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

81 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for May 2019
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source


5-20-19 Transgender woman shot, killed in US weeks after assault
A transgender woman has been fatally shot in Dallas, Texas, according to local police. Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found dead on a street on Saturday morning, and police are investigating the case as "homicidal violence". Police said it is unclear if her shooting was a hate crime or motivated by retaliation. Last month, Ms Booker was assaulted during a traffic accident, which was filmed and shared on social media. Dallas police have declined to comment on whether she received any death threats before this latest shooting. They added that there is no evidence linking her murder to Edward Thomas, a 29-year-old man who was charged with assault against her in April. During the incident, Ms Booker had said she backed into another vehicle whilst reversing out of a parking space. The driver allegedly pointed a gun at her and refused to let her leave unless she paid for the damage. As a crowd gathered around, police say one onlooker, Mr Thomas, was offered $200 (£156) to beat Ms Booker. A video of the incident showed Mr Thomas putting on gloves and punching her repeatedly, giving her a concussion and a broken wrist. Mr Thomas was charged with aggravated assault, but denies allegations that he used homophobic language during the attack. A second person was arrested for kicking Ms Booker in the face but has not been charged. Figures show that transgender people, particularly trans women of colour, are disproportionately likely to be the victims of violent attacks in the US. In many cases, such as Ms Booker's, this violence is fatal. According to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 26 trans people were killed across the country last year - the majority of whom were African-American trans women. (Webmaster's comment: Winning against abortion rights the LGBTs are next.)

5-19-19 Switzerland gun control: Voters back EU regulations
Voters in Switzerland have backed a tightening of gun laws to conform with European Union regulations. Almost 64% of voters in Sunday's referendum supported tougher restrictions on semi-automatic and automatic weapons, final results show. Switzerland is not an EU member, but risked removal from the open-border Schengen Area if it had voted "no". Nearly 48% of Swiss households own a gun - among the highest rates of private ownership in Europe. The EU had urged the country to tighten its laws in line with rules adopted by the bloc following the 2015 Paris terror attacks. The rules restrict semi-automatic and automatic rifles and make it easier to track weapons in national databases. The EU's initial proposal sparked criticism in Switzerland, because it meant a ban on the tradition of ex-soldiers keeping their assault rifles. Swiss officials negotiated concessions, but some gun activists argued that the rules still encroached on citizens' rights. Opponents of the new gun laws described them as a diktat from Brussels, being forced on non-EU member Switzerland against its will. The Swiss national identity, with its long tradition of gun ownership, was, they argued, being undermined. But Sunday's nationwide referendum shows voters think differently: they have overwhelmingly backed the new gun laws, following their government's advice. The Swiss seem keen to co-operate in the EU's attempts to prevent terror attacks, and to keep their often tricky relations with Brussels as smooth as possible. After the 2015 Paris attacks, the EU issued Schengen members with new restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The EU hoped the rules would help to protect people across Europe, and prevent a repeat of the 2015 attacks. Failure to adopt the changes could have forced Switzerland to leave the Schengen zone and the Dublin joint system for handling asylum requests.

5-19-19 Dutee Chand becomes first openly gay Indian athlete
Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, the first sportsperson in India to openly acknowledge being gay. The 23-year-old athlete says she has been seeing her partner, who comes from her village, for five years. Chand says the Indian Supreme Court's historic decision to descriminalise gay sex in 2018 encouraged her to speak publicly about her sexuality. But some members of her family have not accepted her relationship, she says. "I am having a relationship with a 19-year-old woman from my village [Chaka Gopalpur] for the past five years", she told reporters from Hyderabad where she is training. "I have found someone who is my soulmate. I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love. There is no greater emotion than love and it should not be denied." Despite attitudes slowly changing in India, Chand told PTI news agency that some members of her family do not accept her decision, and her sister has threatened to expel her from the family. "My eldest sister feels that my partner is interested in my property. She has told me that she will send me to jail for having this relationship," she added. Chand was the first Indian sprinter to reach a final at a global athletics event, the World Youth Championships in 2013. In 2014, she was banned from competing by the Athletics Federation of India after failing a hormone test which found she had unusually high testosterone levels, a condition known as "hyperandrogenism." Her legal team successfully argued the ruling was discriminatory and flawed at a hearing in March 2015. The following year she qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and in 2018 she won two silver medals at the Asian Games.

5-18-19 Why white supremacist terrorism is surging
Right-wing racists are behind a surge in domestic terrorism. Why is this toxic ideology spreading? Here's everything you need to know:

  1. Is white supremacy on the rise? This year, there's been a horrifying spate of killings driven by racial and anti-Semitic hate.
  2. Is that a big increase? The number of investigations into white supremacists and nationalists has grown with great "velocity" in recent months, says Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division.
  3. How popular are those sites? Stormfront.org, founded by a former KKK leader in the 1990s with the motto "White Pride, World Wide," grew to 300,000 members by 2017.
  4. Why does racism flourish online? Feeling safe because of the relative anonymity of the internet, participants — most of them young white men — seek attention by saying shocking things in these online forums.
  5. What's their recruitment pitch? On Twitter, the most popular hashtag among white supremacists is #whitegenocide. This is the conspiracy theory that Jews are plotting the extinction of American white Christians by replacing them with immigrants and refugees.
  6. What is law enforcement doing? Law enforcement officials say they're underfunded and handcuffed in dealing with this threat. For reasons it has not explained, the Trump administration cut funding for the federal Office for Community Partnerships, which works with local governments and organizations to prevent the radicalization of Muslims and white nationalists, from $21 million in 2016 to less than $3 million in 2017.
  7. The social media problem: It's hard to deter a group that thrives on feelings of persecution. After the Daily Stormer was booted by its domain host, it quickly re-emerged under a new name and raised more than $150,000 for a legal defense fund.

"This is the United States of America," Trump tweeted, "and we have what's known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" (Webmaster's comment: It's clear that Trump supports White Nationalists and White Supremacists!)

5-18-19 What happened to our anger over police violence?
"Justice delayed is justice denied," the legal maxim holds, but what about justice dragged out and administered piecemeal, bureaucratized and monetized and extended well past the public's capacity to maintain its righteous anger? What about justice delayed so long that it is no longer demanded? This summer will mark five years since Eric Garner died after a New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. The strangling move was prohibited under NYPD rules. Garner was unarmed and begging for his life with a plea — "I can't breathe!" — that would become a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. The struggle that led to his death was caught on camera. The medical examiner's office ruled it a homicide and specifically cited Pantaleo's neck-compressing restraint as the cause of death. And yet a grand jury declined to indict. Pantaleo faced no criminal charges. He was not fired, merely moved to desk duty, pulling a six-figure salary. The City of New York settled a civil suit with the Garner family, and taxpayers funded a $5.9 million payout. The Department of Justice launched an independent probe in December of 2014, but any conclusions it has reached have not been made public. Garner's daughter, Erica, died awaiting federal civil rights charges that have yet to materialize. That just leaves the NYPD's departmental trial of Pantaleo, which began this week. About halfway through as of this writing, the hearings have included some damning moments. There was the medical examiner's testimony that Pantaleo's illicit chokehold "set into motion a lethal sequence," and the revelation that another NYPD officer declared, via text message, that Garner being "most likely DOA" was "not a big deal." But despite these details — and despite the video, and the homicide ruling, and the departmental policy against chokeholds, and Garner's nonviolent offense, and his desperate appeals for mercy — despite all that, this trial is unlikely to end in anything like justice. It may well end with no discipline for Pantaleo at all. (Webmaster's comment: This was murder and the police officer involved should be in prison for life or legally executed!)

5-17-19 Trump unveils 'merit-based' immigration policy plan
US President Donald Trump has outlined plans for a new US immigration system designed to favour younger, better educated, English-speaking workers. In an address at the White House, he proposed moving away from the current system that favours applicants with family ties to the US. He said border security would be beefed up and a tougher line taken on asylum seekers. Senior Democrats dismissed his ideas as "dead-on-arrival". They say the proposed new system fails to offer a route to citizenship for so-called "Dreamers" - hundreds of thousands of people brought to the US as children but who still have no legal right to remain. In the White House Rose Garden, President Trump said his plans would make US immigration "the envy of the modern world". "We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country. But a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill," he said. "The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12% to 57% and we would like to even see if we can go higher." He said immigrants would be "required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission". Criticising the current asylum process, he said: "Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions. "Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims." (Webmaster's comment: In other words we no longer want to help persecuted and oppressed people that need to get away from their oppressors. We want ready-to-go indentured servents and slave labourers for our corporations.)

5-17-19 The dangerous myth of American hegemony
America is in decline — and Iran knows it. The Trump administration unveiled plans recently to send as many as 120,000 troops to Iran if American forces are attacked or if work on a nuclear weapons program is resumed. This stunning revelation, in the absence of any real provocation from Tehran, has justifiably caused great alarm for anyone who doesn't want to see the United States stumble into another ruinous war in the Middle East. It also should worry us about the overall trajectory of American foreign policy, as the U.S. looks increasingly like it is in dangerous decline — drunk on vanishing power, fearful of a reshuffling of hierarchies, and driven by emotional decision-making and irrational fears. The United States today seems incapable of correctly appraising how its power to coerce other actors in the international system is diminishing. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq waged this century not only failed to achieve even the most charitable interpretations of their objectives, but also further destabilized the region, empowered hostile actors like Iran, and should have confirmed for any sane observer that the United States lacks the ability to transform distant societies with military force. Yet President Trump's administration continues to conduct foreign policy as if the United States is still the undisputed hegemon of a unipolar world, as it was in the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the administration's general attitude seems lifted directly from "The Unipolar Moment," a prominent Foreign Affairs essay written by the late Charles Krauthammer back in 1990. "The center of world power is the unchallenged superpower, the United States, attended by its Western allies," he wrote. He warned ominously of "the emergence of a new strategic environment, marked by the rise of small aggressive states armed with weapons of mass destruction and possessing the means to deliver them," and urged America to aggressively confront them in order to maintain its dominion over the world.

5-17-19 Colorado officer quits after confronting rubbish picker
A police officer in Colorado has resigned after confronting a black student picking up rubbish outside his shared accommodation. John Smyly questioned and followed Naropa University student Zayd Atkinson near his home in Boulder. "I don't have a weapon! This is a bucket! This is a clamp!" Mr Atkinson says in a video taken by a neighbour. Officer Smyly drew his gun and called in backup during the confrontation in March. Under a settlement with the department, Mr Smyly will stay on the city payroll until February 2020. The Associated Press reports he will earn benefits and a salary during this time and will be compensated for any unused holiday he accrues. Boulder Police Department's investigation found Mr Smyly had violated the department's rules on police authority, public trust and conduct. The officer "did not have authority to detain Mr Atkinson", the department wrote in their report. "The subject officer did not have probable cause to charge Mr Atkinson with any crime." Authorities also released body camera footage from officers at the scene. During the incident the man gave officers his university ID and said repeatedly that he lived and worked at the shared occupancy building. Mr Smyly called for backup because Mr Atkinson was "unwilling to put down a blunt object". The investigation report said that while Mr Smyly had not used racial language during the incident and had "specifically" told them his actions were not based on Mr Atkinson's race, the student had disagreed. "The city of Boulder is paying this officer nearly $80,000 [£71,500] for violating the constitutional rights of Zayd," he said. "If you or I did what Officer Smyly did to Zayd Atkinson, not only would we be immediately fired, we would be criminally prosecuted."

5-17-19 'How are we different from traditional couples?'
Nikita and Radyion are a gay couple from Belarus. It is hard for them to express their feeling anywhere but online as there are very few openly gay people in the country. Although same sex relationships are not illegal in Belarus, the country remains one of the most homophobic in Europe according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

5-17-19 Taiwan gay marriage: Parliament legalises same-sex unions
Taiwan's parliament has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday. In 2017, the island's constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. Parliament was given a two-year deadline and was required to pass the changes by 24 May. Lawmakers debated three different bills to legalise same-sex unions and the government's bill, the most progressive of the three, was passed. Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered in the rain outside the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling. There were shouts of joy and some tearful embraces as the result was announced. However, conservative opponents were angered by the vote. The two other bills, submitted by conservative lawmakers, refer to partnerships as "same-sex family relationships" or "same-sex unions" rather than "marriages". But the government's bill, also the only one to offer limited adoption rights, was passed by 66 to 27 votes - backed by lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party. It will take effect after Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen passes it into law. Several same-sex activists had said ahead of the vote that this was the only version they would accept. "I'm very surprised - but also very happy. It's a very important moment in my life," Jennifer Lu, chief co-ordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told the BBC. "However, it's still not full marriage rights; we still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about foreigner and Taiwanese marriage, and also gender equality education. "It's a very important moment, but we are going to keep on fighting. We are Taiwanese and we want this important value for our country, for our future," she added.

5-17-19 Cannabis plant evolved super high (on the Tibetan Plateau)
Cannabis may have had high origins. Where the plant comes from has been a bit of a mystery, but analysis of ancient pollen now suggests it evolved some 3 kilometres above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau. Intriguingly, this site is only a few hundred kilometres from a cave that researchers recently announced was once home to our ancient Denisovan cousins. Humans began exploiting cannabis deep in prehistory. Its seeds are a good source of protein and fatty acids, while fibres from its stems can be spun into yarn and made into textiles. Its flowers, meanwhile, are a source of cannabinoids which have been used as a drug for at least 2700 years. To find out where the plant evolved, John McPartland at the University of Vermont and his colleagues searched through scientific studies to pick out archaeological and geological sites across Asia where cannabis pollen has been found. Identifying cannabis pollen isn’t easy because it looks identical to the pollen of a closely related plant called the common hop, which happens to be used for flavouring beer. But McPartland and his colleagues believe it is possible to work out which species the pollen belongs to by considering the other pollen present at an archaeological site. This is because cannabis lives on open grassy steppes, so its pollen usually occurs with the pollen of steppe plants. The common hop, however, grows mostly in woodlands, so its pollen typically occurs with tree pollen. When McPartland and his colleagues applied this rationale, they discovered that the earliest occurrence of cannabis pollen in the geological and archaeological record is in northern China and southern Russia. From the distribution of the pollen, the team concluded that cannabis probably emerged on the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Qinghai Lake, which is about 3200 metres above sea level.

5-16-19 China wants to make the fastest planes ever with a new material
Planes that fly faster than ever before may now be possible, if reports about a new material are correct. The material was developed in China and is capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures over a prolonged period, making it suitable for hypersonic flight. Hypersonic flight means travelling at over five times the speed of sound. There are currently no vehicles that can travel at this speed in our atmosphere for more than a few minutes partly because of the high temperatures caused by friction. Researchers at Xiamen University in China tested a design for a hypersonic vehicle last month (pictured above), which they say reached a height of 26 kilometres, although it didn’t use the new material. According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the new material can withstand 3000°C for hours, meaning it should easily be able to withstand hypersonic flight. The material was first created in 2012 and is now in production for aviation, space and defence uses, said Fan Jinglian, at Central South University in China, to the newspaper. Fan hasn’t revealed many details about the material, but her published work is in high-performance tungsten and she previously filed a patent for a technique for producing tungsten composites. It is possible in principle to make a tungsten-based material than can withstand 3000°C, says Russell Goodall of the University of Sheffield, UK. A tungsten composite seems like a logical choice, but it is difficult to find a combination of materials that works, says Zak Fang at the University of Utah. A recently launched project by the US military research agency DARPA is looking for materials able to withstand 2200°C for its own hypersonic flight programme.

5-16-19 Trump declares national emergency over IT threats
President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to protect US computer networks from "foreign adversaries". He signed an executive order which effectively bars US companies from using foreign telecoms believed to pose national security risks. The order does not name any company, but is believed to target Huawei. The Chinese tech giant said restricting its business in the US would only hurt American consumers and companies. Several countries, led by the US, have raised concerns in recent months that Huawei products could be used by China for surveillance, allegations the company has vehemently denied. The US has been pressuring allies to shun Huawei in their next generation 5G mobile networks. In a separate development, the US commerce department added Huawei to its "entity list", a move that bans the company from acquiring technology from US firms without government approval. The moves are likely to worsen tensions between the US and China, which had already escalated this week with tariff hikes in a trade war. Huawei has been at the epicentre of the US-China power struggle that has dominated global politics over the past year. According to a White House statement, Mr Trump's order aims to "protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services". It gives the secretary of commerce the power to "prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security", the statement adds. The move was instantly welcomed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who called it "a significant step toward securing America's networks". The US had already restricted federal agencies from using Huawei products and has encouraged allies to shun them, while Australia and New Zealand have both blocked the use of Huawei gear in 5G networks. In April 2018 another Chinese tech company, ZTE, was barred from buying US parts after it was placed on the same "entity list". It resumed business after reaching a deal with the US in July. (Webmaster's comment: This had nothing to do with National Security. It has everything to do with the fact that Huawei 5G technology is superior to any U.S. 5G technology.)

5-15-19 China's rover peeks under the crust of the far side of the moon
We are peeking under the moon’s crust for the first time. The Chinese Yutu 2 moon rover, which landed in January aboard the Chang’e 4 lander, has spotted what appears to be primitive material from the moon’s mantle, which may help reveal details about its early magma ocean. Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon in the South Pole-Aitken basin, the moon’s largest impact crater at about 2500 kilometres across. Simulations have shown that the collision that created this crater was probably powerful enough to punch through the moon’s outer crust, revealing rocks from its interior. Chunlai Li at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and his colleagues examined data that Yutu 2 took during its first day on the moon looking for those deeper rocks. They seem to have found them in an area of material tossed from another smaller crater within the basin. The lunar soil that Yutu 2 examined contained relatively heavy minerals rich in iron and magnesium. Early in the moon’s history, when it was covered in a magma ocean, these heavier minerals would have sunk while lighter silicates floated and eventually solidified into the crust. “This is the first ground truth of what the interior of the moon is really made of,” says Briony Horgan at Purdue University in Indiana. “I would say the really important thing is that it’s different from the Earth.” This difference may be because of how water changed Earth’s mantle early in its history, she says. “The ultimate goal is to decipher the mystery of the lunar mantle composition,” says Li. This will help uncover how the moon’s magma ocean evolved, which may be useful for studying other bodies, like Earth, that had magma oceans but whose surfaces have changed much more since then.

5-15-19 China’s lunar rover may have found minerals from the moon’s mantle
New observations could answer questions about how Earth’s nearest neighbor evolved. The first mission to the farside of the moon may have found bits of the moon’s interior on its surface. The Yutu-2 rover, deployed by the Chinese Chang’e-4 spacecraft that landed on the moon in January, detected soil that appears rich in minerals thought to make up the lunar mantle, researchers report in the May 16 Nature. Those origins, if confirmed, could offer insight into the moon’s early development. “Understanding the composition of the lunar mantle is key to determining how the moon formed and evolved,” says Mark Wieczorek, a geophysicist at the Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice, France, not involved in the work. “We do not have any clear, unaltered samples of the lunar mantle” from past moon missions. In hopes of finding mantle samples, Chang’e-4 touched down in the moon’s largest impact basin, the South Pole–Aitken basin (SN: 2/2/19, p. 5). The collision that formed this enormous divot is thought to have been powerful enough to punch through the moon’s crust and expose mantle rocks to the lunar surface (SN: 11/24/18, p. 14). During its first lunar day on the moon, Yutu-2 recorded the spectra of light reflected off lunar soil at two spots using its Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer. When researchers analyzed these spectra, “what we saw was quite different” than normal lunar surface material, says study coauthor Dawei Liu, a planetary scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing.

5-15-19 Chang'e-4: Chinese rover 'confirms' Moon crater theory
The Chinese Chang'e-4 rover may have confirmed a longstanding idea about the origin of a vast crater on the Moon's far side. The rover's landing site lies within a vast impact depression created by an asteroid strike billions of years ago. Now, mission scientists have found evidence that impact was so powerful it punched through the Moon's crust and into the layer below called the mantle. Chang'e-4 has identified what appear to be mantle rocks on the surface. It's something the rover was sent to the far side to find out. Chunlai Li, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and colleagues have presented their findings in the journal Nature. The lunar far side, which is turned away from Earth, is more rugged than the familiar near side and has fewer "maria" - dark plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. The Chinese spacecraft touched down on 3 January, becoming the first spacecraft to perform a soft landing on the lunar far side. The rover then rolled off the lander to explore its surroundings. The rover landed inside a 180km-wide impact bowl called Von Kármán crater. But that smaller crater lies within the 2,300km-wide South Pole Aitken (SPA) Basin, which covers nearly a quarter of the Moon's circumference. It's not known exactly how old the SPA Basin is, but it's thought to be at least 3.9 billion years old. The asteroid that carved it out is thought to have been about 170km wide. The Yutu-2 rover has now identified rocks with a very different chemical make-up to those found elsewhere on the Moon. Early results from the rover's Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) suggest the rocks contain minerals known as low-calcium (ortho)pyroxene and olivine. They fit the profile of rocks from the lunar mantle and suggest that the ancient impact that created the SPA drove right through the 50km-deep crust into the mantle. Observational data taken by Moon-orbiting spacecraft have been inconclusive as to the presence of mantle rocks on the surface. The authors of the paper want to continue their examination of these rocks and find others. They have also raised the possibility of sending another mission to deliver some of them to Earth for study in laboratories.

5-15-19 Hearing device picks out right voice from a crowd by reading your mind
Sometimes it is hard to make out what people are saying in a noisy crowded environment. A device that reads your mind to work out which voices to amplify may be able to help. The experimental device can separate two or three different voices of equal loudness in real time. It can then work out which voice someone is trying to listen to from their brainwaves and amplify that voice. The device, created by Nima Mesgarani at Columbia University in New York, is a step towards creating smart hearing aids that solve the classic cocktail party problem — how to separate voices in a crowd. First, Mesgarani’s team worked on a system that could separate the voices of two or three people speaking into a single microphone at the same loudness. Several big companies like Google and Amazon have developed similar AI-based ways of doing this to improve voice assistants like Alexa. But these systems separate voices after people have finished speaking, Mesgarani says. His system works in real time, as people are speaking. Next, the team played recordings of people telling stories to three people who were in hospital with electrodes placed into their brains to monitor epileptic seizures. In 2012, Mesgarani showed that the brainwaves in a certain part of the auditory cortex can reveal which of several voices a person is focusing on. By monitoring the brainwaves of the three volunteers, the hearing device could tell which voice people were listening to and selectively amplify just that voice. When the volunteers were asked to switch attention to a different voice, the device could detect the shift and respond.

5-15-19 Pilots 'raised Boeing safety fears' months before Ethiopia crash
American Airlines pilots confronted Boeing about potential safety issues in its 737 Max planes in a meeting last November, US media are reporting. They urged swift action after the first deadly 737 Max crash off Indonesia in October, according to audio obtained by CBS and the New York Times. Boeing reportedly resisted their calls but promised a software fix. But this had not been rolled out when an Ethiopian Airlines' 737 Max crashed four months later, killing 157 people. Currently 737 Max planes are grounded worldwide amid concerns that an anti-stall system may have contributed to both crashes. Boeing is in the process of updating the system, known as MCAS, but denies it was solely to blame for the disasters. In a closed door meeting with Boeing executives last November, which was secretly recorded, American Airlines' pilots can be heard expressing concerns about the safety of MCAS. Boeing vice-president Mike Sinnett told the pilots: "No one has yet to conclude that the sole cause of this was this function on the airplane." Later in the meeting, he added: "The worst thing that can ever happen is a tragedy like this, and the even worse thing would be another one." The pilots also complained they had not been told about MCAS, which was new to the 737 Max, until after the Lion Air crash off Indonesia, which killed 189. "These guys didn't even know the damn system was on the airplane, nor did anybody else," said Mike Michaelis, head of safety for the pilots' union. Boeing declined to comment on the November meeting, saying: "We are focused on working with pilots, airlines and global regulators to certify the updates on the Max and provide additional training and education to safely return the planes to flight." American Airlines said it was "confident that the impending software updates, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing for the Max, will lead to recertification of the aircraft soon." (Webmaster's comment: For American corporations it's always profits first, safety second! That has never changed no matter how die.)

5-15-19 Inside Chile's Amaranta school for transgender children
A school believed to be the first in the world predominantly for transgender children and their siblings opened in Chile last year. It is named after the Mexican transgender politician Amaranta Gómez Regalado, and caters for children aged between 6 and 17. Many of the students dropped out of their previous schools once they began to transition. They learn traditional subjects like maths, science, history, English and art and take part in state exams.

5-14-19 Trump-Russia probe: Barr assigns prosecutor to review inquiry
US Attorney General William Barr has assigned a senior federal prosecutor to examine the origins of the Russia investigation. John Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, has reportedly been asked to determine whether the collection of intelligence on the Trump campaign was lawful. President Donald Trump has long called for such an investigation. He has branded the Russia inquiry a "witch hunt" by his opponents. Critics of Mr Barr, however, have accused him of acting on behalf of the president rather than in the interests of US justice. Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he had not directed Mr Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia probe. "I didn't ask him to do that... But I think it's a great thing that he did," Mr Trump said. "I am so proud of our attorney general." Last month, Mr Barr told members of Congress that he believed "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016, adding: "The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated. But I need to explore that." (Webmaster's comment: The persecution and prosecution of anyone who would dare expose the crimes of, or stand up to, Trump has now begun.)

5-14-19 LGBT Virgin Mary triggers Polish activist's detention
The Polish civil rights activist who put up images of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo said she did so to protest against what she calls the "exclusion of LGBT people from society" by the country's Catholic Church. The images by Elzbieta Podlesna appeared on rubbish bins and portable toilets in Plock late last month in reaction to an Easter display there featuring slogans about crimes or sins. Listed among the sins were "gender" and "LGBT". "This is something that is unbelievable for me in the 21st Century in the centre of Europe," Ms Podlesna told the BBC. "Nobody should be excluded from society. Sexual orientation is not a sin or a crime and the Holy Mother would protect such people from the Church and from priests who think it is okay to condemn others," she added. The image Ms Podlesna chose was the "Our Lady of Czestochowa" icon. It has been revered by Catholics across Europe for centuries, and was symbolically crowned the "Queen of Poland" in the 17th Century. Ms Podlesna works as a psychotherapist in a hospital. But early last week, police officers woke her shortly after 06:00 and searched her Warsaw apartment - confiscating laptops, a mobile telephone, pen drives and even a stack of old floppy discs. She was then taken to Plock for questioning and was charged with offending religious feelings - a crime in Poland, punishable by up to two years in prison. In a tweet, Poland's Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski applauded the police's actions, writing: "All that nonsense about freedom and 'tolerance' does not give ANYONE the right to insult the feelings of the faithful".

5-14-19 US jury awards $2bn damages in Roundup weedkiller cancer claim
A jury in California has awarded more than $2bn (£1.5bn) to a couple who said the weedkiller Roundup was responsible for their cancer. It is the third time that the German pharmaceutical group Bayer has been ordered to pay damages over its glyphosate-based herbicide. The jury ruled the company had acted negligently, failing to warn of the risks associated with the product. Bayer denied the allegations. It insists that Roundup is safe to use. The company acquired the product last year as part of a $66bn takeover of US rival Monsanto. On Monday, a jury in Oakland, California, said Bayer was liable for plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod contracting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lawyers for the couple, who are in their 70s, described the damages award as "historic". "The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe," said their counsel, Brent Wisner. The jury awarded each of them $1bn in punitive damages as well as a total of $55m in compensatory damages. In a statement, Bayer said it was disappointed with the verdict and would appeal. It called the jury's decision "excessive and unjustifiable" adding that both Alva and Alberta Pilliod had histories of illnesses that were known risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The company insists that decades of studies have shown glyphosate and Roundup to be safe for human use. Glyphosate was developed by Monsanto in the US in the 1970s and has become one of the most widely used ingredients in weed killers worldwide. But Bayer now faces more than 13,400 US lawsuits over Roundup's alleged cancer risk. In March, a jury in San Francisco awarded $80m to another Californian man after finding that Roundup had caused his cancer. Last August, another Californian man was awarded $289m after a jury also found Roundup caused his cancer. (Webmaster's comment: It's about time, but millions of lives too late!)

5-13-19 The Islamophobia presidency
Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States. A statement that probably doesn't come as a big surprise was backed up last week by the results of a new survey from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a non-profit organization that advocates for American Muslims. But it's worth noting that not all Americans see Muslims unfavorably. Hispanic Americans, Jews, and, not surprisingly, Muslims, all rated low on the survey's Islamophobia scale. A majority in these three groups said they view Muslims in a positive light. White evangelicals, on the other hand, were found to hold the most negative attitudes about Muslims. And it wasn't close. In fact, as the survey shows, white evangelical views of Muslims drive American Islamophobia. Those views may also help explain why white evangelicals remain President Donald Trump's strongest base of support. In Trump, white evangelicals have found a president willing to tap into rather than tamp down some of their greatest fears and strongest bigotries. Evangelical attitudes towards Muslims are often explained away, especially by insiders, as a product of their religious beliefs and, especially, evangelicals' steadfast support for the state of Israel. But the ISPU poll found that religiosity, whether measured by individual religious engagement or by group loyalty, did not determine anti-Muslim attitudes, even for evangelicals. As the report concluded, Islamophobia is "clearly more political and ideological than theological for most Americans." That conclusion looks most apparent in the survey's findings about American Jews' mostly positive attitudes towards Muslims. As Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall pointed out, "A huge amount of our public debate in this country, a lot of it driven by the GOP and particularly white evangelicals, portrays Jews as locked in some sort of deep or even existential contest with American Muslims." That contest clearly doesn't show up in the numbers.

5-13-19 Trump praises 'respected' Hungary PM Orbán
Donald Trump has praised Viktor Orbán during the Hungarian prime minister's visit to the White House. At a press conference, the US president said Mr Orbán was "respected all over Europe" and had "kept [Hungary] safe". The conservative Hungarian premier is a controversial figure over his stances on immigration, press freedom and Russia. Critics of the visit, including some Republicans, argue that Mr Orbán has eroded democracy in Hungary. US officials say the two leaders had a private meeting aimed at strengthening American "re-engagement" in central Europe, and to negotiate trade deals in arms and energy. Orbán's spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said in a statement that both countries have "much that keeps us close", including "Nato, security co-operation, energy security, migration, pro-family policies, and the protection of our Judeo-Christian heritage". Mr Orbán is a divisive figure in European politics and has been criticised for moves to consolidate power and curb the power of the judiciary and media. Like Mr Trump, he is tough on immigration. Critics also worry about his desire to strengthen Hungary's ties with Russia. He has been shunned by US presidents in the past. He first visited in 2001 during his initial term as prime minister, but was refused a meeting with President Bush. In a joint letter, several Democrat lawmakers condemned the visit, saying Mr Orbán "represents so many things that are antithetical to core American values". (Webmaster's comment: Our leading authoritarian praising another!)

5-13-19 Trump's disturbingly warm welcome for Hungary's Viktor Orban
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will visit President Trump at the White House on Monday. The meeting seems a bit more portentous than the usual summit between world leaders, like a victory lap for the forces of nationalism and illiberalism embodied by both men.. It doesn't seem like a happy day for advocates of the old, disappearing liberal order. But there may be reasons for hope. Trump loves authoritarian strongmen, so this meeting has been a long time coming: Orban, who advocates "illiberal democracy," visits Washington, D.C., not as the leader of an American client state, but as a fellow traveler and even inspiration to the president — playing the role of Margaret Thatcher to Trump's Ronald Reagan. Stephen Bannon, the president's former adviser, even once called Orban "Trump before Trump." That makes sense. Even before Trump took office, Orban was referring to immigrants as an "invasion," building fences to keep migrants out of his country, blaming setbacks on billionaire George Soros, chipping away at Hungary's system of checks and balances, and winning his own personal war with the country's media. The similarities between the two men are too numerous to list. "We have enthusiastically applauded the president of the United States for thinking precisely as we do when he says 'America First,'" Orban said in a 2017 speech. "We say the same: 'Hungary first, and then everyone else.'" The success of this kind of thinking — also apparent to various degrees in the Brexit effort, as well as the rise of far-right and autocratic governments in nations like Poland and Turkey — can be discouraging to fans of, well, liberal democracy. But they shouldn't despair.

5-13-19 Anti-gay preacher Steven Anderson banned from Ireland
A controversial US preacher has become the first person to be banned from Ireland under a 20-year-old power. Steven Anderson, a pastor from Arizona, runs the Faithful Word Baptist church and openly expresses anti-gay and anti-Semitic views. His website claimed that he was due to preach in Dublin on 26 May. However, an online petition calling for Mr Anderson to be banned from Ireland was created in response, and gained 14,000 signatures. Mr Anderson has previously called for the death of former US President Barack Obama and praised the gunman who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay night club in Florida in 2016. Steven Anderson is one of America's most controversial preachers. He was born and raised in Sacramento, California, and started the Faithful Word Baptist Church in December 2005 from his Arizona living room. According to the church's website, he met his wife Zsuzsanna "while soul-winning" as an 18-year-old on the streets of Munich in Germany. The couple have been married for more than 17 years and have 10 children. The church's website says Mr Anderson has memorised "well over 140 chapters of the Bible". The website describes the church as an "old-fashioned, independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul-winning Baptist church". Mr Anderson claims to have his materials translated into more than 115 languages. Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan signed an exclusion order for Mr Anderson with immediate effect on 10 May under the Immigration Act 1999. It is the first time an exclusion order has been granted since the creation of the act 20 years ago. Mr Anderson has been banned from a number of countries, including the UK. Mr Flanagan said he had signed the order "under my executive powers in the interests of public policy". (Webmaster's comment: He and his Baptist church should also be banned from the United States!)

5-13-19 How we endured the McCarthy purges in US
Nearly 70 years after the US government carried out its infamous purge of what it perceived as a Communist threat, some academics whose lives were turned upside down have been speaking out about lessons drawn from that era, writes Ehsan Masood. "Are you, or have you ever been, a Communist?" It's been almost 70 years since America first awoke to that famous question. It was February 1950 when Joseph McCarthy, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, brandished a list of 205 suspected Communists he said were working for the US State Department. McCarthy's speech kicked off perhaps the largest instance of mass-surveillance in 20th Century American history. Thousands of Communists or suspected Communists were hauled before hearings where they were accused of trying to overthrow the government of the United States through "force or violence". Seven decades later, many Americans may only be aware of the blacklisted Hollywood 10. But other survivors, such as university academics from the 1950s generation, also have stories to share of political intimidation. And some of those victims are choosing to speak out for the first time. Among the survivors was psychologist Leon Kamin, a rabbi's son from Taunton, Massachusetts, who would go on to become a distinguished psychologist. In 1953, Kamin received a summons to appear before one of the McCarthy hearings in the old courthouse at Boston, where he was pressed to reveal the names of other Boston Communists. Kamin worked at Harvard University's underwater sound lab, a technology then used to detect submarines, says the veteran American science journalist Victor McElheny, who had been sent to cover the trial as a cub reporter for his university's student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. "This was a rather crucial piece of military related science. And so it sounded ominous that you had Communists in an important or sensitive defence laboratory," Mr McElheny says. Speaking over six decades after his court appearance, Professor Kamin recalled the day as if it were only yesterday. "As soon as the trial was about to begin McCarthy entered the courtroom and to the last man and woman, every member of the jury as well as everybody in the courtroom stood up and applauded." Kamin's defence went for a mistrial because it was felt that the cheering in the court would affect the jury's attitude towards the case. "That's what really got me off the hook," Kamin said with a chuckle. "Because my lawyer went to the judge and the judge agreed and dismissed the jury." Leon Kamin, who passed away only days before his 90th birthday, never tried to hide his early Communist beliefs. "I was proud of it," he said.

5-12-19 Should this cross be removed from public land?
A row in the US state of Maryland over the location of a 40ft-high cross will be resolved by the country's top court, and has sparked a vigorous debate about religious icons in public life. You may not have heard much about the tussle over the Peace Cross, the 40-foot (12 meter) granite Latin Cross plonked incongruously in the middle of a busy intersection in Maryland. That could be because you would probably need the help of a lawyer and a theologian to fully understand the potential ramifications of the dispute over this 96-year-old World War I monument that's gone all the way to the Supreme Court. Three Maryland residents and the American Humanist Association - a non-profit organisation that advances secular humanism, a philosophy of life that seeks the greater good without theism or other supernatural beliefs - wish to see the memorial removed from public land. Their reasoning is it contravenes the separation between church and state enshrined in the first amendment to the US Constitution, the so-called Establishment Clause. It says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Peace Cross dominates the scene as you approach the town of Bladensburg. "It looks like you are entering a highly Christian town," says Roy Speckhardt, chief executive of the American Humanist Association. "It's so massive you can see it from half a mile away. It just gives this this weird impression; the base is covered in shrubs, so you have to be daring enough to cross the highway and take a closer look to realise it is a war memorial." (Webmaster's comment: Get this religious garbage off my land!)

5-X-19 The American military's extremist problem
Earlier this year, a Coast Guard officer was arrested after an investigation discovered he was stockpiling weapons and preparing to attack politicians in Washington, D.C. The story of his arrest reignited a national debate about how American law enforcement approaches far-right domestic terrorism. But it also highlights a more specific link, publicly acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, between far-right domestic terrorism and United States military personnel and veterans. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DHS, the agencies responsible for gathering information on and investigating domestic terror groups, once had task forces focused specifically on far-right-wing terrorism. In 2009 the DHS released a report on right-wing terrorism that highlighted the threat of far-right groups recruiting veterans to their extremist causes. Conservative politicians and media outlets jumped on the report, decrying it as an unfair assessment of both conservative groups and disrespectful toward American veterans. The backlash was so severe that the then head of the DHS, Janet Napolitano, publicly apologized for the report and dismantled the team responsible for tracking far-right threats. Despite the outrage, the connection between far-right terror and the American military has a long history. From the first days of the KKK after the American Civil War, white supremacist and anti-government groups have specifically recruited military personnel and veterans to their causes. The KKK's first leader was a former Confederate general, Nathan Forrest, chosen for his ability to lead and attract other Civil War veterans to their cause. William Pierce, a white supremacist figurehead and author, wrote a pamphlet in the 1970s that urged white supremacists in uniform to actively seek out other service members for recruitment. According to a 2006 Southern Poverty Law Center report, by the 1990s far-right extremist leaders were pushing younger members of their groups to join the military in order to develop skills with weapons and explosives — skills the service member would then use to train their fellow extremists, as well as commit attacks. The Department of Defense has long maintained that it has zero tolerance for white supremacy or anti-government extremists in its ranks, but history suggests many white supremacists have joined nonetheless. (Webmaster's comment: All violent organizations such as the military or police are havens for many male brutes, white nationalists, and white supremacists!)

5-12-19 US states file lawsuit accusing drugs firms of inflating costs
More than 40 US states have filed a lawsuit accusing pharmaceutical firms of conspiring to artificially inflate the cost of common medicinal drugs. The lawsuit alleges that as many as 20 companies have been involved in fixing prices for over 100 drugs, including treatments for diabetes and cancer. One of the firms accused is Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world's largest producer of generic medicine. Teva, which has denied any wrongdoing, says it will defend its actions. The legal action, which follows a five-year investigation, accuses drugs companies of involvement in a scheme to boost prices - in some cases by more than 1,000% - and was filed on Friday by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. "We have hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multi-billion dollar fraud on the American people," Mr Tong said. "We have emails, text messages, telephone records and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs." A representative of Teva in the US said that the Israeli company "has not engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability", Reuters news agency reports. The other 19 firms implicated in the lawsuit have yet to comment on the allegations. Fifteen individuals were also named as defendants accused of overseeing the price-fixing scheme on a day-to-day basis. (Webmaster's comment: The Drug companies have been screwing us for 35 years. Profit and Greed is their only motivation. See: The Truth About the Drug Companies)

5-11-19 AI recommends 'fashionable' outfits to millions of people in China
What shoes go with that dress? Or this pair of jeans? Artificial intelligence is now answering those questions automatically for online shoppers in China, thanks to an algorithm developed by web giant Alibaba. The system recommends entire personalised outfits to users as they browse, mixing ensembles from recently viewed items and other items judged to coordinate well with them. A live trial of the tool has already recommended outfits to more than 5 million users. The aim is to enhance the experience for customers by encouraging more fashionable shopping behaviour, says Wen Chen at Alibaba. To build the system, Chen and her colleagues assembled a dataset of more than 1 million sample outfits created manually by staff at Alibaba’ online shopping site Taobao. An algorithm used this dataset to learn what clothing items are compatible with one another. Once knowledge of what goes with what had been gained, the outfit generation tool was able to select compatible clothing for items recently clicked on by users. Endless combinations can be continuously created as the customer shops. In a live test on Taobao’s iFashion designer clothes app, the suggested outfits were clicked on about 25 per cent of the time, compared to a 15 per cent click through rate from other approaches. The system can also build up a sense of customers’ fashion profiles based on their clicks, which could potentially be used for targeting customers with other items. Online shoppers are often faced with a “tyranny of choice” that can be overwhelming, says retail adviser Doug Stephens. Offering suggestions of outfits that genuinely look good would therefore be welcome. “It’s a great problem to solve, given that one of the consumer’s most significant apparel challenges is the coordination of items — particularly online where there’s an absence of human assistance,” he says. (Webmaster's comment: And where is American Consumer AI? In the toilet.)

5-11-19 The truth about Muhammad
Publishing the Quran and making it available in translation was a dangerous enterprise in the 16th century, apt to confuse or seduce the faithful Christian. This, at least, was the opinion of the Protestant city councilors of Basel in 1542, when they briefly jailed a local printer for planning to publish a Latin translation of the Muslim holy book. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther intervened to salvage the project: There was no better way to combat the Turk, he wrote, than to expose the "lies of Muhammad" for all to see. The resulting publication in 1543 made the Quran available to European intellectuals, most of whom studied it in order to better understand and combat Islam. There were others, however, who used their reading of the Quran to question Christian doctrine. The Catalonian polymath and theologian Michael Servetus found numerous Quranic arguments to employ in his anti-Trinitarian tract, Christianismi Restitutio (1553), in which he called Muhammad a true reformer who preached a return to the pure monotheism that Christian theologians had corrupted by inventing the perverse and irrational doctrine of the Trinity. After publishing these heretical ideas, Servetus was condemned by the Catholic Inquisition in Vienne, and finally burned with his own books in Calvin's Geneva. During the European Enlightenment, a number of authors presented Muhammad in a similar vein, as an anticlerical hero; some saw Islam as a pure form of monotheism close to philosophic Deism and the Quran as a rational paean to the Creator. In 1734, George Sale published a new English translation. In his introduction, he traced the early history of Islam and idealized the Prophet as an iconoclastic, anticlerical reformer who had banished the "superstitious" beliefs and practices of early Christians — the cult of the saints, holy relics — and quashed the power of a corrupt and avaricious clergy. Sale's translation of the Quran was widely read and appreciated in England: For many of his readers, Muhammad had become a symbol of anticlerical republicanism. It was influential outside England too. The U.S. founding father Thomas Jefferson bought a copy from a bookseller in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1765, which helped him conceive of a philosophical deism that surpassed confessional boundaries. (Jefferson's copy, now in the Library of Congress, has been used for the swearing in of Muslim representatives to Congress, starting with Keith Ellison in 2007.) And in Germany, the Romantic Johann Wolfgang von Goethe read a translation of Sale's version, which helped to color his evolving notion of Muhammad as an inspired poet and archetypal prophet.

5-10-19 Legacy of Columbine
Two students brought handguns to their suburban Denver charter school this week and fatally shot one student while injuring eight others. The deceased, Kendrick Castillo, 18, was three days away from graduating at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a K-12 school with roughly 1,800 students. Witnesses said Castillo was shot while rushing a shooter. Two suspects are in custody: Devon Erickson, 18, along with a minor whom Sheriff Tony Spurlock called “a female juvenile.” Police haven’t identified a motive for the shooters, one of whom was restrained by an armed private security officer hired to protect the school. The school was among hundreds in the area that temporarily closed last month in response to threats made around the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, located 7 miles from Highlands Ranch.

5-10-19 The GOP: Has Trump corrupted conservatives?
“What happened to these people?” That, said former FBI Director James Comey in The New York Times, is what everyone is asking me about once respected Republicans, like Attorney General William Barr, who now hotly defend President Trump as he makes a mockery of the rule of law. I can tell you firsthand how working for an “amoral leader” corrupts people. It starts with him lying in both public and private, forcing you to assent to “his preferred set of facts, or delusions.” You can’t disagree—he is the president and will not tolerate it. Soon you make “further compromises,” start using his language, and finally join other sycophants in praising his leadership. “And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.” This “corruption” extends beyond the White House, said Max Boot in WashingtonPost.com. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who once called Trump a “kook” and “unfit for office,” now shouts pro-Trump conspiracy theories at Senate hearings. Conservative commentators who used to denounce Trump have surrendered to him, fearful they’ll be exiled from the GOP if they criticize Dear Leader. Comey gets Barr all wrong, said Timothy O’Brien in Bloomberg.com. He thinks Trump’s defenders lost their “moral backbone,” but Barr, for one, “has all the inner strength he needs.” In a Senate hearing last week, Barr “beat back questions for hours, his jaw set, his gaze defiant.” Since he served the first Bush administration in the 1980s, he really has believed in an “unfettered, imperial White House.” Trump didn’t “brainwash” other Republicans either, said Josh Marshall in Talking?PointsMemo.com. For decades, they’ve been marinating in the Fox News “authoritarian worldview.” Trump didn’t create that worldview. It’s the reason “we have Trump.” (Webmaster's comment: Here comes Heil Trump (Heil Hitler) the stage is set!)

5-10-19 Aerospace: Boeing knew of 737 Max flaw
Boeing admitted this week that it had known since 2017 that a cockpit safety alert on its 737 Max didn’t work because of a “software error,” said Andy Pasztor in The Wall Street Journal. The warning light was intended to serve as an extra safeguard in case of a sensor malfunction of the kind linked to two fatal crashes involving Max jets in October and March. While “it isn’t clear if functioning alerts” could have prevented the crashes, which together killed 346 people, Boeing didn’t disclose the software error for six weeks after the second Max incident, leaving the public and regulators in the dark. Business schools can add Boeing as a textbook case of how not to handle a crisis, said David Fickling in Bloomberg?.com. “Let’s go through the litany of errors”: The company introduced a new automated feature that relied on input from sensors, “failed to inform pilots properly about the new feature,” and then botched the alert that warned pilots about faults in those sensors. “It’s a mess,” and Boeing’s main defense has become “quibbling over the meaning of the term ‘safety feature.’” Unfortunately, we’re still getting incomplete details of what happened, and that “can make the difference between life and death.” (Webmaster's comment: For American corporations it's always profits first, safety second!)

5-10-19 Trust your employer
Only 42 percent of U.S. women say they “trust” their employer, compared with 62 percent of men—the widest gap among 27 countries surveyed. Malaysia and Singapore were the only countries where women trusted business more than men.

5-10-19 No Gain
More American workers were involved in major strikes in 2018—485,000—than in any year since 1986. The strikes are the product of workers’ frustration over their wages remaining stagnant despite strong economic growth and record unemployment.

5-10-19 Yes, meetings do spew hot air
here’s now a scientific explanation for why people sometimes struggle to think on their feet in a stuffy meeting or classroom, said Veronique Greenwood in The New York Times. We know “small rooms can build up heat and carbon dioxide from our breath,” but several recent studies have found that “indoor air may matter more than we have realized.” Researchers discovered that a relatively normal amount of CO2 in a room can correlate to poor performance on a problem-solving test. “Higher CO2 levels—say, above 1,200 parts per million—often indicate a low ventilation rate”—but levels around 5,000 ppm are commonly found in school classrooms. Our improvements in sealing our buildings to reduce energy waste have only made the problem worse. One way to make things better: “It might be a generally good practice, when possible, to crack open a door.”

5-10-19 ‘Conscience protections’ for health-care workers
The Trump administration finalized new rules last week allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services that violate their religious or moral beliefs. Those “conscience protections,” proposed in January 2018 and endorsed by anti-abortion groups and Christian conservatives, apply to “physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities,” Trump said at a National Day of Prayer service at the White House. Critics said the rules will impede people’s access to emergency abortions and birth control; expose transgender patients to discrimination; and create new roadblocks for gender dysphoria–related surgeries. The Department of Health and Human Services received more than 300 conscience rights complaints in fiscal year 2018.

5-10-19 New angle
A video concealed from the public for four years sheds new light on a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement. Sandra Bland was arrested in 2015 in Prairie View, Texas, for allegedly failing to signal, and killed herself in a jail cell three days later. A dashcam video filmed trooper Brian Encinia pulling out his Taser and yelling at Bland, “‘I will light you up. Get out. Now.’” Encinia claimed he didn’t know what Bland might grab in the car and had feared for his safety. The new video, however, shows that Bland was directly facing Encinia and filming with her cellphone during the arrest. Bland’s suicide sparked outrage nationwide; a perjury charge against Encinia was dismissed after he agreed to change careers. After local news outlets published Bland’s video, authorities denied covering up the film, noting that it was referenced in investigative reports.

5-10-19 Prepare for a civil war with “communists”
A Washington state Republican legislator told an audience at a “God and Country” event to prepare for a civil war with “communists.” A recording of the event shows that Rep. Matt Shea said that America is no longer “a beacon of Christianity” because of “compromise,” and that “liberty must be kept by force.” Another speaker said Christians should buy an AR-15 and plenty of ammunition.

5-9-19 More than 1,000 guns seized from Los Angeles home
Authorities responded to an anonymous tip that someone was manufacturing and selling weapons in the Holmby Hills neighbourhood, close to Beverly Hills and Bel Air.

5-9-19 US House panel holds attorney general in contempt over Mueller report
A US House of Representatives panel has voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not releasing an unredacted copy of the report on Russian election meddling. The judiciary committee took the rare step as tensions rose over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings. Earlier, President Donald Trump used his executive privilege for the first time to block the report's disclosure. The White House and Congress accused each other of abusing power. Mr Mueller's report did not conclude that there was a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 US presidential election. However, Mr Mueller did detail 10 instances where Mr Trump possibly attempted to impede the investigation. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr, one of Mr Trump's sons, to legally force him to testify. It is the first known legal summons issued to a member of the president's family in connection with the investigation. Mr Trump Jr will be expected to answer questions about testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017, which was later contradicted by the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen, US media report. He will also probably be quizzed on his connections in Russia. Democratic lawmakers put forward the measure after Mr Barr did not comply with a legal order to release the Mueller report without the redactions. The 448-page report was released last month with parts blacked out, including information that is classified or linked to pending investigations. After the legal order, Mr Barr formally asked the president to assert his right to executive privilege to stop the unredacted version of the report being released. The judiciary committee voted 24-16 along party lines to refer a contempt citation against the attorney general for a full House vote. It was not clear when this vote would happen.

5-9-19 Denver votes to decriminalise magic mushrooms by razor-thin margin
Denver has voted to decriminalise the use of magic mushrooms - the first US city to do so. The motion was put to a public vote on Tuesday, and passed with a slim majority of 50.6%. Although the mushrooms will technically still be illegal, restrictions on personal use and possession by adults will be drastically loosened. Police officers will now be instructed to treat magic mushroom users as their lowest priority. Denver decriminalised cannabis in 2005 ahead of the rest of the state of Colorado. Tuesday's referendum was the first US public vote on magic mushrooms. They are a form of fungus found across the world which contains a psychedelic chemical called psilocybin. The UK's National Health Service describes them as a hallucinogenic "making people see, hear and experience the world in a different, 'trippy' way". Westerners began taking them as a recreational drug in the 1950s but they may have been used long before that in rituals in parts of the world such as Central America. Under US federal law, psilocybin belongs in the same group of banned drugs as heroin and LSD, and it has been designated a Class A drug in the UK since 2005. The US federal government argues that psilocybin has high abuse potential and no accepted medical value. The drug remains illegal in many other countries. Campaigners in Denver say certain mushrooms "may be helpful in the treatment of cluster headaches, PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and OCD [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder]". Advocates say that a growing body of evidence suggests that the drug has therapeutic benefits for a wide range of illnesses, from anxiety to addiction. A UK study in 2016, found a hallucinogenic chemical in magic mushrooms shows promise for people with untreatable depression.

5-9-19 Boston Red Sox see racial divide over White House visit
US baseball champions the Boston Red Sox are visiting the White House later to celebrate their victory - without nearly all their non-white teammates. At least 10 players and the team's manager, all African-American or Latino, have declined the president's invitation to the World Series winners. In contrast, the dozen players who are due to attend are all white, except one who is Cuban-American. The team has attempted to play down the divide. Visiting the White House is a tradition for US championship teams. While certain players have opted out under past White House administrations, during Mr Trump's presidency, these visits - and those who decline - appear to have become increasingly politicised. Last year, Mr Trump cancelled the annual Super Bowl champions' White House visit after most players said they did not want to attend. In 2017, he disinvited the championship basketball team for similar reasons. The Red Sox, who won the World Series last year, have told local media that there is no ill will between the players who choose to meet Mr Trump and those who will skip the event. "We're in a good place," manager Alex Cora told WEEI radio. Mr Cora is from Puerto Rico, and, in a rare move for a winning coach, said he would not be attending because it would not feel right to celebrate while people continued to struggle on the US island territory in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Mr Trump has been criticised for his handling of the US response to the hurricane, which devastated Puerto Rico and left nearly 3,000 dead. Most of the players have not cited specific reasons for opting out. But as one local sports columnist tweeted: "So basically it's the white Sox who'll be going."

5-9-19 Pope Francis makes it mandatory for clergy to report sex abuse
Pope Francis has made it mandatory for Roman Catholic clergy to report cases of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups to the Church. In an Apostolic letter, which is set to become Church law, he makes clear that any sexual advance involving the use of power will now be considered abusive. The clarification is being seen as a message to the Church hierarchy that no-one will be exempt from scrutiny. The Pope promised in February to take concrete action to tackle abuse. The new Apostolic letter makes clear that clerics should also follow state law and meet their obligations to report any abuse to "the competent civil authorities". The new guidelines were welcomed by some Vatican commentators, who argued that they broke new ground in attempts to end Church sexual abuse. The Pope's decree is meant to change the way the Church investigates cases of abuse. For the first time, clerics and other Church officials will be obliged to disclose any allegations they may have heard. Previously, this had been left to each individual's discretion. Reports are expected to be made within 90 days to offices within Church dioceses. The decree also defines the covering-up of abuse as a specific category. The Church's senior leaders - its bishops - are specifically included in this. That is because in many documented cases bishops covered up crimes of priests who reported to them. The decree does not change the penalties for crimes committed. "The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," the Pope writes in the letter. The guidelines further cover "actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical [Church] investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious" for sexual abuse.

5-9-19 'Shoot them': Trump laughs off supporter's migrant comment
US President Donald Trump laughs off a supporter's suggestion of how to deal with migrants at the border, during his rally at Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday evening. (Webmaster's comment: And this violence loving person is our President?)

5-8-19 Trump says America is 'full' but this US state says 'not us'
President Donald Trump has claimed that the United States "is full", and incapable of allowing entry to any new and diverse migrants. But citizens in one mostly-rural state say they couldn't disagree more. Forty years ago, Curtiss Reed Jr came to Vermont for a ski vacation and got stuck in a storm. He had to sleep in a Dunkin Donuts for two nights before he could make it to a friend's house. That gave him plenty of time to take in Vermont's natural beauty. "I spent three weeks skiing, eating, drinking and decided this was paradise," says Mr Reed, a consultant with the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity. "Six months later, I moved here." But since then, Mr Reed has seen downtown shops close in towns across the state. Taxes have gone up. Wages for many have stagnated. Mr Reed says that's because Vermont has only tried to attract one kind of new resident. Despite President Donald Trump saying "our country is full" earlier this month during a visit to the US southern border, Mr Reed says if Vermont wants to improve its economy, it needs to bring in more people. But the New England state has two problems. It doesn't have enough people to do the jobs it already has, and it doesn't know how to attract people of a different demographic from Vermont's current population, which is nearly 95% white. Under the Trump administration's policies, there are fewer refugees, immigrants and temporary visa workers coming into the state. Joan Goldstein - commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development - says the race is on. States across the US are competing to attract new residents, she says. "I know that sounds very mercenary but we're in a competitive marketplace," she says. "Vermont's marketing strategy for decades was white, heterosexual males with family incomes of $120,000 (£92,000) or more. That population is shrinking." Vermont has made a big change in their approach, she says. Instead of just trying to attract businesses to the state, they're now appealing directly to individuals. "Other states have asked us how we did this because they're also interested in some of the same types of tactics," she says. "So cle This year Vermont began handing out $10,000 (£7,600) for certain workers who move to remote parts of the state.

5-8-19 Colorado shooting: Teenager killed in high school attack
A teenager has been killed and seven others injured after two pupils allegedly opened fire in a US school. The attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, near Denver, Colorado, took place on Tuesday, police said. Both attackers have now been arrested. Highlands Ranch is just 8km (5 miles) from Columbine High School - the site of one of the US's worst school shootings 20 years ago. This is believed to be the 115th mass shooting in the US in 2019. The STEM - science, technology, engineering and math - school is a charter school in an affluent suburb. Just before 14:00 local time (20:00 GMT) the attackers "walked into the STEM school, got deep inside the school and engaged students in two separate locations", Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. During a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Spurlock said the two came in through an entrance at the STEM's secondary school that did not have a metal detector. One suspect is a female youth, while the other has been identified by police as 18-year-old Devon Erickson. Both were pupils at the school. Police had initially misidentified the youth as male, based on her appearance, according to the sheriff. Mr Spurlock said the school contacted the emergency services "almost immediately", and that officers arrived at the scene about two minutes later. The school was closed and placed on lockdown as police attended the scene. It was eventually lifted an hour later, at about 15:00 local time (21:00 GMT). Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo - who was to graduate this month - was identified as the student killed in the attack. "We have no information about anyone being targeted," Mr Spurlock said, adding that it was too early to come to any conclusions. ne parent, named in local media as Fernando Montoya, said his 17-year-old son was shot three times and wounded.

5-8-19 Cuba cancels annual Conga Against Homophobia march
The Cuban government has cancelled the country's 12th annual march against homophobia. In a Facebook post, the state-run National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) blamed "new tensions in the international and regional context" for the cancellation. Activists have condemned the move and questioned the government's motives. Cuba was set to approve same-sex marriage under a new constitution, but removed the clause after protests. President Miguel Díaz-Canel publicly backed the change in September, saying it was "part of eliminating any type of discrimination in society". But the government backtracked after an outcry from religious groups. Cuba holds events at this time every year to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May. CENESEX posted on Facebook that it was officially cancelling the Cuban Conga against Homophobia and Transphobia "in compliance with the policy of the Party, the State and the Revolution". The group is led by Mariela Castro, daughter of the Communist Party of Cuba's leader Raúl Castro. No specific reasons were given for the change, with the post blaming "certain circumstances that do not help [the march's] successful development". However, only the conga itself is cancelled, with other events going ahead as planned to mark LGBT rights. Activist Norge Espinosa Mendoza called the move "a new step backwards". "The enemies of a more diverse and progressive Cuba will be happier now," he wrote on Facebook. "Not allowing [the parade] is a signal that... we are not welcome."

5-8-19 Asia Bibi: Christian leaves Pakistan after blasphemy acquittal
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, has left the country, officials have confirmed. Her conviction was overturned last year by the Supreme Court. She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours. Asia Bibi has always maintained her innocence in a highly sensitive case that has polarised Pakistan. Pakistani government officials did not reveal her destination, or say when she left. But her lawyer Saif ul Malook told the BBC she had already arrived in Canada, where two of her daughters are understood to have been granted asylum. Asia Noreen - commonly known as Asia Bibi - was kept at a secret location while arrangements were made for her to leave the country. In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wishes Asia Bibi "all the best" now she has been "safely reunited with her family". The Supreme Court's quashing of her sentence last October led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release. Last year, Pakistani authorities arrested prominent Islamic cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party led mass protests over Asia Bibi's acquittal. Dozens of his supporters and TLP leaders were also detained. Officials say they were arrested to maintain public order after the cleric urged his supporters to "jam the whole country" if he was arrested. Islamist groups have regularly called for Asia Bibi to be executed and activists say she would not have been safe had she stayed in Pakistan. (Webmaster's comment: Believers hating other believers who believe differently. Typical religious behavior!)

5-7-19 US attorney general faces contempt vote over Mueller report
Democrats in the US House of Representatives have decided to launch contempt proceedings against Attorney General William Barr. They took action after he failed to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to submit an unredacted version of the Mueller report. The Department of Justice had previously called the request "premature and unnecessary". The Democratic-led committee said the vote would be held on Wednesday. The attorney general, who was appointed by the president, also missed a deadline last week to release an uncensored version of the report. Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Monday: "Congress must see the full report and underlying evidence to determine how to best move forward with oversight, legislation, and other constitutional responsibilities. "The Attorney General's failure to comply with our subpoena, after extensive accommodation efforts, leaves us no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings." But Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, dismissed the Democratic move as "illogical and disingenuous". "Democrats have launched a proxy war smearing the attorney general when their anger actually lies with the president and the special counsel," the Georgia congressman said. Six committees in the Democratic-controlled House are demanding the release of the full Mueller report as part of ongoing investigations into US President Donald Trump. (Webmaster's comment: It's so obvious that Barr was appointed to coverup for Trump's criminal actions.)

5-7-19 Israel Folau found guilty of breaching Rugby Australia's code of conduct
Israel Folau has been found guilty of a "high level breach" of Rugby Australia's player code of conduct after he said "hell awaits" gay people in a social media post. A three-person panel who presided over his hearing will now consider what punishment the 30-year-old will face. His RA contract was terminated in April but he requested a hearing. The Waratahs full-back, contracted with RA until 2022, escaped punishment for similar comments last year. The panel will take written submissions from both parties before deciding Folau's sanction. Folau - who has won 73 caps and was expected to play at this year's World Cup in Japan - gave evidence on Saturday, with RA chief executive Raelene Castle and Waratahs chief executive Andrew Hore also appearing before the panel. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said Folau is unlikely to be selected for Australia again. In addition to his rugby union career, Folau has also played professional rugby league and Australian rules football. In April, Australian rugby league's governing body ruled out Folau returning to the NRL.

5-7-19 Denver to hold referendum on magic mushroom use
The US city of Denver is set to vote in a referendum that could in effect approve the use of magic mushrooms. If passed, the measure would bar officials from "spending resources to impose criminal penalties" for personal use and possession of the drug. Magic mushrooms contain a psychedelic chemical, psilocybin, which under US federal law belongs in the same group of banned drugs as heroin or LSD. Denver decriminalised marijuana in 2005 ahead of the rest of Colorado state. Tuesday's referendum is the first US public vote on magic mushrooms. It asks voters if the personal use and possession of the drug should be the city's "lowest law enforcement priority". If approved, the verdict would apply to Denver City and County residents over the age of 21. The federal government argues that psilocybin - and all Schedule I classification drugs - have high abuse potential and no accepted medical value. However Decriminalise Denver, the group behind the initiative, argues that certain mushrooms "may be helpful in the treatment of cluster headaches, PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and OCD [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder]". A study in 2016, found that a hallucinogenic chemical in magic mushrooms shows promise for people with untreatable depression. Decriminalise Denver says: "No-one should go to jail, lose their children, lose their job, and lose their citizen's rights for using a mushroom. One arrest is too many for something with such low and manageable risks for most people, relative to its potential benefits."

5-6-19 US attorney general faces contempt vote over Mueller report
Democrats in the US House of Representatives have decided to launch contempt proceedings against Attorney General William Barr. They took action after he failed to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to submit an unredacted version of the Mueller report. The Department of Justice had previously called the request "premature and unnecessary". The Democratic-led committee said the vote will be held on Wednesday. The attorney general, who was appointed by the president, also missed a deadline last week to release an uncensored version of the report. Democrats also want Mr Mueller to testify before Congress on his findings. (Webmaster's comment: I have never seen a bigger crook than the mealy-mouthed Attorney General William Barr. They should arrest him and drag him off to court in chains.)

5-6-19 Medical student evaluations appear riddled with racial and gender biases
Men are described as ‘scientific,’ while women are ‘fabulous’ and minorities ‘pleasant’. Men are “scientific,” women are “lovely” and underrepresented minorites are “pleasant” and “nice.” If those sound like stereotypes, they are. But they’re also words commonly used to evaluate medical students, a study finds. Analysis of nearly 88,000 evaluations of third-year medical students written from 2006 to 2015 revealed evidence of implicit bias. White women and underrepresented minority groups were more often described by words about their personalities, while men were evaluated with more words describing their competancy. The results, published online April 16 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, give “a good idea of what kind of words are being used,” says Carol Isaac, an education researcher at Mercer University in Atlanta not involved in the study. Evaluations are standard after third-year students spend six to eight weeks in a hospital or clinic clerkship, during which they typically help observe patients, stitch up incisions and deliver babies. Students’ grades for this period are partly informed by performance evaluations from the physicians they study under. Along with grades and resumes, the evaluations are “one of the main determining factors,” for where a student ends up in residency, says study coauthor Urmimala Sarkar, a physician who studies health services at the University of California, San Francisco. Choice quotes from the evaluations might also be included in “dean’s letters” sent to hospitals when students apply for medical residency — the three-plus years of postgraduate training in a chosen medical specialty. (Webmaster's comment: Many white men cannot help themselves. Their hatred of women and non-whites seems to be built in their genetics.)

5-4-19 Justine Damond: US city of Minneapolis pays family $20m
The family of an Australian woman shot dead by a police officer has been promised $20m (£15.5m) in compensation by the US city of Minneapolis. Mohamed Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached his patrol car to report a possible rape behind her Minneapolis home on 15 July 2017. Ms Damond, 40, was unarmed and the former policeman was found guilty of her murder on Tuesday. Her family say they will donate $2m towards fighting gun violence. The Ruszczyk's attorney, Robert Bennett, said the family was quietly satisfied with the settlement. It would send "an unmistakable message to change the Minneapolis Police Department in ways that will help all of its communities," he added. Noor, 33, is the first police officer in the city's history to have been found guilty of murder for an on-duty shooting. Ms Damond, a yoga instructor from Sydney with dual Australian and US citizenship, had moved to the Midwestern city to marry her boyfriend, Don Damond. She had adopted his surname ahead of their nuptials and they were due to marry a month after the shooting. Ms Damond called 911 as she believed a sexual assault had taken place in the alley behind her home. In court, Noor said he recalled seeing a blonde female in a pink T-shirt approach his squad car on the night of the shooting. He said he opened fire because he believed there was an imminent threat after he heard a loud bang and saw Ms Damond with her right arm raised. Noor said his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, shouted "Oh Jesus!" and fumbled with his gun in its holster before "he turned to me with fear in his eyes". The defendant said he "had to make a split-second decision" and shot Ms Damond across his partner through the car window. The trial heard the victim lay dying from a gunshot wound just over a minute after ending a phone conversation with her fiance, Don Damond. She had told him that police had just arrived after she called them to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind their home. No such attack was ever found to have occurred. The death drew international criticism and Australia's prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, said it was "inexplicable". (Webmaster's comment: If the officer had been white and the victim black he would never have been convicted! White officers are never convicted of murdering blacks.)

5-3-19 White nationalist terror strikes another synagogue
The growing plague of anti-Semitic violence claimed more victims last week when a 19-year-old entered a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill one woman and injure three other Jews on the last day of Passover. California State University nursing student John Earnest was charged with murdering Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, and attempting to murder an 8-year-old girl, her uncle, and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein at the Chabad of Poway near San Diego. Authorities said Earnest screamed that Jews were ruining the world and fired several rounds with an AR-15–style rifle before it jammed. Goldstein’s right index finger was shot off, but he wrapped the hand in a prayer shawl and addressed congregants, shouting, “Am Yisrael chai! The people of Israel live!” The shooting came exactly six months after the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, when a gunman yelled “All Jews must die!” before killing 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Anti-Defamation League reported this week that there were 1,879 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism against Jews nationwide last year, the third-highest total in four decades. Earnest was also charged with trying to burn down the Islamic Center of Escondido, Calif., an unsolved arson case for which he allegedly claimed credit in a manifesto posted online hours before the Poway attack. The manifesto cited white nationalist attacks in Pittsburgh and Christchurch, New Zealand, as inspiration. “How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us,” Earnest’s family said in a statement. The “insane rants” of anti-Semitic gunmen have become familiar, said Will Bunch in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Yet President Trump refuses to acknowledge the spread of white nationalism, dismissing adherents as a “small group of people” with “very, very serious problems.” Far-right attacks “more than quadrupled” in a year on his watch—and still his administration slashed the budget of the office targeting domestic terrorism from $21 million to $3 million. There’s a reason Trump won’t confront right-wing terrorists, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com: He knows their actions are “a more extreme version of Trump’s own political style.” Why doesn’t Congress respond to the surge of anti-Semitic violence? asked Max Boot in WashingtonPost.com. “The stock answer” is that legislators can’t take action without infringing on the rights of extremists. That didn’t stop the U.S. from cracking down on Islamist terror after Sept. 11. One suspects a more sinister reason for inaction: “There are people in positions of power and influence in this country who sympathize with white nationalists.”

5-3-19 Released on bail
A Coast Guard lieutenant who was allegedly planning a white supremacist attack is entitled to be released before his trial, a federal magistrate ruled last week. Christopher Hasson was arrested in February on weapons and drug charges, but prosecutors have not charged Hasson with terrorism. Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, was arrested after authorities seized his arsenal of 15 firearms, 1,000-plus rounds of ammunition, and tactical gear. Authorities say he’d created a spreadsheet hit list of prominent Democrats, Supreme Court justices, media personalities, and social media executives. He allegedly searched on his computer for justices’ home addresses and whether they were “protected,” drafting an email that said he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth.” Hasson’s attorney argues such drafts amount to “private thoughts,” not chargeable offenses.

5-3-19 The NRA: Corruption, chaos, and civil war
“At the moment you could almost—almost—pity the National Rifle Association,” said Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. The gun rights group has been “hemorrhaging money to the tune of $40 million” a year, and at its annual meeting last week, an ugly power struggle broke out among its leadership. CEO Wayne LaPierre accused President Oliver North of trying to blackmail him into resigning with a dossier of misdeeds, including excessive travel and expensing $200,000 on his personal wardrobe. This follows a devastating New Yorker exposé revealing a culture of “secrecy, self-dealing, and greed,” with NRA officers awarding themselves high six-figure salaries and lavish benefits. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating if the NRA illegally funneled money from a Kremlin-connected banker to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And last week New York state’s attorney general announced an investigation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Clearly, the NRA is now “an organization at war with itself,” said Lisa Marie Pane in the Associated Press. For a century, it focused on hunting, firearms education, and gun safety. During the 1970s, it pivoted to Second Amendment rights, but in recent years its outside ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, has pushed it into culture war issues far afield of firearms, and it became an overly partisan organization. When the children’s cartoon Thomas & Friends added two female characters—one with a dark-skinned face—to its cast of talking locomotives, a mocking NRATV segment “featured several trains wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods and sitting on flaming tracks.” Now the NRA is suing Ackerman McQueen for allegedly failing to justify its $42.6 million billings for 2017. All this recalls Eric Hoffer’s famous observation, said Charles Sykes in TheBulwark.com: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” The NRA’s implosion could “hardly have come at a worse time” for Republicans, said Jim Geraghty in NationalReview.com. The cascade of mass shootings in America “has energized gun-control advocates.” Most Democratic House challengers in 2018 openly embraced gun control, and for the first time, pro–gun control groups outspent the NRA in an election cycle. In 2020, it appears President Trump is going to need all the help he can get. The big question is whether the NRA will be healthy enough to be a factor.

5-3-19 Charlottesville: Trump’s revisionist history
President Trump is “trying to gaslight you,” said Robert Tracinski in TheBulwark?.com. Stung by Joe Biden’s condemnation of Trump’s infamous response to the deadly 2017 white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Va., the president—and his allies—are now insisting that he never said there were “very fine people on both sides.” Trump says he was actually talking about people who were peacefully protesting the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The trouble with this dodge is that there was no second group of protesters, said Jane Coaston in Vox.com. The Unite the Right Rally wasn’t a “spontaneous outpouring from Confederate statue enthusiasts.” It was organized by prominent white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler and branded with explicit anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery. The people Trump claimed were “protesting very quietly” marched through the streets with torches chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Trump’s “doublespeak” was no mistake, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. “Making a rational political calculation,” he delivered a rote denunciation of white supremacists, but winked at racists by blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He quite deliberately drew a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis armed with guns and clubs and the liberals who protested their invasion of Charlottesville. Trump’s strategy hasn’t changed, said Eugene Scott in The Washington Post. This week he called Lee “a great general. Whether you like it or not.” Actually, Lee was a brutal slaveholder who broke up families and encouraged overseers to torture those who tried to escape. Then, he led a treasonous war against the U.S. to preserve slavery. In defending Lee, “Trump is just defending a different kind of white nationalist.”

5-3-19 10,000 Lies
Milestones, after President Trump uttered the 10,000th “false or misleading statement” of his presidency, according to Washington Post fact-checkers. In the past seven months, Trump has averaged 23 false or misleading claims a day, including such whoppers as claiming that his border wall is already being built.

5-3-19 New rules to dissuade asylum seekers
President Trump signed a memorandum this week calling for new limits on asylum seekers at the Mexican border. The memo orders that asylum seekers be charged a fee for asylum applications, which are currently free to file, and blocks those who entered illegally from getting work permits while their claims are pending. Another proposed rule mandates that immigration courts process asylum claims within six months. A backlog of more than 800,000 cases means claims often take years to process, though only about 20 percent are ultimately approved. The new regulations could take months to go into effect. The application fee would be devastating for many asylum seekers, says a former immigration official, who notes that many come with “little more than the shirts on their back.”

5-3-19 White dominance will soon be history
The majority of the U.S. population under 18 years old will be nonwhite by next year. Before 2030, the majority of Americans under 30 will be nonwhite.

5-3-19 The census: Asking about citizenship
The Supreme Court seems poised to help the Trump administration “rig the architecture of democracy,” said Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times. During oral arguments last week, the court’s conservatives overtly defended the administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite estimates that 6.5 million people would not fill out the form as a result. Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch asked why the U.S. shouldn’t add a citizenship question like “virtually every English-speaking country,” while Samuel Alito said he doubted there would be a lower response rate “because of this one factor.” Three lower federal courts have ruled against the administration on factual and legal grounds, said E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. They found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied about his partisan motives for wanting to add the citizenship question. But the Supreme Court’s conservative wing dismissed all that as irrelevant. By restricting voting rights and now “distorting” the process for drawing electoral maps, conservatives—“including the ones wearing the robes of justice”—are openly fighting for minority rule.

5-3-19 Pete Buttigieg's rise exposes a deepening rift in the Christian right
Pete Buttigieg is having a moment in the national spotlight. Buttigieg, as most of America now knows, is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination. He's also gay, married to a man, and a regular churchgoer. And his meteoric rise has brought the debate over faith and sexual ethics clearly into focus. This debate over same-sex relationships has been tearing apart American churches for years. Sometimes it presents itself as a dividing line between denominations. For example, Episcopalians, of which Buttigieg counts himself, have largely embraced gay rights. Evangelicals mostly have not. Last month, conservative commentator Erick Erickson said that "if Buttigieg thinks evangelicals should be supporting him instead of Trump, he fundamentally does not understand the roots of Christianity. But then he is an Episcopalian, so he might not actually understand Christianity more than superficially." The debate is also alive and well within denominations themselves. For example, the United Methodist Church — the largest in U.S. mainline Protestantism — recently strengthened its prohibitions of same-sex wedding ceremonies and gay clergy, even while many similar churches have been liberalizing their teachings on homosexuality. Ministers within the Methodist Church are to be celibate while single, and monogamous within marriage. And marriage is defined solely as a union between a man and a woman. The denomination's top court subsequently upheld these positions. This aligns the United Methodists with the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and a growing number of Christians in the Global South. Indeed, it was African delegates, working with U.S. evangelicals, who supplied the margin of victory for the Methodist Church's recent interpretation of Scripture and tradition. But no doubt many in the church were outraged by the decision. Methodist pastors in the Washington, D.C., area took out an ad in The Washington Post decrying the vote and calling for a more inclusive church. The chaplain at the Methodist college I attended, a longtime ordained minister within the denomination, has even signed on to work for Buttigieg's presidential campaign. Another nearby school ended its affiliation with the Methodist Church over the LGBT vote.

5-3-19 Atheists and the Devil
The devil, whose official North American church, the Satanic Temple, has been awarded tax-exempt status by the IRS. Founded by atheists in 2013, the temple seeks to highlight and mock government officials’ favoring of specific religions. (Webmaster's comment: True atheists have nothing to do with the supernatural which includes the Devil.)

5-3-19 Stressed Americans
Americans, after a new Gallup poll found that we are some of the most stressed-out people in the world, with 55 percent saying they’d felt a lot of stress the day before—way above the global average of 35 percent. Democrats were among the most stressed.

5-3-19 Little Green Men are back
The U.S. Navy is drafting new, formal guidelines for its pilots to report unidentified flying objects. The move comes in response to a number of such sightings by pilots, including one in 2004 in which Navy jets were outmaneuvered by extremely fast UFOs.

5-3-19 Germany says half of far right 'prone to violence'
Some 12,700 far-right Germans are prepared to commit violence, of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists, according to interior ministry figures. Authorities had already warned of a growing threat of violence from the extreme right, including an "affinity for weapons", the ministry said. Hundreds of flag-waving extremists caused alarm this week when they marched through an eastern town. Germany's main Jewish organisation said the march should not have been allowed. The marchers carried a banner that read "social justice instead of criminal foreigners". They carried flares and banged drums through the centre of Plauen, a town in Saxony whose synagogue was burnt down by the Nazis in November 1938. The Saxony march took place on Wednesday, on the eve of Jewish remembrance of the Holocaust. Leaders of the left-wing Linke party in Saxony said they were appalled that "uniformed Nazis were allowed to march with torches and drums". Germany has seen a rise in support for the far right, with the Alternative for Germany party now the largest opposition party in the Bundestag. And even more radical groups of extremists have emerged, with more than half of their members prone to violence according to the interior ministry, which provided figures in response to a request from the liberal FDP party. Hundreds of websites and social media channels, including messaging services and video platforms, were being screened by the authorities for far-right propaganda, the ministry said. It said the extreme right "creates platforms on which the scene is active and exchanges its propaganda and seeks to spread it". FDP spokesman Konstantin Kuhle told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that new ideas and better skills were needed to combat radicalisation on the internet. The eastern state of Saxony in particular has been fertile ground for the far right. Germany's Central Council of Jews said that if the state government was serious about tackling the extreme right it would ban such marches. (Webmaster's comment: Nazis are back in Germany, and in America an authoritarian Hitler wannabe sits in the white house.)

5-3-19 Gay HIV transmission with treatment is 'zero risk', study confirms
Further evidence that taking anti-HIV drugs stops gay men passing on the virus to sexual partners has been called a "powerful message" which should be more widely known. A study of nearly 1,000 gay male couples in The Lancet found no cases of HIV transmission over eight years. This was due to treatment reducing the virus to very low levels in the body. "Undetectable equals untransmittable" should be basic HIV knowledge for everyone, experts said. The European study followed 972 gay male couples - where one was living with HIV and taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the other was HIV negative - over eight years, from 2010-2017. There were no cases of HIV being passed within the couples over that time. And the researchers say that around 472 cases of HIV are likely to have been prevented. In total, the couples reported having anal sex without condoms a total of 76,088 times. Although 15 men did become infected with HIV during the study, genetic testing showed that none of the viruses came from their main partner. "Our findings provide conclusive evidence that the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero," the researchers said. Prof Alison Rodger, study author and professor of infectious diseases at University College London, said anal sex was known to have the highest risk of transmission, but gay men should be reassured. "This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face." She called for all people living with HIV to have access to testing and effective treatment.

5-3-19 THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNE LISTER
Kneeling side by side under the medieval arches of the tiny church, two women bowed their heads and prayed. It was 1834. Homosexual acts were illegal and sexual relationships between women were largely unacknowledged - the word lesbian had not even been coined. But Anne Lister had no truck with the misogynistic conventions of 19th Century England. She was a businesswoman, entered politics and climbed mountains. And she adored women, falling passionately in love time and again. The explicit details of her affairs, recorded in code, shocked those who deciphered them. They changed the way lesbian history was viewed forever. The black-clad figure, striding confidently along the cobbled streets, was a familiar sight in Halifax. Dressed, even in summer, in thick, black clothes and boots, the young woman’s boyish frame drew whispers and abuse. “That’s a man!” one voice jeered, a taunt she had become used to. Anne Lister, with a little hat - also black - sitting atop her tight, black ringlets, marched on, seemingly unperturbed. The peculiarly dressed, haughty woman from the nearby manor house Shibden Hall stood out in the working-class Yorkshire town. Educated and confident, in an age when women were rarely either, she attracted attention wherever she went. “The people generally remark, as I pass along, how much I am like a man,” she confided in her diary, the writing of which was a daily ritual. Men would often jokingly proposition her as she walked by. Others sent her anonymous, mocking and abusive letters. A practical joker had an advert placed in the Leeds Mercury in her name, looking for a husband. They also gave her a cruel nickname - Gentleman Jack. Since childhood she had been different. Born in 1791, Anne was an “unmanageable tomboy” whose exasperated mother sent her off to boarding school aged seven. Teachers feared she would influence the other girls with her rebellious behaviour and in her teens, she was confined to an attic bedroom, where she lived in virtual seclusion. Her diary became her closest confidante. Feeling alone in a world she didn’t quite fit into, she poured her deepest thoughts on to the pages of her journals. So obsessive was her personality, no detail was left out: the time she woke up and how long she’d slept; the letters she received and their contents; the day’s weather; the time it took to walk into town; whether she’d enjoyed veal cutlets or mutton for dinner. Everything she had learned that day would be recorded too: Greek, algebra, French, mathematics, geology, astronomy and philosophy. Anne possessed a voracious intelligence and - at a time when women were barred from universities - was determined to learn everything a man was able to. But there was something else that Anne spilled on to the pages of her diary: she adored women.

5-2-19 An AI used art to control monkeys’ brain cells
Such tailored regulation of neural activity could lead to new types of neuroscience experiments. New artwork created by artificial intelligence does weird things to the primate brain. When shown to macaques, AI-generated images purposefully caused nerve cells in the monkeys’ brains to fire more than pictures of real-world objects. The AI could also design patterns that activated specific neurons while suppressing others, researchers report in the May 3 Science. This unprecedented control over neural activity using images may lead to new kinds of neuroscience experiments or treatments for mental disorders. The AI’s ability to play the primate brain like a fiddle also offers insight into how closely AIs can emulate brain function. The AI responsible for the new mind-bending images is an artificial neural network — a computer model composed of virtual neurons — modeled after the ventral stream. This is a neural pathway in the brain involved in vision (SN Online: 8/12/09). The AI learned to “see” by studying a library of about 1.3 million labeled images. Researchers then instructed the AI to design pictures that would affect specific ventral stream neurons in the brain. Viewing any image triggers some kind of neural activity in a brain. But neuroscientist Kohitij Kar of MIT and colleagues wanted to see whether the AI’s deliberately designed images could induce specific neural responses of the team’s choosing. The researchers showed these images to three macaques fitted with neuron-monitoring microelectrodes. In one experiment, the AI aimed to create patterns that would activate neurons at a specific site in the ventral stream as much as possible, regardless of how it affected other neurons. In 40 of the 59 neural sites tested, AI-made pictures caused neurons to fire more than any image of a real-world object, such as a bear, a car or a face. The AI’s images generally caused neurons to fire 39 percent more than their maximum response to real-world images. Even when the monkeys were shown patterns previously designed by researchers specifically to trigger ventral stream neurons, the AI designs made these neurons fire at higher rates. (Webmaster's comment: In an old Sci-fi book "The War Against The Rull", the aliens use patterns of lines to control men's minds. Today we can elicit a specific verbal response from people by asking seemingly unrelated verbal questions. Animal and human minds seem to be able to be programmed by external stimuli which makes perfect sense given how the mind works.)

5-2-19 William Barr is in contempt. Congress should send him to jail.
Following Attorney General William Barr's Wednesday appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, one thing is now very clear: Barr holds Congress in contempt. Congress should reciprocate. Barr's scorn for legislative oversight was apparent throughout the day as he evaded, prevaricated, and generally dodged questions posed by Senate Democrats. The most stunning moment came when the Ivy League-educated lawyer, confronted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), suddenly and improbably seemed to lose his grasp on the English language. "Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested you open an investigation into anyone?" she asked. Barr stumbled. "I'm trying to grapple with the word 'suggest,'" Barr said. It looked for all the world like a clear effort to sidestep a simple question. And it was a moment that, if there's any justice, will go down in American political history alongside "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." That exchange was certainly memorable. But the real moment of truth should arrive today — if, as expected, Barr refuses to show up for a scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. This comes as the Department of Justice also refuses to hand over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted investigative report to the committee — a double act of defiance. Barr's reason for skipping? He says he shouldn't have to answer questions from lawyers on the committee's staff — that he should only have to take queries from the elected members of the committee itself. "The attorney general remains happy to engage directly with members on their questions regarding the report and looks forward to continue working with the committee on their oversight requests," Barr's spokeswoman said Wednesday. That almost sounds reasonable, except for one thing: Oversight isn't something that Congress requests. Congress is a co-equal branch of government, not a sidekick to the president. The House Judiciary Committee has the power to subpoena witnesses, to recommend prosecution for perjury if those witnesses lie, and to hold them in contempt if they don't show up at all. Congress has the power to seek the truth about our nation's governance, and it doesn't have to be nice about it. "When push comes to shove, the administration cannot dictate the terms of our hearing in our hearing room," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the committee, said Wednesday.He's right. And there's a simple solution for the House to enact if Barr really doesn't show up: Formally hold him in contempt of Congress, then send him to jail.

5-2-19 Speaker Nancy Pelosi accuses Attorney General Barr of lying to Congress
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the Attorney General William Barr of lying to Congress. Her comments came a day after Mr Barr's testimony to a Senate panel about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia's alleged meddling in 2016. Mr Barr faced sharp questioning about his decision to clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice. The top US law official refused to testify to Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The standoff raises the prospect that Mr Barr - America's top legal official - could be held in contempt of Congress. "He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that it would be considered a crime," Ms Pelosi said on Thursday. "Nobody is above the law," she added. Ms Pelosi's accusation stems from Mr Barr saying he was not aware of any complaints Mr Mueller had about the Attorney General's four-page summary of his report. Mr Mueller wrote a letter to Mr Barr saying the summary lacked "context". "It wasn't about technicalities," Ms Pelosi told reporters. "The attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime." (Webmaster's comment: Barr should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sent to prison!)

5-2-19 Charlottesville Confederate statues protected, Virginia judge rules
A Virginia judge has ruled that Charlottesville's Confederate statues are war memorials protected by state law and cannot be removed. Judge Richard Moore made his decision in a lawsuit filed against city council members who voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. The move by the council provoked vehement protest, culminating in a deadly white nationalist rally in 2017. The rally stunned the US and escalated debate regarding Confederate statues. Hundreds of statues of Lee, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and other famous figures of the Confederacy - the southern states that revolted against the federal government - exist all throughout the US. Some see the memorials, as well as Confederate flags, as markers of US history and southern culture. But to others, they serve as an offensive reminder of the country's history of slavery and racial oppression. This view has been sharpened by violent acts of racism across the US in recent years. In 2015, days after the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, a white supremacist killed nine parishioners in an African-American church in South Carolina. Since the massacre, more than 60 Confederate monuments or symbols have been removed or renamed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group. The debate around Confederate symbols received renewed attention once again after the protests in Charlottesville, triggered by the city council's decision to remove a statue of Lee. The resulting rally caused the deaths of a counter-protester and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash as they monitored the event. In a letter dated 25 April, Judge Moore acknowledged arguments from the defendants claiming that the statues were not war memorials, but symbols of white dominance. But in his ruling, he determined that the racism of either Lee and Jackson referenced by the defendants was not relevant to the case before him. (Webmaster's comment: These "southern heroes" led the forces fighting for slavery, oppression and racism. The statues should torn down and publically broken up.)

5-2-19 St Lucia quarantines US cruise ship over measles case
A US cruise ship has been placed in quarantine by the Caribbean island of St Lucia after a case of measles was reported on board, the island's chief medical officer said. Dr Merlene Fredericks James said there was a confirmed case of measles on board and "thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship". No-one aboard was allowed to leave. The ship is reportedly the Freewinds, which is said to be owned and operated by the Church of Scientology. Dr Fredericks James said in a video statement posted on YouTube on Tuesday that the ministry learned of the confirmed measles case from "two reputable sources". She cited the fact that measles was a highly infectious disease as a factor in the decision. "One infected person can easily infect others through coughing, sneezing, droplets being on various surfaces, etc. So because of the risk of potential infection - not just from the confirmed measles case, but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time - we thought it prudent to make a decision not to allow anyone to disembark." She also cited the current situation in the US, where cases of the disease are at a 25-year high, as another factor. NBC News, citing a St Lucia Coast Guard, reported that the boat is the Freewinds, a 440ft (134m) vessel owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, thought to have some 300 passengers on board. "The ship's doctor has the confirmed case in isolation on the ship," Dr Fredericks James was quoted as saying by NBC. "The individual is in stable condition." The St Lucian authorities do not have the authority to keep the ship from leaving, and it is currently due to leave the island at 23:59 (03:59 GMT) on Thursday, NBC reports officials as saying. The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com shows a ship called SMV Freewinds docked in Castries, the country's capital.

5-2-19 St Lucia quarantines US cruise ship over measles case
A US cruise ship has been placed in quarantine by the Caribbean island of St Lucia after a case of measles was reported on board, the island's chief medical officer said. Dr Merlene Fredericks James said there was a confirmed case of measles on board and "thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship". No-one aboard was allowed to leave. The ship is reportedly the Freewinds, which is said to be owned and operated by the Church of Scientology. Dr Fredericks James said in a video statement posted on YouTube on Tuesday that the ministry learned of the confirmed measles case from "two reputable sources". She cited the fact that measles was a highly infectious disease as a factor in the decision. "One infected person can easily infect others through coughing, sneezing, droplets being on various surfaces, etc. So because of the risk of potential infection - not just from the confirmed measles case, but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time - we thought it prudent to make a decision not to allow anyone to disembark." She also cited the current situation in the US, where cases of the disease are at a 25-year high, as another factor. NBC News, citing a St Lucia Coast Guard, reported that the boat is the Freewinds, a 440ft (134m) vessel owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, thought to have some 300 passengers on board. "The ship's doctor has the confirmed case in isolation on the ship," Dr Fredericks James was quoted as saying by NBC. "The individual is in stable condition." The St Lucian authorities do not have the authority to keep the ship from leaving, and it is currently due to leave the island at 23:59 (03:59 GMT) on Thursday, NBC reports officials as saying. The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com shows a ship called SMV Freewinds docked in Castries, the country's capital.

5-1-19 It is time to bring global attention to the trade in Burmese amber
The stunning fossils preserved in Burmese amber may be scientifically priceless, but is the human price too high? PALAEONTOLOGY often finds itself embroiled in debates about the buying and selling of fossils. The most notorious case was that of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton called Sue, which was the subject of a protracted ownership battle before being bought by the Field Museum in Chicago for $8.4 million. Such controversies are common. Last month, a collector angered scientists when he listed the skeleton of a juvenile T. rex on eBay for $2.95 million. The fossil had been on loan to the University of Kansas but may now enter a private collection, beyond the reach of scientists. Because of the risk of losing access, many palaeontologists choose not to work with privately owned specimens. The US Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) encourages this: its by-laws state that “the barter, sale, or purchase of scientifically significant vertebrate fossils is not condoned, unless it brings them into, or keeps them within, a public trust”. There is an ethical as well as a scientific dimension to this. Fossils should be part of humanity’s collective heritage, not playthings to be hoarded for profit. For one globally important fossil deposit, the debate is even thornier. Burmese amber is the hottest property in palaeontology, stuffed full of incredible fossils from 100 million years ago, including dinosaurs and birds (see “Blood amber: The exquisite trove of fossils fuelling war in Myanmar“). But, as we reveal, the specimens are part of a lucrative and largely illicit trade in gemstones. They change hands for huge sums of money, some of which is funnelled back into Myanmar to fund a civil war that the United Nations has described as a genocide.

5-1-19 Justine Damond: US policeman guilty of Australian's murder
A former policeman in the US state of Minnesota has been found guilty of murdering an unarmed Australian woman. Mohamed Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached his patrol car to report a possible rape behind her Minneapolis home on 15 July 2017. Noor, 33, testified last week that he opened fire because he feared he and his partner were being ambushed. Ms Damond, 40, a yoga instructor from Sydney, was engaged and was due to marry a month after the shooting. The death drew international criticism and Australia's prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, said it was "inexplicable". Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately upon being convicted by a jury on Tuesday of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was acquitted of the most serious charge of second-degree murder with intent to kill. The trial heard the victim, a dual US-Australian citizen, lay dying from a gunshot wound just over a minute after ending a phone conversation with her fiance. She had told Don Damond that police had just arrived after she called them to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind their home. No such attack was ever found to have occurred. Noor took the stand last week to say he recalled seeing a blonde female in a pink T-shirt approach his squad car on the night of the shooting. He said he believed there was an imminent threat after he heard a loud bang and saw Ms Damond with her right arm raised. Noor said his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, shouted "Oh Jesus!" and fumbled with his gun in its holster before "he turned to me with fear in his eyes". The defendant said he "had to make a split-second decision" and shot Ms Damond across his partner through the car window. Noor told the court that upon realising he had shot an unarmed woman he "felt like my whole world came crashing down". Prosecutors questioned whether the loud bang was real, pointing out that neither Noor nor his partner initially mentioned anything at the scene about hearing such a noise.

5-1-19 Judge rules museum 'rightfully owns' Nazi-looted painting
A Spanish museum is allowed to keep an artwork that the Nazis took from a Jewish woman in 1939, a judge ruled. Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has fought a 14-year legal battle in the US with the family of Lilly Cassirer. Ms Cassirer was forced to trade the valuable Camille Pissarro painting for her freedom as she tried to flee Germany, just before the war. A federal judge in California ruled that legally it belongs to the museum, which acquired it in 1993. According to Spanish law, if a collector or museum does not know that an artwork was looted when they acquire it, then they are legally entitled to keep it. But the judge, John Walter, criticised Spain for not keeping to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art - an international agreement to return Nazi-looted art to the descendants of the people they were taken from. Some 44 nations, including Spain, signed it in 1998. In his written decision, Judge Walter said that despite being legally entitled to keep the artwork, Spain's insistence on keeping the painting - Pissarro's Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon. Effects of Rain - was "inconsistent" with the agreement. Washington Principles, he said, was "based upon the moral principle that art and cultural property confiscated by the Nazis from Holocaust victims should be returned to them or their heirs". He also said that Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the German industrialist who bought the painting from a US dealer in 1976, should have been aware of the "sufficient circumstances or 'red flags'" that signalled it had been looted - such as missing and damaged provenance labels. His decision leaves open the possibility of appeal - although the Cassirer family has yet to say whether they plan to do so.


81 Atheism News & Humanism News Articles
for May 2019

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for April 2019