11-2-19 Why televangelist Paula White is the perfect Trump administration hire
Though she rejects the label, televangelist Paula White is part of the prosperity gospel movement, which goes by many names: "Name it and claim it." "Health and wealth." "Word of faith." "Seed faith." Even just "faith." What these titles to varying degrees reveal and obscure is the transactional nature of this scam at the fringes of Christianity. God wants to give you money, good health, and happiness, the prosperity gospel preacher says, but you've gotta work with him a little first. You have to demonstrate the sincerity of your faith — do for him before he'll do for you — and as it turns out, a really great demonstration of faith is sending a check to this very preacher, who just happens to be in the market for a new personal plane. White also happens to be the latest Trump administration hire, reportedly brought on to advise on the White House's Faith and Opportunity Initiative. This is exactly right. A shameless religious grifter is a perfect fit for this presidency, an administration built on giving desperate people false hope for personal gain. To the outside observer, the prosperity gospel may look like a mere extension of more theologically conservative and liturgically demonstrative types of Christianity, a close relative of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, or Pentecostalism. There is overlap with each, to be sure, but the prosperity gospel is a unique creature. Though popular around the world, especially in the Global South, it has American roots and what Kate Bowler, a professor of religion at Duke Divinity School, has described as a "triumph of American optimism over the realities of a fickle economy, entrenched racism, pervasive poverty, and theological pessimism." There are two chief problems with the prosperity gospel. One is its clever theological perversion, which offers a funhouse mirror take on basic Christian affirmations that God loves us, wants good things for us, and is working through his people toward a final victory over evil, sin, and death itself. In the prosperity gospel's telling, God is a divine vending machine: You put in your coin of faith (check or credit also accepted) and out pops your health, wealth, and victory, the latter degraded from a cosmic triumph to positive feelings about your personal life. The New Testament speaks often of the necessity of self-denial, the reality of suffering (including suffering because of your faith), and the dangers and temptations of wealth. The prosperity gospel offers "your best life now," purchasable escape from pain, and wealth as proof of God's favor. God here is a means, not an end. The second problem with the prosperity gospel is its utterly inexcusable targeting of vulnerable people. This movement does not flourish among the upper class. Those who make $10,000 or less per year are twice as likely to adhere to the prosperity gospel as those making $35,000 to $50,000 per year. It is but a slight exaggeration to say the only people getting the promised wealth are those making the promises. The reality of poverty is not overcome by opportunistic religious lies.
11-2-19 Dresden: The German city that declared a 'Nazi emergency'
A city in eastern Germany has declared a "Nazi emergency", saying it has a serious problem with the far right. Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has long been viewed as a bastion of the far-right and is the birthplace of the anti-Islam Pegida movement. Councillors in the city - a contender for the 2025 European Capital of Culture - have now approved a resolution saying more needs to be done to tackle the issue. But opponents say it goes too far. "'Nazinotstand' means - similar to the climate emergency - that we have a serious problem. The open democratic society is threatened," local councillor Max Aschenbach, who tabled the motion, told the BBC. Mr Aschenbach, from left-leaning satirical political party Die Partei, said he believed it was necessary to take action because politicians were not doing enough to "position themselves clearly" against the far-right. "The request was an attempt to change that. I also wanted to know what kind of people I'm sitting with in the city council of Dresden," he said. The resolution acknowledges that "right-wing extremist attitudes and actions... are occurring with increasing frequency" and calls on the city to help victims of far-right violence, protect minorities and strengthen democracy. Mr Aschenbach said adopting the motion showed the city council's commitment to fostering "a free, liberal, democratic society that protects minorities and resolutely opposes Nazis." Mr Aschenbach's resolution was put to a vote by Dresden's city council on Wednesday night. It was approved by 39 votes to 29, with Germany's governing Christian Democrats (CDU) among those to have rejected it, according to local media reports. (Webmaster's comment: Nazis are pure EVIL! Anything we can do to curtail them should be legitimate!)
11-1-19 Anti-Semitism has increased
84% of Jews in America say they believe anti-Semitism has increased over the past five years. Since 2014, 23% of Jews have experienced an anti-Semitic remark through phone, mail, or in person, and 21% have been attacked online. 31% say they have publicly avoided wearing things that would identify themselves as Jews. 47% say that Jewish institutions they have been a part of have been attacked in some way.
11-1-19 Booing the president: Was it justified?
President Trump is “an avid sports fan,” yet he “stays away from most sporting events,” said Christine Brennan in USA Today. “Now we know why.” After the Washington Nationals’ public address announcer introduced him during Game 5 of the World Series, the hometown D.C. crowd greeted him with “intense and long-lasting” boos. A lusty chant of “Lock him up!” followed “for several minutes” from the outfield and upper deck. Trump, who rarely travels beyond the protective bubble of his rallies and properties, is the only president since William Taft in 1910 not to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. He hasn’t even attended a single game. “Odds are, he won’t come back anytime soon.”
11-1-19 “Way too out there with his gayness.”
A Missouri jury has awarded nearly $20 million to a gay police officer who was told to “tone down” his gayness. Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was passed over 23 times for promotion, with superior officers describing him as “fruity” and “way too out there with his gayness.” The jury foreman said the award sends a message that “if you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price.”
11-1-19 Boeing: How could the CEO know so little?
Members of Congress this week confronted Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg with evidence that “numerous people inside Boeing were aware of the potential dangers” of Boeing’s troubled emergency warning system, said David Gelles and Natalie Kitroeff in The New York Times. Rep. Pete DeFazio (D.-Ore.) produced an email showing that as early as 2015 Boeing employees asked what would happen if the airplane’s “angle of attack” sensor failed. Other documents showed that Boeing knew pilots could face “catastrophic” failure if they “took 10 seconds to respond” to the sensor’s warning. With victims’ families seated behind him, Muilenburg acknowledged that, “We have work to do.” The most revealing exchange in Muilenburg’s Senate hearing was with Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas), said Brooke Sutherland in Bloomberg.com. Pressed by Cruz, Muilenburg said he was “generally aware” of documents that raised questions about the Boeing 737 Max, but he “relied on his counsel to provide that information to the appropriate authorities.” Muilenburg passing the buck left Cruz fuming. And he was right to fume. Muilenburg said he found out about “bombshell” messages from Boeing’s test pilots “over the last couple of weeks when it became public news.” A full year after the plane’s first crash, that kind of ignorance from the CEO is “inexplicable.” (Webmaster's comment: It's profits first, safety second as always for executives!)
10-31-19 The unsurprising decline of childhood literacy in America
I cannot remember a time when I read a newspaper article informing me that children were getting better at anything. If all the hellish stories are to be believed, young people, not only in this country but throughout the post-industrialized Western world, are miserable: anxious, frightened, isolated, confused. So it was no surprise to learn that American children are not learning how to read either. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average reading test scores are declining among American eighth graders, in large part because the very worst readers are performing worse than ever. What can we do about it? Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats running for president have a predictable answer: spend billions of dollars on some initiative, the details of which I would rather undergo the voluntary removal of my gallbladder than familiarize myself with. Meanwhile Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, says that we cannot simply throw money at the problem. This seems to me undeniable. It may well be the case that not all American children learned to read decades ago, but those who did were actual readers. They could sit down with Washington's "Farewell Address" or a story by Hawthorne without their eyes glazing over. And they acquired these skills with far less money spent, no nonsense about innovative curriculum, or, perhaps most important, without "technology in the classroom" (the great mantra of the '90s and early 2000s). As I write this, millions of them in their 60s and 70s are browsing the stacks at their public libraries, those bizarre institutions that so few young people even associate with books, looking for the new John Grisham. I cannot for the life of me understand why we cannot admit that spending hundreds of hours in front of televisions and mobile phones and tablets and even occasionally computers — those archaic typing machines employed by us oldsters — is very obviously detrimental to the process of learning to read. Reading a book requires one to concentrate on a single task for an extended period of time — a minimum of half an hour or so during which one does not ask oneself whether a little heart or a yellow star is appearing next to some words in a box next to some other words. It is a centripetal rather than a centrifugal process, one that requires us to look down and inward, not outside. If we want to help young people become better readers, one of the best things we can do for them is to keep their wonderful young imaginations free from the tyranny of the screen, to which commerce will subject them later on when they are forced to earn their livings.
10-31-19 Alaska’s free money for residents hints at how universal basic income may work
Annual payments from Alaska oil revenues offer data for research into a universal basic income. Most everyone who has lived in Alaska for a year or more just got $1,606, no strings attached. The annual giveaway shares the Arctic state’s oil revenues with its residents. But Alaska’s program, now in its 38th year, is also providing valuable data for research into universal basic income, or UBI — an idea gaining traction in public debate thanks in part to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang making it a cornerstone of his campaign. “The Alaska Permanent Fund [dividend] is the closest thing we have to a real-world UBI,” says Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. Some studies suggest the Alaskan payments have coincided with overall poverty reductions and improvements to child health. But other research suggests a potential downside — giving everyone free money may further widen both the gender and wealth gap. The amount distributed by the Alaska Permanent Fund can be significant for some. A family of four, for example, received a total of $6,424 during the 2019 giveaway on October 24. But depending on oil revenues, the Alaska handout can vary from a couple hundred dollars per person to several thousand. By contrast, Yang has called for every American adult to receive a flat $1,000 per month. He says it could help Americans cope with a changing job market. A universal basic income can also help compensate for inadequacy in social welfare programs, others contend. Researchers quibble about whether the once-a-year Alaska dividend qualifies as a universal basic income. Such payments should be unconditional, extended to everyone and generous enough to live on, says economist Mouhcine Guettabi at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The Alaska dividend amounts to too little to support the third criterion. Still, he says, it provides powerful research data.
10-30-19 Is Trump trying to unleash the Border Patrol on all of America?
Two in three Americans live in the "border zone," a 100-mile stretch inland where some constitutional due process and privacy protections are functionally canceled in the name of border security. The zone includes entire states — Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, nearly all of New England, and all but a tiny sliver of Michigan — as well as about three in four of our 20 largest metro areas. Is the Trump administration trying to make it bigger? The prospect seems obviously attractive to immigration hawks like White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, known to be the president's chief influence on border policy. Yet the possible suggestion of interest in expanding the border zone comes not from Miller but acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan, who joined President Trump on stage at a law enforcement conference in Chicago this week. "We will be building 450 miles of big, beautiful wall by the end of 2020," Morgan said, implausibly. "With every mile of wall that's being built, I promise you, it's not just the cities and towns on the border. I always say: Every town, every city, every state is a border town, a border city, and border state." Is that just a figure of speech? Because it's blatantly untrue — unless the border zone goes national. My suspicion here may seem unfounded, and I hope it is. But I think there are two good reasons to be wary. The first is the nature of the border zone, which too few Americans realize exists. The Fourth Amendment protects our right "to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires specific probable cause before search warrants are issued. But at the border, CBP agents are allowed to conduct searches of bags and vehicles without meeting those requirements. And in 1953, the Justice Department issued a regulation saying these relaxed rules apply within a "reasonable distance" from the actual border, a term the DOJ defined as 100 miles.
10-30-19 Obama on white flight: 'Y'all were running from us'
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama has said race and lack of understanding of migrants still divides the US and world. Speaking at the annual Obama Foundation summit, she spoke of how white families moved out of the neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago where she grew up, as families like hers moved in - likening the situation to that facing immigrant families now. Mrs Obama also reflected on the importance of being the first black first family.
10-30-19 Why has America stopped caring about the future?
The U.S. budget deficit widened to almost $1 trillion in the latest fiscal year, with that gap almost certain to reach record levels in coming years. Yet few policymakers seem to care. Republicans want more tax cuts, Democrats more spending. Not that their apparent lack of concern is surprising. The buzzy new economic thinking is that fiscal prudence is an antiquated virtue. Then again, maybe it's the debt hawks who've had their eyes on the future all along. Maybe they're the forward-thinking ones. And what about the hot, new consensus that these scolds should be ignored? Maybe it suggests America is harmfully obsessed with the present. Even worse, this myopia might be one symptom of a long-term national illness. A recent study by Yale University economist Ray Fair notes an interesting historical coincidence that perhaps isn't a coincidence. First, U.S. infrastructure spending as a percent of GDP began a steady decline around 1970, a pattern seen in no other rich country. "The United States appears to be a special case in this regard," Fair writes. And roughly at the same time that America started ignoring its roads and bridges — not to mention advances such as high-speed rail — Washington started running big budget deficits. And it has continued to do so ever since, except for a few years at the end of the 20th century. Fair argues the two occurrences reflect a sustained change in national attitude: "The overall results suggest that the United States became less future oriented beginning around 1970. This change has persisted." The reasoning here is obvious: Fixing your roof while the sun is shining and curbing spending before the bill collector calls require some foresight and the ability to place the current you in the shoes of future you.
10-30-19 US House says Armenian mass killing was genocide
The US House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognising the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One as a genocide. The issue is highly sensitive and comes amid deteriorating US-Turkey relations. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden said the vote honoured the memory of victims. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the "worthless" vote, which was held on Turkey's National Day, was the "biggest insult" to Turkish people. There is general agreement that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died when the Ottoman Turks deported them en masse from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert and elsewhere in 1915-16. They were killed or died from starvation or disease. The total number of Armenian dead is disputed. Armenians say 1.5 million died. The Republic of Turkey estimates the total to be 300,000. According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), the death toll was "more than a million". The resolution passed by a vote of 405 to 11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined her colleagues "in solemn remembrance of one of the great atrocities of the 20th Century". Mr Biden tweeted: "By acknowledging this genocide we honour the memory of its victims and vow: never again." It is the first time in decades that the full House has considered such a measure. In the past, attempts were thwarted by concerns that it could damage relations with Turkey, a Nato ally, and intense lobbying by the Turkish government. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, whose California district is home to a large Armenian-American population, tweeted: "The House just voted to recognise the Armenian Genocide - a vote I fought for 19 years to make possible, that tens of thousands of my Armenian American constituents have waited decades to see." He added: "We will not be party to genocide denial. We will not be silent. We will never forget."
10-30-19 Meghan Murphy: Canadian feminist's trans talk sparks uproar
A Canadian library has been criticised for refusing to cancel an event hosting a feminist with controversial views on transgender rights. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a branch of the Toronto Public Library as writer Meghan Murphy gave a talk inside. The library defended its decision to allow her talk on gender identity and "society, the law and women". Campaigners have called Ms Murphy anti-transgender, which she denies. Toronto police quoted by Global News said officers had been present inside and outside the event to "keep the peace." Global News reporter Kamil Karamali tweeted that attendees were escorted by police out the back of the building when the talk ended. Ms Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women in places like female prisons, women's refuges and changing rooms. In Canada, she has spoken against a bill that amended Canada's rights act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression and identity over concerns it could undermine women's rights by eroding their "safe spaces". "Under current trans activist doctrine we're not allowed to exclude a man from a woman's space if he says that he's female and I find that quite dangerous and troubling," she told the BBC. She says she believes the transgender activist movement is "regressive and sexist" and ignores women and girls. The talk's organisers, a group called Radical Feminists Unite, have said they are "not a hate group, and we do not espouse hate speech, or advocate for the removal of rights from any marginalised group".
10-29-19 Millennials' Religiosity Amidst the Rise of the Nones
"The rise of the nones" is the attention-grabbing phrase used to describe the well-documented increase in the percentage of Americans who, when queried by survey researchers about their religious identification, say "none." This remarkable social trend has received significant publicity in recent years, based on generally similar research produced by Gallup, Pew Research Center, NORC's General Social Survey and others. The research shows that between about 20% and 25% of U.S. adults are now "nones" and -- in a finding emphasized in many news reports -- that this percentage is higher among younger adults than those who are older. One opinion columnist's recent article in The Washington Post, to which I will return below, is titled "Why Millennials Are Skipping Church and Not Going Back." This type of speculation about the future religiosity of millennials bears further scrutiny. I think the picture is complex, but there are signs that older millennials may in fact, contrary to the headline, be going back to religion. The basic sociological structure of religiosity by age is well-established and has been evident for decades. It's a firmly set "generational" pattern -- that is, one that occurs to every generation of individuals across time, not just a particular cohort. Generational changes in religiosity -- like gray hair and the need for bifocals -- happen consistently to every generation as they age and are not specific to a particular time period or cohort. Religiosity plummets after age 18, coincident with young people leaving home and heading out into the real world of work or college. Then, religiosity begins to rise again as young people go through their 30s, coincident with marriage, children and more stable involvement in specific communities. Religiosity generally continues to rise with age, albeit with some points at which it is fairly flat and reaches its peak in Americans' late 70s and 80s.
10-29-19 Boeing accused of putting profit before safety by Senators
US lawmakers have accused Boeing of engaging in a "pattern of deliberate concealment" as it sought approval for its 737 Max 8 plane to fly. The accusation came as Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg was quizzed by the Senate Commerce Committee. Senators said they had serious concerns that Boeing put profits over safety as it rushed to get clearance. Two deadly 737 Max 8 crashes killed a total of 346 people. Mr Muilenburg admitted the firm had made "mistakes". "We have learned from both accidents and identified changes that need to be made," he said. In October last year, a Boeing 737 Max operated by Lion Air crashed, killing all 189 people on board. Five months later an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing 157, after which the entire 737 Max fleet was grounded. Lawmakers accused Boeing of being aware of problems in the automated control system in the 737 Max 8, known as MCAS, which has been identified as a factor in both accidents. Senator Roger Wicker said messages between Boeing staff that discussed problems in the MCAS test system betrayed "a disturbing level of casualness and flippancy". Senator Richard Blumenthal said Boeing had engaged in a "pattern of deliberate concealment". Boeing provided the messages to the committee ahead of the testimony. Mr Muilenburg said he could not elaborate on the exchange. Senators also criticised the regulatory process, saying there was too much "cosiness" between the firm and safety officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Mr Blumenthal described the US certification process as "absolutely broken". Mr Muilenburg said the firm supported "strong oversight" but declined to support increasing the authority of the FAA, which has been criticised for delegating too much of its oversight to company officials.
10-29-19 US policeman told to 'tone down gayness' wins $19m
A gay Missouri police sergeant has won almost $20m in damages, after being told to "tone down the gayness" to get a promotion. Keith Wildhaber of St Louis county alleges he was passed over for promotion 23 times. A witness testified that one of Sgt Wildhaber's superiors described him as being "way too out there with his gayness". Local officials say there will be leadership changes to the police board. Sgt Wildhaber filed a lawsuit against the police in 2017, after allegedly being passed over for a promotion 23 times despite stellar performance reviews. The lawsuit alleges that in 2014 he was told to "tone down the gayness" to get a promotion by John Saracino, then a member of the St Louis County Board of Police Commissioners. Mr Saracino denied making the comment. "It was devastating to hear," Sgt Wildhaber told the court, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He added that he felt like he'd been "punched in the gut". After making a complaint, Sgt Wildhaber alleges he was reassigned to work the midnight shift in a station further away from his home. A witness testified that a local police captain, Guy Means, called Sgt Wildhaber "fruity" and told her he would never be promoted as he was "way too out there with his gayness". Captain Means also denied making these comments. The jury found Sgt Wildhaber had been discriminated against, and also was the victim of retaliation after making a complaint. He was awarded $1.9m in actual damages and $10m in punitive damages for discrimination, and $999,000 in actual damages and $7m in punitive damages as victim of retaliation. A member of the jury told reporters: "We wanted to send a message. "If you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price... you can't defend the indefensible." Sam Page, the executive of St Louis county, issued a statement saying the police department must be a place where employment decisions are made on merit.
10-28-19 Trump booed at Washington DC baseball match
President Trump was booed while watching the fifth game of the baseball World Series, being played in Washington DC. As the president appeared on video screens inside the stadium there were boos and isolated chants of "lock him up" - a reference to a chant sometimes heard at Mr Trump's political rallies, which calls for the imprisonment of former presidential election rival Hilary Clinton.
10-27-19 Democrats' religion conundrum
Do the Democrats have a religion problem? The question may seem peculiar. According to a Pew survey of religious affiliation by party, there are plenty of Democratic voters who are religious. While the majority of religiously unaffiliated voters (54 percent) do identify as Democrats, so do a plurality of self-identified Catholic voters (44 percent versus 37 percent for the GOP), and Orthodox Christian voters (44 percent vs. 34 percent). Democrats also claim an overwhelming majority of historically black Protestant denominations, as well as 40 percent of mainline Protestants, and a majority of voters from non-Christian religious traditions like Buddhism (69 percent), Islam (62 percent) and Hinduism (61 percent). Republicans dominate only amongst Evangelical Protestants (56 percent) and Mormons (70 percent). Moreover, plenty of Democrats live lives marked by serious commitment to religion. Fifty-five percent profess absolute certainty in their belief in God; 47 percent say religion is very important to their life; 50 percent pray at least daily. Even such Protestant-oriented practices as regular reading of scripture are far from uncommon among Democrats: Twenty-nine percent read scripture at least weekly vs. 43 percent of Republicans. And religious commitment doesn't necessarily translate into endorsement of traditional views on sexuality and gender, the most hot-button subjects around which our verbal and legal wars of religion are being fought. For example, among the 54 percent of Christians who believe that homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged, nearly 60 percent pray daily and 35 percent attend religious services at least once a week. Democrats, in other words, seem to be reasonably successful at winning the support of a substantial minority of Christian voters, while winning large majorities among unaffiliated and non-Christian religious voters, which are growing rapidly as a percentage of the electorate. Republicans, by contrast, are increasingly identified with a particular strain within American religion — a phenomenon that has been accentuated by the Trump administration's bond with white evangelical voters — and to be repelling those who dissent from this identity. Who's got the problem here? But look below the surface and some problems are indeed evident — and those problems are manifesting themselves on the campaign trail already.
10-26-19 In pictures: Thousands join Pride parade in Taiwan
Tens of thousands of people have marched in the streets of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, in the Pride parade, the first since the island legalised same-sex marriage in May. More than 2,000 same-sex couples have married since then, and many of them took part in Saturday's festival, one of the largest Pride events in the region. "I'm very excited because it's the first Pride parade after same-sex marriages are recognised and I got married," 31-year-old Shane Lin, who became one of the first to wed his partner under the new law, told AFP news agency. Self-ruled Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty, is known for its liberal values. In May, the island became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage after parliament approved it, despite opposition from conservative lawmakers. The vote followed a ruling in 2017 by the country's constitutional court, in a case brought by activist Chi Chia-wei and Taipei city authorities. "We used to be worried and fearful, but we've accomplished it," he told Reuters news agency. "So we're all joining the Pride parade with joy." Organisers said nearly 200,000 people from all over Asia had joined the colourful parade with decorated floats and balloons. President Tsai-Ing-wen and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party have supported the event, which ends outside the Presidential Office.
10-25-19 The male brutes are winning
68% of Trump supporters believe that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” In addition, more than three-fifths agree with the statement that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.” About three-fifths of Trump supporters think that “these days society seems to punish men just for acting like men.”
10-25-19 Racism is alive and well
Officials in Mississippi this week erected a fourth monument to Emmett Till, the black 14-year-old lynched by a white mob in 1955, after three previous monuments were stolen and/or riddled with bullets. The new monument to Till weighs more than 500 pounds and is made from hardened steel covered with a thick acrylic panel that should “withstand a rifle round without damage,” according to the Emmett Till Memory Project. (Webmaster's comment: More evidence that racism is alive and well.)
Tolerance, with a new poll showing that 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants now believe that a person who commits “immoral personal acts” can serve effectively in public office. That figure has skyrocketed, for some reason, from a mere 30 percent in 2011.
10-25-19 Barr: Blaming the secularists
Attorney General William Barr has given a speech that sounds like “a tacit endorsement of theocracy,” said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. At the University of Notre Dame, Barr—a Roman Catholic—accused “militant secularists” of seeking to destroy America’s “traditional moral order” by driving Judeo-Christian values from schools, government agencies, and “the public square.” In his “terrifying” diatribe, Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, used apocalyptic, fire-and-brimstone language you’d expect from a fundamentalist preacher, demonizing everyone who doesn’t share his religious values. Progressive secularism, Barr said, has caused “record levels of depression,” “soaring suicide rates,” and the deadly epidemic of drug abuse. “This is not decay,” Barr said. “It is organized destruction.” Barr can believe what he wants, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times, but the attorney general “has no business denouncing” the 26 percent of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, which also includes the fre?edom to have no religion. Barr is “intellectually dishonest,” said Michael Sean Winters in National Catholic Reporter. Americans are still “the most churchy people of any industrialized nation,” yet we have far more gun violence and other social ills than highly secular nations like Denmark and Norway. Barr completely ignored the role rapacious capitalism in the U.S. has played in promoting drugs, sexual excess, and guns. The most appropriate response to Barr’s speech is “embarrassment.”
10-25-19 The folly of yelling at scarved women
A national outcry over Islamic head scarves is now an annual event in France, said Lukas Garcia, albeit one that’s “less fun than Eurovision.” This latest bout was forced on us by Julien Odoul, a lawmaker with the far-right National Rally who sits in the regional legislature in Bourgogne–Franche-Comté. He caught sight of a Muslim mother acting as chaperone for her son’s school trip to see government in action, and in the middle of a council meeting he demanded she remove her head scarf. When she refused, her son sobbing beside her, Odoul and the other National Rally lawmakers walked out of the chamber. Many politicians and pundits decried Odoul’s rude behavior, yet some took the opportunity to denounce Muslim garb as anti-French, and now France is once again embroiled in argument. Odoul thinks he was defending secularism, but attacking the hijab simply “strengthens the Islamists who want to convince Muslims that our country doesn’t want them.” The only winners of this annual debate are “those who want to divide society.” The field trip the mother was accompanying was called “The Republic and Me.” It’s a “terrible violence” to French values that the children were instead offered a lesson in “The Republic Without Me.”
10-25-19 Nationalists hijacking Wikipedia
Polish nationalists have been using Wikipedia to rewrite and distort the history of the Holocaust, said Omer Benjakob. In 2006, Polish volunteer editors changed the English-language Wikipedia entry for “Warsaw concentration camp” so that it claimed 200,000 ethnic Poles were gassed to death at the internment center. In fact, that Nazi concentration camp was built on the site of the city’s former Jewish ghetto and housed the Jewish prisoners who were forced to demolish the area. No Nazi gas chambers ever existed in Warsaw. Yet the camp’s “fake history” remained in the online encyclopedia for nearly 13 years and was inserted into dozens of other Wikipedia entries on Nazi crimes. The edits push the revisionist history invented by Polish nationalists, which posits that “the Poles in general—not just the country’s Jewish population—were the main victims of the Nazi occupation.” The number of victims is no accident: Since some 400,000 Jews were murdered in the Warsaw ghetto, and some 200,000 Poles were killed in the Warsaw Uprising, if Poles can come up with 200,000 more victims, then their suffering equals that of the Jews. An Israeli editor who goes by the name Icewhiz caught the hoax this year and remedied the entries. But most of the Polish editors involved are still active on Wikipedia. Who knows what else they are revising?
10-25-19 Newspapers go dark
Australian news outlets across the political spectrum united this week to protest the country’s national-security laws, which they say squash press freedom and create a “culture of secrecy.” The largest newspapers ran blacked-out front pages, while online and on the air, prominent journalists called for change. Australia’s secrecy laws allow the government to withhold information that is only tangentially related to national security, and to prosecute and imprison some whistleblowers and reporters. In June, police raided a journalist’s home and a broadcasting office, confiscating computers and documents, in retaliation for stories that had come out months earlier. “Every time a government imposes new restrictions on what journalists can report,” said Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australia, “Australians should ask, ‘What are they trying to hide from me?’”
10-25-19 Remember Hillary’s emails?
Perhaps you missed it, “but the most important story of 2016” has finally come to a close, said Paul Waldman. After a multiyear investigation, the State Department has concluded that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private computer server for her emails resulted in no “systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information” by her or other department employees. “You don’t say.” It’s now undeniable that the massive amount of news coverage of Clinton’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an immense “media screwup.” Journalists had already decided that Bill and Hillary Clinton were corrupt liars, and seized on the email story as proof. In a foolish attempt to seem “evenhanded and unbiased,” the press falsely equated Hillary’s use of a private server with an avalanche of scandalous behavior by Donald Trump: his assaults on more than a dozen women, his bankruptcies, his “stiffing small businesses out of money he owed them,” his public invitation to Russia to interfere in the election in his behalf. In fact, the coverage treated Clinton’s “transgressions as far worse than his, when the opposite was clearly true.” As a result of that historic error, a deeply corrupt, amoral reality TV star is now “the most powerful person on Earth.”
10-25-19 Muslim teen athlete disqualified in Ohio race over hijab
A teenage Muslim athlete in the US state of Ohio has told of her devastation at being disqualified for wearing a hijab during a race. Noor Abukaram, 16, said she had only been told her attire was against the rules after crossing the finish line. Amid outcry, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) says it is looking into changing its religious waiver rules for next season. Her story sparked a national discussion about dress codes and discrimination. Noor had been running for the Sylvania Northview school team all season, and her hijab had never been an issue before the district level race on Saturday in Findlay, 135 miles (220km) west of Cleveland. When officials inspected her team, they informed one of her teammates that her shorts were in violation of the rules and allowed her to change, Noor wrote in a Facebook post. But they did not say anything about her athletic hijab, though she said she had seen her coach discussing something privately with the officials. After finishing the 5km race with her personal best time, Noor was surprised to find her name was not on the score boards. Her teammates then told her she had been disqualified because of her hijab. "I felt like I had got hit by a truck and punched in the gut," Noor told the BBC's Outside Source programme."It's not because they're looking out for my safety, or because they are concerned that I have an advantage, because I definitely don't have an advantage wearing my hijab. "I think it's discriminatory against my religion." (Webmaster's comment: And that's EXACTLY what it is!)
10-25-19 Texas parents battle in court for custody of transgender child
A Texas judge has given joint custody to two parents locked in a bitter dispute over the gender identity of their child, in a case that has provoked wider debate over the appropriate age for gender transitions. During the trial, Anne Georgulas said her child - named James at birth - identifies as a girl and wishes to be called Luna. But the father, Jeffrey Younger, claimed Dr Georgulas has pressured their child to identify as female, and charged his ex-wife with child abuse. Judge Kim Cooks ruled on Thursday that decisions over issues like medical procedures and psychiatric treatment should be reached by Mr Younger and Dr Georgulas together. In doing so, she overruled a prior decision by a Dallas jury that voted 11-1 to give Dr Georgulas sole control of the child's medical and physiological care. In Texas parties in custody disputes can opt for a trial by jury, but a judge can review the decision. The case has sparked outcry on the political right, with conservatives echoing Mr Younger's claims of child abuse. The Texas attorney general said child protective services would investigate the abuse allegations involving the family from Coppell, a Dallas suburb. As Judge Cooks issued her ruling, however, she said there was no evidence supporting charges of abuse by either Mr Younger or Dr Georgulas. Both parents have been barred from speaking publicly about the case. For Mr Younger - who has strongly objected to treating his child as a girl - this means shutting down his website, Save James, which has attracted the support of the political right. (Webmaster's comment: The Right-Wing and Conservatives will always support the male!)
10-25-19 WeWork shows the absurdity of American CEO compensation
WeWork, the office space sharing startup that was once a darling of the tech world, is getting a multi-billion dollar bailout. Its business model is a shambles, and reports suggest that, before the bailout, WeWork was about to run out of money as soon as next week. Given the circumstances, you'd think WeWork’s CEO and cofounder Adam Neumann would be shown the door in disgrace, for overseeing a company that's basically nosedived into the ground. But you'd be wrong. Instead, the terms of the bailout will allow Neumann to walk away from the wreckage with a cool $1.7 billion. Neumann's case is extreme to the point of darkly comic. But it's also an example of a much wider problem: Compensation for American CEOs simply makes no sense. It's inflated, gluttonous, absurd, completely detached from performance — and arguably coming out of the paychecks of everyone else in the country. The traditional capitalist explanation for executive pay is that it's the mathematical result of competitive logic: If a company pays a CEO more than they're worth, they'll lose profits relative to another company that doesn't overpay. Conversely, pay your CEO less than they're worth, and the CEO will leave your company for another that pays them more. Then your company, deprived of the CEO's leadership, will fall to competition from the second company. The basic assumption here is that markets are efficient, and efficient markets pay all workers — including CEOs — what they're worth. Like it or not, the fact that CEOs make over two hundred times as much as the typical worker simply reflects how much more real value creation CEOs bring to their companies. It's a very neat and tidy story. And needless to say, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. For instance, research into CEO compensation reveals that executives are often rewarded for industry-wide shocks that are pure dumb luck: Say, a jump in global oil prices leads to bigger profits for oil companies, and oil executives' compensation jumps in turn, even though a functioning competitive market that rewards for performance would do no such thing. Even more perversely, research also shows that executives are not uniformly punished when bad luck strikes across whole industries. And even more perversely than that, studies have found that CEOs' compensation doesn't just rise together in response to random good luck events when the group you're studying is executives in a particular industry — it rises together when the group you're studying is randomly assigned Harvard Business School classmates in completely different industries. Here in the states, the ratio of CEO pay to typical workers' pay is often double what it is in other western countries. And the companies outside the U.S. that pay their CEOs the same way we do often have very similar corporate governance setups to ours, versus the other companies in the advanced world that pay less. (Webmaster's comment: Reducing the compensation being paid these bastards is a moral imperative!)
10-24-19 Franco exhumation: Dictator's move stirs fury in divided Spain
"Long live Franco" and "Desecrators" were painted in graffiti on the Madrid statue of the founder of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Pablo Iglesias, on Thursday. In another part of the city, a monument dedicated to the international brigades, who fought against Franco's troops during the Spanish Civil War, was defaced with pro-Franco slogans and the words "Death to communists." The link to the exhumation and transfer of the remains of General Francisco Franco, overseen by today's Socialist government, was obvious. Yet such a response hardly chimed with acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's aim in carrying out the procedure. In his statement after the exhumation at Madrid's vast Valley of the Fallen, Mr Sánchez described it as "another step in the reconciliation" of Spaniards, so many of whom had been divided into left and right by the civil war and ensuing dictatorship. Yet the decision to move Franco's body to a quiet cemetery was always likely to provoke a fierce reaction from some quarters. And so it proved. A swastika pendant around his neck, Chema Quijada gathered with other Franco supporters at Mingorrubio cemetery to protest against the initiative. "Ever since the transition [to democracy] until now, all the political parties have betrayed us," he said. "They have falsified history. They don't want new generations to understand Spain's history." (Webmaster's comment: Amazing that many Spaniards stll support dictatorship.)
10-24-19 Trump impeachment: Republicans storm secure hearing
US Republicans have stormed a high-security impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, forcing a witness to delay her testimony by five hours. The Republicans chanted "let us in" as they forced their way into the hearing, breaching US House security rules. This week, Mr Trump urged Republicans to "get tough and fight" for him. Three committees in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives are investigating allegations of wrongdoing by the president. Democrats accuse him of illegally pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, but Mr Trump and his supporters say he has done nothing wrong. About two dozen Republicans pushed their way into the secure meeting room - known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, on Wednesday morning. Some brought their mobile phones in with them, leading Democrats and some officials to accuse them of a security breach. SCIFs are built to prevent electronic eavesdropping, and allow people to review classified information. Electronic devices are not permitted. Democrats and Republicans began shouting at each other, reports say, and the Republican protesters refused to leave the room for a number of hours, even ordering pizza at lunchtime. The protest delayed the testimony of Laura Cooper, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, for five hours, although she resumed her testimony later in the afternoon. The Republicans argued that Democrats were conducting the impeachment inquiry in secret, with Representative Steve Scalise describing it as "a Soviet-style process". "Every member of Congress ought to be allowed in that room. The press ought to be allowed in that room," he added. The inquiry is led by a Democrat - Adam Schiff - and being run by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. However, more than 40 Republicans are members of those committees, and permitted to take part in the hearings. (Webmaster's comment: The uninvited Republicans should be arrested and jailed for breaking the law.)
10-23-19 Meritocracy is killing us
How our individualistic quest for money and power is fueling a climate disaster. It's been a rough year for American meritocracy — the idea that talented, hard-working people will naturally rise to the top of our corporate and government hierarchies. The college admissions bribery scandal demonstrated just how far many wealthy parents will go to give their children an advantage in the climb to the top. The rest of us revel in juicy details, like parents having their kids' pictures Photoshopped to make it them look like football or water polo stars when they really didn't play at all. But the central problem with meritocracy isn't the outright cheating. It isn't even the perfectly legal ways wealthy parents pave their children's way into the elite with private tutoring and fancy preschools. The trouble is that a society built on people living with the singular goal of advancing to the top of a system of wealth, power, and prestige, tends to produce disastrous results — for the people doing the striving, for the rest of society, and for the planet. It's barely an exaggeration to say that this blind orientation toward success is likely to kill us all. More than a century ago, sociologist Max Weber identified a mindset he called the "Protestant Ethic," a secularized but "entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational" drive for the accumulation of wealth for its own sake. People who adopt this ethic are so focused on the endless grind for success that they can no longer identify or prioritize their own needs or those of society as a whole. As Daniel Markovits recently wrote at The Atlantic, "Meritocracy traps entire generations inside demeaning fears and inauthentic ambitions: always hungry but never finding, or even knowing, the right food." This kind of motivation often produces miserable strivers. It also produces people so desperately set on a singular goal that prioritizing anything else seems like a naïve dream. It's impossible to turn down a higher salary and better title for more meaningful work or a more personally satisfying lifestyle. To do that would mean giving up a chance to win at a game that elites have been playing since birth.
10-23-19 Far-right 'Proud Boys' jailed over New York City clash with anti-fascists
Two members of the US far-right group the Proud Boys have been jailed for four years for beating up anti-fascist activists in a fight last year. Maxwell Hare, 27, and John Kinsman, 32, were convicted of gang assault, attempted assault and rioting. Prosecutors say they were most violent among a group of 10 men involved in the brawl, which took place a year ago outside a Republican venue in New York. Other members of the group have received lighter sentences. It has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremism in the US. The Proud Boys describe themselves as "proud Western chauvinists" and advocate political violence. The group has chapters across North America and beyond - including in the UK and Australia. Hare and Kinsman were jailed in a case that centres of a fight that erupted after a speech by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes at Manhattan's Metropolitan Republican Club in October 2018. CCTV footage showed the Proud Boys members beating up a group of four anti-fascist activists - known as "antifa" - who had come to protest against Mr McInnes' appearance. Police said initially that the violence had started after a protester threw a bottle - which can be seen in the CCTV footage - but a second angle appeared to show that the Proud Boys members were already charging at the protesters when the bottle was thrown. (Webmaster's comment: All facist groups should be in prison on a desert island for life.)
10-23-19 U.S. Support for Legal Marijuana Steady in Past Year
After a surge in Americans' support for legal marijuana since the mid-2000s, the percentage in favor of it has been steady at 66% over the past year. Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has held steady at 66% over the past year, after rising 30 percentage points between 2005 and 2018.
- 66% favor legal marijuana, unchanged from 2018
- Major differences in support by ideology, party and age
- 74% of blacks, 57% of Hispanics are in favor
10-22-19 China has more 'unicorn' start-ups than the US
China has the world's largest number of "unicorns," privately-held start-up firms valued at more than $1bn (£771m), according to a new report. The country has produced 206 unicorns while the US has 203, the China-based Hurun Institute reported. Together the two countries are home to more than 80% of the world's unicorns. It comes as Washington and Beijing fight a trade war and jostle to become the world's technology leader. "China and the US dominate... despite representing only half of the world's GDP and a quarter of the world's population," said Hurun Report Chairman Rupert Hoogewerf. Chinese payments company Ant Financial tops the list with a valuation of $150bn. Founded in 2014, Ant Financial's main business is online payment platform Alipay, which was spun out of e-commerce giant Alibaba. Are internet unicorns really worth billions? China's Bytedance ranks second, with a valuation of $75bn. The fast-growing technology firm owns popular video-sharing platform TikTok. Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing rounds out the top three, valued at $55bn. High-profile US companies including home-rental site Airbnb, office space firm WeWork and electronic cigarette maker Juul also feature in the top 10. The report comes at a time of tense relations between the world's two largest economies. The US and China have been embroiled in a trade battle for the past year. Their power struggle has also played out in the technology sector, with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei becoming a central part of their dispute. The US claims Huawei - the world's largest maker of telecoms equipment - poses a national security risk and has put trade restrictions on the firm. The company has consistently denied the allegations, and many in China argue the US is trying to curb the country's technology ambitions.
10-22-19 Wisconsin black security guard reinstated after firing over n-word
A black security guard who was fired from a school in the US for asking a student not to use a racial slur has been reinstated. Marlon Anderson repeated the n-word while asking a black pupil who had addressed him with the epithet to stop. The sacking in Wisconsin sparked protests among students and staff and a grievance from the officer's union. Mr Anderson celebrated after being reinstated on Monday, sharing "I'm back!!" on his Facebook page. He will be placed on paid administrative leave while his return is negotiated. The incident started on 9 October when he was asked to help remove an unruly teen, who then began directing racial abuse at him. Mr Anderson said the student had directed the word at him about 15 times. He responded by telling the student not to call him the word, himself repeating it several times. He was sacked from West High School in the city of Madison a week later, sparking community outrage. Scores of students staged a walkout on Friday in the Midwestern state's capital city to demonstrate against the dismissal. Madison Metropolitan School District cited its zero-tolerance policy on derogatory slurs by staff members as a reason for the dismissal.On the decision to reinstate Mr Anderson, district supervisor Jane Belmore said the district had "heard from our community" and was trying to "live up to the commitments we've made to be allies with our students and be an anti-racist school district", according to NBC News. Before the firing, Mr Anderson had worked for the school district for the last 11 years. (Webmaster's comment: Racial prejudice is in our language too! No white person is ever "sacked!")
10-21-19 Drugs firms reach $260m US opioid settlement
Four drugs companies have reached a $260m (£200m) deal with two Ohio counties over their role in fuelling the US opioid crisis. The agreement averts a trial that had been scheduled to start in Cleveland. The counties had been seeking billions from Israel-based drugmaker Teva and drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. A trial for Walgreens Boots Alliance, which had also been accused, will be rescheduled. The last-minute deal was announced on Monday by the judge overseeing the trial in Cleveland. Talks over a bigger settlement, which would have resolved claims brought by thousands of other cities, counties and states, had collapsed on Friday. The companies, which have denied wrongdoing, are accused of ignoring suspicious orders and downplaying the risks of opioid painkillers, which have been linked to about 400,000 overdose deaths in the US between 1997 and 2017. In Monday's deal, they did not admit guilt. But McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corp agreed to pay $215m, while Teva is paying $20m and will contribute $25m worth of treatment medication. Later on Monday, Teva also said it had reached an "agreement in principle" for a global settlement, which would see it pay $250m and donate treatment medication worth an estimated $23bn over 10 years. The case involving Ohio's Summit and Cuyahoga counties had been closely watched as the first of thousands of similar ones to go forward. The two jurisdictions have already struck deals worth more than $66m with firms that include Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Allergan. (Webmaster's comment: And why aren't any drug excutives going to prison?)
10-21-19 Herman Mashaba: Johannesburg's black mayor resigns over DA race row
One of the most senior politicians in South Africa's historically white main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has resigned his post and quit the party over how it handles race. Herman Mashaba was mayor of Johannesburg for three years. The election of a black mayor from the DA was seen as a sign of the party could potentially threaten the ruling ANC's grip on power at national level. But at a press conference on Monday Mr Mashaba said: "I cannot reconcile myself with people who believe that race is not important in their discussion of inequalities." He said his decision was sparked by the re-admission of Helen Zille, a white politician who provoked widespread anger in 2017 when she praised aspects of colonialism, to the party's high ranks: "The election of [Helen] Zille as chair of federal council is victory for people who are opposed to my belief systems." Black leaders within the DA believe that the liberal, multi-racial party is going back to its roots of being an all-white organisation, the BBC's Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg reports. Mr Mashaba also said his "pro-poor agenda" had been "undermined, criticised and rendered nearly impossible" by the DA. Our reporter says that by "pro-poor", Mr Mashaba means "pro-black". As the first non-ANC (African National Congress) mayor of South Africa's biggest city since the end of white minority rule in 1994, Mr Mashaba's election victory in 2016 signalled a major success for the DA. Self-made businessman Mr Mashaba was seen as a key ally of the party's first black leader, Mmusi Msimane, in his efforts to increase support among black voters. (Webmaster's comment: Is Ronald Reagon Republican supported apartheid returning to South Africa?)
10-20-19 The coming end of Christian America
What the decline of Christianity will mean for politics in America. America is still a "Christian nation," if the term simply means a majority of the population will claim the label when a pollster calls. But, as a new Pew Research report unsparingly explains, the decline of Christianity in the United States "continues at a rapid pace." A bare 65 percent of Americans now say they're Christians, down from 78 percent as recently as 2007. The deconverted are mostly moving away from religion altogether, and the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated — the "nones" — have swelled from 16 to 26 percent over the same period. If this rate of change continues, the U.S. will be majority non-Christian by about 2035, with the nones representing well over one third of the population. Smaller details from the study are equally striking. Protestantism lost its narrow claim to an outright majority of Americans' souls around 2012. While older generations remain at least two-thirds Christian, millennials have an even 49-49 split of Christians vs. nones (40 percent) and those of other faiths (9 percent). Religious service attendance rates haven't dramatically declined in the last decade, but they will soon if generational trends hold. As even the strictest practitioners of laïcité must concede, major religious shifts like this will have equally major political effects — but we are in somewhat uncharted territory as to what those effects may be. In broad strokes, this decline keeps the U.S. trailing Western Europe's religious and political evolution: the end of Christianity as a default faith and a move toward left/right politics that can be roughly characterized as socialism against nationalist populism. Yet Europe can hardly provide a clear window to our future, not least because many European states have both multi-party parliamentary systems and state churches. In what remains of the American church, reactions to this decline will vary. Some will see it as a positive apocalypse, which is to say a revealing of what was always true. America was never really a Christian nation. Our government and society have long made choices and embraced values that are difficult, if not impossible, to square with Christianity, so an end of any association between the two is welcome. Likewise, the proportion of Americans who actually practiced Christian faith in any meaningful, life-altering sense was always substantially lower than the proportion who would identify as Christian in a poll. What we're seeing is less mass deconversion than a belated honesty which may be an opportunity for new faithfulness, repentance, or even revival. Other Christians, especially on the political right, will respond to this shift with sadness, alarm, or outright fear. And this is not mere selfishness, mere worry over loss of political or cultural power — though certainly that is a factor for some. But if you believe, as people of faith generally do, that your religion communicates a necessary truth about God, the universe, humanity, the purpose of life and how we should live it — well, then a precipitous decline in that religion is an inherently horrible thing with eternal implications for millions. Still other Christians will land somewhere in between these two views. Yet all across this spectrum of responses, I suspect, we'll see an increasing concern for religious liberty as an ever-smaller portion of the broader public has a personal stake in its preservation as a special right distinct from freedoms of speech, association, and so on.
10-20-19 How 'neurolaw' will transform the criminal justice system
Can we trust science to lead us to the truth?. On March 30, 1981, 25-year-old John W. Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan and three other people. The following year, he went on trial for his crimes. Defense attorneys argued that Hinckley was insane, and they pointed to a trove of evidence to back their claim. Their client had a history of behavioral problems. He was obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster, and devised a plan to assassinate a president to impress her. He hounded Jimmy Carter. Then he targeted Reagan. In a controversial courtroom twist, Hinckley's defense team also introduced scientific evidence: a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan that suggested their client had a "shrunken," or atrophied, brain. Initially, the judge didn't want to allow it. The scan didn't prove that Hinckley had schizophrenia, experts said — but this sort of brain atrophy was more common among schizophrenics than among the general population. It helped convince the jury to find Hinckley not responsible by reason of insanity. Nearly 40 years later, the neuroscience that influenced Hinckley's trial has advanced by leaps and bounds — particularly because of improvements in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the invention of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which lets scientists look at blood flows and oxygenation in the brain without hurting it. Today neuroscientists can see what happens in the brain when a subject recognizes a loved one, experiences failure, or feels pain. Despite this explosion in neuroscience knowledge, and notwithstanding Hinckley's successful defense, "neurolaw" hasn't had a tremendous impact on the courts — yet. But it is coming. Attorneys working civil cases introduce brain imaging ever more routinely to argue that a client has or has not been injured. Criminal attorneys, too, sometimes argue that a brain condition mitigates a client's responsibility. Lawyers and judges are participating in continuing education programs to learn about brain anatomy and what MRIs and EEGs and all those other brain tests actually show. Most of these lawyers and judges want to know such things as whether brain imaging could establish a defendant's mental age, supply more dependable lie-detection tests or reveal conclusively when someone is experiencing pain and when they are malingering (which would help resolve personal injury cases). Neuroscience researchers aren't there yet, but they are working hard to unearth correlations that might help — looking to see which parts of the brain engage in a host of situations. Progress has been incremental but steady. Though neuroscience in the courts remains rare, "We're seeing way more of it in the courts than we used to," says Judge Morris B. Hoffman, of Colorado's 2nd Judicial District Court. "And I think that's going to continue." (Webmaster's comment: I've said it before and I'll say it again. They had the same chances as everyone else! You choose who you want to be!)
10-18-19 Pharma: Opioid deal could hit $18 billion
The country’s three biggest drug distributors this week offered to pay $18 billion to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits, said Sara Randazzo in The Wall Street Journal, just ahead of a landmark federal trial set to begin next week. McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health would collectively pay the sum over 18 years for what plaintiffs allege was a failure “to implement adequate systems to halt suspicious drug orders as the opioid epidemic came into focus.” The companies are under pressure to make a deal capping their liability in the litigation; such an agreement would make them the first companies “to achieve a broad resolution of the opioid lawsuits outside of bankruptcy.” Six defendants remain in what’s been “described as the most complex litigation ever,” said Lenny Bernstein in The Washington Post. The case opening next week involves two Ohio counties hit hard by the opioid crisis, and its resolution may well set the template for the thousands of other opioid suits. The litigation has already taken down Purdue Pharma, “the company most widely blamed for fueling the epidemic” of painkiller addiction; Purdue has filed for bankruptcy. Judge Dan Polster has pushed hard for a comprehensive mass settlement, which “would speed aid to the people and communities in need.” (Webmaster's comment: Send all the Pharma executives to prison. That's what they deserve!)
10-18-19 Shot at home
A white police officer was charged with murder this week after he fatally shot a black woman, Atatiana Jefferson, inside her bedroom while she played video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Aaron Dean, 34, and another officer responded to an early-morning nonemergency call about a door ajar at Jefferson’s home. A bodycam shows Dean pushing through a gate to enter the backyard, shining a light through a window at Jefferson, 28, and yelling “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” He then fires one shot through the glass. The officers never announced their identities. Jefferson’s nephew said his aunt thought a stranger was outside when she grabbed a handgun from her purse and pointed it toward the window—all legal in Texas. “Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” police chief Ed Kraus said. (Webmaster's comment: The police are a "clear and present danger" to the black people in America!)
“There is absolutely no question that police have a difficult job.There is no question that even routine encounters and wellness checks can—on rare occasions—escalate to deadly violence. But there is also no question that time and again police have enhanced the risk to the public through their own mistakes. Poor tactics can yield terrible results, and police should not be able to use the ‘split-second decision’ defense when they created the crisis. There is no greater violation of liberty than the loss of your own life in your own home at the hands of misguided, panicky, or poorly trained agents of the state."
10-18-19 Justice denied
The U.S. diplomat’s wife who crashed into and killed a teenage motorcyclist while driving on the wrong side of the road in Britain will not return to the U.K. to face justice, President Trump told the teen’s family this week. Anne Sacoolas, 42, claimed diplomatic immunity and fled the country soon after the August collision that left 19-year-old Harry Dunn dead. Dunn’s parents traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to push for Sacoolas’ return. During a White House meeting with Trump, they were told that Sacoolas—who has apologized in a statement—was in the next room and ready to meet. Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said they felt “ambushed” and declined to see her. Such an impromptu meeting would be “not good for her mental health,” said Charles. “It’s certainly not good for ours.”
10-18-19 US black school aide fired for rebuking boy's use of n-word
Students at a Wisconsin school have protested against the firing of a black security guard after he told a student not to call him a racial slur. Marlon Anderson was sacked for repeating the n-word while scolding a black pupil who addressed him with the epithet. Mr Anderson was asked on 9 October to help remove an unruly teen, who then began directing racial abuse at him. He was sacked from West High School in the city of Madison on Wednesday. Scores of students staged a walkout on Friday in the Midwestern US state's capital city to demonstrate against the dismissal. Mr Anderson's son, 17-year old Noah Anderson, who is president of the school's black student union, led the walkout. According to ABC News, students chanted "Do better" and "Hey-hey, hey-ho, zero tolerance has got to go". Madison Metropolitan School District cited its zero-tolerance policy on derogatory slurs by staff members as a reason for the dismissal. A union representing Mr Anderson filed a grievance against the district on Thursday, calling for him to be reinstated and receive back-pay. Mr Anderson said he feels he has the right to not be called that word. "My father was called this word, my grandmother, my grandfather and keep going down the family line," he said. "We were all called this word, and not one of them could say, 'don't call me that.' I can. "And I shouldn't be punished because I have the right to tell somebody not to call me this word. "I made a conscious decision to address the word, because it is an epidemic." He added: "Our kids use it every day." (Webmaster's comment: White Supremacist open hatred for blacks is allowed everywhere! And it just never stops!)
10-18-19 Megan Phelps-Roper
Megan Phelps-Roper was born into a hate group—and needed decades to realize it, said Johnny Dodd in People.com. A granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, she was just 5 when she started picketing funerals with other members of the small but notorious Topeka congregation, most of them family. The church taught that God punished all who strayed from bible teaching, so the group’s picket signs were often shocking: “God Hates Fags” or “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Phelps-Roper long thought of the work as an expression of love. “According to Gramps,” she says, “we weren’t hating other groups—we were warning them of God’s hatred, giving them an opportunity to repent.” As Unfollow, her new memoir, makes clear, leaving Westboro at 26 was not easy, said Brianna Childers in The Topeka Capital-Journal. Doubts had crept in for Phelps-Roper after she started trying to spread the church’s teachings on Twitter, and a few responders, rather than berating her, gently prodded her to re-examine those teachings. “I was certain that, whether Westboro was wrong or right, I was a monster,” she says. “If Westboro was wrong, I had spent my whole entire life demonizing the rest of the world. And if Westboro was right, then I was a betrayer.” Over time, she came to realize that the 5-year-old had only been trying to do good and deserved forgiveness. Also, that Twitter’s patient interrogators had modeled the way to break down walls. “If even people who were raised from birth to condemn the entire world can be changed by the power of human connection,” she says, “I feel like anyone can.”
10-18-19 The state must protect synagogues
Eight decades after the Holocaust, Jews in Germany are still not safe, said Hans Riebsamen in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. A far-right militant brandishing homemade guns last week tried to force his way into a packed synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle during services for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. He failed to breach the doors, so couldn’t open fire on the worshippers—who included 10 Americans. Instead, he shot dead a woman passing by and a man inside a nearby kebab shop. The government had turned down the synagogue’s request for a police guard for Yom Kippur, and a massacre was averted only by luck. Now we should all recognize that “the danger is real,” and that all Jewish centers need guards. Anti-Semitism is resurgent. It is not a problem only in Halle, or only in the former East Germany. Haters of Jews range from the “young neo-Nazis on the Right to the anti-Zionists and the Israel boycotters on the Left to the Muslim immigrants who learned anti-Semitism at school.” People from all walks of German life have been infected by “the virus of anti-Semitism,” and clearly some of them are willing to kill. The answer is not for Jews to flee or “bunker down”—it is for the German state to protect them.
10-18-19 Nobel for genocide denier
The Swedish Academy was bombarded with criticism this week after it awarded a Nobel Prize in literature to Peter Handke, an Austrian author who had close ties to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial for 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Handke, who once denied the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica, eulogized Milosevic at his funeral. “Never thought [I] would feel to vomit because of a Nobel Prize,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter. Handke thanked the Swedish Academy for its “courageous” decision.
10-18-19 No emergency
Diverting $6.1 billion in defense funding to pay for a border wall is “unlawful,” a federal judge ruled last week. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones appeared poised to halt at least $3.6 billion planned for hundreds of miles of 30-foot steel fencing, saying that President Trump can’t declare an emergency in order to supersede the will of Congress. Trump’s immigration agenda also took blows in New York, California, and Washington, where judges blocked a “public charge” rule that would prevent migrants from obtaining green cards if they use government benefits or appear likely to do so; the New York judge called it “unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious.” On border funding, the Supreme Court ruled in July that California plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the wall in a similar case, but Briones said El Paso has a right to oppose an emergency declaration that implies the region is “crime-ridden and dangerous.”
10-18-19 DeGeneres: Being ‘kind’ to Bush
“Nobody should be friends with George W. Bush,” not even kindness guru Ellen DeGeneres, said Sarah Jones in NYMag.com. The lesbian trailblazer was spotted recently laughing it up with Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game, bringing a storm of criticism from fellow gays and liberals. On her talk show, DeGeneres defended her decision to hang out with Dubya. “Be kind to everyone,” she said. “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them.” Sorry, but that’s what we tell kids who won’t “sit next to the class misfit at lunch,” not how we should regard a president who “twiddled his thumbs” as hundreds drowned in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, fought against “basic human rights” for gay people, invaded Iraq on false pretenses, and authorized torture. Bush should be treated like a “pariah” not because he’s conservative, said Mehdi Hasan in TheIntercept.com, but because he’s a war criminal who caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. It may be easy for Ellen to forgive Bush now that she’s rich, famous, and married, said Laura Bradley in VanityFair.com. But lots of LGBTQ people do not enjoy that level of security and find it hard to forget that Bush fiercely opposed gay rights during the eight years of his presidency. He even supported a constitutional “marriage amendment” that would have forever banned same-sex marriages. That’s no mere difference in “beliefs.” When one person insists that another should not have the same basic rights, and uses the vast powers of the presidency to limit those rights, their differences can’t be laughed away.
10-18-19 Trans athletes have unfair advantage
My daughter is a rising high school track star who is now losing races to athletes born as males, said Cheryl Radachowsky. Alanna is a gifted runner who trains relentlessly, and as a freshman she won the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter races while leading her school to a state championship. But Connecticut’s athletic conference has allowed students born as males to compete as females if that’s how they identify, even if they haven’t undergone hormone therapy. Two trans runners—one of whom competed as a male a year ago—are now “running these girls right off the track.” The two trans runners have won 15 track championships, preventing talented girls like my daughter from qualifying for higher levels of competition. This is simply unfair. For basic biological reasons, “boys are faster than girls.” A recent Swedish study found that 11 biologically male athletes who received hormone treatments after transitioning still had a large competitive advantage over women, because early exposure to testosterone gave them larger muscles and stronger bones than biological females. Redefining “sex” to mean “gender identity” will “destroy female athletics.” Our daughters should not “have their athletic opportunities stolen from them.”
10-18-19 LGBTQ issues: Are Democrats too extreme?
“Anyone wondering why religious people still support Donald Trump, despite his flaws” should have watched the Democrats’ LGBTQ town hall held on CNN last week, said Miranda Devine in the New York Post. When Elizabeth Warren was asked what she would say to someone who believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, she had a zinger ready. “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say, then just marry one woman,” Warren said—and then snidely added, “assuming you can find one.” The liberal audience guffawed at this “cheap insult.” But the third of Americans who believe in traditional marriage just heard Warren mock Christian men as unmarriageable incels. And that was nothing compared with Beto O’Rourke’s promise to strip any church that opposes same-sex marriage of their tax-exempt status. “The illiberal Left is not even hiding its desire to impose its will” on people of faith. It doesn’t matter that Beto is “scraping the bottom of the polls,” said Rod Dreher in TheAmericanConservative.com. Democrats are moving left so quickly that “if this belief isn’t already held by all the Democratic candidates now, it will be.” Soon, people of faith will either have to affirm LGBTQ ideology or face mockery and punishment. Actually, it’s LGBTQ rights that are under assault, said Christina Cauterucci in Slate.com. The conservative Supreme Court is currently debating whether it’s legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender, while the Trump administration is busy banning transgender troops. At least the Democrats believe we actually have rights. As one CNN audience member asked, “When do you think the Republican LGBTQ town hall will be?”
10-18-19 Massacre meme
A conference at President Trump’s Doral resort last week featured a video that depicted him slaughtering journalists and political rivals in an action movie-style massacre. Organizers said the video—which shows Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man shooting up the “Church of Fake News” in a mashup of a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service—was “unsanctioned.” The targets in the video include Barack Obama, John McCain, and Bernie Sanders, as well as other figures covered with logos of media organizations such as NBC, NPR, and The Washington Post. The clip ends with Trump triumphantly standing on the church altar after “killing” CNN. Donald Trump Jr. and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke at the conference but claimed not to have seen the video, which was created by a prolific but unidentified maker of pro-Trump memes.
10-17-19 Think young people are hostile to capitalism now? Just wait for the next recession.
Though the panic that erupted during the summer months about a potential recession has cooled somewhat since, especially with the impeachment drama taking up most of our collective attention, signs of a looming economic downturn nevertheless remain. Job growth has slowed, levels of corporate and consumer debt have both reached all-time highs (surpassing levels last seen before the Great Recession), and the yield curve measuring the difference between 10-year and 3-month Treasury bond yields has been "inverted" for months. The economist Campbell Harvey, whose research showed that the inverted yield curve accurately predicted the last seven recessions, recently said that the indicator is "flashing code red.". "It's not normal. It's something that foreshadows bad times," observed Campbell. A downturn is probably on the horizon, then, and while it may not be as devastating as the 2008 recession, which threatened to undo the entire financial system, there's a good chance that the public will respond with even more anger and intensity than 10 years ago. The last economic crisis contributed directly to the rise of populism over the following decade, but the next crisis will come squarely within the age of populism. It will also come in an age of extreme inequality and polarization, where capitalism is being questioned and critiqued more than in any other period since the end of the Cold War, especially by the generation that came of age during the Great Recession. The rise of populism wasn't just a response to the financial crisis and its painful consequences, though. It was a response to the fact that nothing fundamentally changed in its aftermath. The big banks remained too big to fail, executives who had overseen rampant fraud remained free (with their generous bonuses intact), income and wealth inequality continued to grow out of control, and wages continued to stagnate as billionaires saw their wealth multiply. In other words, the economy "recovered" for those on top, while the recession lingered for everyone else. In his modern classic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the French economist Thomas Piketty suggested that growing inequality in America contributed directly to the country's financial instability. One consequence of increasing inequality, he wrote, "was virtual stagnation of the purchasing power of the lower and middle classes in the United States, which inevitably made it more likely that modest households would take on debt, especially since unscrupulous banks and financial institutions, freed from regulation and eager to earn good yields on the enormous savings injected into the system by the well-to-do, offered credit on increasingly generous terms." A decade after the crisis, income inequality is the highest it's been in America since the Census Bureau began tracking it over five decades ago. And disparities in wealth are even more extreme. Meanwhile, household debt has exceeded levels seen in 2008, reaching $14 trillion earlier this year. This number is driven largely by student loans and credit card debt, which steadily grow as wages stagnate and jobs become more precarious. These trends disproportionately affect young people, although that hasn't stopped the financial class from blaming them for the "sluggish economy." Millennials are reportedly consuming less and saving more, which is causing an "economic imbalance." "The higher savings rate, we believe, has had disinflationary impact, driving the relatively slow growth and low inflation in this recovery," wrote an analyst for Raymond James, observing that younger people are "saving instead of purchasing like last generation, limiting demand growth."
10-17-19 Trump is getting worse
President Trump's behavior is getting worse. We already knew Trump was vain and vulgar, a thin-skinned narcissist, the Dunning-Kruger effect made flesh. He may be the first president we've ever had with no discernible redeeming qualities, either as a politician or a human being. But impeachment is here, and Trump is finding new ways to demonstrate his sheer unfitness for office every few hours. The president's reaction to the impeachment process is proving once more why he should be removed from office — and fast. Wednesday opened with the president's attempt to shoehorn the (unsuspecting) grieving parents of a British teenager into a reality show reconciliation with the woman who killed their son. It was the act of a man who can perceive the world — and human emotions — only through a show business lens. It was cruel. But 12 hours later, it was only the third or fourth most outrageous thing we'd learned about the president since sunrise. There were two other contenders for the No. 1 spot on the list. The first was Trump's reported White House meltdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom he insulted and called a "third-grade politician" during a quickly abandoned meeting. That was probably superseded, though, by the unveiling of a bonkers October 9 letter in which he cajoled and threatened Turkey's president in an unsuccessful attempt to halt that country's invasion of Syria. Meanwhile, in Syria, U.S. troops were leaving so quickly — thanks to the president's hasty withdrawal announcements — that they were bombing their own ammunition depot so that American ordnance wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, a similar option isn't available to dispose of the 50 or so U.S. nuclear weapons still stored in Turkey. That was the news from just one day. Trump was already a bad president and now his performance is in quick, observable decline. Can you imagine how much more quickly the misjudgments and lashings-out will pile up as impeachment draws ever nearer? The crisis is going to grow only more intense.
10-17-19 Is Canada taking more migrants than other Western nations?
Voters in Canada are going to the polls on 21 October to choose a new government with immigration policy one of the issues in the campaign. Claim: Canada has taken in more migrants per capita than any other Western country, according to Maxime Bernier, leader of one of the parties contesting the election. Verdict: This is not true. Canada has taken in a lot of migrants, but not the most of any Western country. However, it is in the top four Western nations both for the total number of migrants it has taken in, and for the proportion in its overall population. A new political party, the People's Party of Canada (PPC) has made limiting immigration a key theme of its campaign against current prime minister, Justin Trudeau. During an election campaign debate, the party leader, Maxime Bernier, said: "Canada received more immigrants per capita than any other Western country. "Is this true? Canada has made a name for itself as a welcoming destination, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into office in 2015. During his term in office, Canada has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. It has also looked to attract skilled migrants to boost the country's workforce, faced with an ageing population and a declining birth rate. Under Mr Trudeau, the number of migrants entering Canada has risen to around 300,000 per year, with the average for the previous decade at around 250,000 per year, according to the national statistics office. The PPC is campaigning for tighter controls on immigration. Its leader Mr Bernier holds the party's only seat in parliament and he's facing a battle holding on to it in the forthcoming poll. The 2018 annual report to parliament on immigration outlined government plans to allow more than a million new migrants to enter the country in the next three years. (Webmaster's comment: The United States should give the Statue of Liberty to Canada. They live up to it's promise while we do not!)
10-16-19 When calling the police does more harm than good
Fort Worth police on Monday arrested Aaron Dean, their former colleague who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson during a welfare check at her home early Saturday. He has been charged with murder. From what we know of the case so far — that Dean did not identify himself as police when he barged into Jefferson's house in the small hours of the morning, that he shot a woman babysitting her nephew and posing no conceivable danger to anyone — his arrest is a sort of justice. But even in the best-case scenario, even if Dean is tried, convicted, and given an appropriate sentence that does not accord undue deference to his badge, it's a lesser justice than the justice of you and I having never heard the name Atatiana Jefferson. It's a lesser justice than Atatiana Jefferson being alive. And she almost certainly would be alive had her neighbor not called the police when he saw her door was open. The neighbor, James Smith, seems painfully aware of his role in her death. "I don't know what went on in that house, but I know she wasn't a threat," he told local news. Smith's intentions were good, but his decision to call the police proved a fatal mistake. He will undoubtedly be far more circumspect about phoning the cops in the future — and so should we all. Calling the cops shouldn't be a default response to low-level nuisances or concerns. That isn't good neighboring. It's at best lazy, at worst reckless with other people's lives. If the past five years of high-profile police shootings have taught us nothing else, we should have learned a caution of unnecessarily involving the law in our lives or those of our neighbors. That's particularly so if our neighbors, like Jefferson, are black, as black Americans are disproportionately likely to be killed by police. Minorities are also unfairly targeted for non-lethal police attention, especially in connection to the drug war.
10-16-19 Bulgaria v England: Police arrest six following racist abuse at Euro qualifier
Bulgarian police have identified 15 fans they suspect are responsible for subjecting black England players to racist abuse and arrested six of them. The nine not arrested are under police investigation, with three wanted. England's 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifier win over Bulgaria in Sofia was stopped twice in the first half following racist chanting by home supporters. "We do not tolerate such behaviour," Bulgaria Ministry of the Interior commissioner Georgi Hadzhiev said. Bulgaria's football chief Borislav Mikhailov resigned on Tuesday. Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov said after the game he "didn't hear" any chanting, having previously accused England of having a bigger racism problem. But Balakov has since posted a statement on Facebook, acknowledging the incidents on Monday and apologising to "English footballers and to all those who felt offended". "I condemn all forms of racism as an unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relations," he added. "I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and no-one should ever be subjected to it." Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov became emotional when he was asked on TV how to prevent a similar occurrence in future. He advocated that "fans are not allowed in the stadium or even [face] heavier punishments". Apparently referring to the five-year European ban imposed on English club sides after 39 people died at Heysel Stadium before the start of the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, he added: "Like in England for years - five years without going to stadiums. People don't deserve to suffer." Meanwhile, the English Football Association and Uefa have condemned the actions of the 'ultras' section of Bulgaria fans, with Aleksander Ceferin, president of the sport's European governing body, calling for "football family and governments" to "wage war on the racists". The FA has also offered full support to England players following the racist chanting, with counselling one of the options open to them. (Webmaster's comment: We should arrest all racists in America. Free speech should not include the right of racist abuse!)
10-15-19 Dutch family 'waiting for end of time' found in secret room
A family who spent nine years on a farm "waiting for the end of time" have been discovered by police in the Netherlands after one of them turned up at a local pub, reports say. A man of 58 and six young adults aged 18 to 25 were living at a farm in the province of Drenthe. The family were found after the eldest of the children ordered beer at a bar in the nearby village of Ruinerwold. He then told staff he needed help, broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported. "We found six people living in a small space in the house which could be locked but wasn't a basement," police said in a statement late on Tuesday. The older man has been arrested. According to the family, he is the father of the six children, say police. It was not clear whether they had been there voluntarily, police added. The eldest son was not there at the time, police told the BBC. Local reports described the man as a handyman called Josef B, who was originally from Austria. "I've never seen anything like it," local mayor Roger de Groot told reporters. He revealed that some of the family had not been registered locally and also indicated that the 58 year old was not the father. The public broadcaster said that the family had been living in isolation waiting for the end of time. Bar owner Chris Westerbeek described how a man had come in, ordered five beers and drunk them. "Then I had a chat with him and he revealed he had run away and needed help... then we called the police," he said. He added: "He had long hair, a dirty beard, wore old clothes and looked confused. He said he'd never been to school and hadn't been to the barber for nine years." "He said he had brothers and sisters who lived at the farm. He said he was the oldest and wanted to end the way they were living." Officers visited the remote farmhouse and carried out a search. They discovered a hidden staircase behind a cupboard in the living room that led down to a secret room where the family were housed. (Webmaster's comment: another bunch of religious fruitcakes.)
10-15-19 Fort Worth shooting: Police officer charged with murder
A US police officer who shot dead a black woman in her bedroom on Saturday has been charged with murder. Police in Fort Worth, Texas arrested Aaron Dean and detained him briefly before releasing him on bail. On Monday police chief Ed Kraus told reporters Mr Dean had resigned from the force. Atatiana Jefferson was killed after two officers responded to a non-emergency call from her neighbour. Body cam footage showed an officer shooting within seconds of seeing her. The man who called police, James Smith, 62, said he was trying to be a good neighbour after noticing Ms Jefferson's front door was open and her lights were on. "If I had never dialled the police department, she'd still be alive." Mr Smith told local media. "It makes you not want to call the police." Allegations of police brutality in black communities have been a longstanding issue in the US. In its initial statement, the Fort Worth Police Department said the officer had "perceived a threat" when he drew his weapon. Police Chief Kraus said he would have fired the officer, had he not resigned, "for violations of several policies including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct". Earlier, Ms Jefferson's sister, Ashley Carr, said the victim had been "killed by a reckless act". Ms Carr called for a federal investigation. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer who is representing the family, said: "The investigation should be handled by someone other than the Fort Worth Police Department." He said the department was "on track to be one of the deadliest police departments in the United States". Accurate data on police shootings is difficult to obtain because local police forces are not obliged to provide figures. According to a database compiled by the Washington Post, 709 people have been killed by law enforcement officials so far this year and about 20% of victims were black. Texas had the second-highest number of total deaths. (Webmaster's comment: The police are a "clear and present danger" to the black people of America!)
10-14-19 Trump 2020 campaign disavows parody media massacre video
Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign has disavowed a parody video showing the US president massacring media outlets and political rivals. The video was on display at a conference organised by American Priority, a pro-Trump group. Organisers of the event at a Trump resort in Miami, Florida, said the video was part of a "meme exhibition". CNN had called on the Trump campaign to denounce the video "immediately in the strongest possible terms". Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, told the BBC: "That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence." Mr Trump's head is superimposed on the body of a man who goes on a killing rampage inside "the Church of Fake News". The heads of the people he kills have been replaced with the logos of media organisations, including BBC News, CNN and the Washington Post, and political opponents such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The New York Times says the video appears to be a doctored version of scenes from 2014 movie "Kingsman: The Secret Service", starring Colin Firth. American Priority also sought to disassociate itself with the video, saying it was "not approved, seen, or sanctioned" by event organisers. The video, the political action group added, was shown in a "side room" at the event and was only brought to the attention of organisers by the New York Times. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr, and former White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, were scheduled to speak at the event, according to the New York Times. "I wasn't aware of any video, nor do I support violence of any kind against anyone," Ms Sanders told the paper. "Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining - but it is by far and away the worst," CNN said in a statement on Sunday. "The images depicted are vile and horrific." (Webmaster's comment: Trump's White Supremacist supporters are all pro-violence against all those they disagree with!)
10-14-19 China is giving the U.S. a taste of its own medicine
Demanding certain conditions from businesses and trade partners is what the U.S. has done to other countries for decades. We Americans tend to treat trade as a matter of purely economic exchanges. But we've recently learned that to become entangled with a country via trade almost inevitably invites broader entanglements as well — of culture, ideology, and policy. After enmeshing ourselves in trade with China, for example, we've suddenly found China using that entanglement to silence criticism of China's crackdown on Hong Kong protesters. (Or its treatment of Tibet, or its massive surveillance state.) More perniciously, China's had American institutions and companies do the silencing and surveilling for it. In other words, if the country we're entangled with has a lot of leverage, they can force us to behave in ways we otherwise might not, and would really prefer not to. The thing is, if you're pretty much any country other than the United States — especially a poorer or developing country — you already knew this. Because for decades, the U.S. has been doing to the world what China is currently trying to do to us. If you're a big country with lots of consumption spending and financial capital to throw around, other countries are going to want access to your domestic market. And that will give you leverage to condition that access on certain terms. While China's rise into the ranks of global economic behemoths happened in just the last two or three decades, the U.S. has been there since the end of World War II. Through institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the U.S. has used that leverage to build the global economic and trade order to its preferences. In the initial post-war years, this setup worked out relatively well — resuscitating the ravaged economies of Europe, and promising a prosperous new possible future for the global East and South. But then in the 1970s and 1980s, free market neoliberal ideology took over American policymaking — and by extension took over the policies America was exporting to the globe. The U.S. started forcing countries to abandon capital controls and tariffs, thus allowing the free flow of both goods and financial capital across their borders. Industrial policy and state-ownership of enterprise was discouraged, privatization and free market solutions encouraged. This model often turned out quite badly for developing countries in particular. The end of barriers to trade and financial flows left those countries vulnerable to rich western speculators who could boost their economy by rushing in, then collapse it by rushing out just as fast. When such crises left a country saddled with unsustainable levels of foreign-denominated debt, the solution imposed by America's neoliberal hegemony was austerity, which provided the surplus cash to pay off foreign creditors, but also crushed the country's domestic economy and the livelihoods of its own citizens in the process. Indeed, the occasional country that did resist these demands wound up raising its wealth and living standards faster — and there's no better example than China itself, which has used its own clout to pick and choose which parts of the neoliberal global trade order it does and doesn't want to cooperate with.
10-13-19 Black woman shot dead by Texas police through bedroom window
A black woman was shot dead by police through her own bedroom window in the early hours of Saturday morning, after a request to check on her welfare. Atatiana Jefferson, 28, had been living at the residence in Fort Worth, Texas with her eight-year-old nephew. A neighbour had called a non-emergency police number after growing concerned that her front door was open at night. Police have released body cam footage of the incident, which shows an officer shooting within seconds of seeing her. The clip shows police searching the perimeter of the residential property, before noticing a figure at the window. After demanding the person put their hands up, an officer then fired a shot through the glass. The Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement that the officer, who is a white man, had "perceived a threat" when he drew his weapon. He has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, officials added. The shooting happened at about 02:30 local time (07:30 GMT) on Saturday morning. Although it is edited, the body cam footage does not appear to show the officers identifying themselves as police. It does not show footage from inside the property but includes images of a weapon that police say they found inside the bedroom. It is unclear if Ms Jefferson was holding a weapon at the time, but firearm possession is legal for people aged over 18 in Texas. Police said officers provided emergency medical care to Ms Jefferson at the scene, but she was declared dead at the property. (Webmaster's comment: She was a women, she was black, and he was white so he could kill her! It's as simple as that! He'll get away with it! The police are a clear and present danger to all blacks in America!)
10-13-19 Harry Dunn crash: US diplomat's wife 'devastated' by death
The US diplomat's wife granted immunity after the crash which killed teenager Harry Dunn is "devastated by the tragic accident", her lawyer has said. Anne Sacoolas's legal representative, Amy Jeffress, said she would "continue to co-operate with the investigation". Mrs Sacoolas, 42, left for the US under diplomatic immunity despite being a suspect in the crash with Mr Dunn, 19, in Northamptonshire on 27 August. But the Foreign Office said, having gone home, she no longer has immunity. A statement issued on behalf of Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband worked at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, said: "Anne is devastated by this tragic accident. "No loss compares to the death of a child and Anne extends her deepest sympathy to Harry Dunn's family." It added she had "fully co-operated with the police". "She spoke with authorities at the scene of the accident and met with the Northampton police at her home the following day. She will continue to co-operate with the investigation," the statement continued. "Anne would like to meet with Mr Dunn's parents so that she can express her deepest sympathies and apologies for this tragic accident. "We have been in contact with the family's attorneys and look forward to hearing from them." Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wrote to Mr Dunn's family on Saturday to explain both the British and US governments now considered Mrs Sacoolas' immunity irrelevant. The letter said: "We have pressed strongly for a waiver of immunity, so that justice can be done... Whilst the US government has steadfastly declined to give that waiver, that is not the end of the matter. "We have looked at this very carefully... the UK government's position is that immunity, and therefore any question of waiver, is no longer relevant in Mrs Sacoolas's case, because she has returned home. "The US have now informed us that they too consider that immunity is no longer pertinent." (Webmaster's comment: What good does an apology do? A child is dead by her actions. Diplomatic immunity should not apply for killing someone. She should be sent back to England to stand trial!)
10-13-19 How does religion influence our thoughts on climate change?
Religious studies scholar Willis Jenkins explores the entanglement of religion and climate change. "We are the belongings of the world, not its owners," wrote writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry in 1969. Whether or not you agree might depend, in part, on your religion. More than 80 percent of Americans view themselves as religious, spiritual, or both, and 84 percent of the global population identifies as part of a religious group. These alliances can profoundly affect how we view the world and our place in it — including our attitudes toward climate change and what humanity's response should be. Religion can mean a lot of things. It can refer to a body of official teachings (for example, Catholic Christianity or Vajrayana Buddhism), it can refer to shared cultural practices and worldviews (for example, Indigenous traditions or consumer capitalism), or it can simply refer to feelings of connection to something greater than oneself. But no matter how it's defined, it informs individuals' views on how to steward the Earth, share space with other species and react to climate change, says Willis Jenkins, a religious studies scholar at the University of Virginia. Without understanding such entanglements with religion, he says, there's no hope of understanding climate change's cultural dimensions. Jenkins, with co-authors Evan Berry of American University and Luke Beck Kreider of the University of Virginia, described how religion influences views on climate change in the 2018 Annual Review of Environment and Resources. He spoke with Knowable Magazine about the biblical idea of dominion, "petro-Islam", and indigenous views of Earth stewardship. This discussion has been edited for length and clarity.
10-13-19 Cannabis extract may work as a treatment for cannabis addiction
For people who are addicted to cannabis, one treatment option may be, paradoxically, to take pills containing an extract of cannabis. The first test of the idea has found that people taking capsules of this extract, known as cannabidiol or CBD, nearly halved the amount of cannabis they smoked, according to results presented at New Scientist Live this week. Cannabis is usually seen as a soft drug, but some users – about 1 in 10 by one estimate – become addicted, getting withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia when they try to stop. The number of people seeking treatment because they can’t quit smoking cannabis has been rising in the past decade, linked with a use of the more potent form known as skunk, said Val Curran of University College London at the event. The two main psychoactive substances in cannabis are CBD and THC, the compound responsible for the high. While THC tends to increase anxiety, CBD makes people calmer. “CBD gets rid of the toxic effects of THC,” said Curran. Her team has been running a trial, where people undertook a four-week course of CBD to alleviate withdrawal symptoms to help them quit smoking cannabis. It involved 82 people classed as severely addicted, who were given one of three different doses of CBD or placebo capsules, as well as psychological support. The lowest dose didn’t work. The middle dose of 400 milligrams worked best, said Curran. After six months it halved the amount of cannabis people used compared with placebo, as shown by tests for THC in their urine. And the highest dose of 800 milligrams was slightly less effective than the middle one. The 400 milligram dose also more than doubled the number of days when people had no THC in their urine. “That’s really remarkable,” said Curran.
10-12-19 All the president's goons
If President Trump is eventually felled by the comical exploits of his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he will have no one to blame but himself. From the moment that he descended the elevator in 2015 to announce what would become his years-long grip on American politics and the national psyche, President Trump's greatest weakness has been his tendency to surround himself with cartoonish, wild-eyed cranks who are either too ignorant to understand their own lawlessness or so brazenly immoral that they don't care. The Ukraine escapade is something that a half-competent, bottom-of-the-class lawyer with even a small shred of integrity could have warned (or tried to warn) the president away from. But that's not the kind of person who works for this president. Late-stage Rudy Giuliani, however he got this way, is the perfect functionary for Trump's Derp State — barely in control of his faculties, gripped by hallucinatory delusions, brimming with bloodthirsty loathing for Democrats, and perfectly willing to commit broad-daylight crimes to cover up other broad-daylight crimes. As best we understand it today, Giuliani was tasked with using critical military aid and access to President Trump to extort the government of Ukraine into doing two things: forking over real or imagined dirt on Joe Biden, who at the time was President Trump's leading Democratic challenger for the presidency next year, and also to launch some kind of ginned-up investigation into the crackpot theory that the previous Ukrainian government was responsible for colluding with the Clinton campaign and the so-called Deep State in the U.S. to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Giuliani did some of this work himself, traveling to Ukraine to shake down various officials, but he did not act alone. This poorly scripted and unquestionably illegal plot was seemingly carried out with the full knowledge and cooperation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and further required sacking the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, a respected foreign service veteran named Marie Yovanovitch, who stood in the way of using America's relationship with Ukraine — a country at the mercy of its larger and more powerful Russian neighbor — for the personal gain of the president and his associates. There's also a B-plot: Giuliani seems to have concluded that executing the scheme required enlisting the help of two oafish bag men named Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested at Dulles Airport on Wednesday as part of a Southern District of New York investigation into campaign finance violations. They were about to flee the country for Vienna and appeared to have been funneling Russian slush money into the campaign coffers of Republicans and Republican-aligned entities who would help with the effort to recall Yovanovitch, in addition to serving as fixers in Kiev for Giuliani. And obviously, it wouldn't be a Trumpworld scheme if they weren't also trying to use their connections to Giuliani and Trump to get rich in the nebulous Ukrainian energy world. Notable: Giuliani himself was scheduled to fly to Vienna the next day. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has not "drained the swamp." He has filled the swamp with criminals and thugs!)
10-11-19 Not above the law
A federal judge called President Trump’s claim to immunity from criminal investigations “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values,” demanding that Trump’s accounting firm turn over his tax returns to state prosecutors this week. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a last-minute reprieve, however, preventing prosecutors from obtaining eight years of Trump’s personal and business tax records until it hears Trump’s appeal. The Manhattan district attorney obtained a grand jury subpoena for the records in late August as part of an investigation into the Trump Organization’s payments of hush money to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. District Court Judge Victor Marrero denied Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the subpoena, citing the Founding Fathers’ rejection of the “inviolability” of the King of England as evidence that Trump’s claim to “unqualified and boundless” presidential immunity is unconstitutional.
10-11-19 Insurance rule to limit legal immigration
In a new anti-immigration salvo, the Trump administration announced last week that starting in November it will deny visas to legal immigrants who can’t prove that they have health insurance or sufficient money to cover health-care costs. The order would not affect children, or those old enough to be covered by Medicare. However, Medicaid, the health coverage program for the poor, would not meet the insurance requirement. New “public charge” rules announced in August and scheduled to go into effect later this month will also limit the ability of immigrants who get Medicaid to seek citizenship. One immigration advocate critical of the policy accused the administration of looking “for any way to exclude people who aren’t wealthy.”
10-11-19 Supreme Court: How far will the conservative majority go?
“Watch out, America,” said The New York Times in an editorial, the Supreme Court’s new term began this week, and its “newly emboldened conservative majority” seems ready to flex its muscles. After last year’s traumatic confirmation hearings for now–Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court finished its term fairly quietly, ducking several cases involving “hot button” social issues. But the agenda for the new term reads like an index to our national culture wars, starting this week with oral arguments on the question of whether employees can be fired for being gay or transgender. Also on the docket: gun control, the fate of the 700,000 Dreamers, and yet another bad-faith Republican effort to overturn Obamacare, said Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.com. What else could the court “possibly take on to make this term more incendiary? Ah, yes: abortion.” The justices will also review a Louisiana law that effectively regulates abortion clinics out of existence. The court struck down an almost identical Texas law in 2016, but that was before the arrival of conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Liberals should brace for a “jurisprudential bloodbath.” Remember how we got here, said Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times. Gorsuch is on the court because the GOP blocked President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Republicans rammed through Kavanaugh’s nomination despite two credible “accusations of sexual assault.” Democrats should play “constitutional hardball” themselves, by increasing the number of justices and “packing the court.” Let’s fix the court instead, said David Edward Burke in WashingtonMonthly.com. Term-limiting justices to 10 years would help. So would “raising the threshold for confirmation to 75 percent of Senate votes,” which would screen out ideologues. The Supreme Court will remain politicized until both parties “care more about protecting our institutions rather than controlling them.”
10-11-19 Diplomatic immunity
British politicians demanded this week that a U.S. diplomat’s wife who fled the U.K. after killing a teenage motorcyclist in a traffic accident return to Britain to face justice. The case sparked outrage in the U.K. after it was revealed that Anne Sacoolas, 42, had claimed diplomatic immunity and flown back to the U.S. while police investigated the Aug. 27 collision near the village of Croughton. Harry Dunn, 19, died after colliding head-on with a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by Sacoolas; she promised police that she would cooperate and wouldn’t leave the country. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if Sacoolas doesn’t voluntarily return to the U.K., he will raise the case “personally with the White House.”
10-11-19 Far-right terrorism
At least two people were killed and two others wounded after a gunman wearing military-style gear went on a rampage in the German city of Halle this week, targeting a synagogue and a kebab shop. The gunman live-streamed his attack on the gaming platform Twitch, saying in English that he was a Holocaust denier and that Jews are to blame for all of the West’s problems. After trying and failing to force his way into the packed synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the gunman shot and killed a woman on the street. He then opened fire on a nearby kebab shop, killing one man. After hijacking a taxi, the suspect was arrested on a highway to Munich. Police said they were investigating whether the attacker had “anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist motives.”
10-11-19 We are now fully a police state
There’s no such thing as an innocent person in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, said Maria Zheleznova and Pavel Aptekar. Just look at the case of Russian actor Pavel Ustinov, sentenced to 3½ years in a penal colony after being arrested on the sidelines of an antigovernment protest in August. He was accused of injuring a police officer and resisting arrest during the demonstration, but video evidence shows that Ustinov, 24, was “scrolling through his cellphone in the street, completely minding his own business” when four cops in riot gear grabbed him. After a public outcry, authorities reduced his punishment to a one-year suspended sentence—but it kept the guilty verdict against him. Ustinov is a victim of police “abuse of power,” yet the court “convicted the victim and refused to charge those who victimized him.” The reduced sentence isn’t mercy, and it certainly isn’t justice. The conviction tells all Russians that the authorities are “willing to falsify evidence and level false charges,” and any citizen can be jailed “for simply crossing the path of a police officer” who needs to fill a quota. This knowledge encourages nihilism. Instead of “a healthy respect for the law,” we have only “fear of the state.” But the Kremlin better watch out: Bitter Russians “will eventually shed that fear.”
10-11-19 German Halle gunman admits far-right synagogue attack
A man has confessed to an attack on a synagogue in Germany in which two people died, and admitted a far-right, anti-Semitic motive, during a hearing with an investigating judge. Stephan Balliet, 27, spent several hours giving evidence before a federal court judge about the attack in the eastern city of Halle. He was arrested on Wednesday after a 40-year-old woman was shot dead in front of Halle's synagogue. A man aged 20 was also fatally shot. He was attacked inside a kebab shop after the gunman tried unsuccessfully to storm the synagogue, firing on the door several times. Inside the synagogue, 51 people were marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. Investigators believe his intention was to carry out a massacre and have revealed that 4kg (9lb) of explosives were found in his car. Balliet faces a double murder charge as well as seven counts of attempted murder. Before he was captured, he also wounded a man and a woman. He is now being held in pre-trial detention. The gunman streamed his attack online for 35 minutes and published a far-right manifesto. Prosecutors say it it is too early to say if he had accomplices and whether he was part of any far-right group."We were actually just in the middle of Shacharit, which is the morning service, reading Torah, when I heard and saw explosions and two clouds of smoke right outside the window," she said. "For a couple of seconds everyone was silent, and then all of a sudden everything went super-fast. The cantor who was leading prayer immediately understood what was going on. "He said: 'Everyone out of here - go to the next room, go upstairs, be on the floor, go down and go away from the windows.'" The horror and confusion which engulfed Halle on Wednesday has been replaced by bewilderment and painful questions. (Webmaster's comment: The Nazis are back! We need to come down on all Nazi groups with both feet. Lock them all up!)
10-10-19 Students defend hounding Trump's border chief
Acting US Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was shouted off stage at a university in Washington DC by student protesters. Was it a legitimate form or protest or a violation of freedom of speech? The BBC's Aleem Maqbool spoke to some of the demonstrators.
10-10-19 The political implications of a Biblical rape
n a fine spring evening in the ancient Near East, a king took a stroll on the roof of his palace. Surveying his capital city, he caught sight of a woman purifying herself in a ritual religious bath. The moment was devotional, private — and the woman another man's wife. But the king watched and wanted her. He summoned her to his chambers for sex. She became pregnant, and the king sent her husband to the front line of battle to die. After widowing her, the king married the woman before she gave birth to his son. Was this adultery? Or was it rape? And does your answer change if I tell you the king is David — the shepherd boy who killed Goliath, the "man after God's own heart" — and the woman Bathsheba? This may seem an odd case to litigate some 3,000 years after the fact, but whether David raped Bathsheba is the Christian Twitter debate du jour, and it has fascinating implications for white evangelicals' much-analyzed support for President Trump. Before we turn to Trump, however, let's dive into the rape debate. The topic was raised in the Twitterverse by Rachael Denhollander, the lawyer and former gymnast whose sexual assault allegation against Larry Nassar, once a doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, helped lead to his conviction for a host of sexual offenses against minors. Denhollander has become an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, particularly in evangelical Christian contexts, and she responded to a tweet about the sins of prominent biblical characters by correcting "David fornicated" to "David raped." "It's important we get that right," Denhollander added, appending a brief explanation for her interpretation of the scriptural account. Though not universally held, the rape reading is neither novel nor theologically liberal. Among its adherents, as has been noted in the Twitter spat, is influential author and pastor John Piper, a conservative Calvinist Baptist. Other theological conservatives agree. I was raised in evangelical churches, and it's a funny thing: When I think of the story of David and Bathsheba, I default to picturing Bathsheba bathing out in the open, on a roof. This is a curiously common assumption, perhaps influenced by how the incident is commonly depicted in Renaissance art. Gentileschi's Bathsheba, for example, admires herself in a mirror while bathing nearly nude on a balcony with a clear sight line to David's palace. This imagery lends itself to the adultery interpretation, where Bathsheba is a willing participant, a seductress even, deliberately displaying herself to tempt the king.
10-9-19 Note to Republicans: Trump will betray you just like he betrayed the Kurds
In The Art of the Deal, President Trump presents his deal making — by which he means his avarice and swindling — as an artistic enterprise. "Deals are my art form," he writes in his best-selling book that he didn't write. "Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals." Trump's forte is con artistry. He sells books he doesn't write to people who don't read. He failed as a businessman but succeeded as a fake businessman on TV. The supreme irony of his life is that he poses as a dealmaker when he is the opposite. Trump doesn't make deals. He breaks them. Trump's perfidy has global consequences. His decision this week to withdraw troops from northern Syria, reportedly made after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, surprised and infuriated lawmakers, including Republicans. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called it "a catastrophic mistake," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called it "a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria," and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it "a betrayal." Trump's abandonment of the Kurds, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, sends "the most dangerous signal possible — America is an unreliable ally." America is an unreliable ally because its president is an unreliable person. If there's a constant in Trump's life, it's betrayal. He has betrayed his business partners, his customers, his employees, his friends, his wives, and his voters. A man who is willing to betray those closest to him will not hesitate to turn his back on foreigners thousands of miles away. In addition to abandoning the Kurds, the Trump administration is withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. Its most glaring defect is that it's a treaty. Trump opposes treaties because he loathes any agreement that redounds to other people's benefit. Moreover, treaties, like all reciprocal transactions, impose obligations on the signatories. To Trump, doing stuff for other people is for wimps and losers.
10-9-19 Viewpoint: White House letter is self-inflicted wound
An eight-page letter from White House lawyers to Democratic leaders in the House decries the impeachment inquiry as "baseless" and "constitutionally invalid". They don't have a case, says legal scholar Jonathan Turley. The letter rightfully raises concerns over the lack of a House vote and the secrecy of proceedings - Democrats have limited Republicans in their effort to question witnesses and secure material. However, that is not a legitimate basis for refusing to co-operate or supply clearly material evidence. The letter emphasises a lack of due process in the proceedings. Yet the constitution does not expressly require anything other than a vote of the House on impeachment itself and a majority threshold for any referral of the matter to the Senate for trial. This is a constitutional function of the highest order for Congress. There is a legitimate basis for congressional investigation under both its oversight and impeachment authority. If proven, these allegations of self-dealing could be a basis for articles of impeachment. A president cannot simply pick up his marbles and leave the game because he does not like the other players. A refusal to co-operate with a constitutionally mandated process can itself be an abuse of power. Mr Trump's earlier tweet about wanting an ambassador to testify (but blocking him because he does not trust the committee) is the death knell for a privilege claim. A president cannot withhold material evidence because he does not like the other party in control of a house of Congress. It must be based on a claim that disclosure, even to a co-equal branch, would undermine national security or diplomatic relations or essential confidential communications. This letter repeats that flawed premise for refusing to co-operate. It is a curious move since tweets by Mr Trump could be dismissed (as the Department of Justice did in the immigration litigation) as not reflective of the real position of the government.
10-9-19 An innovative approach to 'abolish ICE'
For weeks, organizers with Never Again Action, a Jewish-led advocacy group, have gathered outside of ICE offices across the country. Singing protest songs, they implore ICE officers put a stop to the agency's abusive detention and deportation practices. "Quit your job!" is a common plea. Some may just take them up on it. This week, Never Again Atlanta, one of the group's many local chapters, launched a job placement program for immigration officers seeking to distance themselves from the agency. The program seeks to make leaving the agency a real possibility by matching conscientious objectors with career advisers and job opportunities. "As we looked into these agents' eyes, we could tell they weren't comfortable with what was going on. We've asked them to quit their jobs, so how can we make it easy on them?" Emily Baselt, an organizer with Never Again Atlanta, told The Week. Never Again Action's founders say their organization stems from a refusal to stand by in the face of intensifying attacks on immigrant communities. "As Jews, we've been taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again", their website reads, "Now, with children detained in unacceptable conditions, ICE terrorizing immigrants in every corner of the country, and people dying at the border... We refuse to wait and see what happens next." Yet even some who passionately agree with the group's stance will take issue with the approach of working with current ICE officers. Should the very facilitators of ICE cruelty be allowed turn a new page? It's something Never Again Action, too has wrestled with: "It's a delicate balance. We want to help conscientious objectors, but ultimately, Never Again Action is a direct action organization. Slowing down operations by forcing the agency to hire and train replacements is unquestionably important — we're serious in declaring that 'never again means now,'" Baselt adds. The asymmetry is stark: ICE agents are extended an olive branch, allowed to walk away from their pasts with few questions asked, while the migrants they hound are rarely afforded that opportunity.
10-9-19 White House 'will not co-operate with impeachment inquiry'
The White House has officially refused to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. A letter sent to Democratic leaders rejected it as "baseless" and "constitutionally invalid". Three Democratic-led House committees are investigating Mr Trump. The inquiry is trying to find out if the president held back aid to Ukraine to push it to investigate Joe Biden, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The White House letter comes hours after the Trump administration blocked the US ambassador to the European Union from appearing before a congressional impeachment investigation. White House counsel Pat Cipollone addressed the eight-page letter to the leading Democrat and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the three chairmen of the Democratic committees. He accused the leaders of setting up an inquiry that "violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process". The letter insisted that, because Democrats did not hold a vote on launching impeachment proceedings in the House, the inquiry was "constitutionally invalid". The letter also accused Democrats of trying to change the 2016 election result, and "deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen". "In order to fulfil his duties to the American people... President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances." In response, Ms Pelosi called the letter "manifestly wrong" and accused Mr Trump of trying to "normalise lawlessness". "Mr President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable." (Webmaster's comment: So send in the Federal Marshalls and drag all the criminals out of there!)
10-8-19 Trump's impeachment obstruction requires a maximal response
resident Trump's latest effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry into himself came on Tuesday, with the announcement that he told U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland not to show up to his scheduled deposition with House investigators. The subject was to be his recently-revealed text messages with other diplomats discussing Trump's effort to coerce Ukraine into publicly investigating the Biden family. Sondland's lawyer said he had no choice but to obey Trump, but that's a lie — Sondland could resign and ignore Trump's order if he really wanted to. In response, House Democrats say they'll issue a subpoena for Sondland's testimony along with the emails and texts from his personal device that the State Department is reportedly withholding. If he doesn't comply, the House should be prepared to clap this man in irons and forcibly drag him to the Capitol to testify. Trump cannot be allowed to prevent testimony into his criminal abuses of power. For one thing, Trump's explicit argument is that the Democratic-controlled House should not be allowed to investigate him at all. On Twitter Tuesday morning, he wrote that Sondland "would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's [sic] rights have been taken away[.]" Just as when Trump's lawyers recently argued in federal court that he should be immune from criminal investigations (dismissed by a federal judge who said his argument was "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values"), Trump does not believe he should be subject to any oversight or laws of any kind. This move also puts paid to any claptrap about this being anything other than Trump trying to use his power to cover up his misdeeds. He will not allow anyone to testify if he can help it, and he's not going to respect any constitutional niceties in the process.
10-8-19 Gordon Sondland: US envoy skips Trump impeachment probe
The Trump administration has blocked the US ambassador to the European Union from testifying to a congressional impeachment investigation. Gordon Sondland was due to meet behind closed doors on Tuesday with staff from three Democratic-led House committees. But the envoy was directed by the Department of State not to attend. Mr Sondland was set to be grilled about any role he played in prodding Ukraine to investigating President Donald Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Mr Trump said Mr Sondland would only have been testifying to a "kangaroo court". The Democratic-led impeachment inquiry is trying to establish whether the Republican president withheld nearly $400m in aid to nudge Ukraine's president into launching an inquiry into Mr Biden, whose son, Hunter Biden, was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. In a phone call on 25 July, Mr Trump asked the newly elected Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the former US vice-president, who is a leading Democratic White House contender in next year's election. A whistleblower raised concerns about the phone call, and the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced a formal impeachment investigation last month. In a statement released through his lawyer, Mr Sondland said he was "profoundly disappointed" he would not be able to testify. "Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the Committee's questions fully and truthfully," said the statement. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday that the ambassador has additional messages "deeply relevant" to the inquiry on a personal device. (Webmaster's comment: The coverup is in full swing.)
10-7-19 Trump tax returns must be given to prosecutor, judge rules
A judge has ordered US President Donald Trump to hand over eight years of his tax returns to a New York state criminal investigation. The judge rejected arguments by the president's lawyers that total immunity protects him while in office. Mr Trump is the only presidential candidate since the 1960s apart from Gerald Ford not to release tax returns. The ruling helps an investigation into hush money paid to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr Trump. In his 75-page decision on Monday, Judge Victor Marrero said he could not allow a "categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process". "The only truly absolute about presidential immunity from criminal process is the Constitution' s silence about the existence and contours of such an exemption," he wrote. Judge Marrero concluded that the president's argument, at its core, was "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values". Mr Trump's lawyers immediately filed an emergency appeal with a higher court. (Webmaster's comment: Trump will refuse the court's order because he does not believe in the rule of law, only the rule of power just like Hitler did.)
10-7-19 China's civil liberties crackdown can happen here
The mask ban in Hong Kong is a warning of the surveillance state to come. "We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong," declared the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, in a Friday announcement of a ban on wearing masks in public. Enacted under a colonial-era emergency powers ordinance, the mask ban takes effect Saturday and is ostensibly a "deterrent to radical behavior," a way to tamp down the rising violence from a minority segment of the anti-government protesters who have flooded the city's streets for weeks. Yet, as demonstrators have been quick to note, punishing the use of face coverings with jail time will do far more than make the violent few easier to apprehend. It will also expose thousands to tear gas employed by increasingly brutal police, and it bares protesters' identities to China's panopticon surveillance state. Hong Kong is right to bristle at this ban — and we in the United States would do well to take it as a warning. The civil liberties violations now underway in China can happen here, and they almost certainly will if we do not proactively reject them. In some arenas, the march of technological development does not substantively change the questions policymakers must address. Civil liberties are different. A century ago — even a few decades ago — the surveillance capabilities now available to the government were the stuff of science fiction. Imagine telling someone in 1919 or 1979 that in some cities the state can tap into thousands or even millions of cameras to spy on citizens. Chinese cities top the global list of camera concentration, with as many as 168 cameras for every 1,000 people, per a recent study. And this is not the grainy, black-and-white footage of a gas station security cam. Chinese researchers have built a camera capable of taking images five times more detailed than those perceived by the unaided human eye. Paired with facial recognition technology, it will be able to identify individuals in crowds of thousands. China's facial recognition tech will soon gatekeep much of the country's internet usage, too, as a facial screening will be required to obtain new cell phone service beginning in December.
10-6-19 Catholic Church: Could Pope Francis say 'yes' to married priests?
Catholic bishops from around the world are meeting at the Vatican to discuss the future of the Church in the Amazon. Over the next three weeks, some 260 participants will talk about climate change, migration and evangelism. Pope Francis opened the talks on Sunday by blaming destructive "interests" that led to recent fires in the Amazon. "The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits," he said. But one topic has dominated the headlines: whether married men will be allowed to become priests. One of the items on the working document - the instrumentum laboris - is the suggestion that in remote parts of the Amazon, older, married, men should be ordained. They would need to be men who are particularly well-respected and, according to the document, they would preferably come from the indigenous communities where they intend to work. South American bishops have advocated for this in an effort to address the shortage of priests in the region. Only priests can consecrate the Eucharist, which is a key part of Mass. It is estimated that at least 85% of villages in the Amazon are unable to celebrate Mass every week as a result of this shortage and some only see a priest once a year. "Pope Francis, coming from Latin America, has an instinctive understanding of some of the challenges of that region," says Professor Gregory Ryan, from the Centre for Catholic Studies. "The concern of how thinly priests are spread in the Amazon region is really the fundamental thing at the root of this," he adds. "It is tied in with the very strong Catholic sense that the Eucharist is at the heart of regular Christian community." For many, celibacy is a key part of being a Catholic priest. A priest is supposed to be married to God and not be distracted by what some consider to be worldly concerns like a wife or a family. Professor Linda Woodhead MBE, who specialises in the sociology of religion, says that in addition to celibacy, Catholic priests and nuns "are given their housing [and] basic allowance so that they are fully dedicated to doing what they are doing." "People feel that that priest has the time to give them and they're not intruding on someone's private life," Prof Woodhead says. "That priest is there and is available for them and that is quite a special thing." (Webmaster's comment: Driven by practical necessity, slowly, over centuries, relgious bigotry falls.)
10-5-19 Trump impeachment: Democrat Elaine Luria defends backing inquiry
Elaine Luria is one of the seven newly-elected Democrats in the US House of Representatives whose decision to back an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump tipped the scales. The day after they spoke out, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry would take place. How would constituents welcome her when she returned? Impeachment was always going to loom large as congresswoman Elaine Luria took to the New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach for a town hall event, inviting residents to ask her questions. It's on people's lips as they take their seats for the event - tickets sold out, but there are pockets of empty space as it begins. This military area voted for Luria, who served in the Navy for 20 years, in 2018, with the new congresswoman defeating incumbent Republican Scott Taylor. Being in a swing district that voted for Trump in 2016, she's aware speaking out could risk her political career. But, she says she would "rather be on the right side of history" and to be able to look herself in the mirror and know she did the "right thing". Rather than stand up and speak to Luria directly, people are invited to write questions on pieces of card as they arrive - different colours indicating the topics of impeachment, public safety and general queries. They are then drawn out and read by the moderator. There are grumblings from local Republicans on social media as this method emerges, saying it's not a true town hall event. The very first question is more of a comment - commending her "brave, patriotic decision" - and is met with applause as it is read out. Initially a few rise to their feet, and then much of the crowd is giving her a standing ovation. But Luria is keen to tamp down the cheers. "I appreciate your enthusiasm," she responds. "But I truly feel this is a sad time for our country. I didn't go to Washington to impeach the president. "I wanted to do this for our country. I didn't spend 20 years in uniform defending our country to watch something like this happen." (Webmaster's comment: Even the Bible Belt and the Bapists are turning against Trump!)
10-5-19 Saudi Arabia: Unmarried foreign couples can now rent hotel rooms
Unmarried foreign couples will now be allowed to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia as part of a new visa regime announced by the religiously conservative kingdom. Women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone. Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room. The government move comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to grow its tourism industry. In the past, couples had to provide documents proving marriage, but now these rules have been relaxed for foreigners. "All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels," the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said in a statement. "This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in." The new visa regulations state that female tourists are not required to fully cover up but are still expected to dress modestly. Alcohol remains banned. Long seen as one of the strictest places on earth, Saudi Arabia is trying to soften its image in the eyes of foreign tourists and investors. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently made some substantial changes in the ultra-conservative kingdom. These include ending a ban on female drivers and allowing women to travel abroad without a male guardian's permission. But these changes have been overshadowed by highly controversial issues including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Simon Calder, senior travel editor at The Independent, said that the relaxing of visa regulations would likely increase the number of people travelling to the kingdom. (Webmaster's comment: Saudi Arabia is still the worst religious dictatorship on Earth!)
10-5-19 The false promise of the lie detector
A new generation of high-tech tests is giving authorities undue faith in their power to detect deception. We've seen this before, and it usually hasn't ended well. We learn to lie as children, between the ages of 2 and 5. By adulthood, we are prolific. We lie to our employers, to our partners, and most of all, one study has found, to our mothers. The average person hears up to 200 lies a day, according to research by Jerry Jellison, a psychologist at the University of Southern California. The majority of the lies we tell are "white," the inconsequential niceties — "I love your dress!" — that grease the wheels of human interaction. But most people tell one or two "big" lies a day, says Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. We lie to promote ourselves, to protect ourselves, and to hurt or avoid hurting others. The mystery is how we keep getting away with it. Our bodies expose us in every way. Hearts race, sweat drips, and micro-expressions leak from small muscles in the face. We stutter, stall, and make Freudian slips. "No mortal can keep a secret," wrote the psychoanalyst in 1905. "If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips. Betrayal oozes out of him at every pore." Even so, we are hopeless at spotting deception. On average, across 206 scientific studies, people can separate truth from lies just 54 percent of the time — only marginally better than tossing a coin. Some people stiffen and freeze when put on the spot; others become more animated. Liars can spin yarns packed with color and detail, and truth-tellers can seem vague and evasive. Humans have been trying to overcome this problem for millennia. The search for a perfect lie detector has involved torture, trials by ordeal, and, in ancient India, an encounter with a donkey in a dark room. In 1730, the English writer Daniel Defoe suggested taking the pulse of suspected pickpockets. "Guilt carries fear always about with it," he wrote. "There is a tremor in the blood of a thief." More recently, lie detection has largely been equated with the juddering styluses of the polygraph machine. But none of these methods has yielded a reliable way to separate fiction from fact.
10-5-19 Improving the lives of intersex people in Kenya
Kenya added "intersex" to its census, but inclusion is still far from reality. Nestled in a quiet, leafy Nairobi neighborhood just a stone's throw from the throbbing of sounds of a sprawling city market, is a refuge where intersex, transgender, and gender-nonconforming Kenyans can escape searing public judgment and discrimination. Inside, posters encouraging acceptance and love cover the foyers' white walls; bathrooms boast gender-neutral signs. Downstairs, people share a late lunch of beans and rice while chatting on deep, soft couches. Upstairs, a transgender woman applies red lipstick without a mirror, then poses for a portrait, the sequins of her ruby red stilettos flicker in the long, afternoon light. This safehouse is the heart of Jinsiangu, an organization advocating for the wellbeing of gender nonbinary people in Kenya. Its name comes from a combination of Swahili words meaning "my gender." This summer, Kenya completed the colossal effort to conduct its decennial census — from urban high rises to rural, tin-topped huts — and for the first time, it included a new gender category: intersex. This marked a first not only in Kenya but across the continent. Activists hope this will set a precedent for intersex rights in Kenya and around the globe, but intersex inclusion is still far from reality. Globally, approximately 1-3 percent of the population are considered intersex and by those estimates, there could be as many as 1.4 million intersex people in Kenya, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. At the helm of Jinsiangu is Kwaboka Kibagendi, an approachable man with an impassioned voice, who has pushed for intersex inclusion since he started the safe house six years ago. Raised as a girl, Kibagendi, 33, didn't realize he was intersex until six years ago. He blames cultural stigma, discrimination, and a general lack of information as the reason he, and so many others, discover their identities late in life.
10-4-19 Economy: Manufacturing slump jolts markets
U.S. manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level in a decade last month, spelling trouble for the economy, said Justin Lahart in The Wall Street Journal. American factory activity contracted for the second straight month, hurt by the China trade war combined with “slowing economies abroad, Boeing’s continuing troubles,” and the General Motors strike. The results prompted a worldwide stock selloff this week. While the job market and consumer spending remain strong, it’s notable “that the index deteriorated in a month when trade tensions weren’t dominating headlines like earlier in the summer, and when the stock market staged a big recovery.” A manufacturing slowdown is bad news for President Trump’s reelection campaign, said Karl Smith in Bloomberg.com. “The current economy is tracking dangerously close to the one that derailed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in 2016,” when the index slid from 54.1 in January 2015 to 48 a year later. Worse for Trump, “manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has already fallen below the 2015 rate,” and Pennsylvania’s is dangerously close to it. Even if Trump called an end to the trade war, it would take months before equipment orders rebounded and factories started hiring. His economy “is failing exactly where he needs it to succeed.”
10-4-19 China: 70th anniversary celebrations spark joy and rage
The Chinese Communist Party rolled out the big guns in Tiananmen Square this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, said Kirsty Needham in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). Helicopters and stealth fighter jets roared over Beijing as 15,000 soldiers marched alongside an unprecedented display of weaponry. The parade included columns of tanks, hypersonic missiles, and the new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are capable of striking the U.S. within 30 minutes. There was also a spectacular mass pageant involving 100,000 people and 70 floats arranged in intricate formations to represent Chinese history and iconography. Marchers bore giant portraits of past Communist leaders, including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, as well as current President Xi Jinping. It was “the only TV show” on air, and the cameras zoomed in on a float celebrating Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong even as “violent protests continue to rage” in the semi-autonomous city. China has every right to be proud of its “brilliant achievements,” said Zhang Shuhua in the Global Times (China). When the Communist Party took power in 1949, China was emerging from war and colonialism and “wallowing in poverty and bleakness.” A mere seven decades later, China is the world’s second-largest economy, having “completed an industrialization process that developed countries took hundreds of years to achieve.” Our annual gross domestic product has increased by a factor of 1,325 to reach $12.66 trillion, and the economy is still growing at more than 6 percent a year—triple the U.S. rate. China has “served as the global growth engine and stabilizer, which is a blessing for both Chinese people and human history.” Our unified political system has made these advances possible, freeing our people from partisan struggles so they can accomplish major goals. Our approach “can be learned by other countries, especially developing ones.”
10-4-19 How they see us: ‘Ukraine-gate’ hits Ukraine
W e now know that U.S. President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political rival, and even offered the assistance of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. “In any normal country,” said Hubert Wetzel in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany),“that would suffice to force the offending politician out.” The U.S. used to be such a country: During Watergate, members of President Richard Nixon’s own Republican Party told him to step down. Today, though, it’s hard to find a Republican in Congress willing to “put the good of the country before the good of the president.” Instead, Republicans are echoing Giuliani’s conspiracy theory that as vice president Joe Biden improperly pressured Ukraine’s government to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was investigating an energy firm that employed Biden’s son, Hunter, as a board member. There’s zero evidence that Joe or Hunter Biden did anything wrong. But Trump knows that “propaganda doesn’t have to be true, the people just have to believe it.” This scandal ought to destroy Trump, but in the upside-down world of U.S. politics, it could end up tainting Biden instead. Zelensky must be furious at Trump, said Ivan Yakovina in NV.ua (Ukraine). Our president gave the White House permission to publish a rough transcript of the call between the two presidents—so long as his replies were excised. But the Americans left them in, and now Ukrainians can read how their leader abased himself to stroke Trump’s ego and bad-mouthed our allies in France and Germany. Still, this U.S. betrayal of Zelensky “could be avenged.” The call summary the White House released is “an edited text from which pieces were cut,” and Ukraine could provide the crucial and possibly damning missing lines. “If Zelensky helps to overthrow Trump and feed his political corpse to the Democrats, he will become a hero in Europe.”
10-4-19 The imperial Trump presidency
President Trump’s lawyers want the courts to declare that the president is above the law, said David Lurie. Last week, Trump asked a court to block New York prosecutors from requiring an accounting firm to turn over his personal and corporate tax returns. Trump’s lawsuit claims the president is constitutionally protected “not just from indictment but also from investigation.” That’s “squarely at odds” with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in U.S. v. Nixon, which rejected President Nixon’s claim that he was protected by “absolute privilege” and ordered him to comply with a subpoena in the Watergate probe. Now, though, Trump has revived Nixon’s argument and seems to be using this case to ask the Supreme Court to nullify U.S. v. Nixon. The newest justice may well be on board: In 2009, Brett Kavanaugh urged Congress to enact a law overruling Nixon, thereby shielding sitting presidents from investigation. Should Kavanaugh and the other four conservative justices take that matter into their own hands, Nixon’s “long-mocked claim” that when the president does something, “that means that it is not illegal” would actually become true. (Webmaster's comment: No person can be above the law! Period!)
10-4-19 Borders: A new push to limit refugees
President Trump “is dismantling the system for legal refugees,” said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. Since taking office, he’s starved refugee resettlement agencies of funding and lowered the number of refugees that can be admitted into the country from 85,000 in fiscal year 2016 to 30,000 in 2019. Last week, he slashed the ceiling again, setting the 2020 figure at just 18,000, “a 40-year low.” He also issued an order, sure to be challenged in court, giving governors and mayors “new authority to dictate how many refugees—if any—can be resettled in their state or town.” Historically, the U.S. has “successfully absorbed millions of refugees.” Why destroy the system now and especially amid “the greatest refugee crisis since World War II,” with 70.8 million people forcibly displaced worldwide? Trump’s refugee reductions “betray a humanitarian tradition older than the nation” itself, said Peter Schuck in the Los Angeles Times. Since the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, “America has been a haven for people fleeing persecution and hopelessness.” Now, we’re shutting the doors—including to some who aided U.S. soldiers “at grave risk to themselves and their families.” Ordinary Americans will decide how this plays out, said Alan Cross in The?Bulwark?.com. Will Christians defend their ministry to refugees, or “grow quiet as the door is closed to the persecuted”? By turning refugee resettlement into a local matter, Trump has given everyone a voice to register opposition. How we answer will determine whether our communities will be defined by “rejecting the vulnerable refugee and migrant.”
10-4-19 Fortress America
Frustrated by the stream of migrants coming across the border, President Trump railed at advisers to find a solution at any cost—even if it was shooting migrants in the legs, The New York Times reported this week. Trump also floated digging a water-filled trench along a border wall and stocking it with snakes and alligators, or having the wall electrified or topped with spikes, sending aides searching for price estimates. “You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump fumed at aides in a meeting in March, before announcing that he wanted the entire 2,000-mile border shut down by noon the next day. Though his aides managed to delay the order and ultimately talk Trump down from a border shutdown, resistance from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen led Trump to force her out. “I may be tough on Border Security, but not that tough,” Trump said in response to the Times report.
10-4-19 Safe for migrants?
Under U.S. pressure, Honduras signed an agreement last week that will let U.S. immigration officials send asylum seekers back to Honduras if they passed through the Central American country on their way north. The pact effectively designates Honduras as a “safe third country,” even though it has one of the world’s highest murder rates and drug gangs are forcing its people to flee. More than 250,000 Hondurans have crossed the U.S. border during the past 11 months. The U.S. has potential leverage against President Juan Orlando Hernández, who agreed to the deal. He is facing allegations of corruption and has been named as a co-conspirator in a U.S. drug-trafficking case against his brother, Juan Antonio Hernández.
10-4-19 Praising the torturers
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro drew condemnation this week for praising the memoirs of a brutal dictatorship-era torturer. While meeting with students at the presidential palace, Bolsonaro accused one of the teenager’s teachers of being a leftist and said she should read The Suffocated Truth by Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. In 2008, Ustra became the first military officer to be convicted for kidnap and torture during Brazil’s 1964–1985 junta. Victims of Ustra’s torture center said he personally beat them and hung people upside down by their legs for days. Ustra argued his innocence in his book, which Bolsonaro said contained “facts, not the blah blah blah of the Left.” The president last month told former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, whose father was tortured by the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet, that Chile would be Communist had Pinochet not acted forcefully.
10-4-19 Insurance: Out-of-pocket costs spiral out of control
Rising premiums and deductibles are pushing employer-based health insurance out of reach for more workers, said Reed Abelson in The New York Times. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that “the average premium paid by the employer and the employee for a family plan now tops $20,000 a year, with the worker contributing about $6,000.” Employers are the main source of health insurance in the United States, with employer plans covering about 153 million people. But premiums for such plans have risen about twice as fast as wages since 2009, leaving many Americans with increasingly difficult decisions. Jessie McCormick, a 27-year-old with a heart condition, calculated that she couldn’t afford the $1,200 a month in out-of-pocket expenses for her company’s health plan and deductibles. Instead, she quit her job to enroll in Medicaid. Many businesses have opted to increase deductibles instead of premiums, and “deductibles now account for more than half of workers’ out-of-pocket expenses,” said Darla Mercado in CNBC.com, up from 26 percent in 2008. The average deductible for a single worker with a high-deductible plan last year was $2,349. Indeed, those high-deductible plans have tripled in number over the past decade, said Noam Levey in the Los Angeles Times. They were pitched as a way to give patients “skin in the game,” liberating them to comparison shop for lower prices and “forcing hospitals, doctors, and drugmakers to control cost.” But the shift was not the panacea that was promised. Many Americans prefer to trust their physicians for health-care decisions, and even if they do shop around, it’s common to find wildly inaccurate price estimates. “Hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers rely on approximately 10,000 individual billing codes to charge for services,” meaning consumers would have to price each separately. One woman’s itemized surgical bill revealed 23 individual charges—$65.23 for Lidocaine, $413 for oxygen—with the sum amounting to more than $5,900. Her insurance company’s website had originally said the cost would be $900. Things have gotten so bad that “after years of pushing health-care costs onto workers, some employers are pressing pause,” said John Tozzi in Bloomberg.com. Delta Airlines, for example, “froze employees’ contributions to premiums for two years.” Some larger employers have reversed direction on high-deductible plans. In a survey of big companies, the share that say they plan to offer them as the only option dropped from 39 percent in 2018 to 25 percent. But many businesses feel stuck because “aggressive moves to tackle underlying medical costs, such as by cutting high-cost hospitals out of their networks,” have proved even less popular with employees than raising premiums.
10-4-19 Speak up against anti- Semitism
Berliners will speak out against only the most egregious instances of anti-Semitism, said Andreas Kopietz. City authorities banned two Palestinian rappers from performing at a Palestinian solidarity rally at the Brandenburg Gate last week, because the pair’s lyrics include shout-outs to terrorists who kill Jews and call for Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground. But too often, we let anti-Semites get away with it. Passengers simply “look away” when drunken hooligans on the subway shout that Jews should be gassed. People say nothing when a dinner-party guest begins to rant about how Jewish money controls the world. It’s getting worse and worse: In the first six months of the year, more than 400 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Berlin; they included a man in a yarmulke getting spat on in the street and being called “Yahudi” (Arabic for Jew) and a Jewish woman receiving a “threatening letter full of ashes.” We can blame some of this on Muslim immigrants and some on the far right, but anti-Semitism “slumbers in more Germans than one thinks.” It is there whenever we laugh nervously at a Jewish joke or keep quiet out of timidity. It’s time for Berliners to find the “civic courage” to speak up. If we don’t actively oppose anti-Semitism, “history tells us where it can lead.” (Webmaster's comment: You've been there. You don't want to go there again!)
10-4-19 The retaliatory presidency
In the last few days, President Trump has threatened the Ukraine whistleblower with the treatment meted out in "old times" to "spies," which means execution. He has suggested that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that is investigating the scandal, should be arrested and charged with treason for unfairly characterizing Trump's comments soliciting dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden from the Ukrainian president. And he has warned that if Democrats try to remove him from office through impeachment, they will trigger another "civil war" in the country. This language may be spooky — but it is not surprising. Trump thrives on chaos. But the one constant in everything he does is that he will pull out all the stops to retaliate against anyone who crosses him — friend or foe, domestic or foreign. This would be a dangerous trait in a person with any degree of power let alone the most powerful man on the planet. Trump launched his politics of retaliation the moment he announced his bid for the presidency. He belittled his Republican rivals, inventing insulting epithets for them. He viciously attacked any conservative who stood up to him — publicly musing, for example, whether Sen. John McCain could be a genuine war hero since he got captured in Vietnam (never mind that Trump himself got a doctor's note to avoid the draft). He encouraged violence against protesters at this rallies and delighted in chants of "lock her up" against Hillary Clinton. Any hope that the responsibilities of the office would temper such personal attacks after he was elected were dashed from the get-go. Indeed, it isn't Republican lawmakers such as the neo-Nazi-courting Rep. Steve King of Iowa who earn Trump's wrath, but his critics, like former North Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash. He openly celebrated when Sanford lost his re-election bid, lampooning his romantic dalliance on Twitter, and he called Amash, easily the most principled and decent of conservatives around, not only "one of the dumbest" but also the "most disloyal" person in Congress.
10-3-19 Can you imagine a worse reason to start a civil war?
f all the reasons to start a civil war, preserving slavery is the worst. But keeping President Trump in power is pretty high up on the list. On Sunday, Trump tweeted the following statement by evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress: "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal." Jeffress isn't the only one predicting civil strife. Rudy Giuliani warned that impeaching Trump would risk "domestic tranquillity [sic]." Franklin Graham said that impeachment "could lead to conflict that nobody wants." "This is war," actor Jon Voight proclaimed. The same people who mocked Hillary Clinton's voters for grieving after the 2016 election now say they will start a civil war if Trump is impeached in accordance with the Constitution. Their premonitions are a sign of weakness. If you cannot argue your case with logic and evidence, you can appeal to faith or resort to threats of violence. Trump has done both. Prior to the 2018 midterms, Trump told a group of Christian leaders, "This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me. It's a referendum on your religion. It's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It's a referendum on so much. It's not a question of like or dislike. It's a question that they will overturn everything that we've done, and they will do it quickly and violently." As a candidate, Trump implored Americans to "take their country back" by voting for him. As president, he has convinced his base that any attempt to weaken him is an attempt to weaken the country they took back. By exploiting patriotic symbols like the flag and the national anthem, he hopes to make his interests and the nation's appear indistinguishable. He wants Americans to equate keeping their country with keeping him in office. "You're one election away from losing everything that you've gotten," he said last year. Now they're one impeachment away.
10-3-19 Government whistleblowing isn't easy. But it should be.
Let's lower the barriers for sounding the alarm on the powerful in America The swamps of Washington bristle with predators, President Trump would have you know. Lurking around every corner is a traitor or spy, ready to pounce on any opportunity to betray the administration with lies to a willfully credulous press. Would-be whistleblowers abound. So eager are they to rat on their president, Trump says, they'll do so with information acquired third-hand or fabricated entirely. But this is not how whistleblowing works — especially not whistleblowing of the sort at hand in the Ukraine scandal, where a report was made through official channels in the whistleblower's own name. (Neither the public nor the president know the whistleblower's identity, but the complaint was not anonymous and the identity may be revealed.) The reality is whistleblowing is socially difficult, even unnatural. It requires ousting yourself from an in-crowd and locking the door behind you. It goes against our every instinct to seek social belonging, particularly among the powerful. British author and theologian C.S. Lewis called this the desire to be in the "Inner Ring," deeming it "one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action." The Inner Ring is not, Lewis says, an inherent evil. It's inevitable, as in any organization informal hierarchies likely will develop and personal friendships should, too. "But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter," he continues. "A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous." This longing, which we all feel at some time, can be very strong indeed. It can override our better judgment, our usual moral qualms. You know this subtle tug, which Lewis vividly describes. No one appears before you with a straightforward invitation to participate in evil. No one says, outright and in advance, "You can only be our friend if you join in our corruption." No one asks, "Do you want to help the president of the United States attempt to use funds allotted by Congress for military aid to coerce another country's leader into acting as his opposition researcher for personal political gain in the next election?"
10-3-19 Jagmeet Singh: 'Cut your turban off,' voter tells NDP leader
A Canadian political leader has been told to cut off his turban to look more Canadian during a campaign stop. Reporters filmed the encounter between NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, a practising Sikh, and a man in Montreal, Quebec. Mr Singh says cordially that Canadians "look like all sorts of people" before walking off. The man wishes him well. In June, the province of Quebec passed a law banning certain civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work such as the turban, hijab or kippah. Mr Singh is the first visible minority leader at the helm of a major federal political party in Canada. His NDP is fighting to retain its 14 seats in Quebec, though opinion polls show the left-of-centre party trailing in the province ahead of the country's general election on 21 October. Mr Singh was greeting voters at a popular food market in Montreal on Wednesday when he approached the man, greeted him and shook his hand. The man leaned towards Mr Singh and was heard saying: "You should cut your turban off and you'll look like a Canadian." "I think Canadians look like all sorts of people," Mr Singh responded. "That's the beauty of Canada." "In Rome you do as the Romans do," the man said. "But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like," said Mr Singh. "Alright, take care," the man responded. "I hope you win." Mr Singh later told journalists that he, like many Canadians, has faced racism and discrimination in communities across Canada. He added that he was confident in being able to move beyond any prejudice to highlight shared values. Mr Singh and three other federal leaders - Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet - are in Quebec for a federal election debate. Among the issues expected to be raised during the event was the province's Bill 21. The legislation, passed in June, bars civil servants in positions of "authority" from wearing religious symbols at work, including teachers and police officers.
10-3-19 Body camera shows officers arresting man with rope
Officials released body camera footage of police on horseback arresting a black man with a rope. The incident garnered public attention in August. The Galveston Police Department is deciding if the officers will be reprimanded. It says it no longer uses rope for arrests.
10-2-19 The awkward questions about slavery from tourists in US South
It was late in the summer of 1619 that a ship bearing "not any thing but 20 and odd Negroes" docked at the fledgling port of Point Comfort, Virginia. Those Africans were among the first victims of the American slave trade, 400 years ago. It has been 154 years since Congress abolished slavery. Since that time, only five generations of African Americans have been born free. Forty percent of all the slaves that were brought to America came through Charleston, South Carolina. The homes they were sold into, where they were forced to work until death, are now tourist attractions branded on picturesque allure. But Charleston reflects a wholly American truth: that nothing here is untouched by the legacy of slavery, even centuries on. What is less certain is how a city - and a nation - should talk about such a difficult past. "Slavery was not that bad - it's probably the number one thing we hear," says plantation tour guide Olivia Williams. "To my face, people have said: Well, they had a place to sleep. They had meals, they had vegetables." Williams, 26, is among the guides criticised in reviews of McLeod Plantation that recently caused a stir online. Many were stunned that white visitors to plantations would push back against hearing the slave side of the story. While McLeod has far more positive reviews than negative ones, the discord struck at the heart of a debate unfolding across historic sites in cities like Charleston. For decades, tourists have been drawn to Charleston and its plantations for the idyllic southern charm, a deliberate throwback to a Gone With the Wind era. But the industry is slowly changing as some believe tourists should face the truths of slavery instead of the rose-coloured narrative peddled for so long - even if it makes them uneasy. Entering McLeod through its small visitors' centre, there are already signs that this will be a different kind of tour. A board at the front asks: Do you think plantation owners like the McLeod family experienced these tumultuous times differently than the Dawsons, the Forrests, and other African American families who lived here?
10-2-19 Egypt's speaker praises Hitler to justify government spending
Egypt's parliamentary speaker has sparked outrage online after praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's infrastructure projects. Ali Abdel Aal made the comments while defending Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi development plans. "Hitler had his mistakes, but what allowed him to expand eastward and westward was that he created a strong infrastructure," the speaker said. Mr Abdel Aal has since said his words were taken "out of context". Hundreds of people have been detained in recent weeks for protesting against alleged government and military corruption in Egypt linked to building projects. The country has pursued a policy of economic austerity in recent years and more than 30% of the population is living in poverty. The speaker reportedly asked parliamentarians to observe a minute of silence to back the president's efforts to "build a modern Egyptian state", the website Middle East Eye reports. It was during this speech that he praised "the infrastructure that Germany has constructed, which is a model for the whole world". "Building nations in times of transition requires harsh measures... because it is during these times that institutions are built and infrastructure is laid down." The remarks were reported by pro-government media outlets. Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945, orchestrating the systematic murder of as many as 11 million people - six million of whom were killed because they were Jewish. Opponents quickly condemned the comments online, saying they compared President Sisi to Hitler and could ruin Egypt's standing in the world. Mr Abdel Aal later told Egypt Today that Hitler "committed a lot of crimes which can never be praised". "No country can develop without a strong infrastructure, and this is the only thing I was referring to in my statements," he was quoted as saying.
10-2-19 Donald Trump 'suggested shooting migrants in the legs'
US President Donald Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down, according to a new book. The book, by two New York Times journalists, says Mr Trump suggested extreme methods of deterring migrants from crossing the southern border. They included building an electrified, spiked border wall and a snake or alligator-infested moat. Building a wall on the border with Mexico is one of Mr Trump's main policy objectives. The construction of the wall has now begun, with the Pentagon allocating $3.6bn (£2.9bn) of military funding towards its development. The White House has not commented on the latest reports. The book - called Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration, by reporters Michael Shear and Julie Davis, and based on interviews with more than a dozen unnamed officials - was published by the New York Times. It chronicles a week in March 2019 when Mr Trump reportedly tried to halt all southern migration to the US. According to an excerpt, the president privately suggested to aides that soldiers shoot migrants in the legs, but he was told it would be illegal. Previously, Mr Trump had made a public statement suggesting soldiers shoot migrants who throw rocks. Mr Trump suggested other extreme measures, according to the book. "Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh," reads the extract. The excerpt describes Mr Trump ordering aides to enforce a complete shutdown of the US-Mexico border by noon the following day, leaving advisers "in a near panic" and "desperately" trying to placate the president. "Mr Trump's order to close the border was a decision point that touched off a frenzied week of presidential rages, round-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time," the excerpt says. (Webmaster's comment: I'm sure Trump would want to shoot the children in the legs too! How many would die is not important to him.)
10-2-19 Trump committed an impeachable offense just by threatening Adam Schiff
How Trump's opposition to the impeachment inquiry could itself be impeachable. President Trump indulged in a favorite daydream Sunday, ranting on Twitter about seeing his political enemies in jail. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) "made up what I actually said by lying to Congress," he charged, alleging Schiff spewed lies "made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason." Monday morning, the president redoubled this line of attack, suggesting Schiff be arrested because he "illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement ... and read it aloud to Congress." This is typical Trump, so understandably it garnered less attention than concurrent tweets musing about the launch of a second civil war, which the president apparently imagines will be waged on his behalf by a legion of furious evangelicals should he be removed from office. But Trump's particular citation of Schiff's remarks in Congress arguably puts this punitive fantasy in a separate category from his other prison-in-the-air reveries. It may itself be grounds for impeachment. Now, the Constitution's list of impeachable offenses for the president is not terribly specific. The first two items of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" are plain enough, but the latter half adds enough vagary to permit considerable — and usually partisan — debate about what exactly should see our chief executive in the dock. Records from the Constitutional Convention, however, show the "high crimes and misdemeanors" phrase was intended to encompass constitutional violations. George Mason was concerned treason and bribery alone wouldn't adequately check executive lawlessness because they failed to include "attempts to subvert the Constitution." He proposed adding this broader language to cover such scenarios, to ensure that the man "who can commit the most extensive injustice" would not find himself above the highest law of the land.
10-1-19 Canada reveals names of 2,800 victims of residential schools
For more than a century, they were anonymous. But now the names of 2,800 indigenous children who died in Canadian residential schools will finally be known.From Abel Evan Francois to Zotique Kahkikyas, one by one, the names of residential school victims were revealed in a powerful ceremony honouring "the children who never came home". It took more than a decade for researchers to identify nearly 3,000 children who died in Canada's residential schools - compulsory boarding schools run by the government and religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth. Many families were never notified, and the children were buried in unmarked graves. "Children were taken away and put into these schools absent of love and care and affection. I think many of them probably passed away in quite lonely circumstances," says Ry Moran, the Centre's director. But on Monday, their names were finally known, when the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, in partnership with Aboriginal People's Television Network, unveiled a national memorial register. All 2,800 names were inscribed on a red scroll, which stretched 50 metres (164 feet). "Today is a special day not only for myself, but for thousands of others across the country. To finally bring recognition and honour to our school chums, to our cousins, to our nephews, to our nieces, that were forgotten," says Barney Williams, a residential school survivor and member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in Meares Island, British Columbia. "We're ensuring that people know these kids. Know that when we talk about the children who never came home from these schools, they were real children with real names who came from real communities with real families. This makes the gravity of what we're dealing with, as a country, all the more real," says Mr Moran.