findings:

  1. 89% of the 16,395 Jews surveyed considered anti-Semitism online a problem in their country
  2. 28% experienced some form of harassment for being Jewish in the past 12 months; 2% were physically attacked
  3. 47% worry about anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment and 40% about physical attack in the next 12 months
  4. 34% have avoided Jewish events at least occasionally because of safety fears
  5. 38% have considered emigrating in the past five years over safety fears

A startling 95% of French Jews see anti-Semitism as either a fairly or very big problem. France has been subject to a string of jihadist attacks, including the killing of hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. This year alone 85-year-old Mireille Knoll, who escaped the Holocaust, was murdered in her Paris flat and an eight-year-old boy wearing a kippah (skullcap) was attacked in the street by teenagers. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has spoken of a 69% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the country, which has Europe's biggest Jewish population of around half a million. He said a national network of investigators would be created to fight hate crime, and a school taskforce would be sent to help teachers tackle anti-Semitism in the classroom. Over 80% of those surveyed saw anti-Semitism as a serious problem in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Sweden. Last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germans had become almost accustomed to Jewish institutions requiring police guards or special protection. Sweden, meanwhile, has seen one of the sharpest increases in perceptions of anti-Semitism in the past six years, along with the UK and Germany.

12-7-18 Life expectancy: A nation afflicted by despair
America remains a rich and powerful nation, but millions of our citizens are “wracked with grief and despair,” said David French in NationalReview.com. Stark evidence of that paradox was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest annual report on American life expectancy, which showed our average span either falling or stagnating for the third consecutive year. The last time we saw a downward trend in life expectancy, America was fighting World War I and suffering through a flu pandemic that killed 675,000. Now drugs and suicide are mostly to blame. The overdose rate is up 356 percent since 1999, and the 2017 death toll—70,237—“far outstrips the total American fatalities in Vietnam.” For a large swath of our population, the family structure has broken down, amid rampant divorce, children being raised out of wedlock, and young men unable to find jobs that support a family. “We’re facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem,” said Mona Charen, also in NationalReview.com. With families and social bonds crumbling, an AARP study found one-third of Americans reported chronic loneliness. Isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” The life-expectancy decline is far worse in rural America, said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. There—where unemployment and poverty rates are higher—the suicide rate is almost twice that of urban counties. President Trump “owes his presidency to rural Americans,” but other than offering them cultural resentment and scapegoats, he’s done nothing for them. In fact, he’s further hurt them with a devastating trade war that shut Chinese markets to U.S. farm products and cost farmers billions.

12-7-18 Trump’s GOP: The party of white grievance?
Before Donald Trump, Republicans primarily appealed to racially bigoted whites through code words and symbols, said Jelani Cobb in NewYorker.com. “With Trump, the racism is out in the open.” Consider the victory last week of Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in the state’s runoff election for a U.S. Senate seat. Hyde-Smith won over Democrat Mike Espy, who is black, despite a video showing her telling a supporter she’d gladly sit “in the front row” of a public hanging. Voters also learned that Hyde-Smith—who was enthusiastically endorsed by Trump—graduated from a private “segregation academy” set up to circumvent Brown v. Board, and called Jefferson Davis’ old home “Mississippi history at its best!” Outside Mississippi, said Samuel Sinyangwe in Vox.com, other Republicans also “ran on racism.” Florida Gov.–elect Ron DeSantis warned that his black opponent, Andrew Gillum, would “monkey up” the state. In Georgia, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp boasted that he drives a pickup truck so he can round up “criminal illegals.” Deny the obvious if you like, said Max Boot in The Washington Post, but “neocons” are taking over the GOP. Not neoconservatives, mind you—“neo-Confederates.” Hyde-Smith may seem like an extreme case, having once dressed as a Confederate general and waved a Confederate battle flag. But Corey Stewart, the defeated GOP candidate for Senate in Virginia, called Confederate history “what makes us Virginia”; Kemp recently refused to take down “the biggest Confederate monument in the world,” and the flagrantly racist Rep. Steve King of Iowa—a state that fought for the Union—has displayed a Confederate flag on his desk. Even when not waving the Dixie flag, Republicans have signed on to Trump’s strategy of “pandering to white grievances.”

12-7-18 Wisconsin GOP aims to weaken incoming Democrats
Lame-duck Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin approved sweeping legislation this week that will strip the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general of key powers, in what Democrats called an assault on democracy. The bills passed by the GOP-dominated legislature limit the ability of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General–elect Josh Kaul to fulfill campaign promises to protect the Affordable Care Act and boost infrastructure spending. The legislation will also restrict early voting, prohibit Evers from unilaterally making the Capitol a gun-free zone, and lock in a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the moves were necessary because Republicans “don’t trust Tony Evers right now,” while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos added that “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.” Evers promised to challenge the bills in court if outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker signs them into law. “We’re not going backwards in time to revote this election,” he said. “I won.” As lawmakers debated and voted on the legislation, hundreds of protesters streamed to the Capitol chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and carrying signs reading “GOP Grinch Stealing Democracy.” Activists accused the Wisconsin GOP of attempting to preserve one of America’s most lopsided gerrymanders: Republicans secured 63 of 99 assembly seats in the Nov. 6 election, even though Democrats won 54 percent of votes.

12-7-18 The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul From the Revolution to the Civil War
Though Andrew Delbanco’s new history of the run-up to the Civil War is “a truly great book,” one reads it with “rising horror,” said Alan Jacobs in The Weekly Standard. The Columbia University historian forces us to look directly at our young nation’s original sin—slavery—and imagine what it was like to witness and recognize its evil effects in real time when easily half your fellow citizens were blind to that evil. In Delbanco’s telling, the problem of runaway slaves exposed a profound division in the country that existed from the nation’s founding. While the South had no monopoly on racism, it’s unlikely there ever would have been a “United States” if Northerners hadn’t accepted a clause in the Constitution establishing that no slave could escape slavery by fleeing to a free state. And then the compromises got worse. Little of the information revisited by The War Before the War is new, said Jennifer Szalai in The New York Times. “The light it sheds, however, most definitely is.” How and when, after all, should a nominally united people reconcile irreconcilable values? And when is compromise wise and when is it cowardice? Congress’ passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it difficult for white Northerners to ignore the costs of compromise, because it obliged them to turn in runaways. Because it also denied captives normal trial rights, it also made free blacks vulnerable to slave catchers. The strength of Delbanco’s book lies in its evocation of the human cost of these policies, said David S. Reynolds in The Wall Street Journal. Though he includes many “thrilling” escape-and-rescue episodes, he also shares stunning tragedies. One fugitive slave, Margaret Garner, slit her 2-year-old’s throat rather than allow the girl to be captured and returned to slavery.

12-7-18 Poll watch
Offered a list of traits defining what it means to be a “real American,” 90% of respondents picked “treating people equally,” 88% chose “taking responsibility for one’s actions,” 81% picked “accepting those of different racial backgrounds,” and 80% said “supporting the U.S. Constitution.” Having been born in America, at 49%, and having lived most of one’s life here, at 45%, came in lowest.

12-7-18 Migrant camp shut
The city of Tijuana shuttered a migrant camp close to the U.S. border this week and moved its 6,000 occupants some 10 miles south, because the sports complex housing them had become overcrowded, flooded, and unhygienic. Health experts said respiratory diseases, chicken pox, and lice were rampant at the shelter, which was a temporary home for many of the Central Americans who recently trekked to the U.S. border in a caravan. They are being relocated to a former concert venue that will be run by the federal government and is further from the border. In one of his first acts since taking office this week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador signed a pact with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to create jobs in Central America, which they hope will help stop residents from fleeing north.

12-7-18 Murder charges for a cop
Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was indicted on a murder charge last week for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in his own apartment. In September, Guyger, 30, returned from her shift dressed in uniform and went into 26-year-old Botham Jean’s unit, directly above her own, where she shot him in the torso. Guyger, who is white, claims she mistook the apartment for her own and thought Jean was a burglar. Lawyers for Jean’s family say his neighbors heard someone banging on the door before shots were fired. Guyger was dismissed from the police force after initially being charged with manslaughter, which sparked citywide protests demanding harsher charges. An attorney for Guyger said the murder charge resulted from “a tremendous amount of outside political pressure” and “a tremendous outpouring of vindictive emotion towards my client.”

12-7-18 Officers convicted
A Philippine court sentenced three police officers to 40 years in prison each last week for the 2017 murder of a 17-year-old boy, the first such convictions for killings explicitly encouraged by President Rodrigo Duterte as part of his war on drugs. Nearly 5,000 people are thought to have been murdered by the police, and many more by unofficial militias, since Duterte came to office in 2016 telling citizens and police to “go ahead and kill” drug users and dealers. Officers routinely claim their victims pulled guns and resisted arrest. But in the slaying of teenager Kian Lloyd delos Santos, surveillance camera footage and forensic evidence proved they were lying. Human rights activists aren’t celebrating the convictions yet: Duterte has promised to pardon any officer convicted of murder during the crackdown.

12-7-18 Wiccans outnumber Presbyterians
Wiccans, who now outnumber Presbyterians in the U.S., according to a report in ChristianPost.com. Wicca, which encompasses a number of pantheistic belief systems, including witchcraft, now has 1.5 million adherents, compared with 1.4 million Presbyterians.

12-7-18 New Mexico not a state
A New Mexico couple who applied for a marriage license in Washington, D.C., were delayed because the clerk thought New Mexico was a foreign country. Gavin Clarkson says the clerk refused to accept his driver’s license as ID and asked instead for his “New Mexico passport.” The marriage bureau later apologized for the clerk’s failure to recognize “New Mexico’s 106-year history as a state.”

12-7-18 Road accidents biggest killer of young people - WHO
Road injuries are now the biggest killer of children and young adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The organisation published figures that also reveal Africa has the worst rate of road traffic deaths in the world. Its report says many African and South American countries still do not have sufficient speed limit laws. But it also highlights that global road death rates relative to the size of the world's population are stabilising. Car accidents are now the leading global cause of death amongst children and young adults aged five to 29 years old, the report says. It contends that says more people die from road-related injuries than from HIV/Aids, tuberculosis or diarrhoeal diseases. "These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general. "There is no excuse for inaction. This is a problem with proven solutions." (Webmaster's comment: And the United States is running 50% higher at 15/100,000 than Europe at 10/100,000.)

12-7-18 Consecrated virgins: 'I got married to Christ'
Jessica Hayes bought herself a wedding gown, a veil and a ring. But when she stood at the altar facing the bishop during a solemn religious ceremony, there was no groom by her side. She was getting married to Jesus Christ. Ms Hayes, 41, is a consecrated virgin - a vocation taken by women within the Catholic Church who wish to give themselves as brides to God. Even within Catholicism, consecrated virgins are little-known - partly because the vocation was only publicly sanctioned by the Church less than 50 years ago. During the consecration ceremony, the candidate - who wears a bride-like, white dress- makes life-long chastity vows and promises never to engage in sexual or romantic relationships. The women also wear a wedding ring - a symbol of their betrothal to Christ. "I often get asked: 'So, are you married?'" says Ms Hayes, who is one of this year's BBC 100 Women. "I usually just reply with a really brief explanation that I am similar to a religious sister, that there's a total commitment to Christ, but that I live out in the world." She is one of 254 "brides of Christ" in the US, according to the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins (USACV) - whose day jobs range from nurses and psychologists to accountants, business women and fire fighters. There are at least 4,000 consecrated virgins in the world, according to a 2015 survey, and the Vatican says there has been an upsurge of vocations "in very diverse geographic areas and cultural contexts". Unlike nuns, consecrated virgins do not live in enclosed communities or wear special clothes; they lead a secular life, have jobs and support themselves. There is no such male equivalent in the Catholic Church. (Webmaster's comment: And they complain about same sex marriage. What about No Sex Marriage?)

12-6-18 Study: Half of US adults have had close family member jailed
Nearly half of all US adults have had an immediate family member incarcerated at some point in their lives, according to a new study. Researchers also reported one in seven adults have seen immediate family incarcerated for over a year, with minorities most impacted. The study by criminal justice non-profit FWD.us and Cornell University surveyed over 4,000 American adults. Over 2 million Americans are currently in prison in the US. The report estimates 64% of US adults have had someone in their family spend at least one night in jail or prison. The study's authors said it pointed to a nationwide "incarceration crisis". "These numbers are stunning, all the more so if you think of them not as numbers but as stories like mine," Felicity Rose, FWD director said in a foreword to the report. "One of the worst parts of growing up with a father in and out of prison was the isolation and shame I felt," she added. One in five US adults has had a parent incarcerated, according to the study, resulting in serious financial and emotional consequences. The study said that 113 million US adults have had an immediate family member incarcerated. At the time of the research, 6.5 million adults said an immediate family member was currently in jail or prison. One in seven adults have had a spouse incarcerated; one in eight have had a child locked up. And only one in four are ever able to visit an incarcerated family member. There was no difference in incarceration rates along political lines, but the researchers did find that people of colour were most negatively impacted. African American adults were 50% more likely than white Americans to have had a family member jailed, and three times as likely to have family jailed for 10 years or more, found the research. Latino adults were 70% more likely than white Americans to have a loved one incarcerated for over a year. Low income families were also disproportionately affected, with adults making less than $25,000 (£19,000) a year 61% more likely to have family incarcerated than those earning over $100,000 a year. And 54% of jailed parents were the breadwinners of their families. Incarceration rates were highest in the southern and western states, with residents 60% more likely to experience family incarceration than people in the northeast. (Webmaster's comment: Maybe they should stop breaking the laws and start leading decent lives!)

12-6-18 America has a rare chance at prison reform. We can't let it slip away.
The First Step Act is not the stuff of criminal justice reformers' dreams. The bill, which was designed in part by President Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is accurately named — a limited but not unimportant stride toward making our prison system more reasonable, humane, and just. The bill's main concern is sentencing reform, giving judges greater discretion in sentencing for some future convictions. It also makes retroactive a prior sentencing reform law and slightly expands the circumstances under which inmates can, through good behavior and participation in educational programs, earn earlier transfer to pre-release custody, which can help them better reintegrate into society and avoid recidivism. If passed, First Step will only apply to the federal prison system, which means about nine in 10 of America's 2.1 million inmates won't be affected. That incrementalist approach has earned First Step wide support, including that of President Trump, which means we currently have a narrow window of opportunity for meaningful, if admittedly limited, criminal justice reform at the federal level that may never open again for the next two to six years of the Trump presidency. The trouble now is Trump's interest appears to be waning. This is not especially surprising. It has been months since Kim Kardashian West appeared at the White House in all her celebrity glory to beg Trump's mercy for Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense he later commuted. Football players kneeling to protest police misconduct have largely faded from the headlines. Kushner may be doing his best to keep the old man on track here, but from Trump's reality TV perspective, the prison reform story arc is just about played out. If there is any drama left in the plot, it is unfortunately to be found in opposition to the First Step Act from the right. The most strident — and dishonest — voice here is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a Trump administration ally with an authoritarian streak rivaled only by his enthusiasm for war.

12-5-18 Festive Satanic statue added to Illinois statehouse
A satanic group has added its own statue to a series of displays in the government building of the US state of Illinois to mark the festive season. Placed between a Christmas tree and a menorah, the four-foot sculpture depicts a snake coiled around an outstretched arm holding an apple. It's the first display sponsored by the Chicago chapter of the Temple of Satan. The state government said the temple had the same right as other religious groups to have a display. "Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts," Dave Druker, spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state, told the State Journal-Register. "This recognises that." The move has been criticised on social media by Illinois Family Action, an anti-abortion pressure group. Past decorations in the statehouse rotunda, in the state capital Springfield, have included a "Festivus" pole - a reference to a fictional holiday which was the subject of an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. Founded in 2012 in Salem, Massachusetts, the Temple of Satan describes itself as a non-theistic group that aims to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people". It says its uses satanic imagery to promote the separation of church and state and to campaign for "practical common sense and justice". It has 15 official chapterhouses in the US, the biggest of which is based in Michigan. (Webmaster's comment: It's the same as any religion. They all believe in supernatural beings which do not exist.)

12-4-18 Capitalism is working as designed
Sky-high inequality is what it does best. David Leonhardt of The New York Times has made a shocking discovery: Capitalism isn't delivering the goods for the working class! By Jove! Thus he concludes that capitalism "isn't working." He argues this is due to business leaders becoming selfish and forgetting their social responsibility. And to be fair, it's nice to see liberal business journalists writing frankly about the profound economic dysfunction that has gripped the United States for decades. But capitalism as such is working as designed. Capitalism is a pretty nebulous concept, of course, and people use it to mean a lot of different things. However, there is a set of bedrock ideas that have generally defined the system over the years. They are: private ownership of the means of production (that is, factories, land, raw materials, tools, etc); a class of workers who must sell their labor to get income; and the price of that labor, as well as those of all goods and services generally, being set through markets. We might call this classical or laissez-faire capitalism, as developed in the 19th century. This system has basically never existed in its purest state, so we can think of it as an ideal that states can approximate to a greater or lesser extent. And like all systems of political economy, it produces a justifying ideology: classical liberalism back in the 19th century, or neoliberalism today. An important design feature of classical capitalism is that it only distributes income to workers and owners of capital. It displaced feudalism by driving the peasants off the land, which previously (for all its other gruesome characteristics) served as a sort of safety net by allowing for some subsistence agriculture. If one couldn't work and had no wealth, one starved — which is why early capitalism was widely and correctly seen as a brutal, inhumane system. An important empirical characteristic of classical capitalism is that it automatically creates extreme inequality. This happened in Britain and the United States during the Industrial Revolution up through the Gilded Age, and as Thomas Piketty writes in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it took the Great Depression and two shattering world wars to cut down inequality, through confiscatory war taxation and outright destruction of wealth. (Webmaster's comment: Capitalism - Screw everyone but me!)

12-4-18 Migrants jump border fence in Tijuana to try to reach US
About two dozen migrants climbed over the border wall separating Mexico from the US near Tijuana on Monday. While some ran to evade capture, most handed themselves in to border guards. The attempt to cross into the US illegally came just days after the migrants were transferred from one temporary shelter to another after it had become unsanitary. Thousands of people have left Central America for Tijuana in the hope of crossing into the US. They arrived in mid-October after having travelled more than 4,000km (2,500 miles), much of it on foot. The group, dubbed "migrant caravan", has been camping out in a sports complex turned into a temporary shelter by the local authorities. Last week city authorities bussed them to a concert venue that now acts as a federally run shelter, 14 miles to the south. Officials said conditions at the Benito Juárez sports complex on the border had become untenable after parts of it had flooded. They told the migrants food and medical services would no longer be provided there. Having spent a month trekking towards the United States, many of the migrants are growing frustrated at the long wait that faces them at the border. Many say they are fleeing gang violence in their home towns and want to apply for asylum based on "credible fear", while others are hoping for better job opportunities in the US. Applying for asylum at a border post can take months and with US officials restricting the number of applicants to between 40 and 100 a day at El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, the migrants could be stuck for months or even years in the shelter.

12-3-18 Emantic Bradford Jr: Alabama man 'shot in back' by police
A man wrongly killed by police in an Alabama mall was shot three times from behind, an autopsy has revealed. Emantic Bradford Jr, known as EJ, was shot in the head, neck and hip at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama. Police had identified him as the gunman in the shooting of an 18-year-old man and 12-year-old girl last month. But they later admitted they were mistaken and have since arrested another man. Erron Brown, 20, handed himself in to police. According to an autopsy requested by Bradford's family, a police officer shot the 21-year-old three times from behind. Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Bradford's family, reportedly told a news conference that based on the autopsy, "this officer should be charged with a crime". "There's nothing that justifies him shooting EJ as he's moving away from him." The officer responsible has been placed on administrative leave, and an investigation is under way. However, authorities have given scant details about the case, and are refusing to release body camera footage of the incident. (Webmaster's comment: On administrative leave? How about arresting him for murder!)

12-3-18 No hate crime charge for 'kill a Mexican' attack in Utah
A legal loophole means a Utah man who allegedly battered a Latino father and son while shouting "I'm here to kill a Mexican" cannot be charged with a hate crime, say officials. Alan Dale Covington, 50, is accused of brutally beating Jose Lopez, 51, and his son Luis, 18, with a metal bar. Federal hate crime laws exist, but in Utah only non-serious assaults can be classified as hate crimes. Police say Mr Covington's mental health issues complicate the situation. A Salt Lake County police log said the suspect walked into the Lopez Tires mechanics' garage in Salt Lake City on 27 November with a metal pipe. He declared he was going to kill someone before attacking. The family told the Salt Lake Tribune that Mr Covington had been shouting slurs before the attack, saying "I hate Mexicans" and asking if the Lopez's were "part of the Mexican Mafia" prison gang. He hit Luis first, knocking him unconscious, the family said. When Jose tried to protect his son, he was hit as well. Luis remains in hospital recovering from serious injuries. On a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family's medical bills, Jose Lopez's daughter Veronica wrote that doctors had to operate on her brother, using a titanium plate to hold his "shattered" face together. Her father had eight stitches in his arm and bruising to his back, she added. According to county records, Mr Covington faces eight charges, including two felony counts of aggravated assault on top of drug and weapon charges. But under a much-debated Utah state law, only misdemeanour-level crimes can be charged as hate crimes, not more serious felony offences. "Whether this was a hate crime or not is not even an issue for me to bring to the table - I don't have a statute that allows me to do it," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told the BBC. (Webmaster's comment: Protecting hate crimes by law!)


28 Atheism News & Humanism News Articles
for December 2018

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for November 2018