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

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


5-31-19 IS fight: US-led coalition says it killed 1,300 civilians in Syria and Iraq
The US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group says it has unintentionally killed more than 1,300 civilians in Iraq and Syria since 2014. In a statement, the coalition said it had carried out 34,502 strikes since its air campaign against IS began there nearly five years ago. A UK-based monitoring group says the true toll is much higher, estimating up to nearly 13,000 civilian fatalities. The US-led action began after IS took over huge areas of territory. It imposed brutal rule over millions of people who fell under its control and has carried out or inspired deadly attacks around the world. The latest figure provided by the coalition is slightly higher than its previous admission eight months ago of 1,100 civilian deaths. It says it is still assessing 111 more possible cases of civilian fatalities. The latest acknowledgement stands in stark contrast to the claims of human rights and monitoring groups, which say the actual death toll is many times higher. Amnesty International's senior crisis response advisor Donatella Rovera accused the US-led coalition of remaining "deeply in denial" about the true scale. "Today's acknowledgement of further civilian deaths underscores the urgent need for thorough, independent investigations that can uncover the true scale of civilian casualties caused by coalition strikes, examine whether each attack complied with international humanitarian law and provide full reparation to victims," she said. Last month, an investigation by activists concluded that more than 1,600 civilians were killed in coalition attacks on the Syrian city of Raqqa alone during a five-month campaign to oust IS in 2017. (Webmaster's comment: A US Military objective has always been to create mass terror by killing as many civilians as possible. Its had that policy since the mass killing of civilians in the Spanish-American war in 1898.)

5-31-19 Louisiana passes law banning abortions after heartbeat is detected
Louisiana's Democratic governor has signed a highly restrictive new abortion law that bans the procedure after a foetal heartbeat is detected. The law could prohibit abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. State legislators overwhelmingly backed the bill on Wednesday, by 79 votes to 23 and Governor John Bel Edwards signed the bill into law on Thursday. It is the latest in a raft of anti-abortion measures which are expected to face legal challenges. Four other states have passed similar limits to abortion this year. In a statement, Governor Edwards said: "I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for [the law] to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone." He did not hold a signing ceremony. Women throughout the US have staged protests against the Lousiana legislation, and major Hollywood stars and production companies have vowed to boycott states that implement such bans. Disney, Netflix and WarnerMedia have all publicly threatened to rethink production in these states if the laws take effect.So-called heartbeat laws seek to make abortion illegal as soon as a foetal heartbeat is detectable. In most cases, this is at the six-week mark of a pregnancy - before many women even know they are pregnant. Although Louisiana's stringent law does allow abortions in cases where the pregnant woman's life is in danger, it does not include exemptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape. But the law will only come into force if a federal court upholds a similar ban passed in neighbouring Mississippi. A judge temporarily blocked the Mississippi law when it was passed. US President Donald Trump has appointed two conservative judges to the Supreme Court since taking office, and analysts say conservatives across the US see this as the moment to challenge the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling - which granted women the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Louisiana is the fifth state to pass a heartbeat law, after Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi. (Webmaster's comment: A women's right to decide what happens to her own body is under attack by religious zealots! They wish to turn her into a breeding machine under their control. And if they don't obey, back to stoning them to death.)

5-31-19 New Zealand wants to make people happy, not rich - will it work?
New Zealand’s latest budget, unveiled this week, is being touted as the first in a Western country to put well-being over economic pressures. The country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern promised billions of dollars in additional funds to address mental health problems, suicide and child poverty. Almost NZ$2 billion is earmarked for mental health services, following yet another year of the country having the highest teen and young adult suicide rates in Western countries. As well as boosting existing mental health services, more money will be used to help people with mild or moderate mental health issues before they become an emergency. Almost NZ$200 million will go to an initiative to provide long-term shelter for people who are homeless, with no strings attached, and more than NZ$1 billion to addressing child poverty. “Today we have laid the foundation for not just one well-being budget, but a different approach for government decision-making altogether,” Ardern said while unveiling her budget. The goal is to downplay the importance of gross domestic product (GDP), a measurement of country’s economic activity that is normally seen as a key indicator of success. But despite what Ardern and her team suggest, no budgets are solely about GDP. “All budgets in pretty much all developed countries are well-being budgets,” says Arthur Grimes of the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust, New Zealand. He notes that the definition of well-being is welfare, and virtually every budget allocates money to services such as poverty, mental health and housing. Grimes is also sceptical about how well-being will be measured, with around 60 different indicators proposed. “In my view that’s a really scattergun approach,” he says.

5-30-19 Measles record means US could lose eradication status
The number of US measles patients has reached a record high and may cause the nation to lose its "measles elimination status", US health officials say. Sixty new cases were reported in the past week, bringing this year's total to 971 cases in 26 US states - the highest since 1994. The disease was declared effectively eliminated from the US in 2000. Recent outbreaks have been attributed to foreign travellers spreading it to those lacking vaccinations in the US. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Thursday: "If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status. "That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. "The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1963 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task." The statement added that previously between three and four million Americans were diagnosed with the sometimes-fatal illness each year, leading to an estimated 400-500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalisations. Earlier this year, Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases testified to lawmakers that more must be done to prevent the spread of the disease. "I consider it an irony that you have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines they have," he said. "Yet we don't do and have not done what could be done - namely eliminate, eradicate the virus." This year's tally of 971 means the US has already broken the 1994 record - 963 infections - in only the first five months of 2019.

5-30-19 Most atheists believe in the supernatural, despite trusting science
Belief in the supernatural is still alive and kicking, even among people who don’t believe in a god. Research on atheists and agnostics around the world has revealed that almost nobody can claim to completely reject irrational beliefs such as life after death, astrology, and the existence of a universal life-force. The UK-based Understanding Unbelief project interviewed thousands of self-identified atheists and agnostics from six countries – Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, US and UK. It found that despite their godlessness, a majority believe in at least one supernatural phenomenon or entity. Among atheists in the UK, for example, about 12 per cent believe in reincarnation and nearly 20 per cent life after death. All told, 71 per cent of atheists hold one or more such beliefs; for agnostics the figure is 92 per cent. Atheists and agnostics comprise about 37 per cent of the UK population, so when combined with religious people, that means a large majority of the general population believe in the supernatural. Globally, the most prevalent supernatural beliefs are in fate – that “significant life events are meant to be” – and that there are “underlying forces of good and evil”. Between 20 and 30 per cent of atheists in the UK and US believe in these, and around 40 per cent of agnostics. But this is lower than in the general population, where more than half of people believe them. The project also asked people about karma, objects or people with mystical powers and the existence of supernatural beings. Even the least believed phenomenon – karma – is endorsed by around 10 per cent of atheists and 30 per cent of the general population in the UK. Japanese atheists proved the least susceptible to the supernatural, scoring single-digit percentages for most and about 20 for fate and good / evil. Chinese atheists were the most susceptible, with more than 30 per cent professing a belief in astrology. However, atheists and agnostics in Western countries do conform to type on one measure: they are more likely to endorse science. Two-thirds in the UK agree with the statement “the scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge”, compared with 46 per cent of the general population. (Webmaster's comment: There is some hope, but slim.)

5-30-19 Terrill Thomas death: Family to receive $6.75m settlement
The family of a US man who died of dehydration while in jail will receive $6.75m (£6m) from Milwaukee County and a private company that ran inmate care. Terrill Thomas, 38, was found dead in his cell in Milwaukee County Jail in 2016 - seven days after officers shut off his water supply as punishment. His death was later ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, the result of "profound dehydration". Thomas' attorneys called the sum one of the largest ever for a jail death. "This settlement reflects not only the profound harm suffered by Mr Thomas and his family, but also the shocking nature of the defendants' misconduct in shutting off this man's water and ignoring his obvious signs of distress as he literally died of thirst," said lawyers for Thomas in a joint statement to US media. The settlement was publicly announced on Tuesday after being finalised in March. The cost will be split between Milwaukee County and Armor Correctional Health Services, a private company that provided health care for inmates at the time. Neither Armor Correctional Health Services and Milwaukee County immediately responded to requests for comment. The almost $7m will be split among Thomas' six children, according to AP News. Thomas was arrested in April 2016 on charges that he fired a gun inside a casino. According to his lawyers, Thomas suffered from bipolar disorder and was in the midst of an "acute mental health crisis" when he arrived at Milwaukee County Jail. Thomas was soon moved to an isolation cell as punishment for flooding his first cell by stuffing his mattress cover into the toilet, which his lawyers said was evidence of his deteriorating mental state. As further punishment, Thomas' only source of drinking water was deliberately cut off - a "common and widespread practice" at the jail, court documents say. (Webmaster's comment: Why aren't his murderers going to prison?)

5-29-19 Forget rampant killer robots: AI’s real danger is far more insidious
Forget the AI apocalypse as you know it | The true danger of artificial intelligence is in its obsession with spatulas and the biases it learns from us. WHEN I was growing up, nobody promised me a flying car. But I was promised an AI apocalypse. Those shiny machines were going to crush our skulls underfoot, and we were all going to welcome our new robot overlords. Remember that? Many people still seem to think it is likely to happen. Well, just like flying cars, it isn’t. But we might still get a deadly AI nightmare. It is just going to be a lot weirder and more insidious than we imagined in the innocent days of Terminators and the Cybermen. AI is simply software programs that learn from data. That is why engineers generally prefer to call it machine learning. You give your machine-learning program a giant data set – say, every video on YouTube – and it “learns” to find patterns. Famously, when Google unleashed an AI on YouTube in 2012, it figured out how to recognise cat faces. That sounds pretty amazing until you discover that Google’s AI also became intrigued by spatulas oriented at a 30 degree angle. If you want to understand the true dangers of AI, you have to ponder those spatulas. It isn’t so much that these programs are working incorrectly, but that they notice patterns we don’t. And sometimes those patterns are a lot more problematic than an inadvertent spatula fetish. When Microsoft released a chatty AI bot named Tay on Twitter, for example, it began spouting Nazi slogans within 24 hours. Designed to learn from conversations around it on the social platform, it quickly became racist. A similar issue showed up in crime-prediction algorithms that police in Florida used. Software flagged black people as more likely to commit crimes than white people, despite evidence to the contrary. And when political scientist Virginia Eubanks investigated medical insurance algorithms in the US, she discovered an inherent bias that made it harder for poor people to get health coverage. None of this should be surprising to anyone who has met a human and discovered our propensity for prejudice. AIs aren’t autonomous creatures with agendas of their own. They are learning from our data. Think of AI as prostheses – extensions of humanity, with slightly different strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they suss out patterns of bias in our data much better than we do. Then, like the obedient programs they are, they act on those biases. Google and Microsoft both acknowledged this problem for the first time in recent annual reports to the Securities Exchange Commission. AI, said Google, may present “ethical, technological, legal, and other challenges”. Microsoft put it more simply: “AI algorithms may be flawed.” (Webmaster's comment: AIs lack a moral compass and are likely to do just about anything.)

5-29-19 The preachers getting rich from poor Americans
Televangelist Todd Coontz has a well-worn routine: he dresses in a suit, pulls out a Bible and urges viewers to pledge a very specific amount of money. "Don't delaywsp_rte_replace_marker, don't delay," he urges, calmly but emphatically. It sounds simple, absurdly so, but Coontz knows his audience extremely well. He broadcasts on Christian cable channels, often late into the night, drawing in viewers who lack financial literacy and are desperate for change. "I understand the laws that govern insurance, stocks and bonds and all that is involved with Wall Street," he once said, looking directly into the camera. "God has called me… as a financial deliverer." Crucially, he always refers to the money as a "seed" - a $273 seed, a $333 seed, a "turnaround" seed, depending on the broadcast. If viewers "plant" one, the amount will come back to them, multiplied, he says. It is an investment in their faith and their future. In 2011, one of those desperate viewers was Larry Fardette, then based in California. Larry watched a lot of similar televangelists, known as prosperity preachers, who explicitly link wealth and religion. But he found Coontz particularly compelling. He assured quick returns. He seemed like a results man. And Larry needed some fast results. The Fardette family was going through a tough time. Larry's daughter was seriously ill and he had health problems of his own. His construction business was struggling, and to make matters worse both his van and his car broke down irreparably within the same week. When a local junkyard offered him $600 for the van, he thumbed the bills thoughtfully and remembered Coontz's rousing speech. Maybe he should invest the sum as a "seed"? He instantly recalled the specific number that Coontz had repeated again and again: $273. It was a figure the preacher often used. "God gave me the single greatest miracle of my lifetime in one day, and the numbers two, seven and three were involved," he once said. It is also - perhaps not coincidentally - the number of Coontz's $1.38m condo in South Carolina, paid for by his church, Rockwealth, according to local TV channel WSOC-TV. Larry has now come to realise there was no foundation to Coontz's promises that donated cash would multiply, but at the time the stirring speeches gave him hope. He did not see any other way out. He sent off two cheques: one for $273 and another for $333, as requested. Then he waited for his miracle. (Webmaster's comment: He's still waiting!)

5-29-19 Huawei: US blacklist will harm billions of consumers
A US move to put Huawei on a trade blacklist "sets a dangerous precedent" that will harm billions of consumers, the firm's top legal officer said. Speaking at a press conference, Song Liuping said the trade ban would also "directly harm" American companies and affect jobs. Washington recently added Huawei to a list of companies that US firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence. The trade ban is part of a wider battle between the US and Huawei. Washington has moved to block the Chinese company, the world's largest maker of telecoms equipment, on national security concerns. Huawei has repeatedly denied claims the use of its products presents security risks, and says it is independent from the Chinese government. "Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company," Mr Song said. Mr Song said the decision to put Huawei, which is also the world's second largest smartphone maker, on the so-called "entity list" would have far-reaching implications. "This decision threatens to harm our customers in over 170 countries, including more than three billion consumers who use Huawei products and services around the world." "By preventing American companies from doing business with Huawei, the government will directly harm more than 1,200 US companies. This will affect tens of thousands of American jobs." Speaking to reporters in Shenzhen, Mr Song also outlined steps that Huawei had taken in relation to a lawsuit it filed against the US government in March. The case relates to restrictions that prevent US federal agencies from using Huawei products. The firm said it has filed a motion for a "summary judgement", asking US courts to speed up the process to "halt illegal action against the company". "The US government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat. There is no gun, no smoke. Only speculation," Mr Song said. A hearing on the motion has been set for 19 September.

5-29-19 Mussolini's 21st-century clone is leading the far right to victory in Europe
Matteo Salvini is often compared to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini by his critics, and for good reason. Italy's Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who led his far-right party Lega or League (formerly Northern League) to a resounding victory in the European parliamentary elections this past weekend, gaining 34 percent of the vote compared to a mere 6 percent in 2014, is the undisputed face of the far-right nationalist surge in Europe. The 46-year-old politician's nationalist rhetoric is eerily similar to Mussolini's and, like the 20th-century dictator, Salvini is fiercely anti-liberal, misogynistic, and instinctively authoritarian. He also shares an interesting biographical similarity with the founder of fascism: like Mussolini, Salvini started out his political career on the far-left before becoming the de facto leader of Italy's far-right. Indeed, until just a few years ago Salvini maintained in interviews that his old left-wing politics still shaped much of his worldview, and that he related to the "classical themes of the left." "I certainly feel more left-wing than [Former Prime Minister Matteo] Renzi," he said in 2015. “I'm an old-fashioned communist, I know more factories than bankers do.” In 2013, he similarly commented that he saw more "leftist values" in the European far-right "than in some left-wing parties." Right-wing populist parties and movements, he went on, "are those that today defend workers, those who lead right battles." Like Il Duce, who styled himself as an "authoritarian" and "aristocratic" socialist while still on the left, Salvini has clearly always been an authoritarian at heart, and it is worth recalling that early fascist movements in Italy and France were originally made up of right-wing nationalists and non-conformist leftists who wanted to destroy the liberal democratic order more than anything else. A leading scholar of fascism, Robert Paxton, notes in his book The Anatomy of Fascism that, amid their murky and at times contradictory ideology, fascists were clear about one thing: they were not in the middle. "The ultimate fascist response to the Right-Left political map," writes Paxton, "was to claim that they had made it obsolete by being 'neither Right nor Left,' transcending such outdated divisions and uniting the nation." "The fascist movements — all the fascist movements — had the same lineage: a revolt against liberal democracy and bourgeois society," observes the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. "A classic ideology of rejection," he adds, "fascism implied the repudiation of a certain political culture associated with the eighteenth century and the French Revolution." (Webmaster's comment: Another closet Facist like Trump rising to power in Europe.)

5-29-19 Hells Angels bikers banned by Netherlands court
A court in the Netherlands has banned the Hells Angels biker club because of its culture of violence. The court in the city of Utrecht ruled that the group was a danger to public order and the rule of law. It referred to several violent clashes over the years with rival motor gangs, like the Bandidos. It is unclear whether the Hells Angels will appeal against the verdict. The group was founded in 1948, and now has thousands of members around the globe. In Wednesday's ruling, the Utrecht court stated that "the violence is often so serious and causes so much social unrest that it can be considered in contravention of social order". The court specifically referred to Hells Angels Holland and the global organisation to which it belonged. The verdict makes the Netherlands the first country to outlaw the entire club - and not just some of its local branches, known as chapters. The Hells Angels club was founded in California. Its members around the world are known for favouring Harley-Davidson bikes and wearing denim and leather. (Webmaster's comment: Any group which fosters or advocates violence should be banned everywhere and members arrested and imprisioned.)

5-28-19 Who are the Muslim community patrols protecting US mosques?
Days after the deadly attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, a private patrol service was launched in New York to protect Muslim places of worship there. The additional security has proved controversial. On a Friday afternoon, minutes before the Muezzins at Brooklyn mosques give the call to prayer, a group of young Muslims is headed to nearby mosques in what look like New York Police Department (NYPD) squad cars. The cars, with their red and white emergency lights on, will be parked right outside the mosques and stay put while worshippers go in and offer prayers. The cars and volunteers represent the Muslim Community Patrol, a self-funded group, launched to provide additional security to neighbourhood mosques and Islamic schools in the area at times when they are most crowded. Noor Rabah, a volunteer and co-founder of the group, calls it "security on steroids". By keeping the emergency lights on and making the siren go on when there's any trouble, they hope the vehicle can act as a deterrent. "We are not the muscle of NYPD. We are the eyes and ears to report to the proper authorities," says Mr Rabah, who formally launched the patrol service after 51 people were killed in the attack on two mosques in New Zealand in March. Security has long been a concern for worshippers - but since the Christchurch attack it's become a priority. During this month-long Ramadan, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country's largest Muslim advocacy group, has urged the Muslim communities to stay vigilant and step up security. Many mosques in the country have conducted security drills including active-shooter training. The Muslim Community Patrol, too, has beefed up its presence in and around Brooklyn mosques - but ever since the idea of such a patrol was floated, they have also faced backlash, particularly on social media. (Webmaster's comment: Some of the Christian community is in a killing mood again so other religions (Jews and Muslims) must defend themselves.)

5-28-19 How socialist health care saves lives
Two years ago, I wrote about the American health-care system's diligent efforts to kill a Texas man named Matthew Stewart through five-figure bills and strangling red tape. He has an autoimmune liver disease, which nearly resulted in his death. He was saved by a hospital he later discovered was out-of-network. Thanks to a loophole in ObamaCare regulations, that meant he faced bills of nearly $70,000 he couldn't pay. And because he couldn't get insured properly on the ObamaCare exchanges, he faced the dire prospect of being uninsured with a life-threatening illness. Well, I've got good news: Matthew escaped from Texas by the skin of his teeth and has moved to New York, where he gets reasonably good care. Why are things better in New York? Good old Big Government, in the form of Medicaid. It's an excellent demonstration of how socialist health care saves lives. It turns out that sick people do better when they can get the care they need for free at the point of access. Unfortunately, it's also a demonstration of the limitations of non-universal health care. To stay covered, Matthew has to stay in near-poverty. Just a few years ago, Matthew was a healthy young grad student, an avid hiker, happily married to a teacher and living in his own house. After he developed liver disease and nearly died in 2016, he could no longer work and had to drop out of school. But he still had to scale a mountain of bureaucracy to keep getting the treatments he needed to live — in particular, the quarterly surgical procedures necessary to stay ahead of the disease. With his mountain of debt, bankruptcy was the only way out, but merciless means tests in the process meant he had to wait months for his income — calculated on a rolling average — to decline enough to qualify after withdrawing from school. Then, because Texas didn't accept the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion, even if he could qualify for disability and get a small benefit he still couldn't get on Medicaid in that state, because his wife made too much money.

5-26-19 German Jews warned not to wear kippas after rise in anti-Semitism
The German government's anti-Semitism commissioner has urged Jews to avoid wearing skullcaps in public. Felix Klein warned Jews against donning the kippa in parts of the country following a rise in anti-Semitism. He said his opinion on the matter had "changed compared with what it used to be". Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said the recommendation amounted to "an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil". A sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic offences was recorded by the German government last year. Official figures showed 1,646 hate crimes against Jews were committed in 2018 - an increase of 10% on the previous year. Physical attacks against Jews in Germany also rose in the same period, with 62 violent incidents recorded, up from 37 in 2017. Speaking to the Handelsblatt newspaper, Justice Minister Katarina Barley said the increase in anti-Semitic crimes was "shameful for our country". "I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany," he told the Funke newspaper group. Mr Klein suggested "the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness" of society could be behind the spike in anti-Semitic crimes. The internet, social media and "constant attacks against our culture of remembrance" may be contributing factors, he said. He also called for police officers, teachers, and lawyers to receive training to clarify "what is allowed and what is not" when "dealing with anti-Semitism". His comments came weeks after Germany's top legal expert on anti-Semitism said the prejudice remained "deeply rooted" in German society. "Anti-Semitism has always been here. But I think that recently, it has again become louder, more aggressive and flagrant," Claudia Vanoni told the AFP news agency. (Webmaster's comment: The Nazis are rising again in Germany!)

5-25-19 US judge blocks funds for Trump border wall plan
A US federal judge has temporarily blocked the use of defence department funds to build a border wall between the US and Mexico. The judge granted the injunction to block the use of $1bn (£786m) in Arizona and Texas because it had not been approved by Congress. President Donald Trump declared an emergency earlier this year, saying he needed $6.7bn to build the wall as a matter of national security. It was a major campaign promise. About 20 states, along with groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have filed lawsuits to try to stop the president using the emergency declaration to bypass Congress. "The position that when Congress declines the executive's request to appropriate funds, the executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds 'without Congress' does not square with the fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic," Judge Haywood Gilliam said in his ruling. He said plaintiffs were likely to show that administration officials "exceeded their statutory authority, and that irreparable harm will result from those actions". Construction was due to begin as early as this weekend in the two states. However, despite the ruling President Trump could still find funds from elsewhere to build the wall, CNN reports. The ACLU wrote on Twitter: "This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law and border communities." The border wall has been a major political battle for the president. In February, Congress approved $1.38bn for the construction of "primary pedestrian fencing" along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas - far less than Mr Trump had sought. His declaration of a national emergency was designed to unlock multi-billion dollar funding for the wall, including $2.5bn from the department of defence and $3.6bn from military construction projects. That sum is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the barrier along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

5-25-19 What you need to know about: Tent cities at the border
Thousands of migrants in detention are suffering, and immigration officials are overwhelmed. Here's everything you need to know:

  1. What's happening at the border? Record numbers of Central American families fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty in Guate­mala, Hon­duras, and El Sal­va­dor have overwhelmed U.S. immigration authorities, who are now erecting new tent cities to house thousands of people awaiting hearings on their applications for asylum.
  2. Why are officials overwhelmed? America's border facilities weren't designed to deal with a large-scale refugee crisis.
  3. What are the conditions? Most of the holding cells in Border Patrol stations, designed to house migrants for just 12 hours, contain only a sink and a toilet; there are no beds.
  4. What is the plan to respond? The U.S. military plans to build at least six new tent cities along the border that should be better equipped to deal with migrant families.
  5. How so? Under the Trump administration's short-lived "zero tolerance" policy in 2018, at least 2,800 children were separated from their parents, who were kept in detention centers or federal jails. (Webmaster's comment: Many were sold by ICE members into human trafficking as sex slaves.)
  6. What else is being done? Homeland Security recently issued guidelines telling immigration officials to take a tougher stance in screening interviews.
  7. The status of the wall: President Trump still believes a massive border wall will scare migrants away from trying to enter the U.S.

5-25-19 Trump approves $8bn Saudi weapons sale over Iran tensions
US President Donald Trump is approving the sale of billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, citing Iranian threats to its arch rival. Mr Trump invoked a rarely used aspect of federal law to push through the $8bn (£6bn) deal - bypassing Congress. He did so by declaring that ongoing tensions with Iran amounted to a national emergency. The move has angered those who fear the weapons may be used against civilians in Yemen by Saudi-led forces. Some Democrats accused the president of bypassing Congress because the sale of weapons - including precision-guided bombs - would have been strongly opposed on Capitol Hill. Weapons will also reportedly be sold to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Members of Congress have heavily criticised Saudi Arabia's human rights record over its role in the Yemen conflict and for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress of the administration's decision to make the sale. In a letter, widely reported in US media, he said that "Iranian malign activity" required the "immediate sale" of weapons. "[Iran's] activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad," he wrote. He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East". (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a dictator to the core. He will do anything to thwart our democratic process.)

5-25-19 Censoring gay marriage on TV could be an ominous sign of things to come
It's a sign of the growing backlash to LGBTQ rights in America. Even with all eyes on Alabama these days, some alarming events there may not be getting the attention they deserve. Earlier this month, Alabama Public Television decided not to run an episode featuring a same-sex marriage on the PBS animated television series, Arthur. In the episode, Arthur and his friends attend the wedding ceremony of their teacher, Mr. Ratburn, and his male partner. "It's a brand new world," one of Arthur's friends proclaims after the happy nuptials. So it has seemed when it comes to LGBTQ rights in the United States, especially after the Supreme Court's 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. But this incident in Alabama — and similar developments across the country — suggest the state of gay rights in 2019 may not be all sparkling rainbows. In fact, even as public opinion polls have shown steadily increasing tolerance of homosexuality and support for gay rights, those historic developments cloud what is happening on the ground where a cultural resistance to homosexuality, emboldened by the anti-gay agenda of the Trump presidency, is gaining steam in spots throughout the nation. If that continues, there could be dire consequences for millions of LGBTQ Americans. Executives at Alabama Public Television defended their decision not to run the Arthur episode, explaining that parents counted on the network to provide programming they could trust their children to watch without their supervision. For nearly 50 years, anti-gay activists have made similar arguments, justifying their cause as a protection of children. Meanwhile, cultural sensations like Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy helped normalize the LGBTQ community in American households. Accompanied by millions of Americans coming out of the closet in recent decades — a 2017 study, for instance, found that 70 percent of Americans counted a family member or close friend as gay or lesbian — this cultural mainstreaming of homosexuality provided the groundwork for the significant political transformations that followed. But that doesn't mean the culture war over gay rights has ended. Rather, the success of the gay rights movement has also provoked a powerful backlash, though one that often goes mostly unnoticed until something like, say, the dispute over a gay wedding cake makes its way to the Supreme Court. Although two-thirds of Americans support same-sex marriage, nearly one-third still describe gay or lesbian relations as "morally wrong." That latter camp appears — like Trump's base itself — nearly unwavering in its position. (Webmaster's comment: Once Roe vs Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court, next to fall will be LGBTQ rights. Being any kind of LGBTQ will become illegal and punishable by imprisonment and electroshock curing treatment.)

5-24-19 A same-sex wedding
Alabama Public Television refused to air an episode of the PBS animated children’s show Arthur, because it featured a same-sex wedding. The episode, “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” depicted the wedding of Mr. Ratburn, a rat, and Patrick, an aardvark. The APT’s Mike McKenzie said that since parents weren’t warned about the gay wedding, “we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode.”

5-24-19 Gay marriage legal
Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. “#LoveWon,” President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted after the law passed last week. “We took a big step toward true equality and made Taiwan a better country.” The path was set in 2017, when the country’s Constitutional Court struck down a law defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman and gave the legislature two years to draft new laws. Taiwan is an outlier in the region, and the annual Taipei Pride Parade draws LGBT revelers from across the continent—many of whom cannot come out in their home countries. But the legislature may be ahead of the people. In a nonbinding referendum last year, voters chose overwhelmingly to not legalize gay marriage.

5-24-19 Border slurs
A border patrol agent called migrants “mindless murdering savages” and other slurs before allegedly hitting one with his truck, court records revealed this week. Matthew Bowen has been charged with using his government-issued Ford F-150 to knock down a Guatemalan man suspected of jumping the border fence in December 2017, and prosecutors offered dozens of text messages as evidence of Bowen’s violent attitude toward migrants. Two weeks before the incident, Bowen called migrants “disgusting subhuman s--- unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” When an agent asked if Bowen used “peanut oil while tasing” for a “frying effect,” Bowen replied, “Guats are best made crispy, with olive oil from their native pais,” the Spanish word for country. His attorney says the sentiments are “part of the agency’s culture.” Other texts described Bowen’s frustration with the “failed agency,” wishing President Trump would “PLEASE let us take the gloves off.”

5-24-19 U.S. skips online-hate deal
The Trump administration refused to sign an international accord intended to curb online extremism, said Adam Satariano in The New York Times. French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met in Paris last week to sign the agreement, labeled the “Christchurch Call,” after attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March that were “livestreamed on Facebook and spread virally over the internet.” Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter all signed the nine-point plan that “calls for the companies to take steps like updating their terms of use, identifying checks on livestreaming, sharing technology development, and collaborating on protocols for responding to crises.” But the White House said it would not “join the endorsement,” on the ground that it violated free-speech protections.

5-24-19 Pardon power
The Trump administration last week signaled that the president was considering pardons for several U.S. troops accused of war crimes. One is Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who pleaded guilty to indiscriminately shooting civilians while deployed in Iraq, including a young woman in a flower-print hijab and an unarmed elderly man, along with stabbing a 15-year-old prisoner of war to death with a hunting knife in 2017. Others under consideration are Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater contractor found guilty in the 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; Mathew Golsteyn, accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and a group of Marine snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. Last week Trump pardoned his longtime ally Conrad Black, who’d been convicted of defrauding his media company of $60 million.

5-24-19 Barr concealed clear proof of obstruction
We now have a transcript that proves that President Trump committed obstruction of justice, said Jennifer Rubin. Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan last week ordered the government to publicly release a voice mail from Trump attorney John Dowd to the lawyer for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, asking if Flynn was going to turn over “information that implicates the president.” If so, Dowd said, “then we’ve got a national security issue,” so “we need some kind of heads-up.” Dowd added that Trump still had “feelings toward Flynn”—a strong hint of a pardon. When Flynn’s lawyer responded that his client was indeed cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, Dowd was indignant and warned that he would inform the president of Flynn’s “hostility” toward him. This is clear witness tampering—the same kind that was included in the articles of impeachment drawn up against President Richard Nixon. To protect Trump, Attorney General William Barr redacted nearly all material about Flynn from the public version of the Mueller report. Barr’s claim that Mueller found no obstruction lies in tatters, and with Sullivan now considering releasing more hidden evidence, including audiotapes, Trump could be facing real trouble.

5-24-19 Trump didn’t create the Trump boom
How much credit does Trump deserve for the strong economy? asked Alan Blinder. To be sure, “it really is in great shape.” GDP growth in the first nine quarters of Trump’s presidency has averaged 2.77 percent, compared with 2.3 percent over the 16 quarters of President Obama’s second term. That’s “neither a revolution nor a revelation, but it’s certainly worth having.” But does the president actually deserve the credit? “His most important economic policy initiative by far was the tax cut passed by Congress in December 2017.” It was supposed to raise business investment, and it did a bit—but only enough for a minuscule 0.1 percent boost in the GDP growth. What accounts for the rest? Despite Trump’s disdain for government, ironically, nearly half comes from “a large acceleration in federal government spending.” Trump and his supporters tout their deregulation efforts as well, “but to me the total impact on GDP from deregulation looks small,” since most of the major deregulatory moves weren’t economic. “On balance, Trump’s economic policies probably boosted GDP growth a bit.” But it came at a cost of “an exploding federal budget deficit,” long-term environmental damage, “and reduced protections for workers, consumers, the poor, and small investors.”

5-24-19 Trade: U.S. strikes at China’s biggest phone maker
The “tech cold war has begun” in earnest, said Tim Culpan in Bloomberg.com. The president issued an executive order barring telecom companies from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a danger to national security—a grenade aimed at the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Huawei was also added to a blacklist of companies restricted from trade with U.S. corporations, so Google, Intel, and Qualcomm will now need a license from the U.S. government for any exports to the world’s second-biggest phone maker. Even if this is “just part of the U.S.’s trade war posturing,” it demonstrates to China that it “can no longer rely on outsiders.” This could be the impetus for China to accelerate its efforts to “roll out a smartphone operating system, design its own chips, develop its own semiconductor technology,” effectively unfurling “a digital iron curtain that separates the world into two distinct, mutually exclusive technological spheres.” And since Huawei is leading the race in 5G mobile technology, the U.S. could find itself trailing. Huawei anticipated this “day of reckoning” and has been preparing for it, said Li Tao and Meng Jing in the South China Morning Post (China). The company is already “developing its own chipsets” and working on its own operating systems. It has also stockpiled U.S. parts to “ensure uninterrupted production for six months.” Huawei is bigger and better equipped to handle the blacklisting than ZTE Corp., which was similarly blocked from U.S. exports in 2018 before reaching a $1.4 billion settlement with the U.S. government. That’s one reason why Trump going nuclear on Huawei is “not worth it,” said Bloomberg in an editorial. There are “legitimate reasons to worry that incorporating Huawei gear into America’s networks will leave them vulnerable” to spying or sabotage. But instead of taking steps to prevent that, Trump is using Huawei as leverage. That will only “aggravate the current impasse,” marginalizing moderates in the Chinese leadership and angering ordinary Chinese, who will see the U.S. as “trying to limit their economic possibilities.” Threatening to crush Huawei looks both “disproportionate and deeply unwise.”

5-24-19 $1,000 breaks you
40% of rural Americans say they struggle to pay bills for food, medical care, and housing. If an unexpected expense of $1,000 came up, 49% say that they couldn’t come up with the money. 26% say they have not been able to get health care when they needed it, because of cost or problems in getting an appointment or reaching the health-care location.

5-24-19 Segregation is back
The number of intensely segregated public schools, where less than 10 percent of the student body is white, tripled between 1988 and 2016, rising from 6 to 18 percent, according to a new study. New York, California, Maryland, and Illinois had the most heavily segregated schools in 2016, particularly in suburban areas. (Webmaster's comment: Segregation is back, you just haven't noticed.)

5-24-19 American peddles snake oil
A New Jersey pastor has been accused of running a scheme to give industrial bleach to poor Ugandans as a “miracle cure” that he claims can combat everything from malaria to cancer and AIDS. Robert Baldwin, 52, set up a ministry called Global Healing to distribute the toxic liquid, which he calls MMS, or “miracle mineral solution,” reports The Guardian (U.K.). He trained about 1,200 “clerics” to distribute the poisonous concoction to up to 50,000 Ugandans. Money for the church comes from online donations and from British investor Sam Little, who used to advertise himself as a psychic. Baldwin denied distributing bleach and said he is being demonized by people who don’t understand “natural healing therapies.” The U.S. Embassy in Uganda tweeted that it condemns “the distribution of this substance, which is extremely dangerous and is NOT a cure for any disease.”

5-24-19 Conservatives re-elected
After trailing the opposition Labor Party in polls for years, Australia’s ruling center-right coalition of the Liberal and National parties won a surprise victory in a federal election this week—a victory that Prime Minister Scott Morrison dedicated to “the quiet Australians.” Labor ran on a platform of mitigating climate change—after a year of wildfires, floods, and droughts—and raising taxes on the rich, and pundits had said the election was theirs to lose. But older and rural voters liked the Liberal-National message of reducing immigration and preserving coal jobs. “ScoMo,” as Morrison is called, is an evangelical Christian who has spoken of his admiration for President Trump. His coalition is expected to hold 78 of 150 seats in Parliament’s lower house. (Webmaster's comment: Another Trump (Hitler) on his way up.)

5-24-19 Cleaning house
Just minutes after Volodymyr Zelensky was sworn in as Ukraine’s president this week, the former comic actor dissolved the parliament, part of an all-out effort to purge the government of those loyal to former President Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky, who won 73 percent of the vote last month, hopes new elections will bring his supporters into the legislature so he can deliver on his pledge to end corruption and secure a cease-fire in the war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Zelensky also called for the dismissal of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who has ties to President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and was allegedly involved in a plot to accuse Ukrainian officials of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of the Clinton campaign. (Webmaster's comment: Another Hitler on his way.)

5-24-19 Austria: Far-right scandal topples government
The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party was willing to sell out his country to the Russians, said Thomas Götz in the Kleine Zeitung (Austria). A damning video released last week by two German news outlets shows party leader Heinz-Christian Strache plotting with a woman who claimed to be the niece of a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin. Recorded in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza three months before the 2017 Austrian elections—a vote that resulted in a coalition government of the center-right People’s Party and the anti-immigrant Freedom Party—the footage shows Strache promising to award lucrative public contracts to the woman if she bought the Kronen Zeitung, Austria’s largest tabloid, and used it to support his election campaign. Strache, who went on to become Austrian vice chancellor, mentions his “strategic collaboration” with Putin and mulls ways the Russians could donate to his party secretly. Nothing ever came of the meeting—probably because it was an apparent sting, set up by unknown actors—but Strache has been revealed as a man of brazen corruption on a level “intolerable even in banana republics.” Founded by ex-Nazis and stuffed with anti-Semites, the Freedom Party should never have been in government, said Edward Lucas in The Times (U.K.). Just months after the party got control of the Interior Ministry, it sent police to raid the offices of Austria’s domestic intelligence service, netting material about foreign spy operations as well as investigations into the Austrian far right and its ties to Russian mobsters. U.S. and British intelligence services were furious, believing “that their sources and methods might now be in the hands of their Russian adversary,” and they cut Austria off from intelligence sharing. The lesson for centrist parties in other countries mulling partnerships with the far-rights is clear: “Bringing dodgy parties into government does not make them less dodgy. It only makes the government dodgier.”

5-24-19 Most Israelis are not white Europeans
Despite what many leftists in the U.S. and Europe think, “Israel isn’t a country of privileged and powerful white Europeans,” said Hen Mazzig. The Left often now frames the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of race, portraying Israelis as white European Jews who fled Nazi oppression and “who in turn became oppressors of people of color, the Palestinians.” This “intersectional” narrative is often used to justify “any and all attacks” on Israel, but it is historically wrong. The majority of Israelis are like my family—Mizrahim, of Middle Eastern and North African descent. For generations, Mizrahim lived in the Middle East but “without sovereignty and equality.” These Jews were persecuted in Muslim countries such as Iraq (where my grandfather was executed in 1951). When Israel was born, more than 850,000 Middle Eastern Jews sought refuge there. Like the Ashkenazic Jews from Europe who fled the Nazis, and the 200,000 Ethiopian Jews who came later, these new arrivals “sacrificed all they had” to build and defend the Jewish state in the land where our story started. Israel is not a colonial invader, but “a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language.”

5-24-19 Trump orders new powers for Attorney General's surveillance probe
US President Donald Trump has ordered US intelligence agencies to co-operate with an investigation into whether he was spied on during the 2016 election. The probe, headed by Attorney General William Barr, is examining the origins of the Russia investigation. It has long been requested by Mr Trump, who often labels the inquiry into Russian interference a "witch hunt". On Thursday he announced a directive that gave Mr Barr sweeping new powers, including to declassify documents. Mr Barr is already subject to intense scrutiny and criticism by Democrats - who have accused him of acting on the president's behalf and not in the national interest. The president has repeatedly suggested his campaign was spied on and accused intelligence agencies of abusing their power. He has also said this could amount to "treason" and has suggested those involved should be criminally prosecuted. In April, the attorney general told Congress that "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign, and said he wanted to ensure that any intelligence-gathering had been legitimate. Earlier this month, Mr Barr assigned a federal prosecutor to look at the origins of the Russia investigation. Mr Trump has denied asking Mr Barr to do so. Thursday's memorandum directs the heads of intelligence agencies to "promptly provide" information to Mr Barr upon his request. "Today's action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions," press secretary Sarah Sanders said. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is creating the post of "Grand Inquisitioner!" Just like Hitler and the Catholic church did!)

5-24-19 Kenya upholds law criminalising gay sex
Kenya's High Court has upheld a law which bans gay sex. The judges rejected claims that a colonial-era law violated Kenya's new constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy to all citizens. The penal code criminalises "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" - widely understood to refer to anal intercourse between men. Gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Kenya's National Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it has dealt with 15 prosecutions under the penal codes in 2018, with no convictions. But it had argued for the law to be scrapped because it gives rise to a climate of homophobia. In 2016, LGBT rights activists filed a case with Kenya's High Court saying that homosexual relations should be decriminalised. They argued that the state has no business regulating matters of intimacy. The case wasn't heard until February 2018 and a verdict was initially expected in February 2019 - but delayed until Friday. The judges ruled that while they respected changes in the law adopted in other countries around the world, it was the court's duty to respect prevailing Kenyan values. Many Christian and Muslim groups have supported the current law, and the Kenyan attorney-general had argued against decriminalisation. Many African countries still enforce strict laws governing homosexuality, in most cases a legacy of laws imposed by the colonial rulers. (Webmaster's comment: Same laws will be coming to the United States soon!)

5-24-19 Taiwan gay marriage: Three couples and a wedding to celebrate equality
Taiwan has become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, with a new law taking effect on Friday. These three couples decided to mark the occasion together, with a very special ceremony last weekend.

5-23-19 At 36%, Americans' Satisfaction With U.S. Is at 8-Month High
Although a broad majority of Americans (63%) remain dissatisfied with the direction of the U.S., the percentage who say they are satisfied has edged up five percentage points since last month to 36%, its highest point since last fall. This latest satisfaction reading, from a May 1-12 Gallup poll, is on the high end of the recent trend, which hadn't surpassed 35% since last October, nor hit 40% since 2005. The public's improved perceptions of the job market in the country may be behind the latest increase in general satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. Yet, this reading remains sharply polarized, as Republicans are nearly five times as likely as Democrats to say they are satisfied with the direction of the U.S., 62% to 13%. At the same time, government (23%) and immigration (19%) continue to top the list of issues cited as the most important problems facing the country, as they have done recently. (Webmaster's comment: It used to be above 60%.)

5-23-19 New US $20 bill with anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman delayed
A redesign of the $20 bill featuring anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman, due to be unveiled next year, has been postponed until 2028, the US treasury secretary says. Steven Mnuchin said the focus was on improving the banknote's security features and not changing the imagery. Tubman's photo was due to replace that of former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner, on the front of the note. President Donald Trump has called the redesign "pure political correctness". Harriett Tubman was born into slavery in the 1820s. After suffering a serious head injury, she escaped and helped to free more than 70 slaves through the "Underground Railroad", a network of anti-slavery activists and safe houses. Speaking at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, Mr Mnuchin said "the primary reason" for the changes was for "counterfeiting issues", and that the department would focus on the image later. "Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand," he added, declining to say whether he supported the decision to add Tubman's picture. The proposed redesign, announced in 2016 under the Obama administration by then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew after months of public debate, would see Jackson's picture going to the back of the bill. At the time, Mr Lew said Tubman was "not just a historical figure but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy". Mr Trump has previously expressed admiration for Andrew Jackson and on the campaign trail in 2016 he suggested that Tubman - whom he described as "fantastic" - would be better-suited for the $2 bill, a note that is not widely circulated, or another note. (Webmaster's comment: Whitey does not want a Black on our money. Give us the Slavers!)

5-22-19 Huawei: ARM memo tells staff to stop working with China’s tech giant
UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff it must suspend business with Huawei, according to internal documents obtained by the BBC. ARM instructed employees to halt "all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with Huawei and its subsidiaries to comply with a recent US trade clampdown. ARM's designs form the basis of most mobile device processors worldwide. In a company memo, it said its designs contained “US origin technology”. As a consequence, it believes it is affected by the Trump administration's ban. One analyst described the move, if it became long-term, as an “insurmountable” blow to Huawei’s business. He said it would greatly affect the firm's ability to develop its own chips, many of which are currently built with ARM’s underlying technology, for which it pays a licence. Cambridge-headquartered ARM had been described as the UK's largest tech firm until its takeover by a Japanese fund. It employs 6,000 workers and lists eight offices in the US. In a statement it said it was "complying with all of the latest regulations set forth by the US government”, but declined to comment further. Huawei has issued a brief statement of its own. "We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognise the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions," it said. "We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world." (Webmaster's comment: The only way United States technology is better than China's, outlaw it.)

5-22-19 Iranian singer gets summons over solo performance
A female singer in Iran has been summoned to appear in court after performing solo in public, according to media reports. Negar Moazzam sang for a group of tourists in the historic village of Abyaneh last week, wearing the traditional costume of that part of Isfahan Province, until local Cultural Heritage Organisation staff cut short her performance, Fars news agency reports. Ms Moazzam uploaded a video on social media, where it was quickly noticed by fans and the authorities alike - her Instagram account alone has more than 180,000 followers. The video has disappeared from her platforms since prosecutors in the county town of Natanz announced the court summons, but it has been widely reposted elsewhere. The chief prosecutor of Isfahan Province, Ali Esfahani, confirmed to Tasnim news agency that his office had opened an investigation into reports of "a woman singing solo". The HRANA news agency, which is based abroad and focuses on human rights in Iran, says the country does not have a specific law barring women from singing solo in public, but added that the authorities continue to stop such performances, and have punished male singers in the past for singing with women. Moreover, female solo singers are not broadcast on TV and radio in Iran, which is one reason why performers like Negar Moazzam use Instagram and Telegram to promote their videos. The summons has come in for a lot of criticism on Twitter. One user contrasted the speed with which the authorities opened the investigation into Ms Moazzam with their handling of physical attacks on women - "when someone throws acid in a woman's face nobody pursues it, and in the end it's the woman who's found guilty". Another was more pithy: "Iran hasn't been a country for 40 years - it's a prison for 80 million people".

5-22-19 The truth about lie detectors: They don't work and never have
Polygraph machines remain in use despite being widely discredited, and there are much better alternatives for seeking the truth. THE Jeremy Kyle Show, which has been broadcast in the UK since 2005, was axed by ITV last week. It featured people with troubled relationships arguing in front of a live audience, often spiced up with the addition of a lie detector test. In an episode filmed recently, but never broadcast, a guest failed such a test designed to find out if he had cheated on his fiancée. He was later found dead. Lie detector tests aren’t exactly rare on TV. We can thank Kyle’s US predecessor Jerry Springer for cementing their popularity, and they endure on shows like Love Island, another ITV programme. But their reach goes wider. In Ukraine, evidence from lie detector tests, also known as polygraphs, is admissible in court, while in the US they are used as part of the recruitment process to government jobs. All this is rather worrying as lie detectors don’t live up to their name. They have long been discredited, while other methods of finding the truth are gaining ground. “It’s good that the show has ended,” says George Maschke, an anti-polygraph campaigner based in the Netherlands. He says the programme contributed to the public mistakenly believing that lie detectors work or have any scientific basis. ITV didn’t respond to questions about its use of lie detectors. Polygraph machines measure a person’s pulse, blood pressure and breathing while they answer a series of control questions, like what they ate for breakfast or their age. Then the person is asked a more pertinent question, such as: “Did you cheat on your partner?” If their vital signs leap, they are judged to be lying.

5-22-19 Being black in Nazi Germany
Film director Amma Asante came across an old photograph taken in Nazi Germany of a black schoolgirl by chance. Standing among her white classmates, who stare straight into the camera, she enigmatically glances to the side. Curiosity about the photograph - who the girl was and what she was doing in Germany - set the award-winning film-maker off on a path that led to Where Hands Touch, a new movie starring Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay. It is an imagined account of a mixed-race teenager's clandestine relationship with a Hitler Youth member, but it is based on historical record. In the Nazi era, from 1933 to 1945, African-Germans numbered in their thousands. There was no uniform experience, but over time, they were banned from having relationships with white people, excluded from education and types of employment, and some were sterilised, while others were taken to concentration camps. But their story has largely been untold - and it has taken Ms Asante 12 years to get her account of the period on to the big screen. "Often there's a form of disbelief, of questioning, sometimes even a dismissiveness of the difficult lives these people led," she told the BBC about the reaction she received from some when she spoke about her research for the film. The African-German community has its origins in the country's short-lived empire. Sailors, servants, students and entertainers from present-day Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Namibia came to Germany.Once World War One broke out in 1914 this transient population became more settled, according to historian Robbie Aitken. And some African soldiers who fought for Germany in the war also settled there. But there was a second group whose presence went on to feed into the Nazis' fear of racial mixing. As part of the treaty that was signed after Germany's defeat in World War One, French troops occupied the Rhineland area of western Germany. France used at least 20,000 soldiers from its African empire, mainly North and West Africa, to police the area, some of whom went on to have relationships with German women. The derogatory term "Rhineland bastards" was coined in the 1920s to refer to the 600-800 mixed-race children who were the result of those relationships. The term spoke to some people's imagined fears of an impure race. Made-up stories and racist caricatures of sexually predatory African soldiers were circulated at the time, fuelling concern.

5-22-19 Huawei: ARM memo tells staff to stop working with China’s tech giant
UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff it must suspend business with Huawei, according to internal documents obtained by the BBC. ARM instructed employees to halt "all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with Huawei and its subsidiaries to comply with a recent US trade clampdown. ARM's designs form the basis of most mobile device processors worldwide. In a company memo, it said its designs contained “US origin technology”. As a consequence, it believes it is affected by the Trump administration's ban. One analyst described the move, if it became long-term, as an “insurmountable” blow to Huawei’s business. He said it would greatly affect the firm's ability to develop its own chips, many of which are currently built with ARM’s underlying technology, for which it pays a licence. Cambridge-headquartered ARM had been described as the UK's largest tech firm until its takeover by a Japanese fund. It employs 6,000 workers and lists eight offices in the US. In a statement it said it was "complying with all of the latest regulations set forth by the US government”, but declined to comment further. Huawei has issued a brief statement of its own. "We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognise the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions," it said. "We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world." (Webmaster's comment: The only way United States technology is better than China's, outlaw it.)

5-22-19 Iranian singer gets summons over solo performance
A female singer in Iran has been summoned to appear in court after performing solo in public, according to media reports. Negar Moazzam sang for a group of tourists in the historic village of Abyaneh last week, wearing the traditional costume of that part of Isfahan Province, until local Cultural Heritage Organisation staff cut short her performance, Fars news agency reports. Ms Moazzam uploaded a video on social media, where it was quickly noticed by fans and the authorities alike - her Instagram account alone has more than 180,000 followers. The video has disappeared from her platforms since prosecutors in the county town of Natanz announced the court summons, but it has been widely reposted elsewhere. The chief prosecutor of Isfahan Province, Ali Esfahani, confirmed to Tasnim news agency that his office had opened an investigation into reports of "a woman singing solo". The HRANA news agency, which is based abroad and focuses on human rights in Iran, says the country does not have a specific law barring women from singing solo in public, but added that the authorities continue to stop such performances, and have punished male singers in the past for singing with women. Moreover, female solo singers are not broadcast on TV and radio in Iran, which is one reason why performers like Negar Moazzam use Instagram and Telegram to promote their videos. The summons has come in for a lot of criticism on Twitter. One user contrasted the speed with which the authorities opened the investigation into Ms Moazzam with their handling of physical attacks on women - "when someone throws acid in a woman's face nobody pursues it, and in the end it's the woman who's found guilty". Another was more pithy: "Iran hasn't been a country for 40 years - it's a prison for 80 million people".

5-22-19 The truth about lie detectors: They don't work and never have
Polygraph machines remain in use despite being widely discredited, and there are much better alternatives for seeking the truth. THE Jeremy Kyle Show, which has been broadcast in the UK since 2005, was axed by ITV last week. It featured people with troubled relationships arguing in front of a live audience, often spiced up with the addition of a lie detector test. In an episode filmed recently, but never broadcast, a guest failed such a test designed to find out if he had cheated on his fiancée. He was later found dead. Lie detector tests aren’t exactly rare on TV. We can thank Kyle’s US predecessor Jerry Springer for cementing their popularity, and they endure on shows like Love Island, another ITV programme. But their reach goes wider. In Ukraine, evidence from lie detector tests, also known as polygraphs, is admissible in court, while in the US they are used as part of the recruitment process to government jobs. All this is rather worrying as lie detectors don’t live up to their name. They have long been discredited, while other methods of finding the truth are gaining ground. “It’s good that the show has ended,” says George Maschke, an anti-polygraph campaigner based in the Netherlands. He says the programme contributed to the public mistakenly believing that lie detectors work or have any scientific basis. ITV didn’t respond to questions about its use of lie detectors. Polygraph machines measure a person’s pulse, blood pressure and breathing while they answer a series of control questions, like what they ate for breakfast or their age. Then the person is asked a more pertinent question, such as: “Did you cheat on your partner?” If their vital signs leap, they are judged to be lying.

5-22-19 Being black in Nazi Germany
Film director Amma Asante came across an old photograph taken in Nazi Germany of a black schoolgirl by chance. Standing among her white classmates, who stare straight into the camera, she enigmatically glances to the side. Curiosity about the photograph - who the girl was and what she was doing in Germany - set the award-winning film-maker off on a path that led to Where Hands Touch, a new movie starring Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay. It is an imagined account of a mixed-race teenager's clandestine relationship with a Hitler Youth member, but it is based on historical record. In the Nazi era, from 1933 to 1945, African-Germans numbered in their thousands. There was no uniform experience, but over time, they were banned from having relationships with white people, excluded from education and types of employment, and some were sterilised, while others were taken to concentration camps. But their story has largely been untold - and it has taken Ms Asante 12 years to get her account of the period on to the big screen. "Often there's a form of disbelief, of questioning, sometimes even a dismissiveness of the difficult lives these people led," she told the BBC about the reaction she received from some when she spoke about her research for the film. The African-German community has its origins in the country's short-lived empire. Sailors, servants, students and entertainers from present-day Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Namibia came to Germany.Once World War One broke out in 1914 this transient population became more settled, according to historian Robbie Aitken. And some African soldiers who fought for Germany in the war also settled there. But there was a second group whose presence went on to feed into the Nazis' fear of racial mixing. As part of the treaty that was signed after Germany's defeat in World War One, French troops occupied the Rhineland area of western Germany. France used at least 20,000 soldiers from its African empire, mainly North and West Africa, to police the area, some of whom went on to have relationships with German women. The derogatory term "Rhineland bastards" was coined in the 1920s to refer to the 600-800 mixed-race children who were the result of those relationships. The term spoke to some people's imagined fears of an impure race. Made-up stories and racist caricatures of sexually predatory African soldiers were circulated at the time, fuelling concern.

5-21-19 Trump's twisted mercy
The president's proposed pardons for war criminals reward injustice. One thing we know about President Trump is this: He is not a forgiving man. His list of grievances — real and imagined — seems to grow every day, his Twitter feed a never-ending recitation of enemies, old and new: Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Rosie O'Donnell, and on and on. The president is vindictive, and proud of it. And yet Trump, like all presidents, possesses the power to offer clemency for federal crimes. Pardons are acts of lenience and grace, qualities we don't normally associate with this president. So, naturally, Trump uses his authority in distorted fashion, in ways that seem designed to actually decrease the net amount of mercy and justice in the world. For example, The New York Times reported over the weekend the president is considering offering Memorial Day pardons to U.S. military veterans accused — and in some cases, convicted — of war crimes "including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder, and desecration of a corpse." Memorial Day, of course, is meant to honor the valor of American troops. Trump would use the holiday to instead highlight acts of dishonor — and to reward them. "Presidents use pardons to send messages," Margaret Love, a pardon attorney in previous presidential administrations, told the Times. "If this president is planning to pardon a bunch of people charged with war crimes, he will use the pardon power to send a far darker message." Indeed, the proposed Memorial Day pardons follow on the heels of other recent acts of Trumpian clemency: In the last few weeks, the president has pardoned Conrad Black, a former newspaper publisher who wrote a really nice book about him, as well as Michael Behenna, a former Army lieutenant convicted of killing an Iraqi man in his custody. Trump in 2017 also pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff and immigration hardliner convicted of contempt of court because he refused to stop his department's racial profiling of Latinos. In other words, Trump uses his pardon power to troll political opponents, reward friends, and to eliminate constraints on his agenda. The proposed Memorial Day pardons would be more of the same. Among those being considered for clemency are Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who is awaiting trial on charges he killed unarmed civilians; Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater security contractor, convicted for his part in a 2007 shooting spree that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead.

5-21-19 Don McGahn: Former lawyer defies congressional subpoena
A former White House counsel has failed to appear before Congress to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, despite a subpoena. House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler has promised to take legal action. President Donald Trump had earlier directed Donald McGahn to not appear before the Democratic-led committee. Mr McGahn told investigators in the inquiry into Russian election meddling that he had felt pressured by the president to fire Mr Mueller. "Our subpoenas are not optional," Mr Nadler said during his opening remarks on Tuesday. "This committee will hear Mr McGahn's testimony even if we have to go to court." Mr McGahn could be held in contempt for defying the subpoena from Congress. "We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law," Mr Nadler added. His Republican counterpart, ranking member Doug Collins, called the entire hearing theatrical and baseless. "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction charge. There's nothing here," Mr Collins said. "The chairman rushed to maximise headlines by issuing a subpoena." Mr McGahn served as White House counsel for nearly two years before his resignation in October 2018. Both the Department of Justice and White House released statements on Monday arguing that Mr McGahn was under no obligation to give evidence. A letter to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said Mr McGahn was "absolutely immune from compelled Congressional testimony". (Webmaster's comment: All Trump's cronies are not above the law and should be forced to testify! Why would they object if they have done nothing wrong?)

5-21-19 Hungary depriving asylum seekers of food - Council of Europe
Hungary has been accused of widespread human rights violations by the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner. Dunja Mijatovic said the government's anti-immigration stance was "fuelling xenophobic attitudes, fear and hatred among the population." She said many asylum seekers held in transit zones had been deprived of food, and called for the practice to stop immediately. Hungary, however, defended its record and contested parts of the report. Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his nationalist, anti-immigration Fidesz party have repeatedly clashed with human rights groups over its policies. The Council of Europe is made up of 47 countries and not related to the European Union, which has itself launched action against Hungary for making actions in support of asylum seekers a criminal offence.Ms Mijatovic called for major changes towards treatment of asylum seekers, describing Hungary's immigration "crisis situation" as unjustified. She said Hungary's hard-line stance against immigration had created a legal system which "undermines the reception of asylum seekers and the integration of recognised refugees." The right to apply for asylum, she said, was limited to two "transit zones" along the border with Serbia, which "very few persons are allowed to enter." Asylum seekers, including children, were being arbitrarily detained in the transit zones "without adequate legal basis", and sometimes denied food. Government policy, her report said, "has resulted in practically systematic rejection of asylum applications". "I am also deeply concerned about repeated reports of excessive use of violence by the police during forcible removals of foreign nationals," Ms Mijatovic said.

5-21-19 Arthur: Alabama Public Television bans gay wedding episode
Alabama Public Television (APT) has refused to broadcast a cartoon which shows a same-sex wedding. The first episode of the 22nd series of children's programme Arthur features the character Mr Ratburn marrying his partner, Patrick. But APT instead ran an old episode, and announced it had no plans to show the premiere. Programming director Mike McKenzie said broadcasting it would break parents' trust in the network. In a statement, Mr McKenzie said "parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision", and that children "younger than the 'target' audience" might watch without parental knowledge. Show creator WGBH and broadcaster PBS reportedly alerted local stations in April about the episode, and Mr McKenzie said this was when they decided not to air the show. Arthur is a joint Canadian/American series which debuted in 1996 about an eight-year-old anthropomorphic aardvark named Arthur Read and his friends, who live in the fictional Elwood City. APT previously refused to broadcast a 2005 episode of the series which depicted Buster, a rabbit, visiting a girl who had two mothers. Substitute teacher Misty Souder told news website AL.com that she and her daughter were disappointed the episode did not run and had contacted the network about it. "I never thought I'd be going to battle for a gay rat wedding, but here we are," she said. A 2018 Gallup poll showed 46% of people in Alabama identified as conservative, second only to Mississippi among all 50 states. Earlier in May, Alabama passed a law banning abortions even in cases of rape and incest, the latest US state to restrict access to abortions. (Webmaster's comment: Like I said once abortions have been banned LGBTs will be next!)

5-21-19 Ren Zhengfei says US government 'underestimates' Huawei
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has remained defiant towards US moves against his company, saying the US "underestimates" its abilities. Speaking to Chinese state media, Mr Ren downplayed the impact of recent US curbs and said no-one could catch up to its 5G technology in the near future. Last week the US added Huawei to a list of companies that American firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence. The move marked an escalation in US efforts to block the Chinese company. "The current practice of US politicians underestimates our strength," Mr Ren said, according to transcripts from state media. Huawei faces a growing backlash from Western countries, led by the US, over possible risks posed by using its products in next-generation 5G mobile networks. The potential fallout from the US decision to place Huawei on its "entity list" was drawn into focus on Monday after Google barred the Chinese tech giant from some updates to its Android operating system. Later on Monday, the US Commerce Department issued a temporary licence that enabled some companies to continue supporting existing Huawei networks and devices. The US said it would issue the 90-day licence that "will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks," said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre has published advice for Huawei phone owners on its site. It said the licence should mean that Huawei customers can "update their handsets as normal". It added that it was continuing to assess the situation and planned to provide advice in the future for users. Still, Mr Ren played down the significance of the move, saying that Huawei had already made preparations ahead of the US restrictions. (Webmaster's comment: Like I already said Huawei's 5G technology is a lot better than US 5G technology. So the US wants to ban it. This has nothing to do with security.)

5-21-19 US warns of threat from Chinese drone companies
The US government has issued an alert warning that Chinese-made drones could pose a cyber-espionage risk to American businesses and other organisations that use them. The notice added that those using the flying aircraft for tasks related to national security or critical infrastructure were most at risk. The warning does not refer to a specific company. But market-leader DJI said it had taken steps to keep its clients' data secure. "We give customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted," the firm said in a statement. "For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS [Department of Homeland Security] recommends." DJI accounts for more than 70% of the US market in drones costing more than $500, according to research firm Skylogic. The BBC also contacted Yuneec - the second bestselling Chinese manufacturer - for comment, but it has not responded. However, it teamed up with a US-based software and cloud storage provider last year to address concerns that government clients and other security-conscious customers might have. The notice was issued on Monday by the US's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, according to CNN, which was first to report the development. "The United States government has strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access," it quoted the memo as saying. (Webmaster's comment: Obviously Chinese drone technology is superior to US drone technolgy and so US customers buy Chinese drones. This has nothing to do with security.)

5-20-19 Four in 10 Americans Embrace Some Form of Socialism
Americans today are more closely divided than they were earlier in the last century when asked whether some form of socialism would be a good or bad thing for the country. While 51% of U.S. adults say socialism would be a bad thing for the country, 43% believe it would be a good thing. Those results contrast with a 1942 Roper/Fortune survey that found 40% describing socialism as a bad thing, 25% a good thing and 34% not having an opinion.

  • 43% of Americans say socialism would be a good thing for the country
  • 51% believe socialism would be a bad thing for the country
  • Americans split on viewing economy as free market or government controlled

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.


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Atheism News & Humanism Articles for April 2019