6-30-19 Inmates are using Instagram raise awareness of inhumane jails
One jail in Georgia has been accused of subjecting inmates to brutal living conditions. Social media is helping them get noticed. In early April, Malaya Abdullah-Tucker shared screenshots of a video conference with inmates at DeKalb County Jail in Georgia on her Instagram account. The conferences are known as "remote visits," through which inmates and their loved ones can stay in touch. The screenshots feature three men — one of whom is Abdullah-Tucker's son — holding up lunch trays with handwritten messages like, "DeKalb Jail is mistreating us," "We sleep and breathe mold," and "Please help, we dying." Abdullah-Tucker urged other Instagram users to share the images to publicize the conditions at DeKalb County Jail — and it worked. The post garnered thousands of likes and comments. According to Abdullah-Tucker, DeKalb County Jail even took notice. Five days after posting the screenshots, she received word that guards at the jail had attacked her son and the two other men in the pictures. Facility administrators deny her allegations. (Multiple requests for comment from Pacific Standard to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office ultimately went unanswered.) "The retaliation reported from several inmates was that the guards had swarmed my son and the other two gentlemen's cells, put their heads in the toilet, beat the crap out of them, and put them in solitary confinement," she says. "Since then, I have not had any communication with my son." Undeterred, Abdullah-Tucker has continued railing against the conditions at DeKalb County Jail and its staff's alleged violent response to inmates' pleas for help. Former inmates and activists have come to her aid, substantiating her claims and taking the fight from the internet to real life. Abdullah-Tucker urged other Instagram users to share the images to publicize the conditions at DeKalb County Jail — and it worked. The post garnered thousands of likes and comments. According to Abdullah-Tucker, DeKalb County Jail even took notice. Five days after posting the screenshots, she received word that guards at the jail had attacked her son and the two other men in the pictures. Facility administrators deny her allegations. (Multiple requests for comment from Pacific Standard to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office ultimately went unanswered.) "The retaliation reported from several inmates was that the guards had swarmed my son and the other two gentlemen's cells, put their heads in the toilet, beat the crap out of them, and put them in solitary confinement," she says. "Since then, I have not had any communication with my son." Undeterred, Abdullah-Tucker has continued railing against the conditions at DeKalb County Jail and its staff's alleged violent response to inmates' pleas for help. Former inmates and activists have come to her aid, substantiating her claims and taking the fight from the internet to real life.
6-30-19 Delay to rule allowing US medics to refuse procedures on moral grounds
A rule protecting US medics who refuse to carry out procedures on moral or religious grounds has been delayed. The so-called "conscience rule" was due to come into effect on 22 July, but has been postponed because of a legal challenge in California. Opponents warn it would endanger patients, particularly women and LGBT+ people seeking access to contraception, HIV treatment or abortion. The final court ruling on the issue will now take place on 22 November. The rule, known in full as Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care: Delegations of Authority, was announced by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May and is a priority for religious conservatives. Under the measure, institutions receiving government funding would be required to certify that they comply with existing federal laws protecting medical workers who object to some procedures. If an institution does not allow its workers to exempt themselves, its funding would be withheld. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the rule within hours of it being announced, arguing that the HHS had overstepped its bounds. On Saturday the two sides announced that they had mutually agreed to the delay, and that it had been granted by the judge overseeing the case. In a statement, Mr Herrera said: "The Trump administration is trying to systematically limit access to critical medical care for women, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable patients. We're not going to let that happen." He added: "Hospitals are no place to put personal beliefs above patient care. Refusing treatment to vulnerable patients should not leave anyone with a clear conscience." (Webmaster's comment: If they do not do their jobs they should be FIRED.)
6-29-19 G20 summit: Trump and Xi agree to restart US-China trade talks
The US and China have agreed to resume trade talks, easing a long row that has contributed to a global economic slowdown. US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping reached agreement at the G20 summit in Japan. Mr Trump also said he would allow US companies to continue to sell to the Chinese tech giant Huawei, in a move seen as a significant concession. Mr Trump had threatened additional trade sanctions on China. However, after the meeting on the sidelines of the main G20 summit in Osaka, he confirmed that the US would not be adding tariffs on $300bn (£236bn) worth of Chinese imports. He also said he would continue to negotiate with Beijing "for the time being". And at a subsequent press conference, the US president declared that US technology companies could again sell to China's Huawei - effectively reversing a ban imposed last month by the US commerce department. (Webmaster's comment: The Chinese, with their superior 5G technology, WIN! Trump had to back down!)
6-29-19 Transgender skater fighting to compete
Maria Joaquina is 11 years old and a prize-winning roller-skater. She is transgender and fighting to compete among girls. The South American Skating Confederation allows skaters to compete as women if they have a female name on their official ID, which Maria doesn't.
6-28-19 An ugly response to dissent
Trumpian thuggery has made it to Britain, said Owen Jones. When Greenpeace protesters interrupted a dinner speech by the chancellor of the exchequer in the City of London last week, Conservative Foreign Office minister Mark Field slammed a young activist against a pillar, grabbed her by the back of the neck, and “forcefully propelled her out.” It was nothing less than assault. Field claims he was afraid the woman might be armed, but “anyone watching the video can see not fear, let alone panic, in Field’s eyes, but rather rage.” This, after all, is a man who recently demanded police get “a much firmer grip” on climate protesters. Field was suspended fromhis Foreign Office post, but he wasn’t fired. And rather than condemning his violence, many Conservative lawmakers applauded him. That they did so highlights some of the “ugliest features” of modern Conservative politics: misogyny and class privilege. Imagine if a working-class black man had grabbed the woman—would the “airwaves be full of right-wing commentators and Tory MPs defending him”? Of course not. This country is developing “an increasingly authoritarian, Trumpian approach to dissent, in which critics and opponents of the Tories are routinely disparaged as ‘traitors,’ ‘saboteurs,’ and, indeed, ‘enemies of the people.’”
6-28-19 Border crisis: Is the U.S. running ‘concentration camps’? (Webmaster's comment: YES, THEY ARE!)
Trump defenders have spent the week in a familiar state of fake outrage, saidCharles Blow in The New York Times, because freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “the United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.” Leading the charge was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who said AOC’s comments “demean” the memory of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. But Ocasio-Cortez’s description is accurate. Reports have surfaced of horrific conditions in the camps, where the government is punitively penning up nearly 50,000 asylum seekers as if they were animals. Young children sleep on cold concrete floors, beneath glaring lights that never turn off. Migrants have no soap, toothpaste, or toothbrushes, and mothers lack water to wash their babies’ bottles. Sickness is spreading, and at least seven children have died. Some camps are now so overcrowded that detainees stand on toilets to find breathing space. In history, the term “concentration camp” is not unique to Hitler, said Jonathan Katz in the Los Angeles Times. The Spanish, British, and Soviets all penned up millions of people deemed undesirable, and so did the U.S. during World War II, when it imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans. Over and over again, Trump “has made it clear that he wants to stifle all nonwhite immigration, period.” That’s why it’s appropriate to call these teeming, squalid cages “concentration camps.” U.S. border camps may never “reach the stage of ultimate atrocity,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg in WashingtonPost.com, but the analogy reminds us of “our own moral obligations” to speak up. In Germany, “the Holocaust began with dehumanizing propaganda, with discriminatory laws, with roundups and deportations, and with internment”—all of which we are witnessing today in America. These racist policies are being pushed by a charismatic demagogue who repeatedly warns his rabid supporters they will be raped and murdered by “sinister, marauding aliens” if he doesn’t stop them, said John McWhorter in TheAtlantic.com. How can anyone contemplate the misery at the border camps and not see “glimmers of likeness between Trump and Messrs. Hitler and Mussolini?”
6-28-19 Border bills set up battle over migrant crisis
The House and Senate passed dueling border bills this week, setting up a contest between humanitarian aid and enforcement amid an expanding crisis. As a photo of migrants drowned in the Rio Grande pushed lawmakers into high gear, the House passed a bill with $4.5 billion in funding, much of it to improve conditions at overcrowded detention centers (see Controversy). House Democrats won over party skeptics by ensuring the bill wouldn’t bankroll immigration crackdowns. The Senate proposal addresses many of the same issues, with $1.3 billion for border facilities and $2.9 billion to care for migrant children, but it comes with fewer limits, which may make it more palatable to President Trump, who has threatened to veto any bill that does not come with money for enforcement. Neither bill includes funding for a border wall. The photos of the drowned bodies of a Salvadoran father and toddler who had tried to wade the final stretch of their 1,000-mile journey to Texas gave the crisis an added air of desperation. The administration last week threatened to stage nationwide raids focused on arresting families facing deportation but backed down at the last minute, faced with outrage from critics and concerns from agents about the dangers of late-night raids on numerous families, some with U.S.-citizen children. Despite the pullback, Trump appointed hard-liner Mark Morgan as acting Customs and Border Patrol commissioner, after the resignation of John Sanders, who had broader bipartisan support. Last month, authorities detained more than 144,000 migrants along the Mexico border, the most since 2006.
6-28-19 Supreme Court: A cross on public land
The Supreme Court blurred the line between church and state last week when it blessed the display of a Christian symbol on public land, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. The “Peace Cross” in Bladensburg, Md., was erected in 1925 with private funds to memorialize the 49 local souls who’d perished in World War I, but the state bought the land in 1961 and has maintained the cross ever since. In writing for the majority in the 7-2 decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the cross could stay on public land because it “took on an added secular meaning when used in World War I memorials.” It’s not the blanket thumbs-up to crosses and mangers in public spaces that some observers feared, but it’s still disappointing for a “tolerant, pluralistic country.” Ultimately, “believers could lose more than they gain from this gambit,” said Steven Waldman in The Washington Post. Since the 19th century, advocates of religious symbols in the public square have argued their way around the Constitution by saying such things “have mostly secular purposes.” When Catholics objected to public schools teaching the King James Bible, Protestants branded the Bible “literature, not religion.” But this approach exacts its own cost, even when successful. It strips religious symbols of their meaning and encourages “religious leaders to deceive themselves and the public.”
6-28-19 We have the moral high ground
Donald Trump’s America has surrendered world leadership on trade to China, said the Global Times. China is the one following “international justice and law” and keeping its word, while the U.S. is abrogating treaties and imposing unilateral measures to bludgeon other countries into submission. China protects its own interests, but it also abides by the rules of the World Trade Organization. The U.S., meanwhile, not only flouts them but also threatens to withdraw from the body altogether. “Closing the door for selfish gain,” Washington rejects global cooperation. How natural, then, for other countries to look to China to take the lead. They recognize that as the world’s No. 2 economy, “China has the responsibility and wisdom to play a bigger role in promoting globalization.” Where the U.S. is volatile and impulsive, China is predictable and rational. And where the U.S. is in retreat, China is on the advance, forging trade links through its global Belt and Road infrastructure projects. The trade war the U.S. has imposed on us has only “strengthened our confidence”—after all, even U.S. companies are begging Trump to drop the tariffs that punish their consumers. We now “firmly occupy the international moral high ground.”
6-28-19 Chernobyl’s warning for America
HBO’s miniseriesChernobyl “made me think of Donald Trump,” said Bret Stephens. No, I’m not comparing his administration to “an open-air nuclear reactor fire,” but there is one disturbing parallel: “the institutionalization of lies.” The 1986 catastrophe in what is now Ukraine revealed the Soviet Union’s relentless lying in the face of irrefutable evidence. As Chernobyl depicts in scene after scene, Communist Party officials immediately attempted a cover-up, first insisting the explosion never happened, then concealing who was to blame, how serious the nuclear fallout was, and how many died because of it. At the time, the official death toll was 31, thousands below credible estimates. The engineer Anatoly Dyatlov tells a scientist investigating the explosion, “Do you think the right question will get you the truth? There is no truth.” To Soviet officials, “every official lie is a noble one, and truth is whatever happens to serve the party at a particular moment.” In the U.S. today, we have “a president who will say anything” to a base “that will believe anything.” But “what happens when we have our own Chernobyl, or another 9/11,” and the credibility of the president becomes essential to our survival?
6-28-19 Kamala Harris-Joe Biden row: What is desegregation bussing?
Senator Kamala Harris took on 2020 frontrunner Joe Biden during Thursday night's debate by highlighting his controversial history on the practice of desegregation bussing. So what is it? Desegregation bussing (also known as forced bussing) is the practice of transporting students to schools in different neighbourhoods in an effort to address racial segregation. Bussing in general had been around for a long time, used to shuttle students from rural areas to larger, more consolidated schools, but it became controversial when race came into play. In 1954, the Supreme Court found racially segregated schools to be unconstitutional in the landmark Brown v Board of Education ruling. Before Brown, schools for black children were typically inferior to white schools and received far less funding from states. Desegregation bussing began several years after. Initially, it only involved moving black and Latino students into white schools. By the 1970s, the method had evolved in some districts into two-way bussing, where white students were bussed to minority schools and black and Latino students were transported to white-majority schools. Bussing and, later, two-way bussing, elicited pushback from white parents and politicians from the late 1950s through the 1980s. Students were attacked with bricks, buses required police protection, and lawmakers came under increasing pressure from white voters to end the policy. A 2016 report on Boston's still-ongoing voluntary city-to-suburb bussing programme, Metco, found that 98% of participating minority students graduate on time, and most score higher on state tests than their city school peers. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that close to two-thirds of all US public school students attend schools where most students are the same ethnicity. The percentage is highest for white students at 80%. Despite successes with voluntary bussing, a 2018 Boston Globe analysis found 60% of Boston schools to be "intensely segregated". (Webmaster's comment: RACISM is still alive and well in America!)
6-28-19 Buttigieg backlash
Mayor Pete Buttigieg faced furious constituents at a South Bend town hall this week after a police officer killed a black man. Buttigieg, the surging Democratic presidential candidate, returned to the polarized city after the shooting. Sgt. Ryan O’Neill responded to reports of car burglaries on June 16 and approached Eric Logan, 53. Prosecutors say Logan threatened O’Neill with a knife—but there is no video evidence of the encounter because O’Neill didn’t turn on his body camera before firing two shots. The largely black town hall audience repeatedly shouted at the mayor, with one woman yelling, “We don’t trust you!” Buttigieg, somber and at one point tearful, said he would have an independent prosecutor investigate. The South Bend mayor has confronted racial tensions since he took office seven years ago. “We have taken a lot of steps,” he said, “but they clearly haven’t been enough.”
6-28-19 Implicit bias
A proposed ordinance in Grand Rapids, Mich., would make it illegal to report people of color for “participating in their lives.” White citizens have called police to report black people for such noncrimes as holding a graduation party and entering their own apartments. A police official said citizens should stop dialing 911 because “your neighbors are having a barbecue and you’re calling because of some implicit bias.”
6-28-19 US 2020 election: Do the three richest own more than the poorest half of Americans?
Bernie Sanders is a frequent critic of wealth inequality in America. But is he right about how much wealth the country's three richest billionaires own compared to the poorest 50% of Americans? Yes He Is! The three richest have 248.5 Billion. The 160 million poorest only have 245.5 Billion (only $4,100 per household). Unregulated Capitalism SUCKS for all but the already rich!
6-28-19 Judge Judy’s moral code
Judith Sheindlin is the most famous judge in America, said Jazmine Hughes in The New York Times Magazine. Nearly 10 million Americans tune in every day to watch Judge Judy—now in its 23rd season—dwarfing daytime competitors. Although she technically serves as an arbitrator on the show, the Brooklyn-born Sheindlin was an actual judge for more than a decade. After brief stints as a corporate lawyer and a stay-at-home mom, Sheindlin worked as a prosecutor in the New York City Family Court system, pursuing juvenile-delinquency and child-abuse cases. “Lots of beaten children, lots of starved children, lots of children who were sexually molested,” says Sheindlin, 76. She was appointed a family court judge in 1982, and her no-nonsense persona led to a Los Angeles Times profile, a segment on 60 Minutes, and, in 1996, a TV deal. Her experiences on the bench cemented her belief in personal responsibility. “I’m always a big believer in ‘The buck stops right there.’ The person that abuses that child is responsible.” She blames many of the world’s woes on people who don’t have a sense of community. “Ever been on a boat and you see these plastic bottles, and you see condoms on the beach?” she says. “To me, that’s a death sentence.”
6-28-19 Charlottesville attacker apologises as he is jailed for life
A man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the US city of Charlottesville, killing a woman, has apologised as he was sentenced to life in prison. James Alex Fields Jr, 22, was sentenced for numerous federal hate crimes committed in the August 2017 attack. Heather Heyer, 32, died when Fields drove his car into people protesting against a white nationalist rally. The avowed neo-Nazi has also been convicted of murder at the state level. He is set to be sentenced in that case next month. Speaking ahead of his sentencing on Friday, Fields apologised for the "hurt and loss" he had caused. "Every day I think about how things could have gone differently and how I regret my actions. I'm sorry," he said. Fields pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate crimes under a deal with prosecutors who agreed not to seek the death penalty. His lawyers had asked for a more lenient sentence than life in prison, citing his age, a traumatic childhood and mental illness. (Webmaster's comment: He's Sorry? We don't believe in forgiveness and redemption when a person deliberately chooses to harm and kill others. He knew this was WRONG! He deserves to suffer at least as much as his victims!)
6-28-19 Germany: The rising threat of neo-Nazi terrorism
How many more people must die, asked Annette Ramelsberger in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “before police, prosecutors, and domestic intelligence understand that the most dangerous enemy is not on the Left but on the Right?” The murder of Walter Lübcke, president of the Kassel regional council in central Germany, should be a wake-up call for the nation. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and an outspoken supporter of her 2015 decision to let 1 million asylum seekers into Germany, the 65-year-old Lübcke was found shot dead at his home in early June. Last week, suspected neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst was arrested for the murder. Lübcke is not the first politician targeted by the far right. Cologne’s mayor was slashed with a knife in 2015 and nearly died; two years later, a small-town mayor was badly wounded in a stabbing. Both were victims of extremists who hated them for welcoming migrants. Yet just as with Lübcke’s murder, police initially sought a nonpolitical motive for those attacks, unwilling to recognize the hand of right-wing terrorists. Our police appear locked in the mindset of the 1970s, when far-left militants like the Red Army Faction were regarded as the greatest threat. Perhaps that’s why neo-Nazis today regard “the police not as opponents, but as possible allies.” It’s actually worse, said Matthias Kamann in Die Welt, because this poison is infecting our politics. Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, frequently appear to encourage political violence. Lawmaker Marc Jongen has been preaching for an increased “level of anger” in society, while Maximilian Krah, an AfD member of the European Parliament, has said his party is “shooting the way clear” to a new Germany. No one should be surprised when the shooting stops being rhetorical and becomes deadly real.
6-28-19 Alabama woman charged after losing unborn baby in shooting
A 27-year-old woman in Alabama has been indicted for manslaughter after losing her unborn baby in a shooting - despite not being the shooter. Marshae Jones was arrested on Wednesday for initiating a dispute last December that led to another woman shooting her in the stomach, local media reported. Charges against the shooter were dismissed after a failed indictment. Pro-choice groups are now saying it shows how the state's new restrictive abortion laws can affect other cases. The Jefferson County Bessemer District Attorney's office issued a statement saying they are weighing whether or not to prosecute the "truly tragic case" and denying any connection to anti-abortion legislation, local media reported. "Our office is in the process of evaluating this case and has not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it." On 4 December, while she was five months pregnant, Ms Jones was involved in a fight with 23-year-old Ebony Jemison outside of a Dollar General store, according to AL.com. According to police, the argument began over the unborn child's father, and resulted in Ms Jemison eventually shooting Ms Jones and leading to her miscarriage. Ms Jemison faced a manslaughter charge that was dismissed after a grand jury failed to indict her, AL.com reported. Police then said that since Ms Jones allegedly started the initial argument and endangered her baby's life, she would face similar charges. Police also alleged that Ms Jemison was forced to defend herself from Ms Jones. (Webmaster's comment: A travesty against pregnant women everwhere!)
6-28-19 Migrant crisis: US House 'reluctantly' passes bill after showdown
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to send $4.6bn (£3.6bn) in aid to tackle the humanitarian migrant crisis at the Mexico border. House Democrats had originally wanted to pass a stricter bill with extra protections for migrant children, but the Senate voted it down. The aid plan comes amid outrage over US detention conditions and an image showing a drowned father and daughter. The House Speaker told Democrats to "reluctantly" approve the Senate plan. "The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available," Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. The bill passed with 305 votes to 102 on Thursday, amid pressure to approve a plan before the 4 July recess. President Trump, who is in Japan for a G20 summit and now has to sign the bill into law, gave the result a thumbs-up. The Democrat reversal came after a showdown over rival congressional plans. Mrs Pelosi had maintained the Democratic-controlled House would not concede to the Senate, where Republicans have a majority. But she changed tack on Thursday. The New York Times described the concession as a "striking defeat" for Mrs Pelosi, who was reportedly facing pressure from moderates within her own party. She is reported to have spoken with Vice-President Mike Pence before the vote. US media say he offered administrative assurances to Mrs Pelosi regarding child migrants - including prompt reporting of deaths in custody. Some Democrats had said they could not trust the Trump administration with billions of dollars in aid funds. They wanted to push for specific rules on detention conditions and on how the funding could be used. The House version of the bill, with these protections, was voted down in the Senate by a 55-37 majority - with three Democratic Senators joining Republicans in voting against it. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had recommended voting against the Senate's version of the bill. After it passed, they said the approval represented a "betrayal of our American values" that would fail to stop "chaos and cruelty". "As a result, migrants will continue to die," their statement said.
6-27-19 The gerrymandering ruling proves it: Democrats must pack the Supreme Court
Yesterday a Supreme Court drifting steadily toward illegitimacy handed down a party-line, 5-4 decision upholding the right of states to engage in gerrymandering, even when it is explicitly designed to diminish the electoral prospects of a political party. The decision, authored in hand-wringing fashion by Chief Justice John Roberts, affirmed yet again that the primary role of today's Supreme Court majority is to act as a handmaiden to ill-gotten Republican electoral power. Should Democrats ever regain power, they must remember this moment. The cases at hand, Rucho v. Common Cause (from North Carolina) and Lamone v. Benisek (from Maryland), revolve around unfair district maps for the U.S. House drawn by state legislatures in North Carolina and Maryland following the 2010 census and reapportionment. Many states allow majorities in elected legislatures to draw those maps, typically with the consent of the governor. That means that states with "trifectas" (control of both houses of the legislature and the governorship) for one party or the other can use increasingly sophisticated software to draw district lines that benefit the party in power and make it immensely difficult for the opposition to win power back. When Republicans dominated the midterm elections in 2010, they won the right to draw these district lines in a series of swing states — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Michigan — uncontested. The maps they drew packed Democrats into a small number of districts where they held an overwhelming advantage, and ensured that Republicans would win a majority of House seats in each state even if they lost the aggregate vote decisively. Because they held far more of these trifectas than Democrats did, it allowed Republicans to game the results of state and national elections for a decade and counting. The results were stark, deeply unfair to Democrats and corrosive to the very idea of representative democracy.
6-27-19 Detention centres 'will shock the conscience of this country'
Democratic Party candidates visited a child migrant detention facility in South Florida and offered proposals to reform the immigration system. (Webmaster's comment: You won't find any Republicans opposed to child abuse in the detention centers. They remain silent!)
6-27-19 Supreme Court: Federal judges cannot block gerrymandering
The US Supreme Court declined to set limits on gerrymandering - the practice where voting districts are re-drawn in order to favour political parties. The 5-4 vote on Thursday saw justices divided along ideological lines, with the court's conservative majority penning the opinion. They ruled the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to regulate state election maps. The decision could increase partisan redistricting after the 2020 census. By tossing gerrymandering back to Congress and the states, the Supreme Court may have emboldened regional lawmakers to carry out partisan mapping after the next census is complete, in a move some say will result in noncompetitive elections. The liberal justices condemned the majority ruling and said the practice of gerrymandering imperilled democracy. Justice Elena Kagan asked in the dissent: "Is this how American democracy is supposed to work?" The Supreme Court examined two cases of partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina and Maryland, where voters and other plaintiffs sued the states for district maps they claimed were unconstitutional. In North Carolina, the plaintiffs accused the state of discriminating against Democrats. In Maryland, plaintiffs claimed the maps discriminated against Republicans. They argued the instances of gerrymandering violated the US Constitution, which says states must govern impartially and protects individual rights. Plaintiffs in both cases won in lower courts, prompting the states to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the North Carolina case, one of the Republican co-chairs of the redistricting committee had admitted: "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country." As the liberal justices pointed out in the dissent, these mapping efforts led to Republican candidates winning 10 of North Carolina's 13 seats while receiving 53% of the statewide vote in 2016, and nine out of 12 seats with 50% of the vote in 2018.
6-27-19 US Supreme Court blocks citizenship question on 2020 census
The US Supreme Court has blocked the Trump administration from adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 census for the time being. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's liberal justices, saying the administration did not provide adequate justification for the question. The reason provided by the White House seem "contrived", the justices wrote in a 5-4 ruling. The White House argued the question would help protect minority voters. But the Census Bureau's own experts say it would lead to a major undercount. Though the ruling deals a blow to the Trump administration, the complicated decision does not bar the question for either its language or the underlying premise. Instead, by sending the case back to a lower court, Justice Roberts left open the possibility that the Trump administration could provide the necessary justification to add a question on citizenship to the census. And though the Trump administration has maintained the question is necessary for an accurate national headcount, the majority decision pointed to a "disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given". If the Trump administration eventually gets its way, federal law will require this question be asked of every living person in the US as part of the 2020 census. A question on citizenship has not appeared on any US census since 1950. The once-a-decade population count helps the US government draw up districts for state and local elections, and determine how much federal funding each state receives - a matter of hundreds of billions of dollars. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross - the billionaire financier who oversees the Census Bureau - testified to Congress last year that the request for the citizenship question came from the Department of Justice.
6-27-19 How Do You Measure the LGBT Population in the U.S.?
Until recently, researchers have struggled to answer what should be a simple question: How many Americans are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)? Alfred Kinsey's prominent study of sexuality in men from the 1950s led to the often-quoted estimate that 10% of the U.S. population is gay or lesbian. Other significant milestones in estimating the population of gay Americans include Edward Laumann and colleagues' The Social Organization of Sexuality, published in 1994; Gary Gates' The Gay & Lesbian Atlas, published in 2004; and The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law's 2011 estimate (also authored by Gates). Since 2012, Gallup research has shown that the proportion of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT has increased from 3.5% in 2012 to 4.5% in 2017. The overall uptick is related to an increase in young people who identify as LGBT. Gallup asks, "Do you personally identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?" People who answer yes are classified as LGBT. But the matter of how to best inquire about sexual orientation and gender identity is far from settled. In 2016, together with a group of researchers, I started working with Gallup on two National Institutes of Health-funded studies: Generations, studying sexual minorities, and TransPop, studying gender minorities. To recruit separate sexual and gender minority groups, we had to begin to unpack the LGBT category that Gallup had been collecting data on. Typically, sexual and gender minority statuses are assessed separately, and we wondered how Gallup's single LGBT question compared.
6-26-19 Stonewall Riots: “We found our strength in each other"
Fifty years ago, an uprising by members of the LGBT community in New York inspired the creation of the modern gay rights movement. Witness History has been speaking to John O'Brien, who took part in the famous protest outside the Stonewall Inn.
6-27-19 Danish PM Frederiksen takes power and joins Nordic swing to left
Mette Frederiksen, 41, has become Denmark's youngest leader, the third centre-left prime minister to take office in a Nordic country this year. She presented her minority government to Queen Margrethe II. Her Social Democrat party ousted the liberals after backing a tougher immigration policy. In Finland, the Social Democratic Party took office this month, while Sweden's Social Democrat leader returned to power in January. As she left Amalienborg Palace with her team of 19 ministers, Ms Frederiksen told well-wishers her team was hardworking and diligent and would serve the entire country. There was some surprise that only seven of the 20 government positions had gone to women. Although Denmark now has 70 women in the 179-member Folketing (parliament), commentators have pointed out that Denmark is the only Nordic country not to have had a parliament with a 40% share of women. A mother of two, she came to power with a traditional centre-left focus on stronger welfare policies but also a promise to be tough on immigration. Last year she announced plans to place a cap on "non-Western" immigration including refugees and family reunions, to be voted on every year in the Folketing. She also proposed sending asylum seekers to reception centres outside the EU, for example in North Africa, for their requests to be processed. Ms Frederiksen was first elected aged 24 and took over the reins of the Social Democrats after Denmark's first woman prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, lost power in 2015. Her father, Flemming Frederiksen, is himself a Social Democrat and said last month she had been active in politics since the age of six, seven or eight. "I've never doubted that Mette could go all the way, if she wanted," he told Danish media. After 19 days of coalition talks she decided to rule with other left and centre-left parties in a minority government.
6-26-19 US border: Who decided to separate families?
The claim: US President Donald Trump has repeated his assertion that he inherited - and ended - a policy from President Obama that separates children from parents who cross the US-Mexico border illegally. Verdict: The policy was introduced under the Trump administration. He subsequently ended that policy, but some family separations have continued to take place. The president has frequently blamed his predecessor and the Democrats for a policy that led to children being separated from their parents at the southern US border. Even though the Trump administration has officially ended the practice, some children are still separated and some are reportedly being kept in appalling conditions. How did family separations come about? Under a "zero-tolerance" immigration policy introduced in April 2018, adult undocumented migrants crossing the US-Mexico border were criminally charged and jailed. These had previously been treated as civil violations. Because the children of prosecuted migrants were not charged with any crime, they were not permitted to be jailed with their parents, which led to children being placed in shelters or foster care. In addition to removing children from apprehended illegal migrants, children have also been separated from asylum seekers. The president signed an executive order in June 2018 reversing the policy, promising to keep families together. A court order then ended separations and required families to be reunited. Hundreds of children however remained in government shelters, and the New York Times has reported that a further 700 families have been separated in the past year because of "loopholes" in the court order. This has happened when parents have a criminal conviction or a disease, or when it is an aunt, uncle, or sibling accompanying the child. Some parents may themselves be under 18 - and also detained. Lawyers were recently granted access to a border facility in Texas where children were being held, and reported seeing horrifying conditions inside. Children were "locked up in horrific cells where there's an open toilet in the middle of the room" where they ate and slept, one of the lawyers told the BBC. By law, migrant children are not supposed to be held in customs and border patrol facilities for more than 72 hours. However rights groups say many children are staying there much longer.
6-26-19 Indian MP Mahua Moitra's 'rising fascism' speech wins plaudits
A spirited turn at the mic by a first-time female MP in India's parliament, in which she listed the "signs of early fascism", has been hailed as the "speech of the year" on social media. Mahua Moitra, of the opposition Trinamool Congress Party (TMC), said she had seen a list of the early warning signs of fascism on a poster in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US. She said she was reading the points to show that India's constitution was under threat and the country was being "torn apart" by the ruling party's "lust to divide". Ms Moitra began by acknowledging the Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide victory in the recent elections, but added that "the very nature of the overwhelming-ness of this mandate makes it necessary for the voices of dissent to be heard". Then, in a rebuke to the governing party, she listed these seven "danger signs of early fascism":
- "There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric," she said. "It is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow. It's the lust to divide and not the desire to unite."
- She pointed to a "resounding disdain for human rights", which she said had led to a 10-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019.
- Ms Moitra criticised the government for its "unimaginable subjugation and control of mass media". She said India's TV channels spend "the majority of airtime broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party".
- She attacked the government for what she said was an "obsession with national security". An "atmosphere of fear" pervaded the country, with new enemies being created every day.
- "The government and religion are now intertwined. Do I even need to speak about this? Need I remind you that we have redefined what it means to be a citizen?" she demanded, saying laws had been amended to target Muslims.
- She said "a complete disdain for intellectuals and the arts" and "the repression of all dissent" was the most dangerous sign of all - and it was "pushing India back to the Dark Ages".
- The last sign, Ms Moitra said, was the "erosion of independence in our electoral system".
Ms Moitra spoke for about 10 minutes while MPs from the treasury benches tried to shout her down, but she stood firm and called on the Speaker to rein in the "professional hecklers". Her speech in English, which was laced with facts and figures, even included a couple of poems in Hindi. Many people on social media praised her for reciting these as she is not a Hindi-speaker - her mother tongue is Bengali. A former investment banker with JP Morgan, Ms Moitra quit her well-paying job in London in 2009 to return to Indian politics. She has been the TMC's national spokesperson for several years and regularly appears in prime-time TV debates. (Webmaster's comment: The same speech could be applied to America!)
6-26-19 US migrant children 'hungry, dirty, sick and scared'
A lawyer who visited children at a migrant detention centre near El Paso, Texas, says she witnessed "the most degrading and appalling conditions that you could imagine".
6-26-19 US immigration: Drowning exposes risks of illegal crossing
El Salvador's government has warned people against risking their lives to reach the US after a man and his baby daughter drowned in the Rio Grande. Photos of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl's arm around her father's neck, have sparked condemnation. It comes as the US and Mexico implement tougher policies to stem the flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, travelling north. At least six have died in recent days. Many of the migrants say they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and plan to seek asylum in the US. Critics of President Donald Trump's tougher stance on immigration say his approach is driving migrants to take more dangerous routes. At least 283 migrants died on the US-Mexico border in 2018, according to US Border Patrol, but human rights activists say the number is likely to be higher. Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria drowned on Sunday while trying to cross from Matamoros, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, into Texas. The image, which surfaced on Monday, was captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada. His wife and the daughter's mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, said they had been living in Mexico for two months on a humanitarian visa, AP news agency reports. Frustrated after being unable to present themselves to US officials and seek asylum, they had decided to cross the river. Mr Ramírez managed to get across with their daughter and set her down on the bank, then began returning for his wife, she told Mexican police. His wife and the daughter's mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, said they had been living in Mexico for two months on a humanitarian visa, AP news agency reports. Frustrated after being unable to present themselves to US officials and seek asylum, they had decided to cross the river. Mr Ramírez managed to get across with their daughter and set her down on the bank, then began returning for his wife, she told Mexican police. But alone on the riverbank, Valeria panicked and jumped in after her father. He made it back to her but both were swept away by the river's dangerous currents. "I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home," Rosa Ramírez, Óscar's mother, told AP.
6-25-19 Texas migrant children moved from 'horrific cells' after outcry
Some 250 migrant children have been moved from an overcrowded border station in Texas where they had been held for weeks. Lawyers given access by a judge said the children were "severely neglected". One of them told the BBC that children were "locked up in horrific cells where there's an open toilet in the middle of the room" where they ate and slept. Many parents crossing the US border, most of them from Central America, were separated from their children in 2018. Separately, border patrol in Texas reported the deaths of seven migrants this week who had apparently attempted to circumvent the immigration system – including two babies and a toddler. "There was nobody taking care of these children... they were not being bathed on a regular basis," Prof Warren Binford of Williamette University in Oregon told the BBC after visiting the Clint facility in Texas. "Several hundred of the children had been kept in a warehouse that was recently erected on the facility grounds." "The cells are overcrowded... there's a lice infestation there, there is an influenza outbreak. Children are being locked up in isolation with no adult supervision, who are very, very ill and they're just lying on the ground on mats." Elora Mukherjee, another lawyer who visited the facility, told CBS News: "They were wearing the same dirty clothing they crossed the border with." "It is degrading and inhumane and shouldn't be happening in America." As stories of substandard conditions in facilities have continued to emerge, some volunteers have tried to donate supplies - only to be turned away by border officials. One group told the Texas Tribune they spent $340 (£267) on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys for the Clint facility, but were completely ignored by all the agents on duty. Another Clint resident who tried to visit the Clint station told the Tribune: "Knowing what's happening in your community and that you can't give these kids supplies to clean or clothe themselves - it's heartbreaking." Texas Democratic state congressman Terry Canales later tweeted that Border Patrol also told his office "they do not accept donations". (Webmaster's comment: CHILD CONCENTRATION CAMP IN AMERICA!)
6-25-19 Trump's border policy: If cruelty isn't the point, what is?
Thanks to a series of news reports over the past few days, we now know that the Trump administration's vicious family separation policy last summer has been followed up by a comparably cruel policy of holding child migrants in detention centers under conditions that resemble torture. The question is why the United States — one of the richest countries in the world and one that loves to wrap itself in a mythology of moral righteousness — would be acting to produce suffering on such a massive scale. One option has been proposed by journalist Adam Serwer in one of the most widely debated essays of the Trump era. The article's title — "The cruelty is the point"— effectively conveyed its argument. Trump's supporters actively enjoy inflicting suffering on those they hate and fear, and his administration is more than happy to give them what they want. There's just one problem with this explanation: The Trump administration has been doing nothing to publicize the conditions in which children are being held and abused in detention centers. It's journalists, often over the objection of administration officials, who have alerted the country to what's happening along the border. But if the cruelty isn't the point, what is? Why is the United States treating children so inhumanely — cramming them into filthy, overcrowded pens, underfeeding them, and denying them medical treatment and even toothbrushes? One possibility is that the cruelty is intended to serve as a deterrent, with the Trump administration hoping word of the harsh treatment will spread back across the border to those contemplating a journey to the United States, making them more reluctant to come. The problem with this interpretation is that, once again, the administration appears to be doing nothing on its own to spread word of conditions in the detention centers. Then there's the fact that this kind of deterrence, intentional or not, already failed last year after news broke of the administration's nightmarish policy of family separation. The families kept coming regardless, driven on by awful conditions at home and the unquenchable promise of a better life in the U.S.
6-24-19 The online LGBT magazine blocked in its own country
A new survey for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network suggests only 7% of people say they accept gay relationships in Jordan. While Sharia law forbids homosexuality in the country, same-sex relationships are not criminalised. Khalid Abdel-Hadi runs an online magazine from Jordan that aims to break down the taboos around gender, and sexuality in Jordan, but it's blocked there. Film-maker Ramzy Haddad and author Shereen El Feki spoke to Khalid about how he hopes to create change both online and in real life.
6-24-19 The Red Zone: A place where butch lesbians live in fear
Three mysterious deaths and dozens of violent attacks on butch lesbians, or camionas, have put lesbians in Chile's Fifth region on red alert. Nicole Saavedra Bahamondes' family knew she was not a morning person. Especially at weekends, the 23-year-old did not leave her bedroom early - and she knew her mother wouldn't disturb her in her cosy bed, still laden with the cuddly toys from her childhood. At about 11:00 on a Saturday, Nicole would usually emerge and walk slowly to the kitchen in search of coffee. She would blearily exchange words with her mother, Olga Bahamondes, giving monosyllabic answers to any questions about the night before. Around 11:30, Nicole would WhatsApp her cousin, María Bahamondes, who lived five minutes away with her husband and two young daughters. Often they would agree to meet at the farmers' market in their sleepy mining town - El Melón, in Chile's mountainous Fifth region - then go back to María's house for lunch with her two young children. But this Saturday morning, 18 June 2016, was different. Nicole had messaged her mother the evening before to say she would be staying overnight at a party with friends in Quillota, a town some 30 minutes by bus from their home. Then at 07:00 she sent a voice-note to say she was on her way back. When Olga woke and listened to the voice-note she assumed Nicole was already home and resting in bed. But when she hadn't emerged by midday, Olga popped her head into her daughter's room. It was empty, and the bed had not been slept in. Olga called Nicole immediately, but there was no ringing tone. This was unusual. Nicole's phone was rarely off. Olga began to worry. Nicole's Instagram showed that she and her friends had been in high spirits just hours earlier. Then there is social media silence.
6-23-19 US 'launched cyber-attack on Iran weapons systems'
The US launched a cyber-attack on Iranian weapons systems on Thursday as President Trump pulled out of air strikes on the country, US reports say. The cyber-attack disabled computer systems controlling rocket and missile launchers, the Washington Post said. It was in retaliation for the shooting down of a US drone as well as attacks on oil tankers that the US has blamed Iran for, the New York Times said. There is no independent confirmation of damage to Iranian systems. (Webmaster's comment: Given the general incompetency of American programmers we doubt the attack was very successful.) The US has also imposed sanctions President Trump described as "major". He said the sanctions were needed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and economic pressure would be maintained unless Tehran changed course. Speaking in Jerusalem, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the details of the new sanctions were likely to be announced on Monday. Nobody had granted Iran "a hunting licence in the Middle East," he added. Tensions between the US and Iran have risen since the US last year pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reinstated sanctions, triggering economic meltdown in Iran. Last week Iran said it would exceed internationally agreed limits on its nuclear programme. Mr Trump has said he does not want war with Iran, but warned the country would face "obliteration" if conflict broke out. (Webmaster's comment: Trump needs a war with Iran to take American's minds off his many lies and failures!)
6-23-19 Ukraine holds largest gay pride event to date in Kiev
Thousands have marched through the Ukrainian capital for its annual gay pride event, the largest and most peaceful the country has seen. Ukrainian politicians joined the celebration in Kiev, with organisers putting the number of attendees at 8,000 - up from 5,000 last year. However, there was tight security as far-right activists staged a counter-demonstration. Despite a few scuffles, there were only nine arrests before the event. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last month, has made clear his intention to promote tolerance in a country where the LGBT community is often under attack. "Our desire is to convey to a majority of people that LGBT is normality," Eduard, a 17-year-old tattoo artist, told Reuters news agency. "I am taking part for the fifth time. Ukraine is making significant progress compared to previous years, security and organisation are much better." Last year, 56 members of nationalist groups were arrested for aiming to disrupt the march beforehand.
6-23-19 Holocaust survivors: The families that weren’t meant to live
A group of Holocaust survivors and their families gather in Prague’s Old Town Square to recreate a photo that was taken in 1945, when the survivors had just been liberated from Nazi concentration camps. The survivors were part of a group of children flown to the UK to start new lives after World War Two. Unlike the Kindertransport - which rescued thousands of children in the early years of the war - this group had been through the concentration camps and survived against all odds. BBC reporter Hannah Gelbart, a granddaughter of one of the survivors, tells the story of the orphaned children who had everything taken from them, and re-built their lives together.
6-22-19 America First is American imperialism by another name
A United States that plays by no rules except narrowly selfish ones will only breed resentment and anger From day one of his presidency, one of Donald Trump's mantras has been "America First." He even invoked it during the rally to launch his 2020 re-election campaign in Orlando this week. His supporters on the isolationist right have always insisted that there is nothing sinister about this — all it means is that America should quit meddling in other countries and devote the government's resources to fixing its own problems at home. But Trump's recent "deal" with Mexico to stop the growing flow of Central American migrants at Mexico's southern border shows that America First is just code for using America's considerable soft and hard power to force other countries to do his bidding. It's a formula not for ending American imperialism but for replacing a seemingly high-minded one with a nakedly self-serving one. Trump has never made any bones about the fact that he's an ardent nationalist. In fact, he's been insisting that every country should put its interests first. "A great reawakening of nations" he said at the United Nations, would allow "strong, sovereign nations ... to not just coexist but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect." That's a nice fantasy. In reality, stronger nations freed from rules of international engagement will be showing not their "mutual respect," but their power and their demands. And that's exactly what's been happening under Trump. The Trump administration tore up the nuclear deal that President Obama signed with Iran, condemning it as "defective" because it would eventually let Iran acquire nuclear weapons. Why a "sovereign nation" shouldn't have the right to these weapons if it deems them necessary for its national security, especially given that Israel, one of its hostile neighbors, possesses them, Trump has never explained. He reinstated sanctions on Iran, barring it from selling oil and other products to the United States. Worse, he announced a suite of sanctions targeting other countries, many of them U.S. allies, that want to do business with Iran, disrespecting their sovereign decisions.
6-22-19 Trump warns Iran of ‘obliteration’ in event of war
President Trump has said he does not want war but warned Iran it would face "obliteration" if conflict broke out. Speaking to NBC on Friday, he said the US was open to talks but would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. He also expanded on his last-minute decision to call off strikes planned in response to the shooting down of a US unmanned drone this week, saying he had been told 150 Iranians would be killed. "I didn't like it. I didn't think it was proportionate," he said. Tehran says the unmanned US aircraft entered Iranian airspace early on Thursday morning. The US maintains it was shot down in international airspace. Tensions have been escalating between the two countries, with the US recently blaming Iran for attacks on oil tankers operating in the region. Iran has announced it will soon exceed international agreed limits on its nuclear programme. Last year, the US unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activities. The US has now asked the UN Security Council to meet on Monday to discuss Iran. He said a plan of attack was "ready to go, subject to my approval" but said he had then asked generals how many people would be killed. "I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it, and here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead," he told NBC. He denied suggestions that aircraft had already been on their way to attack Iranian targets - reportedly including Iranian radar and missile batteries - saying: "No planes were in the air." Addressing Iran's leaders, Mr Trump said: "You can't have nuclear weapons. And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come." Earlier on Friday Mr Trump tweeted that the US had been "cocked and loaded" to strike. (Webmaster's comment: If the United States attacks Iran tens of thousands of innocent Iranian civilians will probably be killed. But they will have harmed none of us. What a great unjust nation we are!)
6-22-19 Trump dismisses E. Jean Carroll rape allegation as 'fiction'
US President Donald Trump has dismissed allegations that he raped a woman in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s as "fiction". The US president says he never met E. Jean Carroll and accuses her of making up the allegation to sell a new book. Ms Carroll says she did not report the alleged attack at the time after being advised by a friend she had no chance of winning in court. Her story was published in New York magazine on Friday. More than a dozen women have previously made sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Trump, which he has denied. In the article, she describes meeting Mr Trump in late 1995 or early 1996, in Bergdorf Goodman. She says she recognised him as the "real estate tycoon" and that he told her he was buying a present for "a girl". She says Mr Trump knew she was a TV agony aunt and the two joked around, encouraging each other to try on some lingerie. She alleges that they then went to a dressing room, where she accuses him of raping her. Both Mr Trump and Ms Carroll were aged around 50 at the time, and he was married to Marla Maples. Ms Carroll says she told two friends about the alleged incident, one of whom advised her to go to the police. But she says the other advised her against telling anyone saying: "Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He'll bury you." The accusation is one of six alleged attacks by "awful men" that Ms Carroll details in her article. Another alleged incident involves Les Moonves, the former CEO of CBS. He resigned in 2018 after allegations of sexual misconduct. Mr Moonves' representative told New York magazine he "emphatically denies" the incident. Ms Carroll ends the article by saying Mr Trump was her "last hideous man" and she has not had sex since then.
6-22-19 Stonewall and before: Shedding new light on heroes of gay history
A new book explores the history of the LGBT liberation movement and places a spotlight on its heroes. As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots approaches, its authors say it's more important than ever that those who fought for gay rights are remembered.
6-21-19 Is Trump a national security threat?
The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials see President Trump “as a national security risk,” said Jonathan Chait. That harrowing little detail was tucked deep into a New York Times story this week on a new cyber-offensive the U.S. has mounted against Russia, in which malware has been inserted in that country’s power grid as a deterrent to another attack on our elections. Trump, the Times reported, “had not been briefed in any detail” on the operation, “for concern over his reaction—and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.” Think what this means. Despite the Mueller report’s investigation into potential crimes, we still do not know if Moscow has secret “leverage over Trump.” Well into the presidential campaign, Trump continued to negotiate with Russia over a condo tower in Moscow, while publicly denying it; that gave “Russia blackmail leverage over him.” But were there other, even more damaging transactions between Trump and Russia? Trump won’t ever criticize Putin, and has five times met with the Russian dictator “in unusually secret conditions,” refusing to let aides attend and once confiscating a translator’s notes. Our intelligence agencies have good reason to worry about where Trump’s loyalties lie.
6-21-19 New High in U.S. Say Immigration Most Important Problem
Americans' concern with immigration continues to be heightened, as 23% name it the most important problem facing the country. This is by one percentage point the highest Gallup has ever measured for the issue since it first began recording mentions of immigration in 1993. The June 3-16 poll was conducted as the U.S. continues to grapple with how to handle a surge of Central American immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border. Gallup has previously found spikes in mentions of immigration as the most important U.S. problem at other times when the immigration debate intensified, including 22% in July 2018 amid controversy over a U.S. policy to separate children and parents who were trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
- 23% mention immigration as most important problem, highest in Gallup trends
- The government is the most commonly mentioned problem, at 26%
- Most Americans still say immigration a good thing for the U.S.
6-21-19 Sanders: A Trump warrior departs
Sarah Huckabee Sanders will soon depart a truly “impossible job,” said Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post. As White House press secretary for the past two years, Sanders spoke “on behalf of a president who lies”—by my newspaper’s count, more than 10,800 times since taking office. Yet in her farewell speech, a tearful Sanders said, “I’ve loved every minute.” Indeed, whereas her predecessor, Sean Spicer, often looked uncomfortable lying to reporters, Sanders, “with her distinctive curled-lip disdain,” clearly relished it: denying that Trump made hush payments to Stormy Daniels, inventing the statistic that 4,000 terrorists had tried to cross the southern border, defending former White House aide Rob Porter when his ex-wives accused him of abuse. Her insistence that “countless members” of the FBI supported James Comey’s firing was, she admitted under oath, a “slip of the tongue.” The “queen of gaslighting” will be hard to replace. The truth is that Sanders was a press secretary in title only, said Peter Nicholas in TheAtlantic.com. The job “has withered under successive presidents,” Democrats included, and now it’s been “functionally obliterated.” Sanders operated as a “garden-variety senior adviser,” displaying total fealty to Trump. “It may now seem quaint,” but press secretaries used to play a “dual role,” protecting the president’s image and “the interests of a free press.” The demise of this role is a real loss, said Brian Stelter in CNN.com. Daily briefings force the White House to answer to the American people, even when it’s inconvenient. Last month, reporters noticed “a coating of dust” on the press secretary’s podium. “That is Sanders’ legacy.” (Webmaster's comment: Good riddance to bad rubbish!)
6-21-19 The census: Designed to scare off Hispanics?
It’s now clear that “the Trump administration lied” about its reasons for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, said The New York Times in an editorial. Among a cache of 75,000 files found in the home of deceased Republican consultant Thomas Hofeller was a 2015 study in which the so-called Michelangelo of Gerrymandering concluded that the question “would clearly be a disadvantage to Democrats” and a boon to “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.” Studies have shown adding the question could frighten away both undocumented immigrants and citizens with undocumented relatives from filling out the census, causing an undercount of 6 million Hispanics. Additional files reveal Hofeller masterminded using the Voting Rights Act as a justification for including the question, and even wrote part of the Justice Department’s proposal to add the question to the census. When the Supreme Court soon rules on whether the census question was legally added, will it consider why it was added—to discourage Hispanics from participating? If the citizenship question is allowed, said Aaron Blake in The Washington Post, it could “cement the GOP’s already very strong advantage when it comes to the composition of the districts we use to elect our representatives.” Congressional representation maps are now based on the total number of people in an area—including undocumented immigrants. Asking about citizenship would give Republican-controlled states the data they need to begin drawing districts based on voting-age citizens only, rather than total population. The question is part of a Republican scheme to “rig elections for a decade,” said Alex Shephard in NewRepublic.com. The GOP knows the demographic composition of the U.S. electorate will “outpace their traditional white constituencies.” Rather than crafting policies to attract nonwhites, they’re trying to disenfranchise them.
6-21-19 Law enforcement officers members of extremist groups
More than 50 police departments around the country have opened internal investigations after the Center for Investigative Reporting identified almost 400 law enforcement officers who were members of extremist groups on Facebook, including pages dedicated to sharing anti-black, anti-Islam, and anti-government messages. Nearly 150 officers were involved with violent far-right groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
6-21-19 Excessive force
Video of police threatening to shoot Dravon Ames and his fiancée, Iesha Harper, sparked nationwide outrage and has led to a $10 million lawsuit. Responding to a May 29 shoplifting call from a Family Dollar store, where Ames says his 4-year-old daughter walked out with a doll, a patrol unit followed the family to an apartment complex. An officer approached their vehicle with his gun drawn, shouting, “I’m going to put a cap in your a--!” As their daughters, 4 and 1, wailed, another officer approached with a drawn weapon, and one of them yelled at Ames, 22, “I’m going to shoot you in your f---ing face!” One officer allegedly tried to pull the infant by the neck from Harper, who was visibly pregnant. The police department contests their account. “The officers are still working,” Ames said, calling it “a slap in the face.”
6-21-19 How my son joined the alt-right
My teen got sucked into an internet wormhole of angry propaganda aimed at disaffected males, said a mother, writing anonymously in Washingtonian magazine. It took our empathy and a stranger’s courage to get him out. WHEN MY SON Sam* asked me to take him to the Mother of All Rallies in September 2017, I said no. The pro-Trump event was billed as a demonstration to preserve “traditional American culture,” and white supremacists were expected to show up in force. At Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally only a month earlier, a neo-Nazi had killed counterprotester Heather Heyer. How had we gotten here? The problems had started when Sam was 13, barely a month into eighth grade. In the taxonomy of our local public school, his close group of friends was tagged edgy and liberal: Their group-text chain pulsed 24/7 with observations about alternative music and the robotic conformity of other classmates. Standard stuff for sensitive middle schoolers. MY HUSBAND AND I felt betrayed, too. We agreed that if we’d lost confidence in the administrators in charge, withdrawing Sam was our only option. But the transfer, midyear, to a new school—after he’d been wrongly accused, unfairly treated, then unceremoniously dropped by his friends—shattered Sam. He felt totally alone. I counseled patience, naïvely unprepared for what came next: when he found people to talk to on Reddit and 4chan. Those online pals were happy to explain that all girls lie—especially about rape. And they had lots more knowledge to impart. They told Sam that Islam is an inherently violent religion and that Jews run global financial networks. (We’re Jewish and don’t know anyone who runs anything, but I guess the evidence was convincing.) They insisted that the wage gap is a fallacy, that feminazis are destroying families, that people need guns to protect themselves from government incursions onto private property.
6-21-19 Far-right hit
A suspected neo-Nazi was arrested this week in connection with the murder of a high-profile ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Walter Lübcke, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the president of the Kassel regional council, was an outspoken defender of the chancellor’s 2015 decision to let 1 million migrants settle in Germany. Lübcke’s body was found on the terrace of his home on June 2; he’d been shot in the head at close range. The 45-year-old suspect, identified only as Stephan E., is linked to the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 and was convicted of a 1993 arson attack on a refugee center. “A far-right attack on a leading representative of the state is an alarm signal,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, “and it’s directed at all of us.”
6-21-19 The religious right: Reconsidering democracy?
Anguished by their defeats in the culture wars, some religious conservatives are beginning to wonder “whether liberal democracy’s time has passed,” said Adam Serwer in TheAtlantic.com. In a recent article in the religious journal First Things, Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari bluntly accuses libertarian-leaning conservatives of enabling liberals’ degradation of American society. Too many conservative intellectuals, Ahmari argues, have passively accepted the Left’s victories on issues such as same-sex marriage and transgender rights out of a misguided concern over “civility” and individual liberty—leaving the Christian-based moral order teetering on the edge of total destruction. Conservatives must “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy,” he writes, imposing their worldview on the country by any means necessary, so as to serve “the Highest Good.” I’m flummoxed by this debate, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. Conservatives control the presidency, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, and Trump is installing dozens of far-right Christian judges in federal courts. Nevertheless, social conservatives “feel apocalyptically embattled.” It’s worth noting that Ahmari started this debate after being triggered by an advertisement for a Drag Queen Story Hour for children at a public library—an event he called “demonic.” Do Christians really face an existential threat because drag queens are no longer universally reviled? What really infuriates Ahmari and people like him is that he now has to live in a society where his social and religious views no longer dictate how other people live. “When one is accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
6-21-19 Married priests?
Pope Francis is considering allowing older married men to be ordained as priests to remedy a shortage of Catholic clergy in the Amazon. The viri probati—married men of proven virtue—would be drawn from remote indigenous communities and would minister to their tribes. The proposal also recommends incorporating indigenous music and dance into Catholic services in those areas. “The revolution for Francis is to give importance to the local populations and their cultures,” said Rev. Giuseppe Buffon, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University. The tribesmen would not be the first married men to serve as Catholic priests: Pope Benedict XVI allowed the ordination of Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism after they were already married.
6-21-19 A witch’s booming business
Amanda Yates Garcia is drowning in business as a working witch, said Deborah Netburn in the Los Angeles Times. Known as the Oracle of Los Angeles, Yates Garcia doesn’t wear a pointy black hat or ride a broom, but she has spent eight years making a living selling magical services to clients struggling with heartache, aging, work stress, or other emotional problems. “My contribution is to cultivate beauty and love in my clients and help them thrive,” she says. Hour-long “elemental divination” sessions start at $150, with Yates Garcia offering “tarot, scrying, pendulums, runes” and other forms of “intuitive counseling.” Two-hour ritual and spell sessions go for $280 a pop. Sometimes clients are instructed to write down a painful memory on paper and burn it, or throw jewelry into the ocean to release negative emotions associated with it. Witches like her are thriving in Southern California, along with empaths, mediums, energy workers, and other healers. Yet Yates Garcia, who also hosts a weekly podcast and teaches magic workshops, is quick to highlight the limitations of her art: “It’s not like you wiggle your nose and your life is completely different,” she says. “If you want to win a Grammy, but haven’t written a song yet, we have a lot of work to do.”
6-21-19 Poll watch
Americans rank drug addiction (70%) and affordable health care (67%) as the biggest problems in the U.S. 51% also say a big problem is the gap between the rich and poor, 50% say false or made-up news, 49% say violent crime, 46% say climate change, 40% say racism, 38% say illegal immigration, and 34% say terrorism.
6-21-19 NASA is going back to the moon but most people in the US don't want to
In the last year, the US government has made a big push for NASA to return astronauts to the moon, but the rest of the US isn’t entirely on board with the plan. A poll to gauge public opinion on the US space program conducted in May 2019 found that most people don’t favour the plan to land on the moon within five years. The survey was conducted by the Associated Press in partnership with researchers at the University of Chicago and included a representative sample of 1137 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Most people in the US say it’s important for NASA to monitor asteroids and comets that could impact Earth, and a majority support the agency’s scientific research to learn more about Earth, the solar system and the universe. The lowest priorities, at around 20 per cent approval, were establishing a permanent human presence on other planets and a US military presence in space. In 2018, the Trump Administration directed the US military to create a branch called the Space Force, but it is still unclear precisely what its role will be. Only 42 per cent of people surveyed favour the Trump Administration’s moonshot plan, while 20 per cent oppose it and the rest were neutral. Just over a third of people say the US should go to Mars instead of the moon, while 43 per cent of people don’t think either destination should be a priority for the US. US public opinion is a bit more optimistic about space tourism, with about half of people surveyed saying they would take a ride to Earth’s orbit if given the chance. But most say they would not travel to the moon or Mars. Of the 31 per cent of people surveyed who said they would take the trip to the Red Planet, less than half would go on the years-long journey if there was no chance of returning to Earth.
6-21-19 Edward Gallagher: Witness in US war crimes case admits killing IS teen
A US Navy Seal testifying at the war crimes trial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher has said he was behind the death of an Iraqi teenager. Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott stunned the San Diego courtroom when he said he asphyxiated the wounded Islamic State (IS) militant. Chief Gallagher is accused of stabbing to death the injured captive as well as randomly shooting Iraqi civilians. He has pleaded not guilty and denied all the allegations against him. Mr Scott, a combat medic, was given immunity in exchange for his testimony. The Navy Seal said that he witnessed Mr Gallagher unexpectedly begin stabbing the teenaged fighter after the two men had stabilised his injuries following an airstrike, but that the stab wounds did not appear to be life-threatening. When the chief walked away, Mr Scott said he plugged the youth's air tube as an act of mercy. Mr Scott said the injured victim may have survived the stabbing, but he decided to plug his air tube with his thumb in the belief that he would be tortured by Iraqi forces if he survived. "I knew he was going to die anyway," Mr Scott told the courtroom. "I wanted to save him from waking up to whatever would have happened to him." He said it is his belief that Mr Gallagher is not responsible for killing the young militant. The bombshell claim came on cross-examination, after he already testified to seeing Mr Gallagher stab the teenager below the collarbone then walk away. The prosecutor, Lt Brian John, accused his own witness of lying to defend Mr Gallagher. "You can stand up there, and you can lie about how you killed the ISIS prisoner so Chief Gallagher does not have to go to jail," Mr John said. He pointed out that Mr Scott had never claimed he killed the prisoner in prior interviews.
6-21-19 Curtis Flowers: Supreme Court reverses death row conviction
The US Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a black inmate on death row in Mississippi, citing a prosecutor's exclusion of black jurors. The justices ruled that prosecutors in the trials of Curtis Flowers unconstitutionally removed African-American jurors from selection. Flowers, 49, has been tried six times for the 1996 murders of four furniture store workers in Winona, Mississippi. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented in the 7-2 vote. Flowers' case ended with a mistrial twice. In three trials, Flowers was convicted, but the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the decision due to "numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct", including discriminating against black jurors. In this sixth trial prosecutors disallowed five of six black jurors. Flowers argued that prosecutors were again discriminating on basis of race. But the Mississippi Supreme Court allowed the conviction to stand - a ruling the Supreme Court has now reversed. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion. In addition to challenging most potential black jurors, "the State engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors", Justice Kavanaugh wrote. In the sixth trial, prosecutors used five of six peremptory strikes against potential black jurors, so that only one African-American sat on the panel. One black juror eliminated by prosecutors, Carolyn Wright, was "similarly situated to white prospective jurors who were not struck by the State", said the majority ruling. "All of the relevant facts and circumstances taken together establish that the trial court committed clear error in concluding that the State's peremptory strike of black prospective juror Carolyn Wright was not 'motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent'," Justice Kavanaugh wrote.
6-20-19 Gulf crisis: Close up to stricken oil tanker with the US Navy
The US military says one of the oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week was damaged by a mine resembling those used by the Iranian security forces. The attack was the second such incident in the strategic shipping lane in a month. Tehran has denied any involvement. The BBC was one of a small number of media outlets taken out by the US Navy off the coast of the United Arab Emirates to see the stricken ship. (Webmaster's comment: These attacks are probably fabrications by the US Military, just like The Gulf of Tonkin incident was fabricated by the US Military to justify the war against Vietnam.)
6-20-19 US Senate votes to block Trump's $8bn Saudi arms sale
The US Senate has voted to block the sale of billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, striking a blow to President Donald Trump. Mr Trump bypassed Congress last month in an attempt to push through the $8bn (£6bn) deal, citing threats to Saudi Arabia from its bitter rival Iran. But on Thursday - in a rare bipartisan act - the Republican-led Senate passed three resolutions to prevent the sale. The president has promised to veto the action, leaving the deal in limbo. While the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is also likely to vote to block the sale, analysts say it is almost certain Congress will not have the necessary votes to override a veto from Mr Trump. The first and second resolutions of disapproval passed by a margin of 53-45 and a third vote, which covered a number of other resolutions relating to the arms sale, passed by 51-45 votes. As well as Saudi Arabia, weapons would also reportedly be sold to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan under the deal. Mr Trump bypassed Congress last month by invoking a rarely used aspect of federal law. He declared that ongoing tensions with Iran amounted to a national emergency, meaning the sale of weapons - including precision-guided bombs - was a matter of urgency. But the move sparked fierce opposition on Capitol Hill from those who feared the weapons may be used against civilians in Yemen by Saudi-led forces. Just hours before the vote, Iran shot down a US military drone over the Strait of Hormuz. This escalated fears of a wider conflict and will no doubt reinforce the administration's argument that its allies need these weapons. President Trump has promised to veto the Senate action in order to proceed with the deals, and lawmakers almost certainly do not have enough votes to override that. But they will keep up their legislative resistance in other ways, because they are afraid that the administration will try to bypass them over any decision to launch a military strike on Iran.
6-20-19 Are US child migrant detainees entitled to soap and beds?
A Trump administration lawyer has disputed in court whether detained migrant children are entitled to toothbrushes and soap. The Department of Justice argued the government was adhering to a landmark ruling requiring migrants to be kept in "safe and sanitary" facilities. The attorney pointed out the law did not mention soap. But a panel of judges in California questioned the rationale, saying the children were sleeping on concrete. In July 2017, US District Judge Dolly Gee found the Trump administration had breached the 1997 Flores agreement by not providing migrant children with appropriate food or hygienic supplies, housing them in cold facilities without beds. The agreement states that immigrant children cannot be held for more than 20 days and must be provided with food, water, emergency medical care and toilets. But Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian argued on Tuesday that the federal government had not violated Flores. Ms Fabian maintained in a Ninth Circuit court in San Francisco that the government had fulfilled the Flores agreement because it did not specifically list items such as soap or toothbrushes. "One has to assume it was left that way and not enumerated by the parties because either the parties couldn't reach agreement on how to enumerate that or it was left to the agencies to determine," she said, Courthouse News reported. "These are the challenges of interpreting a very old agreement." Ms Fabian argued that children in shorter-term immigration detention did not require soap or toothbrushes. Circuit Judge William Fletcher questioned the government's reasoning. "Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you've got an aluminium foil blanket?" He added that it was "inconceivable" that the government would describe those conditions as "safe and sanitary". Fellow Judge A Wallace Tashima remarked: "It's within everybody's common understanding that if you don't have a toothbrush, you don't have soap, you don't have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary [conditions]."
6-20-19 When will a white man say what Ta-Nehisi Coates said?
How can it be that, in 2019, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was forced to give testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee that sounded like it could have been given in front of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction in 1866? How is it that, more than a century and a half after the end of the Civil War, a black man had to instruct members of the United States Congress on the rudiments of slavery and its legacies? How can it be that, rather than participating in a national reckoning like those provided by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or Germany's many post-war acts of national self-reflection and atonement, America is barely humoring the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of former slaves? Most importantly, why oh why are powerful white men still pretending to listen instead of saying what needs to be said? When will a white man sit where Coates sat yesterday and address black people in the manner he spoke to those white representatives, and by extension white America: without the buffer of mediating, academic language, bluntly, poetically, vividly, humanely and unforgivingly, eye-to-eye, person-to-person, unafraid of the truth? When will a white man speak to black America and say, "Here's what we did: we hunted you. We trapped you. We tore you from your mother's arms and called you cargo. you to read. We lashed your skin with salted leather if you read, or dared to stand up. We took your son from the arms of his mother, and burned you alive if you protested. We murdered you. We murdered your children. We left your daughters to die in the mud after birthing our children. We branded your children like beasts. We crushed the bones of your children's hands with the weight of these great buildings they raised. We celebrated these buildings as our accomplishment. We wrote laws in these buildings forbidding your grandchildren to vote, or read or keep a family together or enter the buildings they built. We mocked them for not being able to do those things. We dared your grandchildren to vote, or love, or read. We drowned them or hung them when they tried to do those things. We told stories of their ignorance and wickedness when they didn't try. We drew lines around your great-grandchildren's water fountains and bus seats, bright red-lines around their neighborhoods, to keep our money out. We taunted your great grandchildren with dreams. We told them what to dream, then mocked them for dreaming those dreams. We shackled their hands with their bootstraps. We flailed our arms and balled our fists and reddened our faces in roaring incomprehension that they didn't have jobs, or know the value of an education. We murdered them. We wished we didn't have to murder them, though, so that should count for something. We burdened them with our fear. We dropped the unmeasurable weight of our failures onto them and laughed when they bent their spines. We insisted they straighten up. We laughed at their names and erased their faces. We stole their expressions of pain and called them our own. We warped them into the shape of our nightmares, swollen to the size of demons, and feared for our lives instead of theirs. We sighed about this on occasion. We pretended to not understand your great grandchildren. We wondered what their problem was, and we murdered them. We murdered them by crooking our fingers, for putting their hands in their pockets.And we wanted you to get over it.
6-20-19 Keith Raniere Nxivm trial: Why it's so hard to stop a cult
Sex cult leader Keith Raniere, has been convicted in New York of charges including racketeering and sex trafficking. For 20 years, Raniere was the leader of Nxivm (pronounced nexium), which claimed to be a self-help group and to have thousands of followers. But during his trial, former members gave an insight into the reality of how the group was run. They described being forced to break off previous relationships and of suffering physical and sexual abuse. Some were forced to have abortions. A "slave and master" system saw women forced to hand over "collateral" - often humiliating photographs - to show their commitment. The revelations have shocked many people and made headlines around the world. But, in reality, Nxivm reveals a great deal about how cults work. Cults are structured like the layers of an onion, with the most acceptable elements closest to the outside, followed by increasing layers of secrecy and abuse as recruits move closer to the centre. In the case of Nxivm, the outer layers saw seemingly harmless self-improvement programmes used to recruit members' friends, family and colleagues. But at its core, Raniere exerted extreme levels of control, allegedly culminating in sexual abuse, violence and the branding of his initials on female followers. The authorities were alerted to Nxivm's activities as far back as 2003, according to Forbes. But the New York Times reported early attempts to follow up complaints were rebuffed by officials, who said the women were acting consensually, or that technicalities prevented legal action. This illustrates a key problem in prosecuting the leaders of cults: members often say they are acting under their own free will. Even if current or former members want to press charges, many feel too afraid because of possible repercussions, or the stigma attached to having been a member.
6-20-19 US Supreme Court rules WW1 cross can remain on state land
The US Supreme Court has ruled that a concrete cross honouring World War One soldiers can remain on state land, reversing a lower court decision. The American Humanist Association had sued to remove the Bladensburg, Maryland, monument, saying it was an unlawful endorsement of Christianity. But the top court said the 94-year-old cross was a "historical landmark" and destroying it would be disrespectful. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the 7-2 vote. Two of the court's liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan, joined the five conservatives in the majority. The American Legion, which holds commemorative events at the site, had said the memorial merely honoured veterans and was not religious. Justice Samuel Alito penned the court's majority opinion. He acknowledged the 32ft (9.7m) cross was "undoubtedly a Christian symbol". But he wrote that the monument had come to represent "a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home, a place for the community to gather and honour all veterans and their sacrifices for this Nation, and a historical landmark". As such, the court's majority concluded, destroying or defacing the Bladensburg Cross "would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment". Justice Ginsburg, in the dissent, wrote that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment - that "demands governmental neutrality among religious faiths and between religion and non-religion". She added: "By maintaining the Peace Cross on a public highway, the Commission elevates Christianity over other faiths, and religion over non-religion."
6-20-19 In U.S., 71% Support Transgender People Serving in Military
As President Donald Trump's ban on most transgender military servicemembers continues to face legal challenges, 71% of Americans support allowing openly transgender men and women to serve in the military.
- Among key subgroups, only Republicans oppose transgender servicemembers
- Americans remain mixed on gender-related restroom polices
6-20-19 Gay refugees sent back to 'homophobic Kenya camp'
Kenya's government has ordered a group of 76 refugees to return to a camp they had fled after some of them faced homophobic attacks, a UN agency says. Police with guns escorted the group on to buses on Wednesday night, photos sent to the BBC by the refugees show. The group had been living in temporary accommodation in the capital, Nairobi, after fleeing the refugee camp. Gay sex is illegal in Kenya and the countries where the refugees come from, including Burundi and Uganda. Last month Kenya's High Court upheld a law criminalising gay sex. The government is quoted by the UN as saying that refugees "should be living in camps and, if they reside outside of camps, it should be with appropriate documentation". The UN said it would protect the group in the camp. Tens of thousands of people live in the camp. Most of them fled conflict and drought in countries such as South Sudan and Somalia. When Frank's (not his real name) family in Burundi found out he was gay they paid criminals to kill him. They tied him up and dumped him in a river. But he was rescued by shepherds and fled the country. He travelled through Rwanda and Uganda and eventually ended up in the Kakuma refugee camp, where, he says, he faced regular violent attacks for being gay and now has a huge scar on his face. Frank says at the end of 2018 a group of LGBT people were told by the administration of Kakuma camp that they were no longer able to protect refugees against homophobic attacks. Some people then started leaving the camp. He fled in April, and joined a bigger group of LGBT people in the capital, Nairobi. But, Frank says, some of them were attacked by neighbours and last week the landlord threatened to evict them. They moved to another suburb of Nairobi but on Wednesday night two buses turned up, with no warning to take the group on the 14-hour journey through the night to the camp where he had fled attacks, he says. "Wherever we have lived we face homophobia because of our orientation, we don't know where to flee to."
6-20-19 US suicide rate at its highest since the end of the second world war
The rate of suicide in the US is rising, and has reached its highest point since the end of the second world war. According to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US suicide rate increased by 33 per cent between 1999 and 2017. This is calculated using age-adjusted rates that take into account age distributions across states and years. In 1999, there were 10.5 suicides per 100,000 people, while in 2017 there were 14 per 100,000. The CDC’s statistics show that, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in suicide among US people aged 15 to 24 and those aged 25 to 34, although the highest rates remain among those who are middle-aged. The report finds that for men and women aged 45-64, the suicide rate was highest among people who are white. Men have historically died by suicide at higher rates than women, and that trend continues in the new report. Despite that, there are some outliers. The largest increase in suicide rates for women was among people who are of Native American ancestry. The suicide rate in this group went from 4.6 to 11 per 100,000 over 18 years. That is an increase of 139 per cent. For men, the same group saw the highest increase, with a jump from 19.8 to 33.8 per 100,000 people – an increase of 71 per cent. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said in the report that people who are of Native American ancestry are sometimes misclassified as being part of other ethnic groups, and so deaths could be underestimated by as much 33 per cent. Even without accounting for that, men and women aged between 15 and 44 in these groups had the highest rate of suicide in the US in 2017.
6-19-19 Religion must rise to the challenge of climate change too
No planet B | With biblical floods and famine on the cards, the fight against global warming needs faiths to get serious about green issues. IN 2011, when the Republican party took back the US House of Representatives from the Democrats, one of its first actions was to get rid of environmentally friendly crockery in the cafeterias there and bring back good ol’ plastic. The Republicans insisted that the eco cups and cutlery weren’t biodegradable and cost too much, but the subtext was clear: screw the environment, and all who sail in her. I retell this anecdote not to rake over old coals, but to suggest that you can tell a lot about an organisation’s environmental commitment by looking at its catering operation. Judging from the cutlery at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Vatican still has a long way to go. At first glance, the knives, forks and spoons look like metal. But they turn out to be metal-coated plastic. Non-recyclable, metal-coated plastic. One use, and they are off to landfill purgatory. I was there for a conference on non-religious belief (yes, at a university administered by the Vatican!), but unexpectedly ended up hearing a lot about the environment. It turns out that secularism, religion and environmentalism are entwined in ways that have scarcely been explored, yet will become more important as the environmental crisis gathers pace. Shortly before the minor political tremor over tableware in Congress, a real earthquake struck Christchurch in New Zealand. It caused widespread destruction and killed 185 people. There was an unexpected aftershock. New Zealand is one of the world’s least religious countries, but after the quake, attendance at religious services rose dramatically and stayed high for months. This is taken as good evidence of the “existential threat” hypothesis of belief, which holds that where life is more precarious, people increasingly turn to religion. (Webmaster's comment: And that does them absolutely no good whatsoever!)
6-19-19 Yazilikaya: A 3000-year-old Hittite mystery may finally be solved
A 3200-year-old sanctuary once described as the Sistine Chapel of Hittite religious art could have acted as a calendar that was centuries ahead of its time. FOR 3200 years they have guarded their secret. The deities carved in limestone near the ancient city of Hattusa are as enigmatic as they are beautiful. Perhaps no longer. A controversial theory suggests the ancient carvings may have functioned as a calendar, with a level of sophistication way ahead of its time. “It’s not only a striking idea, it’s reasonable and possible,” says Juan Antonio Belmonte at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, Spain, who wasn’t part of the work. Hattusa was the capital city of the Bronze Age Hittite empire, based in what is now Turkey. A few kilometres to the north-east of Hattusa are the ruins of an ancient religious sanctuary centred on a large limestone outcrop. Archaeologists believe it was one of the holiest of Hittite sites, but its exact purpose is unknown. Even its original Hittite name is a mystery: today it is known simply as Yazilikaya, a Turkish term meaning “inscribed rock”. “Yazilikaya has an aura to it,” says Eberhard Zangger, president of Luwian Studies, an international non-profit foundation. “Part of it is because it’s an unsolved enigma, part of it is the beauty of the place.” The site has been described as the Sistine Chapel of Hittite religious art for the quality of the rock carvings preserved there. Yazilikaya and Hattusa have UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and the carvings on the rock have been studied by scholars for decades. But according to Zangger, they all overlooked something.
6-19-19 When They See Us: Trump stands by 1989 Central Park Five comments
US President Donald Trump has stood by his comments about five men who were wrongly convicted for the brutal rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989, saying they had "admitted their guilt". Following the arrest of the five teenagers, Mr Trump paid for newspaper adverts calling for the return of the death penalty in the state. The Central Park Five were exonerated in 2002, after another man confessed. They say their earlier confessions were a result of police coercion. The case has received renewed public attention in recent weeks, following the release of Netflix mini-series When They See Us. "They put a bounty on our heads by taking out these full-page ads calling for our deaths," one of the men, Yusef Salaam, said last month. Mr Trump was asked by a reporter at the White House on Tuesday if he would apologise to the five men for the newspaper ads. "Why do you bring this question up now? It's an interesting time to bring it up," he said. "You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we'll leave it at that." Ms Fairstein was the top Manhattan sexual crimes prosecutor when the five teenagers were charged with the attack. She went on to become a bestselling crime novelist but was dropped by her publisher last month amid renewed outcry over the case. She has maintained that the five men were not coerced, and defended the authorities' conduct. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise were aged between 14 and 16 when they were arrested for the brutal rape of a 28-year-old white investment banker, who was left for dead in a bush in Central Park and had no memory of the attack.
6-19-19 Senate leader dismisses slave reparations as US hearing begins
A top Republican has scotched calls to compensate US slaves' descendants, as the first congressional hearing on the issue in a decade is held. US Senate leader Mitch McConnell said "no one currently alive was responsible for that" in reference to the historic enslavement of African Americans. The US House of Representatives is holding a session on the grassroots campaign for slavery reparations. Several Democratic White House hopefuls have taken up the idea. Asked about the issue on Tuesday, Mr McConnell told reporters: "I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea." He said that "it would be hard to figure out to who to compensate". "We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation," he added. "We elected an African-American president. "I think we're always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that." (Webmaster's comment: But our police continue to murder blacks and get away with it!) Mr McConnell's comments make clear that any reparations plan would not become law so long as he controls the Senate. Senator Cory Booker, the first panel's witness and a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, said "the stain of slavery was not just inked in bloodshed", but in policies that have harmed African Americans for generations. "We as a nation have yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with racism and white supremacy that tainted this country's founding and continues to persist in those deep racial disparities and inequalities today," Mr Booker said. Actor Danny Glover is also expected to testify in favour of reparations on Wednesday before the judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties. Republicans on the panel have called two witnesses to lay out the opposing case. The session will examine "the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice", according to the committee.
6-18-19 'Her ancestors enslaved mine. Now we're friends'
Phoebe Kilby discovered her ancestors were slave-owners and she wanted to pay reparations. Through an organisation called Coming To The Table, she found her linked descendant Betty Kilby, and asked if they could meet.
6-18-19 John Cusack: Actor apologises for anti-Semitic tweet
Actor John Cusack has apologised for sharing a "harmful" anti-Semitic image on Twitter. He shared a meme, since deleted, of a large hand with a Star of David on its wrist, oppressing a group of people. A caption on it read: "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise." The saying, often misattributed to the French philosopher Voltaire, was in fact spoken by white nationalist Kevin Strom. Cusack added his own comment, "follow the money", to the meme, before later deleting his post after it attracted criticism. He said he had "mistakenly retweeted an alt-right account" believing the image related to an Israeli hospital bombing. (Webmaster's comment: Baloney!) Apologising for his actions, Cusack said: "It's clear that even if it was Israel's flag & even if you don't have anti-Semitic bone in your body, it is still an anti-Semitic cartoon. Because it deploys anti Jewish stereotypes. "I [retweeted] and quickly deleted an image that's harmful to both Jewish and Palestinian friends, and for that I'm sorry." His comments, which he originally blamed on a Twitter bot, drew strong criticism on the social network. Jewish writer Elad Nehorai asked: "How does a bot 'get you to write 'follow the money' after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?" English comedian David Baddiel, also Jewish, said: "John Cusack says he didn't at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it's a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn't it?" (Webmaster's comment: Of course it was anti-Jewish and he could not have not realized it!)
6-18-19 US and Russia clash over power grid 'hack attacks'
Russia has said it is "possible" that its electrical grid is under cyber-attack by the US. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports that US cyber-soldiers had put computer viruses on its electrical grid was a "hypothetical possibility". His comments came in response to a New York Times (NYT) story which claimed US military hackers were targeting Russian power plants. The report drew scepticism from experts and a denunciation by President Trump. In its report the newspaper said American "code" had been deployed inside many elements of Russia's power network. The Times said this was an escalation of other work the US was doing to combat Russian disinformation and hacking campaigns. Mr Peskov said President Trump had dismissed the allegations made in the Times, calling them "fake news". The Kremlin spokesman added: "If one assumes that some government agencies do this without informing the head of state, then of course this may indicate that cyber-war against Russia might be a hypothetical possibility." He said "vital areas" of Russia's economy were under continuous attack, but it had managed to counter the intrusions so they did no damage. The NYT story was questioned by Thomas Rid, a political scientist from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who said it made no sense because "publicity burns capabilities". The story would prompt Russia to search its power network extensively for malicious code, he said, making it likely that any viruses would be found. He added that the Russian power grid was big and "exceedingly complex" making it very hard for cyber-attackers to get in and leave any virus in place for a long time. The malicious code was reportedly inserted by soldiers of the US Cyber Command. This group of military hackers is permitted to carry out "clandestine military activity" on computer networks under the aegis of the National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed in 2018. The US has been probing Russian power systems since 2012, reported the NYT, but was now more interested in finding weaknesses and inserting viruses. (Webmaster's comment: This is a unjust undeclared "war" against another nation by the United States.)
6-18-19 What does this hat mean to Americans?
As President Donald Trump prepares to launch his re-election bid, his campaign has announced it is close to selling the millionth official Make American Great Again (MAGA) hat. The BBC takes a look at the origins of the signature red hat and its message, and what it means to Americans. (Webmaster's comment: It's intent is to give an American president dictorial powers to "Make America Great Again" just like "Make Germany Great Again" did for Hitler! It means racism, bigotry, white nationalism, white supremacy, homophobia, religious intolerance, religious hatred, anti-muslims, anti-immigrants, anti-jews, prison camps, a return to segregation and slavery!)
6-18-19 Prisoners in China are still being used as organ donors, says inquiry
Transplant organs are still being sourced from executed prisoners in China, according to an inquiry in London initiated by a campaign group to investigate the issue. Taking organs from prisoners is illegal according to an international convention, and the Chinese government previously said it had stopped the practice four years ago. But this week, the chair of the tribunal, Geoffrey Nice, said that he believes the practice is still widespread. The inquiry was set up by campaign group the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China and has no legal power. Forced organ donation from prisoners has been suspected in China for decades, and the coalition asked the inquiry to investigate whether some hospitals in China are still boosting supplies of transplant organs from prisoners. The inquiry also investigated whether Uighurs and Falun Gong members have previously been and are still being used as organ donors. Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority in China, while Falun Gong is a belief system similar to Buddhism that is outlawed in China. The tribunal heard evidence that some hospitals in China offer organ transplants with very short waiting times. This would be impossible without a large bank of people with known tissue types who can be killed to order, said Nice, a former UK judge who previously prosecuted former Serbian president Slobodan Miloševic at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal. The tribunal was told of an investigation run by another campaign group, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, in 2018. The group asked researchers to pretend to be doctors and ring up senior transplant doctors in Chinese hospitals to try to book transplants. Some were offered waits as short as one or two weeks. In nine of the 12 hospitals contacted, doctors verbally confirmed that the organs would be sourced from Falun Gong members. Some websites advertise in English for foreign patients to visit Chinese hospitals for transplants, says David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer. Selling organs to foreigners is against an international convention known as the Declaration of Istanbul.
6-17-19 Does people power make a difference? The truth about protests
Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Hong Kong on 9 June to protest a government plan to allow extraditions to mainland China. The demonstrations have continued regularly since, with seas of protesters surrounding a government building and preventing law-makers from meeting about the proposed law. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has suspended the bill, but protesters say this doesn’t go far enough and want the law to be scrapped. As New Scientist went to press, it was unclear if this demand would be met. The approach in Hong Kong is just one of many ways protesters have recently been attempting to challenge the status quo. Tactics range from marches to violent civil disobedience, but it can be difficult to tell what, if any of it, really works when it comes to effecting change. The result can depend on the type of protest. Matthew Feinberg at the University of Toronto and his colleagues have found that peaceful protests like sit-ins and marches can amplify a message and draw new supporters, but that extreme or violent tactics backfire, putting people off from supporting their cause. “The easiest way to become known is to get the news to cover your movement, and the easiest way to do that is by doing something extreme. But it’s a catch-22,” says Feinberg. One way to bring attention to a cause is to disrupt the hum of normal life. In April, climate protesters Extinction Rebellion had success with this method, bringing some transport hubs in central London to a standstill by blocking the streets with people and gluing themselves to trains. The movement quickly gained attention from the press and attracted new supporters, partly thanks to social media. But it also drew criticism from people who felt the inconvenience didn’t justify the cause.
6-17-19 Family thought US police were going to shoot them
Armed police surrounded a family car after a child left a shop with a doll without paying for it. Phoenix police say they were responding to a report of shoplifting. The city's police chief has apologised for the aggressive confrontation and says the incident is being investigated. The incident in Arizona comes amid heightened scrutiny of law enforcement by the public across the United States following a series of high-profile killings of African Americans.
6-17-19 Phoenix mayor apologises after police threaten to shoot black family
The mayor of the US city of Phoenix has apologised after a video allegedly showing police threatening to shoot a black family went viral. Officers were responding to an alleged shoplifting incident last month when the video was recorded. Police officers can be seen shouting at the family to get out of their vehicle before threatening them. The parents say they did not realise their four-year-old had taken a $1 (£0.79) Barbie doll from a store. Mayor Kate Gallego said the officers' actions were "completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional". Ms Gallego said in a statement: "There is no situation in which this behaviour is ever close to acceptable. As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting. "I am deeply sorry for what this family went through and I apologise to our community." She said that the city was speeding up the implementation of body-worn cameras. A community meeting about the incident will also be held on Tuesday. In the video, Iesha Harper can be seen emerging from the car with her two young children. The children are handed to a bystander and Ms Harper is arrested. The footage also shows another man, Dravon Ames, being kicked in the legs as he is handcuffed by an officer. The couple are preparing to sue the city for $10 million over the incident. Rapper Jay Z's Roc Nation company has offered the pair legal support. Roc Nation Managing Director of Philanthropy Dania Diaz said in a statement: "We are calling for the immediate termination of the police officers in question. We are committed to supporting the family to ensure justice is served." Ms Harper, who is pregnant, told CNN: "I really thought he was going to shoot me in front of the kids." She said that she gave her two children to a bystander as she "didn't trust the police". (Webmaster's comment: Threatening someone with guns without reason is illegal. The officers should be arrested, charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned.)
6-17-19 Vatican considers ordaining older married men in remote parts of Amazon
The Vatican has raised the idea of ordaining older married men as priests in the Amazon's remote areas where there is a shortage of clergy, in what could be a historic shift, the BBC's religion editor Martin Bashir reports. The issue was raised in detail in Pope Francis' landmark Encyclical on the Environment - Laudato Si - published in 2015. He wrote that the region was confronting such challenges that it "requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations and by the Church". The document outlines areas for discussion at the forthcoming Amazon Synod which will focus on the region in October; bishops and indigenous people from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana are due to attend the event in Rome. These nations comprise 33 million people and are the source of one-fifth of the world's fresh water, one-fourth of all oxygen and more than one-third of global forest reserves. The Vatican says the region represents a pastoral and environmental challenge - but it is the scarcity of priests that the Church can directly address. And so this 45-page document, drafted after input from bishops conferences and local communities, suggests that the Synod in October should consider the possibility of ordaining elderly married men, who are respected in their communities. It refers to "proven men of character" to deal with the shortage of priests - and says they should be outstanding members of the local Catholic community, with grown-up families. The document also calls for some kind of "official ministry" for women in the area, although it does not elaborate. This would be a dramatic change given that the First and Second Lateran Councils of 1123 and 1139 explicitly forbade priests from marrying - so we are almost past 1,000 years since the Catholic Church has maintained male celibate priests. Eliminating the prospect of marriage ensured that children or wives of priests did not make claims on property acquired throughout a priest's life, which thus could be retained by the Church. (Webmaster's comment: If they are allowed there then they have to be allowed everywhere!)
6-17-19 Against commercial surrogacy
Why this conservative Catholic agrees with Gloria Steinem. As a conservative Catholic, I rarely find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Gloria Steinem. Strange times make for strange bedfellows however, and Steinem won my admiration last week when she wrote an open letter opposing legislation that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state of New York. The bill has already passed New York's State Senate, but it encountered opposition in the Assembly, where some members have ethical concerns about the practice of paying women to be pregnant. "I find that commodification of women troubling," said Deborah Glick, who in 1991 became the first openly gay member of New York's legislature. She's right. It is troubling. Commercial surrogacy exploits women, and treats children as market commodities. It shouldn't be legal in the state of New York, or anywhere else. Here in the United States, New York is an outlier, as one of only three states that still bans commercial surrogacy outright. This irritates celebrities like Andy Cohen, who think it's "ridiculous" that they should be forced to travel to find an available womb. In Cohen's mind, gay men deserve the right to hire gestational carriers, without whom they may never experience the joy of cuddling their genetic offspring. That inconvenience may seem preposterous to Cohen, but in fact, fertility tourism has been around for some time. With infertility and same-sex coupling both on the rise, so-called "intended parents" now regularly travel to Asia, Eastern Europe, or Mexico in search of legal and affordable gestational carriers. The ethical complications are obvious, and some nations that have experimented with commercial surrogacy eventually decided that it wasn't worth the money. Quite recently, India shut down its $400-million-per-year commercial surrogacy industry, which once gave rise to the famed Akanksha Infertility Clinic, where desperately poor Indian women bore children for affluent Westerners. As a business venture, this effort was wildly successful, but the Indians eventually decided that the practice was simply too exploitative. The French, British, Germans, Italians, Irish, Spanish, and Australians evidently agree. Most Western countries have in fact already banned commercial surrogacy. The United States now keeps company with Mexico, Nepal, and many former Soviet states, as countries where the wealthy can pay to have their children gestated in foreign wombs. (Webmaster's comment: Sorry, but a woman's body is hers to use as she wishes! We have no right to block her right to get pregnant for whatever her reasons.)
6-16-19 Donald Trump attacks Sadiq Khan over London violence
US President Donald Trump has once again criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling him a "national disgrace" who is destroying the UK's capital. His comments came after five violent attacks in London in less than 24 hours left three men dead and three injured. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was "absolutely awful" Mr Trump was using the "tragedy of people being murdered to attack the mayor". Police have increased patrols in the capital following the attacks. President Trump's tweets follow a long-running feud with Khan. Retweeting a post by right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins about this weekend's violence in London, the president said Mr Khan was "a disaster" and the capital needed a new mayor. Mr Trump later followed it up with another post saying: "He is a national disgrace who is destroying the city of London!" In response, Mr Khan's spokesman said the mayor's thoughts were with the victims' families and he "is not going to waste his time responding to this sort of tweet". The mayor was focused on supporting the city's communities and "over-stretched" emergency services, he added. Mr Khan later tweeted: "Violent crime has no place in our city, and there's no higher priority for me than Londoners' safety." Mr Corbyn tweeted in defence of Mr Khan, saying he was "rightly supporting the police to do their job while Katie Hopkins spreads hateful and divisive rhetoric". (Webmaster's comment: The homicide rate in England is 1.22 per 100,000. In the United States it is 5.35 per 100,000. That's 4.4 times higher than in England. The English need to buy more guns so they can catch up with the United States' homicidal maniacs.)
6-15-19 Trump retreats on election meddling remarks
President Donald Trump has stepped back from comments he made about reporting foreign interference in a US political campaign. He told Fox News he would "of course" refer to the FBI any offer of damaging information about a political opponent. Mr Trump disputed in another interview aired this week whether the FBI should be notified of such approaches. Democrats said he was giving Russia the go-ahead to meddle again in the next 2020 presidential election. On Friday, Mr Trump called into the Fox & Friends show to give a 50-minute live interview. Asked how he would respond to any offer from another government to help his campaign, Mr Trump said: "Of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that." He continued: "But of course you do that. You couldn't have that happen with our country." Mr Trump also maintained he would still at least review any such foreign-supplied information. "Of course, you have to look at it, because if you don't look at it, you won't know it's bad," he said. In an interview broadcast this week on ABC News, Mr Trump pushed back on whether he should report to law enforcement officials any foreign offer of help for his re-election bid. Mr Trump said: "If somebody called from a country, Norway, 'we have information on your opponent' - oh, I think I'd want to hear it." "It's not an interference, they have information," Mr Trump added, "I think I'd take it." When the ABC anchor referred to the FBI director telling Congress his agency should be made aware of any such foreign election meddling, Mr Trump said: "The FBI director is wrong." Even several of the president's fellow Republicans spoke out against his remarks to ABC. Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham said the comments were "wrong". Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the president "does not know right from wrong". (Webmaster's comment: The nation's top crook does not know right from wrong!)
6-14-19 Internment camp
The Trump administration plans to move up to 1,400 migrant children in its custody to an Army base used to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II. Citing an “influx” of Central American migrants, Health and Human Services officials said 168 facilities and programs in 23 states are too crowded to suffice. At Fort Sill, children will be separated from the on-base population and have HHS staff, not U.S. troops, overseeing them. (The Obama administration briefly placed migrant children on Army bases, including Fort Sill, in 2014.) The move comes as Congress considers an HHS request for $2.9 billion in emergency funding, after taking about 40,900 children into custody during the first seven months of this fiscal year—a 57 percent increase from last year. HHS has canceled activities such as English lessons and soccer for migrant kids, saying it is too cash-strapped to pay for education, legal services, and recreation. (Webmaster's comment: The beginning of the first American concentration camps for children. The adults will soon follow.)
6-14-19 The new Cuba travel restrictions
It just became a lot harder to travel to Cuba, said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. Last week, the Trump administration announced several new rules, including bans on “people-to-people” educational travel and on cruise visits—Americans’ favorite way to visit the island nation. The changes, which are expected to disrupt the vacations of 800,000 cruise passengers alone, aim to shut down mass tourism in retaliation for Cuba’s support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Fortunately, travelers who booked and paid for flights, hotels, or tours before June 5 can proceed with their plans, and cruise lines are rerouting itineraries and refunding fares. “Airlines, meanwhile, survived without a scratch,” and “while the U.S. government has closed some windows, the door to Cuba remains open a crack.” Americans can visit as long as they avoid state-run businesses and volunteer in community projects. (Webmaster's comment: Who said we were free?)
6-14-19 US diplomats work around White House gay pride flag ban
US diplomats have been finding creative ways to show support for LGBTQ+ Pride month after the White House banned them from flying the rainbow flag. Before this year embassies had routinely hoisted the flag - but this year they were required to seek approval from the state department, which reportedly refused all requests. On Tuesday Vice-President Mike Pence said the ban was the "right decision". He said there were no restrictions on pride flags elsewhere on the buildings. The Trump administration has appointed several gay ambassadors and Mr Trump has made a statement celebrating Pride month. "We're proud to be able to serve every American," Mr Pence told NBC, but "when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies." Mr Pence, an evangelical Christian, opposes gay marriage and has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The ban has been backed by prominent evangelical Trump supporter Franklin Graham, who on Sunday tweeted that the gay pride flag was "offensive to Christians and millions of people of other faiths". Earlier this month an unnamed diplomat told the Washington Post there was a "category one insurrection" against the rainbow flag ban. On Thursday the US Embassy in Jerusalem tweeted a photo of its branch office in Tel Aviv - formerly the embassy before President Trump moved it to Jerusalem - decked out in rainbow colours. It said this was in preparation for Friday's Tel Aviv pride parade. It was among at least four embassies - the others were Germany, Brazil and Latvia - which were denied permission to fly the rainbow flag, the Guardian reported. Despite that, the US missions in the South Korean capital Seoul and the Indian city of Chennai hung large rainbow flags on their facades.
6-14-19 50 years to late
The New York City Police Department has officially apologized for the violent police raid 50 years ago on a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The angry backlash to that raid helped ignite the gay rights movement.
6-14-19 Persecuted heterosexuals
Persecuted heterosexuals, with the announcement of a planned “Straight Pride Parade” through the streets of Boston in August. “There’s a lot of people that are uncomfortable with a lot of things that are happening,” explained organizer John Hugo.
6-14-19 American health-care
The American health-care industry is becoming increasingly monopolized at all levels, helping drive up prices for medical care. One company controls 64 percent of the market for syringes; three companies control 86 percent of the market for IV solution; and two companies control 92 percent of dialysis clinics.
6-14-19 Australia: A double assault on press freedom
Police bursting into the home of a reporter, cops raiding a TV news office—these are scenes worthy of an authoritarian state. Yet they happened in Australia last week, said the Herald Sun in an editorial. First, federal police raided the home of our reporter Annika Smethurst, confiscating her computer files and notes, rifling through cookbooks and other personal belongings, and even inspecting her underwear drawer. Her crime? Writing an article in April last year about a government proposal to give spy agencies powers to secretly access the emails, text messages, and bank details of Australians. The next day, police raided the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and rifled through some 10,000 documents used in the network’s investigation of alleged unlawful killings of Afghan civilians by Australian special forces. These attacks on press freedom, which authorities claim were necessary to protect national security, are a “gross overreach.” How can there be an imminent threat to security when both stories were published more than a year ago? Australia is the only democracy in the world that lacks strong legal protections “for freedom of speech and of the press,” said George Williams in The Australian. And this nation has grown only more hostile to media freedom since 9/11, with successive center-left and center-right governments passing a total of 75 national security laws. These laws allow reporters’ documents to be seized, “sources to be identified, whistleblowers to be shut down, and journalists to be jailed.” Politicians assured us over the years that all this legislation was needed to battle terrorism and would never be used against the media, yet here we are. (Webmaster's comment: Trump is drooling to have this power.)
6-14-19 The psychiatrist who conducted psychedelic experiments on soldiers
James Ketchum believed that mind-altering chemicals could make war less deadly. Envisioning a future in which enemy troops might be incapacitated by a water supply tainted with LSD or a cloud of hallucinogens drifting across the battlefield, the Army psychiatrist conducted experiments on thousands of U.S. soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland in the 1960s. Drugged subjects wandered around in states of delirium; some suffered waking nightmares and smashed holes in walls. The program was canceled amid withering congressional hearings, which revealed that no follow-up care was provided for the test subjects. But Ketchum remained a firm believer in psychochemical warfare. Finding an alternative to bombs and bullets, he said, was “a noble cause.” Born in Manhattan, Ketchum graduated from Cornell University’s medical school in 1956, and—“tired of being broke”—joined the Army, said The Washington Post. He arrived at Edgewood in 1961 “amid reports that the Soviet Union was developing robust chemical warfare capabilities.” He rose to lead the arsenal’s pharmacology branch and saw potential in recreational drugs used by the counterculture. But critics, including the arsenal’s chief medical officer, said soldiers who volunteered for experiments “were not told what they were given or how it would affect them.”
6-13-19 Sarah Sanders: White House press secretary resigns
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving her post, President Donald Trump has announced. He said his spokeswoman would return to her home state of Arkansas at the end of June, praising her as a "warrior". Mrs Sanders, who is the latest senior White House aide to exit, said her role had been "the honour of a lifetime". Her credibility was questioned during a combative tenure that saw press briefings all but relegated to a thing of the past. She started out as deputy press secretary before replacing Sean Spicer in the top post in July 2017. Mrs Sanders, 36, has been a loyal mouthpiece, famously saying that God "wanted Donald Trump to become president". At an unrelated White House event on Thursday, Mr Trump described her as "a special person, a very, very fine woman". "She's a warrior, we're all warriors, we have to be warriors," Mr Trump added. The president did not name a replacement press secretary.
6-13-19 Donald Trump's immigrant gulag
Probably the worst thing President Franklin Roosevelt ever did was Executive Order 9066, which ordered the arrest and incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans, nearly two-thirds of whom were American citizens. The motivation was purest paranoia and racism — holding innocent civilians, most of whose families had lived in the United States for two or three generations, responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor. For many years, it was thought this was a historical aberration — an indulgence of the worst human instincts brought on by war fever. President Carter opened an investigation into the story in 1980, and in 1988 President Reagan signed a bill granting reparations of $20,000 to each camp survivor. But President Trump is following a similar path much further than Roosevelt ever did — indeed, his administration recently announced they would incarcerate 1,400 children at an Oklahoma army base that was part of the Second World War camp system. Trump's immigrant gulag is already one of the greatest moral atrocities in American history, and there is every sign it is going to get worse if he isn't stopped. By all accounts, the conditions in the Trump immigrant gulag are considerably worse than those suffered by Japanese-Americans from 1942-45. Conditions in those concentration camps during the war varied, and they were generally quite poor. Nevertheless, the camps had at least half-decent food and medical care. There was no deliberate mass starvation, nor mass executions. Schools were provided for children (poorly-equipped ones, but better than nothing), and some facilities even had sports teams (to relieve the crushing boredom, if nothing else). Families were mostly kept together. The Trump gulag is badly lacking even these inadequate, rudimentary services. As Jonathan M. Katz writes in the Los Angeles Times, at least 48,000 people are currently incarcerated, a number that is increasing fast as a direct consequence of Trump's decision to drastically step up arrests. As a recent inspector general report details, facilities are hideously overcrowded and filthy, with people jammed into dog kennel-like cages and forced to sleep on the ground outside. Ken Klippenstein uncovered internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) documents outlining how its health care is "severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred." Many people, including several children, have died from medical neglect. Thousands of minors have complained of sexual assault and abuse while being detained over the past several years, including 178 accusations against U.S. staffers — and the rate has sharply increased since Trump took office. Perhaps worst of all, thousands of immigrant children have been separated from their families. Under Trump's "zero tolerance" policy starting in May 2018, over 2,800 immigrant children were ripped from their parents' arms and stuffed into their own pint-size concentration camps with little concern for keeping track of which child belonged with which family. A court forced Trump to halt that policy as of June 2018, but in May the administration announced it had discovered a further 1,712 children it "may have" separated from their families in addition to the above figure. (Like everything about the Trump regime, the camp logistics are appallingly incompetent.)
6-13-19 US watchdog calls for Trump aide Kellyanne Conway's removal
A US government oversight agency has said White House aide Kellyanne Conway should be fired for engaging in banned political activities while in office. The Office of Special Counsel said Mrs Conway violated the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from campaigning for candidates while on the job. The watchdog cited "numerous occasions" in which she violated the law, calling her a "repeat offender". The White House dismissed the advice as "deeply flawed" and "unprecedented". The allegations stem from statements Mrs Conway made on television during the 2017 Alabama special Senate election in which she advocated for and against certain individual candidates. The president, vice-president and some other high level officials are not bound by the 1939 Hatch Act. In a statement announcing the recommendation, the independent Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said that her "violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act's restrictions. "Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system - the rule of law." The agency described one episode in which she appears to shrug off the Hatch Act, saying "if you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work," and "let me know when the jail sentence starts". It is up to President Donald Trump whether or not to heed the recommendation and fire his former 2016 campaign manager. The office is run by Henry Kern, who the president nominated for the role.
6-13-19 'Silenced' children of priests to share stories with French bishops
Children of Roman Catholic priests who felt "silenced" by the Church for decades will share their stories with bishops in Paris for the first time. Bishops will meet members of the French association Les Enfants du Silence (The Children of Silence) on Thursday. At their own request, the sons and daughters of priests will speak about their fathers, neglect and suffering. Their existence is a sensitive issue for the Church, which expects priests to adhere to a strict rule of celibacy. In an unprecedented series of meetings beginning on Thursday afternoon, children who say they have been "silenced" and "humiliated" by the Church will have the opportunity to share their experiences. A spokesman for the bishops' conference in the French capital, Vincent Neymon, said it was time to "realise people have suffered and are still suffering". Speaking ahead of the conference, the daughter of a priest, now aged 50 and named only as Maya, told news website Franceinfo that she felt obliged to stay silent after learning of her father's position at the age of seven. "When you live as the child of a priest, you have an obligation of silence," she said, adding that her father was absent for much of her childhood, like someone who spends a lot of time "on the road". Maya said she also kept quiet to protect her family, fearing that if the truth about her parents became known she could have been taken into care. Marie-Christine Miquel, another of the children, said that she did not meet her father until she was nine, when he left the priesthood. "I was like most children who live in a non-conforming situation, I did not ask questions," she said. "No doubt the ears of the Church are more open today," he said, adding: "The Church must recognise that these people exist." Thursday's agreed meetings are likely to expose more of these stories.
6-13-19 Slim Majority in U.S. Favors New LGBT Civil Rights Laws
A slight majority of Americans (53%) say that new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This comes one month after the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and other settings.
- 53% say new anti-discrimination laws are needed; 46% say they are not
- Americans perceive the public as being more accepting of gay relations
6-13-19 Muhlaysia Booker: Man charged with murder of Dallas transgender woman
A man has been charged with murder following the fatal shooting of transgender woman Muhlaysia Booker last month, police in Dallas, Texas say. Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 34, has also been charged with the murders of two other people, officials said. Ms Booker's killing caused an outcry and highlighted the issue of violence faced by transgender people in the US. Weeks earlier, she was assaulted during a traffic accident and video of the incident was shared on social media. In a statement, Dallas police said Mr Lyles was charged with Ms Booker's murder after he was arrested on 5 June in connection with the other two killings. The first was the fatal shooting of a woman in Dallas on 22 May and the second was the killing of a man in a drugs-related incident a day later. The victims have not been named. Neither was transgender, the Washington Post quoted police as saying. Investigators said that, during the course of investigating these two cases, detectives noticed that Mr Lyles drove the same type of car believed to have picked up Muhlaysia Booker on 18 May - the day she was found dead. Mobile phone analysis indicated he had been in the area where she was picked up as well as at the scene of her murder, the police statement said. "Muhlaysia Booker was last seen getting into a light coloured Lincoln LS, which is the same type of car driven by suspect Lyles," the statement said, adding: "Thus far... Lyles has been charged with three counts of murder. Police have not suggested a motive for the killings. Detectives said Mr Lyles was also a "person of interest" in the death of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey, a transgender woman whose body was found floating in a Dallas lake on 1 June, the Washington Post reported.
6-13-19 Chapel Hill killer jailed for life for 2015 murder of Muslim students
A man who killed three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina in 2015 has been jailed for life. Craig Hicks fatally shot newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill. He pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and was given three life sentences. Hicks was not charged with hate crimes, despite the victims' families insisting they were targeted for their religion. Police said the killings were sparked by a dispute over a parking space in front of their home in February 2015. However, it was argued during Hicks' trial that he singled out the three victims, and reacted so violently, because of implicit bias. Previously unseen phone footage of the shooting that was played to the court showed Hicks accosting Mr Barakat at his front door, accusing him of taking up his space In the video, Mr Barakat spoke to Hicks in a calm voice. But Hicks responded by opening fire, before shooting at the two sisters. During the hearing on Wednesday, Hicks said he had wanted to plead guilty "on day one". "Here it is, four years, four months and two days later, and I'm finally here," US broadcaster CNN reported him as saying. Mr Barakat was a second-year dental student at UNC, while his wife Yusor had just been admitted to dental school as well. Her sister Razan was a design student at North Carolina State University. The killings sparked international outrage at the time, with then-US President Barack Obama denouncing the "brutal and outrageous murders".
6-13-19 Ethnic minority children are exposed to more noise pollution at school
US schoolchildren from ethnic minority or poorer backgrounds are much more likely to be exposed to noise pollution from cars and planes, the first effort to map the problem has found. While white pupils make up around half of the country’s 50 million schoolchildren, only 35 per cent of the pupils exposed to high levels of road traffic noise are white, Timothy Collins at the University of Utah and his colleagues found. Hispanic children, on the other hand, make up 26 per cent of school age students, but accound for nearly the same proportion of children exposed to noise: 36 per cent. Black children are 16 per cent of the school roll, but make up 20 per cent of those highly exposed to road noise. Children on free or reduced cost school meals – a proxy for economic deprivation – make up 51 per cent of US schoolchildren, but 59 per cent of those exposed to noise. Noisy environments have previously been linked to worse academic performance. Collins says minorities and poorer children are often educationally disadvantaged in the first place, so the noise many of them experience at school could be compounding existing disparities. His team came to the findings after overlaying locations of primary and secondary schools in the US, complete with data on their demographics, with a US government noise mapping tool which has modelled noise exposure across the country since 2017. Any road or aviation noise over 35 decibels and within 500 metres of a school was counted. As those noise values are 24-hour averages, and there is more traffic in the daytime when children are at school, the team have probably underestimated the children’s actual noise exposure, admits Collins. The research also found that younger school children suffer more exposure to noise than older ones. This appears to be because schools for older children tend to have more land, with some parts of campus situated further away from roads.
6-12-19 Who should pay when medical drugs become too expensive to buy?
We depend on private companies to develop new drugs and treatments, but their need to profit has far-reaching consequences. THIS week, protesters in England continued to call for access to a medicine called Orkambi. The drug delays the progression of the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis, but it carries a price tag of £104,000 a year. Like many other countries, England’s health service has baulked at this cost, and the drug is currently only available privately. Some families have now formed a “buyers club” (see “A generic drug from Argentina offers cystic fibrosis families hope”), which is hoping to source a cheaper, generic version of the medicine from Argentina. Such clubs are becoming more common: in recent years, groups have formed to source drugs that treat hepatitis C and lower the risk of contracting HIV. But even when clubs can source cheaper drugs, the costs remain unaffordable for many people. Some families are now calling for the UK government to circumvent the patent on the drug and provide the generic version in England through the National Health Service. As one of the largest single markets for healthcare products in the world, the NHS has significant clout, and it is often argued that it should take a harder line with multinational drug companies. But the UK government is unlikely to take strong action amid the political turmoil of Brexit. Were drug companies to stop investing in medical research in the UK, this would come as a heavy blow. Drug firms say they charge high prices to recoup their research costs. It is easy to criticise these for being too high, but we are now starting to see what happens when firms are unable to profit from their research. After decades of fruitless clinical trials, major drug firms are closing their specialist Alzheimer’s units. It is now difficult to see how promising drug candidates for the disease will reach clinical trials (see “A drug may prevent Alzheimer’s but there are no plans to find out”).
6-12-19 Viewpoint: What series on Central Park Five teaches us today
A true-crime Netflix series which focuses on a failure of the US justice system during the late 1980s has reminded a new audience that the horrors of the past still have meaning today. Director Ava DuVernay's miniseries When They See Us tells the story of five young African-American and Latino boys who were falsely accused and wrongly convicted of attacking and raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. The scope of the injustices inflicted upon these teenagers, ages 14 to 16, has left audiences terrified and outraged. "I didn't know that this kind of thing still happened past the 50s and 60s," says Jessica Randolph, who lives in Maryland. Ms Randolph, 26, African-American, was born after the trial and had previously heard about the Central Park Five case, but she did not know the explicit details. For her, watching When They See Us felt like re-living a real-life horror story that tragically has always been a part of every-day black existence in America. "It was a re-introduction to how America treats black and brown people.… the American system of destroying black and brown bodies," she says. America has a long history of falsely accusing black men of raping white women. The plot of America's first blockbuster movie, DW Griffith's incredibly racist Birth of a Nation, centred on protecting white women from black men. And in 1955, 14-year-old black boy Emmett Till was brutally murdered and mutilated for merely whistling at a white woman. Till's open casket funeral allowed the world to see America's racist brutality. (Webmaster's comment: And it still goes on using the police to kill the blacks. When is it going to stop?)
6-12-19 Chandrayaan-2: India unveils spacecraft for second Moon mission
India's space agency has unveiled its spacecraft that it hopes to land on the Moon by September. If successful, India will be the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, following the US, the former Soviet Union and China. Chandrayaan-2 will be the country's second lunar mission. Its first mission, Chandrayaan-1 which launched in 2008, was an orbiter and did not actually land on the surface of the Moon. This mission will focus on the lunar's surface and gather data on water, minerals and rock formations. The new spacecraft will have a lander, an orbiter and rover. If all goes according to plan, the lander and rover will touch down near the lunar south pole in September. If successful, it would be the first ever spacecraft to land in that region. The rover is expected to operate for 14 days on the Moon, ISRO chairperson K Sivan told the Times of India newspaper. "The rover will analyse the content of the lunar surface and send data and images back to the earth," he said. (Webmaster's comment: India is sending rovers to the moon while 500 million of it's citizens still do not have toilets!)
6-11-19 60,000 child migrants detained by US in last 40 days
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan described a surge in apprehensions at the US-Mexico border.
6-11-19 Botswana decriminalises homosexuality in landmark ruling
Botswana's High Court has ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality in a landmark decision for campaigners. The court rejected laws that impose up to seven years in prison for same-sex relationships, stating they were unconstitutional. The move contrasts with Kenya's recent ruling against campaigners seeking to overturn laws on gay sex. Angola, Mozambique and the Seychelles have all scrapped anti-homosexuality laws in recent years. After three judges came to the decision unanimously, Judge Michael Elburu delivered the verdict. "Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized," he said. He labelled laws banning gay sex as "discriminatory" and said: "Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one's personality." The law has been in place since 1965 when it was brought in by the colonial British government. The case was brought to court by a student who argued society had changed and homosexuality was more widely accepted. Activists welcomed the decision and described it as a significant step for gay rights on the African continent.
6-10-19 California to be first state to provide healthcare to undocumented immigrants
California is poised to become the first US state to offer government-provided healthcare to some immigrants who are in the country illegally. State Democrats agreed on Sunday that adults between the ages of 19 to 25 should have access to Medi-Cal, the state's low-income insurance programme. The measure must still be approved by the full legislature and be signed by the state's Democratic governor. The $98m (£77m) plan aims to provide coverage to 100,000 people. To help pay for the plan, which is part of the latest state budget, lawmakers have proposed taxing people who do not have health insurance. The penalty is similar to the so-called "individual mandate" which had been federal law after the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare, until Republicans in Congress eliminated it in 2017. Health coverage under the budget plan will not be provided to all immigrants - and only to those that qualify under the state's version of Medicaid - the federal low income health programme that was expanded under President Obama. "California believes that health is a fundamental right," said Los Angeles Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell, who led the budget negotiations. The budget comes after Democratic lawmakers, who dominate the state capitol, scrapped a proposal to provide Medi-Cal coverage to adults over 65 years old. The expansion of coverage to the elderly was opposed by Governor Gavin Newsom who noted that the plan would cost $3.4bn. Republicans have decried the budget initiative as a tax on American residents for not having insurance in order to provide healthcare to those in the country illegally.
6-10-19 Viking runestones were the original tweets
What ancient carvings tell us about modern social media. In the remote Swedish countryside, a 1,000-year-old stone slab stands raised by the side of a road. Chiseled onto it, a message has been carved in runes — symbols that served as letters in the ancient Germanic alphabet. The runes tell onlookers that a man named Alrik commissioned and raised this stone slab in commemoration of his father, Spjut, a Viking famous for destroying and laying siege to fortifications in the west. Alrik basks in the glory of Spjut's accomplishments: "Alrik raised the stone, son of Sigrid, after his father Spjut, he in the west had been, castle he had broken and conquered. The arts of the siege, he knew them all." Thousands of Viking Age runestones like this one dot the Swedish landscape, providing direct glimpses into the lives of the Vikings. The messages are short, self-expressive, and, for us onlookers, very out-of-context. More often than not, they contain the unsolicited opinions of the person who commissioned the stone. In many ways, these ancient dispatches are similar to another, more modern style of communication: tweets. A tweet, of course, is a message of no more than 280 characters that can be posted, shared, or liked on the social media platform Twitter. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet in 2006. Since then, Twitter has grown into a platform with more than 200 million users. An estimated 22 percent of all Americans use Twitter. The allure of Twitter is the challenge of the limited number of characters and the opportunity to share opinions and information quickly with a large number of people. Runestones became fashionable after Danish king Harold Bluetooth raised the Jelling Stone, dated to sometime between 960 and 985. Like tweets, the purpose of a runestone was to make a public statement. They were commonly placed where people could see them alongside roads, waterways, by property boundaries, or on hilltops. They are statements of power, wealth, lineage, and faith. They tell stories of love, loss, family, death, and mourning. They commemorate people who have died, but they are not gravestones.
6-8-19 Publisher drops Central Park Five prosecutor Linda Fairstein
Linda Fairstein, a former US prosecutor turned crime novelist, has been dropped by her publisher amid renewed outcry over her role in the wrongful conviction of five teenagers for the brutal rape of a female jogger in 1989. The black and Hispanic teenagers, known as the Central Park Five, were exonerated in 2002. New Netflix mini-series When They See Us has returned attention to the case. It has inspired a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media. Also on Friday, Yusef Salaam, one of the five wrongfully convicted men, accused President Donald Trump of putting "a bounty on our heads" by amplifying public outrage at the time. Mr Salaam was referring to the decision by the then real estate tycoon, to buy full-page ads in several US newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty in the state. "They had published our names, our phone numbers, and our addresses in New York City's newspapers. Imagine the horror of that," a tearful Mr Salaam said at an American Civil Liberties Union event in Los Angeles. President Trump - who three years ago said he still believed the five men were guilty - has not commented on the latest developments. (Webmaster's comment: Facts have never changed his mind.) Dutton, a Penguin Random House imprint, said it had ended its relationship with the author amid the backlash. "I can confirm that Linda Fairstein and Dutton have decided to terminate their relationship. We have no further comment," Dutton Publicity Director Amanda Walker told the BBC. Ms Fairstein, 72, has reportedly also resigned from at least two not-for-profit boards. The crime novelist, who has written 20 novels since the 1990s, has not commented on the issue. Ms Fairstein was the top Manhattan sexual crimes prosecutor when the five teenagers were charged with the attack. The victim, a white 28-year-old investment banker, was severely beaten, raped and left for dead in a bush. She had no memory of the attack. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise - then aged between 14 and 16 - were arrested and interrogated for hours without access to lawyers or their parents. They confessed to the crime but later recanted, saying their admissions were the result of police coercion. Ms Fairstein observed the teenagers' 1989 interrogation, which was conducted by another prosecutor and police. She has since maintained that they were not coerced and defended the authorities' conduct. The convictions were overturned in 2002 after a serial violent offender named Matias Reyes confessed to the attack and said he had acted alone. Reyes confessed from inside prison, after having "found religion". He is serving a life sentence for raping four women, killing one of them. (Webmaster's comment: Blame the Woman and Blame the Blacks. Those always work.)
6-7-19 Trump abuses his power to punish CNN
“The president wants America’s largest telecom to suffer” for CNN’s politics, said Tina Nguyen. The network drew Donald Trump’s attention for a simple reason: Fox News “is no longer broadcasting in Britain, where the Murdoch-owned network received abysmal ratings,” so on his trip to London Trump was stuck watching CNN. Cue the Twitter thumbpad: “All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for U.S. Big ratings drop,” Trump tweeted this week, “why doesn’t owner @ATT do something?” Then he doubled down on a boycott call: “I believe that if people stoped [sic] using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced make big changes at @CNN.” Let’s be clear here. The president is encouraging “economic retaliation against a U.S. telecom for the politics of one of its subsidiaries.” Obviously, it’s not appropriate. It’s also futile. Not only is AT&T among the world’s largest telecom and media companies, it’s also one of small number of regional cable monopolies, and “dominates much of the South.” So many of its customers have nowhere else to go. This campaign will fail, as similar ones have in the past. However powerful Trump’s megaphone, his base ignored calls for boycotts against Nike and Harley-Davidson. In fact, after Trump told his supporters to boycott Nike, the company’s shares rose 31 percent.
6-7-19 What McCain incident tells us
When the U.S. Navy feels obligated to hide a destroyer because its name might irritate the president, said Helaine Olen, it reveals “what a dangerous spot our nation is in.” Last week it was revealed that White House staff pressured Navy officials to keep the USS John S. McCain out of President Trump’s sight line while he was making a Memorial Day speech in Japan. A tarp was temporarily placed over the ship’s name, and its sailors—whose uniforms carried the verboten name—were not invited to hear Trump’s speech. Trump, of course, is “a notoriously thin-skinned man” with no grace or humility who despised the late Sen. McCain for many reasons. McCain refused to abandon his principles to slavishly support Trump, and his war-hero status was “a living, breathing rebuke” of the “faux patriotism” of a playboy heir who dodged the Vietnam draft with phony “bone spurs.” That’s why the White House feared that Trump might have “a presidential temper tantrum” if he even glimpsed McCain’s name on a ship on Memorial Day. Our democracy is in deep trouble when even the military feels obligated to bow before “the moods and whims of a small, petty, and greedy man at the top.”
6-7-19 Barr: Declaring war on Trump’s opponents
Soon after he was confirmed, Attorney General William Barr shocked even “erstwhile supporters with his aggressive and frequently dishonest interventions on behalf of President Trump,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. But now we know “how far over the edge Barr has gone.” In an interview with CBS last week, Barr went “full MAGA,” throwing his support behind the right-wing conspiracy theory that a cabal of rabid Trump haters at the FBI launched the Russia investigation to undermine his presidency. In an even more astonishing moment, Barr calmly stated he saw “no evidence” that Trump has been undermining democratic norms and “shredding our institutions.” The real threat to our norms, Barr said, is coming from Trump’s opponents, who are “resisting a democratically elected president.” Barr left no doubt about it, said William Saletan in Slate.com. The U.S. attorney general is a committed “agent of President Donald Trump.” Honest? asked Philip Bump in WashingtonPost.com. Barr also made the “simply indefensible” claim that special counsel Robert Mueller found “no evidence” of the “bogus” claim that the Trump campaign “was in cahoots with Russia.” In truth, Mueller’s report details more than 100 secret contacts between Trump staffers and Russia, including Paul Manafort’s still-unexplained gift of U.S. polling data to an agent of the Kremlin. Barr may honestly believe he needs to clean house at the FBI to restore public trust in our institutions, said Jack Goldsmith in Lawfareblog.com. But as attorney general, Barr is one of those institutions himself. By distorting Mueller’s conclusions, and appearing to prejudge the results of his FBI investigation, Barr has “severely undermined what was left of his credibility.”
6-7-19 Reunification debacle
Immigration authorities left a group of 37 migrant children between 5 and 12 years old in parked vans “in the blistering Texas sun” last July as they waited to be reunited with their parents, NBC News reported this week. Most of the children spent at least 23 hours in the vehicles amid a scene one immigration official called “hurried disarray.” After being driven to meet their parents at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, children entered the facility only to be taken back into the vans because ICE wasn’t prepared for them. Despite two warnings that the children would be arriving, ICE officers worked their regular schedules, clocking out as the parking lot turned into an impromptu shelter. The children were given blankets and food, and not until waiting two nights—39 hours—did the last child leave a van to be reunited with family.
6-7-19 Best president
When Americans were asked to name the best president in their lifetimes, 31% said Barack Obama. Ronald Reagan came in second, with 21%, while Bill Clinton was named by 13%. Donald Trump was fourth, at 10%.
6-7-19 Workplace massacre
Deadliest shooting of 2019. Twelve people were killed at a municipal building last week and four others were seriously injured, in the country’s deadliest shooting of the year. DeWayne Craddock, 40, a Department of Public Utilities engineer, submitted his two weeks’ notice hours before entering the building and opening fire, armed with two legally purchased .45-caliber handguns, at least one of which had a silencer and extended capacity magazine. The gunman, a former Army National Guardsman, appeared to target supervisors in his department. Officials said he had no disciplinary history, though The New York Times reports he had gotten into a fight on city grounds and faced disciplinary action. Four police officers engaged in an extended gunfight with Craddock before fatally shooting him. Gov. Ralph Northam called a special legislative session, where he will propose a gun-reform package including universal background checks and a ban on silencers. (Webmaster's comment: They are all dead thanks to semi-automatic weapons designed soley to kill people.)
6-7-19 Justine Damond: US policeman jailed for Australian's murder
A former policeman in the US state of Minnesota has been sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison for fatally shooting an unarmed woman who was trying to report a possible crime. Mohamed Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached his patrol car to report a possible rape behind her Minneapolis home in July 2017. He said the shooting was a mistake. In court, Ms Damond's father, John Ruszczyk, called the killing "an obscene act by an agent of the state". "Justine's death has left me incomplete - it is as if I have lost a limb or a leg," he said in an impact statement. Ms Damond's fiancee, Don Damond, read an emotional statement addressed directly to her. "Dear Justine, I miss you so much every day, every moment," he said. "I don't understand how such a thing could happen to you and to us." Noor is the first Minnesota police officer to be found guilty of murder for an on-duty shooting. At his sentencing on Friday, the 33-year-old apologised for taking Ms Damond's life. "I caused this tragedy and it is my burden," he told the court. "I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot, and that is a troubling reality for me." Some in the Somali-American community - Noor is Somali - have argued that the case was treated differently than police shootings involving white officers and black victims. Activists outside the courthouse Friday carried signs reading "No double standard" and "NOOR: Victim of Identity Politics." (Webmaster's comment: He would never have been convicted if he had been white. White policement are never convicted of murdering blacks or women.)
6-7-19 US man charged with triple murder targeting LGBT victims
A US man charged with fatally shooting three people and wounding two others targeted his victims because they were gay or transgender, prosecutors said. Devon Robinson, 19, of Detroit, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of assault and related weapons charges. The victims, all from Detroit, included Alunte Davis, 21, Paris Cameron, 20, and Timothy Blancher, 20. In court on Friday, Mr Robinson pleaded not guilty to all charges. In a statement to US media, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy decried the "disturbing" allegations against Mr Robinson. "The fact that this happened during Pride Month adds salt into the wound," she said. "We must remain ever vigilant in our fight to eradicate hate." Police said the shooting occurred over the Memorial Day weekend in a home in Detroit's east side. According to the prosecutor's office, Mr Davis and Mr Blancher were gay men, and Ms Cameron was transgender, US media said. Prosecutors said the victim's were targeted by Mr Robinson because of their sexuality, though he has not been specifically charged with a hate crime. Two others were shot but survived. Mr Davis' sister Dasha Robinson told local TV station WJBK-TV her brother was "full of life", reported the Associated Press. According to the most recent data from the FBI, almost 16% of recorded hate crimes in the US were related to the victim's sexual orientation. Another 1.7% were related to gender identity. (Webmaster's comment: 6-4-19 Alabama mayor suggested 'killing out' gay people.)
6-7-19 Targets of hate
Police requested FBI assistance this week in responding to a plague of violence targeting black transgender women, after a third trans woman since October was found murdered. A passerby last week discovered the body of Chynal Lindsey, 26, floating in the White Rock Lake reservoir, and police said her body showed “obvious signs of homicidal violence.” Last month, Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was shot dead, weeks after she suffered a concussion and broken wrist after being brutally beaten in an apartment parking lot. Cellphone video of the attack posted to Facebook showed a group of men punching and stomping on Booker while shouting anti-gay slurs. In April, a 26-year-old Dallas trans woman was stabbed several times and left for dead but survived. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the murders of Lindsey and Booker, which remain unsolved, stemmed from “an epidemic of violence and hate.”
6-7-19 Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres last week urged girls to speak out after explaining her own silence when she was sexually abused by her stepfather in her teenage years. In an interview with David Letterman released on Netflix, DeGeneres, 61, described how her mother, Betty, had a second marriage to a “very bad man.” Betty had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after remarrying, and her second husband told DeGeneres that “he’d felt a lump in her breast and needed to feel my breasts,” a line he used several more times. She waited several years to tell her mother, “because I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness”—a mistake she advised other girls not to repeat.
6-7-19 Grant’s road to recovery
John Grant moved to Iceland seven years ago to escape homophobia, said Will Hodgkinson in The Times (U.K.). “Iceland is the first place I’ve been where being gay genuinely isn’t an issue,” says the singer-songwriter, 50, who grew up in Colorado. “They’re almost insulted if you bring it up.” Yet sexuality remains a focus of his albums, and an endless source of torment for him. “I see other gay people and think, ‘Why is it so easy for them and so complicated for me?’” The reason, he thinks, is that he grew up among devout Christians. “I had no chance for self-worth because there was no backing at home. My parents would talk about homosexuality as a fate worse than death.” In his 30s, Grant formed a rock band while waiting tables in Denver, during which he developed drug, alcohol, and sex addictions. Now sober, Grant is still mining emotions from those tumultuous years. “People say I shouldn’t reveal so much of myself in songs,” he says. “People say it is self-indulgent, cringeworthy, embarrassing drivel—and that’s just the good reviews.” In truth, Grant has a cult following, along with famous admirers like Elton John. “I remember him saying, ‘I love you for the way you’ve blossomed,’” Grant says. “And I thought, ‘Actually, I just stopped telling you about all the s--- I’ve been through.’”
6-7-19 Duterte’s gay ‘cure’
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told a crowd last week that he “used to be gay” but “cured himself” with the help of “beautiful women.” The foul-mouthed populist made the admission during a speech to Filipino expats while on a trip to Japan. After accusing opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes—a critic of the president’s bloody drug war—of being homosexual, Duterte said he himself felt “a bit gay” as a younger man but was cured by his ex-wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman. The couple divorced in 2000. “I hated handsome men afterward,” he said of getting married. “I now prefer beautiful women.”
6-7-19 The surge of right-wing populism
Throughout the world, right-wing populism is ascendant, while liberalism is in retreat, said Ross Douthat. In the recent EU elections, far-right parties surged and captured an unprecedented number of seats. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, an evangelical Christian who opposes liberal policies to combat climate change, won an upset victory. In India, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected by an overwhelming margin. These results should chasten American liberals, who have convinced themselves that President Trump’s election was an aberration, and that “their own coalition is the real American majority.” In reality, polling shows that only 18 percent of Americans agree across the board with Democratic positions on abortion, gun control, taxes, immigration, and other hot-button issues. The progressive belief “in a hidden left-of-center mandate” is “a fond delusion.” Yet liberal Democrats insist that their candidates adopt an “inflexible,” far-left agenda on both cultural and economic issues. Democrats might get away with this in 2020, because Trump lacks “the political cunning” of a true demagogue and needlessly alienates “so many persuadable voters.” But in the longer run, Democrats would be foolish to dismiss the angry populism that spawned Trump and so many leaders like him.
6-7-19 EU’s shrinking center
More than 50 percent of voters turned out for the European Parliament elections last week—the highest rate in decades—and voted for change. The EU legislature’s long-dominant center-right and center-left coalition slumped, going from 54 percent of the seats to 43 percent. Far-right, populist parties surged, particularly in France and Italy, increasing their share of seats from 20 to 25 percent. But they did not sweep into power as many experts had predicted, while the pro-environment Greens and pro-business Liberals did better than expected. The biggest upset was in the U.K., where the new Brexit Party, led by Euroskeptic Nigel Farage, trounced the Conservatives, taking 29 of Britain’s 73 seats and making it one of the largest single parties in the chamber.
6-7-19 Bannon booted
No ‘gladiator school’ here. Citing fraud in the tender process, Italy has revoked a lease on a 13th-century mountaintop monastery that Steve Bannon had planned to use as a “gladiator school” to train a new generation of nationalist and far-right leaders. The former White House chief strategist was reportedly paying $112,000 a year to rent the Certosa di Trisulti monastery through the Human Dignity Institute, a conservative Catholic organization. But Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper reported last month that a letter from a Danish bank, used to guarantee the lease, was forged. Bannon’s Academy for the Judeo-Christian West was intended to teach some 250 to 300 students at a time how to defeat secularism. Locals had protested against the school. Bannon said the controversy over the bank document was “just dust being kicked up by the Left.”
6-7-19 Heavy rains
The owners of a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky are suing their insurance company for rain damage. The biblical literalists who own the Ark Encounter exhibit, a 510-foot-long “sister attraction” of the nearby Creation Museum, claim they suffered “tortious injury” to the tune of $1 million when their insurers failed to adequately compensate them for the damage done by recent “heavy rains.”
6-6-19 Trump administration ends federal foetal tissue research
The Trump administration has ended federal research using human foetal tissue, delivering a victory to anti-abortion advocates. The move, announced on Wednesday, has been criticised by scientists who say such tissue is essential in researching diseases like HIV and cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services cited "the dignity of human life" as a "top priority". Privately funded or university-led research is not affected by the policy. "Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump's administration," the department said in a statement. Any National Institutes of Health (NIH) research that requires acquiring new foetal tissue will no longer be conducted under the policy change. As for external grant applications that would use this tissue, HHS said they will be subject to review from an ethics advisory board to determine "whether, in light of the ethical considerations, NIH should fund the research project". In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began reviewing all federal research involving human foetal tissue and halted any new acquisition of tissue. Now, the government will also not renew a $2m (£1.5m) contract with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) for research using tissue from elective abortions. The contract expires on 5 June. "The audit and review helped inform the policy process that led to the administration's decision to let the contract with UCSF expire and to discontinue intramural research - research conducted within the National Institutes of Health - involving the use of human foetal tissue from elective abortion," the statement said. According to the Associated Press, a senior official said the policy move came from President Donald Trump, not the NIH Director, Francis Collins
6-6-19 Australia ABC raids expose lack of whistleblower protection
Police raids this week on an Australian journalist's home and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have left some people asking whether the country is doing enough to protect those who try to expose wrongdoing, as the BBC's Phil Mercer reports from Sydney. In Stephen Spielberg's political blockbuster The Post, a publisher played by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep reveals secret and corrupt activities by the US government during the Vietnam War. At risk are the central character's livelihood, liberty and the future of the Washington Post newspaper. The exposé was based on documents from a whistleblower. David William McBride is no Hollywood leading man, but as the former Australian defence force lawyer charged with leaking classified papers at the centre of Wednesday's police raids at the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), he has made breathtaking claims against the military and the government. "It is everything like in the movies," Mr McBride told the BBC. "You are under surveillance a lot and it does get to you." He is referring to his fight to air the truth about allegations that Australian special forces were involved in killing unarmed men and children while serving in Afghanistan. "It is one thing fighting for an army in a war because you have a support group, but as a whistleblower you have none of that," he said. "You're fighting a war on your own and your own sanity is often questioned by yourself and by others. It is a really miserable fight. "I could see that the [Australian] government had become the worst threat to national security that we faced. They were no longer interested in actually defending the country. They were simply interested in defending themselves."
6-6-19 Gallup First Polled on Gay Issues in '77. What Has Changed?
Gallup first polled Americans about gays and lesbians in 1977 -- when the U.S. gay rights movement was still in its infancy, and openly gay politician Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Gay rights activists at the time enjoyed momentum from the 1969 riots at Stonewall Inn in New York City -- an uprising against police raids on gay bars, the 50th anniversary of which the LGBT community celebrates this month -- and had not yet endured the AIDS crisis that would later kill many LGBT people. But while the movement was young and hopeful at the time, Americans held very different views about gay people than they do today.
- Gallup's earliest LGBT questions reveal significant changes in attitudes
- 14% believed gay people should be allowed to adopt in 1977
- Americans were once split on whether gay relations should be legal
6-5-19 Alabama mayor suggested 'killing out' gay people
The mayor of an Alabama town reportedly called for "killing out" gay people in a since-deleted Facebook comment. Mark Chambers lumped "homosexuals" and "transvestites" together with "baby killers" and "socialists" in the post, according to TV station WBRC. The Carbon Hill mayor reportedly maintained his words had been taken out of context, before apologising. A gay rights group has demanded his resignation. The mayor could not immediately be reached for comment. According to WBRC, Mr Chambers posted on Facebook a graphic that read all in capital letters: "We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics!" The mayor reportedly commented on the post: "The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it's bad to say but with out [sic] killing them out there's no way to fix it." The comment prompted calls for the mayor to step down, including from the Alabama branch of the Human Rights Campaign. The group called Mr Chambers' comments "horrifying, unconscionable and unacceptable". "LGBTQ people face disproportionate levels of violence and harassment in their daily lives - a fact that is especially true in Alabama. Mayor Chambers must be held to account." Mr Chambers has given no signal that he will step down as mayor of Carbon Hill, a town of less than 2,000 people, 150 miles (240km) north of the state capital, Montgomery. When WBRC contacted Mr Chambers, he initially denied writing the comment, according to the Birmingham, Alabama-based news station. But in a subsequent call, he reportedly told WBRC he had made the comment public by mistake and intended to send it privately to a friend. During his phone call with the TV station, Mr Chambers also reportedly mentioned immigrants in the US, calling them "ungrateful" and arguing they were taking over the country. (Webmaster's comment: The naked face of HATRED in America.)
6-5-19 La Luz del Mundo church leader charged with child rape in US
The leader of an international religious organisation is being held in the US on charges of human trafficking, child rape and other felonies. Naasón Joaquín García, who heads La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World) church, was detained at Los Angeles airport, California prosecutors said. Mr García, known as "the Apostle" among his followers, and his three female co-defendants are facing 26 charges. La Luz del Mundo said it was confident Mr García would be proven innocent. The organisation, which has headquarters in Mexico, says it has baptised more than five million people around the globe. It claims to have at least 1.8 million followers in Mexico alone. However, only 188,326 people stated their religion as being Luz del Mundo, says Mexico's official census (in Spanish) carried out in 2010. In recent years the church's influence has spread to the US, particularly in parts of California with large Hispanic populations. In a statement released on Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Mr García, a Mexican national, and the three women allegedly committed 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018. These included human trafficking, production of child sex abuse images and forcible rape of a minor. The defendants are accused of coercing underage girls into performing sex acts. The girls were reportedly told that if they went against the wishes of "the Apostle" they would be going against God. "Crimes like those alleged... have no place in our society. Period," Mr Becerra said. "We must not turn a blind eye to sexual violence and trafficking in our state." Mr García's co-defendants have been named as Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Meléndez and Susana Medina Oaxaca. They are all affiliated with La Luz del Mundo. Among them only Ms Meléndez remains at large.
6-5-19 YouTube says anti-gay slurs don't break its rules
YouTube is one of many companies that has given its logo a rainbow-themed makeover to show support for LGBT rights - but, underneath the colourful veneer, a row has erupted over how the video-sharing site enforces its own hate-speech policies. At the centre of the dispute is journalist Carlos Maza, who presents a popular series called Strikethrough for the news site Vox. He says he has faced persistent abuse from rival video-maker Steven Crowder, who has more than 3.8 million subscribers on YouTube. Whenever Maza publishes a video for Vox, Crowder will post his own "debunking" video, peppered with insulting language attacking Maza's sexual orientation and ethnicity. So, last week, Maza posted a video compilation of the abuse. In the clips, Crowder imitates Maza's accent and calls him, among other things, a "lispy queer", a "gay Vox sprite" and a "gay Mexican". Maza asked YouTube to step in. "These videos get millions of views on YouTube. Every time one gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter," he said in a tweet. "These videos make me a target of ridiculous harassment." YouTube said it would investigate. It conducted an "in-depth review" and on Tuesday it came back with an answer. "While we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don't violate our policies," it said in a statement. (Webmaster's comment: Hate speech clearly encourages physical assaults against LGBTs. Encouraging physical assaults is illegal! Let's shut these haters down!)
6-5-19 Calls for a 'Straight Pride Parade' cause stir
A lively discussion has kicked off on Twitter over the merits of straight people having their own Pride events. A plan by a group in Boston, US, to hold a '"straight pride" march in August has sparked more than 45,000 tweets in the last 24 hours. The group - Super Happy Fun America - has applied to the city government to hold their march, and approval is currently pending. Three men behind the event include John Hugo, who was the Republican candidate for Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District in the 2018 mid-term election. On the organiser's website, Hugo is quoted as saying: "Straight people are an oppressed majority. We will fight for the right of straights everywhere to express pride in themselves without fear of judgement and hate." Another organiser, Mark Sahady, is a member of a group called Resist Marxism which in 2018 held a "free speech" rally that was outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. In a statement to the BBC, the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh said: "Every year Boston hosts our annual Pride Week, where our city comes together to celebrate the diversity, strength and acceptance of our LGBTQ community. "This is a special week that represents Boston's values of love and inclusion, which are unwavering. I encourage everyone to join us in celebration this Saturday for the Pride Parade and in the fight for progress and equality for all." Although the straight pride event has not yet been confirmed, it has not stopped many people weighing in to criticise the idea. "Every day is a straight pride parade," wrote author Craig Rozniecki, arguing that heterosexuals' privileged position over gay people renders the concept of their needing pride events redundant. "You all want a straight pride parade but where's your straight stonewall?," asked another user, who added: "Where are the families throwing you out for being straight? Where are the police raiding your bars, invading your privacy, fining and locking you up for existing? You want the fun part, but can't handle the worst part."
6-5-19 ABC raid: Outcry as Australian police search public broadcaster
A police raid on Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) has drawn fire from broadcasters and rights groups. Officers arrived at the public broadcaster's Sydney headquarters with search warrants naming two reporters and the news director. The ABC has protested over the raid. Police searched the home of a News Corp journalist on Tuesday, sparking alarm. The BBC said it was "deeply troubling" for a broadcaster to be searched. The leading journalists' union in the country said the two raids represented a "disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom". Other unions and human rights groups also condemned the actions. In a statement ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the police raid "raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press". "The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest." ABC News director Gaven Morris defended the two journalists who were named along with him in the search warrant. The police action is related to articles about alleged misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan. According to the ABC, Wednesday's search is about the 2017 investigative series known as The Afghan Files which "revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan". The broadcaster said the series was "based off hundreds of pages of secret defence documents leaked to the ABC". The Australian Federal Police said the warrant was in relation to "allegations of publishing classified material" and that it "relates to a referral received on 11 July 2017 from the Chief of the Defence Force and the then-Acting Secretary for Defence". The Afghan Files were published by the ABC on 10 July 2017. Tuesday's search at the home of newspaper journalist Annika Smethurst related to her 2018 report about a government plan to spy on Australian citizens. Police said their warrant was linked with "the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret". (Webmaster's comment: Sounds like Australia is becoming a police state. America will follow!)
6-4-19 The Religious Left Has a Numbers Problem
We certainly hear a lot more about the religious right than we do about the religious left. This past week, for example, a number of conservative religious leaders, including Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, called for a day of prayer for the president, saying that no president has been attacked more than Donald Trump. Graham and other evangelical religious leaders have been outspoken in their support for Trump before and since his election. President Trump himself stopped by a large evangelical church in Virginia this past Sunday for a brief visit and interaction with the pastor during the worship service. The idea that this large and influential "religious right" could be countered by a "religious left" has bounced around for a long time, but has gained currency this year -- in part because of the self-identified religiosity of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg has been forthright in discussing his religious faith and how it leads him to support substantially different policy goals than those usually backed by religious conservatives. Buttigieg describes himself as a very religious Episcopalian and has been one of the few Democratic candidates to bring religion back into the political conversation from a liberal perspective. As Buttigieg said recently, "The left is rightly committed to a separation of church and state … but we need to not be afraid to invoke arguments that are convincing on why Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction. … When I think about where most of Scripture points me, it is toward defending the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger, and the prisoner, and the outcast, and those who are left behind by the way society works."
6-4-19 Oscar first for Native American actor Wes Studi
Nearly 50 years ago, Marlon Brando famously declined his Oscar for The Godfather over Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans. He sent Native American actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather on stage to refuse the award on his behalf on stage at the 1973 ceremony. And it's taken a mere 46 years for a Native American actor to finally be honoured with an Oscar. Wes Studi has been given the honorary award for career achievement. Canadian native musician Buffy Sainte-Marie shared a best original song Oscar in 1982 but Studi's acting honour will be seen by many as a further step in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' continuing attempts to embrace diversity. In June last year, AMPAS invited 928 artists and executives to join - almost half of whom are women and over a third from minorities. Hollywood's complicated relationship with Native Americans goes back to the earliest movies set in the Wild West. Aside from largely ignoring the presence of black cowboys - they largely stuck to negative racist stereotypes of Native people, often portraying them as savage. (Webmaster's comment: The real savages were the white men who raped and massacred innocent Indian men, women and children by the hundreds of thousands!) This is yet another sign of Native Americans on the up. It comes after unprecedented numbers of Native Americans ran for public office in 2018, a record number of them female. The Native population in the States is significantly younger than the average American and numbers are rising fast - more than five million identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native and about 78% are living off reservation. Of course, this award is long overdue, since Wes Studi has been working extremely hard at an exceptional level for a very long time - he's 71. He went to Chilocco Indian School, fought in Vietnam and overcame great odds to succeed. It's regrettable that to work in the mainstream he's had to be in some heavily stereotyped movies, such as Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves (1990) and Last of the Mohicans (1992). Colonialism is full of ironies, and it's especially ironic in this case that the first Native Oscar goes to a man who has achieved success often playing an 'Indian chief', when in truth, in a great many Native communities, women often led and historically played key roles in diplomacy and war. The bottom line though is that Wes Studi is superbly talented and a credit to his Cherokee people. He spoke Tsalagi, his people's language, when he introduced a montage at the 2018 Oscars. He's a veteran who fought for his country, as so many other Natives have in all America's great conflicts - it's refreshing to see America recognise one of the very best.
6-4-19 Protesters rally against Trump in London
Anti-Trump protesters have gathered in Trafalgar Square, as the US president meets the PM. Hundreds of people marched through central London with placards.
6-4-19 Canada 'complicit in race-based genocide' of indigenous women
Canada is complicit in a "race-based genocide" against indigenous women, a government inquiry has found. The report cited research finding indigenous women were 12 times more likely to be killed or to disappear than other women in Canada. The inquiry blamed the crisis on deep-rooted colonialism and state inaction. Among more than 200 recommendations is a call for all Canadians to help end violence, including by learning indigenous history. The 1,200-page document released Monday is the culmination of almost three years of hearings and research by the inquiry into disproportionate violence faced by indigenous women and girls in Canada. "Despite their different circumstances and backgrounds, all of the missing and murdered are connected by economic, social, and political marginalisation, racism and misogyny woven into the fabric of Canadian society," said Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry. It cost C$92m ($67m; £53m), and heard from more than 2,000 witnesses since 2017 - including survivors of violence and family members. Mr Trudeau's government launched the national inquiry in September 2016, after years of calls for one by indigenous and international organisations. Notable cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls had fuelled the call for a national inquiry, including the Vancouver murders by Robert Pickton, and the death of schoolgirl Tina Fontaine. In 2015, a landmark Truth and Reconciliation report into the legacy of residential schools in Canada issued a damning verdict - that the policy amounted to "cultural genocide". Monday's document takes that finding a step further saying that the murder and disappearance indigenous women and girls over the past few decades has amounted to a "race-based genocide of indigenous peoples"
6-4-19 Mike's Iraq story: Christian told to 'Leave or die'
He had been labelled a spy, thrown in jail and tortured. So when Mike Espirion was released from Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison after 10 years, he might have thought better times lay ahead. He was wrong. Instead, he had letters pushed through his door in the Christian area of Baghdad telling him: "Leave or die." So began his arduous journey from Iraq to Wales. How he fled persecution is one of five stories being told in a virtual reality exhibition in Cardiff.
6-4-19 Baseball has an inclusion problem
Last August, I attended my first LGBTQ Pride Night at New York's Citi Field. Queued in the blazing heat to see the Mets play the Atlanta Braves, fans were handed rainbow flags to take into the park. Yet many, like myself, hadn't even realized it was Pride Night in the first place; the event was overshadowed by a coveted Noah Syndergaard bobblehead giveaway. "I'm a gay Mets fan and I can't help but feel like the [Mets'] Pride plans are taking a back seat to a different promotion on the same day," wrote Matt Tracy at the time for Outsports. The Mets' half-hearted Pride festivities were an uncharacteristically revealing glimpse at a larger inclusion problem in the sport, one that now, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, has again failed to markedly improve. Even with all but the two Texas teams celebrating Pride events at ballparks this season, Major League Baseball still hasn't made the sport as welcoming to players as it outwardly purports to be. Consider that, of the 750 active players on an MLB roster every year, none have ever publicly confirmed being gay. In fact, in all of the sport's 150-year history, only two major league players, Billy Bean and Glenn Burke, have talked openly about their orientation, and both made the disclosures only after they'd retired. Homophobic slurs are still a problem on the diamond; Houston Astros outfielder George Springer was quietly disciplined by MLB earlier this year after calling the umpire a derogatory term, while in 2017 both the Oakland Athletics' Matt Joyce and Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar received suspensions for hurling slurs. Three-time All-Star Daniel Murphy, meanwhile, won the National League Championship Series MVP award in 2015, the same year he told an interviewer he "disagree[d]" with Bean's gay "lifestyle." To MLB's credit, the organization clearly wants to ensure ballparks are welcoming for the thousands of LGBTQ fans who go to games every day of the season. Still, it's been a rocky road, The New York Times reports: In 2000, a lesbian couple was ejected from Dodger Stadium for kissing, and during the 2010 playoffs, Yankees fans used the game's "YMCA" break to taunt opposing fans with "why are you gay?" The "kiss cam," an uncomfortable staple of many ballparks, almost exclusively focuses on assumed heterosexual couples when it's not a Pride Night. There has been some improvement, though: In 2014, MLB named Bean as the sport's first ambassador for inclusion, while sports journalist LZ Granderson has written that "I am living proof that things have changed," recalling the time he was called a slur by an editor in the late 1990s.
6-4-19 Ethiopia religious anger over US gay tour plan
Ethiopian church groups have called on the government to block a planned visit to the country by a US-based company that organises tours for gay people. The groups were particularly angry that the itinerary published by the Toto Tours company includes religious sites. Many Ethiopians are deeply religious and disapprove of homosexuality, which is also prohibited under the law. The owner of Toto Tours told the BBC the company had received threats and hate messages on social media. "We are humble and loving people, we come with no harm in mind, nothing we do is going to harm anybody, and yet we are being threatened with harm," Dan Ware told the BBC Amharic service. Mr Ware said he was afraid, and urged the Ethiopian tourism ministry "to be careful". "The eyes of the world will be on us when we come and whatever is done to us will reflect tremendously on the Ethiopian culture and its tourism industry." The Toto Tours website says it is planning a trip to Ethiopia in October this year. The itinerary includes Bahir Dar, a centre of Christian mysticism, as well as Lalibela, famed for its ancient churches carved out of rock. Both destinations are in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia. The president of Selestu Me'et, a coalition of Ethiopian Orthodox church associations, told BBC Amharic that the government "should ban this group from entering the country and visiting the sacred sites". "They should not be allowed to leave their mark," Dereje Negash said. "Our religion condemns this act, and it's disgraceful." He emphasised that homosexuality was illegal in Ethiopia, and said the tour company should not be allowed to "violate the law of the land". Mr Negash is also a deacon of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, and has been lobbying against homosexuality in the country.
6-2-19 Everyone is wrong about socialism
If I start screaming “Wolverines!” at strangers it's not because I am getting impatient waiting for the start of the college football season (only 84 more days!) but because I have just seen the latest issue of National Review — the June 3 edition of the conservative magazine is given over to a symposium entitled “Against Socialism.” "Socialism," Rich Lowry tells us in his introduction to the special issue, “is back.” My fondness for Red Dawn should, I hope, establish my own anti-communist bona fides. When the contras plant their flag on American soil I will be the first person heading for the hills with a rifle and a rosary. But this ain't it, chief. Lowry himself seems to be under the impression that Franklin Roosevelt was a kind of socialist. (The great man in fact loathed socialists, and the feeling was mutual.) One National Review contributor argues that Plato was a commie, indeed, the very first; his definition of “socialist” is capacious enough to make room for Barack Obama as well. One of the magazine’s senior editors is of the opinion that “the common good,” a phrase used approvingly by every political philosopher of any importance during the last two millennia with the exception of Ayn Rand, is "Leninist." (Webmaster's comment: Rand was a "survival of the fittest" philosopher. The fastest gun wins and is therefore in the right. Welcome back to Billy the Kid. And if your're starving, tough shit!) All of this leaves me very confused. It doesn't help, of course, that two of the avowedly socialist bogeymen singled out in the National Review symposium don't seem to have a very coherent idea of what “socialism” is either. Whatever Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stand for, it certainly isn't community ownership of the means of production, which is, the last time I clicked on the Wikipedia page, literally what socialism means. Believing that there should be a social safety net and that this should include government provision of health care for those who cannot afford it is not “socialism.” This not exactly radical worldview could be called a lot of other things though, including “Reaganism” or “Thatcherism.” Putting aside his views on so-called social issues, which are all but obligatory in today's Democratic Party, Sanders is about as radical as the average New Deal Democrat of the '30s. The fact that he has himself pointed this out on numerous occasions does not make the picture any clearer. Even the Democratic Socialists of America admit that “regulated markets can guarantee efficiency, consumer choice and labor mobility.”
6-3-19 Sephora to shut US stores for diversity training
Beauty chain Sephora will close its US stores on Wednesday for diversity training, a month after a racial incident involving singer SZA. The R&B artist said she had been racially profiled while shopping at a Sephora store in California. The firm told Reuters it was aware of the incident but said the training was not "a response to any one event". Last year Starbucks held inclusion training amid racial profiling allegations. In a tweet on 1 May, SZA said while shopping at a Sephora store outside of Los Angeles, an employee she identified as "Sandy" had "called security to make sure I wasn't stealing". The company responded at the time on Twitter: "You are a part of the Sephora family, and we are committed to ensuring every member of our community feels welcome and included at our stores." Last year US website Refinery29 reported the singer had previously worked at Sephora. SZA has been nominated for numerous Grammy awards, and recently collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on the track "All the Stars" which featured on the soundtrack of the film Black Panther. In a Facebook post, Sephora said it would hold "inclusion workshops" on the morning on 5 June at its US stores as well as its distribution centres and corporate offices. Sephora did not immediately respond to BBC requests for comment about the training. Emily Shapiro, a spokesperson for Sephora, told Reuters the store closures were not "a response to any one event," saying that planning for the "inclusivity workshops" had been in progress for months. Last year Starbucks shut all 8,000 company-owned branches in the US for an afternoon to carry out "racial bias" training. The move came after the firm had to apologise over the arrest of two black men who were waiting to meet someone in a Starbucks in Philadelphia in May 2018.
6-2-19 Trump denies calling Meghan 'nasty' despite audio recording
US President Donald Trump has denied calling the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, "nasty" despite the comments being recorded. "I never called Meghan Markle 'nasty'," he tweeted on Sunday, adding: "Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!" Mr Trump made his remarks about the duchess in a Sun newspaper interview ahead of his state visit to the UK. The US former actress has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump. She supported his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election and has referred to him as "divisive" and a "misogynist". Told of her comments during his interview with the Sun, President Trump said it was the first time he had heard them. "I didn't know that. What can I say? I didn't know that she was nasty," he said. He went on to say that he was glad she had joined the royal family and he believed she would make a "very good" princess. "It is nice, and I am sure she will do excellently," he said. On Saturday the Sun posted an audio recording of the interview on its website. Following Mr Trump's denial on Twitter the day after the interview was published, several commentators pointed out that the remarks were on tape. The duchess, married to Britain's Prince Harry, gave birth to the couple's first child in May. She is on maternity leave and not expected to meet President Trump during his visit from 3 to 5 June. (Webmaster's comment: This could well be Trump's 10,000th lie! He averages about 10 lies every day.)
6-2-19 Pope Francis apologises to Roma for Catholic discrimination
Pope Francis has apologised to the Roma people on behalf of the Catholic Church during his visit to Romania. At a meeting with Roma people on the last day of his visit to the country, the pontiff asked forgiveness for "all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you". Roma people have faced persecution in Europe for centuries. Hundreds of thousands are thought to have been killed during the Holocaust."I ask forgiveness - in the name of the Church and of the Lord - and I ask forgiveness of you," Pope Francis said in the central town of Blaj. "Indifference breeds prejudices and fosters anger and resentment," the pontiff said. "How many times do we judge rashly, with words that sting, with attitudes that sow hatred and division!" The meeting with the Roma came after a ceremony in Blaj at which Pope Francis beatified seven bishops who were jailed and tortured during Communist rule in Romania. Authorities detained the men in 1948 for treason after they refused to convert to Orthodox Christianity. All seven died in confinement and were buried in secret. "With great courage and interior fortitude, they accepted harsh imprisonment and every kind of mistreatment, in order not to deny their fidelity to their beloved Church," Pope Francis told tens of thousands of worshippers at the open-air Mass on Sunday. Beatification - a papal "blessing" on a dead person" - is a crucial step on the way to sainthood.The seven bishops were part of the Eastern Catholic church - a religious group that practises Orthodox Christian rituals but recognise the Pope's authority. When a Communist regime took power in Romania following the end of World War II, the authorities outlawed Eastern Catholicism and demanded worshippers convert to Orthodoxy.