4-30-19 Donald Trump wants asylum seekers to pay application fee
US President Donald Trump wants asylum seekers to pay a fee to have their applications processed in the latest move in his crackdown on migration. The direction was given in a presidential memorandum on Monday, which called for a slew of new rules. The president also wants to disqualify asylum seekers who enter the United States illegally from obtaining temporary work permits. Critics say that fees would put the process out of reach for many people. In his memo, Mr Trump said the fee would not exceed the cost of processing the applications, but estimates have not yet been provided of what this may be. The vast majority of countries do not charge asylum application fees. "The majority of people coming to the United States seeking asylum are coming with little more than the shirts on their back," Victoria Neilson, a former official at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that accepts asylum applications, told Reuters news agency. Under the current system, asylum seekers who enter the US both legally and illegally are allowed to work while their claims are processed. Mr Trump said regulations should be drawn up to ensure that asylum claims are adjudicated in immigration court within 180 days, except under exceptional circumstances. While asylum cases are already meant to be finished within this timeframe, a backlog of more than 800,000 cases means that asylum claims can take years to be completed. The orders given by Mr Trump to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security mark a dramatic shift in US policy. He has given officials 90 days to come up with the new regulations. The orders come amid Mr Trump's efforts to stem the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross into the US. (Webmaster's comment: It's clear, Trump just hates people!)
4-29-19 Europe and nationalism: A country-by-country guide
With European elections weeks away, nationalist and far-right parties across Europe are sensing an opportunity. A boom in voter support has led to the far right sharing power in Austria and the nationalist League forming a populist coalition in Italy. Spain - once thought a barren ground for such politics - elected multiple far-right politicians to parliament for the first time since the country returned to democracy in 1975. Now, some of these parties are attempting to organise into a pan-European power bloc. In part, this can be seen as a backlash against the political establishment, but the wave of discontent also taps into concerns about globalisation, immigration, a dilution of national identity and the EU itself. Poll success in the 23-26 May elections could have a major impact on the balance of power in the European Parliament. So where in Europe's political landscape do nationalists hold sway?
4-29-19 Mormon comes out as 'gay son of God' in graduation speech
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hasn't always tolerated gay people, but Matt Easton says he was supported when he came out during his graduation speech at a Mormon university.
4-29-19 A bad sense of smell predicts early death but we don’t know why
A poor sense of smell in older adults is linked to a nearly 50 per cent increase in the likelihood of dying in the next 10 years, but the reasons for this aren’t fully clear. The relationship between olfaction and health is often overlooked, however a growing body of research suggests a poor sense of smell can foreshadow the onset of Parkinson’s disease and even premature mortality. To investigate further, Honglei Chen of Michigan State University and his colleagues analysed data from more than 2000 people aged 71 to 82. Each person did a type of test that assesses how good someone is at identifying 12 common odours, such as cinnamon, lemon, gasoline and smoke. The team then tracked the survival of the participants for 13 years afterwards. Compared with those who scored highly on the smell test, those who correctly identified no more than eight odours were 46 per cent more likely to have died 10 years later, and 30 per cent more likely to have died by the end of the 13 years. Analysing the data, the team found that a poorer sense of smell wasn’t linked to deaths from cancer or respiratory illnesses, but was strongly associated with deaths from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. There was a modest link with deaths from cardiovascular disease. It had been thought that a worsening sense of smell might lessen a person’s interest in food, leading to weight loss and worsening health. But the team found that weight loss, dementia and Parkinson’s disease together only explained around 30 per cent of the higher mortality associated with a poor sense of smell. Unfortunately, people are often unaware of their sense of smell degrading and it’s rarely tested by doctors.
4-29-19 America's deadly surge of anti-Semitism
It's time to fight back against the rise of hate and extremism. Another American synagogue has been attacked — with deadly results. A gunman opened fire in a house of worship on Saturday in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three others. It's long past time we ask: What are authorities going to do about the deadly surge of anti-Semitism in the United States? There's no question we're experiencing such a surge. It's been apparent since the 2016 presidential campaign, when journalists were swamped on Twitter with anti-Jewish slurs and memes containing Holocaust imagery. The marchers in Charlottesville famously chanted that "Jews will not replace us." Now, Saturday's deadly attack — coming six months after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue — should sufficiently prove that American racists have been radicalized to the point of violence. The response of American leaders has been fairly flaccid to date. Yes, they've condemned the attacks, but many seem more interested in pinning responsibility on their political rivals. (Republicans, for example, blamed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for Saturday's shooting, even though the alleged shooter's apparent manifesto seemed to indicate a white supremacist bent.) What those leaders haven't really done is offer a plan to fight back. This is desperately needed. The youngest victim of Saturday's attack was an 8-year-old girl, Noya Dahan, who was hit by bullet fragments during the shooting spree. "I never thought that was going to happen to me because like it's a safe place, you're supposed to feel safe," she told ABC News. Fighting anti-Semitism in the United States isn't going to be easy. The ugly and irrational hatred of Jews is a phenomenon that has persisted through the centuries and across national lines. But there are some efforts that can be made to mitigate its impact.
4-28-19 The disabled Christians reinterpreting the Bible
Like many disabled people, I am often approached by Christians who want to pray for me to be healed. While they may be well-intentioned, these encounters often leave me feeling judged as faulty and in need of repair. So I set out to discover what Christianity has to offer disabled people beyond promises of miracle cures. From time to time, without warning or encouragement, I get approached in the street by Christians who tell me they want to pray for me to get my sight back. Since I became blind as a teenager this has been a regular yet annoying by-product of being an independent disabled person who can walk about on the street. The last time this happened was on the London underground. The train was packed full of people all studiously ignoring each other when a man put his hand on my shoulder and asked if he could pray for my sight to be restored. But more about that later. I had always assumed that everyone knew these encounters are a fact of life for people who are visibly disabled. But when one day I told some colleagues about my latest brush with a would-be healer, they were variously fascinated or outraged that anyone would have the cheek to impose their beliefs on me about something so personal. At this point I should perhaps confess that I am not religious. The message I've taken from the Christians who've offered me healing is that I need to be "fixed" - just as Jesus "fixed" disabled people in the Gospels. Far from converting me, this has put me off Christianity. So I was interested to learn that it also annoys some disabled Christians. Reverend Zoe Hemming, vicar of St Andrews Church in the village of Aston in Shropshire, is a part-time wheelchair user who lives with chronic pain. She's had her own encounters with strangers offering healing prayer and says she finds this approach can be "spiritually abusive". "I've been in situations where I've been talking to another wheelchair user in church and somebody was so determined to pray for us and we just kept ignoring them because we were in the middle of a conversation. In the end he just put his arms on both our shoulders and just prayed. It was really annoying and very disempowering. I was furious." (Webmaster's comment: Thank them for wishing their best for you, but tell them to please don't bother praying, it obviously never works! It may make them feel better but not you. If they lay their hands on you tell them emphatically "Take your hands off me!")
4-26-19 Asylum in America
For 150 years, the U.S. has alternated between generously admitting desperate migrants and denying them entry.
- Has the U.S. always offered asylum? In the country’s early history, people fleeing violence and persecution were treated the same as other immigrants.
- Did that stop asylum seekers? The quota system stopped hundreds of thousands of Jews and other Europeans trying to flee Nazi persecution from coming to America.
- Why did the laws change? World War II displaced at least 7 million people in Europe. In response, U.S. lawmakers created the nation’s first formal refugee and asylum policies.
- Who received asylum? Mostly people fleeing communist countries. Since 1975, the U.S. has accepted roughly 3.3 million refugees, the vast majority from Cuba, Vietnam, and the former Soviet Union. Asylum seekers from U.S.-backed right-wing regimes, however, were often rejected as “economic migrants.”
- How does asylum work now? Under U.S. and international law, anyone who physically steps on U.S. soil is entitled to apply for asylum.
- What’s happening at the border? Central Americans fleeing gang violence, lawlessness, and poverty are claiming asylum, either at official ports of entry or by crossing the border and surrendering to Border Patrol agents.
- Defining asylum: The Trump administration maintains that most of the Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. should not count as refugees. Then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled last year that people fleeing “private violence”—including from gangs and domestic abuse—don’t qualify for protection.
4-26-19 Border vigilantes
The FBI last week arrested the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, a small group of armed men who patrol remote sections of the border and take undocumented immigrants they find into custody. Larry Hopkins, 69, the “national commander” of the UCP, was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. His arrest came days after a video that showed UCP members dressed in camouflage, wielding rifles, and holding migrants against their will went viral and prompted a statewide investigation. UCP members claim to have helped detain over 5,600 migrants in the past two months, leading New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to rebuke the efforts of “armed vigilantes.” Hopkins has said in the past that his militiamen were also training to assassinate former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and billionaire liberal donor George Soros, the FBI said.
4-26-19 Losing our reputation for tolerance
The stench of racism is befouling Canadian conservatives, said Denise Balkissoon. The recent provincial election in Alberta, won by the regional United Conservative Party, detonated “a series of stink bombs” in our politics. UCP members were seen “chumming around with white supremacists,” and several had to resign when their Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, or homophobic remarks on social media were exposed. One far-right pundit who used to sell “apartheid South Africa flags and other white supremacist paraphernalia” was welcomed at the UCP’s election-night party. And it’s not just Alberta: Nationwide, nearly 70 percent of Conservative voters say that “too many” immigrants coming into the country are members of “visible minority” groups. That’s a “uniquely Canadian term that lumps together everyone who isn’t white.” Given that appearances alone can’t tell you whether someone was born here or not, resenting the nonwhite is simply racism. Yet rather than confront such bigotry, the ruling Liberal Party has begun to pander to it. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once promised to welcome those fleeing persecution, but now his government portrays them as “asylum shoppers” and is changing the law to make it easier to turn away refugees. Sadly, “this is Canada, now.”
4-26-19 Census challenge
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed poised during oral arguments this week to allow the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite evidence it would significantly suppress Hispanic participation. Several lower courts have found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law and regulations in attempting to include the question, which has not been on the census since 1950. But with the court’s partisan divide on full display, conservative justices expressed doubt about estimates that the citizenship question could deter 6.5 million legal and illegal immigrants from filling out census forms. “It’s very difficult to understand why that question” would depress census participation, said conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch. States with large Hispanic populations could lose House seats and federal funding if the change is made. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that this was Ross’ goal, calling the citizenship question “a solution in search of a problem.”
4-26-19 A call for racial segregation
The student newspaper of Williams College in Massachusetts has called for racially segregated campus housing. The editors of the Williams Record contend that housing students by race, or “affinity housing,” will help “minoritized” students on the primarily white Williams campus better “express their identities without fear of tokenization or marginalization.”
4-27-19 Donald Trump to withdraw US from Arms Trade Treaty
US President Donald Trump has said he will withdraw his country from the international Arms Trade Treaty. The agreement, signed by Barack Obama in 2013, aims to regulate the sale of weapons between countries. The US National Rifle Association says the treaty amounts to international gun control, and is a threat to America's second amendment right to bear arms. Speaking at the lobbying group's annual meeting, Mr Trump said he would ask the US Senate not to ratify the pact. The US is the world's top arms exporter. Its weapons sales are 58% higher than those of Russia, the world's second largest exporter. "We're taking our signature back," the president said at the meeting in Indianapolis, adding that the UN would soon receive formal notice of the US's withdrawal from the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). "Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone," he said. "We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your second amendment freedoms." In a statement released after Mr Trump's speech, the White House said the treaty "fails to truly address the problem of irresponsible arms transfers" because other top arms exporters - including Russia and China - have not signed up to it. UN officials told Reuters news agency that the organisation was previously unaware that Mr Trump was planning to take the US out of the pact. Mr Trump's move prompted condemnation from human rights groups. "The United States will now lock arms with Iran, North Korea and Syria as non-signatories to this historic treaty whose sole purpose is to protect innocent people from deadly weapons," said Oxfam America President Abby Maxman. The UK's shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, posted a tweet calling Mr Trump "a disgrace to his office". Ms Thornberry added: "Donald Trump's statement on the Arms Trade Treaty is the final confirmation that he is not the Leader of the Free World, he never has been, and he does not deserve the honour of a State Visit to Britain." (Webmaster's comment: Hitler did the same thing in Germany. Refused to abide by Arms Treaties Germany had signed. More Ominious Parallels!)
4-26-19 How Ardern soothed a nation
As New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern has won global admiration for her response to the Christchurch shootings, said Toby Manhire in The Guardian. Her expressions of support for the Muslim community were so pitch-perfect they might have been scripted—but the words were her own, and heartfelt. Ardern, 38, has long been a champion of minorities: Raised a Mormon, she left the church in her 20s because of its stance on homosexuality, and she has made the deprivation faced by Maoris, the nation’s indigenous people, one of her priorities. When told about the massacre, Ardern scribbled notes for her press conference—which included the key phrase “They are us.” The day after the shooting, she met with members of Christchurch’s Muslim community, and wore a headscarf borrowed from a friend. That expression of respect and solidarity quickly went viral. “It was naturally what you would do,” she said. “So, no, I didn’t really think about that either.” She doesn’t think she deserves any special praise for her handling of a national tragedy. “People have remarked upon the way we’ve responded, but to me there was no question: You need to remove politics sometimes, and just think about humanity. That’s all.”
4-26-19 Open carry
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has pledged that his government will soon introduce legislation to make it easier for people to carry guns in public, and to give legal cover to those who kill in self-defense. The far-right president had campaigned on repealing the country’s strict gun laws, and he is pushing forward despite rampant gun crime and a rare school shooting in March, in which seven people were killed. Bolsonaro said that the new gun law would “treat collectors, shooters, and hunters with the due respect they deserve.” If a home or farm is broken into, he added, “the owner can defend himself by firing, and if the other side resolves to die, it’s his problem.”
4-26-19 Oil: Iran sanctions could cost U.S. drivers
The Trump administration wants “to push Iranian oil sales to zero,” said Carol Morello and Karen DeYoung in The Washington Post. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that the U.S. will impose sanctions on five countries—China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey—unless they stop importing Iranian oil by May 2. It’s part of a “maximum pressure” campaign intended “to force Iran to choose between a complete change in its behavior and foreign policy, or economic collapse.” Tehran called the sanctions “illegal” and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil-shipping channel. The U.S. is relying on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other OPEC countries “to hike output and prevent a price spike,” said Tom DiChristopher in CNBC.com. But producers are fearful of repeating last year’s oil price crash and will likely “proceed with caution rather than open the taps.” That could result in a “painful summer at the pump for Americans” and potential put a dent in consumer confidence. The national average for regular gasoline has ticked up to $2.84 a gallon over the past two months, and analysts now expect it to top $3. “We’re getting to a point where this could turn ugly,” says Savita Subramanian of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
4-26-19 Holiday rebrand
The Vermont state legislature passed a bill last week abolishing Columbus Day and renaming it Indigenous Peoples’ Day, becoming the third state to officially rebrand the holiday. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said, “I see no reason why I would not sign” the bill, which aims to “aid in the cultural development of Vermont’s recognized tribes” and “move forward” from “the history of colonization.” The change would go into effect on Oct. 14 this year. Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937, largely to honor Americans from Christopher Columbus’ native Italy. Yet opponents today say the holiday whitewashes the brutality of the Americas’ colonization by Europeans and the genocide of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Several states have informally renamed the holiday, as Vermont did three years ago. “I know it’s controversial,” Scott said, “but you know, it’s just a day, and we’ll get through it.” (Webmaster's comment: Columbus was a brutal monster and executed indians for not giving him their gold. See: The Truth About Columbus. A Subversively True Poster Book for a Dubiously Celebratory Occasion.)
4-26-19 Health care: An allergic reaction to Medicare for All
“Health-care stocks have a Washington, D.C., problem that is likely to linger,” said Charley Grant in The Wall Street Journal. Companies across the health-services industry, from insurance giant UnitedHealth Group to Johnson & Johnson and pharma firm Abbott Laboratories, have been getting hammered in the stock market in recent weeks even though they’ve posted strong earnings. The reason is that investors are panicking about a future threat to those earnings: Medicare for All. Pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and other leading contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the policy would broaden government-run insurance to cover all Americans. It might be a death sentence for private health insurance companies, and—by giving the government the power to negotiate more favorable terms with providers—would likely slash profits “for hospitals and manufacturers of drugs and devices.” The sell-off is “reviving memories of the 2008 financial crisis,” said Cristin Flanagan and Tatiana Darie in Bloomberg.com. Insurance and hospital stocks lost $28 billion in market value in one day last week. While this kind of volatility is not unprecedented ahead of a presidential election, a full recovery could “hinge on whether it appears a single-payer policy would truly ban private health insurance policies.” Health-care stakeholders are taking no chances, said Dan Diamond in Politico.com, and some are going on the offensive. The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, which represents some of the state’s largest health-care facilities, has come out against Medicare for All, saying it would “inhibit access and harm health-care quality across the country.” Yet shaking up our health-care system still has “potent political appeal, and not just for those on the Left,” said Max Nisen in Bloomberg.com. Sanders received cheers when he brought up the idea at a Fox News town hall last week. UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann has tried to push back, saying radical reform isn’t needed because “health care’s relative burden on society has lessened” over the past 16 months. But Americans are painfully aware that they spend more than any other country on health care and get worse results. If the “stock slide says anything, it’s that health-care companies need to sharpen their arguments.” (Webmaster's comment: And at least lower cost and be as effective as Europeon healthcare.)
4-26-19 Cleaning up Agent Orange
The U.S. has launched a $183 million cleanup operation at an air base in Vietnam where it once stored the defoliant Agent Orange. U.S. forces sprayed more than 11 million gallons of the chemical during the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1971, to deprive Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces of jungle tree cover. Dioxin-based Agent Orange lingers in the environment and has been linked to cancers and mental and physical disabilities in children. Vietnam says several million people have been affected by the chemical, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects such as missing limbs, spina bifida, and hydrocephaly. The 10-year project to clean up Bien Hoa Airport is the second major U.S. decontamination project; Da Nang Air Base was finished last year.
4-26-19 Anti-Semitic rite condemned
Polish authorities are investigating a Good Friday ceremony in a Polish town that saw children beat and then burn a large, straw-filled effigy that was supposed to resemble Judas but was dressed to look like a Hasidic Jew. Footage of the event showed a bystander shouting that the blows against the doll—which had side curls, a Hasidic hat, and a hooked nose—were for Jewish attempts to get compensation for property lost during the Holocaust and now in Polish hands. Prosecutor Agnieszka Kaczorowska said her investigation into potential hate speech charges would focus on identifying those involved. Pruchnik Mayor Waclaw Szkola expressed his regret and said he’d work to prevent a repeat of such a ceremony. Mock trials of Judas, once a common part of Poland’s Easter traditions, are now rare.
4-26-19 Anita Hill says she wants 'real accountability' from Joe Biden
Anita Hill has said she cannot support Joe Biden's presidential campaign until he takes "full accountability" for his handling of harassment claims she made against a Supreme Court nominee. Biden has been widely criticised over the way he presided over Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearing, and Ms Hill's complaints, back in 1991. Ms Hill told The New York Times he had called her before announcing his bid. But the professor says she was left "deeply unsatisfied" by his approach. She revealed, however, that during the call Mr Biden expressed his "regret for what she endured" during the hearing. "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying 'I'm sorry for what happened to you'," Ms Hill told the newspaper. "I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose." Ms Hill was called to testify at Mr Thomas' confirmation hearing after an FBI interview with her was leaked to the press. The hearing was conducted by an all-white and all-male panel, and several women apparently willing to corroborate Ms Hill's account were not called to testify by Mr Biden. (Webmaster's comment: "I'm Sorry" is an empty, meaningless expression. It costs the person using it NOTHING. The only thing that counts is action to correct the wrong. "I'm Sorry" is a cheap "get out of jail free" card.)
4-26-19 World is angry and stressed, Gallup report says
People around the world are becoming more angry, stressed and worried, according to a new global survey. Of some 150,000 people interviewed in over 140 countries, a third said they suffered stress, while at least one in five experienced sadness or anger. The annual Gallup Global Emotions Report asked people about their positive and negative experiences. The most negative country was Chad, followed by Niger. The most positive country was Paraguay, the report said. Researchers focused on the experiences of participants the day before the survey took place. Interviewees were asked questions such as "did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?" and "were you treated with respect?" in a bid to gain an insight into people's daily experiences. Around 71% of people said they experienced a considerable amount of enjoyment the day before the survey. The poll found that levels of stress were at a new high, while levels of worry and sadness also increased. Some 39% of those polled said they had been worried the day before the survey, and 35% were stressed. Latin American countries including Paraguay, Panama and Guatemala topped the list of positive experiences, where people reported "feeling a lot of positive emotions each day." The poll claims it is reflective of the cultural tendency in Latin America to "focus on life's positives". Chad had the highest score for negative experiences. More than seven in 10 Chadians said they had struggled to afford food at some point in the past year. As many as 61% of people in the country said they had experienced physical pain. The country suffers from inadequate infrastructure and internal conflict, while health and social conditions compare unfavourably with those elsewhere in the region. Despite Chad's high score for negative experiences, people in the US and Greece were more stressed than Chadians. Greece had the most stressed population in the world with 59% saying they experienced stress on the day before the poll. Around 55% of US adults said they were stressed.
4-25-19 How the US military's opium war in Afghanistan was lost
The US has spent $1.5m (£1.15m) a day since 2001 fighting the opium war in Afghanistan. So why is business still booming? It's November 2017. The night vision camera shows a network of streets in a town in Helmand province, the poppy-growing centre of Afghanistan. The camera wheels around the targets before the missiles come arcing in. There are nine strikes in total, each one taking out an individual building in a series of almost simultaneous explosions. This is a jaw-dropping example of precision bombing, using some of the most advanced military technology ever devised, including a B-52 strategic bomber, an F-22 Raptor stealth fighter and an M142 tactical rocket launcher. But the airstrike in Afghanistan's opium capital kills eight civilians. The video of this attack, in which eight Afghan civilians were killed, was one of a series published online by the American military - vivid evidence of the progress of a year-long bombing campaign code-named "Iron Tempest". The objective was to take out the heroin laboratories at the heart of the Taliban's $200m-a-year opium trade, and it was to involve some 200 similar strikes. But, according to new research from the London School of Economics, Operation Iron Tempest was not what it seemed. The study found that, despite excellent intelligence, the multi-million-dollar campaign was having a negligible effect on either the Taliban or the drug trafficking networks in Afghanistan. That was the question Dr David Mansfield asked himself when he first watched that opening salvo in the campaign. "It was bizarre," he says. "I was sitting in the UK, more than three and a half thousand miles from Afghanistan, watching these incredible attacks unfold. The technology the Americans were using was stunning. These bombs seemed to be going in with pin-point accuracy but I was just thinking 'what is the target here?'" Dr Mansfield has studied the Afghan opium industry for more than two decades. He says heroin production leaves certain tell-tale signs and he wasn't seeing any of them. Yet American Forces were claiming the attacks were a success. It would take months of careful detective work using the kind of expertise usually employed by the military - advanced mapping technologies, geospatial analysis of satellite images, as well as dogged investigation on the ground - before Dr Mansfield felt he understood what was happening. His conclusion is surprising. Despite the incredible resources the American military were pouring in, Dr Mansfield and his team are now convinced that the US Air Force was using 21st century fighter jets to bomb little more than mud huts. (Webmaster's comment: As long as the United States Military is killing someone, anyone, it is happy and will claim success for whatever!)
4-25-19 Brazil's indigenous people: 'We fight for the right to exist'
Thousands of indigenous people have protested in the Brazilian capital, Brasília, to defend hard-won land and cultural rights that they say are under threat from the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Mr Bolsonaro says the indigenous territories are too big in relation to the number of people who live there and has promised to freeze new demarcations and open some of them to agriculture and mining. The president has already transferred the creation and limitation of reserves from Brazil's indigenous rights agency, Funai, to the agriculture ministry, a controversial decision that was seen as a victory for the powerful agribusiness sector. According to Funai, there are more than 400 demarcated indigenous territories across the country, or 12.2% of the territory, with some 500,000 inhabitants. The majority of them are located in the Amazon region and some live totally isolated. The president - who has said the indigenous communities are being exploited and manipulated by non-governmental organisations - and his Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, have also strongly criticised the environmental protection agency, Ibama, in charge of policing the Amazon to stop deforestation."This government that's in power today is trying to exterminate the indigenous people, but our people are warriors," indigenous leader Cacique Dara was quoted by AFP news agency as saying. "We don't care about wealth, what's important is nature." Activists say the relaxation of the protections could lead to greater deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and threaten the existence of indigenous tribes. "Having suffered 500 years of genocide and massacres, Brazil's tribal peoples are not going to be cowed by President Bolsonaro, however abhorrent and outdated his views are," Stephen Corry, from rights group Survival International, said earlier this year. (Webmaster's comment: They've lived on their land for centuries but they have no rights to it accordomg to authoritarian rulers like those in Brazil or like those now in America!)
4-24-19 Anti-ageing has often been seen as quack science. Not any more
HISTORY is littered with the corpses of people who claimed to have found the fountain of youth. So caution is warranted with claims of the imminent arrival of drugs to slow ageing. But the field of anti-ageing medicine is now a serious one. A decade ago you could go to conferences and hear outlandish predictions about people living to 150 years old or more, often accompanied by rolling eyes from many scientists in the room. Now the emphasis is no longer on radical life extension, but on ensuring we stay healthier for longer. If this translates into verified drugs, that could presage a medical, economic and social revolution. Keeping at bay the age-related conditions that are now the leading cause of mortality in the developed world will be a humanitarian triumph on a par with sanitation or vaccines. Of course there are possible downsides, for example if larger numbers of sprightly older people refuse to budge from jobs or homes coveted by younger folk. But such problems are fixable. Wouldn’t we rather that than a world in which the nursing home is the only way out?
4-24-19 Who are the US militia at the Mexico border?
With tensions mounting at the US-Mexico border, US militias - groups of armed civilians - have been making headlines for their efforts to patrol the border and seize asylum-seekers. But who are these militia men, what do they believe and is what they're doing legal? The Militia Act of 1903 created the National Guard as a reserve for the Army, managed by each state with federal funding, and defined the "unorganised militia" as men between 17 and 45 years of age who were not part of the military or guard. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines current US militia groups as the armed subset of the anti-government movement. These groups engage in military exercises and gun training, and generally believe in conspiracies regarding the federal government. They focus on protecting second amendment rights - or the right to bear arms granted by the US constitution. "At such a point as the government intends to use the physical power granted it by those who implemented it against them, it then becomes the responsibility of the people themselves to defend their country from its government," the militia's website states. But what's novel about the militia movement recently, Ms Beirich says, is a shift towards more explicitly anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views. "They view immigrants as invaders, destroying the country, undermining the Trump administration." She notes that those ideas predated Donald Trump's presidency, but his election win emboldened the movement. In addition, militias have begun to work openly with white supremacists, which was rare in the past, Ms Beirich says. (Webmaster's comment: They are male brutes who want the right to kill anyone who disagrees with them, that's why they want the guns!)
4-24-19 IS conflict: Coalition strikes on Raqqa 'killed 1,600 civilians'
More than 1,600 civilians were killed in US-led coalition air and artillery strikes during the offensive to oust the Islamic State group from the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2017, activists say. Amnesty International and monitoring group Airwars said they had carried out investigations at 200 strike locations and identified 1,000 of the victims. They urged the coalition to "end almost two years of denial" about such deaths. The coalition says there were 180 civilian casualties in its campaign. Commanders say all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties were taken in those cases and that the decisions to strike complied with the law of armed conflict. Coalition states - including the US, UK and France - have conducted 34,000 strikes in Syria and neighbouring Iraq since 2014, when IS militants overran large swathes of the two countries and imposed their brutal rule on almost eight million people. pocket of land held by the jihadists, bringing a formal end to their self-proclaimed "caliphate", whose de facto capital was Raqqa. Amnesty and Airwars said that following an unprecedented investigation they had been able to build a database of the civilians reportedly killed as a direct result of US, UK and French air strikes and US artillery strikes carried out in Raqqa from June to October 2017 in support of a ground offensive by the SDF. Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser, said that IS "snipers and mines had turned the city into a death trap" but that "many of the [coalition] air bombardments were inaccurate and tens of thousands of artillery strikes were indiscriminate, so it is no surprise they killed and injured many hundreds of civilians". She added: "Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth." (Webmaster's comment: The United States military continues its policy of "Just Kill Eevdrbody!")
4-24-19 Migrant caravan: Mexico detains hundreds in raid
Mexico has detained nearly 400 Central American migrants who were travelling through the south of the country trying to reach the US border, officials say. Monday's operation in Chiapas state targeted a group of some 3,000 migrants which included small children. It is said to be the largest single raid on people travelling in so-called caravans. Officials say those detained had refused to apply for visas. Mexico is under pressure from the US to stem the flow of people heading north. There has been a huge increase in men, women and children fleeing El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the three countries where most of those seeking asylum on the US-Mexico border come from. President Donald Trump again threatened to close the border if Mexico did not do more to stop the undocumented migrants. Mexican immigration authorities targeted people at the start and end of the group on a road near the town of Pijijiapan, forcing migrants into police vehicles as children cried. The migrants who managed to escape hid in hills and took refuge at nearby shelters and churches. "They waited until we were resting and fell upon us, grabbing children and women," Arturo Hernández, a 59-year-old farmer from Comayagua, Honduras, who fled with his grandson, told AP news agency. "There are people still lost up in the woods. The woods are very dangerous." Those detained were sent to an immigration station in the nearby city of Tapachula, but it was not clear whether they would be deported. Also speaking to AP, Denis Aguilar, a factory union leader from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, said this was a "planned ambush" to break up the caravan. "They grabbed the children... the strollers are abandoned there." (Webmaster's comment: Notice who the border guards target, the children! Just like in the United States.)
4-24-19 Why canceling student debt could be good for everyone
When it comes to the student debt crisis, Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to go big. On Monday, Warren announced a plan that would simply cancel out the vast bulk of the $1.5 trillion in student loans currently hanging over Americans' heads. As a straightforward alleviation of human suffering, the plan is worth doing. But it also has merits as a raw boost to the economy. The first thing to understand is that paying down debt is always, by and large, a drag on growth. Whenever the federal government or a private bank makes a loan, they are literally injecting new money into the economy. When the person who owes the loan pays it back, the money is removed from the economy. Canceling $1.5 trillion in debt would free up hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent on goods and services and fresh economic activity, rather than simply being drained away. That's the big picture, anyway. The nitty gritty of Warren's proposal is worth examining though. Warren's plan would actually cancel $1.25 trillion of the debt. Specifically, she would eliminate $50,000 worth of debt for any household that makes less than $100,000 a year. For Americans making more than that, the amount of debt relief would slowly decline until hitting $0 for people making $250,000 or more in annual income. It's not a complete eradication of the student debt burden. But Warren's team estimates that the proposal would completely wipe out all student debt for 75 percent of the Americans who owe it, and offer at least some debt relief to 95 percent. A lot of student debt is owned by the federal government directly. Eliminating that is a simple matter of legal cancelation, no additional government spending necessary. But a smaller portion is owned by private lenders, so in that case the government would pay off the debt itself. Long story short, the vast majority of the money that people lose servicing their debt burdens would instead get freed up for other purposes.
4-23-19 Supreme Court to hear LGBT workplace discrimination cases
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear three cases that ask if existing US job discrimination laws should extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. Two of the cases involve alleged discrimination of gay men by their employers, and the third examines the discrimination of a transgender person. The cases will signal the direction of LGBT rights in the US, four years after gay marriage was legalised nationwide. The 5-4 conservative-majority court is set to examine the cases this fall. The first two cases have been consolidated as both address the purported discrimination of gay employees. Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor from New York, and Gerald Bostock, a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia, both alleged they were fired because of their sexual orientation. The top court will also examine the Michigan case of funeral home employee Aimee Stephens, who claims she was fired because she is transgender.In its listing of the cases, the Supreme Court cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the section that prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. But it does not explicitly reference sexual orientation or gender identity, and lower courts have been divided in recent years on whether the protections should apply to either category. The US Justice Department under President Donald Trump has supported the employers in each case, arguing that existing federal civil rights protections do not extend to sexual orientation or gender identity. This marks a change in course from the Obama administration, which supported treating LGBT discrimination as sex discrimination. Some advocates for LGBT equality celebrated the opportunity for workplace protections to be cemented in law. "The Supreme Court has an opportunity to clarify this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ people in many important areas of life", said Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign legal director, in a statement. "The growing legal consensus is that our nation's civil rights laws do protect LGBTQ people against discrimination under sex nondiscrimination laws." In her statement Ms Warbelow urged Congress to pass protections for LGBT employees, "regardless" of the court's decision. In 2017, the Supreme Court chose not examine a case involving a lesbian working as a hospital security officer in Georgia, leaving a lower court ruling in place which sided with the woman's employer. The current bench, a 5-4 conservative majority, includes Trump appointees Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Webmaster's comment: I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will come down against LGBTs. And much worse will follow in the behavior of many members of society including physical violence!)
4-22-19 Polish Judas ritual 'anti-Semitic' - Jewish congress
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has voiced outrage over a Polish town's ritual beating of a Judas effigy which looks like a caricature Orthodox Jew. The Good Friday ritual in Pruchnik, south-eastern Poland, was filmed and posted by a Polish news website. "Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering," the WJC said. More than three million Polish Jews were murdered during World War Two. In total Nazi Germany murdered about six million Jews in death camps in occupied Poland and killing fields in the former Soviet Union. (Webmaster's comment: Nazi Germany also murdered more than 12 million Russian Orthodox Christians but nobody ever mentions them!) In the Pruchnik ritual - part of Roman Catholic Easter celebrations - children crowded round the effigy beating it with sticks, as adults dragged it through the streets. The mock Judas had a big red nose, black hat and Orthodox-style ringlets. In the past the Catholic Church in Poland had banned such practices. Last year a diplomatic row erupted between Israel and Poland after the conservative Polish government made it an offence to allege that the Polish nation was complicit in Nazi crimes. US officials also criticised the new law. Later the Polish government watered down the controversial law, by scrapping the prison sentences prescribed for such offences. Research shows that thousands of Poles collaborated with the Nazis. But many other Poles risked their lives to help Jews. (Webmaster's comment: Some Christians are very Sick!)
4-21-19 US arrests 'member of border militia' in New Mexico
US authorities have arrested an alleged member of a militia that has been stopping migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border. Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was detained in New Mexico as a felon in possession of a weapon. It comes just days after a video emerged of militia members detaining dozens of migrants in the desert. The group, United Constitutional Patriots, has been condemned by civil rights groups and local officials. "This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families," said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. "Today's arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes." While his statement said Mr Hopkins had been arrested as a felon, it did not specify what the underlying conviction had been. The alleged militia member is expected to appear in court on Monday. As details of this week's latest video emerged, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Twitter that "menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease". (Webmaster's comment: Arrest all the vigilantes and lock them up!)
4-21-19 Agent Orange: US to clean up toxic Vietnam War air base
The US has launched a multi-million dollar clean-up operation at an air base in Vietnam it used to store the notorious chemical Agent Orange. The ten-year programme, unveiled more than four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, will cost $183m (£141m). The site at Bien Hoa airport, outside Ho Chi Minh City, is considered the most contaminated in the country. Agent Orange was a defoliant sprayed by US forces to destroy jungles and uncover the enemy's hiding places. It contained dioxin, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man and has been linked to increased rates of cancers and birth defects. Vietnam says several million people have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects. At Bien Hoa the chemical has contaminated the soil and seeped into nearby rivers. A statement from the US development agency USAID, which is behind the clean-up, described the site as the "largest remaining hotspot" of dioxin in Vietnam. "The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic," US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, said at Saturday's programme launch. More than 80 million litres of Agent Orange are estimated to have been sprayed by US forces over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971. From the 1960s, doctors in Vietnam began to see a sharp rise in birth defects, cancers and other illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical. The US compensates its veterans exposed to the defoliant, but does not compensate Vietnamese nationals. (Webmaster's comment: Another American war crime, but no American will ever be punished for it!)
4-21-19 Columbine survivors mark twentieth anniversary of massacre
Survivors of the Columbine High School shooting have been speaking at a remembrance ceremony in Denver to mark the twentieth anniversary of the massacre. Twelve students and a teacher were murdered by two teenagers. One former student, Patrick Ireland, who was injured by bullets, said no one from the school or surrounding community had emerged unscathed. The event was the culmination of three days of commemorations. Earlier, members of the public left flowers and cards at a memorial to the victims. Columbine students and staff also marked the day by taking part in community service projects.
4-21-19 'I'm either too black or not black enough': One teenager's experience
Coming here for my senior year has been quite an experience. The most jarring: I feel like a minority. Don't get me wrong, I've been a minority before. Technically, all people of African descent are minorities in America, the place where I've lived most of my life. Yet, this is the first time I've been aware of it. There are so few black students at my school that by next year, there's a good chance that no one in secondary will have black skin. Should that not be scary? Is it weird for me that it is? It's not that I'm scared to be the only black person at the school; that's not really the issue. It's that there's part of black culture that has spread throughout the student population that reeks of ignorance. I hear the N-word on a daily basis; I see gang signs being tossed around as if they hold no other significance than a flick of the wrist. Students say it's OK because it's part of rap culture, which most of the student body listens to; but it's not. I hear the whispers of others making fun of my skin tone, yet I'm mocked if I wear a chain. I'm stared at by others and confronted by questions such as if I am related to another dark-skinned person in this community because "we look alike". I am either too black or not black enough; yet no matter what, I am in the wrong. The stares weigh over me like a thick smog, the whispers cloud my hearing, and on this campus I am left an outcast. Isolated. Alone. The first time I heard the N-word was shortly after I arrived. It was after school in the secondary building's upstairs lobby. I was talking to two other classmates, and across from us, a group of peers played chess at one of the tables. Paying them no attention, I began to tap away at my computer's keyboard. I don't know what caused it, but there seemed to be a move made that provoked one of the players to voice his frustration out loud, causing him to let the word slip from his mouth. We all knew it was intended for his friend, but I couldn't stop the way my stomach dropped at hearing such a word used. They even had the audacity to freeze afterward; and from my peripheral, I saw them turn their heads to look at me and gauge my reaction, his friend chiding him in a rushed whisper. I knew it was wrong, they knew it was wrong, yet the weight of their stares sewed my mouth shut and glued my eyes to the computer screen. So he said it again, in a different sentence, but a little louder as if testing the waters once more, and when my body grew taut and my mouth refused to open, they giggled. And repeated it another time, with renewed strength, laughter almost euphoric as I sat frozen in place, unable to continue typing and forcing my finger to drag across the mouse pad so it looked like I was doing something. Anything. I felt sick to my stomach. To continue breathing felt like a chore. To sit there and not cry was almost unbearable. (Webmaster's comment: White male racist brutes! They only have courage in numbers. They should all be in prison!)
4-20-19 Militia detains migrants at gunpoint along the US-Mexico border
A video has emerged of armed right-wing militia members stopping over 300 migrants as they cross the Mexico border into the US state of New Mexico. The group calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots, and are seen in the Facebook clip standing over migrants sitting on the desert ground. The group's actions have been condemned by civil liberties groups and New Mexico state officials. The militia supports President Donald Trump's plan for a border wall. The incident comes amid a spike in border crossings, despite White House efforts to stem the influx. The video, posted to militia member Jim Benvie's Facebook page, shows a large group of migrants who were said to have just crossed the border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, being detained by the armed vigilantes on 16 April. The migrant group, which contains many women and children, are seen sitting and squatting in the darkness and squinting up into the militia's spotlights. Before Border Patrol agents arrive to take custody of the migrants, a woman narrating the video tells a man who appears to be a militia member "don't aim the gun" in the direction of the families. Mr Benvie, a spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots, told the New York Times the group has been camping in the region for the past two months and plans to stay until Mr Trump succeeds in building his controversial border wall. "If these people follow our verbal commands, we hold them until Border Patrol comes," Mr Benvie said, describing the interaction as a "citizen's arrest". "Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down," said Mr Benvie, who is visiting the region from his home state of Minnesota. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement that the vigilantes had no legal right to stop anyone inside the US. "If migrant families are made to feel threatened, that's completely unacceptable," she said. "And it should go without saying that regular citizens have no authority to arrest or detain anyone." New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas warned in a statement that "these individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement". (Webmaster's comment: Arrest all the vigilantes and lock them up!)
4-19-19 Five numbers that explain US border crisis
As the number of migrant arrivals at the US southern border increases, the Trump administration has taken measures with an aim to deter the migration. Now, US Attorney General William Barr has moved to expand indefinite detention for asylum seekers who have proven a credible fear for their safety. Here's what you need to know.
4-19-19 'How the Columbine school shooting changed my life'
Twenty years on from the Columbine school shooting, those who survived are still deeply impacted by what happened. Twelve students and a teacher were killed in the massacre in Colorado on 20 April 1999. It shocked the nation. Frank DeAngelis was the school principal. He begins each day by saying the names of the 13 victims. Samantha Haviland was a student at the time, and still suffers from PTSD and survivor's guilt. She has a message for the growing number of school shooting survivors in the US.
4-18-19 U.S. won’t be investigated
The International Criminal Court last week dropped plans to investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, citing a lack of cooperation from the U.S. and other parties. That probe would have looked at civilian killings, torture, and other abuses in the 18-year Afghan War, including by U.S. soldiers and intelligence officers, the Taliban, and Afghan government forces. President Trump hailed the decision as “a major international victory.” His administration has vowed to deny U.S. visas to any ICC staff who investigate or rule on war crimes cases involving Americans, and recently revoked the visa of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. Afghan human rights campaigner Hadi Marifat decried the ICC for abandoning the probe, saying, “The court was a last hope for all of us in a country which is completely lacking justice.”
4-18-19 Second deadliest year
“Active-shooter” incidents around the U.S. fell slightly last year, but remained at the second-highest level since 2000, the FBI said. In total, there were 27 incidents of gunmen trying to kill people in schools, churches, workplaces, and other public places in 2018, leaving 85 people dead and 128 wounded. There were 30 such shootings in 2017, the deadliest year on record.
4-18-19 One death by cop is too many
Three Swedish police have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a man with Down syndrome who was playing with a toy gun, said Ingvar Persson. It’s a tragedy for everyone: for the 20-year-old victim, Eric Torell, for his family and friends, and “for the three police officers” who responded to a report of an armed man on the streets of Stockholm. They are being prosecuted for misconduct and manslaughter. Everyone has sympathy for the officers, who feared for their safety and were “forced to make life-or-death decisions in a fraction of a second.” Even the prosecutor concedes that Torell’s toy gun looked like a real weapon. But those arguments “are not enough.” The police should have known that the real gunman had been arrested before they encountered Torell. More important, they should have stopped firing once he was subdued. A total of 25 bullets were fired. Clearly, officers need more extensive training. Police shootings are “extremely rare” in Sweden, with an average of one person killed a year for the past 20 years—a far cry from the hundreds fatally shot each year by cops in the U.S. But even one is too many. We entrust our police with deadly force, and they must take that responsibility deadly seriously.
4-18-19 Benedict: Blame the sexual revolution
For six years, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been content to spend retirement practicing “his Mozart at the piano” and tending his “vegetable patch,” said Tom Kington in the Los Angeles Times. But now the former pope, 91, has broken his self-imposed silence with an “incendiary essay.” In it, he blames the church’s sexual abuse crisis on a society-wide “erosion of rules and morality” triggered by the sexual revolution. “In the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely,” Benedict writes. Priests internalized society’s new belief that sexual expression of all kinds was natural and moral, Benedict says, so that even pedophilia came to be seen as “allowed and appropriate.” Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, has blamed “clericalism,” or priests who emphasized power over service, so this new, contradictory analysis has sent “shock waves” through the church. Benedict’s “self-justifying” letter ignores the facts, said David Von Drehle in The Washington Post. As we now know from investigations worldwide, many abuse cases “occurred long before the fateful ’60s.” But in his arrogance, Benedict believes that “priests raped children and bishops covered it up because the rest of us in society forced them into it through our godless depravity.” In reality, the blame lies with the bishops and cardinals who covered up thousands of cases of child abuse by authorizing hush money payoffs to victims, attacking truth tellers, and sending monstrous offenders on “spiritual retreats” rather than turning them over to the authorities. The only salvation for the “corrupted church” is sincere and prolonged confession and atonement by the hierarchy—not Benedict’s astonishing denial of responsibility. Sorry, but “two popes is one too many.”
4-18-19 Buttigieg: Can a true Christian be gay?
Pete Buttigieg is trying to win the presidency by breaking “the Republican lock on God,” said Timothy Egan in The New York Times. The 37-year-old Rhodes scholar, Navy veteran, and mayor of South Bend, Ind., formally entered the Democratic presidential race this week after surging to third place in several polls. “Surprisingly for a modern Democrat,” he’s a proud Christian, eloquently explaining how faith informs his desire for a compassionate immigration policy and universal health care. “Mayor Pete,” as he likes to be called, is gay; he proudly shows off his husband, Chasten, and has said their marriage has “moved me closer to God.” That’s a pointed challenge to social conservatives like Vice President Mike Pence who insist on their right to view homosexuality as a sin and gay marriage as a moral wrong. To the “Mike Pences of the world,” Buttigieg recently said, “your quarrel is not with me—your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” If not animus, then ignorance, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. Conservative Christians’ homophobia “is based on the belief that being gay is a choice made in conscious defiance of God and nature”—an assumption that’s fading away as straight people get to know openly gay friends, family members, and colleagues. Pence and his allies like to hide behind the old canard of “loving the sinner but hating the sin,” said Bob Moser in NewRepublic.com. But Buttigieg is using the “powerful platform” of his presidential candidacy to point out that the dehumanizing laws, public policies, and court rulings evangelicals seek would make gay people second-class citizens—which is anything but loving. His eloquence on this topic has left champions of Bible-based intolerance “furious—and scared.”
4-18-19 Priest banished for wife’s sin
A Russian Orthodox priest has been removed from his parish and sent to minister to a remote village because his wife won a beauty contest. Oksana Zotova performed a Brazilian dance in a skimpy costume at the Miss Sensuality pageant during Lent, and when Father Sergei Zotov’s superiors saw the photos of his beautician wife on social media, they were not amused. “It is a great sin when the wife of a priest exposes herself for show,” said Archpriest Feodor Saprykin. “What kind of a priest is he if he cannot control his own family? How does he intend to control his congregation?” Zotov will serve the rural congregation in Fershampenuaz, 45 miles from his home city of Magnitogorsk, until church authorities decide his atonement is complete.
4-18-19 Church burnings
Prosecutors charged the son of a deputy sheriff with hate crimes and arson this week after he allegedly burned down three black churches over 10 days. Holden Matthews, 21, pleaded not guilty and was denied bond after the sheriff’s office said “another fire was imminent.’’ Authorities said they found photos and videos on Matthews’ phone linking him to gasoline-fueled fires that destroyed St. Mary Baptist on March 26, Greater Union Baptist on April 2, and Mount Pleasant Baptist two days later. Nobody was inside when the century-old buildings were destroyed. Authorities noted that Matthews is lead singer in a “black-metal’’ band called Vodka Vultures; the genre is known for its nihilistic themes. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said his deputy, Roy Matthews, had “no knowledge” of his son’s alleged crimes. The NAACP called the arsons “domestic terrorism.”
4-18-19 Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow
The ugly chapter in U.S. history that followed Reconstruction “in some ways has never really ended,” said Michael Schaub in NPR.org. In a “brilliant” new book, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns to that often neglected period to examine how many of the rights newly won for the nation’s ex-slaves were taken away and how a white-supremacist ideology arose to justify and secure the apartheid policies of the long Jim Crow era. Gates is interested too, in how African-Americans eventually pushed back on other fronts, establishing a cycle that continues repeating today. “Predictably,” Gates delivers a fascinating analysis, “but he’s also just a joy to read.” For anyone wishing to study this sorry story, Gates’ 250-page book is “excellent one-stop shopping,” said Howell Raines in The Washington Post. He captures how statehouses in the South stripped blacks of rights and how the violence of the Ku Klux Klan backed the legislative campaign. But he also chronicles how Harvard and its ilk nurtured two pseudo-disciplines—eugenics and “scientific racism”—that contributed to racist myths and a central theme of the era: that Reconstruction had been a radical attempt to put white Southerners under the boot of an inferior people. But around the time Jim Crow terrorism was at its worst—and President Wilson was screening Birth of a Nation at the White House—black people began pushing back, said Gene Seymour in Newsday. The term “the New Negro” was first applied to Booker T. Washington, but it was embraced during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance by educated African-Americans who aspired to be models of the race—an artistic and intellectual vanguard. Gates calls the New Negro “black America’s first superhero,” and he “rousingly” contends that the ideal established a pattern for black resistance to racism.
4-18-19 Taxes from cannabis
The U.S. government collected $4.7 billion in taxes from cannabis companies in 2017. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but cannabis businesses still have to pay federal taxes on gross income and are not allowed deductions or credits. Seven states also tax pot. Alaska, for example, takes $50 per ounce of marijuana buds.
4-18-19 U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades
As Christian and Jewish Americans prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, respectively, Gallup finds the percentage of Americans who report belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque at an all-time low, averaging 50% in 2018. U.S. church membership was 70% or higher from 1937 through 1976, falling modestly to an average of 68% in the 1970s through the 1990s. The past 20 years have seen an acceleration in the drop-off, with a 20-percentage-point decline since 1999 and more than half of that change occurring since the start of the current decade.
- Half of Americans are church members, down from 70% in 1999
- Most of the decline attributable to increase in percentage with no religion
- Membership has fallen nine points among those who are religious
4-18-19 What Donald Trump has said about Jews
nti-Semitism is on the rise. One major force behind this increase is surely President Donald Trump, who has frequently pushed anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories, and repeatedly refused to condemn anti-Semites. Let's review some history, broken into four categories. In the recent controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) criticizing Israel, conservatives accused her of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes about Jews having "dual loyalty" to Israel. While she never actually said anything like that, as Eli Valley points out, she could have phrased her comments better to avoid causing unnecessary offense (and indeed she has done so since that time). But Trump has said something far, far worse than even what the most bad-faith critics of Omar accused her of saying. In a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in April, he said that recently reelected Benjamin Netanyahu was "your prime minister." Instead of implying dual loyalty, he all but said Jews aren't actually Americans at all, because they have single loyalty to Israel. As Josh Marshall writes, it's "as though American Jews are somehow an expat community of Israelis resident in the United States." (The conservatives who had a purple-faced screaming fit about Omar mysteriously didn't raise a fuss about this.) One of the oldest stereotypes about Jews is that they are all money-grubbing chislers — a prejudice that was at the root of countless medieval pogroms. Trump has implied or straight-up said this many times. In a 1991 book, John O'Donnell, the former president of the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, said Trump had told him: "Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day." He later called O'Donnell a "loser" in an interview with Playboy, but allowed that, "The stuff O'Donnell wrote about me is probably true." When asked by Jake Tapper in February 2016 to denounce former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, Trump refused, saying "I just don't know anything about him." (Though he did grudgingly disavow his endorsement at other times.) After the extreme right-wing rally at Charlottesville in August 2017, where torch-wielding mobs chanted "Jews will not replace us," and one neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car into a crowd, injuring 19 people and killing one, Trump at first condemned the extreme right. But the next day he walked back his own statement, insisting that the violence was also the fault of the "alt-left," and defended the rally attendees, saying there were "some very fine people on both sides." Probably the worst anti-Semitic propaganda Trump has pushed is the classic conspiracy theory that Jews control world politics and the global economy. In the last days of the 2016 campaign, he rolled out an ad featuring three rich Jews — then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and financier George Soros — over a narration decrying "those who control the levers of power in Washington," and the "global special interests" who "partner with these people who don't have your good in mind." The obvious implication is that Hillary Clinton is a cat's paw for a global Jewish conspiracy. As Josh Marshall writes, "These are standard anti-Semitic themes and storylines, using established anti-Semitic vocabulary." Trump has focused particular ire on George Soros in this vein. He baselessly accused him of funding protesters of Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and suggested Soros could be funding the refugee caravan — lending credence to the conspiracy theory that world Jewry is conspiring to bring immigrants into the United States to replace white people (thus the "Jews will not replace us" chant referenced above).
4-18-19 Immigrants pave the way for the gentrification of black neighborhoods
A study shows Asian and Hispanic immigrants alter U.S. neighborhood demographics. Many think of gentrification today as wealthy, white millennials moving into low-income, minority neighborhoods and driving up housing costs. Yet a new study suggests that another group may play a key role in the process: immigrants. Gentrification, in which affluent outsiders settle and renovate rundown neighborhoods, generally decreases in white neighborhoods when immigrants from Asia and Latin America move in. The opposite is true in black neighborhoods, where rising immigrant numbers increase the odds an area will be gentrified. “Changing the ethnoracial composition might make neighborhoods seem more amenable for [white] people to move in,” suggests study coauthor and sociologist Jackelyn Hwang of Stanford University, who presented her findings April 11 at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Austin, Texas. Wealthy and middle-class whites fled the nation’s cities for racially homogenous suburbs in the 1950s and ’60s. Then over the next few decades, they slowly returned to cities to be closer to jobs and other amenities. That return triggered the gentrification of urban communities, initially in predominately white and other nonblack neighborhoods. By the 1990s, though, whites were also moving to predominately black neighborhoods. In 2015, Hwang showed that, even in the 1970s and ’80s, black neighborhoods were more likely to be gentrified following the arrival of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. With the number of U.S. immigrants growing from 9.7 million in 1970 to 42.4 million in 2014, Hwang suspected her earlier observations might still hold true.
4-17-19 US ruling to expand indefinite detention for some asylum seekers
Asylum seekers who have proven a credible fear of for their safety will no longer be able to ask a judge for bond, the justice department says. US Attorney General William Barr's decision means more migrants can be indefinitely detained while they wait for their cases to be heard. The policy will be delayed for 90 days to allow officials to prepare for overcrowding in detention facilities. Activists denounced the decision and vowed to fight it in court. The US Justice Department oversees the country's immigration court system, which means Mr Barr has the authority to issue precedent-setting judgments on immigration enforcement. This judgment, which overturns a George W Bush-era policy from 2005, is Mr Barr's first ruling on immigration since taking office. The move is seen as an effort to end what President Donald Trump describes as a "catch-and-release" policy towards illegal immigrants. The decision overturns a policy that allowed migrants who illegally crossed into the US between official crossing points to apply for bond release after they proved to asylum officers they had a credible fear of persecution or torture if they returned to their country. But under the new ruling, those migrants must be now kept in detention as they await the outcome of their trial. Many immigration cases can take over several years to be processed, experts say, due to a historically high backlog in cases. According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) - agency responsible for detaining and deporting immigrants in the country illegally - the average daily population of immigrants in detention was over 46,000 for the 2019 fiscal year. The figure is the highest level the agency has seen since its creation in 2003. (Webmaster's comment: They come to us for help and we lock them up forever! We are not a good or nice nation!)
4-17-19 Gun that launches cord to wrap around assailant used for first time
US police have successfully used a gun that fires a cord to bind the assailant’s limbs for the first time. Earlier this month, police in Fort Worth, Texas, were called to deal with an armed suspect barricaded in a house. Tear gas forced the suspect into the open, and officers then used the gun, called the BolaWrap, to prevent him from fleeing. The BolaWrap is pistol-sized and has a laser pointer for aiming. It fires a 2.5 metre Kevlar cord up to 8 metres away, which wraps around the target, impeding movement. The cord has fishhook-like barbs at either end which attach to clothing, securing it in place. The BolaWrap’s name comes from the weighted bolas thrown by South America gauchos to capture running cattle or birds. Like the bolas, it is typically aimed at a target’s legs, which is what happened in the Fort Worth incident. Police say that while the suspect was attempting to remove the BolaWrap, officers overpowered him and took him into custody. Sixteen US police departments are testing the device, developed by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies, but this is the first time it has been used in action. BolaWrap is intended to prevent a situation from escalating. While Tasers and pepper spray inflict pain and may provoke a violent response, BolaWrap simply holds the suspect in place. “It’s like handcuffs, from a distance,” says Judah Meiteles of Wrap Technologies. However, there are potential hazards. Any device like this could be dangerous at extremely short range. There are also real concerns over accuracy and the risks posed to the face, head and neck, says Oliver Feeley-Sprague at human rights charity Amnesty International. Training will be important to use the device safely, he says.
4-16-19 The girls of Bessborough
The walls were high and the wrought-iron gates opened on to a long, winding avenue. At the end was a once-grand three-storey Georgian mansion in one of the better-off, sleepy suburbs of Cork city. It was 1960, and Bridget arrived with a single suitcase and a rose-pink coat with a belt. She felt immediately uneasy. “Everything was hidden from the outside, surrounded by shrubbery and trees. People couldn't see in.” Once through the door, her clothes, her savings book, her small stud earrings and her bracelet were taken from her. She was given a uniform - clogs and a starched denim dress. Bridget - like the other arrivals - was told not to speak about her life outside. All of them were given a different name. Hers was Alma - but she couldn’t get used to it. None of the girls had committed any crime. But they had two things in common. They were all unmarried and they were all pregnant. At Bessborough, the long rooms of the girls’ quarters were on the top floor, looking out towards the cemetery. The nuns called them all “girls”, but in truth the residents were anything from 13 to 30. Bridget was 17 when she arrived. She was there because she had sinned, or so the nuns told her, by falling pregnant. This was a mother and baby home, not a prison. Legally, Bridget and the other girls could have left at any time. But in practice it wasn’t as simple as that. Any girl who ran away might find themselves rounded up by the police. And in any case, for the vast majority there was just nowhere else for them to go. Each girl admitted to the home knew they would give birth there and stay until their baby was adopted - as long as three years. They weren’t allowed outside except for short walks around the grounds and they had to be accompanied. They were all given jobs. Some worked in the kitchens or in the red-bricked laundry building. Bridget worked nights in a small room off the labour ward. Even in the quieter times, there was little chance to rest. (Webmaster's comment: Shades of the Magdalene Sisters all over again.)
4-16-19 The grave dangers of Trump's 'patriotic correctness'
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) misspoke. In a speech about Islam and civil liberties in America, she described the 9/11 attacks with a phrase — "some people did something" — far too casual. In context, Omar's words were an inartful expression of a legitimate frustration: that, in the wake of this horror, the U.S. security state went into hyperdrive, and the rights of the innocent many were violated because of the abhorrent deeds of the guilty few. Out of context, her words have become a jingoistic cause célèbre. Naturally, President Trump got in on the action, tweeting a video which juxtaposed Omar's phrase with graphic footage of the terror attacks. Omar reported receiving a "sharp increase" in death threats after the tweet, many of them explicitly referencing Trump's post. But, presented with this information by a local reporter while visiting Omar's home state on Monday, the president was unconcerned. He had no second thoughts about the tweet, Trump said, "not at all." Omar has "got a way about her that's very, very bad, I think, for our country," he continued. "I think she's extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country." The logic here is stunning: For those who demonstrate insufficient patriotism, death threats are no problem. In fact, they may even be appropriate. Fail to adequately perform uncritical affection for the United States and it will be noticed and punished. Real Americans police each other's patriotism, Trump seems to be saying, and those who are "extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country" cannot expect to get off scot-free. Of course, it goes without saying that controversial speech will have consequences. Omar could not anticipate — and I very much doubt she did anticipate — that her speech would be met with universal agreement or even silence from those who don't share her views. No politician with a national profile would be naive enough to imagine she could avoid confrontation; in this very speech, in fact, Omar called on American Muslims to be willing to "make people uncomfortable" in their civil rights activism if necessary. But there is a chasm between the consequences Omar could have rightfully expected (criticism, denunciation, lost votes, lost office) and those she got (death threats, fueled in part by a tweet from the president, who does not regret his role in inspiring what are hopefully empty menaces to Omar's life). The former is appropriate and normal — part of participating in public conversation in a country like ours. The latter is what happens when patriotism goes awry, when devotion to the nation-state takes a turn toward the idolatrous, when we stop wanting what is best for our communities and simply want to be the best, unchallenged by even what is intended as constructive critique.
4-16-19 The Notre Dame fire and the power of silent reverence
The only good response to this tragedy was quiet reflection. Unfortunately, culture warriors had other plans.. A fire ignited in the 856-year-old Notre Dame cathedral on Monday, blazing through the twilight hours and into the night. Millions watched in horror — on television, online, on the streets and bridges of Paris — as the historic building's roof burned and its spire collapsed. For many, this tragedy was met with reverence. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for opportunistic attention-seekers to leverage the moment for their own nihilistic purposes. We now have a specific script that takes over whenever tragedy occurs, and the Notre Dame fire offered a fresh chance for cultural warriors in America and abroad to play their assigned roles, to dreary effect. It started with the conspiracy theorists. It appears the fire was an accident, the product of age and neglect. But within minutes, conspiracy theorists sprang into action. Fox News interviewed a "French official" who proclaimed the conflagration to be "the French 9/11." That "official" turned out to be a well-known conspiracy theorist. Fox cut him off quickly, to the network's credit, but it was far from the only case of rumor-mongering. By Monday evening, BuzzFeed News had catalogued eight separate hoaxes that spread quickly on social media. Some were relatively harmless — people posting old pictures of the wrong cathedral — but there were plenty of false reports that blamed Muslims, either for causing the fire or for celebrating its destructive results. Forward noted anti-Semitic posts, as well. Online gatekeepers actually made the problem worse: YouTube's algorithms pointed viewers seeking information about the fire to videos about 9/11 conspiracies. The Notre Dame fire was apparently also the perfect opportunity to promote various dubious pet causes. White nationalists like Richard Spencer had their say, as did alt-righters like Mike Cernovich. So did more mainstream pundits: religious folks like Rod Dreher, alarmed by secularization, self-proclaimed defenders of "western civilization" like Ben Shapiro and their antagonists like Josh Marshall.
4-16-19 Black church fires: Louisiana suspect charged with hate crimes
Prosecutors have filed new hate crime charges against a white man accused of burning down three African-American churches in the US state of Louisiana. Holden Matthews, 21, the son of a local sheriff deputy, learned of the new charges during a court appearance on Monday when he pleaded not guilty. During the hearing, the judge denied his bond request due to a "substantial amount of evidence" against him. Officials had not previously cited race as a possible motive. Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning said on Monday the suspect - who has no previous criminal record - should not be released because he presents "an immediate risk to public safety". "In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent," Mr Browning said, describing the evidence investigators have found against Mr Matthews. All three fires were started with gasoline and occurred around Opelousas, about 60 miles (100km) west of the state capital of Baton Rouge. Among evidence presented during the pre-trial appearance, in which Mr Matthews was displayed on video feed from jail, Mr Browning testified that the suspect documented his alleged crimes through videos and photos on his phone. After he was arrested, prosecutors found pictures of the flames that appeared to have been taken before firefighters arrived to extinguish them. They also found news reports on his phone in which he had superimposed himself on those reports in order to claim responsibility while talking to a friend online. "He actually superimposed himself on those news reports, claiming responsibility for these fires," Mr Browning said. Location data from his mobile phone and surveillance footage of his vehicle also tied him to each of the crime scenes. Mr Matthews was arrested last week and charged with arson of a religious building before the state hate crime charges were added. His arrest came over two weeks after the first fire broke out at the St Mary Baptist Church, followed by the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, which were each more than 100 years old. During the search for a suspect, Governor John Bel Edwards said the attacks in the southern state were a reminder "of a very dark past of intimidation and fear".
4-16-19 Pulitzers: Capital Gazette wins for coverage of newsroom massacre
A US local newspaper has won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of a mass shooting in its own newsroom. But there was no celebration as the Capital Gazette in Maryland learned on Monday it had won the most prestigious prize in American journalism. Staff quietly hugged in memory of five colleagues killed by a gunman who burst into their office in June 2018. Pulitzers also went to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for investigations into President Trump. Two journalists jailed in Myanmar for reporting a massacre of Rohingya Muslims were part of a team from Reuters news agency that also won an award. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced last year to seven years in prison for breaking the Official Secrets Act, despite an international outcry over what was widely seen as an attack on media freedom. Reuters has said it will not be celebrating the prize until their two colleagues are released. The Capital Gazette in Annapolis won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in American history. The Pulitzer board awarded the citation with a $100,000 (£76,400) grant to further the newspaper's journalism. Employees John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen died in last summer's attack. But the staff still managed to publish a newspaper on schedule the next day. A man with a longstanding grudge against the Capital Gazette is charged with the attack. He pleaded not guilty last year. The New York Times won a prize for explanatory reporting of Mr Trump's finances and tax avoidance and another for editorial writing. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for uncovering the president's secret payoffs to two alleged former mistresses during his campaign.
4-16-19 Graffiti punished by reading - 'It worked!' says prosecutor
In September 2016, an old school house in Virginia, used for teaching black students during the era of segregation, was sprayed with offensive graffiti. The culprits were given an unusual sentence - reading. Two-and-a-half years later, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby asks whether the punishment worked. From the moment Prosecutor and Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Alejandra Rueda heard about the racist and anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled across the school house in Ashburn, Loudoun County, Virginia, she suspected the culprits were children. "The graffiti was racially charged - they had spray-painted swastikas and phrases like 'White Power' and 'Brown Power'," she recalls. "But there were also images of dinosaurs, women's breasts and penises. And I thought, 'This doesn't look like the work of sophisticated KKK people out to intimidate - it looks more like the work of dumb teenagers.'" Her intuition proved correct. Five children aged 16 and 17 were arrested for the crime and pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of private property and one count of unlawful entry. The teenagers were unaware of the significance of the building they had defaced. It was the Ashburn Coloured School, an historic building that had been used by black children during segregation in Northern Virginia. The prosecutor believes the children were just kicking out against authority after one of them had been expelled from his school, but she understands why the town was so shocked by the crime. "The community blew up. Understandably. But you know, some of the kids didn't even know what a swastika meant. So I saw a learning opportunity. With children you can either punish or you can rehabilitate and these were kids with no prior record and I thought back to what taught me when I was their age, what opened my eyes to other cultures and religions… and it was reading." The judge in the case endorsed the prosecutor's order - that the teenagers should be handed down a reading sentence (or "disposition" as a sentence is known in juvenile cases). Alejandra Rueda drew up a list of 35 books and ordered the offenders to choose one title a month for a year and to write an assignment on each of the 12 books they chose. (Webmaster's comment: This was also a hate crime and should also have been treated as such!)
4-16-19 Barry Humphries: Top comedy prize renamed after transgender row
One of the world's top comedy festivals will no longer use comedian Barry Humphries' name for its chief prize, after he was accused of transphobia. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival said its prestigious Barry Award for best show would be renamed. Humphries, best known for his character Dame Edna Everage, has repeatedly drawn anger for his comments on transgender people - and later defended himself. His remarks had "definitely played a part" in the change, the festival said. Humphries, 85, has not responded to the festival's decision. Last year, he drew criticism for describing being transgender as "a fashion". In another controversy, he claimed to have been speaking in character when he referred to gender-reassignment surgery as "self-mutilation" in a 2016 interview with The Telegraph. He also described Caitlyn Jenner as a "publicity-seeking rat-bag". He has previously said his comments were misinterpreted, but they have been criticised by other high-profile comedians - including former Barry Award winner Hannah Gadsby. Humphries co-founded the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 1987, and it is now one of the world's premier comedy events. Its top prize has been named in his honour since 2000. On Tuesday, festival director Susan Provan said in a statement: "It is time for the award for most outstanding show to be in our name to celebrate the city that inspired the growth of our festival and its outstanding artists." She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Humphries' recent comments were "not helpful" and had helped instigate the decision. Gadsby criticised Humphries when she accepted the award in 2017 for her show Nanette, now a worldwide success on Netflix. "I don't agree with a lot of the things Barry Humphries has said recently," she said at the time.
4-15-19 Ilhan Omar: Muslim lawmaker sees rise in death threats after Trump tweet
One of the first ever Muslim members of the US Congress has said that a tweet by President Donald Trump has led to an increase in threats against her life. Minnesota's Ilhan Omar said the threats were sparked by "violent rhetoric", accusing Mr Trump of stoking right-wing extremism. "It has to stop," she added. It comes after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a new "security assessment to safeguard" the lawmaker. The tweet showed Ms Omar talking to a US-Muslim group about the 9/11 attacks. On Monday Mr Trump stepped up his attacks against Ms Omar, calling her "out of control". He also said Mrs Pelosi "should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful US HATE statements Omar has made" before defending her. Congresswoman Omar has become a lightning rod for criticism following her 2018 election. Mr Trump tweeted on Friday "WE WILL NEVER FORGET" alongside a 43-second edited video showing footage of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, spliced with a speech by Ms Omar. "Some people did something," she is seen saying, in between footage of planes hitting the World Trade Center, damage to the Pentagon and people fleeing buildings. Democrats claimed the video does not provide context to Ms Omar's 20-minute speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) on 23 March. She was discussing civil rights for Muslim Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Cair, she said, was founded "because they recognised that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties". Republican critics said that her comment "some people did something" was offensive to the nearly 3,000 Americans killed in the attacks. In a statement on Sunday, Ms Omar said: "Since the president's tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life - many directly referring or replying to the president's video". She thanked security officials for "their attention to these threats" and accused Mr Trump of fuelling a rise in "violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists". She also expressed concern that Mr Trump's visit to her home state of Minnesota on Monday could lead to an increase in hate crimes and assaults. "Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country's Commander in Chief. "We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop," she said.
4-15-19 The GOP is the party of Islamophobia
Ilhan Omar is just Republicans' latest scapegoat. Republicans were always going to come for Rep. Ilhan Omar. From the moment the Minnesota Democrat was elected to Congress as one of the chamber's few Muslims — and a hijab-wearing Muslim, to boot — her destiny was fixed. Republican conservatives were always going to paint her as the enemy, depict her as un-American, and find some way to smear her with the 9/11 terror attacks on America. Fox's Jeanine Pirro was always going to say Omar's religious practices were incompatible with the Constitution. President Trump, who has a long history of picking on women of color anyway, was always going to shine his Twitter spotlight on her. West Virginia Republicans were always going to suggest she is a terrorist. Now, the ugly din has grown so loud that Omar finds herself needing physical protection. This sad debacle was inevitable. We should have seen it coming. Why? Because the GOP is the party of Islamophobia — and it is led by the sort of folks who see themselves in a "clash of civilizations" with one of the world's largest religions. Conservatives have been campaigning against Islam — not just the religion's extremist adherents, but the religion itself — ever since 9/11. They've questioned the loyalty of Muslim Republicans. They've tried banning Muslim refugees from entering the United States. In communities across the country — from New York to Tennessee to California — they've taken extraordinary steps to block the construction of Muslim houses of worship. Some have even contended that Islam is not a religion, but an authoritarian ideology. Over the years, some conservatives — including Trump during his campaign days — even falsely suggested that President Obama was a secret Muslim and in league with terrorists. Omar is just the latest target for their ongoing campaign. It's true that she didn't help herself by arriving in Congress making comments that were easily construed as anti-Semitic. That's on her: If you're ready to serve in Congress in America, you should be educated enough and sensitive enough to avoid such pitfalls. (The same should be true of the president too, by the way.) She should do better. But it's probably too late. Republicans have found a suitable scapegoat for their Muslim prejudices. The latest controversy — the idea that Omar downplayed the seriousness of the 9/11 attacks — is, well, Trumped-up. As my colleague Ryan Cooper explained last week, those criticisms rely on her comments being taken out of context. But the history of GOP conservatives in the post-9/11 era suggests the congresswoman's critics probably didn't need much of a pretext to come after her in the first place.
4-15-19 Anti-Semitism threatens Romania's fragile Jewish community
Ugly scenes of smashed and toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Romania have shocked the country's dwindling Jewish community and prompted international condemnation. Vandals badly damaged 73 gravestones in the north-eastern town of Husi earlier this month, amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. "It's a very disturbing event, but it's nothing surprising," said Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of the Centre for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania. "It shows that anti-Semitism is alive, it doesn't matter who did it," he told the BBC. "They didn't knock down two or three gravestones, they knocked down 73 gravestones - that takes some determination and it takes time." A criminal investigation has been opened. The Shabbat service is about to start at the Status Quo synagogue in Targu Mures, a city in central Romania. Standing in the sunlit courtyard, community leader Vasile Dub, 72, expresses a mix of concern and caution. Nowadays he says that he feels "absolutely safe" in Romania, but later admits that he doesn't always declare that he is Jewish. "The real tragedy was in the 1940s," says Mr Dub, who lost family members in the Holocaust. During World War Two, when Romania was under the military dictatorship of Marshall Ion Antonescu, up to 380,000 Jews were killed in Romanian state-held territories. Thousands more were sent to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. In the decades following the war, anti-Semitism perpetuated under Romania's communist regime and thousands of Jewish families emigrated to Israel, the US and elsewhere in search of a better life.
4-15-19 Russian priest posted to remote village over wife's 'sin'
An Orthodox priest in Russia's Urals region has been posted to a remote village as punishment for his wife's participation in a local beauty pageant during Lent. Oksana Zotova, who runs a beauty salon in the city of Magnitogorsk, won the Miss Sensuality prize at the contest, and attracted a wave of criticism after an anonymous account on Russian social news aggregator Pikabu revealed that she was the wife of a priest. Once religious authorities in the diocese got wind of the story, Sergei Zotov was promptly dismissed from his post at Magnitogorsk's Cathedral of the Ascension of Christ. He must now ply his trade in the village of Fershampenuaz, around 65 kilometres away from Magnitogorsk, and with population of just 4,000. The village was named in honour of Cossacks who fought against Napoleon in the battle of Fère-Champenoise in 1814. The diocese of Magnitorsk was not entertained by the exploits of Fr Sergei's wife. Archpriest Feodor Saprykin, chair of the diocesan court, declared that "it is a great sin when the wife of a priest exposes herself for show". He ruled that Sergei Zotov "will not be rehabilitated until his wife repents". "What kind of a priest is he if he cannot control his own family?" he questioned. "How does he intend to control his congregation?"
4-14-19 Ilhan Omar: The 9/11 row embroiling the US congresswoman
A Democratic congresswoman says she will not be silenced after facing a barrage of criticism over comments she made about the 9/11 attacks - including from Donald Trump. The US president tweeted "WE WILL NEVER FORGET" alongside a video showing footage of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks spliced with a speech by Representative Ilhan Omar. "Some people did something," she is seen saying, in between footage of planes hitting the Twin Towers and people fleeing the buildings. Republicans have accused her of downplaying the attacks, but Democrats have largely rallied to her defence, saying she had been quoted out of context and some accusing Mr Trump of inciting violence against her and Muslims. Here is how the row developed. Ms Omar won a Minnesota seat in the House of Representatives last November, becoming one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the US Congress. Her family originally came to the US as refugees from Somalia and she is the first congresswoman to wear the hijab. Despite being a newcomer to Washington, this is not the first time Ms Omar has made headlines. She has been accused of anti-Semitism over comments she made about Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists. After being rebuked last month, including by Democrats, she apologised and said she was "listening and learning". The congresswoman has also raised the alarm about anti-Muslim rhetoric surrounding her, in response to a Republican poster that showed her alongside the Twin Towers. Just last week, police arrested a 55-year-old man in New York state for allegedly calling her office with a graphic death threat in which he reportedly labelled her a "terrorist". The "some people did something" quote was from a speech Ms Omar gave to a civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), on 23 March. In the 20-minute speech she discussed issues affecting the community like Islamophobia and the recent mosque attack in New Zealand. The comments in Mr Trump's video were taken from a point she made about the treatment of US Muslims in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks. (Webmaster's comment: Terrorism is never justified! The killing of innocents is never justified! This congresswoman should be expelled from congress!)
4-13-19 Children in Central America will be allowed to join parents in US
Up to 2,700 children in Central America will be allowed to reunite with their parents living under protected status in the US, a court has ruled. It follows a lawsuit that challenged the Trump administration's cancellation of a programme that gave the children the right to join their parents. The Central American Minors programme, closed in 2017, benefited children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many of the parents have fled natural disasters and conflicts. The case was brought against the government by 12 children and parent applicants to the Central American Minors programme and immigrant advocacy group CASA. Last month, a judge at the United States District Court in San Francisco ruled that the applications must be processed. One of the parents identified as SA during the case had already spent thousands of dollars on plane tickets when the programme was cancelled. She said in a statement: "My heart jumps and cries for joy because there are so many who need to escape danger. I have faith that I will be together with my daughter and grandson soon." Under the ruling, the government must finish processing children who were in the final stages of their application. Linda Evarts, attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, said: "We are so pleased that after many years apart our clients will finally have the opportunity to reunite with each other in safety." According to the group, the government anticipates that most applicants will be approved for parole and allowed to travel to the US. Last month, President Donald Trump cut off aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in a bid to push their governments to stop migration into the US. There has been a huge increase in asylum seekers fleeing violence in the three countries. The three nations are where most of the migrants on the US southern border come from.
4-12-19 The deported Americans
About 600,000 American-born children are enrolled in Mexico’s schools, said journalist Brooke Jarvis in The California Sunday Magazine. These ‘other Dreamers’ often struggle to build a new life across the border. Ashley Mantilla’s day starts earlier than most. On a Monday last June, long before the sun rose, the 15-year-old left the small cinder-block house she shares with her sister, brother, and parents. She walked past the lime tree under which the family entertains guests, past the outhouse and the thin horse tied up next to her grandparents’ home, to the road that winds by a deep ravine, and into the center of her small town, perched high in the ridges below the volcano. There, she waited for a minibus that would drive her half an hour to Número 26. It’s not a cheap trip to make every day, and her parents are willing to pay for it not because they have extra money but because they think it’s a better option than the local school. There are real teachers there instead of video lessons, and specialty classes include coding in addition to agriculture, food preservation, and beekeeping. By 7:30, the school’s courtyard was packed with teenagers. They lined up in straight rows and placed their hands across their chests as the Mexican national anthem played on a loudspeaker. Ashley had PE that day, so she had her dark hair pulled back and was wearing her gym uniform: track pants and a polo shirt embroidered with the words “Niños Héroes,” or heroic children, a group of historical figures that the school honors as a kind of mascot. The heroes were six military cadets, the youngest of them 13, who died defending a castle in Mexico City from American invaders in 1847. It was, in other words, a long way from the school days Ashley used to experience, back when she was an American student growing up in an American town and studying in an American public school. In those days, her father, Felix, worked as a cook in a restaurant and did maintenance on swimming pools. Her older sister, Lesly, earned a much-treasured certificate of academic excellence with President Barack Obama’s signature on it. They studied the history of South Carolina, their home state; they ate turkey on Thanksgiving and built snowmen in the winter. Sometimes classmates bullied Ashley, telling her to go back to Mexico, but their taunts mostly confused her. “I don’t know Mexico,” she would say. “I’m from here.” In 2011, South Carolina’s then governor, Nikki Haley, signed what was known as a “show me your papers” law, modeled on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which allowed police to turn routine traffic stops into immigration checkpoints. Ashley’s parents began to feel anxious. They thought of what had happened a few years before, when a South Carolina poultry plant was raided and many of its workers deported without their children. “What happens if they separate us?” wondered Berenice, Ashley’s mother. “We were thinking of the good of the family.” They decided it was time to move their three children—Lesly, 12; Ashley, 9; and Angel, 5; all American-born citizens—from the only home that they knew. In the jargon of immigration, the family was planning to “return migrate.” But the kids could hardly return to a place where they had never been. They were just…leaving. Ashley is one of 600,000 American-born children who are believed to be enrolled in K-12 schools across Mexico. Together, these American children now make up 3 percent of all students in Mexico, though the concentrations vary. In some municipalities where migration is particularly common, one in 10 students is American. Many families, especially if they were deported unexpectedly, have trouble assembling and authenticating all the various documents that are needed to enroll, which means that kids end up missing months or even years of instruction. Like Ashley, American students in Mexico frequently end up in rural schools, the ones with the fewest resources to help them.
4-12-19 Barr prepares to investigate the investigators
House Democrats were preparing for a lengthy legal fight this week after Attorney General William Barr refused to hand over the full version of the nearly 400-page Mueller report—and announced his intention to examine whether federal authorities improperly spied on members of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Barr told a House panel that he hoped to release a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference “within a week.” Federal law, he said, required him to scrub it of classified information, secret grand jury testimony, material connected to ongoing investigations, and details that could violate the privacy of “peripheral” figures in the probe. Since almost every page in the report is expected to contain grand jury material, the redactions could be extensive. Barr said that he didn’t plan to ask a federal judge for permission to release the full report to Congress, as he is empowered to do. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he would have “a look at what we get” before issuing subpoenas for the unredacted report. What is Barr trying to hide? asked The Boston Globe. We already know that his four-page summary of Mueller’s voluminous report and his decision to exonerate the president of obstruction of justice was “a spin job.” Members of Mueller’s team have complained that the report’s contents “are a good deal more damaging” to Trump than the summary implied, associates told The New York Times. Others have griped that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant, reported The Washington Post. There’s one way for Barr to clear all this up: Give Congress the full report. Democrats are sore losers, said The Wall Street Journal. Furious that Mueller concluded that the Trump campaign did not collude with Moscow, “they’ve hit upon a political comeback strategy: Accuse Barr of a cover-up.” This is, of course, preposterous because the attorney general knows that he’d be open to contradiction by Mueller if he misstated the report’s conclusions. Democrats aren’t really worried about the truth being hushed up, they just want “to tarnish Trump officials.”
4-12-19 What more needs to be said!
84% of voters say special counsel Robert Mueller’s report “should be released to the public.” 9% say it should not be.
4-12-19 Lie after Lie after Lie
President Trump’s penchant for making false or misleading statements is accelerating. Trump averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. He hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year. So far in 2019, he’s averaging nearly 22 false or misleading claims a day.
4-12-19 Far right aims at EU
Far-right parties across Europe are banding together in a bloc to contest the European Parliament elections in May, with the aim of becoming the biggest faction in the multinational legislature. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League party, told a news conference in Milan this week that the goal of the Europe of Nations and Freedom Group (ENF) would be the promotion of nationalism and the hampering of closer European Union integration. “For many Europeans, the EU is a nightmare,” Salvini said. “We hope to change that.” The far-right Alternative for Germany, France’s National Rally, Austria’s Freedom Party, and populist parties from Finland and Denmark have already joined the ENF, and others are expected to do so.
4-12-19 Preventing shootings
Mayor Bill Peduto signed three gun-control ordinances into law this week, drawing immediate challenges from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association. Among the laws—a response to the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre last October—is a “red flag” law that creates a legal process to remove guns for up to a year from people exhibiting suicidal behavior or threatening to harm others. Another ordinance bans the “use” of semi-automatic weapons and certain accessories in public places. The city was not able to implement a broader ban because of state laws that pre-empt local legislation. Nonetheless, a suit from gun activists called the laws “patently unenforceable, unconstitutional, illegal.” Peduto, a Democrat, called on 60 fellow mayors to tackle gun reform, and vowed to defend the bills up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
4-12-19 Aerospace: Boeing’s new 737 orders fall to zero
Boeing said this week it has slowed production of its 737 Max jet while the plane remains grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, said David Gelles in The New York Times. The company did not sell a single Max jet last month, after the planes were involved in two fatal crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia. At least one airline has canceled orders, but there remain “thousands of outstanding orders,” which represent “billions of dollars for Boeing’s bottom line.” The FAA needs to certify a software update before it permits the Max to return to the sky. (Webmaster's comment: Killer corporation pays the price.)
4-12-19 Mormons soften stance
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced last week that it will no longer label same-sex couples “apostates” or bar their children from baptisms and baby blessings. The church wants “to reduce the hate and contention so common today,” said Dallin Oaks, first counselor to Mormon President Russell Nelson. The move reverses a 2015 declaration that same-sex couples were subject to excommunication—a pronouncement that former church President Thomas Monson had said came as a revelation from God. Oaks underscored that the church still believes same-sex attraction is “a serious transgression,” though he added, “Immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.” The 2015 policy led hundreds of members to resign. In explaining the abrupt decision to scrap that rule, Nelson said God leads the church “revelation upon revelation.”
4-12-19 Should we say sorry for conquistadors? SPAIN
Spain probably does owe Mexicans an apology for the brutal conquest of the Americas begun 500 years ago, said El País, but Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador could hardly have picked a worse time to demand one. Looking ahead to the 500th anniversary of the 1521 Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, AMLO wrote to King Felipe VI with the request, only to be rebuffed. Spain is in the middle of an election campaign, so the parties outdid one another in displays of patriotic indignation. The ruling Socialists firmly rejected the idea, with Foreign Minister Josep Borrell calling it “weird,” while the opposition center-right People’s Party went full jingoist, hailing the conquest of the Americas as the “most brilliant moment in the history of humanity.” In truth, that conquest was often brutal and came at “enormous human cost,” particularly in the destruction of indigenous peoples. While Spain is right to point out that its current incarnation is not the same as the invading empire, the “humiliation and subjugation of the original peoples of Mexico” did bring great suffering that has not yet been addressed. Before the anniversary in 2021, our two nations should discuss what is owed to the indigenous population. The goal must be “reconciliation for all.”
4-12-19 Scientists must worry in public about the dangers of their creations
The US Department of Defense is ending its contract with cold war-era advisory group JASON. That’s OK – today’s scientists need to air concerns in public, says Audra J. Wolfe. REPORTS circulated last week that the US Department of Defense has terminated its contract with JASON, a cold war-era scientific advisory committee. The group was created in the late 1950s, when the department sought help from some ambitious, entrepreneurial academic physicists in the hopes of catching up with the Soviet Union, which had just launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. Instead of studying a topic identified by a specific defence patron, JASON received briefings from various government agencies and then its scientists decided what to study. It also chose its own members. JASON enjoyed remarkable independence compared with in-house defence advisory boards and proved a particularly useful check on big, expensive ideas. Its reported demise creates a vacuum in a system that too often relies on technical expertise provided by groups more interested in their next multimillion-dollar contract than in supplying sound advice. Yet much of the hand-wringing about the end of JASON has confused this important fiscal role with ethical oversight. JASON members have traditionally justified their weapons research by invoking scientists’ special responsibility to advise on the implications of their work. History shows that this is a false premise. From the Manhattan Project physicists who later opposed the development of hydrogen bombs to the JASON scientists whose recommendations for limiting the war in Vietnam inadvertently created the modern, electronic battlefield, scientific advisers have often overestimated their ability to control how the military uses their ideas. JASON’s demise presents an opportunity for public-minded scientists to rethink their relationship to power. Scientists are right to worry about the dangers of their creations, but wrong to think they can stop them on their own. When scientists oppose defence policy, they should speak out publicly, not behind closed doors. They should share their concerns and work with broad coalitions of citizens – not just scientists – to prevent harm. (Webmaster's comment: The United States military has only ever had one interest, KILLING AS MANY AS POSSIBLE. Killing enemy combatants and killing enemy civilians in order to terrorize them. And also torturing them for good measure.)
4-12-19 ICC rejects request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected a request to investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. In a press release, judges of the court highlighted Afghanistan's instability and the lack of co-operation with investigators in the country. Such an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice", the statement said. The rejection comes a week after the US revoked the entry visa of an ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.It is thought to be in response to her examination of possible crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan. Prosecutors for the ICC have been examining alleged abuses committed by all parties in Afghanistan's long conflict for more than a decade. A formal examination of potential crimes began in November 2017. But while the court said there was "a reasonable basis" to believe crimes had occurred, judges said Afghanistan's current situation "make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited". They also cited the long period of time that had passed since the investigation began in 2006, and said the court needed to "use its resources prioritising activities that would have better chances to succeed". (Webmaster's comment: So the United States gets away with it's many war crimes again!)
4-12-19 Brunei says controversial Sharia law aimed at 'prevention'
Brunei's foreign ministry has said implementing Sharia law is about prevention rather than punishment, after intense criticism of its decision to implement the strict Islamic code. Under the new laws, adultery and sex between men is punishable by stoning to death. Brunei said there would be a high threshold for evidence in those cases, suggesting punishment would be rare. It comes after the UN called the punishments "cruel and inhuman". Brunei has sent a response from Erywan Yusof, the minister of foreign affairs, to the United Nation's (UN) criticism saying Sharia law "focuses more on prevention than punishment. Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish". It also said Sharia does not criminalise based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations. The criminalisation of "adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women", according to the statement. The statement also clarified that for the maximum punishments of amputation or death to be carried out in the case of certain crimes, at least two men of "high moral standing and piety" would have to bear witness. It added that these men would have to live up to "extremely high" standards, making it "[extremely] difficult to find one in this day and age". UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt also said on Thursday he had spoken to the Bruneian foreign minister who had suggested that Sharia prosecutions were, in practice, unlikely. The first phase of Sharia law, which covered crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines, was implemented in 2014. The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter on 1 April to the Brunei mission in Geneva warning that the planned implementation of the new laws contravened international human rights standards set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights - which was ratified by Brunei in 2006. Regardless, Brunei went ahead with the implementation of the new laws, under the continued phasing in of Sharia alongside common law. (Webmaster's comment: Many Evangelicals and Baptists and Vice-president Pence would love to implement that law here in America! They all hate gays with a religious fervor! They all but froth at the mouth!)
4-12-19 Georgetown students approve slavery reparations fund
Georgetown University students in Washington DC have voted in favour of a reparations fund to repay descendents of slaves sold by the school in 1838. A "Reconciliation Contribution" fee of $27.20 (£21) each semester would benefit descendents of the 272 slaves. Undergraduate students passed the referendum with a 66% majority, but the measure requires approval by the university. Georgetown is the first major college to pass such a reparations fund. The student-led referendum was organised by the group Students for the GU272. The university's elections commission reported that nearly 60% of students turned out to vote on Thursday. The fee amount was chosen to remember the 272 enslaved people sold, but also so that it would not be too large of an increase in tuition, a student involved with the group told the New York Times. If approved by the university board, the fund will go towards "charitable purposes" benefitting the descendents of those slaves, many of whom now live in Louisiana and Maryland. Critics of the fund say it is an arbitrary amount that will not address any real issues, or that it should be the burden of the institution, not the students, to repay descendents of slaves. Some students have said it is an unjust moral imposition on students to make the fee mandatory. Todd Olson, vice-president for student affairs at the university, said in a statement: "We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation." In 1838 the Jesuit university decided to sell the slaves to plantations in Louisiana to pay off debts, in a deal worth the equivalent of $3.3m. Georgetown has been making amends for its past connection to slavery since 2015, Mr Olson noted. In 2017, the institution formally apologised for selling the 272 slaves, and renamed a campus building after Isaac Hawkins - the first enslaved man listed in the 1838 sale. The historic vote among Georgetown's student body comes as 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have also brought talk of slavery reparations back into the mainstream.
4-11-19 Louisiana officer's son arrested over black church fires
The son of a local police deputy has been arrested as the suspect in three fires at black churches in southern Louisiana, officials say. Holden Matthews, 21, who is the son of a St Landry Parish officer, was arrested on Wednesday, said officials. The burnings did not result in deaths or injuries. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the "evil acts" dredged up "a very dark past of intimidation and fear" from the civil rights era. The Democrat said the alleged arson was perpetrated by a "depraved individual", adding: "Hate is not a Louisiana value." Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told reporters on Thursday the suspect has been charged with three counts of arson on religious buildings, with each count carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Mr Browning said investigators were still vetting "several motives", but had uncovered information that Mr Matthews was involved with a type of music known as black metal that the fire marshal said has historical associations with church burnings. "When Matthews was developed as a suspect we saw an immediate threat to public safety," Mr Browning said. "We felt other crimes were imminent." "There were extraordinary means taken to bring safety to this community," he added, without elaborating. The suspect lives in the community where the fires took place. His Facebook page lists him as the lead singer and songwriter of a heavy metal band called Vodka Vultures. State and local police, the Fire Marshal's Office, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were involved in the investigation. (Webmaster's comment: White Nationalists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and Klansmen are keeping hate alive in the South and in the West.)
4-11-19 Israel Folau: Rugby Australia 'intends' to sack full-back after social media post
Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union say they intend to terminate Israel Folau's contract after a social media post by the full-back in which he said "hell awaits" gay people. Folau, 30, has 73 caps and was expected to play at this year's World Cup. "He does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts," the governing bodies said. "In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract." Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union, which is responsible for Super Rugby side NSW Waratahs, said they have made "repeated attempts" to contact Folau and he has failed to get in touch with either organisation. "Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality," the governing bodies said in a statement. "As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action." Australia's sponsor Qantas, whose chief executive Alan Joyce is openly gay, said Folau's post was "really disappointing". "These comments clearly don't reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support," the airline said.
4-11-19 William Barr just proved he's Trump's loyal foot soldier
The president wants to rewrite history in his favor, and the attorney general seems more than willing to oblige. The investigation into President Trump's Russia ties may have officially concluded, but the investigation into that investigation has apparently just begun. That's what Attorney General William Barr seemed to signal this week when he told a Senate committee he was concerned about allegations that government agencies "spied" on Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election. "I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016," Barr said. "I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal." Indeed, that would be a big deal. But "spying" is an inaccurate — and in fact inflammatory — term for what happened in 2016. Here's what actually happened: America's counterintelligence agencies started investigating whether the Trump campaign had improper contacts with Russia. And they had good reasons — some public, some less so — for launching that investigation.Let's not forget the behind-the-scenes origins of the Russia inquiry: A loudmouthed official within the Trump campaign bragged, drunkenly, about Russia having dirt on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. Concerned Australian officials passed that information to American officials, who reacted sensibly. This information wouldn't become public until much later. But even during the campaign, it was apparent that something odd was happening. The Russians really did hack Clinton's campaign emails. Trump really did publicly implore Russia to release that information. And Russia really did release those emails. There was smoke billowing out of the windows of American democracy. Is it any wonder officials went looking for a fire? (Webmaster's comment: Barr is nothing but a mealy-mouthed yes-man to Trump!)
4-10-19 Medicare for All: Can Bernie Sanders overhaul US healthcare?
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is unveiling his vision for a national health care plan that is expected to be adopted by several other leading White House candidates. So what is it? It's widely known that the US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and health outcomes vary according to your means. President Barack Obama tried to overhaul it. But even after his landmark Affordable Care Act, some 27 million Americans remain uninsured. His successor in the White House has tried to dismantle that legislation, making healthcare a central issue in next year's presidential election. Senator Sanders' plan - called Medicare for All - will play a big part in the debate. So what's in it? Medicare for All is a proposal to expand Medicare into a single-payer health system. That means the federal government would be the sole, nationwide insurance provider for all essential and preventative healthcare. It is not a universal health care system where the government would own and operate hospitals - instead, the government would pay private providers an agreed upon rate for their services. Under Senator Bernie Sanders' proposal, first introduced in 2017 and re-introduced in April, Medicare for All would expand Medicare's coverage to include vision, dental, prescription drugs, nursing home care and reproductive health services. The 2019 update to the plan also includes a long-term care coverage for patients with disabilities - amending one of the criticisms of his earlier plan. The change also brings Mr Sanders' plan more in line with the version of Medicare for All proposed in the House of Representatives by congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state. In four years, Mr Sanders' plan would have the country phase out of private insurance plans so everyone would receive insurance from the federal government. The Affordable Care Act would also end, as users would be enveloped into the national plan. Private insurance companies and employers would be banned from selling any manner of duplicate plans for services covered under the government's programme, though plans for non-essential medical services like cosmetic surgery could remain. Mr Sanders' proposal would see an end to the "cost sharing" that makes up the current system: No deductibles, no premiums, no co-payments for care. The only out-of-pocket expense under Mr Sanders' plan would be for some non-generic prescription drugs, but any cost to the patient would be capped at $200 annually. For comparison, US patients in 2016 paid over $535bn for prescription drugs, according to government estimates. (Webmaster's comment: Why is American Healthcare so expensive? Because it's a for profit system, healthcare is a secondary objective!)
4-10-19 Trump urges inquiry into 'attempted coup' against him
President Donald Trump says he has spoken to the US attorney general about tracing the origins of the inquiry that cleared him of colluding with Russia. Mr Trump described the investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller as "an attempted coup". Attorney General William Barr meanwhile said he believes US authorities did spy on the Trump campaign. US intelligence officials have previously said they were spying on the Russians, not the Trump campaign. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday morning, the Republican president railed against the Department of Justice inquiry into whether the Trump campaign had conspired with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 election. The investigation cleared him and his aides of collusion, making no determination on whether they had tried to obstruct justice. Mr Trump said: "This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted take-down of a president. And we beat them. We beat them. "So the Mueller report, when they talk about obstruction we fight back. And do you know why we fight back? "Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scam. "What I'm most interested in is getting started, hopefully the attorney general, he mentioned it yesterday. "He's doing a great job, getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started. "Because this was an illegal witch hunt, and everybody knew it. And they knew it too. And they got caught. And what they did was treason." (Webmaster's comment: Attempted Coup my ass! Attempted indictment of the chief crook! And the actual indictment of 34 of his fellow crooks!)
4-10-19 The US students who want to pay slavery descendants
Students at Georgetown University are voting on whether or not they should pay reparations to the descendants of slaves sold by the institution. In 1838 the Jesuit university, which relied on financial support from wealthy plantation owners and often received slaves as gifts from prosperous parishioners, had fallen on hard times. It decided to raise funds by selling 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana, in a deal worth the equivalent of $3.3m (£2.5m). Now, students at the elite institution are voting on what could be the first time reparations have been paid directly to the descendants of slaves in the US. Proponents of slavery reparations argue that America built its wealth off the backs of enslaved people, and in the centuries following emancipation enacted policies to exclude black people from sharing in the wealth of the country. Lower incomes, worse health outcomes and the higher rates of incarceration currently experienced by the black community are highlighted as vestiges of this history. The proposal would see all Georgetown undergraduates pay a $27.20 (£21) fee per semester, which will be "allocated for charitable purposes that benefit the descendants" who mostly live in Louisiana and Maryland. "As students at an elite institution, we recognize the great privileges we have been given, and wish to at least partially repay our debts to those families whose involuntary sacrifices made these privileges possible," the proposal reads. "As individuals with moral imagination, we choose to do more than simply recognise the past - we resolve to change our future."Melisande Short-Colomb is the descendent of one of the 272 people sold by Georgetown, and became a student at the university at the age of 63. "At the bedrock there was slave labour, there was human ownership and bondage," Ms Short-Colomb says, pointing to the grand buildings of the Georgetown campus, which the sale of her ancestors helped to fund.
4-10-19 Christchurch shootings: New Zealand MPs vote to change gun laws
New Zealand's parliament has voted to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons following the Christchurch attacks. The gun reform bill passed 119-1 after the final reading in parliament. It is expected to become law within the next few days after receiving royal assent from the governor general. PM Jacinda Ardern announced changes to the law after 50 people were killed last month by a suspected lone gunman at two mosques in Christchurch. Holding back tears, she told parliament on Wednesday that MPs were there "because of the victims and families". She said that when she had visited the injured in hospital none of them had had just one gunshot wound. "They will carry disabilities for a lifetime and that's before you consider the psychological impact," she said. "These weapons were designed to kill, and they were designed to maim and that is what they did on the 15th of March." Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges. The new rules make changes to 1983 gun laws which have been the subject of several reform attempts. They prohibit military-style semi-automatic weapons and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms. The gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines so they could hold more bullets. The magazine is the part of the gun which stores ammunition. Those breaking the new laws will face between two and ten years in jail. An amnesty will be in place until the end of September. (Webmaster's comment: Finally a nation takes a stand against the Merchants Of Death! Semi-automatic weapons have one purpose, killing people. You don't need them for hunting. If you need more than two shots to kill an animal you shouldn't be hunting.)
4-10-19 Tasmania makes it optional to list gender on birth certificates
Tasmania has become Australia's first state to make it legally optional to list gender on birth certificates. The landmark bill was approved in the state's lower house on Wednesday, meaning it will become law. It had already been passed in the upper house. The bill also removes a condition that had required transgender people to have surgery before their gender was recognised. The state government fiercely opposed the bill in its current form. However, opposition political parties combined to secure enough votes to pass the legislation after a lengthy debate. "This is indeed a historic occasion," said House of Assembly Speaker Sue Hickey, who voted for the legislation. "This is not a win for any particular political party, but rather the dignity of the transgender community." The legislation allows people aged 16 or older to apply to change their listed gender without the approval of their parents.
4-9-19 Highly Religious, White Protestants Firm in Support for Trump
One of the fascinating aspects of Donald Trump's presidency so far has been the stability of his support among Americans. His overall approval rating has varied little over his first 2 1/4 years in office. And, significantly, his approval rating has varied little among one of the most important segments of his base -- highly religious, white Protestants. Support for Trump among this group (an approximation of what are sometimes called evangelicals) has been high and rock steady during the Trump presidency so far. White, highly religious Protestants gave Trump an average 67% approval rating in Gallup surveys conducted in 2017, and an average 69% approval in both 2018 and in the first quarter of 2019. The president's overall ratings in 2017, 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 -- using the same polls from which the evangelical job approval ratings are calculated -- have been 40%, 41% and 40%, respectively. Given this overall stability, our default expectations are that Trump's ratings would be equally stable among subgroups, as has been the case for evangelicals. There are a number of ways to determine who is or is not an evangelical, I should add. For this analysis, I'm using those who identify as white and Protestant, and who attend religious services weekly or almost every week. Pew Research, as another example, bases their definition on those who are Protestant and who also self-identify as born again or evangelical. Using that definition, Pew recently reported the same percentage of white Protestant evangelicals approving of Trump (69%) as our 2019 Gallup average. strong>(Webmaster's comment: We are well on our way to becoming a Religious State with a Hitler in charge. The Constitution means nothing to these people. All non-white, non-Christians will be exterminated!)
4-9-19 Canada to reject refugees with claims in other countries
Canada intends to change the law to make it harder for asylum seekers rejected by countries like the US to file refugee claims at the border. The move comes as thousands of asylum seekers have crossed the border after their claims were rejected in the US. Amendments were introduced on Monday evening in the Liberal government's 392-page omnibus budget bill. An influx of asylum seekers crossing at the US-Canada border has become a hot button political issue. The law would allow immigration officers at the border to reject refugee claims if the asylum seeker has already made a claim in another country that has an immigration information-sharing agreement with Canada. These countries include the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. The asylum seeker would no longer be entitled to an oral hearing and the claim could not be appealed to an independent tribunal. Instead, denied claimants would have the right to submit a written, pre-removal risk assessment, which lawyer Kevin Wiener says has about a 3% success rate. "I expect this to be a major change for Canada's refugee system and I'm surprised to see it buried in a budget bill," he told the BBC in an email. "If immigration officers are going to be the new front-line decision-makers for a large volume of refugee claims, then the government needs to make sure they do a better job at providing fair and reasonable decision-making." Some 20,000 asylum seekers crossed at the US border in 2018, many of whom had already made refugee claims in the US. There are over 200,000 pending asylum claims, and the wait for hearings by Canada's refugee board have edged up to an average of 20 months. (Webmaster's comment: Americans hatred for immigrants is speading to other countries. No one wants to help anyone!)
4-9-19 Trump: Court defeat on asylum policy 'unfair to US'
US President Donald Trump has lashed out at a federal judge for blocking his policy of sending migrants awaiting US asylum hearings back to Mexico. "A 9th Circuit judge just ruled that Mexico is too dangerous for migrants," he tweeted. "So unfair to the US." His policy would have returned migrant families to Mexico to await court bids for the right to stay in the US. It comes as numbers of migrants stopped at the US-Mexico border have surged to the highest level in over a decade. US immigration officials have estimated border apprehensions in March topped 100,000. The San Francisco ninth district judge's order against the migrant policy is not due to go into effect until 12 April, giving US officials a chance to appeal the ruling. Monday's court ruling comes as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which implements Mr Trump's immigration directives, is in turmoil following a major shake-up by the administration. The agency's Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen quit on Sunday after being summoned to the White House by the president. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley called on Mr Trump on Monday to halt the leadership purge at the agency. The senior senator told the Washington Post he is "very, very concerned" about reports of possible further DHS dismissals. "The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he's made for his campaign," Mr Grassley said. "He's pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal." There are rumours that DHS management undersecretary Claire Grady, now the senior-most Senate-confirmed official in the agency, as well as director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Francis Cissna, and DHS general counsel, John Mitnick, could be next to go. Speaking to Fox News on Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said: "It's time to do things a little differently. This would give migrant parents awaiting immigration hearings a choice: agree for their child to be held separately, or be detained together, possibly indefinitely, until their court date. (Webmaster's comment: Separating the children will give ICE more opportunity to sell them into sex slavey. See: 'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused')
4-9-19 3 reasons why socialism is gaining popularity in America
Why are Americans turning to socialism? Because capitalism is failing them. Did you know there are socialists in the Midwest? Americans are used to the country's vast rural hinterlands being depicted as Trump Territory — and variants on socialism attributed to East Coast intellectuals and pointy-headed Vermonters. But the socialist movement has deep historical roots in "flyover country": In the early 20th century, the tiny town of Girard, Kansas was a hub of American socialism, as was Madison, Wisconsin. These days, as The Atlantic outlines, a growing number of young adults in Iowa are at the forefront of the movement. It's difficult to discuss socialism these days without acknowledging that its definition varies depending on who you're asking. For Republicans, socialism is often an all-purpose slur used to describe relatively mild ideas like progressive taxation and Medicare, while the rest of the country can use it as a catch-all term for a whole spectrum of ideas and approaches left of "expanding the safety net a little bit." Labeling an idea "democratic socialism" offers a bit more clarity, but only barely. But socialists, self-described or otherwise, do seem to agree on one thing, as 27-year-old Iowan Casey Erixon told The Atlantic: "There is a growing sense that the system is broken." The 2020 presidential election may well end up being a referendum on socialism. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is looking to make another strong run in the Democratic primaries, and ideas like Medicare-for-all are being bandied about even among more moderate candidates. President Trump, meanwhile, started 2019 with a declaration at the State of the Union that "we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country." Whether that remains true, though, depends in part on the health of capitalism — and the health of the middle class in this capitalist country. The question, then, is whether or not capitalism seems to be improving American lives. If so, it'll remain dominant. If not, alternatives will look increasingly attractive. (Webmaster's comment: In Europe Democratic Socialism reigns supreme. Europeans live longer, happier, wealthier, healthier, more secure lives with less than 1/4 the murder and violence!)
4-8-19 Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?
Ariana Grande stands accused of manipulating her gay fans by suggesting in one of her songs that she may be bisexual. So what is so-called queerbaiting? Grande's new song, a collaboration with friend Victoria Monét called Monopoly, claimed the number one spot on the iTunes chart 24 hours after its release. But a particular lyric, in which Grande sings of liking "women and men" has added scrutiny to the customary buzz that now follows the American singer. Some fans have celebrated it as an expression of bisexuality. Others, however, have levelled charges of queerbaiting, which is the practice of using hints of sexual ambiguity to tease an audience. "Queerbaiting isn't new but it's implications are as powerful as ever", said Julia Himberg, professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University and author of the book The New Gay for Pay: The Sexual Politics of American Television Production. Prof Himberg and other experts on queerbaiting say it was born out of fandom in the early 2010s. Devotees of shows like Supernatural and The 100 - both from the CW television network - and BBC's Sherlock took to Tumblr and other social platforms to debate the apparent subtext of LGBT relationships between characters. "They're falsely leading us on," says Eve Ng, professor of media and women and gender studies at Ohio University. "Viewers feel misled... making us think you're actually going to deliver a satisfying narrative but it doesn't turn out." The accusation is that these plots are a calculated strategy. "This is about also targeting multiple audience demographics where you're not offending a conservative audience and you're also signalling to an LGBTQ audience that you want them as well", says Professor Himberg.
4-8-19 European nationalists form alliance for elections
European nationalist parties have announced an alliance, with the aim of changing the balance of power in the European Union. Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party announced the venture on Monday at a news conference in Milan. He was joined by Germany's far-right AfD, the Finns Party and the Danish People's Party - fellow nationalists. They are campaigning in the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May. Competing in different countries, they plan to form a parliamentary group - the European Alliance for People and Nations - to challenge the power of centrist parties. Alternative for Germany (AfD) chairman Jörg Meuthen said at least 10 parties would take part. "We want to reform the European Union and the European Parliament, without destroying them," he said. "We want to bring radical change." Under parliament rules, a group has to consist of at least 25 MEPs from a minimum of seven EU countries. The EU has 28 member states. The AfD is Germany's main opposition party and has drawn much controversy. UK politician Jacob Rees-Mogg was recently forced to defend a tweet linking to a speech by one of it members. Quizzed about associating with the far-right party, Mr Salvini said: "We are not interested in local controversies". Speaking under a banner reading "a common sense Europe! Peoples rise up", Mr Salvini said the alliance hopes to become the largest group in the European Parliament, and aims to preserve Europe's external borders, history and culture. Currently, nationalist and Eurosceptic groups are among the smallest in the European Parliament, numbering several dozen members. But support has grown for nationalist, anti-immigration parties since the 2014 election, so the May vote could significantly change Europe's top legislative body. (Webmaster's comment: The White Supremacists and neo-Nazis are gaining in strength all across Europe.)
4-5-19 US acknowledges civilian deaths in Somalia drone strike
The US has admitted that a woman and child were killed by an American drone strike in Somalia last April. It marks the first time America has admitted to causing civilian casualties during its air campaign in Somalia. Only weeks ago, the US had denied claims by rights group Amnesty International that 14 civilians were killed in five separate raids. The US began an air war against al-Shabab militants in 2011 under the direction of President Obama. Since the election of Donald Trump, the number of strikes has risen sharply. According to official figures, 110 air strikes have been carried out against militants in the past two years. The US had earlier said that the attacks had killed 800 people, none of them civilians. But at a press conference on Friday, military officials said an internal review had been conducted following Amnesty's report, questions from Congress, and a spike in strikes. The review was ordered by General Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command (Africom). It reportedly identified a "break down in reporting" which meant new information was not reported to Africom, leading commanders to make erroneous claims about civilian casualties. In a statement, Africom said the strike last April was not one of those flagged by Amnesty. It added that four al-Shabab militants had also been killed. "Trust and credibility are central to our operations," said General Gregg Olson, Africom director of operations. "If an innocent loss of life occurs, we are committed to being transparent and learning from this regrettable incident to prevent future occurrences." The BBC contacted Africom and asked if any compensation will be given by the US for the deaths. In response, a spokesperson said Africom was "working with [the US embassy] in Somalia on a way forward". (Webmaster's comment: Killing innocent civilians is essential to our military's goal of creating terror in countries we are not even at war with!)
4-5-19 Ethiopian Airlines crash: Boeing reduces 737 production
Boeing is temporarily cutting production of its best-selling 737 airliner in the continuing fall-out from crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Production will drop from 52 planes a month to 42 from mid-April, Boeing has said in a statement. The decision is a response to a halt in deliveries of the 737 Max - the model involved in the two accidents. The plane is currently grounded as preliminary findings suggest its anti-stall system was at fault. An Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crashed only minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa in March, killing all 157 people on board. The same type flown by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed into the sea only five months earlier, shortly after taking off from Jakarta. That accident claimed the lives of 189 people. In both cases, preliminary findings showed the pilots had wrestled with the anti-stall system, known as MCAS, which caused the planes to nose-dive repeatedly. A report from the Ethiopian authorities issued on Thursday said the pilots of flight ET302 "repeatedly" followed procedures recommended by Boeing before the crash."We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft's MCAS function. We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it," the statement from Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said. He repeated that Boeing was making progress on updating the MCAS software and finalising new training for Max pilots. "As we continue to work through these steps, we're adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in Max deliveries, allowing us to prioritise additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the Max to flight," he said. Current employment levels would be maintained, the statement said, and a new committee is being set up to look at "policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build". (Webmaster's comment: Never forget that for most corporations it's profits first, SAFETY SECOND!)
4-5-19 Selling out to America’s gun lobby
In public, Australia’s far-right One Nation party supports our country’s popular and effective gun control laws, said Tory Shepherd. In private, it’s willing to do the bidding of America’s National Rifle Association for “cold, hard cash.” In footage recorded by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter, party official James Ashby tells an NRA representative that One Nation could “own” the Australian Parliament with $20 million in donations. The NRA loathes the firearms restrictions that Australia introduced after a 1996 massacre because they are held up as a model of success by U.S. gun control advocates. At another point in the video, the NRA official says his organization tries to “shame” gun control advocates with lines like “How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?” Queensland One Nation leader Steve Dickson responds with glee, saying, “I love that.” Ashby and Dickson now say they were “on the sauce” when the video was recorded. But “how many scotches do you drink before you joke about using dead children for propaganda and taking millions of dollars to relax gun laws?” One Nation says it works for “everyday Australians,” but it’s willing to endanger Australian lives for cash. The party’s hypocrisy is “breathtaking.”
4-5-19 Voters seduced by a false messiah
The Netherlands’ new populist “messiah” is “as fascinating as he is frightening,” said Stevo Akkerman. Thierry Baudet won a stunning upset victory in Senate elections last week. His Forum for Democracy party—founded only three years ago—went from zero to 13 seats and is now the biggest party in the legislature’s upper house. A former academic, the telegenic Baudet, 36, is remarkable for his total self-confidence: He once described himself as the Netherlands’ most important intellectual. And unlike fellow populist Geert Wilders, who relies mainly on hate speech, Baudet has the ability to inspire his followers with soaring philosophical rhetoric. Few would have picked up on the literary and biblical references in his victory speech, but his lament about a spiritual vacuum clearly touched a chord with citizens disillusioned by today’s vision-free technocratic politicians. Painting an apocalyptic vision of a white culture undermined by immigration and climate change activism, he spoke of the sun setting on “the greatest civilization ever,” a sunset that will be checked, he implied, now that he’s on the scene. One can admire Baudet for being willing to tackle big themes. But the idea of returning to a “glorified past,” with salvation reserved for his chosen group of white nationalists, won’t do. “In such a paradise the snake is never far away.”
4-5-19 Coup celebration
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro this week ordered his country’s armed forces to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the coup that ousted a leftist president and ushered in 21 years of bloody military dictatorship. A federal judge tried to block the celebration, but a higher court said it could proceed. Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, sees the coup as a strike against communism. But many lawmakers, as well as Brazilians imprisoned and tortured by the dictatorship, were appalled by the commemoration. The attorney general’s office issued a scathing statement denouncing the president’s command and calling the 1964 coup “a violent and antidemocratic rupture of the constitutional order.”
4-5-19 Still using outhouses
Russia has the worst sanitation facilities in the developed world, with a fifth of households—some 35 million people—lacking access to indoor toilets. A study by Rosstat, the federal statistics service, found that the problem is worst in rural areas, where two-thirds of households have no indoor toilets or reliable hot water. Most of those households use outhouses or pit toilets. Poverty is widespread outside of Moscow. The Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy says 22 percent of Russians can’t buy anything beyond basic staples needed for subsistence. President Vladimir Putin has set a goal of cutting the poverty rate in half by the end of his current presidential term in 2024. (Webmaster's comment: 35 million people without indoor toilets is nothing. India has over 500 million with only outdoor pits.)
4-5-19 Gays to be stoned to death
Brutal new punishments for adultery and homosexuality went into effect in Brunei this week as part of the kingdom’s gradual implementation of sharia law. Adulterers and men found guilty of having sex with other men will be stoned to death, lesbian sex will be punished with 40 lashes, and thieves will have their right hand amputated on a first offense. Brunei, an oil-rich former British protectorate with a population of about 400,000, has been ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah for more than 50 years, and an insider told Fox News that the sultan fears the rise of radical Islam and enacted the laws to appease Islamists. Actor George Clooney is calling for a boycott of Brunei-owned properties in the U.S. and Europe, including the popular Beverly Hills Hotel.
4-5-19 The French pilot who became a hero at Entebbe
Air France pilot Michel Bacos had just commenced on the second leg of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris on June 27, 1976, when the unthinkable happened. Eight minutes after taking off from Athens, Bacos heard screams coming from the passenger cabin. At first, he thought there was a fire on board, but when the chief engineer opened the cockpit door to investigate, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. Two Palestinian and two far-left German hijackers forced Bacos to fly the plane and its 248 passengers and 12 crew members to Benghazi, Libya, and then on to Entebbe, Uganda, where they were held in a decrepit airport terminal. Three days later, the hijackers released 150 passengers, but kept the Israelis and those with Jewish-sounding surnames captive. Bacos and his crew were told they could leave, but they refused. “This was a matter of conscience, professionalism, and morality,” Bacos said. “I couldn’t imagine leaving behind even a single passenger.” When the terrorists ordered the Jews separated from the rest of the passengers during that crisis, Bacos insisted on being allowed to move between the two groups, said The Washington Post. “I’m responsible for all the passengers,” he told the militants, “be they Israeli or not.” Bacos and the remaining captives were freed after six days in a daring raid by Israeli commandos, said The New York Times. Three passengers died during the operation as well as an Israeli soldier, Lieut. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the elder brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the flight back to Israel, the soldiers honored Bacos by inviting him to sit in the cockpit. He was later decorated by both France and Israel for his bravery, but always insisted he had simply done what was right. “I fought the Nazis,” he said. “I knew precisely what fascism was all about.”
4-5-19 The dangers of edible marijuana
Pot-infused brownies, gummy bears, and other cannabis “edibles” are often portrayed as a fun and harmless way to ingest cannabis, but a new study suggests that eating weed may be more dangerous than smoking or vaping the drug. Researchers looked at thousands of marijuana-related emergency room visits in Denver from 2014, when the drug was legalized in Colorado, to 2016, reports The New York Times. While edibles represented only 0.3 percent of the total weight sold of THC—the psychoactive compound in weed—they accounted for 10 percent of cannabis-linked ER admissions. Patients displayed markedly different symptoms depending on how they’d consumed the drug. Nearly half of the patients who’d taken edibles complained of intoxication, compared with less than a third of those who’d smoked marijuana. Those who used edibles were also more likely to experience acute psychiatric symptoms and cardiovascular issues such as an irregular heartbeat. The scientists say the most likely reason for the disparity is that ingested weed takes longer to produce a high than smoked cannabis does, so users think the drug isn’t working and take more. Lead author Andrew Monte notes that the only three deaths in Colorado that have been definitively linked to marijuana—two suicides and a murder—all involved edibles. “States moving to liberalize cannabis policy,” he says, “should consider keeping edibles out of the recreational marketplace.”
4-5-19 Kosher Pot
Some cannabis growers in California are paying Jewish rabbis to certify their products as kosher. Because the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, growers cannot apply for labels such as “Organic” or “GMO free.” That’s why growers are asking for kosher certification from rabbinical authorities, said Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “Folks deserve to know that what they’re consuming is healthy.”
4-5-19 US revokes visa of International Criminal Court prosecutor
The US has revoked the entry visa for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda. The decision is thought to be the US response to Ms Bensouda's investigation into possible war crimes by American forces and their allies in Afghanistan. The US secretary of state had warned the US might refuse or revoke visas to any ICC staff involved in such probes. Ms Bensouda's office said the ICC prosecutor would continue to her duties "without fear or favour". Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "If you're responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you will still have or get a visa, or that you will be permitted to enter the United States. "We're prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions if the ICC does not change its course," he added. A 2016 report from the ICC said there was a reasonable basis to believe the US military had committed torture at secret detention sites in Afghanistan operated by the CIA, and that the Afghan government and the Taliban had committed war crimes. The US, which has been critical of the ICC since it was established, 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. (Webmaster's comment: The United states military has been guilty of war crimes, rape, torture, and murder of civilians and military personnel, in every war starting with the Spansh-American war in the Phillippines in 1898. The guilty military personnel should be arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned or executed as appropriate.)
4-5-19 Rwanda genocide: Macron orders probe of France's role
French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed a panel of experts to investigate France's role in Rwanda's genocide 25 years ago. An estimated 800,000 Rwandans, most from the minority Tutsi community, were killed by ethnic Hutu extremists over 100 days in 1994. Rwanda has accused France of complicity in the mass killings - a charge repeatedly denied by Paris. The experts will now consult archives to analyse France's role. Looking at the period from 1990 to 1994, it is hoped that the findings made by the eight historians and researchers will "contribute to a better understanding and knowledge" of what happened, the presidency said in a statement. It was the shooting down of his plane over the capital Kigali in April 1994 that triggered the genocide. Rwanda has accused France of ignoring or missing warning signs and of training the militias who carried out the attacks. It also says French forces helped some of the perpetrators to escape. The issue has long strained relations between the two countries, though they have improved over the past decade. Mr Macron turned down an invitation to attend genocide commemorations in Rwanda this weekend, citing scheduling problems. (Webmaster's comment: Why do our militaries have such enormous power over all of us even in free countries? We need them put them under strict civilian command and control!)
4-5-19 The city battling over a homeless shelter
A new homeless shelter has been proposed in San Francisco, and some local residents are not happy. The proposed centre will provide 200-beds in a city with more than 7,000 homeless people. (Webmaster's comment: Why? More hate for "other" people!)
4-5-19 Plans for Bosnia's first Pride parade prompt backlash
An announcement by activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) that the first official LGBT parade will take place in the capital Sarajevo on 8 September has attracted mixed response on social media but very little official comment. Vladana Vasic, one of the organisers, announced the Coming Out Now parade at a midday news conference on 1 April because "it is High Noon in this country when it comes to LGBTIQ people's rights". Another organiser, Lejla Huremovic, said Pride parades were a powerful political tool to achieve quick changes in the fight for "freedom of all individuals and groups which face discrimination and violence and which are excluded from society in any way", Radio Sarajevo news portal reported. Sarajevo authorities have denied permission for similar marches and protests on several occasions. The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities which make up the country, in October 2018 endorsed the legalisation of same-sex marriages. According to Bosnian Federation Prime Minister Fadil Novalic, the decision was part of BH's EU accession process. Local media have noted that politicians for the most part failed to comment on the parade announcement. Samra Cosovic-Hajdarevic, a deputy of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Sarajevo Canton, drew criticism when she described the march as a "terrible" idea aimed at "destroying the state and its people" on her Facebook page. In a post which was subsequently removed, she said she wanted "such people to be isolated and moved as far as possible from our children and society". The SDA branch of Sarajevo Canton issued a statement urging organisers and Sarajevo Canton authorities to abandon plans for the parade.
4-4-19 Gay conversion therapy: 'I thought being straight would make me happy'
After struggling to reconcile her sexuality and her religion, Shulli spent over a year undergoing gay conversion therapy. “I just want to be straight and that's the only reason I'm here.” I closed my eyes and clenched my fists; although we were sat opposite each other face to face, I avoided the therapist’s gaze. But I focused intently on his words: “So, your mother worked, you say?" I nodded. That was followed by, “You must feel anxious around boys. Why is that?” I gritted my teeth in response and stayed silent. I was always terrified before each session as I trudged up the stairs to his office - nervous someone might see me and realise why I was there. I never fully relaxed, my back stiff and my body tense the whole time. I looked up, trusting him, and he seemed to take that as a sign to continue. Now, he was asking me to describe how I felt when I saw a girl I fancied in the gym. “I had butterflies in my stomach,” I said. He nodded and then started asking me to analyse why I felt that sense of anxious excitement. Perhaps my inability to feel attracted to men was because I was actually worried they didn’t like me, he suggested. I sighed. I didn’t know what I felt anymore - except numb, and trapped. No, this wasn’t a bad dream. Instead, I was in the throes of the gay conversion therapy that would dominate my early 20s and leave me forever changed. I was convinced then that I had to be straight to be happy. As a Modern Orthodox Jew, I was desperate to lead what I thought was a ‘normal’ life - getting married to a ‘good Jewish boy’, having a family - and being accepted by my religious community. While many liberal reform Jewish people accept homosexuality nowadays, some Orthodox Jews still oppose it on the grounds that it is said to be forbidden by religious teachings. Sitting there in the therapist’s office, I reluctantly tried to engage in his quest to find a root cause for my sexuality. Naively, I thought the pain of picking apart my childhood and subjecting my parents to scrutiny was worth it because, I believed, I was going to come out the other side as a straight woman. That was all I wanted back then. Now, six years later, I’m much happier with who I am - though I find it hard to trust people, and I tend to over-analyse things in relationships. But one positive has come out of this – my parents are now my biggest supporters. My dad, wracked with guilt over how badly the therapy seemed to have affected me, was the first one to tell me to stop it and experiment with the gay world. Having their support gave me the strength to move forward with my life. (Webmaster's comment: Gay conversion therapy is a great evil. Stop or you could be messed up forever!)
4-4-19 Mormon church pledges to reverse its anti-LGBT policy
The Mormon church has pledged to roll back a series of anti-LGBT policies introduced four years ago. In a surprise move, the Utah-based religious group said it would no longer ban the children of gay parents from being baptised. Gay marriage will also no longer be treated as an offence worthy of expulsion. Around 1,500 people reportedly left the church in protest when its anti-LGBT polices were rolled out in 2015. Members of the church worship Jesus Christ, but have substantial differences in belief to the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian denominations. Known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it claims 16m members worldwide. Its followers include 2012 US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The new "positive policies" were announced on Thursday by church leader Dallin Oaks at a conference in Salt Lake City. The group said it would allow children of LGBT parents to be baptised so long as they had parental approval. As part of the changes gay marriage would also be considered "a serious transgression" but not an "act of apostasy". "Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way," the group added. Mr Oaks said the changes sought to "reduce the hate and contention so common today," but he insisted they did not represent a shift in church doctrine on marriage, chastity and morality. These latest policy reversals are the biggest moves yet by church president Russell Nelson, who took office last year. For the followers of the church, the president is a prophet who receives divine revelations. (Webmaster's comment: One look that their "prophet" and you can just see he radiates hate!)
4-4-19 Street cannabis 'contains dangerous amount of faecal matter'
Cannabis resin sold on the streets of Madrid is contaminated with dangerous levels of faecal matter, a study says. Traces of E.coli bacteria and the Aspergillus fungus were found by analysts who examined 90 samples bought in and around the Spanish capital. The samples of hashish were wrapped up in plastic "acorns" were the worst offenders, reportedly because of the way they are smuggled into the country. Some 40% of these also had the aroma of faeces, the study's lead author said. Buying, selling and importing cannabis is against the law in Spain, as is using it in public - although it is technically legal to grow it for personal use, provided it is not publicly visible, and to consume it in private. José Manuel Moreno Pérez, a pharmacologist from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, collected hashish samples (also referred to as hash or resin) directly from street dealers, both in the city and the surrounding suburbs. The aim was to determine whether the drugs sold were suitable for human consumption. His research team then separated the contaminated samples by shape, with some of them resembling "acorns" and others "ingots", to see if one shape had more contaminates than the other. The study, co-authored with Pilar Pérez-Lloret, Juncal González-Soriano and Inmaculada Santos Álvarez, has been published in the journal Forensic Science International. They found that 93% of the acorn-shaped samples contained dangerous levels of E.coli bacteria, as did 29.4% of the ingot samples. Some 10% of the cannabis samples were also contaminated with Aspergillus, a dangerous fungus that can cause serious health problems. Most of the samples tested - 88.3% - were not suitable for consumption. Mr Pérez later explained the contamination - and the smell - to the Spanish newspaper El País.
4-3-19 The cost-free way to end the border rush
President Trump has cried wolf so many times on the "crisis" at the border that one could be forgiven for dismissing his latest warnings. But even if the situation at the border is not a full-fledged crisis, as his administration claims, there's no denying that a new rush of Central American asylum seekers has created a serious problem there. However, Trump's proposed remedies — shutting down the border and/or forcing Mexico to warehouse the desperate families — will cost America dearly, both in dollars and in a national sense of humanity. There is, however, an innovative and simple fix that won't cost American taxpayers a dime, will ensure that these folks won't just disappear into the dark night if allowed in, and will give authorities more time to investigate their asylum claims: Hand migrants temporary work visas right off the bat — but — make renewal dependent on them showing up for scheduled asylum hearings. Call this the MASHA (Make America Secure and Humane Again) visa solution. Border apprehensions reached a high of 1.6 million in 2000 and have been falling ever since. Last year, apprehensions hit a grand total of 400,000 — about 90,000 more than the previous year to be sure, but nowhere close to "crisis" levels. And yet, Trump upped his rhetoric of a wall and started taking children away from migrant moms, some of whom have yet to be reunited. But this year the uptick is significant. About 70,000 migrants were apprehended in February and around 100,000 in March alone. The vast majority are from Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala, where gang-related crime has reached epic proportions. This rush is straining border facilities. In El Paso, border stations are 300 to 400 percent overcapacity, forcing authorities to cram migrants, chattel like, in makeshift holding pens, without beds or blankets. One pen was located under a bridge and constructed of barbed wire.
4-3-19 The butterflies that could stop Trump’s wall
The obstacles to President Donald Trump's border wall are not confined to the four walls of Congress. As areas are cleared to start building new sections, some landowners, including a butterfly sanctuary, have sued to stop the construction. Marianna Trevino Wright sits on a bench near a wooded section of the National Butterfly Center and begins identifying animals. Scissortail flycatchers, green jays, olive sparrows and clay-coloured thrushes swoop by, pecking at oranges set out as a snack and splashing in a bubbling fountain. From the tree branches above, great-tailed grackles screech and whistle like avian car alarms. Closer to the earth, a menagerie of butterflies flit among the nearby flowering bushes. Zebra Heliconians and large orange sulfurs; queens and red-bordered pixies. Then there are the other sights and sounds at the centre. The hum of a US Department of Homeland Security helicopter high overhead. Border Patrol agents buzzing by on motorcycles and ATVs, their faces obscured by masks and goggles, pistols at their side. The rumble of trucks dragging tyres behind them, smoothing dusty roads so the footprints of interlopers can more easily be spotted. A government powerboat, with menacing .30-calibre machine guns on its deck, roaring down the river. The butterfly centre, of which Wright is the director, sits on 110 acres near the southern tip of Texas - an area of low-lying marshes, brush and scrub forests, offering a variety of ecosystems that provide ample habitat for migratory species of all shapes and sizes. It is also flush along the Rio Grande River, which forms more than 1,260 miles (2027 km) of the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. That puts the small, private environmental preserve in the centre of a raging debate over immigration and national security - and whether and where to build Donald Trump's oft-promised border wall. "It is a war zone," Wright says. "That's what the government wants it to appear to be. It's all theatre. So they've got to have all the actors, all the costumes and all the props."
4-3-19 Poll: 59 percent of voters have little or no trust in Trump on health care
President Trump wants to make the Republican Party the "party of health care." But a new poll suggests he has a lot of work to do. In a Politico/Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday, 59 percent of registered voters said they have little or no trust in Trump to protect the U.S. health-care system or make improvements to it. This includes 13 percent who said they have "not much" trust, and 46 percent said they have no trust at all. Another 18 percent said they have "some" trust in Trump, while 22 percent said they have "a lot" of trust. This isn't just a problem with Trump, though. When asked who they trust more to handle health care, 45 percent of voters said Democrats in Congress compared to 35 percent who said Republicans in Congress. And 53 percent said they have either "a lot" or "some" trust in Democrats on the issue, while 41 percent said the same for Republicans. Trump began a new health-care push last week when it was announced that his Justice Department was asking courts to strike down all of ObamaCare. Trump subsequently said Republicans would try again to come up with a replacement for the health-care law, although he said on Monday that a vote on any replacement would be put off until 2021, all but ensuring health care will become a key issue in the 2020 presidential election. Politico/Morning Consult's survey was conducted by speaking to 1,945 registered voters from March 29 - April 1. The margin of error is 2 percentage points.
4-3-19 The unexpected cruelty of sanctions
They're not a humanitarian alternative to war. Sometimes, as the leader of a global superpower, you very much want to coerce the behavior of another government, only to find your tedious public is not enthusiastic about the prospect of military intervention, probably because of the seven or so wars you're already fighting. A quandary!Luckily for you, sanctions are a politically viable option instead. Especially when targeted at specific industries, state agencies, or officials, sanctions are cast as a shrewd and humane alternative to open conflict. We can make life difficult for corrupt politicians or halt oil sales or limit military build-up without hurting ordinary people, who likely have little control over their leaders' choices. All the coercion, none of the humanitarian consequences. It sounds good in theory. It sounds clean and altruistic, foreign policy without the bloodshed. And though it's obviously true that sanctions do not mete out the direct damage of airstrikes or invasion, they are not the humanitarian alternative they're often made out to be. Even targeted sanctions can have grave unintended consequences for innocent civilians, as present circumstances in Iran and Venezuela reveal. Drenched in heavy rains and spring snow melt, Iran is flooding. The country has suffered three major floods in the past two weeks, with 23 of 31 provinces affected as of this writing. Hundreds of villages and several cities are submerged. "In [the provincial capital city of] Khorramabad the water has risen by as much as three meters in parts," state media reported Monday, and some areas are "completely submerged with residents stranded on their rooftops." Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, and dozens have died. The death toll could well grow, partly because international aid has been limited. "Two weeks into devastating floods that have caused tremendous losses and damages across Iran, there is still no report about other countries extending help," reports Radio Farda, a Persian-language subsidiary of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. To all appearances, "European states as well as Iran's neighbors, particularly the wealthy Persian Gulf states, have also not made any official offers of help," the story says, some Turkish charities excepted. More help is not forthcoming, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, because "challenges caused by unilateral sanctions will affect the U.N. response and the accountability of the U.N. to deliver the appropriate support." The unilateral sanctions in question are those imposed by the Trump administration following President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
4-3-19 Paul McAuley: British environmental activist found dead in Peru
A British environmental activist and Catholic missionary has been found dead at a hostel in Peru. The body of Paul McAuley, 71, was discovered by students on Tuesday in the Amazon city of Iquitos. In a statement, the religious order that Mr McAuley belonged to said that his body had been burned. An investigation has been launched and officials are questioning six people who lived at the youth hostel, which was run by Mr McAuley. The activist, who was born in Portsmouth, had lived in the country for more than 20 years and was awarded an MBE for setting up a school in a poor community of the capital, Lima. He came to international attention in 2010 when the Peruvian government ordered his expulsion. He was accused of inciting unrest among indigenous people for protesting against environmental destruction. It led hundreds of people to demonstrate in support of him and and he eventually won the right to stay after a lengthy court battle. Environmental groups were quick to pay tribute to Mr McAuley. "It has been a privilege to meet and work with Brother Paul," Julia Urrunaga, who works for the Environmental Investigation Agency in Peru, said in a tweet. Mr McAuley first travelled to the Peruvian Amazon in 2000 to support indigenous activists. In 2010, he told the BBC that he hoped to teach Peruvians about their environmental and human rights. "Education is often accused of inciting people to understand their rights, to be capable or organising themselves to ensure their human rights," he said. "If that's a crime, then yes I'm guilty," he added. "As a member of a Catholic order, my life's been dedicated to human and Christian education." (Webmaster's comment: There are many Christian heroes and here's another!)
4-3-19 Paris transgender woman 'humiliated' at protest
A transgender woman has spoken out after a video went viral of her being attacked near a rally in central Paris against Algeria's ailing president. Julia has described being targeted by three men in the Place de la République. "You're a man, you're not going anywhere, you're not coming past," she was told, as she was pushed and punched while trying get through the crowd. Prosecutors have opened an inquiry into the attack. Appearing on French TV and radio, Julia said she had never experienced anything quite like it. "The violence against this [transgender] community takes place every day. But some people won't have the strength that I have and they'll be destroyed by these attacks," she said. Julia, 31, was set upon on Sunday as she walked up steps at the metro station in the Place de la République. A big rally was taking place in the square against Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria's long-ruling 82-year-old president, who has since announced his resignation. Wearing a black-and-white striped blouse, Julia was blocked by protesters who taunted her in Arabic. One man ruffled here hair, while a girl draped in an Algerian flag came to try to help Julia. After the girl moved on, a man repeatedly punched Julia while another could be seen kicking at her. Transport police then intervened and led the victim to safety. However, French group Stop Homophobie said the transport officers had called her "Monsieur" and told her "not to dress like that". Video of the attack has gone viral in France, and Julia then decided to give her account of what had happened. "I wanted to go down and take the metro. Three people were blocking my way, and one said: 'Oh but actually you're a man - we won't let you through,'" she told France Inter radio.
4-3-19 Chicago elects Lori Lightfoot as first female black mayor
The US city of Chicago has made history by electing an African-American woman as its mayor for the first time. Lori Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor who has not held political office before. She fought off competition from 13 other candidates and dominated the final run-off election with more than 74% when the vote was called. Ms Lightfoot is also the city's first gay mayor and celebrated on-stage with her wife and daughter. "Out there tonight a lot of little girls and boys are watching. They're watching us. And they're seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different," she told a crowd celebrating her victory on Wednesday night. The 56-year-old was viewed as an outsider to the race, and campaigned on a platform to end political corruption and help lower-income families. Gun crime and policing were also high on the agenda in a city plagued by high levels of gang violence and murder. Ms Lightfoot previously led the city's police accountability task force. The body was set up after the death of a 17-year-old named Laquan McDonald at the hands of a police officer in 2014 and subsequent alleged cover-up. She also headed the Chicago Police Board, a civilian oversight body that disciplines police officers. Her final victory came on Wednesday in a run-off vote against Toni Preckwinkle - another African-American woman. Ms Lightfoot joins a growing rank of record breakers being elected to high-profile mayoral office across the country. Seven other US cities including Atlanta, New Orleans and San Francisco are now also led by black women. She will take over office from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who previously served as chief of staff under former President Barack Obama.
4-3-19 Brunei implements stoning to death under anti-LGBT laws
Brunei is introducing strict new Islamic laws that make anal sex and adultery offences punishable by stoning to death. The new measures, that come into force on Wednesday, also cover a range of other crimes including punishment for theft by amputation. The move has sparked international condemnation. Brunei's gay community has expressed shock and fear at the "medieval punishments". "You wake up and realise that your neighbours, your family or even that nice old lady that sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn't think you're human, or is okay with stoning," one Bruneian gay man, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC. The sultan of the small South-East Asian nation on Wednesday called for "stronger" Islamic teachings. "I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a public address, according to AFP news agency, without mentioning the new laws. Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country's population of 420,000. Brunei has retained the death penalty but has not carried out an execution since 1957. The law mostly applies to Muslims, including children who have reached puberty, though some aspects will apply to non-Muslims. Under the new laws, individuals accused of certain acts will be convicted if they confess or if there were witnesses present. Offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death. Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail. The punishment for theft is amputation. Those who "persuade, tell or encourage" Muslim children under the age of 18 "to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam" are liable to a fine or jail. Individuals who have not reached puberty but are convicted of certain offences may be instead subjected to whipping. (Webmaster's comment: Notice it's never atheists who impose or support such laws. It's always the religious that do!)
4-2-19 Nebraska grandmother acts as surrogate for gay son
A 61-year-old Nebraskan woman has told of her joy after giving birth to her own grandchild, acting as the surrogate for her son and his husband. Cecile Eledge carried the daughter of her son Matthew Eledge and his husband Elliot Dougherty to term, giving birth to baby Uma Louise last week. Mrs Eledge said she made the offer when her son and Mr Dougherty first said they wanted to start a family. "Of course, they all laughed," Mrs Eledge told the BBC. Mrs Eledge, who was 59 at the time, said her suggestion remained a sort of joke among family at first, not a realistic path forward. "It just seemed like a really beautiful sentiment on her part," Mr Dougherty said. "She's such a selfless woman." But when Mr Eledge and Mr Dougherty, who live in Omaha close to Mrs Eledge and her husband, began exploring options to have a baby they were told by a fertility doctor that it could be a viable option. Mrs Eledge was brought in for an interview and a series of tests, all of which gave a green light to the surrogacy. "I'm very health conscious," she said. "There was no reason whatsoever to doubt that I could carry the baby." With Mr Eledge providing the sperm, Mr Dougherty's sister Lea served as the egg donor. Mr Dougherty, who works as a hairdresser, said that while straight couples may consider IVF the last resort, for them it was their "only hope" for a biological child. "We always knew we had to be unique and think outside the box with this," Mr Eledge, a public school teacher, added. (Webmaster's comment: This is truly wonderful, but the haters in many religions will have severe problems with it.)
4-2-19 Ange Dibenesha: Death of black man in custody sparks online storm
A major controversy has erupted over the death of a young black man after he was detained by police in Paris. Ange Dibenesha, 31, was arrested in the French capital on Wednesday evening after his car was stopped by police. His family said they heard nothing from him until they received a phone call from a local hospital on Friday, informing them that he was brain dead. An autopsy revealed he died of heart failure. Police said he swallowed an unknown substance during his arrest. (Webmaster's comment: Maybe, Maybe Not!) News of Mr Dibenesha's death, which was formally announced on Sunday, was met with anger online, with social media users demanding an explanation using the hashtag #JusticePourAnge. As the demands mounted, many French people drew parallels to the death of young black men in police custody in the US – a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Webmaster's comment: Police murdering blacks is a worldwide problem!)
4-1-19 Harry Potter books burned by Polish priests alarmed by magic
Catholic priests in northern Poland have burned books they consider to be sacrilegious, including ones from the Harry Potter boy wizard series. An evangelical group, the SMS from Heaven Foundation, published pictures of the burning - which took place in the city of Gdansk - on Facebook. They also show an elephant figurine and a tribal mask burning on the book pile. The Facebook post justifies the bonfire with Bible quotes condemning magic. The group sends Christian messages via SMS. A passage from Acts, quoted in the group's post, says "many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver". Another passage, from Deuteronomy, says: "Burn the images of their gods. Don't desire the silver or the gold that is on them and take it for yourself, or you will be trapped by it. That is detestable to the Lord your God." (Webmaster's comment: Coming soon to a church or religious group near you!)
4-1-19 What happens if Trump closes the border?
President Donald Trump is threatening to close the US border with Mexico in an extreme bid to cut down on illegal migration and drug-smuggling. He has said there is a "very good likelihood" that he will take the action this week. But what would happen to people, and to trade, if this were to go ahead? Mexico is the United States' third-largest trading partner after Canada and China, so the impact would be widespread and immediate. And the anticipated avocado shortages would just be one part of it. Yes, says Matthew Dallek, an associate professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management in Washington DC. "The president has wide latitude to control the flow of people and goods coming into the US," he says. However, President Trump has vowed to close the border "for a long time" and this is where he might run into more difficulty, as there are likely to be multiple legal challenges on behalf of people and interests that are affected. Mr Dallek compares it to President Trump's travel ban (often referred to as the Muslim ban), which he issued - via executive order - shortly after taking office. Its purpose was to stop refugees and people from several mainly Muslim countries from entering the US. The move was challenged in court. "There would be far more chaos if the border was shut," says Mr Dallek. "You would have a pile-up of people and goods, and major political pressure. It would be unsustainable. He would be forced to retreat and reopen it, or the courts would step in." "It is a bit like a murder-suicide," says Andrew Selee, the president of the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank that describes itself as non-partisan. "You can hold a gun to the Mexican government, but it ricochets right back on to the US economy." Paolo Marinaro, a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Global Workers' Rights at Pennsylvania State University, agrees. "US and Mexico are highly integrated economies," he says. "Closing the border wouldn't affect only the US or Mexican workers, it would rather have massive effects on the global economy." He cites the automobile industry as a prime example. "The sector employs more than one million workers in Mexico. And Mexico is the third largest global exporter of cars, providing cheap labour to global corporations," says Mr Marinaro. Mexico's Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, tweeted on Friday that the country will "not act on the basis of threats". Many Mexicans and US citizens live and work across the two countries. Many are enrolled in programmes - such as the Trusted Traveller Programme - that allow them to fast-track immigration lines. "It would throw a huge monkey wrench into people's lives if this were suddenly stopped," says Mr Selee, who is also the author of a book called Vanishing Frontiers, about the countries' deep links. Steve Barnard, president and chief executive of Mission Produce, the largest distributor and grower of avocados in the world, said: "You couldn't pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100% of the avocados in the US right now. "California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they're not relevant right now and won't be for another month or so." Mexico also exports tomatoes, cucumbers, blackberries and raspberries to the US. "We're absolutely going to see higher prices," said Monica Ganley from Quarterra, a consultancy specialising in Latin American agricultural issues and trade. "This is a very real and very relevant concern for American consumers." (Webmaster's comment: Trump and his supporters are IDIOTS!)
4-1-19 How Trump's border policies will make the migration problem worse
Border migration is a symptom, and Trump is ignoring the root cause. resident Trump is threatening to close the U.S. border with Mexico. He made the threat on Friday — a response to surging migrant arrivals at the border — then repeated it Saturday on Twitter. On Sunday, White House officials took to the morning news shows to make it clear he wasn't kidding. As White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News, the president's threat "certainly isn't a bluff." Let us hope it is. Because shutting down the border probably wouldn't do much to curb illegal immigration. It will, however, have dramatic and disastrous consequences for America. As The Washington Post reports, it "would disrupt supply chains for major U.S. automakers, trigger swift price increases for grocery shoppers, and invite lawsuits against the federal government." Any reasonable U.S. politician would avoid such a catastrophe. But we're talking about Trump here, so anything is possible. Two things are worth noting. First, Trump's solution to the so-called "border crisis" is simply awful, as the Post's reporting points out. But perhaps more importantly, Trump is not even trying to solve the right problem. In the minds of Trump and nationalist advisers like Stephen Miller, the issue seems to be this: "They" want to come here. (Don't know who "they" are? The weekend Fox News chyron discussing "3 MEXICAN COUNTRIES" should probably give you a good idea.) But the surge of migrant families isn't actually the problem — it's a symptom. The real issue is that, in some countries south of the border, things are a mess — the kind of mess you and your family would probably also try to flee if you had few other choices. Here's how UNICEF USA described conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala late last year: "Crushing poverty. Endemic crime. Gang-related violence, extortion, and forced recruitment. High rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse of girls. Scarce social services. Limited opportunities to learn, or to earn a living. The desire of children to be with their parents, who are already working in the U.S." Migrants aren't headed to the United States for the sheer pleasure of angering Trump and his supporters. They're doing it to make better lives for themselves, and that is the most human of reasons. As long as conditions remain dire in those countries, people will try to flee. And they will flee in the direction of the most hope and opportunity. For now, that seems to be the United States. Naturally, the Trump administration announced it is cutting aid to those countries — punishing them for the conditions that have led to mass migration. This is actually the surest way to increase migration: That aid was being used to address the very problems causing people to flee. "It's a shooting-yourself-in-the-foot policy," one nonprofit official grumbled to Politico. Cutting off aid to Central America, then shutting down the border with Mexico, makes sense only if you completely reject the idea of enlightened self-interest. Trump, it seems, is capable of analyzing actions and transactions between people only in the narrowest sense of costs and benefits, winners and losers. We have no evidence that he believes in a "win-win" situation. So moving to help improve conditions in Honduras, Ecuador, and Guatemala makes no sense to the president as a good solution to mass migration — he can see such efforts only as sunk costs.
4-1-19 New Orleans mayor to apologise for 1891 lynching of Italian-Americans
The city of New Orleans has announced it will apologise for the lynching of 11 Italian-Americans in 1891. Some of the victims had been accused of murdering a police chief, but were acquitted after a trial. Angry about the verdict, a mob of racist vigilantes in the city attacked and publicly hanged them. Mayor LaToya Cantrell is due to apologise for the killing - believed to be the largest recorded lynching in US history - on 12 April. Commissioner David Hennessy - a police chief in New Orleans - was ambushed and killed by four men near his home in October 1890. It is thought that with his dying words, he blamed the attack on Italian immigrants. A large Italian community had moved to the city after the civil war and the abolition of slavery, to take up jobs that had formerly been done by slaves. Following Hennessy's death, officials rounded up Italian immigrants - according to some reports, they apprehended thousands. Nine men ended up going to trial in February and March the following year. Six of these men were acquitted, and the other three cases ended in a hung jury. Then on 14 March, a large mob stormed the jail where the men were being held, dragged them out and killed them. John Fratta, from the Order of the Sons of Italy, says the apology is about making people more aware of the episode - particularly because "they don't teach this in schools". (Webmaster's comment: The mass hanging of 38 Dakota indian men was conducted on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota; it was the largest mass execution in United States history. And 3,446 black men, women and children were lynched in ther United States from 1882-1968. Many more were simply murdered.)
4-1-19 Uncovering Nazi massacre of Jews on Belarus building site
Slowly, gently even, young soldiers scrape away the dirt of decades from human bones. Tangled with the remains are shreds of cloth and the soles of shoes. They're uncovering a little-known chapter of the Holocaust on a construction site in western Belarus. The mass grave was discovered as building work began on an elite apartment block. Since then, specially trained soldiers have unearthed the remains of more than 1,000 Jews, killed when the city of Brest was occupied by Nazi Germany. "There are clear bullet holes in the skulls," says Dmitry Kaminsky. His military team usually searches for the bones of Soviet soldiers. Here they have removed the small skulls of teenagers instead, and a female skeleton with the remains of a baby, as if she'd been cradling it. Before World War Two, almost half the 50,000-strong population of Brest were Jews. Up to 5,000 men were executed shortly after the German invasion in June 1941. Those left were later crammed into a ghetto: several blocks of the city centre surrounded by barbed wire. In October 1942, the order came to wipe them out. They were herded on to freight trains and driven over 100km (62 miles) to a forest. At Bronnaya Gora, thousands were led to the edge of a vast pit and shot. It's thought the grave discovered within the old ghetto includes those who managed to hide at first, only to be rooted out. "When my parents returned, the city was half empty," Mikhail Kaplan says, flicking through black and white snapshots at his kitchen table. His mother and father only escaped the massacre because they were away when the Germans overran Brest. Mikhail's photographs are of aunts, uncles and cousins who were all killed. "My father never spoke about what happened, it was too painful. But my grandmother cried all the time remembering Lizochka, Lizochka," he recalls, reaching for a photograph picture of his Aunt Liza dressed up for a night out with friends. (Webmaster's comment: They are still finding mass graves of people murdered by the Nazis after 73 years. The Nazis killed so many people they will never find them all.)