The FBI’s Hunt for Two Missing Piglets Reveals the Federal Cover-Up of Barbaric Factory Farms

Original Article

By Glenn Greenwald

This article includes graphic images some readers may find disturbing.

FBI AGENTS ARE devoting substantial resources to a multistate hunt for two baby piglets that the bureau believes are named Lucy and Ethel. The two piglets were removed over the summer from the Circle Four Farm in Utah by animal rights activists who had entered the Smithfield Foods-owned factory farm to film the brutal, torturous conditions in which the pigs are bred in order to be slaughtered.

While filming the conditions at the Smithfield facility, activists saw the two ailing baby piglets laying on the ground, visibly ill and near death, surrounded by the rotting corpses of dead piglets. “One was swollen and barely able to stand; the other had been trampled and was covered in blood,” said Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), which filmed the facility and performed the rescue. Due to various illnesses, he said, the piglets were unable to eat or digest food and were thus a fraction of the normal weight for piglets their age.

Rather than leave the two piglets at Circle Four Farm to wait for an imminent and painful death, the DxE activists decided to rescue them. They carried them out of the pens where they had been suffering and took them to an animal sanctuary to be treated and nursed back to health.

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DxE photograph depicting piglets huddled up against their mothers at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah. DxE says the piglets were sick or starving.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

This single Smithfield Foods farm breeds and then slaughters more than 1 million pigs each year. One of the odd aspects of animal mistreatment in the U.S. is that species regarded as more intelligent and emotionally complex — dogs, dolphins, cats, primates — generally receive more public concern and more legal protection. Yet pigs – among the planet’s most intelligent, social, and emotionally complicated species, capable of great joy, play, love, connection, suffering and pain, at least on a par with dogs — receive almost no protections, and are subject to savage systematic abuse by U.S. factory farms.

At Smithfield, like most industrial pig farms, the abuse and torture primarily comes not from rogue employees violating company procedures. Instead, the cruelty is inherent in the procedures themselves. One of the most heinous industry-wide practices is one that DxE activists encountered in abundance at Circle Four: gestational crating.

Where that technique is used, pigs are placed in a crate made of iron bars that is the exact length and width of their bodies, so they can do nothing for their entire lives but stand on a concrete floor, never turn around, never see any outdoors, never even see their tails, never move more than an inch. That was the condition in which the activists found the rotting piglet corpses and the two ailing piglets they rescued.

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Piles of dead and rotting piglets are piled up behind a sow, who is wedged into a crate so tightly that she cannot move away from the mess at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Female pigs give birth in this condition. They are put in so-called farrowing crates when they give birth, and their piglets run underneath them to suckle and are often trampled to death. The sows are bred repeatedly this way until their fertility declines, at which point they are slaughtered and turned into meat.

The pigs are so desperate to get out of their crates that they often spend weeks trying to bite through the iron bars until their gums gush blood, bash their heads against the walls, and suffer a disease in which their organs end up mangled in the wrong places, from the sheer physical trauma of trying to escape from a tiny space or from acute anxiety (called “organ torsion”).

So cruel is the practice that in 2014, Canada effectively banned its usage, as the European Union had done two years earlier. Nine U.S. states, most of which host very few farms, have banned gestational crating (in 2014, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with his eye on the GOP primary in farm-friendly Iowa, vetoed a bill that would have made his state the 10th).

But in the U.S. states where factory farms actually thrive, these devices continue to be widely used, which means a vast majority of pigs in the U.S. are subjected to them. The suffering, pain, and death these crates routinely cause were in ample evidence at Smithfield Foods, as accounts, photos, and videos from DxE demonstrate.

FBI raids animal sanctuaries

Under normal circumstances, a large industrial farming company such as Smithfield Foods would never notice that two sick piglets of the millions it breeds and then slaughters were missing. Nor would they care: A sick and dying piglet has no commercial value to them.

Yet the rescue of these two particular piglets has literally become a federal case — by all appearances, a matter of great importance to the Department of Justice. On the last day of August, a six-car armada of FBI agents in bulletproof vests, armed with search warrants, descended upon two small shelters for abandoned farm animals: Ching Farm Rescue in Riverton, Utah, and Luvin Arms in Erie, Colorado.

These sanctuaries have no connection to DxE or any other rescue groups. They simply serve as a shelter for sick, abandoned, or otherwise injured animals. Run by a small staff and a team of animal-loving volunteers, they are open to the public to teach about farm animals.

The attachments to the search warrants specified that the FBI agents could take “DNA samples (blood, hair follicles or ear clippings) to be seized from swine with the following characteristics: I. Pink/white coloring; II. Docked tails; III. Approximately 5 to 9 months in age; IV. Any swine with a hole in right ear.”

The FBI agents searched the premises of both shelters. They demanded DNA samples of two piglets they said were named Lucy and Ethel, in order to determine whether they were the two ailing piglets who had been rescued weeks earlier from Smithfield.

A representative of Luvin Arms, who insisted on anonymity due to fear of the pending criminal investigation, described the events. The FBI agents ordered staff and volunteers to stay away from the animals and then approached the piglets. To obtain the DNA samples, the state veterinarians accompanying the FBI used a snare to pressurize the piglet’s snout, thus immobilizing her in pain and fear, and then cut off close to two inches of the piglet’s ear.

The piglet’s pain was so severe, and her screams so piercing, that the sanctuary’s staff members screamed and cried. Even the FBI agents were so sufficiently disturbed by the resulting trauma, that they directed the veterinarians not to subject the second piglet to the procedure. The sanctuary representative recounted that the piglet who had part of her ear removed spent weeks depressed and scared, barely moving or eating, and still has not fully recovered. The FBI “receipt” given to the sanctuaries shows they took DNA samples “from swine.”

Several volunteers at one of the raided animal shelters said they were followed back to their homes by FBI agents, who dramatically questioned them in front of family members and neighbors. And there is even reason to believe that the bureau has been surveilling the activists’ private communications regarding the rescue of this piglet duo.

The FBI specified as part of its search that it was seeking DNA samples from piglets they said were named “Lucy” and “Ethel.” But those were not the names the activists used when publicly discussing the rescue of the two piglets. In their videos about the rescue, they called the pair “Lily” and “Lizzie.” Lucy and Ethel were code names the activists used internally, suggesting that agents were surveilling the activists’ communications — either electronically or through informants — in an effort to find the two piglets and build a criminal case against the group.

Subsequent events confirmed that this show of FBI force was designed to intimidate the sanctuaries, which played no role in the rescue. Weeks after the FBI’s execution of the two search warrants, Luvin Arms — in the midst of an interview with The Intercept — received a telephone call from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, claiming the agency had received “a complaint” that the sanctuary lacked the legally required licenses for animal shelters that are open to the public. “We had never had an FBI visit or a USDA call about licenses, and now suddenly, within weeks, both happened,” the sanctuary representative said.

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A piglet that was ill and close to death at Smithfield recovers as she is cared for after being rescued.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Retaliation for exposing cruel treatment

What has vested these two piglets with such importance to the FBI is that their rescue is now part of what has become an increasingly visible public campaign by DxE and other activists to highlight the barbaric suffering and abuse that animals endure on farms like Circle Four. Obviously, the FBI and Smithfield — the nation’s largest industrial farm corporation — don’t really care about the missing piglets they are searching for. What they care about is the efficacy of a political campaign intent on showing the public how animals are abused at factory farms, and they are determined to intimidate those responsible.

Deterring such campaigns and intimidating the activists behind them is, manifestly, the only goal here. What made this piglet rescue particularly intolerable was an article that appeared in the New York Times days after the rescue, which touted the use of virtual reality technology by animal rights activists to allow the public to immerse in the full experience of seeing what takes place in these companies’ farms. The article featured a photograph of the DxE activists rescuing the piglets from the Smithfield farm:

The Times article was published July 6. The search warrant against the sanctuaries was obtained the following month, in mid-August, and then executed on August 31. In the interim, the piglets had become stars of a clearly effective campaign against Smithfield Foods. 

In response to questions from The Intercept, Smithfield insisted that it does not abuse its animals. But, as is typical for factory farms, the company offered little more then generalized denials, accompanied by vague accusations that the videos and photos the activists took are somehow “distorted.”

After they rescued the two piglets, the DxE activists did not try to hide what they had done: They did the opposite. They used a tactic known as “open rescue,” the purpose of which is to publicly detail what has been done to help the public understand the true nature of the abuses.

The activists wrote about the rescue in social media postings that went viral, detailing the horrific conditions they witnessed at Smithfield and describing the suffering of the piglets. They posted videos to Facebook and YouTube that they filmed of the farm and the rescue as it happened, with other videos showing Lily and Lizzie being treated at the sanctuaries and growing into happy, playful, healthy adolescents.

Video: Direct Action Everywhere

Plainly, the “crime” of these activists that has galvanized the FBI is not the “theft” of two dying piglets; it is political activism and investigative journalism, which exposes the cruelty and abuse at the heart of this powerful industry.

In response to a few media reports on the FBI raids at the sanctuaries, bureau spokesperson Sandra Barker told the Washington Post: “I can say that we were at the two locations conducting court-authorized activity related to an ongoing investigation. Because it’s ongoing, I’m not able to provide any more details at this time.”

To an industry feeling endangered by growing public disgust over conditions at industrial farms — driven by scandals within the meat, pork, and poultry sectors — Lily and Lizzie are political and journalistic threats. Animals like them are vital for enabling animal rights activists to demonstrate to the public in a visceral, personalized way that this industry generates massive profit by monstrously and unnecessarily torturing living beings who are emotionally complex and experience great suffering.

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Rescued piglets Lizzie and Lily.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Government power abused to intimidate and punish activists

The Justice Department’s grave attention to a case of two missing piglets reflects how vigilantly the U.S. government uses extreme measures to protect the agricultural industry — not from unjust economic loss, violent crime, or theft, but from political embarrassment and accurate reporting that damages the industry’s reputation.

A sweeping framework of draconian laws — designed to shield the industry from criticism and deter and punish its critics — has been enacted across the country by federal and state legislatures that are captive to the industry’s high-paid lobbyists. The most notorious of these measures are the “ag-gag” laws, which make publishing videos of farm conditions taken as part of undercover operations a felony, punishable by years in prison.

Though many courts, including most recently a federal court in Utah, have struck down these laws as an unconstitutional assault on speech and press freedoms, they continue to be used in numerous states to harass and, in some cases, prosecute animal rights activists. As the Times article notes, these ag-gag laws are one reason activists are forced to turn to virtual reality: to show what really happens inside industrial farms without running the risk of prosecution.

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Many mother pigs had nipples that were torn into bloody shreds from feeding starving piglets.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Even more extreme and menacing is the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. As I described previously when reporting on the arrest of two young activists — who faced 10 years in prison for freeing minks from farm cages before the animals could be sliced to death and turned into luxury coats — nonviolent animal rights activists are often designated as “terrorists” under the AETA and are treated in the court system as such, even when no human beings are hurt and the economic loss is minimal:

As is typical for lobbyist and industry-supported bills, the AETA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (its two prime Senate sponsors were James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.) and then was signed into law by George W. Bush.

This “terrorism” law is violated if one “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise … for the purpose of damaging or interfering with” its operations. If you do that — and note that only “damage to property” but not to humans is required — then you are guilty of “domestic terrorism” under the law.

Prior to the 2006 enactment of the AETA, animal rights activism that damaged property was already illegal under a 1992 federal law, as well as various state laws, and subject to severe punishments. The primary purpose of the new 2006 law was to expand the scope of criminal offenses to include plainly protected forms of political protest, and to heighten the legal punishments and intensify social condemnation by literally labeling animal-rights activists as “domestic terrorists.”

The factory farm industry and its armies of lobbyists wield great influence in the halls of federal and state power, while animal rights activists wield virtually none. This imbalance has produced increasingly oppressive laws, accompanied by massive law enforcement resources devoted to punishing animal activists even for the most inconsequential nonviolent infractions — as the FBI search warrant and raid in search of “Lucy and Ethel” illustrates.

The U.S. government, of course, has always protected and served the interests of industry. Beginning when most of the nation was fed by small farms, federal agencies have been particularly protective of agricultural industry. That loyalty has only intensified as family farms have nearly disappeared, replaced by industrial factory farms where animals are viewed purely as commodities, instruments for profit, and treated with unconstrained cruelty.

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Downed pigs languish in their own feces at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Lately, opposition is emerging from unusual places. Utah federal judge Robert J. Shelby, an Obama appointee who is a lifelong Republican, recently struck down the state’s ag-gag law on First Amendment grounds, noting in his ruling:

For as long as farmers have put food on American tables, the government has endeavored to support and protect the agricultural industry. … In short, governmental protection of the American agricultural industry is not new, and has taken a variety of forms over the last two hundred years. What is new, however, is the recent spate of state laws that have assumed an altogether novel approach: restricting speech related to agricultural operations.

As Shelby detailed, those ag-gag laws were not used until activists began having success in showing the public the true extent of cruelty that industrial farms impose on animals:

Nobody was ever charged under these [early ag-gag] laws, and for nearly two decades no new ag-gag legislation was introduced. That changed, however, after a series of high profile undercover investigations were made public in the mid to late 2000s.

To name just a few, in 2007, an undercover investigator at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company in California filmed workers forcing sick cows, many unable to walk, into the “kill box” by repeatedly shocking them with electric prods, jabbing them in the eye, prodding them with a forklift, and spraying water up their noses. A 2009 investigation at Hy-Line Hatchery in Iowa revealed hundreds of thousands of unwanted day-old male chicks being funneled by conveyor belt into a macerator to be ground up live.

That same year, undercover investigators at a Vermont slaughterhouse operated by Bushway Packing obtained similarly gruesome footage of days-old calves being kicked, dragged, and skinned alive. A few years later, an undercover investigator at E6 Cattle Company in Texas filmed workers beating cows on the head with hammers and pickaxes and leaving them to die. And later that year, at Sparboe Farms in Iowa, undercover investigators documented hens with gaping, untreated wounds laying eggs in cramped conditions among decaying corpses.

The publication of these and other undercover videos had devastating consequences for the agricultural facilities involved. The videos led to boycotts of facilities by McDonald’s, Target, Sam’s Club, and others. They led to bankruptcy and closure of facilities and criminal charges against employees and owners. They led to statewide ballot initiatives banning certain farming practices. And they led to the largest meat recall in United States history, a facility’s entire two years’ worth of production.

Over the next three years, sixteen states introduced ag-gag legislation.

In other words, both the legislative process and law enforcement agencies are being blatantly exploited — misused — to protect not the property rights but the reputational interests of this industry. Having the FBI — in the midst of real domestic terrorism threats, hurricane-ravaged communities, and intricate corporate criminality — send agents around the country to animal sanctuaries in search of DNA samples for two missing piglets may seem like overkill to the point of being laughable. But it is entirely unsurprising in the context of how law enforcement resources are used, and on whose behalf.

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A piglet at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Smithfield Food’s defenses

It makes sense that Smithfield Foods would be petrified of the public learning of many of its practices. But in this particular case, they are specifically trying to hide the pure evils of gestational crates. This video, taken by an investigator with the Humane Society in 2012, shows the widespread but hideous reality of gestational crates at a Smithfield farm:

In response to the public controversy over this practice, generated by activists filming what was going on, Smithfield announced in 2012 that they would phase out gestational crating in 10 years — by 2022. They then claimed that by the end of 2017, they would transition completely to “group housing systems.” But as the DxE videos show, gestation crates are exactly what activists found in abundance when they visited Smithfield’s Circle Four.

Indeed, when Wayne Hsiung and DxE visited Circle Four over the summer, they saw no signs whatsoever of any construction or reform efforts to move away from gestational crates, Hsiung told the Intercept. As the videos show, Circle Four had thousands of pigs suffering in such crates. That was where the activists found the two piglets, close to death.

When Smithfield learned that The Intercept was reporting on these issues, a spokesperson emailed a statement and invited further questions. The statement claims that in response to DxE’s reporting, Smithfield “immediately launched an investigation and completed a third-party audit,” and “the audit results show no findings of animal mistreatment.”

This is a typical industry tactic: When they claim, as they almost always do, that their paid auditors discovered “no findings of animal mistreatment,” what they mean is that there was no evidence that their employees engaged in activities that corporate procedures explicitly prohibit (such as beating the animals or administering electric shock).

But what the audit does not do is ask whether the procedures themselves (such as gestational crating) are abusive and thus constitute “mistreatment.” Smithfield failed to provide a response to The Intercept’s follow-up questions about what it does and does not mean when their auditors claim no “mistreatment” was discovered; the company simply reiterated that “the animals observed on the farm by the audit team were in good condition, appeared comfortable, free of clinical disease, and showed no signs of fear or intimidation in the presence of people.” Simply review the DxE video above, and the featured photos showing what they found at Circle Four, to judge for yourself.

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Cramped conditions lead to many pigs being trampled to death at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

In its statement, Smithfield also accused the activists who rescued the two piglets of “risk[ing] the life of the animals they stole and the lives of the animals living on our farms by trespassing” — an odd claim from a company that plans to slaughter all of those same animals. When asked to specify how the activists endangered the lives of the sick animals they rescued, Smithfield told The Intercept that “the video’s creators violated Smithfield’s strict biosecurity policy, which prevents the spread of disease on farms.” The statement added: “The piglets were not ‘extremely ill’ or ‘on the verge of death.’ These piglets, along with other animals living on the farm, are well cared for throughout their lifetime.”

But in response, Hsiung told the Intercept: “Our activists use better biosecurity protocols than the company’s own employees, as evidenced by the dead, rotting piglets on the farm. Allowing baby animals to rot to death is, in fact, a serious violation of biosecurity and food safety. Taking photographs of animal cruelty is not.”

Smithfield also accused the activists of manipulating their film, claiming that “the video appears to be highly edited and even staged in an attempt to manufacture an animal care issue where one does not exist.” But Smithfield did not respond to this question from The Intercept about the staging allegation: “How would these activists stage hundreds of pigs in gestation crates and dozens of piglets rotting to death — all in virtual reality, no less? It would take a Hollywood blockbuster budget and the most sophisticated team of computer-generated imagery for that. What’s Smithfield’s theory about what they fabricated in this video?”

The only specifics Smithfield offered was the assertion that “based on the review of animal care experts, it appears piglets were moved from one section of the barn to another to support the inaccuracies and falsehoods described in the video by its creators.”

But Hsiung said: “The video speaks for itself. I don’t know how we can fake a rotting piglet.” Regarding the accusation that they moved piglets, he added: “I imagine what they are seeing is piglets in the wrong sort of pen, gestation rather than farrowing. But that is a testament to their own failed animal care practices. We were shocked and horrified, as well, to see piglets born and housed in inappropriate conditions that left them exposed to trauma.”

In sum, the industry has long responded to these videos — which they tried in the first instance to use their lobbying power to criminalize — by insisting that the videos are distorted. Yet they never specify what these supposed distortions are. Now that activists are using virtual reality technology, which allows the viewer to see everything the activists see, such claims are even more untenable than they were before.

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A rescued piglet, named Lily, recovers under a blanket.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

Revolving door with agribusiness

A recent change in U.S. political discourse — spurred by events such as the 2008 financial crisis, the Occupy movement, and the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign — is the increasingly common use of the words “oligarchy” and “plutocracy” to describe the country’s political system. Though dramatic, the terms, melded together, describe a fairly simple and common state of affairs: power exerted by and exercised for the exclusive benefit of a small group of people who wield the greatest financial power.

It is hard to imagine a more vivid illustration than watching FBI agents don bulletproof vests and execute DNA search warrants for Lily and Lizzie, all to deter and intimidate critics of a savage industry that funds politicians and the lobbyists that direct them.

Substantial attention has been paid over the last several years to the “revolving door” that runs Washington — industry executives being brought in to run the agencies that regulate their industries, followed by them returning to that industry once their industry-serving government work is done. That’s how Wall Street barons come to “regulate” banks, how factory owners come to “regulate” workplace safety laws, how oil executives come to “regulate” environmental protections — only to leave the public sector and return back to lavish rewards from those same industries for a job well done.

Though it receives modest attention, this revolving door spins faster, and in more blatantly sleazy ways, when it comes to the USDA and its mandate to safeguard animal welfare. The USDA is typically dominated by executives from the very factory farm industries that are most in need of vibrant regulation.

For that reason, animal welfare laws are woefully inadequate, but the ways in which they are enforced is typically little more than a bad joke. Industrial farming corporations like Smithfield know they can get away with any abuse or “mislabeling” deceit (such as misleading claims about their treatment of animals) because the officials who have been vested with the sole authority to enforce these laws — federal USDA officials — are so captive to their industry. Courts have repeatedly ruled that private individuals, animal rights groups, and even state authorities have no right to sue to enforce animal welfare laws, because the “exclusive authority” lies with the U.S. government, which has no real interest in actually enforcing those laws.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue addressed the School Nutrition Association convention at the Georgia World Congress Center Wednesday, July 12, 2017, in Atlanta. The former Georgia governor spoke about his decision to relax requirements spearheaded by the Obama administration. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on July 12, 2017, in Atlanta.

Photo: Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

The current secretary of agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (pictured, right), is just one example, but he vividly highlights the revolving door form of legalized corruption that dominates this industry.

Perdue was raised on a Georgia row farm and obtained his doctorate in veterinary medicine. Despite those seemingly benign credentials, the factory farm industry celebrated the news of his nomination by President Donald Trump. The National Chicken Council, for instance, demanded that he be “confirmed expeditiously.” The enthusiasm was for good reason.

“Georgia was pretty friendly to food-industry interests during Perdue’s two terms,” Grub Street reported, and Perdue “took about $330,000 in contributions from Monsanto and other agribusinesses for his campaigns.” In 2009, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the lobbying group for genetically modified foods, named Perdue its “Governor of the Year” because, it said, “he has been a stalwart advocate of the biosciences in Georgia and truly understands the promise of our industry.” As Georgia governor, Perdue supported the rapid expansion of factory farm giant Perdue Farms (to which he has no familial relation), with its long history of allegations of animal abuse.

And Perdue has extensive ties to the agribusiness sector he’s now supposed to oversee and regulate. The firm of which he is the founding partner and his family owns and runs, Perdue Partners LLC, is an agribusiness at the heart of this industry:

After being confirmed, Perdue wasted little time lavishing his agribusiness industry with gifts. In February, the USDA “abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities,” reported the Washington Post. Then, two senators who have received large sums from farmers and ranchers — Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Republican Pat Roberts — agitated for the recession of the Obama administration’s mild regulations on organic eggs, designed to improve conditions for chickens, and the Perdue-led USDA “put the new standard on hold and suggested that it might even be withdrawn.”

In sum, with industry insiders dominating the sole agency (USDA) with the authority to regulate factory farms, animals that are captive, abused, tortured, and slaughtered en masse have little chance, even when it comes to just applying existing laws with a minimal amount of diligence. The politics of the U.S. — including the fact that a key farm state, Iowa, plays such a central role in presidential elections — means there are massive forces arrayed behind factory farms, and very few in support of animal welfare.

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Piglets are raised in cramped, filthy conditions at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

From fringe to the mainstream

But the animal rights movement, despite receiving relatively scant media attention and operating under the threat of federal prosecutions for terrorism, boasts some of the nation’s more effective, shrewd, and tenacious political activists. They have made significant strides in turning the public against the worst of the prevailing practices on these farms, and more generally, in forcing into the public consciousness the knowledge of how this industry imposes suffering, abuse, and torture on living beings on a mass and systematic scale, all to maximize profits. 

Just a decade ago, the cause of animal cruelty and exploitation was a fringe position, rarely appearing outside far-left circles. That has all changed, thanks largely to the efforts of these activists, many of whom have been imprisoned for their efforts. Most activists say that it was unimaginable even a decade ago for major newspaper columnists such as the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof or Frank Bruni to take up their cause, yet that’s precisely what they have done in a series of columns over the last several years.

“If you torture a single chicken and are caught, you’re likely to be arrested. If you scald thousands of chickens alive, you’re an industrialist who will be lauded for your acumen,” Kristof wrote in one 2015 column. He described the savagery of the process used to slaughter chickens by the millions and scornfully dismissed industry’s claim that no abuse or mistreatment was found by their auditors.

In a column the year before, Kristof detailed the barbarism and misleading claims that chickens are “humanely raised” at Perdue Farms — the company USDA Secretary Perdue helped to expand — and concluded: “Torture a single chicken and you risk arrest. Abuse hundreds of thousands of chickens for their entire lives? That’s agribusiness.”

And that’s to say nothing of the other significant costs from industrial farming. There are serious health risks posed by the fecal waste produced at such farms. And the excessive, reckless use of antibiotics common at factory farms can create treatment-resistant bacterial strains capable of infecting and killing humans. There is also increasing awareness that industrial farming meaningfully exacerbates climate problems, with some research suggesting that it produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. Reviewing the meat industry in 2014, Kristof summarized what he learned this way:

Our industrial food system is unhealthy. It privatizes gains but socializes the health and environmental costs. It rewards shareholders — Tyson’s stock price has quadrupled since early 2009 — but can be ghastly for the animals and humans it touches.

Bruni wrote in a 2014 column headlined “According Animals Dignity” of “a broadening, deepening concern about animals that’s no longer sufficiently captured by the phrase ‘animal welfare.’” Instead of simply curbing the most egregious abuses, he wrote, a more principled awareness of the intrinsic worth and rights of animals is emerging: “an era of what might be called animal dignity is upon us.”

Some progress is indeed undeniable. Laws are being re-written to recognize that dogs and other pets are more than property; places such as Sea World and Ringling Brothers’ circuses can no longer feature imprisoned animals forced to perform; and some states are enacting laws criminalizing the worst extremes of animal cruelty.

One U.S. Senator, Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, has placed animal rights protections as one of his legislative priorities. Booker, who has been a vegetarian since college and recently announced his transition to full veganism, has sponsored a spate of bills to fortify the rights of animals: from banning the selling of shark fins to limiting the legal uses of animals for testing to requiring humane treatment of animals in all federal facilities.

While he has been attacked by the New York Post for “animal rights extremism” after he announced his veganism, Booker now regularly and unflinchingly invokes the core principles of animal rights: “I want to try to live my own values as consciously and purposefully as I can. Being vegan for me is a cleaner way of not participating in practices that don’t align with my values.” Rather than these legislative efforts being scorned, a spokesman for Booker told the Intercept that “Sens. Merkley and Whitehouse have been reliable allies on animal testing and other efforts; the Shark Fin effort has a number of cosponsors as well; and Sens. Schatz, Markey, Warren, Feinstein, Blumenthal have been partners as well.”

The devastating costs of industrial farming and the mass torture and slaughter on which it depends — moral, spiritual, physical, environmental — are being documented in scholarly circles with increasing clarity. A group of public health specialists jointly wrote in a New York Times op-ed in May: “This sweeping change in meat production and consumption has had grave consequences for our health and environment, and these problems will grow only worse if current trends continue.”

glenn-greenwald-Smithfield-Circle-Four-Farms-piglets-pigs-factory-pig-aminal-cruelty-abuse-02-1507065333

Rescued pig Lizzie gives affection to her rescuer, Wayne Hsuing of DxE.

Photo: Wayne Hsiung/DxE

In general, the core moral and philosophical question at the heart of animal rights activism is now being seriously debated: Namely, what gives humans the right or justification to abuse, exploit, and torture non-human species? If there comes a day when some other species (broadly defined) — such as machines — surpass humans in intellect and cognitive complexity, will they have a valid moral claim to treat humans as commodities whose suffering and death can be assigned no value?

The irreconcilable contradiction of lavishing love and protection on dogs and cats, while torturing and slaughtering farm animals capable of a deep emotional life and great suffering, is becoming increasingly apparent. British anthropologist Jane Goodall, in the preface to Amy Hatkoff’s groundbreaking book “The Inner World of Farm Animals,” examined the science of animal cognition and concluded: “Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined … They are individuals in their own right.”

All of these changes have been driven by animal rights activists who, often at great risk to themselves, have forced the public to be aware of the savagery and cruelty supported through food consumption choices. That’s precisely why this industry is so obsessed with intimidating, threatening, and outlawing this form of activism: because it is so effective.

Dissidents are tolerated to the extent they remain ineffectual and unthreatening. When they start to become successful — that is, threatening to powerful interests — the backlash is inevitable. The tools used against them are increasingly extreme as their success grows.

To call the FBI’s actions in raiding these animal sanctuaries a profound waste of its resources is both an understatement and beside the point. The real short-term goal is to target those most vulnerable — volunteer-supported animal shelters — to scare them out of taking care of rescued animals. And the ultimate goal is to fortify and intensify a climate of intimidation and fear designed to deter animal rights activists from reporting on the horrifying realities of these factory farms.

There is a temptation to turn away from and ignore this mass suffering and cruelty because it’s so painful to confront, so much more pleasant to remain unaware of it. Animal rights activists are determined to prevent us from doing so, and we should all feel gratitude for their increasing success in making us see what we are enabling when we consume the products of this barbaric and sociopathic industry.

Correction: October 7, 2017
An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed authorship of the book “The Inner World of Farm Animals” to Jane Goodall. It was written by Amy Hatkoff. Goodall wrote the foreword to the book, from which her quote in this story was drawn.

Indiana Supreme Court: Sex With Minors OK, But It’s Illegal to Sext Them

Original Article

By David Kravets

Ullstein Bild/ Getty Images

In Indiana, it’s legal for adults to have consensual sex with minors aged 16 and 17. But it’s illegal to sext those same minors, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled this week. The decision reinstated sexting charges against an adult who texted nude images of himself to a girl he knew was 16.

The state’s highest court, ruling 5-0, noted that the charges against 40-year-old defendant Sameer Thakar, a high school teacher who has been removed from his post, are “inconsistent” when balanced against the state’s laws on consensual sex. But state lawmakers, and not the Supreme Court, can rectify that if they want to, the court ruled.

“The Dissemination Statute clearly protects minors under the age of 18 from the dissemination of matter harmful to them,” Justice Mark S. Massa wrote (PDF). “Whether this inconsistent statutory treatment of minors aged 16 and 17 is advisable with respect to sexually-related activity is a matter for the legislature, and whether Thakar’s alleged conduct violated the Dissemination Statute is a matter for the jury.”

A lower court had tossed the charges last year because Indiana’s law allowed minors as young as 16 to consent to have sexual relations. Thakar did not have sex with the girl, who was in Oregon. The defendant, who faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, argued that it was “patently illogical” to hold someone criminally liable for sending nude pictures to a minor—yet it’s legal to expose themselves to minors in person.

The Indiana ruling is among a string of cases in which sexting laws are clearly nonsensical. Last month, for example, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the conviction under state child porn laws of a 17-year-old boy who sent a picture of his own erect penis to a 22-year-old woman. The case illustrates a bizarre situation in which the juvenile defendant was both the perpetrator of transmitting child porn and the victim of it.

Last year, we reported on a similar case out of Texas, where it’s legal to have sex with somebody as young as 17 years old. But it’s considered child pornography to have nude pictures of somebody under 18, even if he or she is 17 and is the same person you had sex with.

Then there was the 2015 case of two North Carolina teens charged with child porn accusations for consensually sexting one another. One of the teens was accused of possessing child pornography because he had nude photos of himself on his phone. The arrest warrant for the boy’s girlfriend described her as both a victim and a perpetrator.

The Changing Reasons Why Women Cheat on Their Husbands

Original Article

By Kim BrooksHumans are now mostly monogamous, but this has been the norm for just the past 1,000 years.<br /><br />Scientists at University College London believe monogamy emerged so males could protect their infants from other males in ancestral groups who may kill them in order to mate with their mothers.

Photos: Which animals are monogamous?

One of the more interesting facts in Esther Perel’s new book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, comes near the beginning.

 

Since 1990, notes the psychoanalyst and writer, the rate of married women who report they’ve been unfaithful has increased by 40 percent, while the rate among men has remained the same.
More women than ever are cheating, she tells us, or are willing to admit that they are cheating — and while Perel spends much of her book examining the psychological meaning, motivation, and impact of these affairs, she offers little insight into the significance of the rise itself.
So what exactly is happening inside marriages to shift the numbers? What has changed about monogamy or family life in the past 27 years to account for the closing gap? And why have so many women begun to feel entitled to the kind of behavior long accepted (albeit disapprovingly) as a male prerogative?

One of the more interesting facts in Esther Perel’s new book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, comes near the beginning.

 

Since 1990, notes the psychoanalyst and writer, the rate of married women who report they’ve been unfaithful has increased by 40 percent, while the rate among men has remained the same.
More women than ever are cheating, she tells us, or are willing to admit that they are cheating — and while Perel spends much of her book examining the psychological meaning, motivation, and impact of these affairs, she offers little insight into the significance of the rise itself.
So what exactly is happening inside marriages to shift the numbers? What has changed about monogamy or family life in the past 27 years to account for the closing gap? And why have so many women begun to feel entitled to the kind of behavior long accepted (albeit disapprovingly) as a male prerogative?
What surprised me most about these conversations was not that my friends were cheating, but that many of them were so nonchalant in the way they described their extramarital adventures. There was deception but little secrecy or shame.
Often, they loved their husbands, but felt in some fundamental way that their needs (sexual, emotional, psychological) were not being met inside the marriage. Some even wondered if their husbands knew about their infidelity, choosing to look away.
“The fact is,” one of these friends told me, “I’m nicer to my husband when I have something special going on that’s just for me.” She found that she was kinder, more patient, less resentful, “less of a bitch.” It occurred to me as I listened that these women were describing infidelity not as a transgression but a creative or even subversive act, a protest against an institution they’d come to experience as suffocating or oppressive.
In an earlier generation, this might have taken the form of separation or divorce, but now, it seemed, more and more women were unwilling to abandon the marriages and families they’d built over years or decades. They were also unwilling to bear the stigma of a publicly open marriage or to go through the effort of negotiating such a complex arrangement.
These women were turning to infidelity not as a way to explode a marriage, but as a way to stay in it. Whereas conventional narratives of female infidelity so often posit the unfaithful woman as a passive party, the women I talked to seemed in control of their own transgressions. There seemed to be something new about this approach.
In The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women’s Infidelity, another book on infidelity to be published this November, the sociologist Alicia Walker elaborates on the concept of female infidelity as a subversion of traditional gender roles.
To do so, she interviews 40 women who sought or participated in extramarital relationships through the Ashley Madison dating site.
Like The State of Affairs, Walker’s text offers valuable insight simply by way of approaching its subject from a position of curiosity as opposed to prevention or recovery, and she investigates which factors led the women in her study to go outside their marriages.
Surely, one might think, a woman who would do such a thing must be acting out of a desire to escape a miserable marriage. And yet it turns out, this isn’t always the case: Many of the women Walker interviewed were in marriages that were functional. Like the women I knew who cheated, many of the interviewees said they liked their husbands well enough. They had property together. They had friendships together. They had children that they were working together to raise.
But at the same time, they found married life incredibly dull and constraining and resented the fact that as women, they felt they consistently did a disproportionate amount of the invisible labor that went into maintaining their lifestyle.
One woman in Walker’s book told her, “The inequality of it all is such an annoying factor that I am usually in a bad mood when my spouse is in my presence,” and another said that while her husband was a competent adult in the world, at home he felt like “another child to clean up after.”
Many of the friends I spoke to expressed similar feelings. “I shop and cook, my husband does dishes and empties the trash,” one told me. “We each do our own laundry. But I’ve always been in charge of the ‘calendar,’ and what I didn’t realize until recently is that in some way I’m in charge of managing many of our relationships.
My husband is a homebody and I initiate/plan almost all of our social endeavors. My mom got this phrase from her therapist: ‘keeping the pulse of the household’ — this idea that someone has to be managing the emotional heart of your tiny community. I think women do that a lot.”
And as Perel repeats frequently in this book, and in her previous one, little does as much to muffle erotic desire as this kind of caretaking and enmeshment.
“I think there’s an incredible amount of deep resentment for women in America about divisions of labor,” said sociologist Lisa Wade when I asked her to comment on this contradiction. “And what social scientists are finding now is that there is a correlation between equal division of labor and better sex.”
No matter how much attention is paid to these issues, she told me, “these kind of cultural beliefs hang on a long time after they’re relevant. They hang on in ways that are often invisible. A lot of women have tried to address these problems and have faced a lot of stubbornness from husbands. They feel there’s no way to win this battle. So maybe now what women are deciding is that infidelity is a third way.”
Of course, it’s a “third way” that is not feasible for everyone, even if more women are taking it up, usually women who feel financially secure and independent enough to risk potential fallout.
These women seem to be finding that no amount of sensitivity or goodwill on the part of their husbands can save them from the fact that in every arena, from work to marriage to parenthood, they’re always doing more for less.
As Wade put it, “It’s such a precarious balance keeping everyone happy, that for many women, to start a long conversation about her own sexual satisfaction seems like a bad idea. We now tell women that they can have it all, that they can work and have a family and deserve to be sexually satisfied. And then when having it all is miserable and overwhelming or they realize marriage isn’t all it’s cracked it up to be, maybe having affairs is the new plan B.”
I tested this idea out on a few of the friends who had confided in me about their affairs, and most of them agreed. Twenty or thirty years ago they might have opted for divorce, because surely there was another man out there who could do better in this role, who could satisfy them completely. But a lot of these women are children of divorce. They lived through the difficulties divorce can create.
“Even now,” all these years later, one told me, “Do you know what my most vivid memory of Christmas is? Driving through a blizzard up I-95 in the back of one of their cars, and then they’d pull over on the side of the highway and hand off me and my brother without speaking. That was our Christmas. Why did these people marry in the first place?”
Maybe that’s the essential question, the question preceding those Perel explores in her book. Why do women still marry when, if statistics are to be believed, marriage doesn’t make them very happy?
I confided in a friend once that, after 15 years of marriage, the institution and the relationship itself continued to mystify me. At the time I married, marriage had felt like a panacea; it was a bond that would provide security, love, friendship, stability, and romance — the chance to have children and nice dishes, to be introduced as someone’s wife. It promised to expand my circle of family and improve my credit score, to tether me to something wholesome and give my life meaning.
Could any single relationship not fall short of such expectations? Maybe these women were on to something — valuing their marriages for the things it could offer and outsourcing the rest, accepting the distance between the idealization and the actual thing, seeing marriage clearly for what it is and not what we’re all told and promised it will be.
My friend told me she felt this way of thinking was the only answer, and the way she’d come to reconcile her feelings about the relationship. She said that she used to compare her marriage to her parents’, who always seemed totally in love. “Until the end of my mom’s life they were spooning together every night in a double bed … not even a queen. But,” she added, “they were awful and narcissistic, with very little to give to their children.”
My friend felt she and her husband were much better parents, more involved and attuned to their kids.
“But often,” she went on, “it can feel like my husband and I are running a family corporation together and that our emotional intimacy consists of gossiping about our friends and watching Game of Thrones. Sometimes I wonder if when the kids leave I should either (a) have a passionate affair or (b) find another husband. I may do neither, but it seems like (a) is more likely than (b). I don’t have any illusions that marrying someone else will make me happy, not anymore.”

The Latest Discovery of Organics in Space Is Nothing to Get Excited About

Original Articles

By George Dvorsky

Image: JPL-Caltech/NASA

Astronomers have detected traces of an organic compound known as methyl chloride around a group of young stars. The discovery comes as a complete surprise to scientists, but instead of signifying the presence of alien life, it’s forcing them to re-evaluate the source of this molecule and its role as a basic building block for habitability.

Methyl chloride, also known as Freon-40, is a colorless, sweet-smelling gas that’s highly flammable. Here on Earth, this organic compound is produced by industrial and biological processes, which is why astrobiologists thought it might be a good idea to search for methyl chloride in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets as a way to detect alien life. But as new research published in Nature Astronomy shows, this substance appears to be more common than we realized, showing up in significant quantities during the formation of stars. So while its use as a potential biosignature is now diminished, the new study still tells us something we didn’t know before about the environments around nascent star systems.

Astronomers and astrobiologists received their first hint that methyl chloride isn’t anything particularly special when the Rosetta probe, using its ROSINA instrument, detected traces of the organic compound in the ultra thin atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). Now, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) detected the gas wafting around a collection of infant stars, or protostars, in a system known as IRAS 16293-2422. Located 400 light-years away, the protostars in this system are so young that they’re still enveloped in gas and dust.

Image: CfA

The authors of the new study, led by Edith Fayolle from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), say it’s the the first time that this class of molecule, known as organohalogens, has ever been detected in deep space. Halogens are reactive, non-metallic elements that produce acidic compounds when introduced to hydrogen, and include the elements fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine. The new study also shows that organic chemistry in the the interstellar medium involves halogens, which is something we didn’t know before.

“Finding organohalogens near these young, Sun-like stars was surprising,” said Fayolle in a statement. “We simply didn’t predict its formation and were surprised to find it in such significant concentrations. It’s clear now that these molecules form readily in stellar nurseries, providing insights into the chemical evolution of solar systems, including our own.”

As noted, scientists had speculated that the presence of this compound would be a good indicator of biological life, but now we know it’s a common component of young star systems, forming naturally in interstellar clouds and enduring long enough to weave itself into the fabric of young star systems. Indeed, because this compound was detected around Comet 67P/C-G, we also know that methyl chloride clings to comets—objects that happen to form during the primordial phase of star systems.

“ALMA’s discovery of organohalogens in the interstellar medium also tells us something about the starting conditions for organic chemistry on planets,” said study co-author Karin Öberg, who’s also with CfA. “Based on our discovery, organohalogens are likely to be a constituent of the so-called ‘primordial soup,’ both on the young Earth and on newly formed rocky exoplanets.”

The astronomers were able to detect the methyl chloride by taking advantage of ALMA’s molecule sniffing capabilities. This dish can detect faint radio signals emitted by collections of molecules in space. Each molecule produces its own unique spike in the radio spectrum, so like a fingerprint, scientists can match it to a particular molecule.

Looking ahead, the researchers are hoping to find more traces of methyl chloride around other protostars and comets to understand how much of this substance is produced during the early stages of star formation, and how it’s disbursed.

‘Faux’ Male Feminists Draw Ire in Hollywood

Original Article

By Monica Corcoran Harel

CreditPeter Horvath

It’s a tough time to be a male feminist, especially in Hollywood.

A few weeks ago, Kai Cole, the ex-wife of Joss Whedon, the man who created “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and who has been honored for creating strong female characters, wrote a highly personal takedown of him for The Wrap, a Hollywood industry website.

In the post, Ms. Cole, a film producer, said that Mr. Whedon “hid multiple affairs” with “his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends” during their 16-year marriage. His explanation for why he had so many female friends, she said, was that “his mother raised him as a feminist.”

Moreover, Ms. Cole called out his “hypocrisy” for “preaching feminist ideals” while using their marriage as a “shield” to commit adultery. In essence, she branded Mr. Whedon, the director of the coming “Justice League” superhero film, a fake male feminist.

It’s a label that appears to be gaining cultural currency, especially in the Trump era.

“Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch last season called “Girl at a Bar” in which a succession of seemingly sensitive male feminists (“I worked for Hillary,” one says) try to pick up a woman at a bar, only to resort to misogynistic language when rebuffed.

Girl at a Bar – SNL Video by Saturday Night Live

The three-minute sketch seemed to have hit a chord. Myriad essays that decried wolves in pink pussy hats and “woke misogynists” followed. “Watch S.N.L. Demolish Fake Male Feminists,” read a Vanity Fair headline. “Hating Trump Doesn’t Make a Man a Feminist,” said Bustle, an online culture magazine for women, which argued that “male feminists” have become a “powerful cultural niche,” and cited numerous celebrity examples including Ryan Gosling, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Pratt.

Tal Peretz, an assistant professor at Auburn University who specializes in gender studies, sees the criticism of male feminists as an inevitable consequence of social progress. “More men are getting involved in the feminist and women’s rights movements, and I think that the learning curve for them is really steep and really long,” said Dr. Peretz, who is an author of “Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women.” “Our bar for men in feminism is getting higher, too, and rightly so.”

Continue reading the main story

Examples of these higher standards abound.

Critics of men who sport “The Future is Female” T-shirts also maintain that some are using the word “feminist” inappropriately. The preferred term, they argue, is “feminist allies.” The rationale is that white people who fight against racism wouldn’t call themselves “black,” just as straight people who rally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights wouldn’t call themselves “transgender.”

BuzzFeed recently published “17 Types of Male ‘Feminists’ That Need to Be Stopped,” an illustrated list that included a new father who suddenly becomes a feminist after he has a daughter, and a male manager who congratulates himself for hiring a female employee.

“It’s something I encounter all the time, but that man Robbie Tripp was the real kick in the pants in inspiring the post,” said Loryn Brantz, who wrote and illustrated the article and is also the author of the book “Feminist Baby.”

Mr. Tripp is the San Francisco man who became an internet sensation this summer when he posted a gushing ode to his wife’s “curvy body” on Instagram. People were divided on his seemingly self-congratulatory realization that “the media marginalizes women,” and his appreciation of his wife’s “thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll.” Some cooed and said “Ah”; others sneered and said “Ew.”

“Good Morning America” interviewed the couple in a segment titled “Hero Husband or Fake Feminist?” The culture site Refinery29 dismissed Mr. Tripp’s paean as “the worst type of ‘male feminism.’”

Celebrities also weighed in. Melanie Lynskey, who will star in the TV series “Castle Rock,” said on Twitter: “Public announcements of devotion are very sexy to me,” she said. “What isn’t sexy is acting as though you’re one of the few men on earth who could possibly love a woman who looks like that.”

Dr. Peretz has coined a term, “the Pedestal Effect,” to describe how men are given special treatment for small acts of gender equality, like changing a diaper or Mr. Tripp’s love letter. “It is basically when guys get a whole lot of bonus points just for being nominal feminists,” he said.

Mr. Whedon’s agent did not respond to requests for comment, but a representative released a statement to The Wrap that read: “While this account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family, Joss is not commenting, out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife.”

Mr. Whedon did, however, give an interview to BuzzFeed in 2015 that seems to have foreshadowed the current hubbub.

“When you declare yourself politically, you destroy yourself artistically,” he said in an article about why he deleted his Twitter account (he has since returned). “Because suddenly that’s the litmus test for everything you do — for example, in my case, feminism. If you don’t live up to the litmus test of feminism in this one instance, then you’re a misogynist,” he added. “It circles directly back upon you.”

Nobel Prize Awarded for Biological Clock Discoveries

Original Article

By Jordana Cepelewicz

 

Ninety minutes before dawn in the eastern United States, the Nobel committee announced that it was awarding this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to three American biologists for their research on the control of circadian rhythms. Jeffrey C. Hallat the University of Maine, Michael Rosbash at Brandeis University and Michael W. Young at the Rockefeller University share the prize for their discoveries of the genetic and biomolecular mechanisms that help the cells of plants and animals (including humans) mark the 24-hour cycle of day and night. That research became a cornerstone of the science of chronobiology, the study of how organisms track time and adapt to its cycles.

“It’s a really beautiful example of basic research that has led to incredible discoveries,” commented Paul Hardin, who studies chronobiology at Texas A&M University. “Almost every aspect of physiology and metabolism will be controlled by the circadian clock.” For example, in the case of mammals, he said, 20–30 percent of the genes in any given tissue may be under the control of an internal clock. “But if you take all the tissues of the body, the vast majority of genes are under clock control in one tissue or another.”

Josephine Arendt, an emeritus professor of endocrinology at Surrey University who studies circadian rhythms, agreed about the importance of the work winning this year’s prize. Health and fitness can be profoundly affected by disorders that throw off that 24-hour timekeeping mechanism or any of the neurological and hormonal systems that rely on it. “Their work underpins [that of] people like me who are interested in applying circadian principles to human health,” she said.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young (left to right) are new Nobel laureates in celebration of their discoveries about the genetic and biomolecular mechanism that governs the circadian rhythm.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young (left to right) are new Nobel laureates in celebration of their discoveries about the genetic and biomolecular mechanism that governs the circadian rhythm.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young (left to right) are new Nobel laureates in celebration of their discoveries about the genetic and biomolecular mechanism that governs the circadian rhythm.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young (left to right) are new Nobel laureates in celebration of their discoveries about the genetic and biomolecular mechanism that governs the circadian rhythm.

The Gairdner Foundation (Hall and Young); Mike Lovett/Brandeis University (Rosbash)

The study of circadian rhythms goes back to at least the 18th century, when scientists noticed that certain plants would open their leaves at sunrise and close them at sunset even in the absence of lighting cues. Later evidence showed that essentially all organisms had some internal biological clock that allowed them to match their physiology to the day-night cycle. Work in the 1970s by Ronald Konopka and Seymour Benzer showed that this clock was under genetic control because mutations could disrupt it. The name period was given to that gene but little else was known about it. Indeed, how a gene could allow cells to keep time remained a mystery.

Answers began to fall into place in 1984, when Hall and Rosbash working at Brandeis and Young at Rockefeller independently isolated the period gene in fruit flies. Hall and Rosbash showed that the cellular concentrations of the protein made by period, PER, were high during the day and then dropped at night, befitting a 24-hour timekeeping gene.

The Brandeis researchers hypothesized that a feedback loop might be governing this gene-protein system: When concentrations of PER climbed high enough, they shut down the activity of period. When PER degraded, period could start up again. PER could thereby inhibit its own synthesis. The hitch in this scheme was that for it to work, something had to transport PER from the cell’s cytoplasm, where it was made, into the nucleus where period dwelled. Hall and Rosbash showed that PER was getting into the nucleus but it was unclear how until 1994, when Young discovered the timeless gene, which was also essential for proper circadian rhythms. The protein made by timeless, TIM, latches on to cytoplasmic PER and escorts it into the nucleus to inhibit period. Young later identified a third gene, doubletime, that also delays the build-up of PER in cells to further improve the linkage of this circadian mechanism to the time of day.

Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta Magazine

Andrew Millar, the chair of systems biology at the University of Edinburgh and an expert on plant circadian rhythms, noted that the precise genetic clock mechanism that Hall, Rosbash and Young identified was specific to animals, but that conceptually similar mechanisms built around analogous genes were soon identified in plants, fungi, bacteria and other organisms by other researchers. “It’s the breadth of application of biological rhythm research that makes it so fascinating,” he said.

Chronobiology is consequently a field in its early days. Researchers are still trying to fully understand the connection between the circadian rhythm within cells and animals’ need for sleep. Not only do diverse organisms use a variety of mechanisms to maintain circadian rhythms and other temporal cycles, some cells of the body may use specialized timekeeping systems for specialized functions. New biological rhythms — and their influence on organisms — continue to be discovered. Nevertheless, the dissection of this circadian timekeeping system by these scientists already stands as a landmark achievement.

This post was updated on October 2 with additional comments from

Highest-Ever Number of STDs Recorded in U.S. Last Year

Original Article

By Angela Chen

NIAID/Flickr

STDs are on the rise in the US, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highest-ever number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were recorded in 2016.

There were 2 million cases overall. Of those, 1.6 million were chlamydia and nearly half of these diagnoses were young women, according to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report. Syphilis rates grew about 18 percent from 2015 to 2016, and most of these cases were men, especially gay and bisexual men. Still, there was a 36 percent increase in women with the disease, and a 28 percent increase in babies born with syphilis.

In contrast, there was a 22 percent increase in gonorrhea diagnoses for men (again, especially among gay and bisexual men). Growing rates of gonorrhea are concerning, given that the disease is becoming resistant to the two antibiotics used to treat it.

All three diseases are treatable for now, but if they’re not diagnosed in time, they can lead to infertility or infant stillbirth.

Colorado Town Officially Declares Opposition to Conversion Therapy

Original Article

By John Paul Brammer

A view of the front range mountains seen from Westminster, Colorado on March 8, 2016.Katie Wood / Denver Post Via Getty Images

Westminster became the first city in Colorado to officially declare its opposition to “conversion therapy” when earlier this week the mayor and town council issued a proclamation against the controversial practice.

“The City of Westminster acknowledges that conversion therapy to change one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is a harmful abuse to those subjected to these practices,” the proclamation stated.

 A view of the front range mountains seen from Westminster, Colorado on March 8, 2016.Denver Post Via Getty Images / 2016 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group

Brianna Titone, secretary and treasurer of the Jefferson County Democrats LGBTQ+ Caucus, applauded the move.

“After three years of state legislation banning the practice getting stymied before it could reach a vote in the state senate … action on a local level was pivotal,” Titone said in a statement. “It is important that the people of Colorado know that this dangerous practice is happening in our state … Colorado needs to stand on the right side of history, and today, Westminster did just that.”

Conversion therapy is a controversial practice which claims to “treat” homosexuality and turn gay people heterosexual. It is currently legal in Colorado and 40 other states. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have banned the practice.

 One Colorado at Denver Pride. One Colorado

“These harmful practices use rejection, shame, and psychological abuse to force young people to try to change who they are. Unfortunately, many young people are coerced and subjected to these harmful practices in our state, which puts them at a higher risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicide,” Daniel Ramos, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado said.

While the proclamation is not legally binding, advocates see it as an important first step.”We extend our gratitude to Westminster City Council for the proclamation and hope this action is another step toward getting a ban to pass in the Colorado Legislature,” Ramos said.

RELATED: BRAZIL JUDGE RULES HOMOSEXUALITY A DISEASE, APPROVES ‘CONVERSION THERAPY’

Ramos told NBC News the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian legal group that has also supported anti-transgender “bathroom bills” across the country, is one of the main forces speaking out in favor of conversion therapy. He also noted, however, that there are other religious organizations and faith leaders in Colorado “who are speaking out on behalf of LGBTQ young people.”

A request for comment from the ADF was not immediately returned.

The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and a number of other health organizations have issued statements against conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy).

“The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient,” a position statement from the American Psychiatric Association states.

“APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.”

We should all make sure that no young person is told that who they are or who they love is wrong.

We should all make sure that no young person is told that who they are or who they love is wrong.

Conversion therapy survivor Samuel Brinton, who recently helped launch 50 Bills 50 States, a grass-roots campaign that is trying to end conversion therapy across the U.S., told NBC News he welcomes Westminster’s decision.

“The flurry of cities, counties, and local districts taking matters into their own hands when it comes to protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy is nothing short of exhilarating,” Brinton said. “As state after state submits and passes legislation to end the practice of licensed therapists from selling the snake oil of the dangerous and discredited notion of conversion therapy for minors, cities from Westminster, Colo., to Palm Beach County, Fla., are standing up to let LGBTQ youth know they are safe and don’t need to change.”

Ramos urged politicians on both sides of the aisle to come out against the controversial practice and ban it for good.

“This is a way for us to say that banning conversion therapy is not a partisan issue,” he said. “We should all make sure that no young person is told that who they are or who they love is wrong.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal: ‘Pornography Is An Art Form’

By Jane Mulkerrins
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Candy in The Deuce

 

Set in the grimy, trash-strewn New York of 1971, The Deuce is named after a notoriously seedy stretch of West 42nd Street that was populated by pimps and prostitutes, and home to live peep shows and porn shops. Written by David Simon, who created The Wire, and his frequent collaborator George Pelecanos, the series charts the rise of the pornography industry in New York City. Simon has said that the show is about “the commodification of women” and from the female bar staff poured into skimpy leotards by James Franco’s bar manager, Vinnie, to the violent control the pimps exert over the prostitutes they run, every woman in the show, and her sexuality, is being packaged and profited from. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Eileen “Candy” Merrell, a prostitute and single mother who rejects street-walking protocol and refuses to be controlled by a pimp, stating that “nobody makes money off my pussy but me”.

“Somebody asked me the other day whether I thought porn was exploitative or empowering for women,” says Gyllenhaal. “At the time, I didn’t actually know how to answer. Then a couple of days later, I thought, can the answer just be: ‘Yes?’”

It is a typically nebulous answer from an actor, who, in spite of roles in mainstream films such as The Dark Knight and Nanny McPhee Returns, has spent much of her career in the independent film sector. She is famed for playing the kind of complex, unconventional women who are now increasingly emerging from the small screen; her most famous role to date, of course, was the troubled, submissive assistant to the masochistic James Spader in 2002’s Secretary. While initially wary of the extensive shooting schedules of most series, the enormous success of The Honourable Woman – the BBC miniseries that won her a Golden Globe for her role as Baroness Nessa Stein – opened up Gyllenhaal to television. With The Deuce – set to be one of HBO’s biggest shows of the year – how did she feel about the high levels of nudity the part required?

“You know, I spent no time moralising it. I am pretty comfortable with it,” Gyllenhaal says when we meet in a slick boutique hotel on the Brooklyn waterfront. “I have never been very shy about my body, and this is something I really believe in.” She lets out a small laugh. “This is so silly, but the only place I have felt shy is imagining those people who I see when I pick up my kids from school watching it. And I have to be honest and say that I don’t think I ate any bread at all while I was making this show. When you know you are going to have to wear very short shorts all summer long, you don’t.”

The show has already been commissioned for a second season, which will jump forward to the late 1970s; while a pending third season will take place in the mid-1980s, thus charting the effects of the boom in pornography on its players over a 15-year stretch. In order to explore the intricacies of such a shrouded, changing industry, Gyllenhaal was faced with a challenge. “There is so much about sex work that is in the dark, because it’s illegal, so how do you get that information in a reliable way?” she asks.

She was directed to Annie Sprinkle, a 63 year-old writer and television presenter, and former porn actor, who had also worked as a prostitute in the early 1970s in San Francisco and New York.

“She has a support group for women who are involved in porn and prostitution,” says Gyllenhaal. “So she introduced me to this world of women in their 60s who had been, and some of whom still are, involved in sex work.” Their experiences challenged many received ideas about prostitutes as victims. “They all said: ‘Don’t write us off,’” reports Gyllenhaal. “They said: ‘Yes, there is often an element of damage [in their past].’ But there are a lot of other things too; there’s curiosity, and an actual love of sexuality. And I saw both elements.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal with James Franco in The Deuce
 I am the barfly … Gyllenhaal with James Franco in The Deuce. Photograph: HBO

And, contradictory though it may sound, in a show that features both graphic sex and violence, there is also an innocence to the trade it portrays. “Annie said that sex work then really had a different feeling about it than now,” nods Gyllenhaal. “That they were just coming out of the 1960s, and there was a celebration of freedom. People had this idea that they were smoking pot and making love.” Similarly, her ideas about pornography were transformed. “I thought of all pornography the same way, and what I realised is that pornography is an art form. And that there are actresses who are very proud of what they did in pornography.” The growth of the embryonic porn industry is seen primarily through Candy’s lens, both figuratively and literally: over the course of eight episodes, she develops an ambition not merely to star in porn films, but to direct them. “It’s like a light goes on inside her, and she starts thinking of herself as an artist,” says Gyllenhaal.

A similar shift took place with Gyllenhaal’s ambitions, too. “I wanted some kind of guarantee that I would be a part of the storytelling, part of considering what it is we want to be saying,” she says. Gyllenhaal asked for a production credit, but people around her said that given a show of this size and profile she shouldn’t expect to get one. “And I thought, ‘Well, I’m still going to ask for it.’” To her surprise her request was granted. When this happened she felt a “real shift in my sense of myself as a woman and an artist. Which was like a meta version of what the piece is about.”

As a producer, she was empowered to suggest additions to the script. For example, a deeply intimate scene in which we see Candy masturbate was Gyllenhaal’s own idea. “It wasn’t that I had a burning desire to pretend to masturbate on television,” she says, wryly. “It was that I wanted to find a way to express the difference between performative, transactional sex, and sex that is about someone’s actual desire. And I thought that was an interesting way to do it. But that was the scene I felt the most vulnerable about. Because I was trying to create something that looked and felt real.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal with James Spader in Secretary
 Pushing the envelope … Gyllenhaal with James Spader in Secretary. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar/Lionsgate

Other challenging scenes included a porn shoot in episode two in which Gyllenhaal’s character “gets Campbell’s soup sprayed on her face with a fucking turkey baster,” she says, looking suitably horrified. “I can’t actually think of anything more degrading. And I knew it was in service of having a conversation about degrading women – which we are having – but I still had to do it, and I found that very difficult.”

So far, The Deuce has been widely applauded for its exploration of the female gaze, and Gyllenhaal claims that it is “absolutely, definitely a feminist project”. But therein also lies a challenge: how to make a show about the sex trade and pornography without it becoming pornographic itself. Gyllenhaal, however, believes that is part of the show’s power and what it has in common with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Girlfriend Experience.

“If it turns you on, but then makes you horrified to consider what’s actually turning you on, and what the consequences are for the characters that are turning you on, then it’s a better show,” she says. “If you’re patting yourself on the back and just thinking how terrible porn is, then it doesn’t make you consider your position as a person in the world right now, and how sex is commodified everywhere today.”

The Deuce continues on 3 October, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

Flatliners Remake Holds a 0 Percent On Rotten Tomatoes

Original Article

By Mansoor Mithaiwala

The new Flatliners film isn’t doing well with critics, evidenced by its current 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s no secret that movie studios have been pushing for more remakes and reboots these past few years, as well as finally getting around to producing those long-gestating sequels (e.g. Blade Runner: 2049). After all, if films and franchises have done well in the past, they could presumably perform as well, if not better, today.

Sony Pictures is one of the culprits who have been diving deep into their expansive library in recent years, having already gone through new installments in their Ghostbusters and Karate Kid franchises, not to mention the impending release of Jake Kasdan’s Jumanjisequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. What’s more, the studio recently decided it was time to bring Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners – starring the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon – back to the big screen, this time continuing the story in the present-day with an all-new cast. Unfortunately, audiences don’t seem interested in another Flatliners story.

RELATED: FLATLINERS ASKS ‘BIG AND PERTINENT QUESTIONS’ ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE

Niels Arden Oplev’s Flatliners sequel/reboot – starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, and James Norton, along with Sutherland reprising his role as Nelson Wright/Dr. Barry Wolfson – opened domestically today, and critics have chastised the movie, calling it an unnecessary remake that’s indistinguishable from the year’s other failed thrillers. Currently, it sits at 0 percent on review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s, therefore, on-track to earn an undesirable “rotten” classification.

Kiefer Sutherland in Flatliners 2017 Flatliners Remake Holds a 0 Percent On Rotten Tomatoes

So far, 2017 has seen long-gestating adaptations and sequels achieve critical and commercial success, while others have seen dismal returns and turned into critical failures. It’s not that remakes and reboots don’t work, it’s that they need to stand apart from past chapters and pave their own path. Of course, the 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes only accounts for critic reviews. The site’s audience score, although much more optimistic, is still “rotten” at 44 percent. It’ll be interesting to see how the cast and crew respond to the abhorrent rating, especially considering the dichotomy between critics and audiences when it comes to Rotten Tomatoes and how much influence critics have over a movie’s box office success.

Regardless of how well Flatliners performs commercially, it appears that Sony Pictures is determined to move forward with their planned Charlie’s Angels reboot, which is currently eyeing Kristen Stewart and Lupita Nyong’o, as well as the newly-announced Men in Blackspinoff and potential Resident Evil reboot.

Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage

Original Article

By Mark Regnerus

ILLUSTRATION: JULIETTE BORDA

Kevin, a 24-year-old recent college graduate from Denver, wants to get married someday and is “almost 100% positive” that he will. But not soon, he says, “because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.” He believes that he’s figured out how to do that:

“Girls are easier to mislead than guys just by lying or just not really caring. If you know what girls want, then you know you should not give that to them until the proper time. If you do that strategically, then you can really have anything you want…whether it’s a relationship, sex, or whatever. You have the control.”

Kevin (not his real name) was one of 100 men and women, from a cross-section of American communities, that my team and I interviewed five years ago as we sought to understand how adults in their 20s and early 30s think about their relationships. He sounds like a jerk. But it’s hard to convince him that his strategy won’t work—because it has, for him and countless other men.

Marriage in the U.S. is in open retreat. As recently as 2000, married 25- to 34-year-olds outnumbered their never-married peers by a margin of 55% to 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, those estimates had almost reversed, with never-marrieds outnumbering marrieds by 53% to 40%. Young Americans have quickly become wary of marriage.

Many economists and sociologists argue that this flight from marriage is about men’s low wages. If they were higher, the argument goes, young men would have the confidence to marry. But recent research doesn’t support this view. A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates.

Another hypothesis blames the decline of marriage on men’s fear of commitment. Maybe they just perceive marriage as a bad deal. But most men, including cads such as Kevin, still expect to marry. They eventually want to fall in love and have children, when their independence becomes less valuable to them. They are waiting longer, however, which is why the median age at marriage for American men has risen steadily and is now approaching 30.

My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.

This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.

These forces have been at work for more than a half-century, since the birth-control pill was invented in 1960, but it seems that our norms and narratives about sexual relationships have finally caught up with the technology. Data collected in 2014 for the “Relationships in America” project—a national survey of over 15,000 adults, ages 18 to 60, that I oversaw for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture—asked respondents when they first had sex in their current or most recent relationship. After six months of dating? After two? The most common experience—reported by 32% of men under 40—was having sex with their current partner before the relationship had begun. This is sooner than most women we interviewed would prefer.

The birth-control pill is not the only sexual technology that has altered expectations. Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day.

Many young men and women still aspire to marriage as it has long been conventionally understood—faithful, enduring, focused on raising children. But they no longer seem to think that this aspiration requires their discernment, prudence or self-control.

When I asked Kristin, a 29-year-old from Austin, whether men should make sacrifices to get sex, she offered a confusing prescription: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s OK if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.”

Kristin rightly wants the men whom she dates to treat her well and to respect her interests, but the choices that she and other women have made unwittingly teach the men in their lives that such behavior is noble and nice but not required in order to sleep with them. They are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.

For many men, the transition away from a mercenary attitude toward relationships can be difficult. The psychologist and relationship specialist Scott Stanley of the University of Denver sees visible daily sacrifices, such as accepting inconveniences in order to see a woman, as the way that men typically show their developing commitment. It signals the expectation of a future together. Such small instances of self-sacrificing love may sound simple, but they are less likely to develop when past and present relationships are founded on the expectation of cheap sex.

Young people in the U.S. continue to marry, even if later in life, but the number of those who never marry is poised to increase. In a 2015 article in the journal Demography, Steven Ruggles of the University of Minnesota predicted that a third of Americans now in their 20s will never wed, well above the historical norm of just below 10%.

Most young Americans still seek the many personal and social benefits that come from marriage, even as the dynamics of today’s mating market conspire against them. It turns out that a world in which it is possible to satisfy our sexual desires much more immediately carries with it a number of unhappy and unintended consequences.

—Dr. Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy” (Oxford University Press).

In The U.S., 110 Million S.T.D. Infections

Original Article

By Nicholas Bakalar

A colored transmission electron microscopy image of the chlamydia sp. bacterium.CreditDavid M. Phillips/Science Source, via Getty Images

The incidence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is increasing, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At any given time, there are an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the United States.

While HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to the C.D.C., chlamydia is the most common type that can be easily cured, yet the number of cases rose 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016. The increases occurred nationwide; rates were highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast.

Chlamydia is usually asymptomatic, and the number of reported cases may have grown in part because of newer, more sensitive screening techniques.

Adolescents and young adult women have the highest rates of chlamydia: one survey found that 9.2 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were infected, as were 8.0 percent of women aged 20 to 24.

Rates declined 3.5 percent among African-Americans and 6.4 percent among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, but chlamydia still is most common in these groups. Rates rose among all other races and ethnicities.

Continue reading the main story

From 2015 to 2016, gonorrhea infections increased 22.2 percent among men and 13.8 percent among women, the C.D.C. reported. Almost 92 percent of cases are in people 15 to 44 years old.

The only recommended treatment is to take two antibiotics simultaneously, ceftriaxone and azithromycin. Resistance to azithromycin is becoming more common, however, and there is some evidence of growing resistance to ceftriaxone, as well.

“Several drug trials are going on now that we hope will provide new treatments for gonorrhea,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, the director of sexually transmitted disease prevention at the C.D.C.

“But these treatment trials take years, and we don’t know if these new drugs will be safe and effective.”

The rate of primary and secondary syphilis in 2016 is the highest it has been since 1993, and it increased among both men and women from 2015 to 2016. Men account for almost 90 percent of cases, and most are among men who have sex with men.

Rates of syphilis increased in every age group and all races, and they were highest among people in their twenties. The number of babies born infected with syphilis increased to 628 cases in 2016, from 492 in 2015 — each case, in Dr. Bolan’s words, “a needless tragedy.”

”The enormity of the S.T.D. epidemic requires everyone play a role in reversing these trends,” Dr. Bolan said.

Correction: October 2, 2017 
An earlier version of this article misstated the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It is human papillomavirus not chlamydia.

Correction: October 3, 2017 
An earlier version of this story misstated the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. There are 110 million such infections, not 110 million people with infections, at any given time. (Some people may have more than one infection.)

This 40-Year-Old Married Herself. Is ‘Sologamy’ Becoming A Trend?

Original Article

By Mandy Matney

Laura Mesi, a 40-year-old fitness instructor, married herself earlier in September in a full ceremony with four bridesmaids, a three-layer cake, watermelon, 70 guests and a $12,000 wedding dress, The New York Times reports.

She even went on her own honeymoon to Egypt.

The ceremony carried no legal weight, but who cares? To Mesi, it was all about loving herself .

“You can have a fairytale without the prince,” she told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper. “I firmly believe that each of us must first of all love ourselves.”

Mesi got the idea two years ago when her 12-year relationship ended and she told her girlfriends if she didn’t find her soul mate by 40, she’d marry herself.

And unlike most women who make strange deadlines and promises for their future love lives, Mesi stuck to it.

The trend can be traced back to 1993 when Linda Baker, a dental hygienist from Los Angeles, was sick and tired of showering her married friends with gifts and decided to host her own self-marriage ceremony, according to Vice.

Sologamy gained pop culture steam in a 2003 episode of “Sex and the City” when Carrie Bradshaw was annoyed after attending another baby shower (naturally) and it dawned on her that single people get no holidays or special occasions to celebrate themselves while being forced to spend hundreds on their married friends’ showers and wedding celebrations.

Carrie then told her friend she’s marrying herself and registered at Manolo Blahnik so her annoying friend would feel obligated to buy her the shoes she wanted, inspiring single woman everywhere.

Several other single brides and even a groom have held “self-marriage” ceremonies. A Houston woman married herself in 2015, according to ABC News. A Naples man married himself earlier in 2017, according to BBC.

There is even a American company “I Married Me” that specializes in self-marriage kits.

But while websites like Mashable are calling Mesi “heroic,” not everyone is impressed.

“The fairy tale? and which? the fairy tales have a story, what is yours? TV?” one commenter wrote.

The Daily Wire calls sologamy “the saddest trend you’ve ever heard of.”

But is it? This watermelon is anything but sad.

We’ve Grossly Underestimated How Much Cow Farts Are Contributing to Global Warming

Original Article

By George Dvorsky

Image: AP

A new NASA-sponsored study shows that global methane emissions produced by livestock are 11 percent higher than estimates made last decade. Because methane is a particularly nasty greenhouse gas, the new finding means it’s going to be even tougher to combat climate change than we realized.

We’ve known for quite some time that greenhouse gases produced by cattle, sheep, and pigs are a significant contributor to global warming, but the new research, published in Carbon Balance and Management, shows it’s worse than we thought. Revised figures of methane produced by livestock in 2011 were 11 percent higher than estimates made in 2006 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a now out-of-date estimate.

It’s hard to believe that belches, farts, and poop from livestock could have any kind of global atmospheric effect, but it’s an issue of scale, and the nature of methane itself.

There are approximately 1.5 billion cows on the planet, each and every one of them expelling upwards of 30 to 50 gallons of methane each day. We typically think of farts as being the culprit, but belches are actually the primary source of cattle-produced methane, accounting for 95 percent of the problematic greenhouse gas.

And problematic it is. Methane is about 30 times more efficient at trapping the Sun’s radiative heat than carbon dioxide over a timescale of about a century. There may be more CO2 in the atmosphere than methane, but by unit, it’s the more destructive greenhouse gas. Both NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System research initiative and the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) contributed to the study.

Wolf’s team re-evaluated the data used to produce the IPCC 2006 methane emissions estimates. The prior estimates were based on relatively modest rates of methane increases from 2000 to 2006, but things changed dramatically afterwards, increasing 10-fold over the course of the next 10 years. The new figures factor an 8.4 percent increase in methane emissions from digestion (otherwise known as “enteric fermentation”) in dairy cows and other cattle, and a 36.7 percent increase in methane from manure, compared to previous IPCC-based estimates. The new report shows that methane accounted for approximately 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Other human activities, such as the production and transport of gas, oil and coal, along with the decay of our organic waste, also contribute to global methane emissions.

Importantly, the new estimates are 15 percent higher than global estimates produced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and four percent higher than EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research).

“In many regions of the world, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food,” noted Wolf in a release. “This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions.” To which she added: “Direct measurements of methane emissions are not available for all sources of methane. Thus, emissions are reported as estimates based on different methods and assumptions. In this study, we created new per-animal emissions factors—that is measures of the average amount of CH4 discharged by animals into the atmosphere—and new estimates of global livestock methane emissions.”

The new research shows that methane emissions slowed in the US, Canada, and Europe, but they’re rising elsewhere. Very likely, the rest of the world is catching up to first-world standards in terms of meat and dairy consumption.

“Among global regions, there was notable variability in trends in estimated emissions over recent decades,” said Ghassem Asrar, Director of JGCRI and a co-author of the new study. “For example, we found that total livestock methane emissions have increased the most in rapidly developing regions of Asia, Latin America, and Africa…We found the largest increases in annual emissions to be over the northern tropics, followed by the southern tropics.”

It’s not immediately clear how, or even if, these revised figures will impact livestock production or public policy, but at the individual level, it suggests we should cut back on our consumption of meat and dairy. The privilege we have over these animals, it would appear, now comes at a hefty price.

Update: An earlier version of this article included a statement suggesting that methane will exert a global warming potential 28 times greater than that of CO2 over then next 100 years. While methane has a unit for unit GWP that’s about 30 times that of CO2 on 100 year timescales, CO2 is still the dominant greenhosue gas in our atmosphere because there is so much more of it. The sentence in question has been removed.

Star Trek: Discovery’s Female Lead Character Is Named Michael Burnham and I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

Original Article

By Kaila Hale-Stern

Names have power: just ask Rumpelstiltskin. As someone with a longstanding interest in the meaning of names, the first thing that caught my attention while watching Discovery was that the First Officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green has a traditionally masculine name. I had to know more.

I assumed—erroneously—that Martin-Green’s part was written with a man in mind and when she was cast, they decided to keep the original name for the hell of it. But according to TV Guide, this was not the case. The idea for the name originated with Discovery‘s former showrunner Bryan Fuller, who exited the project but co-wrote the pilot episode, “The Vulcan Hello.” Fuller has a history of giving his female protagonists masculine-sounding names: “See: Dead Like Me’s George (Ellen Muth); Pushing Daisies’ Chuck (Anna Friel); and Wonderfalls’ unisex Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas).”

Discoverexecutive producer Aaron Harberts described naming lead women with male-associated names as Fuller’s “signature move,” calling it “a motif.” Harberts himself came up with “Michael,” explaining in an interview that he “pitched the name after thinking of female columnist Michael Sneed, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, and The Bangles’ bassist Michael Steele.” He added, “And, of course, an archangel is named Michael as well, and it just had a lot of potency for us.”

Michael Burnham is hardly the first female Michael in pop culture, and she’s not the first woman to sport a gender-ambiguous name on Star Trek, where officers are often referred to by their last names. “Dax” is a much more recognized moniker among fans than “Jadzia,” for example. But that still doesn’t stop me from noticing every time Martin-Green’s character introduces herself or is called by her full name, because the name stands out even as she stands next to aliens aboard a starship. Michael herself is a fascinating character, fearless and brilliant from what we’ve seen of her so far, caught between her Vulcan upbringing and her human emotions.

Actress Sonequa Martin-Green was enthusiastic about the name, liking the symbolism and anticipating a more gender-fluid and equal opportunity future. Of Michael, she said: “I appreciated the statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name, just speaking of the amelioration of how we see men and women in the future.”

Martin-Green gave Michael’s name a special history that we may end up exploring with her on-screen. “I also just decided for my creation and for my background and whatnot, that I was named after my father. And so, we get a little bit of exploration of the father‑daughter dynamic … I think it’s a lovely symbol.” After all, considering the centuries-long tradition of the eldest boy inheriting their father’s first name, why shouldn’t a girl?

On the flip side, it would be interesting to see the reception of a lead male character with a firmly female-associated name. (Look at how often Firefly’s Jayne, an ensemble member, is made fun of for his name). Because as much as I love Martin-Green rocking the hell out of “Michael,” that’s partially the thrill of seeing a woman of color own both the lead part for the first time on Star Trek and assume another badge of cultural power—the inherited name of the patriarch. But some men with traditionally unisex names that have come to be thought of as more “female”—think Stacey or Alexis —report being teased for this attribute, because in the patriarchal culture we’ve all been raised in, the association with femininity is something to mock in a man while simultaneously undervaluing women (“you throw like a girl”). Why can we take Michael Burnham seriously, but would never see Jason Isaacs’ character introduce himself as Captain Susan Lorca?

I’m looking forward to the far more gender-fluid future where gendered stereotypes lose ground, and anyone can be named anything that they damn well please, though we’ll still have to grapple with the cultural weight of names. Names have an impact all on their own, and it is often centered around gender and race. I would be far more likely to have a manuscript accepted for publishing if I used a male or gender-neutral pen name. Names conjure racist fears and discrimination from thin air: “[a] study of mostly white participants shows that men with black-sounding names are more likely to be imagined as physically large, dangerous and violent than those with stereotypically white-sounding names.” People with perceived “ethnic” names are much less likely to be interviewed or hiredfor a job than people with “white” names, even when their resumes are identical otherwise. Names have power.

If you’re curious, the meaning of the name “Michael” is a rhetorical question: “Who is like God?” with the implied answer that no one is, so there is no answer. Michael is also a powerful archangel, the leader of God’s armies against the forces of Satan—and one of two archangels named in both the old and new Testament. The other archangel? Gabriel, which just so happens to be the first name of Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca. I’d like to imagine that from this Biblical symbolism, Star Trek: Discovery has some epic stories in store.

 

 

Kim Jong Un Is Preparing For Big War As 4.7 Million People Volunteer To Join North Korean Army

Original Article

By IndiaTimes

Is North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un preparing for war? Well, it seems so. Amid his continuous threats and testing of missiles, some 4.7 million North Koreans have volunteered to join the ranks of the military, said state-run media reports.

The figure includes “students and workers” including 1.22 million women who in the past six days have been asked to join the ranks of the Korean People’s Army, the Rodong Sinmun daily report said.

embed

AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a statement on September 22 criticising a speech that US President Trump made at the UN, threatening to “totally destroy North Korea”, reports Efe news.

Kim called Trump “mentally deranged” and said Pyongyang would give a response “at the highest level” to what he considered the US President’s insult.

These Gender-Neutral Schools Want to Crush Gender Stereotypes

Original Article

By Katy Scott

From the moment a child is born, its gender pretty much determines how they will dress, which toys they’ll be given and ultimately how they are meant to behave within society.

But some schools in Sweden are trying to strip away such gender norms.
There’s nothing obviously out of the ordinary at Sweden’s gender-neutral preschools at first glance.
There are no designated areas to play with dolls or building blocks. The toys have been strategically jumbled to create an environment for girls and boys to play together.
These two preschools in Sweden — Nicolaigarden and Egalia (meaning ‘equality’ in Latin) — go to great lengths to de-emphasize gender. Children are given the freedom to challenge and cross gender boundaries.
Rather than encourage children to do particular things, the teachers are careful not to box children based on their gender or subtly discourage them from doing certain things.
The school has removed the terms “girl” and “boy” completely. Instead they make a deliberate effort to call each child by their first name or the gender-neutral pronoun “hen”.
But is it necessary to intervene at such a young age, and what are the long-term effects?
Children play in the garden of Egalia.

Removing the ‘gender straitjacket’

A new global study found that young girls and boys are outfitted with “gender straitjackets” by the age of 10, resulting in lifelong negative consequences.
The Global Early Adolescent Study analyzed how gender is learned, enforced and reinforced among early adolescents in 15 countries.
It concluded that culturally-enforced gender stereotypes — which are linked to an increased risk of mental and physical health problems — are firmly rooted between the ages of 10 and 14. The study found these stereotypes leave girls at greater risk of exposure to physical and sexual violence, child marriage, and HIV. For boys, the risks can include substance abuse and suicide.
In Sweden, which is ranked as the fourth-most equal country in the world when it comes to gender, the government has made a concerted effort to emphasize equality in the Education Act.
Following a new amendment introduced in 1998 requiring all schools to work against gender stereotyping, Lotta Rajalin set up her first gender-neutral preschool for one to five-year-olds in Stockholm’s Old Town.
The gender-neutral policies at Rajalin’s schools ensure that stories, songs and dramatizations are screened or re-scripted to include non-nuclear families (single parents or same-sex couples) and heroines sweeping princes off their feet.
Teachers opt for non-traditional plot twists to ensure that they’re not reinforcing gender stereotypes.

How to be a gender-neutral teacher

Perhaps the most important distinction in these preschools is the way the teachers treat each child.
To help identify any unconscious bias they have when dealing with girls and boys, the teachers filmed themselves interacting with children and took note of how they responded to the different sexes.
“After we had been filming and observing each other, we understood that it’s not the children we have to change, it’s ourselves,” Rajalin tells CNN.
Lotta Rajalin, director at Nicolaigarden and Egalia gender-neutral preschools.

They discovered they used different tones of voice when talking to girls or boys, and tolerated rowdiness in boys while discouraging it in girls. Similarly, they found themselves to be more likely to comfort a crying girl, while they would tell a crying boy to brush it off.
“When you change yourself and your thinking and your expectations, you will see new things and you will see that it’s better for children’s development,” she says.
Rajalin believes gender stereotypes limit the opportunities available to a child. Her gender-neutral teaching methods stem from what she calls “the whole life spectra” or “circle of opportunity.” This circle is often divided into two semi-circles — one for boys and one for girls.
Through gender-neutral teaching, Rajalin hopes to open up this circle of opportunities for all children to define themselves.
“We try to take away the barriers which stop both girls and boys doing what they want to do,” she says.
“We want all children to have the same opportunities to feel, to express themselves, to like what color they like, to play the sport they’re in, and so on. We don’t want to limit them.”

Rajalin wants to open the “circle of opportunities” to all children, regardless of their gender.
Following a small, structured observation of children at one of Rajalin’s preschools, Ben Kenward, a researcher in psychology at Uppsala University in Sweden and Oxford Brookes University in England, found these children had a reduced tendency to be influenced by gender stereotypes, compared to a control group of children from a typical Swedish preschool.
“The [gender neutral] pedagogy is having some of the effects that it’s intended to have, and if you’re committed to giving these young children the same opportunities … then our study suggests that this kind of pedagogy is a good tool.”

‘Brainwashing children’

However, these gender-neutral policies have generated much criticism over the years.
Swedish psychiatrist and author David Eberhard considers calling boys and girls “hen” to be “intellectually dishonest” as it is being “blind to biological differences.”
“This is the kind of brainwash that works when the kids are small and in the short run they adapt to this, but what happens when they go to normal school and they find out they were living in a sect?” he tells CNN.
“This is a sort of a religious sect to say there’s no differences between men and women, it has nothing to do with science.”
Eberhard explained that he does not oppose boys choosing to play with dolls, but he draws the line at calling a girl or boy “it” or “hen”.
Rajalin believes a lot of criticism is misguided, as people do not fully understand what they are trying to do. “We are not trying to say girls should be boys or boys should be girls, we just want every person to have the right to be the person they are, regardless of gender,” she says.
Rajalin says her gender-neutral preschools give children the same opportunities, obligations and rights, regardless of gender.

Harmless ‘experiment’

While Eberhard’s views are strong, he says gender-neutral schooling is unlikely to have any negative long-term effects on young children.
“I suppose that they [the children] are so sure about their identity that it doesn’t matter,” he says. “But, as individuals, you may very well have young kids of different sexes that become very frustrated or confused.”
He believes Sweden would be better off solving the problem of gender inequality in the real world.
Rajalin, however, believes adopting gender-neutral methods and exposing children to teachers of various different ethnicities, religions, sexes and sexual orientations, will better prepare them for the nuances of the real world. It will boost their self-confidence and set them up to be more successful in life, she says.
Psychology professor Philip Hwang from the University of Gothenburg is not convinced. He thinks Rajalin’s gender-neutral preschools are harmless but overrated.
“I don’t really see any harm in it, but I think it pleases the parents more than it changes the children,” he tells CNN.
He says he has met a couple of parents that really believe sending their children to gender-neutral preschool will have lasting effects and that they will grow up in a gender-neutral society.
“It’s a statement more than something that has actual effect on children’s long-term development with regard to gender issues,” he says.
“It takes generations to change norms and values like this.”
Even Kenward, who is optimistic that the gender-neutral pedagogy is creating equal opportunities for children of both genders, is unsure what the long-term effects will be.
“It’s an open question what happens to these children when they move into primary school,” he says. “My guess is it [gender neutral pedagogy] could continue to influence their behavior potentially, not in a very strong way necessarily. But it may have some lasting effects.”

Group Accuses Pope Francis of Heresy

Original Article

By Steve Reilly

A group of Catholic scholars and clergy has accused Pope Francis of heresy in connection with a 2016 papal document that discusses divorce and remarriage, according to a 25-page letter made public by the group.

The letter, made public Saturday, asserts that portions of Francis’ document “The Joy of Love,” contains propositions which “contradict truths that are divinely revealed, and that Catholics must believe with the assent of divine faith.”

More than 60 priests, professors and others signed the letter, which accuses Francis of seven specific heresies because of the pope’s “words, deeds, and omissions” as well as specific passages in document.

The criticism centers on receipt of Communion by Catholics who have been civilly remarried. A spokesman for the Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Experts on the Catholic Church said the letter represents only a small minority of the church, and that it is unlikely to be met with any response from Francis.

Massimo Faggioli, a professor at Villanova University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, said the signatories represent a “tiny, extreme fringe of the opposition to Francis” and do not include any cardinals or bishops with formal standing in the Catholic Church.

“The Catholic Church that has more than 200 cardinals now and more than 5,000 bishops,” he said. “And they couldn’t find one.”

The only bishop who signed the letter is Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X, who experts said does not have formal standing in the church because he is from a breakaway group.

David Gibson, director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture, said the letter is “akin to an online petition,” and is unlikely to have any effect.

“It’s a great headline anytime the pope is accused of heresy,” he said. “But these are really, kind of, the usual suspects of really far right types who have been upset with not only this pope, but other popes in recent years.”

Joseph Shaw, a religious scholar at Oxford University who signed the letter, said in a statement that it was first hand-delivered to Francis more than a month ago. The group only made it public after it did not receive a response.

“It is designed to make clear the importance of what is (at) stake,” Shaw said, “and the urgency of keeping a correct view of these matters.”

Mass Shooting Reported in Tennessee Church

Original Article

By Whitney Kimball

Image tweeted by @NashvilleFD

A mass shooting has been reported in a church in Antioch, Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. Police responded to calls at 11:15 AM and are investigating.

The Nashville fire department has tweeted that eight people have been wounded, including the shooter.

They add that all but one of the victims is over the age of 60.

Motives remain unclear. We will update the post as more news arrives.

Update 1:57PM EST: WKRN reports that Nashville fire officials have confirmed at least one death among the eight wounded.

Update 2:04PM EST: Fox News has reported that the shooter was also shot and is in custody at the hospital.

Update 6:34PM EST: The New York Post reports that police have identified 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson as the suspect. One church member says that he was wearing a clown mask; police confirm that it was “at least a ski mask.” He was stopped in an altercation with the church usher, whom the shooter pistol-whipped in the head before accidentally shooting himself in the leg.

Fans Petition Warner Bros. to Make Wonder Woman Bisexual

Original Article

By Kevin Melrose

Fans Petition Warner Bros. to Make Wonder Woman Bisexual

A year after Wonder Woman comics writer Greg Rucka acknowledged that his interpretation of the iconic heroine is “queer,” fans are lobbying Warner Bros. to depict her big-screen counterpart as bisexual in the 2019 sequel.

A petition launched on Change.org by Gianna Collier-Pitts, a GLAAD campus ambassador at New York University, calls on the studio to “directly acknowledge Diana Prince for who she is, who she has always been (regardless of her current love interest), and what her character could potentially represent for millions of people.”

More than 2,200 people have signed the petition since its launch on Thursday.

Wonder Woman’s Diana Prince hails from Themyscira, land of the Amazons and inhabited exclusively by women,” Collier-Pitts wrote. “This alone should serve as reason enough to confirm her sexuality, since any close relationship she could have had prior to her romantic storyline with Steve Trevor would have had to have been with another woman. Some of you may be thinking that this specificity doesn’t make a difference but for people like me who rarely see themselves reflected in media, believe me. It does. […] Making Wonder Woman canonically bisexual on the big screen would make her the first openly LGBTQ superhero of any gender from either DC or Marvel’s cinematic universes, and would solidify her place as a true role model for women of all ages and identities.”

Rucka noted in September 2016 that the sexuality of Wonder Woman, and the Amazons, is “complicated,” explaining, “This is inherently the problem with Diana: We’ve had a long history of people — for a variety of reasons, including sometimes pure titillation, which I think is the worst reason — say, ‘Ooo. Look. It’s the Amazons. They’re gay!’ And when you start to think about giving the concept of Themyscira its due, the answer is, ‘How can they not all be in same sex relationships?’ Right? It makes no logical sense otherwise.”

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot addressed the issue shortly thereafter, acknowledging that, while it wasn’t explored in the original film, “when you talk theoretically about all the women on Themyscira and how many years she was there, then what he said makes sense. In this movie she does not experience any bisexual relationships. But it’s not about that. She’s a woman who loves people for who they are. She can be bisexual. She loves people for their hearts.”

Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman has grossed $819.5 million worldwide. The sequel, which will reteam Jenkins and Gadot, is in development for release on Dec. 13, 2019.

Love in the Time of Individualism

Original Article

By Julie Beck

C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman, died of bone cancer on July 13, 1960. The next day, the famous author wrote a letter to Peter Bide, the priest who had married them, to tell him the news.

“I’d like to meet,” Lewis writes, suggesting the two grab lunch sometime soon. “For I am—oh God that I were not—very free now. One doesn’t realize in early life that the price of freedom is loneliness. To be happy is to be tied.”

When it comes to romance, Americans are freer than they’ve ever been. Freer to marry, freer to divorce, freer to have sex when and with whom they like with fewer consequences, freer to cohabitate without getting married, freer to remain single, freer to pursue open relationships or polyamory.

But what if the price of freedom is loneliness? Would you pay it?

Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks a lot about the price of human relationships. His new book, Cheap Sex, is all about how the modern dating scene has been shaped by sexual economics, a theory which sees human mating as a marketplace. His idea, as you might suspect from the title, is that sex is not as costly to access as it once was—in terms of time, effort, and risk. Contraception makes sex less risky; online dating platforms make it more accessible. If that doesn’t work out, there’s always porn, which requires next to no effort to find. These factors, Regnerus argues, “have created a massive slowdown in the development of committed relationships, especially marriage.”

Marriage rates have indeed plummeted among young adults, to the point that a demographer cited by  Regnerus estimates that one-third of people currently in their early 20s will never get married. But another new book about modern relationships, Eli Finkel’s The All-or-Nothing Marriage, contends that while “the institution of marriage in America is struggling … the best marriages today are better than the best marriages of earlier eras; indeed, they are the best marriages that the world has ever known.”

Because marriage for many is no longer a gateway to adulthood, but rather an optional “capstone,” it’s held to a higher standard. Regnerus asserts that modern mating dynamics make it hard for people to find a relationship that seems worth committing to; Finkel argues that when marriages manage to live up to today’s lofty expectations, they can be extremely fulfilling. One may be more optimistic than the other, but both show how increasing romantic freedom has changed romance itself.

* * *

Regnerus’s description of sexual economics relies on a stark division of gender roles: Men provide the demand and women are the supply. There is a long history of what he calls the “exchange relationship,” in which women control men’s access to sex. In order to get it, men bring to the table resources, commitment, and fidelity.

In previous eras, this exchange was effective at producing marriages (though it also went hand-in-hand with strict sexual mores and women’s subjugation). But now that sex before marriage and sex outside of relationships is common, safe, and less stigmatized, men don’t have to work as hard for it, according to Regnerus. So they ghost and flake and dither about committing to one person. Many women don’t need what resources men have to offer, anyway; they have their own. But men have more power in the mating market in this model, which leads to women also embracing, or at least going along with, cheap sex and some of the rude behavior that comes with it.

Regnerus doesn’t talk much about LGBT relationships, except to say that these market dynamics might make women more likely to “experiment with same-sex relationships,” to circumvent the problem of noncommittal men. He also writes that because there is no gatekeeper in gay men’s relationships, they are less likely to be sexually monogamous.

When it comes to heterosexual relationships, Regnerus sums up his theory like this: “It’s not that love is dead, but the sexual incentives for men to sacrifice and commit have largely dissolved, spelling a more confusing and circuitous path to commitment and marriage than earlier eras.”

This all smacks strongly of gender essentialism. Regnerus’s underlying premise is sound: Many studies have found that, on average, men want sex more than women, and women value having sex in the context of commitment more than men do (though of course individuals differ). Still, throughout the book, Regnerus takes this theory pretty far. He sounds a bit like your proverbial grandma cautioning that a man will never buy the cow if he’s getting the milk for free.

Regnerus writes about one woman who would sometimes have casual sex with men she didn’t like that much and who felt frustrated because she wasn’t finding men she did like: “She wishes to be a free rider—in this case, to find a good man—without contributing to the kinds of normative relationship behavior that make men better. It won’t work. It can’t work.”

He goes on: “In the domain of sex and relationships men will act as nobly as women collectively demand. This is an aggravating statement for women to read, no doubt. They do not want to be responsible for ‘raising’ men. But it is realistic.”

Even under a theory that believes women, through sexual gatekeeping, control how relationships unfold, it’s quite something to imply that men do not have responsibility for contributing to norms around how romantic partners should treat each other.

Regnerus also argues that the easy availability of sex makes men less motivated in their professional lives, because they don’t need to become successful, i.e., marriageable, to woo women to their beds. While this may sound dubious, there is an established precedent for this theory in the field. Regnerus quotes the famous psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs, who write that “giving young men easy access to abundant sexual satisfaction deprives society of one of its ways to motivate them to contribute valuable achievements to the culture.” Still, it seems extreme to suggest that men need to be dragged by the dick into being productive citizens.

Overall, sexual economics discounts the other things men and women have to offer each other—besides sex and “resources” and commitment. Am I naïve to think that companionship and attention should have some place in this equation? If the modern mating market has made people more isolated, and if smartphones and other technology are increasingly mediating human relationships and driving us to distraction, shouldn’t the value of a present and proximate companion increase?

Still, there is a lot in Regnerus’s analysis that is uncomfortably astute. He’s right that it can be hard to escape these old gender dynamics when dating, especially online dating. Popular dating apps put women in the position of gatekeeping, whether deliberately or not. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a smartphone will swipe right on basically everyone. This forces women to be choosier about who they say yes to. Even if they also swipe with abandon, they end up with more matches to sort through—yet more gatekeeping. On Hinge and OkCupid, which don’t require a mutual opt-in before people can send messages, women’s inboxes are deluged with men whom they must then sort through. Bumble just went all-in and made gatekeeping a selling point: Women have to message men first, putting them in control of who has access to their attention.

While Regnerus believes that the “cheap sex” mating market gives men the upper hand in relationships, he notes that after spending a long time in the market, men and women alike grow frustrated and exhausted. This is something I’ve found inmy own reporting as well—that prolonged use of dating apps often leads to burnout and ambivalence. “Online dating,” Regnerus writes, “forces participants to play by its rules.” And many find that being able to hyperefficiently move through romantic options doesn’t actually make it easier to find a relationship.

This is only further complicated by the fact that what Americans want from their relationships is radically different than it’s been for most of history.

* * *

In The All-or-Nothing Marriage, Finkel, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, traces the history of the institution over what he sees as three thematic eras. For a very long time, people married for pragmatic reasons. Most of the clothing, food, and other goods a family used were produced by the household itself, so an eternal bachelorhood would be a serious liability. People needed the labor of a partner—and often multiple children—to survive.

Things eventually became less dire, and people started marrying for love. Finkel dates that transition to around 1850, but notes that it was a shift that took place over centuries. In contrast, the transition from love-based marriages to the current era of what Finkel calls “self-expressive” marriages only took about 15 years, thanks to the counterculture shake-ups of the 1960s and 70s. During those years, the second-wave feminist movement pushed back against breadwinner/homemaker marriages and helped women earn more individual freedom. Meanwhile, concepts like “self-esteem” and New-Agey “self-discovery” found footholds in the culture.

What Americans want from their marriages nowadays, Finkel argues, is love, yes, but also someone who will give their lives meaning, and make them into the best versions of themselves. “Marriage has a self-expressive emphasis that places a premium on spouses helping each other meet their authenticity and personal-growth needs,” he writes. “The pursuit of self-expression through marriage simultaneously makes achieving marital success harder and the value of doing so greater.”

Taken together, the changes described in Finkel’s and Regnerus’s books illustrate how intensely modern American relationships have been shaped by that most star-spangled of values: individualism.

“The marriages Americans are fashioning today seldom emphasize the idea of marriage as a functional form, enabling two people to accomplish things they otherwise could not alone,” Regnerus writes, very much seeming to mop what Finkel is spilling. “Now we can accomplish a great deal—certainly enough—on our own. Hence, marriage in America has shifted away from being a populist institution—a social phenomenon in which most adults participated and benefited—to becoming an elite, individualist, voluntary, consumption-oriented arrangement.”

Even outside of marriage, in any romantic entanglement, Westerners value what British sociologist Anthony Giddens calls the “pure relationship.” The pure relationship is one which people are a part of only because they want to be, because it satisfies both individuals. It’s different than romantic love, which assumes you’ll find The One and stay with them forever, for better and for worse. In a pure relationship, if someone is no longer satisfied, it’s assumed they’ll leave.

“While the dyad—the couple—is the basic structure to the union, it is never to usurp the individual’s primacy and will,” Regnerus writes.

According to Baumeister and another psychologist, Michael MacKenzie, the self is now seen as a “value base”—that is, a good so self-evident that it doesn’t even need to be questioned. Just as a devout Christian would not question the importance of God’s will, a modern Westerner would likely not question the importance of being “true to yourself.”

But Americans are unique, Finkel writes, in that they not only believe in being true to themselves, but they also still strongly value commitment. So the United States has higher rates of both marriage and divorce than many other countries. The sociologist Andrew Cherlin calls this “the marriage-go-round.”

* * *

Modern Americans are freer than ever to spend their time finding the right person, the one who will improve their lives. And they’re freer than ever to leave. Not just in the sense of “you can get divorced now,” but cultural norms have created an environment where it’s easy to feel like if something doesn’t work out right away, you should pull out your phone and look for other options. Where high expectations are often disappointed. Where, after enough letdowns, people may lose faith in finding the kind of fulfillment they seek outside of themselves. Where they wander through the mating market, halfheartedly picking up the bruised wares, then putting them back in the bin when they’re not shiny enough.

Regnerus recounts a post he saw online where a man in a long-distance relationship discovered his girlfriend had posed for some racy pictures and was asking for advice on how to talk to her about it. One of the responses the man received was “She doesn’t belong to you.” True enough—she’s her own person who can make her own choices. The phrasing, however, prompted Regnerus to “reflect on the place of belongingness in the ‘pure relationship’ era. Do people belong to other people?”

As people’s search for romance becomes increasingly divorced from their communities, many relationships start with two individuals, who know next to nothing of each other’s context, trying to figure out if they’d fit into each other’s lives. In the best of circumstances, according to Finkel, they each elevate the other, and live meaningfully—if not always happily—ever after. In less ideal circumstances, individualism leads to loneliness.

“Interdependence has faded, leaving only independence,” Regnerus writes. “It is freer but also far more vulnerable than many wish to acknowledge.”

C.S. Lewis would likely agree.

White Woman Discusses Her ‘Black Woman’ Transition on Maury

Original Article

By Yesha Callahan

Maury via YouTube screenshot

Martina Big started out as a white woman, and now she’s here … with Maury Povich, explaining why she chose to drastically change her appearance. The plastic-surgery-obsessed Big appeared on Maury, wearing a gigantic “Black Girls Rock” necklace and her best kinky weave. Even as the audience sat dumbfounded and confused, you could tell Maury was thinking, “I should have just done my usual paternity-testing show.”

“Martina, do you think you’re a black person?” Maury asked.

“Yes,” Big replied. “But 80 percent. I have to learn a lot. I know.”

Big’s “transitioning” into a black woman included her taking supplements to darken her skin, lip implants, a nose job, various lipo procedures and a kinky weave. The breast enhancements were done previously during her foray into “these damn plastic surgeons should know better” breast-enlargement surgeries and the fact that she wanted to look like Pamela Anderson.

“Everyone who’s watching this who’s a person of color is going to say it’s not just skin-deep. You think you want to learn about the black culture, and you can absorb all of that,” Maury said.

“Yeah,” Big replied. She then went on to state that hopefully she won’t need extensions in her hair once her blond hair starts to grow in darker “naturally

“Being black is not about extensions,” Maury stated.

When Maury Povich is a voice of reason, you need to check your life decisions. What would have made the segment television gold would have been Maury ending it with, “You are not the father a black woman!”

But, of course, as with every post involving a Rachel Dolezal-type woman, there will be those nimrods who want to compare putting on makeup and having surgeries to try to become a black woman to being a transgender person. Before you even start banging on your keyboards trying to be witty and contrary, don’t embarrass yourself.

Gender Stereotypes Are Destroying Girls, And They’re Killing Boys

Original Article

By Alia E. Dastagir

In almost every society, from Baltimore to Beijing, boys are told from a young age to go outside and have adventures, while young girls are encouraged to stay home and do chores Time

It doesn’t matter where in the world you live. Lessons about gender start early, and they have lifelong consequences.

A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Healthfound many norms around gender, what’s expected of boys and girls, become entrenched in adolescence and have negative impacts that carry into adulthood.

We knew some of this already. Existing research shows gender roles can harm both sexes. But the Global Early Adolescent Study — which looked at girls and boys between 10-14 years old in 15 countries with varying income levels — found many of these stereotypes are universal, and they become entrenched before 10 years old.

“We were actually anticipating more differences than similarities, and one of the big findings is that there are still very consistent forms of patriarchy around the world,” said Kristin Mmari, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the lead qualitative researcher on the study.

The ideas girls and boys have about gender, the study found, form earlier in adolescence than had previously been measured, Mmari said.

“There seems to be a shift as soon as girls and boys enter this stage, where their attitudes and beliefs about the opposite sex change dramatically,” she said. “And they talked about how this was not so in childhood. That they could have these friends — opposite sex friends — and they were given equal amounts of freedom. They were treated the same, they thought. But once they began puberty, and their bodies developed, their worlds changed.”

The biggest myth perpetuated about gender, researchers found, is that once girls hit puberty, they are vulnerable and in need of protection to preserve their sexual and reproductive health, while boys are seen as strong and independent. It’s this myth, Mmari said, that changes how the world sees both sexes during adolescence, and how it continues to treat them throughout their lives.

“How you perceive girls and boys is socially driven,” Mmari said. “It’s not biologically driven.”

Among consequences that the study noted when girls conform to gender stereotypes:

  • Depression
  • Child marriage
  • Leaving school early
  • Exposure to violence

And consequences when boys conform to gender stereotypes:

  • Engaging in physical violence to a much greater extent than girls
  • Dying more frequently from unintentional injuries
  • Being more prone to substance abuse and suicide
  • Having a shorter life expectancy than women

Mmari said one of the major takeaways from the study is that it’s important to challenge gender stereotypes when children are young.

“You can look at it as a window of opportunity to really address these attitudes and beliefs before they become cemented later on,” she said.

The next phase of the study, which Mmari said will take about four or five years, will measure how gender norms change over time, what factors influence those changes and how they relate to health-outcomes for boys and girls.

“We need to view gender as more of a system,” Mmari said. “One of the problems … is we typically look at things on an individual level. So we feel like if we just empower girls, make them feel good, then we’ll change. But the problem is they go back to their homes where they’re given messages from their parents that are contradictory. They go to the schools where they’re given messages from their teachers that are contradictory. They look at the media — it’s a whole system out there that’s transmitting these inequitable norms, and so we have to think of it more on that level.”

The Invention of A.I. ‘Gaydar’ Could Be the Start of Something Much Worse

Original Article

By James Vincent

Two weeks ago, a pair of researchers from Stanford University made a startling claim. Using hundreds of thousands of images taken from a dating website, they said they had trained a facial recognition system that could identify whether someone was straight or gay just by looking at them. The work was first covered by The Economist, and other publications soon followed suit, with headlines like “New AI can guess whether you’re gay or straight from a photograph” and “AI Can Tell If You’re Gay From a Photo, and It’s Terrifying.”

As you might have guessed, it’s not as straightforward as that. (And to be clear, based on this work alone, AI can’t tell whether someone is gay or straight from a photo.) But the research captures common fears about artificial intelligence: that it will open up new avenues for surveillance and control, and could be particularly harmful for marginalized people. One of the paper’s authors, Dr Michal Kosinski, says his intent is to sound the alarm about the dangers of AI, and warns that facial recognition will soon be able to identify not only someone’s sexual orientation, but their political views, criminality, and even their IQ.

With statements like these, some worry we’re reviving an old belief with a bad history: that you can intuit character from appearance. This pseudoscience, physiognomy, was fuel for the scientific racism of the 19th and 20th centuries, and gave moral cover to some of humanity’s worst impulses: to demonize, condemn, and exterminate fellow humans. Critics of Kosinski’s work accuse him of replacing the calipers of the 19th century with the neural networks of the 21st, while the professor himself says he is horrified by his findings, and happy to be proved wrong. “It’s a controversial and upsetting subject, and it’s also upsetting to us,” he tells The Verge.

But is it possible that pseudoscience is sneaking back into the world, disguised in new garb thanks to AI? Some people say machines are simply able to read more about us than we can ourselves, but what if we’re training them to carry out our prejudices, and, in doing so, giving new life to old ideas we rightly dismissed? How are we going to know the difference?

CAN AI REALLY SPOT SEXUAL ORIENTATION?

First, we need to look at the study at the heart of the recent debate, written by Kosinski and his co-author Yilun Wang. Its results have been poorly reported, with a lot of the hype coming from misrepresentations of the system’s accuracy. The paper states: “Given a single facial image, [the software] could correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81 percent of cases, and in 71 percent of cases for women.” These rates increase when the system is given five pictures of an individual: up to 91 percent for men, and 83 percent for women.

On the face of it, this sounds like “AI can tell if a man is gay or straight 81 percent of the time by looking at his photo.” (Thus the headlines.) But that’s not what the figures mean. The AI wasn’t 81 percent correct when being shown random photos: it was tested on a pair of photos, one of a gay person and one of a straight person, and then asked which individual was more likely to be gay. It guessed right 81 percent of the time for men and 71 percent of the time for women, but the structure of the test means it started with a baseline of 50 percent — that’s what it’d get guessing at random. And although it was significantly better than that, the results aren’t the same as saying it can identify anyone’s sexual orientation 81 percent of the time.

As Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who wrote a blog post critiquing the paper, told The Verge: “People are scared of a situation where you have a private life and your sexual orientation isn’t known, and you go to an airport or a sporting event and a computer scans the crowd and identifies whether you’re gay or straight. But there’s just not much evidence this technology can do that.”

Kosinski and Wang make this clear themselves toward the end of the paper when they test their system against 1,000 photographs instead of two. They ask the AI to pick out who is most likely to be gay in a dataset in which 7 percent of the photo subjects are gay, roughly reflecting the proportion of straight and gay men in the US population. When asked to select the 100 individuals most likely to be gay, the system gets only 47 out of 70 possible hits. The remaining 53 have been incorrectly identified. And when asked to identify a top 10, nine are right.

If you were a bad actor trying to use this system to identify gay people, you couldn’t know for sure you were getting correct answers. Although, if you used it against a large enough dataset, you might get mostly correct guesses. Is this dangerous? If the system is being used to target gay people, then yes, of course. But the rest of the study suggests the program has even further limitations.

WHAT CAN COMPUTERS REALLY SEE THAT HUMANS CAN’T?

It’s also not clear what factors the facial recognition system is using to make its judgements. Kosinski and Wang’s hypothesis is that it’s primarily identifying structural differences: feminine features in the faces of gay men and masculine features in the faces of gay women. But it’s possible that the AI is being confused by other stimuli — like facial expressions in the photos.

This is particularly relevant because the images used in the study were taken from a dating website. As Greggor Mattson, a professor of sociology at Oberlin College, pointed out in a blog post, this means that the images themselves are biased, as they were selected specifically to attract someone of a certain sexual orientation. They almost certainly play up to our cultural expectations of how gay and straight people should look, and, to further narrow their applicability, all the subjects were white, with no inclusion of bisexual or self-identified trans individuals. If a straight male chooses the most stereotypically “manly” picture of himself for a dating site, it says more about what he thinks society wants from him than a link between the shape of his jaw and his sexual orientation.

To try and ensure their system was looking at facial structure only, Kosinski and Wang used software called VGG-Face, which encodes faces as strings of numbers and has been used for tasks like spotting celebrity lookalikes in paintings. This program, they write, allows them to “minimize the role [of] transient features” like lighting, pose, and facial expression.

But researcher Tom White, who works on AI facial system, says VGG-Face is actually very good at picking up on these elements. White pointed this out on Twitter, and explained to The Verge over email how he’d tested the software and used it to successfully distinguish between faces with expressions like “neutral” and “happy,” as well as poses and background color.

A figure from the paper showing the average faces of the participants, and the difference in facial structures that they identified between the two sets. 
Image: Kosinski and Wang

Speaking to The Verge, Kosinski says he and Wang have been explicit that things like facial hair and makeup could be a factor in the AI’s decision-making, but he maintains that facial structure is the most important. “If you look at the overall properties of VGG-Face, it tends to put very little weight on transient facial features,” Kosinski says. “We also provide evidence that non-transient facial features seem to be predictive of sexual orientation.”

The problem is, we can’t know for sure. Kosinski and Wang haven’t released the program they created or the pictures they used to train it. They do test their AI on other picture sources, to see if it’s identifying some factor common to all gay and straight, but these tests were limited and also drew from a biased dataset — Facebook profile pictures from men who liked pages such as “I love being Gay,” and “Gay and Fabulous.”

Do men in these groups serve as reasonable proxies for all gay men? Probably not, and Kosinski says it’s possible his work is wrong. “Many more studies will need to be conducted to verify [this],” he says. But it’s tricky to say how one could completely eliminate selection bias to perform a conclusive test. Kosinski tells The Verge, “You don’t need to understand how the model works to test whether it’s correct or not.” However, it’s the acceptance of the opacity of algorithms that makes this sort of research so fraught.

IF AI CAN’T SHOW ITS WORKING, CAN WE TRUST IT?

AI researchers can’t fully explain why their machines do the things they do. It’s a challenge that runs through the entire field, and is sometimes referred to as the “black box” problem. Because of the methods used to train AI, these programs can’t show their work in the same way normal software does, although researchers are working to amend this.

In the meantime, it leads to all sorts of problems. A common one is that sexist and racist biases are captured from humans in the training data and reproduced by the AI. In the case of Kosinski and Wang’s work, the “black box” allows them to make a particular scientific leap of faith. Because they’re confident their system is primarily analyzing facial structures, they say their research shows that facial structures predict sexual orientation. (“Study 1a showed that facial features extracted by a [neural network] can be used to accurately identify the sexual orientation of both men and women.”)

Experts say this is a misleading claim that isn’t supported by the latest science. There may be a common cause for face shape and sexual orientation — the most probable cause is the balance of hormones in the womb — but that doesn’t mean face shape reliably predicts sexual orientation, says Qazi Rahman, an academic at King’s College London who studies the biology of sexual orientation. “Biology’s a little bit more nuanced than we often give it credit for,” he tells The Verge. “The issue here is the strength of the association.”

The idea that sexual orientation comes primarily from biology is itself controversial. Rahman, who believes that sexual orientation is mostly biological, praises Kosinski and Wang’s work. “It’s not junk science,” he says. “More like science someone doesn’t like.” But when it comes to predicting sexual orientation, he says there’s a whole package of “atypical gender behavior” that needs to be considered. “The issue for me is more that [the study] misses the point, and that’s behavior.”

Is there a gay gene? Or is sexuality equally shaped by society and culture?

Reducing the question of sexual orientation to a single, measurable factor in the body has a long and often inglorious history. As Matton writes in his blog post, approaches have ranged from “19th century measurements of lesbians’ clitorises and homosexual men’s hips, to late 20th century claims to have discovered ‘gay genes,’ ‘gay brains,’ ‘gay ring fingers,’ ‘lesbian ears,’ and ‘gay scalp hair.’” The impact of this work is mixed, but at its worst it’s a tool of oppression: it gives people who want to dehumanize and persecute sexual minorities a “scientific” pretext.

Jenny Davis, a lecturer in sociology at the Australian National University, describes it as a form of biological essentialism. This is the belief that things like sexual orientation are rooted in the body. This approach, she says, is double-edged. On the one hand, it “does a useful political thing: detaching blame from same-sex desire. But on the other hand, it reinforces the devalued position of that kind of desire,” setting up hetrosexuality as the norm and framing homosexuality as “less valuable … a sort of illness.”

And it’s when we consider Kosinski and Wang’s research in this context that AI-powered facial recognition takes on an even darker aspect — namely, say some critics, as part of a trend to the return of physiognomy, powered by AI.

YOUR CHARACTER, AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE

For centuries, people have believed that the face held the key to the character. The notion has its roots in ancient Greece, but was particularly influential in the 19th century. Proponents of physiognomy suggested that by measuring things like the angle of someone’s forehead or the shape of their nose, they could determine if a person was honest or a criminal. Last year in China, AI researchers claimed they could do the same thing using facial recognition.

Their research, published as “Automated Inference on Criminality Using Face Images,” caused a minor uproar in the AI community. Scientists pointed out flaws in the study, and concluded that that work was replicating human prejudices about what constitutes a “mean” or a “nice” face. In a widely shared rebuttal titled “Physiognomy’s New Clothes,” Google researcher Blaise Agüera y Arcas and two co-authors wrote that we should expect “more research in the coming years that has similar … false claims to scientific objectivity in order to ‘launder’ human prejudice and discrimination.” (Google declined to make Agüera y Arcas available to comment on this report.)

An illustration of physiognomy from Giambattista della Porta’s De humana physiognomonia

Kosinski and Wang’s paper clearly acknowledges the dangers of physiognomy, noting that the practice “is now universally, and rightly, rejected as a mix of superstition and racism disguised as science.” But, they continue, just because a subject is “taboo,” doesn’t mean it has no basis in truth. They say that because humans are able to read characteristics like personality in other people’s faces with “low accuracy,” machines should be able to do the same but more accurately.

Kosinski says his research isn’t physiognomy because it’s using rigorous scientific methods, and his paper cites a number of studies showing that we can deduce (with varying accuracy) traits about people by looking at them. “I was educated and made to believe that it’s absolutely impossible that the face contains any information about your intimate traits, because physiognomy and phrenology were just pseudosciences,” he says. “But the fact that they were claiming things without any basis in fact, that they were making stuff up, doesn’t mean that this stuff is not real.” He agrees that physiognomy is not science, but says there may be truth in its basic concepts that computers can reveal.

For Davis, this sort of attitude comes from a widespread and mistaken belief in the neutrality and objectivity of AI. “Artificial intelligence is not in fact artificial,” she tells The Verge. “Machines learn like humans learn. We’re taught through culture and absorb the norms of social structure, and so does artificial intelligence. So it will re-create, amplify, and continue on the trajectories we’ve taught it, which are always going to reflect existing cultural norms.”

We’ve already created sexist and racist algorithms, and these sorts of cultural biases and physiognomy are really just two sides of the same coin: both rely on bad evidence to judge others. The work by the Chinese researchers is an extreme example, but it’s certainly not the only one. There’s at least one startup already active that claims it can spot terrorists and pedophiles using face recognition, and there are many others offering to analyze “emotional intelligence” and conduct AI-powered surveillance.

FACING UP TO WHAT’S COMING

But to return to the questions implied by those alarming headlines about Kosinski and Wang’s paper: is AI going to be used to persecute sexual minorities?

This system? No. A different one? Maybe.

Kosinski and Wang’s work is not invalid, but its results need serious qualifications and further testing. Without that, all we know about their system is that it can spot with some reliability the difference between self-identified gay and straight white people on one particular dating site. We don’t know that it’s spotted a biological difference common to all gay and straight people; we don’t know if it would work with a wider set of photos; and the work doesn’t show that sexual orientation can be deduced with nothing more than, say, a measurement of the jaw. It’s not decoded human sexuality any more than AI chatbots have decoded the art of a good conversation. (Nor do its authors make such a claim.)

Startup Faception claims it can identify how likely people are to be terrorists just by looking at their face. 
Image: Faception

The research was published to warn people, say Kosinski, but he admits it’s an “unavoidable paradox” that to do so you have to explain how you did what you did. All the tools used in the paper are available for anyone to find and put together themselves. Writing at the deep learning education site Fast.ai, researcher Jeremy Howard concludes: “It is probably reasonably [sic] to assume that many organizations have already completed similar projects, but without publishing them in the academic literature.”

We’ve already mentioned startups working on this tech, and it’s not hard to find government regimes that would use it. In countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia homosexuality is still punishable by death; in many other countries, being gay means being hounded, imprisoned, and tortured by the state. Recent reports have spoken of the opening of concentration camps for gay men in the Chechen Republic, so what if someone there decides to make their own AI gaydar, and scan profile pictures from Russian social media?

Here, it becomes clear that the accuracy of systems like Kosinski and Wang’s isn’t really the point. If people believe AI can be used to determine sexual preference, they will use it. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever that we understand the limitations of artificial intelligence, to try and neutralize dangers before they start impacting people. Before we teach machines our prejudices, we need to first teach ourselves.

North Korea Could Test Hydrogen Bomb Over Pacific Ocean, Says Foreign Minister

Original Article

By Joshua Berlinger and Zahra Ullah, CNN

(CNN)North Korea could test a powerful nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean in response to US President Donald Trump’s threats of military action, the country’s foreign minister has warned.

Ri Yong Ho spoke to reporters in New York shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an unprecedented televised statement, accusing Trump of being “mentally deranged.”

The forceful rhetoric from Pyongyang came after Trump threatened to”totally destroy” North Korea in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Trump tweeted Friday that Kim was “obviously a madman” who would be “tested like never before.”
In a rare direct statement delivered straight to camera, Kim said that Trump would “pay dearly” for the threats, and that North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
“I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue,” Kim said. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.”
Kim said Trump’s comments were reflective of “mentally deranged behavior.”
Hours later, Kim’s foreign minister told reporters in New York that Pyongyang could launch a nuclear missile test in response. “This could probably mean the strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Regarding which measures to take, I don’t really know since it is what Kim Jong Un does,” said Ri.

Photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un taken from the front page of state paper Rodong Sinmun on Friday, September 22.

Japan’s defense minister Itsunori Onodera said the country must ready itself for the sudden escalation in tensions and be prepared for a missile launch.
“We cannot deny the possibility it may fly over our country,” Onodera said Thursday. Japan has been subject to two North Korean missile test flyovers in recent weeks.
In response, Trump said on Twitter: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind killing or starving his people, will be tested like never before!”

First-person first?

The phrase “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” could be considered an escalation in the choice of language used, said Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT and expert on deterrence and nuclear policy.
“This is clearly trying to coerce the US into playing ball,” Narang told CNN.
In his first address to the United Nations as US President, Trump said that the US was ready to “totally destroy” North Korea if it was forced to defend its allies, a warning seen as unprecedented for a US president delivering an address to the world’s leaders and top diplomats.
Trump at UN threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea 04:35
Responding to the speech, Kim said Trump’s comments amounted to an insult. “I’d like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world,” Kim said.
A handful of North Korea analysts believe Kim’s response — the first time he has ever released a first-person statement — could show how personally the young leader took Trump’s speech.
“This is unprecedented, as far as we can tell,” Narang said. “It’s written by him, it’s signed by him … He was clearly offended by the speech, and what concerns me most is the response he says he is considering.”
“The message is chilling,” Narang said.
Asked to respond to Kim’s statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN on Thursday night, “Not at this time.”
North Korea was scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly Friday night, but dropped off of its planned roster spot. The country could still get a slot at another time.
Ri Yong Ho: Trump’s threats ‘a dog’s barking’ 00:34

More sanctions

The White House, meanwhile, took the another step in its so-called “peaceful pressure” campaign to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program, expanding sanctions on North Korea and those who do business with the country.
Though the majority of North Korea’s imports come from China, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said “This action is directed at everyone” and the steps are “in no way specifically directed at China.”
The executive order Trump inked just ahead of the lunch enhances Treasury Department authorities to target individuals who provide goods, services or technology to North Korea, Trump said. He said the order would also allow the US to identify new industries — including textiles, fishing and manufacturing — as potential targets for future actions.

The Rise of Genderless Beauty

Original Article

By Ashleigh Austen

Apart from rock stars like Keith Richards wearing eyeliner and footage of the annual Mardi Gras parade, men-wearing-makeup have remained largely under the radar – until now.Yes, gender fluidity has well and truly hit the mainstream, seeing unisex makeup jumping from the stage to the street.

“Boy beauty” has seen male beauty bloggers become gender-fluid muses for the likes of big brands like CoverGirl and Maybelline, not only democratizing the use of makeup but changing the way we talk about gender in the process.

If the millions of social media followers being racked up by the likes of male makeup artists Patrick Starr, Manny Gutierrez and Jeffree Star are anything to go by, then the inclusivity message is being heard loud and clear. But is gender-blending beauty really here to stay?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BS4lI_5AaWb/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A5426.625000000001%7DAccording to a recent report by global market research company Mintel, brands are becoming increasingly aware of the shift in gender barriers (with regards to both sexes,) as being something they need to both cater to and celebrate.

“Consumers are moving away from traditional gender stereotypes, in part driven by the increased visibility of gender diversity. As such, the traditional gender boundaries associated with fashion and beauty trends are becoming progressively blurred,” a spokesperson for the company stated.

Here, the brands we’re giving three big gender-neutral claps for embracing unisex beauty.

Calvin Klein

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNSaQ2-Bhov/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A1%2C%22os%22%3A5437.6900000000005%7DThe original unisex fragrance creators, Calvin Klein launched CK One in 1994 and the light, citrusy, herbaceous scent was a best-seller. Their follow-up, CK2, is a woody, fresh scent making it still the OG androgynous cologne.

ASOS Face + Body

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYxQEmLj0og/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A2%2C%22os%22%3A5443.125%7DNot content with being your go-to for on-trend clothes and accessories, ASOS last week launched an entire collection of inclusive in-house beauty products that all genders and skin tones should feel free to use.

CoverGirl

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLbN-CzAJsz/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A3%2C%22os%22%3A12910.225%7DCoverGirl made worldwide headlines when they announced that a 17-year-old makeup artist from New York, James Charles, would be its first “CoverBoy” – gaining him 2.4 million Instagram followers in the process.

M.A.C

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFbyuKeOOYD/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A4%2C%22os%22%3A12924.01%7DOne of the original supporters of inclusive cosmetics, M.A.C has always proudly stated their products are for all ages, races and sexes. They’ve twice collaborated with model Stephanie Seymour’s sons, Harry and Peter Brant, on a collection of gender-neutral products, which included brow gels, lip stains and eyeshadows.

Maybelline New York

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZRsJDxAClb/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A5%2C%22os%22%3A12937.595000000001%7DEarlier this year Maybelline announced Manny Gutierrez (known as Manny MUA) would front their Big Shot Mascara product launch – making him the first male to ever star in a major campaign for the company.

Rimmel London

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPaoBrugJth/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A6%2C%22os%22%3A18132.085%7DRimmel London joined the ranks of high-profile beauty brands extending their advertising inclusivity to men when they featured 17-year-old British YouTube blogger Lewys Ball in their major campaign.

L’Oreal Paris

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUCbkg2FqNU/embed/?cr=1&v=7&wp=770#%7B%22ci%22%3A7%2C%22os%22%3A18384.195000000003%7DL’Oreal Paris jumped on-board to support the inclusivity cause with their True Match foundation campaign, which featured makeup artist Gary Thompson from The Plastic Boy. Seriously, that highlighter though
.

An Apocalyptic Mass Extinction Will Begin in 2100, Scientists Say

Original Article

By Jasper Hamill

A mass extinction that wipes out humanity will be under way by the year 2100, scientists have claimed.

By the end of the century, it’s feared that so much carbon will have been added to the oceans that the planet will have passed a “threshold of catastrophe” which leads to the destruction of our species.

In the past 540 million years, the planet has endured five such wipeouts — including the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The worst took place 252 million years ago and is known as the Great Dying.

This disaster killed off more than 95 percent of marine life when the seas suddenly became more acidic.

Now geophysicist Professor Daniel Rothman says we are seeing a disturbing parallel today — this time because of man-made global warming.

He came up with a simple mathematical formula that predicts that the oceans will soon hold so much carbon that a mass extinction is inevitable.

It showed the critical extra amount required is about 310 gigatons — which is the best-case scenario projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And it’s well below the worst of more than 500 gigatons — which would far exceed the line.

In all scenarios, the study found that by the end of the century, the carbon cycle will either be close to or well beyond the threshold for catastrophe.

Although mass extinction won’t soon follow at the turn of the century, the world may have tipped into “unknown territory.”

Rothman, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says it would take some time — about 10,000 years — for such ecological disasters to play out.

He said: “This is not saying disaster occurs the next day.

“It’s saying — if left unchecked — the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict.

“In the past this type of behavior is associated with mass extinction.”

In the modern era, CO2 emissions have risen steadily since the 19th century, but deciphering whether this could lead to mass extinction has been challenging.

Humans have emitted 1,540 billion tons of CO2 since the Industrial Revolution — equivalent to burning enough coal to form a square tower 72 feet wide stretching 240,000 miles from Earth to the moon.

Half of these have remained in the atmosphere, causing a rise in levels at least 10 times faster than any known natural increase during Earth’s long history.

Most of the other half has dissolved into the ocean — causing acidification.

Will this lead to the destruction of humanity?

Your grandchildren will probably find out, unless something changes now.

California School Board Will Allow Transgender Books in Elementary School

 

Original Article

Should children in kindergarten be taught about transgender people?

That’s the question at the center of a controversy that erupted in June after a transgender student at Rocklin Academy Gateway, a charter school in northern California, brought the children’s book “I Am Jazz” to school to share with classmates. The book chronicles the life of a real-life transgender girl named Jazz Jennings.

In a Monday night vote after an impassioned, emotional debate, the Rocklin school board decided to keep its current literature policies in place, which allow similar types of books to be read to children during story time. However, the board passed a provision stating that teachers “will endeavor to notify parents in advance of controversial topics being discussed when they are part of the school’s curriculum or a teacher’s lesson plan so that parents can also share their views at home.”

The policy adopted further states, if advance notice is not possible,
teachers will “endeavor to notify parents via email or verbally after the fact.”

Some parents raised objections that they were not notified, while others at the meeting supported the school’s policies and did not object to the reading material.

Wendy Sickler, a parent of two children at the school, said her “concern is that a book that was read was outside the curriculum, and it was a sensitive topic, and the parents weren’t notified.”

Sickler said she’s not opposed to a transgender child being in the classroom.

“I know that our kids are going to be exposed to different lifestyles, and that to me reinforces that they should notify parents,” she said, according to the Sacramento Bee, adding that she thinks that additional changes are needed other than the issues brought before the school board.

According to the newspaper, Beryl Mayne, of Auburn, arrived before the meeting with other members of the LGBT community holding signs that said: “Trans Rights are Human Rights,” “Trans Kids Have Courage” and “Love and Let Love.”

“It’s important tonight to support transgender children. It’s not about me. It’s about transgender children,” Mayne told the Bee.

After the vote, one school board member urged the community to come together and move forward now that a decision had been made.

“Please let this end tonight,” Larry Steiner said, according to the Bee. “We cannot forget Rocklin Academy is a school of choice. The hostility has to end. Let’s bring back our sense of community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

British Supermarket Offers ‘Finger Vein’ Payment In Worldwide First

Original Article

By Katie Morley

A UK supermarket has become the first in the world to let shoppers pay for groceries using just the veins in their fingertips.

Customers at the Costcutter store, at Brunel University in London, can now pay using their unique vein pattern to identify themselves.

The firm behind the technology, Sthaler, has said it is in “serious talks” with other major UK supermarkets to adopt hi-tech finger vein scanners at pay points across thousands of stores.

It works by using infrared to scan people’s finger veinsand then links this unique biometric map to their bank cards. Customers’ bank details are then stored with payment provider Worldpay, in the same way you can store your card details when shopping online. Shoppers can then turn up to the supermarket with nothing on them but their own hands and use it to make payments in just three seconds.

 

It comes as previous studies have found fingerprint recognition, used widely on mobile phones, is vulnerable to being hacked and can be copied even from finger smears left on phone screens.

But Sthaler, the firm behind the technology, claims vein technology is the most secure biometric identification method as it cannot be copied or stolen.

Sthaler said dozens of students were already using the system and it expected 3,000 students out of 13,000 to have signed up by November.

Finger print payments are already used widely at cash points in Poland, Turkey and Japan.

Vein scanners are also used as a way of accessing high-security UK police buildings and authorising internal trading at least one major British investment bank.

The firm is also in discussions with nightclubs, gyms about using the technology to verify membership and even Premier League football clubs to check people have the right access to VIP hospitality areas.

Fingerprint 
Fingerprint technology could be coming to a supermarket near you CREDIT: FABRIZIO BENSC/REUTERS

The technology uses an infrared light to create a detailed map of the vein pattern in your finger. It requires the person to be alive, meaning in the unlikely event a criminal hacks off someone’s finger, it would not work. Sthaler said it take just one minute to sign up to the system initially and, after that, it takes just seconds to place your finger in a scanner each time you reach the supermarket checkout.

Simon Binns, commercial director of Sthaler, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘This makes payments so much easier for customers.

“They don’t need to carry cash or cards. They don’t need to remember a pin number. You just bring yourself. This is the safest form of biometrics. There are no known incidences where this security has been breached.

“When you put your finger in the scanner it checks you are alive, it checks for a pulse, it checks for haemoglobin. ‘Your vein pattern is secure because it is kept on a database in an encrypted form, as binary numbers. No card details are stored with the retailer or ourselves, it is held with Worldpay, in the same way it is when you buy online.”

Nick Telford-Reed, director of technology innovation at Worldpay UK, said: “In our view, finger vein technology has a number of advantages over fingerprint. This deployment of Fingopay in Costcutter branches demonstrates how consumers increasingly want to see their payment methods secure and simple.”

Big Business Wins the Fight for DRM Standards for Video Streaming.

Original Article

By Kate Conger

Photo: Getty

A fight over the future of video streaming has been brewing for years—and it finally came to a head today, with a major electronic privacy organization bowing out of the consortium that sets standards for the web.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) resigned from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today over the W3C’s freshly-released recommendations on protecting copyright in streaming video. W3C, which is directed by the inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee, should be a natural ally of the EFF—but the fight over protecting security researchers who uncover vulnerabilities in video streaming has driven a wedge between the two organizations.

“The whole problem that we have here is this is a super technical, relatively boring, unbelievably important issue. That’s such a horrific toxic cocktail,” Cory Doctorow, the EFF’s advisory committee representative to W3C, told Gizmodo. “The W3C is using its patent pool and moral authority to create a system that’s not about empowering users but controlling users.”

The dispute focuses on Digital Rights Management (DRM), which enables media companies to surveil their consumers and make sure they’re just binge-watching episodes of Game of Thrones, not binge-pirating. (Although DRM is most commonly found in video streaming platforms, it also makes appearances in everything from coffee machines to tractors.) DRM gets legal backing from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a felony for security pros to find and disclose vulnerabilities in DRM.

DRM is usually managed by plugins like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight, but W3C’s recommendations make it possible for DRM to be managed by browsers. The EFF and other organizations wanted browsers that adopt the standard to agree to protect security researchers and not pursue them under the DMCA, but W3C didn’t make that part of the standard—pissing off a bunch of security professionals and open web advocates. It feels cynical and hypocritical for an organization founded on principles of openness to cave to the constraints of DRM and not stick up for researchers and users.

W3C normally makes decisions based on consensus, but switched to a majority-vote system because DRM was so divisive among its members, Doctorow said. CEO Jeff Jaffe called the dispute “one of the most divisive debates in the history of the W3C Community.”

“I know from my conversations that many people are not satisfied with the result,” Jaffe wrote of the recommendations. “And there is reason to respect those who want a better result. But my personal reflection is that we took the appropriate time to have a respectful debate about a complex set of issues and provide a result that will improve the web for its users.”

Doctorow told Gizmodo that he proposed a compromise to protect security researchers from prosecution, but that W3C rejected it. “We will stand down on our views on DRM but you have to promise that you’ll only use DRM law like the DMCA when there is some other cause of action like a copyright infringement,” he explained. That way, if researchers broke DRM only to expose a security flaw, they would be protected. But W3C members like Netflix weren’t interested in discussing a compromise, he said.

“The irony here is that Netflix only exists because they did and continue to do something that outraged the entertainment industry,” Doctorow explained. “The web should have the same standard that you guys had when you were starting. It should be legal to do things that are legal, and if that upsets you you should make a better product or convince Congress to stop it.”

Because of the changes to W3C rules, the EFF lost faith in the process. “We don’t think that there’s any use in throwing our donor’s money, our energy and our limited time at a process where we don’t think the other side carried themselves in good faith,” Doctorow said.

In an open letter explaining EFF’s decision to walk away from W3C, Doctorow wrote: “The business values of those outside the web got important enough, and the values of technologists who built it got disposable enough, that even the wise elders who make our standards voted for something they know to be a fool’s errand.”

In addition to the lack of protections for security research, EFF says the W3C recommendations harm the automation of making video accessible to people with disabilities and archiving the internet.

For their part, W3C members Netflix, Microsoft, Comcast, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America
all praised the decision.

“Integration of DRM into web browsers delivers improved performance, battery life, reliability, security and privacy to users watching their favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix and other video services,” wrote Netflix in a statement. “We can finally say goodbye to third-party plugins, making for a safer and more reliable web.”

New Research Suggest Climate Change Not As Threatening As Previously Thought

Original Article

By Henry Bodkin

the planet than previously thought because scientists got their modelling wrong, a new study has found. New research by British scientists reveals the world is being polluted and warming up less quickly than 10-year-old forecasts predicted, giving countries more time to get a grip on their carbon output.

An unexpected “revolution” in affordable renewable energy has also contributed to the more positive outlook.

Experts now say there is a two-in-three chance of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the ultimate goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Paris climate change deal: Moment agreement announcedParis climate change deal: Moment agreement announced

They also condemned the “overreaction” to the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, announced by Donald Trump in June, saying it is unlikely to make a significant difference.

According to the models used to draw up the agreement, the world ought now to be 1.3 degrees above the mid-19th-Century average, whereas the most recent observations suggest it is actually between 0.9 and 1 degree above.

We’re in the midst of an energy revolution and it’s happening faster than we thoughtProfessor Michael Grubb, University College London

The discrepancy means nations could continue emitting carbon dioxide at the current rate for another 20 years before the target was breached, instead of the three to five predicted by the previous model.

“When you are talking about a budget of 1.5 degrees, then a 0.3 degree difference is a big deal”, said Professor Myles Allen, of Oxford University and one of the authors of the new study.

Published in the journal Nature Geoscience, it suggests that if polluting peaks and then declines to below current levels before 2030 and then continue to drop more sharply, there is a 66 per cent chance of global average temperatures staying below 1.5 degrees.

The goal was yesterday described as “very ambitious” but “physically possible”.

Another reason the climate outlook is less bleak than previously thought is stabilising emissions, particularly in China.

Renewable energy has also enjoyed more use than was predicted.

China has now acquired more than 100 gigawatts of solar cells, 25 per cent of which in the last six months, and in the UK, offshore wind has turned out to cost far less than expected.

Professor Michael Grubb, from University College London, had previously described the goals agreed at Paris in 2015 as “incompatible with democracy”.

Outrage at Trump's withdrawal from Paris climate agreementOutrage at Trump’s withdrawal from Paris climate agreement

But yesterday he said: “We’re in the midst of an energy revolution and it’s happening faster than we thought, which makes it much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on the table at Paris.”

He added that President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement would not be significant because “The White House’s position doesn’t have much impact on US emissions”.

“The smaller constituencies – cities, businesses, states – are just saying they’re getting on with it, partly for carbon reduction, but partly because there’s this energy revolution and they don’t want to be left behind.”

The new research was published as the Met Office announced that a “slowdown” in the rate of global temperature rises reported over roughly the first decade of this century was now over.

The organisation said the slowdown in rising air temperatures between 1999 and 2014 happened as a result of a natural cycle in the Pacific, which led to the ocean circulation speeding up, causing it to pull heat down in the deeper ocean away from the atmosphere.

However, that cycle has now ended.

Claire Perry, the climate change and industry minister, claimed Britain had already demonstrated that tackling climate change and running a strong economy could go “hand in hand”.

“How is the time to build on our strengths and cement our position as a global hub for investment in clean growth,” she said.

 

Light Has Been Stored as Sound For the First Time

Original Article

By Fiona Macdonald

For the first time ever, scientists have stored light-based information as sound waves on a computer chip – something the researchers compare to capturing lightning as thunder.

While that might sound a little strange, this conversion is critical if we ever want to shift from our current, inefficient electronic computers, to light-based computers that move data at the speed of light.

Light-based or photonic computers have the potential to run at least 20 times faster than your laptop, not to mention the fact that they won’t produce heat or suck up energy like existing devices.

This is because they, in theory, would process data in the form of photons instead of electrons.

We say in theory, because, despite companies such as IBM and Intel pursuing light-based computing, the transition is easier said than done.

Coding information into photons is easy enough – we already do that when we send information via optical fibre.

But finding a way for a computer chip to be able to retrieve and process information stored in photons is tough for the one thing that makes light so appealing: it’s too damn fast for existing microchips to read.

This is why light-based information that flies across internet cables is currently converted into slow electrons. But a better alternative would be to slow down the light and convert it into sound.

And that’s exactly what researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia have now done.

“The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain,” said project supervisor Birgit Stiller.

“It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.”

stylised chip designUniversity of Sydney

This means that computers could have the benefits of data delivered by light – high speeds, no heat caused by electronic resistance, and no interference from electromagnetic radiation – but would also be able to slow that data down enough so that computers chips could do something useful with it.

“For [light-based computers] to become a commercial reality, photonic data on the chip needs to be slowed down so that they can be processed, routed, stored and accessed,” said one of the research team, Moritz Merklein.

“This is an important step forward in the field of optical information processing as this concept fulfils all requirements for current and future generation optical communication systems,” added team member Benjamin Eggleton.

The team did this by developing a memory system that accurately transfers between light and sound waves on a photonic microchip – the kind of chip that will be used in light-based computers.

You can see how it works in the animation below:

First, photonic information enters the chip as a pulse of light (yellow), where it interacts with a ‘write’ pulse (blue), producing an acoustic wave that stores the data.

Another pulse of light, called the ‘read’ pulse (blue), then accesses this sound data and transmits as light once more (yellow).

While unimpeded light will pass through the chip in 2 to 3 nanoseconds, once stored as a sound wave, information can remain on the chip for up to 10 nanoseconds, long enough for it to be retrieved and processed.

The fact that the team were able to convert the light into sound waves not only slowed it down, but also made data retrieval more accurate.

And, unlike previous attempts, the system worked across a broad bandwidth.

“Building an acoustic buffer inside a chip improves our ability to control information by several orders of magnitude,” said Merklein.

“Our system is not limited to a narrow bandwidth. So unlike previous systems this allows us to store and retrieve information at multiple wavelengths simultaneously, vastly increasing the efficiency of the device,” added Stiller.

The research has been published in Nature Communications.

 

War With North Korea Starts to Look Inevitable

Original Article

By Gordon G. Chang

“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we could do at the Security Council at this point,” said Nikki Haley on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, referring to North Korea. “We wanted to be responsible and go through all diplomatic means to get their attention first,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said. “If that doesn’t work, General Mattis [Defense Secretary James Mattis] will take care of it.”

The comments, no off-the-cuff remarks, mirrored her words at a White House press briefing Friday, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, standing next to Haley at that briefing, was even more explicit. “I think we ought to make clear what’s different about this approach is, is that we’re out of time,” he noted, referring to sanctions. “As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.”

When senior Trump administration officials talk about the end of diplomacy they raise the prospect of war. But have all measures short of war been exhausted?

CNN’s Barbara Starr reported Saturday, “North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test has renewed discussion at the highest levels of the Trump administration about how military force could be used to stop [North Korean Leader] Kim Jong Un’s development of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.”

The war talk is the result of exasperation by American officials who see that their actions so far have not convinced Kim, the North Korean supremo, to slow down the testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Take Haley’s CNN comment. Even as President Donald Trump, a U.N. skeptic, prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly, many Americans, viewing the nine ineffective sets of sanctions on North Korea since 2006, say the Security Council itself is broken.

But the Security Council is not “broken.” It was never designed to work in an era of disagreement among the five veto-wielding permanent members.

What is not working is the United States. Unfortunately, from administration to administration, American leaders have failed to use all the elements of American power. If China and Russia use their vetoes to frustrate efforts to disarm North Korea—and they do—it is because the United States has not been willing to coerce them into acting responsibly.

With regard to Moscow, recent American policymakers have been more worried about a weak Russia than a strong one. Therefore, they have opted for mild sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s dangerous behavior. Ronald Reagan, at a time when the U.S. was far weaker than it is today and the Soviet Union was far stronger than Russia is now, used American economic might to end the Cold War. Putin today is able to bedevil the U.S. at the Security Council only because Americans are afraid of what happens if they move to take him down.

At the same time, the U.S. has not stopped the People’s Republic of China. Washington has allowed Chinese banks, large and small, to launder money for the North Koreans for decades. Americans reportedly have permitted Chinese leaders to help Pyongyang transfer missiles to the Iranians. The White House did nothing when enterprises connected to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army sold mobile launchers for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. The U.S. has not asked the Chinese, at least in public, how North Korea’s most advanced missiles appear to be derived from China’s Jl-1. And Washington acted as if it did not matter when Chinese businesses allegedly sold uranium hexafluoride, components, and equipment for the Kim regime’s nuclear-weapons program.

No wonder the Chinese feel free to support their North Korean allies. U.S. policymakers, they can see, have been feckless. It is one thing for, say, Liechtenstein to fail to convince Beijing to do the right thing. It is quite another for the United States of America to fail to do so. American policymakers have simply failed to coerce Beijing, failed to leave it no choice but to join in the effort to disarm the Kims.

What can the United States do to China? It can declare its largest banks “primary money-laundering concerns” under Section 311 of the Patriot Act, thereby denying them the ability to transact business in the world’s dominant currency. That would be essentially imposing a death sentence on the Chinese banking system and possibly China’s economy, perhaps the Communist Party itself.

Trump can also remind China’s leaders that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the middle of last month formally initiated, pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, an investigation into Chinese intellectual-property theft. A finding of such theft—virtually assured—can lead to the imposition of high across-the-board tariffs on Chinese goods.

And this month, the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, appears to have driven the renminbi lower, an indication central technocrats are once again “manipulating” their currency as that is defined by U.S. law. That gives Trump another point of leverage.

The Chinese economy, debt-fueled for years, is particularly vulnerable, especially in the run-up to the historic 19th Communist Party Congress, which begins Oct. 18. General Secretary Xi Jinping, who seeks to grab unprecedented power, cannot afford to see a major disruption of relations with the United States at this sensitive time.

The Trump administration, with the series of actions it took in the last week of June, signaled it would move against China for its support for North Korea. For instance, the Treasury Department sawed off Bank of Dandong, a small Chinese financial institution, from the global economy due to its persistent money-laundering. The Chinese, unfortunately, have continued their support for the Norks at the Security Council.

So what should the United States do? It could just give up efforts to disarm Pyongyang, as James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, suggested in widely reported comments to CNN last month. There is an air of defeatism in American policy circles these days.

The assumption among Clapper and others is that the U.S. can deter the North Koreans indefinitely. Perhaps Washington can do that and, at the same time, stop their sale of nuclear-weapons technology to Iran and make sure they do not begin merchandising thermonuclear devices to established weapons customers, some of them terrorist groups.

But perhaps deterrence is not possible. Kim Jong Un, who surely knows what Clapper and others are saying, is obviously defiant these days. And the core goal of the Kim regime—the basis of its legitimacy—is taking over the other Korea, the one governed from Seoul.

Kim, once confident about his nukes and the means to deliver them, will almost surely attempt to use the threat of war to break America’s 64-year-old mutual-defense treaty with South Korea and get America’s 28,500 service personnel off the peninsula. Once he accomplishes that, he surely thinks he can intimidate the South into submission.

Kim has recently been talking about “final victory,” a reference to taking over the South. An overconfident despot could miscalculate and begin a chain of events spiraling into war.

Although Americans are confident in their “overwhelming” capabilities, as Trump’s comments at Joint Base Andrews on Friday indicate, the North Koreans probably do not view it that way. They have long memories and they know they grabbed the Pueblo, an unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance vessel, from international waters in 1968 and held the crew for almost a year, killing one sailor and even getting an apology from the Johnson administration. They no doubt recall they killed 31 Americans when, a year later, they shot down a Navy EC-121. In 1976, they hacked to death two U.S. Army officers in the Demilitarized Zone. In no case, did North Korea pay a price. So Americans do not look especially intimidating to the Kim family.

And although many Americans call Kim “irrational,” would it be crazy for him to think, now, that Washington will not stop him?

War, through miscalculation and misconception, is beginning to look probable, if not inevitable.

LA School District To Try Out Sex-Ed Classes for Fourth Graders.

Original Article

By Antonie Boessenkool

The Los Angeles Unified School District will test new sex education lessons this year for children as young as 9 years old.

Nurse and educator Wendy Sellers is the author of "Puberty: The Wonder Years." (Courtesy photo)
Nurse and educator Wendy Sellers is the author of “Puberty: The Wonder Years.” (Courtesy photo) 

“Puberty: The Wonder Years,” a course authored by renowned health educator and nurse Wendy Sellers, is among the lessons that will be offered to fourth-grade students, as well as those in fifth and sixth grades at a handful of schools.

Why is sex ed necessary for students who are so young? Because ignorance doesn’t help anyone, Sellers said.

“(Students) should be able to learn about the very normal natural changes that happen for everyone as they grow,” she said. When they reach puberty — sooner now than in decades past — students need to be armed with information.

Sellers, who lives in Michigan, says her curriculum of about six to 11 lessons has been used at schools in 27 states. If it’s adopted here on a permanent basis, LAUSD would be the largest school district to use it.

TIME FOR A CHANGE

“Sex education has not changed much over the decades,” Sellers said.

Among the hundreds of teachers she has trained on her curriculum, most told her their own sex education consisted of a video on menstruation for girls in the sixth grade and something separate for the boys in another classroom. It was highly secretive, and not a positive memory.

Sellers said her course aims to change that. It’s also inclusive of LGTBQ identities and doesn’t assume traditional gender roles in describing relationships. There’s no specific lesson to define same-sex relationships, but rather examples of same-sex couples are integrated into lessons, she said.

“Kids are just unflapped by this,” she said. “It’s old people that are having a hard time getting used to it.”

CONTRACEPTION LESSON OPTIONAL

Sellers’ “Puberty” course also promotes delaying sex. But schools can include — in sixth grade — an optional lesson on condoms and contraception.

In LAUSD, teachers will decide whether to use that lesson, said Timothy Kordic, in charge of sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention education for the district.

“We’re not talking about overload. We’re talking about the basics, what kids need to know so they don’t freak out when something happens,” Kordic said of Sellers’ course and others the district is testing out. “We’re sensitive to the idea that this is a sensitive topic.”

Public schools in California can’t teach “abstinence-only” sex ed, according to California’s Education Code. And most kids in middle school are not having sex, he said. So an “abstinence-based” focus is still important.

However, past LAUSD surveys show some middle school students are already having sex. A 2015 report said that among eighth-grade students, 10 percent had had intercourse and 11 percent had had oral sex.

Kordic said LAUSD is testing Sellers’ course, plus a few others for this age group, in anticipation that the district will have a new health textbook in two to three years. The state Board of Education is working on that textbook now, and the district might adopt one of these sex ed courses to augment the textbook, he said.

MODERN RESOURCES ‘DIFFICULT TO FIND’

But the other reason LAUSD is testing out new sex ed courses is to standardize those lessons across the district. Starting in the fourth grade, students get some information on sexuality, and then more is offered in fifth grade, Kordic said.

“It’s also been very difficult to find updated, modern resources for middle school” on sexual education, he said. “Our goal is to have something that’s medically accurate, current and nonbiased.”

Sellers is set to visit Los Angeles at the end of this month to train LAUSD teachers on the curriculum. The district has bought enough teaching sets, with a $24,000 federal grant, to use the curriculum in up to about 50 schools, though 10 or 15 schools are more likely.

It will be up to teachers to go to the training and bring Sellers’ course to their classrooms, Kordic said. Then “Puberty” could be taught in LAUSD schools as soon as October.

Turkey Scraos The Theory of Evolution From Schools Curriculum

Original Article

The theory of evolution and Charles Darwin is being scrapped from school textbooks in Turkey, after the country’s education minister said the topic was “too controversial”.

Students in Turkey are returning to school where they will be taught evolution for the last time in their biology classes.

Next autumn, evolution and Charles Darwin will be scrapped from their textbooks.Turkey has announced an overhaul of more than 170 topics in the country’s school curriculum, including removing all direct references to evolution from biology classes.

Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said the new “value-based” curriculum would teach evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection but evolution itself was too advanced for high school and would not be taught until college.

“We have excluded controversial subjects for students at an age unable yet to understand the issues’ scientific background,” he told a seminar in Ankara in June, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

“As the students at ninth grade are not endowed with antecedents to discuss the ‘Origin of Life and Evolution’ section in biology classes, this section will be delayed until undergraduate study.”

The upcoming changes have caused an uproar, with critics calling them a reshaping of education along the conservative, Islam-oriented government’s line.

Some biologists say the move will leave Turkish students unable to understand even basic science, while other academics pointed out the only other country to exclude evolutionary theory from schools was Saudi Arabia.

Some Muslims, like some Christians, believe in creation, not natural selection. Turkey is majority Muslim, with a constitution that emphasises its secular character.

But a battle has been underway between secular and religious Turks ever since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power. He was elected prime minister in 2003, and president in 2014.

Erdogan’s critics have long accused the president of eating away at the secular pillars of modern Turkey as set up by its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he established the Turkish republic in 1923.

“Destiny 2”: Bungie Explains Why White Supremacist Symbol Was In The Game

Original Article

By Kyle Orland

Earlier this week, when it became clear that a gauntlet in Destiny 2 resembled a “Kekistan” flag design that has been repurposed by neo-Nazis, developer Bungie was quick to apologize and work to remove the item from the game. Now, the developer is using a public blog post to try to explain how the symbol ended up in the game in the first place.

Community Manager David “DeeJ” Dague writes that the gauntlet in question, which features a “kek” symbol that resembles the “Kekistan flag” popularized by 4chan, was originally created by the game’s developers back in June of 2015. Dague says the gauntlet was one of many items in the game that “reference real world art, iconography, typeface, and other design elements” and that “some of the reference imagery featured the simple mirrored chevron shapes found in the finished piece.”

That gauntlet was eventually flagged by an internal Bungie team that reviews content for “cultural, geographical, and other sensitive issues,” Dague writes. “Unfortunately, that review was conducted to explore whether or not we were comfortable with the connection to the original, innocuous ‘kek’ internet meme. The more contemporary, vile derivation that has been repurposed by hate groups was not surfaced through this process, and therefore, the armor was approved for ship.”

As Know Your Meme explains, the “kek” meme did start out as a pretty innocuous replacement for “lol” that started to become popular in games like Starcraft and World of Warcraft more than a decade ago. In recent months, though, the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the meme, and the similarly repurposed Pepe the Frog meme, as “a favorite new way for white nationalists to troll liberals, while spreading their meme-driven strategy.”

Dague is clear in calling the kek imagery in Destiny 2 an oversight and says directly that “we know there was no degree of malicious intent from anyone on our team.” That said, Dague says Bungie isn’t “asking you for the benefit of the doubt. We know we are judged by our actions.” The team is working “to determine how we can more deeply vet our game content to shield us, and our community, from inappropriate imagery,” he added.

“We want everyone to know their identity is welcome in our studio and in the worlds we create. This isn’t merely a platitude, but an official pillar we hold ourselves, and our work to. It is also a clarion call for the type of people we want to bring into our studio to help us make better games.”

This post originated on Ars Technica

Tribal Leaders Urge Yellowstone Park To Change Name

Original Article

By The Associated Press

GARDINER, Mont. – Leaders of Native American tribes gathered this weekend to urge the U.S. government to rename a valley and a mountain in Yellowstone National Park.

They say the names are associated with a man who advocated killing Native Americans and another who did just that.

The tribal leaders delivered a petition Saturday to park officials noting their opposition to the names of Hayden Valley and Mount Doane.

Doane was attached to a U.S. Army cavalry company that participated in a massacre of non-combatant Indians.

Hayden, whose explorations were a key element in the eventual creation of the park, called for exterminating American Indians who wouldn’t become farmers and ranchers.

Israel to Legalize Children Adoption By Same-Sex Families

Original Article

Israel’s government announced on Sunday that it will legalize children adoption by same-sex families by 2018.

Responding to a petition filed to the Supreme Court by same-sex couples, a representative of the State promised to the court that the government will start the legislation of a law to regulate equal adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The petition was filed by the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, a progressive Jewish center.

“We will continue to monitor the legislative process,” Riki Shapira, a lawyer who represented the petitioners, told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site.

“We will insist on the full implementation of the law in an egalitarian manner,” she said.

The recent statement came after in its first response to the court, the State said it will not recognize gay family rights to adopt a child, stating such parenthood might harm the child.

Currently, in Israel, gay people can adopt a child if he or she are over five years old at the time of the adoption or the child was born and legally adopted outside Israel.

North Korea Fired Missile That Flew Over Japan And Landed In Ocean

Original Article 

By Jacob Pramuk

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on “all nations to take new measures” against North Korea after the pariah state launched another missile over Japan on Friday local time.

Tillerson added that “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

“These continued provocations only deepen North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation,” the secretary of state added.

North Korea launched an unidentified missile Thursday that landed in the sea after passing over Japan, the latest escalation as the isolated regime flaunts its nuclear weapon ambitions, according to multiple reports.

The missile was launched from the communist dictatorship’s capital of Pyongyang at about 6:57 a.m. local time Friday headed east, reports said. The projectile passed over Japan before landing in the sea at roughly 7:16 a.m., roughly 2,000 kilometers (about 1,240 miles) east of Japan’s Cape Erimo, according to reports.

South Korea conducted its own missile exercise as Pyongyang fired its missile, taking into account the distance to North Korea’s firing site, according to NBC News.

The United Nations Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. ET on Friday to discuss missile test, diplomats said, at the request of the United States and Japan.

This story is developing. Please check back for further updates.

—Reuters and CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

Liberals Tired of The Alt-Right Taking “The Red Pill”

Original Article

By Elizabeth Ames

The mainstream media failed to see the rise of Donald Trump in 2016. Now it’s overlooking another grassroots movement that may soon be of equal significance— the growing number of liberals “taking the red pill.”  People of all ages and ethnicities are posting YouTube videos describing “red pill moments”—personal awakenings that have caused them to reject leftist narratives imbibed since childhood from friends, teachers, and the news and entertainment media.

You might say that those who take the red pill have been “triggered.” But instead of seeking out “safe spaces,” they’re doing the opposite, posting monologues throwing off the shackles of political correctness.

Their videos can feature the kind of subversiveness that was once a hallmark of the left—before the movement lost its sense of humor.

Candace Owens, a charismatic young African American, posts commentaries on her YouTube channel whose titles seem expressly designed to make PC heads explode.

A sample: “I Don’t Care About Charlottesville, the KKK, or White Supremacy.” The commentary calls out liberal fearmongering over white supremacists. “I mean there are, what, 6,000 Klansmen left in our nation. You want me to actually process that as a legitimate fear every day when I wake up?”

Not insignificantly, her video got nearly 500,000 views and overwhelmingly enthusiastic comments. (“you rock, girl!” “this woman is awesome.”)

A later episode about Black Lives Matter got nearly 700,000 views and had the distinction of being briefly taken down by YouTube. Unapologetic, Owens responded with a follow-up commentary — “What YouTube and Facebook REALLY Think of Black People.”

She declared, “There was only one version of a black person that these platforms are willing to help propel towards fame and notoriety—and that is an angry black victim.”  Owens calls her channel “Red Pill Black.” It invites viewers: “Sick of the alt-left. Welcome, I prescribe red pills.”

The term “taking the red pill” derives from the movie “The Matrix,” the trippy sci-fi classic. Morpheus, the resistance leader played by Laurence Fishburne offers Neo, the movie’s hero played by Keanu Reeves, a choice: He can take the blue pill and remain in the repressive artificial world known as the Matrix where “you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” Or he can take the red pill and tumble down the “rabbit hole” where he will come to realize that everything about his life was a lie.

The left’s intensifying war on free speech has produced a surge of red pill videos. Some take Owens’ in-your-face approach. Others are meandering, hipster confessionals delivered with the wordy earnestness of characters in a Duplass brothers movie.

In his YouTube Channel, Dissent Report, a young, one-time “Bernie Sanders supporting progressive Democrat” admits from behind large sunglasses that he’s made “a pretty hard turn to the right.”

He took the red pill after seeing friends “moving …towards an authoritarian sort of Progressivism.”  He explains, “They were just standing up for a divisive brand of politics that would tolerate no dissent whatsoever.”

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media has largely dismissed the red pill phenomenon. Coverage has mainly stressed the connection to men’s rights activists —the Red Pill forum on Reddit and the documentary, “The Red Pill,” are both about men’s rights. This narrow focus, however, misses the larger story.

Those who have been “red pilled” may start out questioning feminism. But that’s often just the beginning.

A red pill blogger who calls himself “Pat Riarchy” (“also known as the patriarchy”) recalls that his journey down the rabbit hole began when a Facebook friend derisively called him a “cis male.” He came to recognize that, “it’s been one narrative pretty much.”  He concluded, “I have my own objective view…I didn’t want a bigger government. I realized I didn’t like the universal healthcare plan…I realized I didn’t really have an issue with guns.” Several books and discussions later, he emerged as a libertarian.

Red pill bloggers are increasingly characterizing PC culture as a first step on a slippery slope towards authoritarian socialism.

One who articulates this best is Dave Rubin, a married gay man and former left liberal whose show, The Rubin Report, has explored the red pill phenomenon.

In his commentary, “The left is no longer liberal”, he explained his own disillusionment with the “regressive left,” whose “backward ideology” of identity politics “puts the collective ahead of the individual. It loves all of its minority groups to behave as a monolith.

“So if you’re a true individual—meaning you don’t subscribe to the ideas that the groupthink has attributed to you based on those immutable characteristics—you must be cast out.”  Rubin calls this mindset “the biggest threat to freedom and Western civilization that exists today.”

One of his recent guests was Cassie Jaye, producer of the The Red Pill” documentary, which chronicled her personal journey away from feminism.

Jaye had intended to make a feminist film about the men’s rights movement. But her perspective began to change upon interviewing activists, who were anything but the angry women-bashers so often portrayed by the mainstream media. Instead they were men—and also women—concerned about issues such as unfair child custody laws, pregnancy fraud, and even domestic violence.  It turned out that men are also victims of domestic abuse perpetrated by women with surprising frequency.

Jaye’s film met with immediate resistance from radical feminists, who trolled her online while she was fundraising for the film. Her documentary has been largely ignored by most of the mainstream media. But it has had widespread impact on the Internet.

Laci Green, one of YouTube’s best known personalities whose left-leaning videos about sex and gender have an immense following, posted “Taking The Red Pill?”

Green’s relatively tame confession of discomfort with feminists who shut down opposing views, as well as the revelation that she was dating an anti-SJW YouTuber, enraged her fans. They waged an online campaign against her and reportedly “doxxed” her — published her personal information on the internet.

Many who proclaim themselves “red pilled” express a yearning for traditional values. “Pat Riarchy” wants to see a return to an era where comedians can “attack everyone,” not just Trump. “PC culture is going down,” he says. “A lot of people want this to stop.” Kirsten Lauryn, a 20-something hipster sitting amidst empty church pews, worries that,  “A lot of our society has drawn away from religion as an important way of instilling values.” She observes, “The pendulum is swinging back to a more traditional lifestyle. I see this with my generation Generation Z.”

The media has very likely ignored red pilling for the same reason it underestimated support for Donald Trump: An entrenched establishment always resists disrupters, especially those who reject its worldview.

That said, red pill bloggers are not necessarily Trump supporters—in many cases, quite the reverse. What they do share, however, is their questioning of mainstream media tropes.

Not all their videos would pass muster with Reagan conservatives or even libertarians. But, taken together, they give hope to those worried about the future of capitalism and free speech in America.

 

Congress Approves Resolution Condemning White Nationalists

Original Article

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress has approved a resolution condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups following a white-nationalist rally in Virginia that descended into deadly violence.

The resolution recognizes Heather Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12, and 19 other people who were injured after a car allegedly driven by a neo-Nazi slammed into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the rally in Charlottesville. It describes Heyer’s death as a “domestic terrorist attack” and acknowledges two Virginia state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests.

Six senators from both parties, led by both of Virginia’s Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, introduced the measure, which the Senate approved unanimously Monday night. The House approved the joint resolution Tuesday by unanimous consent.

The measure, which now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, urges the Trump administration to speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. It also calls on the Justice Department and other federal agencies to “use all resources available” to improve data collection on hate crimes and “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

Image: Alt-right protesters at the University of Virginia
Alt-right protesters at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Aug. 11. Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Trump has been criticized for his response following the violent white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville over the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Trump asserted that there were good people on “both sides” of the rally and bemoaned rising efforts to remove Confederate monuments as an attack on America’s “history and culture.”

The joint resolution was supported by a range of civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

 

Face Reading A.I. Able To Detect IQ and Views on Politics

Original Article

By Sam Levin

Your photo could soon reveal your political views, says a Stanford professor.

 

Professor whose study suggested technology can detect whether a person is gay or straight says programs will soon reveal traits such as criminal predisposition

Voters have a right to keep their political beliefs private. But according to some researchers, it won’t be long before a computer program can accurately guess whether people are liberal or conservative in an instant. All that will be needed are photos of their faces.

Michal Kosinski – the Stanford University professor who went viral last week for research suggesting that artificial intelligence (AI) can detect whether people are gay or straight based on photos – said sexual orientation was just one of many characteristics that algorithms would be able to predict through facial recognition.

Using photos, AI will be able to identify people’s political views, whether they have high IQs, whether they are predisposed to criminal behavior, whether they have specific personality traits and many other private, personal details that could carry huge social consequences, he said.

Kosinski outlined the extraordinary and sometimes disturbing applications of facial detection technology that he expects to see in the near future, raising complex ethical questions about the erosion of privacy and the possible misuse of AI to target vulnerable people.

“The face is an observable proxy for a wide range of factors, like your life history, your development factors, whether you’re healthy,” he said.

Faces contain a significant amount of information, and using large datasets of photos, sophisticated computer programs can uncover trends and learn how to distinguish key traits with a high rate of accuracy. With Kosinski’s “gaydar” AI, an algorithm used online dating photos to create a program that could correctly identify sexual orientation 91% of the time with men and 83% with women, just by reviewing a handful of photos.

Kosinski’s research is highly controversial, and faced a huge backlash from LGBT rights groups, which argued that the AI was flawed and that anti-LGBT governments could use this type of software to out gay people and persecute them. Kosinski and other researchers, however, have argued that powerful governments and corporations already possess these technological capabilities and that it is vital to expose possible dangers in an effort to push for privacy protections and regulatory safeguards, which have not kept pace with AI.

Kosinski, an assistant professor of organizational behavior, said he was studying links between facial features and political preferences, with preliminary results showing that AI is effective at guessing people’s ideologies based on their faces.

This is probably because political views appear to be heritable, as research has shown, he said. That means political leanings are possibly linked to genetics or developmental factors, which could result in detectable facial differences.

Kosinski said previous studies have found that conservative politicians tend to be more attractive than liberals, possibly because good-looking people have more advantages and an easier time getting ahead in life.

Michal Kosinski.
 Michal Kosinski. Photograph: Lauren Bamford

Kosinski said the AI would perform best for people who are far to the right or left and would be less effective for the large population of voters in the middle. “A high conservative score … would be a very reliable prediction that this guy is conservative.”

Kosinski is also known for his controversial work on psychometric profiling, including using Facebook data to draw inferences about personality. The data firm Cambridge Analytica has used similar tools to target voters in support of Donald Trump’s campaign, sparking debate about the use of personal voter information in campaigns.

Facial recognition may also be used to make inferences about IQ, said Kosinski, suggesting a future in which schools could use the results of facial scans when considering prospective students. This application raises a host of ethical questions, particularly if the AI is purporting to reveal whether certain children are genetically more intelligent, he said: “We should be thinking about what to do to make sure we don’t end up in a world where better genes means a better life.”

Some of Kosinski’s suggestions conjure up the 2002 science-fiction film Minority Report, in which police arrest people before they have committed crimes based on predictions of future murders. The professor argued that certain areas of society already function in a similar way.

He cited school counselors intervening when they observe children who appear to exhibit aggressive behavior. If algorithms could be used to accurately predict which students need help and early support, that could be beneficial, he said. “The technologies sound very dangerous and scary on the surface, but if used properly or ethically, they can really improve our existence.”

There are, however, growing concerns that AI and facial recognition technologies are actually relying on biased data and algorithms and could cause great harm. It is particularly alarming in the context of criminal justice, where machines could make decisions about people’s lives – such as the length of a prison sentence or whether to release someone on bail – based on biased data from a court and policing system that is racially prejudiced at every step.

Kosinski predicted that with a large volume of facial images of an individual, an algorithm could easily detect if that person is a psychopath or has high criminal tendencies. He said this was particularly concerning given that a propensity for crime does not translate to criminal actions: “Even people highly disposed to committing a crime are very unlikely to commit a crime.”

He also cited an example referenced in the Economist – which first reported the sexual orientation study – that nightclubs and sport stadiums could face pressure to scan people’s faces before they enter to detect possible threats of violence.

Kosinski noted that in some ways, this wasn’t much different from human security guards making subjective decisions about people they deem too dangerous-looking to enter.

The law generally considers people’s faces to be “public information”, said Thomas Keenan, professor of environmental design and computer science at the University of Calgary, noting that regulations have not caught up with technology: no law establishes when the use of someone’s face to produce new information rises to the level of privacy invasion.

Keenan said it might take a tragedy to spark reforms, such as a gay youth being beaten to death because bullies used an algorithm to out him: “Now, you’re putting people’s lives at risk.”

Even with AI that makes highly accurate predictions, there is also still a percentage of predictions that will be incorrect.

“You’re going down a very slippery slope,” said Keenan, “if one in 20 or one in a hundred times … you’re going to be dead wrong.”

White Christians Are Now A U.S. Population Minority

Original Article

By Rachel Zoll

The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian has dropped below 50 percent, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

NEW YORK — The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian has dropped below 50 percent, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

Christians overall remain a large majority in the U.S., at nearly 70 percent of Americans. However, white Christians, once predominant in the country’s religious life, now comprise only 43 percent of the population, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, a polling organization based in Washington. Four decades ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians.

The change has occurred across the spectrum of Christian traditions in the U.S., including sharp drops in membership in predominantly white mainline Protestant denominations such as Presbyterians and Lutherans; an increasing Latino presence in the Roman Catholic Church as some non-Hispanic white Catholics leave; and shrinking ranks of white evangelicals, who until recently had been viewed as immune to decline.

The trends identified in the survey are fueling anxiety about the place of Christians in society, especially among evangelicals, alarmed by support for gay marriage and by the increasing share of Americans — about one-quarter — who don’t identify with a faith group. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly promised to protect the religious liberty of Christians, drew 80 percent of votes by white evangelicals, a constituency that remains among his strongest supporters.

About 17 percent of Americans now identify as white evangelical, compared to 23 percent a decade ago, according to the survey. Membership in the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant group, dropped to 15.2 million last year, its lowest number since 1990, according to an analysis by Chuck Kelley, president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The trends identified in the survey are fueling anxiety about the place of Christians in society, especially among evangelicals, alarmed by support for gay marriage and by the increasing share of Americans — about one-quarter — who don’t identify with a faith group.

“So often, white evangelicals have been pointing in judgment to white mainline groups, saying when you have liberal theology you decline,” said Robert Jones, chief executive of PRRI. “I think this data really does challenge that interpretation of linking theological conservatism and growth.”

The PRRI survey of more than 100,000 people was conducted from January 2016 to January of this year and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.4 percentage points. Previous surveys had found that the Protestant majority that shaped the nation’s history had dropped below 50 percent sometime around 2008. The PRRI poll released Wednesday included a more in-depth focus on race and religion. Jones said growth among Latino Christians, and stability in the numbers of African-American Christians, had partly obscured the decline among white Christians.

The survey also found that more than a third of all Republicans say they are white evangelicals, and nearly three-quarter identify as white Christians. By comparison, white Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party, shrinking from 50 percent a decade ago, to 29 percent now. Forty percent of Democrats say they have no religious affiliation.

Among American Catholics, 55 percent now identify as white, compared to 87 percent 25 years ago, amid the growing presence of Latino Catholics, according to the report. Over the last decade, the share of white Catholics in the U.S. population dropped from 16 percent to 11 percent. Over the same period, white mainline Protestants declined from 18 percent to 13 percent of all Americans.

Sen. Feinstein Blasted For Anti-Catholic Bigotry By Notre Dame President

Original Article

By Todd Starnes

The president of the University of Notre Dame said he is deeply concerned after Sen. Dianne Feinstein questioned a colleague’s religious beliefs during a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing.

Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame, was grilled by Democrats over how her Catholic beliefs might influence her decisions from the bench. Barrett was recently nominated by President Trump for a seat on the federal court.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country,” Sen. Feinstein said.

Feinstein has been widely condemned for what many are calling anti-Catholic bigotry and bullying.

“It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge,” Notre Dame President John Jenkins wrote in a public letter to the California lawmaker.

He took great exception to her remark that the “dogma lives loudly” in the professor.

AI Can Determine Sexual Orientation From A Photograph

By Sam Levin
An illustrated depiction of facial analysis technology similar to that used in the experiment.

An algorithm deduced the sexuality of people on a dating site with up to 91% accuracy, raising tricky ethical questions

Artificial intelligence can accurately guess whether people are gay or straight based on photos of their faces, according to new research that suggests machines can have significantly better “gaydar” than humans.

The study from Stanford University – which found that a computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women – has raised questions about the biological origins of sexual orientation, the ethics of facial-detection technology, and the potential for this kind of software to violate people’s privacy or be abused for anti-LGBT purposes.

The machine intelligence tested in the research, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and first reported in the Economist, was based on a sample of more than 35,000 facial images that men and women publicly posted on a US dating website. The researchers, Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang, extracted features from the images using “deep neural networks”, meaning a sophisticated mathematical system that learns to analyze visuals based on a large dataset.

The research found that gay men and women tended to have “gender-atypical” features, expressions and “grooming styles”, essentially meaning gay men appeared more feminine and vice versa. The data also identified certain trends, including that gay men had narrower jaws, longer noses and larger foreheads than straight men, and that gay women had larger jaws and smaller foreheads compared to straight women.

Human judges performed much worse than the algorithm, accurately identifying orientation only 61% of the time for men and 54% for women. When the software reviewed five images per person, it was even more successful – 91% of the time with men and 83% with women. Broadly, that means “faces contain much more information about sexual orientation than can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain”, the authors wrote.

The paper suggested that the findings provide “strong support” for the theory that sexual orientation stems from exposure to certain hormones before birth, meaning people are born gay and being queer is not a choice. The machine’s lower success rate for women also could support the notion that female sexual orientation is more fluid.

While the findings have clear limits when it comes to gender and sexuality – people of color were not included in the study, and there was no consideration of transgender or bisexual people – the implications for artificial intelligence (AI) are vast and alarming. With billions of facial images of people stored on social media sites and in government databases, the researchers suggested that public data could be used to detect people’s sexual orientation without their consent.

It’s easy to imagine spouses using the technology on partners they suspect are closeted, or teenagers using the algorithm on themselves or their peers. More frighteningly, governments that continue to prosecute LGBT people could hypothetically use the technology to out and target populations. That means building this kind of software and publicizing it is itself controversial given concerns that it could encourage harmful applications.

But the authors argued that the technology already exists, and its capabilities are important to expose so that governments and companies can proactively consider privacy risks and the need for safeguards and regulations.

“It’s certainly unsettling. Like any new tool, if it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for ill purposes,” said Nick Rule, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who has published research on the science of gaydar. “If you can start profiling people based on their appearance, then identifying them and doing horrible things to them, that’s really bad.”

Rule argued it was still important to develop and test this technology: “What the authors have done here is to make a very bold statement about how powerful this can be. Now we know that we need protections.”

Kosinski was not immediately available for comment, but after publication of this article on Friday, he spoke to the Guardian about the ethics of the study and implications for LGBT rights. The professor is known for his work with Cambridge University on psychometric profiling, including using Facebook data to make conclusions about personality. Donald Trump’s campaign and Brexit supporters deployed similar tools to target voters, raising concerns about the expanding use of personal data in elections.

In the Stanford study, the authors also noted that artificial intelligence could be used to explore links between facial features and a range of other phenomena, such as political views, psychological conditions or personality.

This type of research further raises concerns about the potential for scenarios like the science-fiction movie Minority Report, in which people can be arrested based solely on the prediction that they will commit a crime.

“AI can tell you anything about anyone with enough data,” said Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, a face recognition company. “The question is as a society, do we want to know?”

Brackeen, who said the Stanford data on sexual orientation was “startlingly correct”, said there needs to be an increased focus on privacy and tools to prevent the misuse of machine learning as it becomes more widespread and advanced.

Rule speculated about AI being used to actively discriminate against people based on a machine’s interpretation of their faces: “We should all be collectively concerned.”

Researchers Reverse the Negative Effects Of Adolescent Marijuana Use

Original Article

Researchers at Western University have found a way to use pharmaceuticals to reverse the negative psychiatric effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. Chronic adolescent marijuana use has previously been linked to the development of psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, in adulthood. But until now, researchers were unsure of what exactly was happening in the brain to cause this to occur.

“What is important about this study is that not only have we identified a specific mechanism in the prefrontal cortex for some of the mental health risks associated with adolescent  use, but we have also identified a mechanism to reverse those risks,” said Steven Laviolette, professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

In a study published online today in Scientific Reports the researchers demonstrate that adolescent THC exposure modulates the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the  region of the brain. The team, led by Laviolette and post-doctoral fellow Justine Renard, looked specifically at GABA because of its previously shown clinical association with .

“GABA is an  and plays a crucial role in regulating the excitatory activity in the frontal cortex, so if you have less GABA, your neuronal systems become hyperactive leading to behavioural changes consistent with schizophrenia,” said Renard.

The study showed that the reduction of GABA as a result of THC exposure in adolescence caused the neurons in adulthood to not only be hyperactive in this part of the brain, but also to be out of synch with each other, demonstrated by abnormal oscillations called ‘gamma’ waves. This loss of GABA in the cortex caused a corresponding hyperactive state in the brain’s dopamine system, which is commonly observed in schizophrenia.

By using drugs to activate GABA in a rat model of schizophrenia, the team was able to reverse the neuronal and behavioural effects of the THC and eliminate the schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Laviolette says this finding is especially important given the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada. “What this could mean is that if you are going to be using marijuana, in a recreational or medicinal way, you can potentially combine it with compounds that boost GABA to block the negative effects of THC.”

The research team says the next steps will examine how combinations of cannabinoid chemicals with compounds that can boost the brains GABA system may serve as more effective and safer treatments for a variety of  disorders, such as addiction, depression and anxiety.

Justice Department Sides With Baker Who Refused To Make Wedding Cake For Gay Couple

Original Article

By Robert Barnes

In a major upcoming Supreme Court case that weighs equal rights with religious liberty, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The Department of Justice on Thursday filed a brief on behalf of baker Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to created a cake to celebrate the marriage of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. Phillips said he doesn’t create wedding cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his religious beliefs.

The government agreed with Phillips that his cakes are a form of expression, and he cannot be compelled to use his talents for something in which he does not believe.

“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote in the brief.

Plaintiff in landmark Supreme Court case says: ‘One person can change the world’
The Post’s Steven Petrow sits down with Jim Obergefell, the main plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, and talks about gay marriage, equality for the transgender community and his late husband John.(Video: Erin Patrick O’Connor/Photo: Maddie McGarvey/The Washington Post)

The DOJ’s decision to support Phillips is the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to rescind Obama administration positions favorable to gay rights and to advance new policies on the issue.

But Louise Melling, the deputy legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couple, said she was taken aback by the filing.

“Even in an administration that has already made its hostility” toward the gay community clear, Melling said, “I find this nothing short of shocking.”

Since taking office, President Trump has moved to block transgender Americans from serving in the military and his Department of Education has done away with guidance to schools on how they should accommodate transgender students.

The DOJ also has taken the stance that gay workers are not entitled to job protections under federal anti-discrimination laws. Since 2015, the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission has taken the opposite stance, saying Title VII, the civil-rights statute that covers workers, protects against bias based on sexual orientation.

Federal courts are split on that issue, and the Supreme Court this term might take up the issue.

Indeed, lawyers for Jameka Evans, who claims she was fired by Georgia Regional Hospital because of her sexual orientation and “nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor,” on Thursday asked justices to take her case.

Citing a 1979 precedent, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected her protection claims.

Taking that case, along with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, would make the coming Supreme Court term the most important for gay rights issues since the justices voted 5 to 4 in 2015 to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

The case of Phillips, a baker in the Denver suburbs, is similar to lawsuits brought elsewhere involving florists, calligraphers and others who say providing services to same-sex weddings would violate their religious beliefs. But these objectors have found little success in the courts, which have ruled that businesses serving the public must comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

Mullins and Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in July 2012, along with Craig’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriages were legal at the time, and then hold a reception in Colorado.

But Phillips refused to discuss the issue, saying his religious beliefs would not allow him to have anything to do with same-sex marriage. He said other bakeries would accommodate them.

The civil rights commission and a Colorado court rejected Phillips’ argument that forcing him to create a cake violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and exercise of religion.

The court said the baker “does not convey a message supporting same-sex marriages merely by abiding by the law.”

143 Million People Could Be Affected In Giant Equifax Data Breach

Original Article

By Sara Ashley O’Brien

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – Equifax says a giant cybersecurity breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country.

Cyber criminals have accessed sensitive information — including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses.

Additionally, Equifax said that credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were exposed, as was “personal identifying information” on roughly 182,000 U.S. customers involved in credit report disputes. Residents in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted.

The breach occurred between mid-May and July, Equifax said. The company said it discovered the hack on July 29.

The data breach is one of the worst ever, by its reach and by the kind of information exposed to the public.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said Equifax chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith.

Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies that track and rates the financial history of U.S. consumers. The companies are supplied with data about loans, loan payments and credit cards, as well as information on everything from child support payments, credit limits, missed rent and utilities payments, addresses and employer history, which all factor into credit scores.

Unlike other data breaches, not all of the people affected by the Equifax breach may be aware that they’re customers of the company. Equifax gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report on the credit activity of individuals to credit reporting agencies, as well as by purchasing public records.

Equifax is mailing notices to people whose credit cards or dispute documents were affected.

It also says that consumers can check to see if they’ve potentially been impacted by submitting their name and the last six digits of their social security number. Users are given a date when they will be enrolled in free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services. Equifax did not immediately reply to CNN Tech’s request for more information about the process.

“This is reason Number 10,000 to check your online bank statements and credit card statements on a regular basis, ideally weekly,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “Bad guys can be very patient, so it’s important to keep an eye out long after this story fades from the headlines.”

How The Transgender Crusade Made Me Rethink My Support For Gay Marriage – Bethany Mandel

Original Article

By Bethany Mandel

Over the course of the last few months, whenever I write or tweet anything, on any topic, I usually receive a caustic social media response about my position on transgenderism. These trolls post links to my tweets about the subject and screenshots, as if showing me my own recent opinion is some sort of gotcha. These individuals even send tweets to my husband and employers, perhaps in hope that they will use their power over me to get my opinion in check with The Approved Position.

One Twitter follower who “favorited” a tweet of mine about my view on transgenderism even received an email from a stranger demanding to know if her decision to “favorite” my tweet meant she agreed with me. I’ve been called every name in the book: hateful, bigoted, transphobic, etc. All for having a belief that was utterly uncontroversial just three years ago: men are born with penises, women are born with vaginas, and, to quote the great Ben Shapiro, facts don’t care about your feelings.

We Are Being Made to Care

Many of my fellow millennial conservatives, out of what they view as courtesy, use the preferred pronoun and name for individuals who identify as transgender. Here is why I won’t: We will be made to care.

The phrase is care of another great conservative thinker, Erick Erickson. He coined it in the midst of the gay marriage debate. During that debate, I was like many of these younger millennial conservatives. I naively thought the issue was merely about gay marriage, and thought “Hey, marriage is great, so let’s just give into the Left’s demands about the redefinition of a cornerstone of our society because not doing so would be bigoted.”

But there was more to the Left’s battle with conservatives than that. It wasn’t just about redefining marriage to these activists; it was also about punishing those who weren’t 100 percent on board, especially religious Christians. The livelihoods and lives of bakers, photographers, farmers, and the CEO of Mozilla were destroyed for not completely adhering to the Thought Police’s demands. These Americans were made to care.

The Trans Police Are Frightening Control Freaks

My colleague Joy Pullmann provided just the latest example last week of how the progressive Left is making the rest of us care about the transgender debate: “Angry parents stampeded a California charter school board meeting Monday after a teacher read her kindergarten class picture books about transgenderism to affirm a gender dysphoric classmate. During the class, parents say, the gender dysphoric boy also switched clothes to look more like a girl in a ‘gender reveal.’ Parents were not notified beforehand of the discussion or the classmate’s psychological condition, and learned about it when their confused kindergarteners arrived home from school that day.”

For Acculturated recently, I gamed out a frightening thought experiment about how parents who decide not to play along with their child’s gender dysphoria could one day be faced with a visit from Child Protective Services.

The Left has shown the totalitarian manner in which it exacts support, or at least silence, from everyday Americans. We’ve seen how lives were destroyed in the wake of the gay marriage debate, how many individuals were shouted down into submission by the side that proclaims itself to be “open-minded” and employed the slogans “No H8” and “Love Wins.” For many conservatives, including myself, the lesson has been learned.

With every tweet aimed at publicizing and shaming my position on transgenderism, the progressive Left is solidifying my decision to call Bruce Jenner by his given name instead of the name he has chosen because of a condition that mental health professionals once took seriously. Playing along with delusions isn’t a kindness to those suffering from other psychological conditions, and it isn’t a kindness for those with gender dysphoria either.

And if we lend credibility to the notion that adults can choose their sex, parents who refuse to allow a child who, just the week before, self-identified as a butterfly to choose her own gender could then be accused of denying their child health care (because many progressive activists view opposite-sex hormones and plastic surgery as health care now).

My answer for those on the Left who ask me “Why do you care what transgender individuals call themselves?” is simply this: because you have made me.

12 Year Old Boy Who Transitioned to Female Changes Mind 2 Years Later

Original Article

By Sarah Young

An Australian schoolboy who decided to transition into a female has changed his mind two years later.

At just 12-years-old, Patrick Mitchell, begged with his mother to begin taking oestrogen hormones after doctors diagnosed him with gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

“You wish you could just change everything about you, you just see any girl and you say I’d kill to be like that”, Mitchell told 60 Minutes.

After heeding advice from professionals who suggested that it was right choice, his mother was fully supportive and Mitchell began to transition.

He grew out his hair and started to take the hormones, which caused his body to grow breasts. But two years on, Mitchell had a change of heart.

In the beginning of 2017, teachers at school began to refer to him as a girl which triggered Mitchell to question if he had made the right decision.

“I began to realise I was actually comfortable in my body. Every day I just felt better,” he told Now To Love.

patrick-mitchell-young-boy.png
Patrick’s mother said he used to dress up in girls clothes (60 Seconds)

As a result, Mitchell confided in his mother and explained that he wanted to transition back into a boy.

“He looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m just not sure that I am a girl’”, his mother explained.

Now, in a bid to revert back to his original body, he has stopped taking his medication and is about to have an operation to remove excess breast tissue in what will be the final stage of his transition.

patrick-mitchell-transition-female.png
At 12-years-old he began taking oestrogen hormones after doctors diagnosed him with gender dysphoria (60 Seconds)

While gender dysphoria is  rare, the number of people being diagnosed with the condition is increasing, due to growing public awareness.

A survey of 10,000 people undertaken in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 1% of the population surveyed was gender variant, to some extent.

If you think you or your child may have gender dysphoria, the NHS suggests seeing your GP who, if necessary, can then refer you to a specialist Gender Identity Clinic (GIC).

Elon Musk: A.I. Battle Is A “Likely Cause” Of WWIII

Original Article

By Brett Molina

Elon Musk says global race for artificial intelligence will cause World War III. Elizabeth Keatinge (@elizkeatinge) has more. Buzz60

A race toward “superiority” between countries over artificial intelligence will be the most likely cause of World War III, warns entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has been outspoken about his fears of AI, urging countries to consider regulations now before the technology becomes more widely used.

The comments were sparked by comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said the country leading the way in AI “will become ruler of the world,” reports news site RT.

“It begins,” said Musk in an earlier tweet ahead of his warning about the potential risks.

“China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science,” Musk wrote in a tweet posted Monday. “Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.”

China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.

In response to a Twitter user, Musk notes the AI itself — not a country’s leader — could spark a major conflict “if it decides that a preemptive strike is most probable path to victory.”

An automated WWIII at that. That’s a worry…

May be initiated not by the country leaders, but one of the AI’s, if it decides that a prepemptive strike is most probable path to victory

Musk has emerged as a critic of AI safety, seeking ways for governments to regulate the technology before it gets out of control. Last month, Musk warned fears over the security of AIare more risky than the threat of nuclear war from North Korea.

In July, during the National Governors Association meeting, Musk pushed states to consider new rules for AI.

“AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation than reactive,” said Musk.

Robert E. Lee Decendant/Denouncer Quits N.C. Pastorship After “Hurtful” Reaction to VMA’s Speech

Highlights from the 2017 VMAs
From Kendrick Lamar winning video of the year to emotional speeches on the violence in Charlottesville, here are the highlights from MTV’s Video Music Awards.(Courtesy of MTV)

He was the great-great-great-great-nephew of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, and he felt it was his moral duty to speak out against his ancestor, “an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate.” He said as much when he took the microphone near the end of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, when he introduced himself by a familiar-sounding name: Robert Lee IV.

Lee’s speech at the VMAs on Aug. 27 followed the glitz and glam of red carpets and all-star performances by the likes of Lorde and Ed Sheeran. But his appearance quickly caught Internet fame as among the night’s most memorable. As he appeared before the cameras, Lee stood in stark contrast to the sleek, geometric set behind him, dressed simply in a black cleric’s shirt and collar. Soon he would introduce Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer had been killed 15 days before, after being mowed down by a car as she protested white supremacy in Charlottesville.

“My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville,” he said. “We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.

“Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.

“We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs.”

On Monday, Lee announced he would be leaving his church — Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, N.C.  In his statement, published on the website of the Auburn Theological Seminary, Lee wrote that while he did have congregants who supported his freedom of speech, many resented the attention the church received after the VMAs.

“A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work,” he wrote, adding that his “church’s reaction was deeply hurtful.” Lee wrote that he never sought the kind of attention that has followed him since the protests in Charlottesville last month, even while his visibility as a religious leader and staunch opponent of Confederate memorials garnered international recognition, a turn of events no doubt fueled by his namesake. (Technically, he’s an “indirect” rather than a “direct” descendant.)


Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Google Maps)

Lee did not describe specific responses he received from congregants. But the comments section on an article about his VMA speech in the Winston-Salem Journal gives some sense of the backlash. One commenter wrote that there was “no way” Lee was a Christian and that “it seems anybody that wants to protect our country is a racist, or white supremacist. … It’s a sin to use your position to name-call and judge.”

Another commenter wrote that rather than appear on television, Lee should devote his time to ministering: “You have how many faithful members? Maybe if you spent more time around the church that number would increase.”

[Gen. Robert E. Lee is his namesake ancestor. On Sunday, he’ll preach about the evils of racism.]

In an Aug. 18 interview with BBC News, Lee argued that statues of his ancestor honor white supremacy and endorse a system in which it is acceptable to be racist in America. He pointed to the complete lack of markers to fascists in Europe following World War II as evidence that there is a way to “remember your history and not commemorate it.” Lee talked of how he had spoken with a descendant of a slave owned by the Lee family, describing his heartbreak over hearing the firsthand experiences of those “hurt and oppressed by statues.”

Lee has spoken openly about how he arrived at his own conclusions about his lineage, saying he has at once felt pride in the fact that Lee family members signed the Declaration of Independence and shame over Robert E. Lee’s leadership over the Confederacy. In one NPR interview, he spoke of how he was often given mixed messages on whether the elder Lee was a proponent of slavery or states’ rights.

From his pulpit, Lee implored his parishioners to condemn the racism swirling around them, insisting they would be doing the church wrong if they remained silent.

“It’s not the message that we’re used to hearing from our pulpits. But maybe now is the time to start having those messages,” Lee said in the NPR interview.

In his first appointment out of seminary, Lee has been the pastor of Bethany Church since April, according to the church’s website. The church was founded in a log meeting house around 1789 and is one of the oldest Reformed churches in North Carolina, having been originally founded as a “union effort of persons of Reformed and Lutheran faith.” The church’s website still listed Lee as its pastor as of early Tuesday.

The United Church of Christ has been known for its liberal views, given its support for social justice issues. For instance, it has called on the Washington Redskins to change its name.

A graduate of Appalachian State University and Duke University Divinity School, Lee is the author of “Stained-Glass Millennials”— a book about the relationship between millennials and institutional church — and is a regular columnist for the Statesville Record & Landmark, which has covered Iredell County, N.C., for more than a century. Lee did not return requests for an interview Monday night.

In an Aug. 31 column for the newspaper, Lee emphasized the “cost of discipleship,” particularly when condemning hate.

“I wish I could say it was easy to speak up and speak out in God’s name,” Lee wrote in the column. “But it wasn’t.”

Story and headline was updated to reflect the fact that while Lee calls himself a descendant, he’s an indirect descendant.

The S-Word: How Young Americans Fell In Love With Socialism

Original Article

By Chris McGreal

At 18, Olivia Katbi was answering the phones and emails in a Republican state senator’s office in Ohio. Then the legislator threw his weight behind a particularly contentious anti-abortion law. “I realised that the party I’m working for is evil. After that I identified as a Democrat but I wasn’t really happy with their policies either,” said Katbi, now 25.

Back then, she couldn’t articulate her reservations about President Barack Obama. There were the drone strikes, and the limitations of his healthcare reforms. But mostly it was a frustrating sense he wasn’t serving her interests so much as those of a monied elite. So in the 2012 presidential election, Katbi voted for Jill Stein, the Green party candidate. But that didn’t change the world.

It was only last year, when Bernie Sanders made his run under the banner of democratic socialism, that it all started to fall into place.

“My politics were to the left of the Democratic party but I didn’t realise there was an entire ideology, an entire movement that was there. It had never occurred to me,” said Katbi. “Bernie was my introduction to the concept of democratic socialism. It’s not like I associated it with the cold war. It was a new concept to me completely. That was the case for a lot of millennials, which is why the movement has grown so much.”

Katbi, who works at an organization helping to settle immigrants and refugees in Portland, Oregon, became “socialist curious”. She joined the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a rapidly growing big-tent movement that has drawn in former communists and fired up millennials. The DSA is now the largest socialist organization in the US as surging membership, which has quadrupled since the election to around 25,000, has breathed new life into a once dormant group. New branches have sprung up, from Montana to Texas and New York. Earlier this month, hundreds of delegates gathered in Chicago for the only DSA convention in years to attract attention.

Part of its membership veers toward Scandavian-style social democracy of universal healthcare and welfare nets. Others embrace more traditional socialism of large-scale public ownership. But the label has been taken up by other millennials who do not identify with any particular political institution. They come at it through protest movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter, fueled by frustration at the Democratic party’s failure to take seriously the deepening disillusionment with capitalism, income inequality and the corporate capture of the US government.

With that has come debate not only about pay, housing and proposals for universal basic income, but a reappraisal of the role of the government in people’s lives in favor of greater state intervention.

According to recent polling, a majority of Americans adults under the age of 30 now reject capitalism, although that does not translate into automatic support for socialism. For Katbi, though, the path is clear. Six months after the election, she is leaving Sanders behind. “I really don’t like saying that Bernie was my gateway to socialism, just because I feel like I’m more left than him now, and I also think there’s a very bizarre cult of personality around Bernie,” she said.

Ask what socialism is, and Katbi looks to the campaign by the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in this year’s British election.

“I really liked Labour’s succinct tagline: for the many, not the few. That’s a great summary of what socialism is. It’s democratic control of the society we live in. That includes universal healthcare. Universal education. Public housing. Public control of energy resources. State ownership of banks. That’s what I understand socialism to be when I heard Bernie Sanders introduce it,” she said.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses the crowd at Glastonbury Festival.
 Jeremy Corbyn addresses the crowd at Glastonbury Festival. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Labour’s manifesto caught the attention of young leftwing activists in the US because, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign platform, it laid out a clear set of ideas they could identify with. Some in the DSA are also finding common cause with Momentum, the leftwing British grassroots organisation formed in 2015 to back Corbyn which in turn has drawn inspiration from Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.

“The people I’m friends with who don’t identify as socialist are definitely supportive of certain socialist policies, like single-payer healthcare,” said Katbi. “Everyone has student loan debt and everyone’s rents are exorbitant and everyone’s paying like $300-a-month premiums for Obamacare. It’s common sense for people my age.”

The alarm created at the prospect of millions of people losing their coverage while millions more see their health insurance premiums surge has pushed the new breed of democratic socialists to embrace universal healthcare as the gateway issue to bring large numbers of Americans, including a lot of Trump voters, around to the idea that government regulation can work for them.


Americans who came of age during the cold war saw socialism being characterized as the close cousin of Soviet communism, and state-run healthcare as a first step to the gulags. There are still those attempting to keep the old scare stories alive.

It was the old cold war warriors who helped detoxify socialism for younger Americans when the Tea Party and Fox News painted Obama – a president who recapitalised the banks without saving the homes of families in foreclosure – as a socialist for his relatively modest changes to the healthcare system.

Then came Sanders.

“With the Bernie phenomenon, suddenly you’re able to utter the S-word in public,” said Nick Caleb, 35, a long time leftwing activist who joined the DSA shortly after the election, as membership of its Portland branch surged.

Bernie Sanders supporters hold a sign in Los Angeles during the 2016 election campaign.
 Bernie Sanders supporters hold a sign in Los Angeles during the 2016 election campaign. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Caleb said that even before Sanders ran, the Occupy Wall Street movement had prompted a scrutiny of capitalism. “Occupy Wall Street happened and there was a broader debate about what capitalism was, and we started to highlight the pieces of it that were most awful. So there was an articulation of what capitalism was, and then it meant someone had to define what socialism means, and we sort of left that space open,” he said.

At the heart of the ideas flooding into that space is a debate about the role of the state after decades of conservatives painting government as oppressive and a burden keeping good Americans down.

The campaign over healthcare, the anger sparked by the rapaciousness of big banks bailed out by the taxpayer, and a belief that only the state has the strength to reverse deepening inequality is breathing new life into the old idea that the government is there to control capitalism, rather than capitalism controlling the government.

If that takes hold among a wider group of millennials, it will represent a seismic shift in the way many Americans think about the pre-eminent role of the state and capitalism in their lives.

To an older generation of leftwing activists, that sounds a lot like the New Deal – President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold attempt to remake the American economic system and rein in the forces of capitalism in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Works Progress Administration, which provided jobs to millions made unemployed by economic collapse, was at one time the single largest employer in the country. A raft of legislation addressed pay, working conditions and housing. Roosevelt also introduced banking regulation that stayed in place until the 1990s. Roosevelt saw the reforms as laying the foundations for the kind of social democratic society the US helped build in western Europe after the second world war.

“Young people who say that they’re socialists, or look favourably on socialism, they’re thinking about a kind of New Deal government or democracy against markets,” said Frances Fox Piven, coauthor of a widely debated radical plan in the 1960s to alleviate poverty and create a basic income, and more recently the targetof a vilification campaign by Fox News.

“What the New Deal represented was government efforts to regulate an unbridled capitalism and to supplement the distribution of income under markets with government programs.”

Piven, a City University of New York professor, sees a shift in thinking among some younger Americans reflecting a time before politicians conflated democracy with the free market and government with private business.

“The New Deal is the clearest and boldest period in the wake of real collapse in capitalist markets. You could just call it economic democracy,” she said. “What they got right was the imperative of regulating the economy. That development was cut short by the second world war and the urgency with which the government turned to big business to cooperate in the war effort and gave a lot of licence to big business. It stopped the New Deal in its tracks.”

After that came the red scare, McCarthyism and the rise of global corporations. Still, President Lyndon B Johnson built on the New Deal’s legacy in the 1960s with his “war on poverty” and “great society” programs expanding welfare, greatly reducing the number of people living in poverty, and establishing Medicaid and Medicare – America’s system of public health insurance for the very poor and the elderly.

Then came Reagan revolution and the Democrats’ embrace of neoliberalism.

The New Deal still lingers in the American consciousness. Not so the once bouyant Socialist Party of America, long faded from popular memory. A century ago, socialists were routinely elected to public office in the US and the party’s presidential candidate drew close to a million votes in the 1912 and 1920 elections.

There are few socialists elected to public office in the US today. The most prominent is Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party, who won a seat on Seattle’s city council in 2013 and drove through an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. She was re-elected two years ago promising a tax on the rich in a state with no income tax. In July, the city council unanimously passed a 2.25% city tax on people earning more than $250,000 a year, although there will be no windfall from the Amazon and Microsoft billionaires who live outside its boundaries.

Protesters with ‘We are the 99%’ placard during Occupy Wall Street.
 Protesters demonstrate during Occupy Wall Street. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

Sawant has few illusions about why the measure passed. She describes the Democratic party majority on the council as beholden to corporate interests whose hand was forced by the popular mood. Sawant also suspects that other council members are counting on the courts to strike down the new tax. But that the vote happened at all is evidence of the political shift under way.

Sawant is a Marxist who wants to see industry taken into public ownership or worker cooperatives. But she recognises that there’s a long way to go before Americans are ready for that. Still, she sees opportunity in what she calls an “amazing change in the consciousness of America”.

“We are in a fundamentally new period. The Occupy movement really took people by surprise. They realized there was something different going on here. The younger generation of America was not going to be another docile generation waiting for their little piece of the American dream, partly because that little piece of the American dream wasn’t going to come to them because of the crisis capitalism is in,” she said.

“I, for one, am elated, actually elated, at the starting point where people are angry at corporate politics, angry at neo-liberalism, angry at austerity. This is a massive cauldron and this is historic.”


One challenge for the new breed of social democrats and socialists is to find the vehicle to electoral success. In the UK, the Labour party is the official opposition, with socialist antecedents Corbyn is attempting to revive. Today’s American socialists are split on whether to revive a New Deal-style Democratic party or forge a new organisation. The DSA has for now decided against becoming a political party.

A recently elected member of Chicago city council, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, argued that the Democratic party offered a path to single-payer healthcare and $15-an-hour minimum wage because so many people vote for it as a default. But Caleb is sceptical. He thought for a short while that the Democrats might learn the lessons of Sanders’ campaign and Clinton’s defeat to back away from neoliberalism.

“I was somewhat hopeful after the election that the Democrats would get the memo but it’s obvious the party’s not going to change. They’ll make minor concessions but they’re tied to Silicon Valley. They had a chance to make an abrupt change and they haven’t done it,” he said. “They can’t think of anything but a market solution with tax credits and things like that. The Democratic party couldn’t even reconstitute a platform like the New Deal.”

Piven, meanwhile, said the two party system smothered real debate about the issues most people care about. She said protest movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter – as well as the Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration and the mass protests over the Muslim ban – forced issues on to the political agenda.

One of the bigger obstacles to broadening support for real socialism in America may not be so much specific policies – although there will be a lot of people doubtful about the DSA’s proposals to abolish police forces and prisons – so much as perceptions of who is now a socialist.

“I want to dispel the reputation of socialism that it’s a bunch of white men talking about theory,” said Katbi. “People are hesitant to join because they’re like, is it a bunch of Bernie bros? The implication is it’s a bunch of white men yelling about Marx. It’s not.”

The “brocialist” label has given added impetus to a drive for more diversity. “In DSA we’ve been very intentional about building a movement that is diverse,” said Katbi. “Amplifying the voices of women and people of color and people who have previously been oppressed. Everything we do, we do it with that in mind.”

That has created its own tensions amid debate about how much focus should be put on class. “Every day you see debates around what should be emphasized,” said Caleb. “Is it a class discussion? Is it an identity discussion?”

Attempts to paint millennials as beholden to identity politics is more than unfair given the Clinton campaign’s assumption that young women like Katbi would automatically vote for a female presidential candidate who claimed she was going to blast through the glass ceiling. Instead, Katbi’s support went to an old white man on the basis of his ideas.

Still, Piven sees lessons in the legacy of the civil rights movement. “There’s a certain amount of discrediting of the identity politics developments that have seemed to dominate the left over the last few decades, but maybe these developments were in a way necessary,” she said. “How could there have been a black civil rights movement without identity politics? Blacks were so disparaged, so dehumanized by American political culture that you had to first have a ‘black is beautiful’ cultural and intellectual and political current. I think the same thing is true of the women’s movement. But if we stay just with identity politics then we can’t grapple with the class forces that are producing the system of stratification and oppression in the United States.”

That means winning over the large numbers of low-income working people who voted for Trump, a task complicated by the sense that the left is dominated by identity politics.

“We won’t be able to build a mass movement for any of the social democratic reforms, let alone for a fundamental shift toward socialism, if we don’t create an opening for those many people who voted for Trump,” said Sawant. “It is extremely important for the left in America to build movements that accomplish a dual task. One is never compromise on the question of oppression – but at the same time reaching the vast majority of working people on a class basis.”

Sawant is not alone in thinking that the entry point is healthcare. She points to packed town hall meetings Sanders has had in West Virginia since the election.

“Who are these people? White people who have been beaten down with entrenched intergenerational poverty and who are desperately looking for a solution. Sanders reached out to them by talking about healthcare, living wages, the need to tax Wall Street and billionaires who have wrought such havoc on their lives. I didn’t see any resistance from those people. I didn’t see anybody saying it was black people or gay people who are responsible for their misery,” she said.

“It would be a fatal mistake not to recognise that there is a whole mass of white working-class people in America who can be won over.”

Katbi recognises that’s a task made even more challenging by Americans’ famed individualism. “There’s a lot of polarisation. I know of people my age who are ardent Trump supporters who are very about individualism, about libertarianism, to an extent. But I think when you really start to think about these things, it’s clear that’s just selfishness and socialism is about the collective good versus hoarding it all for yourself,” she said.

 

Anti-LGBTQ+ Pastor Adds TV Screen Outside His Harlem, Manhatten Church To Air Sermons

Original Article

By Ayana Harry

HARLEM, Manhattan — A controversial Harlem pastor known for his anti-gay sentiments added a TV to the message board outside his church so his sermons can be seen and heard by pedestrians.

James David Manning, pastor of  Atlah World Missionary Church, came under fire in recent years after he posted messages implying that people who support LGBT individuals should be “cursed” with cancer, HIV, syphilis, stroke and madness. He’s now hoping to use the TV to get his message out in a new way.

“It ain’t going nowhere,” Manning said about the TV. “They don’t have the right to tell me how to preach.”

Pastor Manning noted that a picture is worth a thousand words and, in a neighborhood that’s rapidly changing, it’s important for him to stand his ground and share his message.

“The TV gives an opportunity to do live and living color,” he said.

But residents have begged the pastor to take the messages down.

“Some of the message that you see here are disturbing,” said Isseu Campbell, a local who walks by the church every day. “I think it should be a positive place with positive energy.”

Los Angeles Cancels Columbus Day

Original Article

Columbus Day is no more in the nation’s second-largest city.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 on Wednesday to officially mark the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day on the city’s calendar — a day to commemorate “indigenous, aboriginal and native people.” The day will remain a paid holiday for city employees, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The vote followed a contentious hearing, during which some Italian-Americans said the switch would eradicate a key portion of their history, while others argued that city lawmakers needed to “dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples” and dismissed the idea of celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day on a different date altogether.

“To make us celebrate on any other day would be a further injustice,” said Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of Oklahoma’s Wyandotte Nation tribe, had pushed for the change, saying Wednesday that the move would provide “restorative justice.” In a blog post prior to the vote earlier this week, O’Farrell said the “historical record is unambiguous in documenting the horrors” Christopher Columbus and his men imposed on the native people in present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O’Farrell -Getty Images

“Removing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day is the appropriate action for this city to take,” O’Farrell wrote. “We must send a signal to Washington D.C. that there is no better day to honor our original inhabitants while highlighting the absurdity of celebrating a historical figure responsible for such profound suffering, still felt by generations of Indigenous People everywhere. This is more than symbolic. It is spiritually and morally necessary.”

Councilman Joe Buscaino, a first-generation Italian-American, suggested replacing Columbus Day with a new name to celebrate “all of the diverse cultures in the city” before being the lone city lawmaker to oppose the switch, asking fellow councilors not to “cure one offense with another.”

With the change, Los Angeles joins a growing list of places that have already replaced Columbus Day — first recognized as a federal holiday in 1937 — with Indigenous Peoples Day, including Alaska, Vermont, Seattle, Albuquerque, San Francisco and Denver. Most recently, the Bangor City Council in Maine voted to rename the holiday, the Bangor Daily News reports

Google Threatens Conservative Website With Taking Away Ad Revenue Unless It Takes Down It’s “Hateful” Post.

Original Article

By Tyler O’Neil

On Tuesday evening, Google sent a conservative website an ultimatum: remove one of your articles, or lose the ability to make ad revenue on your website. The website was strong-armed into removing the content, and then warned that the page was “just an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of this website.”

“Yesterday morning, we received a very bizarre letter from Google issuing us an ultimatum,” Shane Trejo, media relations director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Michigan, wrote on The Liberty Conservative. “Either we were to remove a particular article or see all of our ad revenues choked off in an instant. This is the newest method that Big Brother is using to enforce thought control.”

The ultimatum came in the form of an email from Google’s ad placement service AdSense. The email specifically listed an article on The Liberty Conservative’s site, stating that the article violated AdSense’s policies.

“As stated in our program policies, Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain content that: Threatens or advocates harm on oneself or others; Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals; Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization,” the email stated.

The email warned The Liberty Conservative that it must either remove ads from that page, or “modify or remove the violating content to meet our AdSense policies.”

“Please be aware that if additional violations are accrued, ad serving may be disabled to the website listed above,” the AdSense email warned. “Please be aware that the URL above is just an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of this website or other sites that you own.”

Trejo argued that the article Google specified “contained no offensive content.” Rather, it “was merely distinguishing the many differences between the alt-right and literal Nazis.”

The Liberty Conservative writer suggested that the article was singled out because it was written by former Liberty Conservative contributor James Allsup. Allsup was involved in the “Unite the Right” riot (which Trejo described as a “rally-turned-riot”) in Charlottesville, Va. Trejo said the article was targeted because “it was authored by a man deemed to be an ‘unperson’ by the corporate elite.”

“Due to financial constraints, we had to comply with Google’s strong-arming tactics for the time being,” Trejo admitted. “An independent publisher such as The Liberty Conservative needs revenue from the Google ad platform in order to survive.”

 

Despite this necessary surrender, The Liberty Conservative writer remained optimistic. “We look forward to the day where rival ad platforms who respect the intellectual freedom of their customers can outcompete Google, but those days have not arrived yet,” he wrote. “These tech companies have us all by the short hairs, and post-Charlottesville, they are all working in unison to enforce the Orwellian nightmare. Nobody is safe.”

Chillingly, Trejo called on “all conservatives and libertarians” to “realize that the Orwellian nightmare enforced by private hands is just as harmful to human freedom as if the dystopia was enforced by the hands of government commissars. The results will be the same, as freedom of expression will be sacrificed to the God of political correctness.”

This was not the first time The Liberty Conservative faced censorship, Trejo added. “In the past, Facebook banned users from sharing content immediately after they posted our controversial article criticizing a ‘libertarian’ Washington D.C. thinktank official who denigrated Ron Paul,” he wrote. But this was the first time the site faced demonetization.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Google was targeting critics in academia and journalism. The company has come under fire for firing senior software engineer James Damore after he published a controversial memo inside the company. Ironically, he accused Google of being an “ideological echo chamber,” and his dismissal arguably proved his point.

Following the riots in Charlottesville, one website in particular became notorious for its hateful attack on Heather Heyer, who died in the riots. Daily Stormer was a white supremacist, neo-Nazi website, and its article was genuinely hateful, so the web hosting company GoDaddy gave the site a 24-hour notice before removing the site from the Internet. Google later announced that it would cancel the domain registration, removing the possibility of Daily Stormer remaining on the Internet.

Daily Stormer was legitimately hateful, but its removal from the Internet can set off a slippery slope of Internet blacklisting, which has arguably already begun. Google’s ultimatum to The Liberty Conservative may be the next step in that direction.

If Trejo is correct, and the article in question was targeted merely because of its author rather than for any particular “hatred”-inciting content, AdSense’s threat violated its own policies — unless the very name of a Charlottesville rioter is to be considered “discriminatory” speech towards minorities.

Daily Stormer was disgusting, and because The Liberty Conservative article has been removed from the Internet, PJ Media could not ascertain whether it was legitimately offensive. But even if it was, these attacks set a dangerous precedent.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a cash cow that uses its coffers to slander mainstream conservative and Christian organizations as “hate groups.” The SPLC began by tracking real hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and black nationalist groups, but later it added mainstream groups to its list.

The SPLC publishes a list of “hate groups” — along with a “hate map” — that lists Christian organizations like D. James Kennedy Ministriesthe Family Research Council (FRC)Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association (AFA), and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), along with other groups like the American College of Pediatricians and the Center for Immigration Studies. It also lists Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist.”

This matters because in the summer of 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins III broke into the FRC, aiming to murder everyone in the building. Corkins later pled guilty to committing an act of terrorism and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. During an FBI interrogation, the shooter said he targeted FRC because it was listed as an “anti-gay group” on the SPLC website.

The man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), James Hodgkinson, also “liked” the SPLC on Facebook, and the SPLC repeatedly attacked Scalise.

Since the events in Charlottesville, the SPLC has received wide support. George Clooney and his wife Amal pledged $1 million to the group, and J.P. Morgan pledged $500,000. Apple CEO Tim Cook was even more generous, announcing his company would give $1 million to the SPLC, that it would match any donations from employees, and that it would set up a system in iTunes software to let consumers directly donate to the organization.

CNN broadcast the SPLC’s “hate map” on its website and Twitter account this month (with the FRC still marked on the map). In June, the charity navigation website GuideStar adopted the SPLC “hate group” list, marking each profile of the targeted organizations as a “hate group.” ABC and NBC parroted the SPLC’s “hate group” label against Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) last month.

If Google is targeting websites with any connection to white supremacists, in order to take them off the Internet after Charlottesville, and Apple and CNN are partnering with the SPLC to tar mainstream conservative, Christian, and anti-Islamist groups as on par with the KKK, it is not a stretch to think that Google might start targeting mainstream sites next.

Should Google, Apple, and GoDaddy decide to “fight hate” by following the SPLC and abolishing all of its “hate groups” from the Internet, the Left would effectively silence the Right overnight.

The Liberty Conservative is not National Review, but it’s not Daily Stormer, either.

Many turn to the words of Lutheran Minister Martin Niemöller, who warned in the time of the Holocaust, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.” Then they came for other groups, and he did not speak out. But: “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

First they came for Daily Stormer. Then they came for The Liberty Conservative. Then they came for the Family Research Council. LGBT activists speak openly about “punishing the wicked,” by which they mean anyone who refuses to take part in a same-sex wedding.

Internet blacklisting should scare any American who loves free speech. Every American should speak up about websites being removed from the Internet, because once tech companies start “fighting hate,” it doesn’t end with Daily Stormer or even The Liberty Conservative. The SPLC won’t let it end there. Americans must speak up, or their views might be next on the blacklist.

“I Do… Until I Don’t” Movie Review

By Mary Jenkins

Ed Helms and Lake Bell play documentary subjects Noah and Alice, whose marriage may be headed for a seven-year ditch, in the comedy I Do … Until I Don’t.

The Film Arcade

The manipulative British filmmaker seems to have come to the right place. Fresh from her own bitter breakup, Vivian (Dolly Wells) arrives in Florida in search of couples who are about to split. She has an assistant/cameraperson, Mel (Connie Shin), and a thesis: Marriage should last for only seven years, with an option to renew.

Vivian also has a title for her planned film on the topic: I Do… Until I Don’t. That title also belongs, of course, to the movie about the film. It’s the second writer-director-star vehicle for Lake Bell, whose 2013 film In a World … is one of the sharpest Hollywood comedies of the decade. This follow-up has its moments but is considerably less winning.

Bell plays Alice, whose union with Noah (Ed Helms) is beset by two of the big marital perils: money and procreation. The couple’s blinds store is on the verge of bankruptcy, and four years of attempted baby-making has not yielded a child. (Bell, mother of two preschoolers, has packed the movie with pregnancy and child-rearing material.) A fan of Vivian’s previous documentary, Tween Jungle, Alice is eager to be in the next one. Noah is not, but agrees when he is led to believe, fraudulently, that the couple will be paid to participate.

As a contrast to Alice and Noah’s bourgeois quagmire, Vivian will also document Fanny and Alexander (Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac), the happiest twosome ever named after an Ingmar Bergman flick. Their blissful hippie existence is unencumbered by marital vows and fidelity; they’re known to be polyamorous. Fanny also happens to be Alice’s younger, infinitely hipper sister. One more couple is needed, and Vivian is thrilled to encounter bickering Harvey and Cybil (Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen) in a diner. Cybil broods about the emotional distance of her grown daughter from her first marriage, while the unfulfilled Harvey has turned to motorcycling as an escape. Like a cartoon character, he sometimes keeps his helmet on indoors.

Much of the movie sputters, in part because timid, repressed Alice doesn’t hold the screen the way Bell’s punchier In a World… alter ego did. (The characterization is based on her mother, Bell has said.) With seven main roles and several flimsy subplots, I Do… lacks focus and drive. The unifying figure is Vivian, but she’s a shallow caricature whose faults don’t add up to either a compelling villain or a significant critique of documentary filmmaking. Aside from Vivian’s brazen pursuit of her own agenda, the principal cinematic in-joke is the lousiness of Mel’s camerawork, which we see in inserts of interviews with the three couples.

The liveliest of the principals are Reiser and Steenburgen, consistently funny even if working from a script that doesn’t exactly specify why their marriage is so troubled. Also droll is Chauntae Pink as a massage-parlor owner in a misjudged sequence that — while necessary to introduce two of the characters — doesn’t provide anything close to a happy ending. The movie’s last act actually works, largely because Bell picks up the pace and brings all the major players together. The final developments are agreeably manic, if a little too sweet. In her previous movie, Bell lampooned the movie biz from a gently feminist perspective, but this time, she takes the side of conventional domesticity. I Do… Until I Don’t may be a fine title for Vivian’s film. But Bell’s would be more aptly called I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

Hundreds Of Christian Leaders Renounce The So-Called “Nashville Statement”

Original Article

By Antonia Blumberg

A day after evangelical leaders released a manifesto railing against same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community, hundreds of Christian leaders and thousands of other concerned citizens have come forward with strong messages of inclusion.

“WE AFFIRM that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work,” expressed one statement, titled “Christians United,” signed by over 300 religious leaders, educators and activists from all major Christian denominations.

“We stand in solidarity with LGBTQ folks, and commit to standing alongside them in the work of resisting those who persecute them,” read a statement released by The Liturgists, a faith-based artists’ collective that produces a popular podcast by the same name.

The affirmations were a response to Tuesday’s “Nashville Statement” by a coalition of over 150 evangelical leaders. The document not only doubles down on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman but also asserts that God created two distinct sexes, that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful and that LGBTQ-affirming people can’t call themselves Christians.

“There are many ‘evangelicals’ who are trying to convince other evangelicals that homosexual immorality is a special case,” wrote Denny Burk, one of the architects of the Nashville Statement, in a defense of the document. “Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.”

The divisive and bizarrely-timed statement drew harsh criticism from many other Christiansmembers of the LGBTQ community and even the mayor of Nashville

“Yet again, powerful people of means use the platform of the Church to demean the basic dignity of gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, intersex, and queer people,” asserted The Liturgists’ statement, which had garnered over 3,500 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. It continued:

This isn’t new. “Biblical” morality has been used to justify slavery, resistance to interracial marriage, genocide, and war. The scope of the Bible’s narrative allows a broad interpretation of what is right and moral, and both the church and society at large have moved toward universal justice and acceptance on issues once thought to be “crystal clear.”

It’s high time Christians heard from a different moral authority on queer identity, said Brandan Robertson, a pastor and LGBTQ activist who drafted the “Christians United.”

“Conservative evangelicals often get the most air time, polluting the image of Christianity as one that is exclusive, condemning, and archaic,” Robertson told HuffPost. “The reality is that there is a rapidly growing wave of Christians around the world that embrace an inclusive, unifying, healing message, and that’s what I had hoped to portray in this statement.”

Americans, overall, including members of all U.S. Christian affiliations, are becoming increasingly accepting of the LGBTQ community. Several Christian denominations, including the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have affirmed same-sex marriage in recent years.

But LGBTQ people still face daily violence and discrimination. One recent report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that more LGBTQ people were killed this year in hate-related crimes by the beginning of August than in all of 2016.

“Personal beliefs about human sexuality have life-or-death consequences in our world,” wrote The Liturgists. “The social and systemic persecution of LGBTQ people creates real harm: limited and lost employment, physical assault, discrimination, depression, and suicide. This is not of God.”

The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior vice president of Auburn Seminary, called on faith leaders across the U.S. religious landscape to denounce the “Nashville Statement” and show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“Yesterday’s ‘Nashville Statement’ weaponizes Christianity to attack the rights and lives of LGBTQ people,” he wrote in a statement. “We ask that all leaders of faith and moral courage embrace and build an inclusive loving worldview, united in one belief: We are all God’s children, each deserving dignity and love.”

 

Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen Did Open His Church As Shelter For Hurricane Flee-ers Because No One Asked.

Original Article

By Rafi Schwartz

After finally opening the doors to his massive Lakewood megachurch on Tuesday, pastor Joel Osteen spent his Wednesday morning doing interviews on a string of morning shows to defend his decision to delay sheltering Houstonians fleeing Hurricane Harvey.

“We’re all about helping people. This is what our church is all about,” Osteen insisted on the Today show.

 

“I think if people were here, they would realize there were safety issues. This building had flooded before, so we were just being precautions, he added. “But the main thing is the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter then.”

Osteen’s apology tour comes after days of intense criticism following his initial offer of “prayers” for those affected by the massive storm system. Osteen originally claimed that his massive, 16,000 capacity megachurch was “inaccessible due to severe flooding”—a charge seemingly refuted by social media users who posted multiple pictures of a relatively sedate landscape around the facility.

 

By the time Osteen announced that Lakewood would soon open its doors, at least four Houston-area mosques had already transformed themselves into 24-hour relief shelters.

“This is an obligation, a religious obligation to help others,” Islamic Society of Greater Houston president M.J. Khan said told Mic.com. “When you give, you don’t give only to your own family. … You give to anybody who needs help.”

Mic’s Anna Swartz later tweeted that the decision to turn the mosques into shelters was done entirely without city request.

 

A representative for the Houston Mayor’s office pushed back on criticism of Osteen’s delayed decision, telling BuzzFeed News:

We are appalled that your organization is trying to give Lakewood Church a bad reputation. We appreciate all the help we can get from all of our great partners across the city.

However, even Osteen seemed to understand that it all looked very bad. “I’m sure we’d have done something differently,” he told the Today show, after blaming social media for the “false narrative” surrounding his decision.

Which isn’t to say he would have necessarily acted on that regret.

“I mean, think of the story if we housed a whole bunch of evacuees and the building flooded,” Osteen said. “That wouldn’t have been a good story.”

According to NBC News, the Lakewood megachurch is currently sheltering approximately 300 people.

Best Buy Apologizes For “Disaster Capitalism”

Original Article

By Matt Novak

An elderly woman leaves her home and is helped into a boat after flooding caused by heavy rain during Hurricane Harvey August 29, 2017 in the Bear Creek neighborhood in west Houston, Texas (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Did you see those packs of water being sold at a Best Buy store in Houston for as much as $42 per pack? The photos went viral as an example of predatory price-gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But the company is now apologizing and saying it was all a big misunderstanding. Meanwhile, CNBC doesn’t think that disaster capitalism is such a big deal.

There have been over 550 complaints so far about price gouging on everything from food to gasoline. According to the Texas Attorney General, the price gouging has included hotel prices quadrupling, fuel for as much as $10 per gallon, and cases of water being sold for $99.

But Best Buy was recently singled out on social media when a tweet showed that some packs were being sold at a Houston location for $29 while other cases of water were $42. People were disgusted, to say the least.

 

“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” a Best Buy spokesperson told CNBC.

“As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again,” the statement continued.

“Not as an excuse but as an explanation, we don’t typically sell cases of water. The mistake was made when employees priced a case of water using the single-bottle price for each bottle in the case,” the spokesperson from Best Buy concluded.

The penalty for price gouging in Texas is a fine of up to $20,000 per infraction. And if the victim is over the age of 65, the fine is up to $250,000. So while Best Buy contends that it was all an honest mistake, they have a legal responsibility not to price gouge during a disaster. That’s the law in Texas.

But amazingly, a host from CNBC acknowledged that while it might be immoral to overcharge during a crisis, he still wondered if the law should be enforced. CNBC had the Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, on their network this week and asked why businesses shouldn’t be allowed to charge whatever they want, even after a natural disaster.

“Attorney General, clearly all of us would be agreed that it’s a moral issue to try and oversell necessities at a time of crisis. Is it and should it be a legal issue as well?” the CNBC host asked. “Surely it’s up to the seller to sell their product at the price they wish, even if morally clearly at this time they shouldn’t be overcharging for necessities.”

The Attorney General shot back that the law is in place for a reason and that he was going to enforce it.

“Well, clearly the Texas legislature thought differently, because they were the ones who put the penalties in place. It’s up to $20,000 per occurrence and if you do this to somebody 65 and older it’s $250,000 per occurrence,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

“So, of course, our legislature, signed by a governor many years ago, clearly didn’t want during natural disasters the necessities to be jacked up in price,” Paxton continued. “So that was a decision that they made and we’re enforcing it.”

It’s incredible that anyone could ask whether selling $100 cases of water is actually good in the middle of this disaster like this, but here we are. Nothing, not even the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, should apparently get in the way of making a buck.

[CNBC]

Correction: This post originally misstated one of the prices for the packs of water. I regret the error.

Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Music Video Being Hailed As “Petty” By Critics

Original Article

By Maeve McDermott

Less than two weeks into her Reputation era, Taylor Swift has never been more exhausting.

After a week-long buildup, Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do video premiered at the VMAs Sunday night — stealing the spotlight from host Katy Perry, whose history with Swift continues to be exhausting. Directed by her favorite visual collaborator, Joseph Kahn — whose previous videos for the star haven’t always nailed the right tone — the macabre clip plays out a meta revenge fantasy that casts Swift as an evil overlord, gazing down as a writhing mass of her former personas claw to her pedestal.

The video is full of Easter eggs and hidden messages that critics have feverishly unpacked in the hours since its release. Most notably, it ends with a line of former Taylors, wearing hyper-specific outfits from her past performances and music videos, lobbing increasingly on-the-nose insults at one another, as one Taylor sneers, “There she goes, playing the victim again.”

Trouble is, while those past Taylor Swifts that she symbolically kills off in the video weren’t perfect, at least they were centered around more than just a lust for revenge, which seems to be the only defining characteristic about Swift’s Reputation phase thus far. They played the guitarThey wore costumesinsilly music videos. They danced with Tom Hiddleston at the Met Gala.

Not seen in the video was a representation of the Taylor Swift that advocated for sexual assault victims in court last month, which many fans hoped would signal a new direction for the star. It’s hard not to wonder whether that version was also purged to make way for this new Taylor Swift, whose only discernible qualities are a drawer full of receipts and a penchant for Blackout-era Britney Spears. As Swift declares in the video, she’s always had a reputation for playing the victim. But now, that pettiness, that used to exist as part of a multifaceted artist, is all she has.

The Look What You Made Me Do video is Swift’s attempt at self-awareness, full of Easter eggs intended to prove to the viewer that Swift hasn’t forgotten all the nasty things people have said about her over the years. Unfortunately for Swift, simply commenting on her soured reputation does not a cultural critique make.

Yes, there’s some enjoyment for Swift fans in watching the singer skewer the many media narratives that dominated her past few years. But, watching Swift equate her “squad” of friends to plastic mannequins and spoof poor Tom Hiddleston with a line of dancers wearing a play on his infamous “I heart T-Swift” shirt, viewers have to wonder whether these figures would’ve preferred to be excluded from the video’s narrative.

While Swift may change her adversarial tone in her forthcoming singles prior to Reputation’s release on Nov. 10, she’s certainly signaling with the Look video that she’s not quite finished lashing out at her enemies. That’s a shame, considering that prior to Look’s release, there was hope that Swift’s forthcoming era would strike a different tone.

Swift took a much-needed year away from the spotlight last year after a series of wildly dumb tabloid dramas, including lashing out against Perry with her Bad Blood single and video, tussling with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian over Famous, and the humiliating saga that was Hiddleswift. Looking back, these headlines will all-but-overshadow her actual 1989album in the Swiftian history books. Too bad that 1989 is an infinitely better work of pop music than Look, a dull new single that cheapens the work of an artist who was once among her generation’s best songwriters.

After disappearing for much of 2016 and 2017, Swift returned for her successful trial against radio DJ David Mueller, where a jury concluded that he  groped the singer during a meet-and-greet. Swift thanked her fans and recognized her privilege in a statement after the trial, before pledging to donate to organizations supporting sexual assault victims, signaling that a more mature and meaningful era for the singer may be on the horizon.

Fast forward to this week, when Swift is being accused of mocking Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery with a scene in the Look video where she pantomimes shooting a gun while buried in jewels in a bathtub. Considering Kardashian was bound at gunpoint in a bathtub while being robbed of her diamonds, the video’s allusion is clueless at best, and merciless at worst, a microcosm of Swift’s Reputation era thus far.

While Swift may direct Look What You Made Me Do at an intentionally-vague “you,” blaming her villainous transformation on an unidentified target, the only person responsible for her regrettable new persona is herself.

AMC Show ‘Preacher’ Upsets Viewers With Jesus Sex Scene

Original Article

By Fox News

Preacher

 (© 2017 AMC Networks Entertainment LLC. and Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

The latest episode of AMC’s “Preacher” has some people incredibly upset thanks to a graphic scene depicting Jesus Christ having sex on the night of The Last Supper.

The AMC drama is based on a comic book about a modern-day Preacher who is losing his faith and encountering many different demonic entities and monsters. In the second episode of Season 2, which aired Monday, the main character goes on a hunt to find a literal relative of Christ. However, it’s the way the episode opened that has many very upset and offended.

The first seven minutes of the episode, titled “Dirty Little Secret,” depicts Jesus and a woman having sex, speaking graphically about various acts and showing the two’s various positions in silhouette. Later, he tells her to keep it a secret before saying that he’s got to go off to do something for his father. It later becomes clear that this is the night that Jesus would be eventually crucified.

“Depicting Jesus in a grotesque sex scene is an assault on the sensibilities of all Christians, as well as people of good will who are not Christians,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue in a statement. “We have been treated to this kind of fare from some pay-per-view channels, but we are not accustomed to AMC getting into the mud. If this is a signal of what it aspires to become, we will rally Christians against it.”

Donohue linked to a scathing report from NewsBusters that broke down the episode’s infamous scene as well. In addition, some fans took to social media to express their outrage at the episode and AMC.

the use of dirty little secret in preacher is making me uncomfortable also is tyson literally playing jesus i can’t

— alexis (@wafflflower) August 22, 2017

Petition to Label “Antifa” As A Terror Group Gains 300,000 Signatures

Original Article

By Dylan Stableford

new petition calling on the Trump administration to formally recognize the so-called antifa as a “terrorist organization” has generated nearly 300,000 signatures in a week — well beyond the threshold that is supposed to trigger a formal response from the White House. But there’s been no indication under President Trump that it will.

The petition, created by last week in the wake of the violent clashes between white supremacists and antifascists in Charlottesville, Va., argues that the group’s tactics are akin to ISIS:

Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims”. This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. AntiFa has earned this title due to its violent actions in multiple cities and their influence in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States. It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions – and just as they rightfully declared ISIS a terror group, they must declare AntiFa a terror group – on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety.

At a campaign rally in Phoenix earlier this week, Trump himself referred to the masked antifascist protesters by name.

“You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything,” the president told the crowd. “Antifa!”

Related: Outside Trump’s rally, bikers, antifa, police, protesters and pepper spray

The State Department maintains a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)that are designated by the secretary of state. There are currently 61, including ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

The petition to add antifa to that list has more than 290,000 signatures — nearly triple the number it needed by Sept. 16 to get “an official response.”

The digital platform, which was created in 2011 under President Barack Obama, drew nearly half a million petitions during his presidency. And the Obama White House answered many of them, including a petition to forgive student loan debt, a call for Obama to pardon Edward Snowden and, most memorably, a plea for the federal government to begin construction on a Death Star, the galactic superweapon featured in the “Star Wars” film franchise.

“The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” Paul Shawcross, a White House science and technology adviser, replied in a statement. “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?”

But the Trump administration has yet to respond to any of the 10 other petitions that have crossed the 100,000 threshold.

petition calling on the Trump administration to immediately release the president’s tax returns, launched on the day of Trump’s inauguration, crossed that mark a day later. It now has more than a million signatures.

Another petition, also launched on Inauguration Day, demands that Trump “divest his financial and business holdings or have them administered by a truly blind trust.” That one has 350,000 signatures. A petition urging the administration to preserve the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities received more than 200,000 signatures.

And one calling on Trump to resign because he is “in violation of the Emoluments Clause” — which some Constitutional lawyers have argued — also breezed past the 100,000-signature mark.

Police use pepper spray to disperse protesters
Police use pepper spray to disperse protesters outside of President Trump’s rally in Phoenix on Tuesday. (Photo: Laura Segall/AFP/Getty Images)
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It’s Going Down, a website that bills itself as “a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements,” called the idea of labeling antifa a terror group “absurd.”

“We see this petition as a part of a political campaign to criminalize dissent,” a spokesperson for the website wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “It is insidious accusation that anti-fascism is ‘terrorism’ given the number of actual murders, mass casualty incidents and violence white supremacists are directly responsible for.”

“To lump ISIS in with anti-fascism in the same sentence as if anti-fascists are not actively fighting ISIS in Syria is an intentional effort to conflate two polar opposite efforts,” the spokesperson added. “Anti-fascists see ISIS and the alt-right as two sides of the same fascism.”

On-Field Prayer Made by Christian Football Coach Ruled Unprotected by the Constitution

Original Article

By Maura Dolan

A Christian football coach suspended for kneeling and praying on the 50-yard line after high school games Wednesday lost a bid to be reinstated and allowed to worship in front of students.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that Bremerton, Wash., High School football coach Joseph A. Kennedy was serving as a public employee when he prayed in front of students and parents immediately after games, and the school had the right to discipline him.

The Bremerton School District, located in Kitsap County across Puget Sound from Seattle, serves about 5,057 religiously diverse students, the court said.

Kennedy, an assistant football coach there from 2008 to 2015, led students and coaching staff in locker-room prayers before and after most games and also prayed on the 50-yard line after games.

Students eventually joined him in the prayers on the field, and he gave motivational speeches with religious content, the court said.

The school district objected, saying its employees could not publicly endorse a religion, and Kennedy asked for a religious exemption under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The school said he could pray on the 50-yard line after students and parents had left. Kennedy did this for a while, but eventually renewed his postgame practice of praying before people left.

Kennedy’s religious activities gained media attention, and a Satanist group said it too wanted to pray on the football field.

The district eventually suspended Kennedy with pay and did not rehire him when his contract expired.

Kennedy charged in his lawsuit that the school violated his 1st Amendment rights.

Disagreeing, the 9th Circuit panel said the fact that Kennedy insisted on praying in front of students and parents showed his speech was directed at least in part to others, not solely to God.

“When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the fifty-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected,” wrote the 9th Circuit, upholding a decision by a district court judge.

America, Home of the Transactional Marriage

Original Article

By Victor Tan Chen

Over the last several decades, the proportion of Americans who get married has greatly diminished—a development known as well to those who lament marriage’s decline as those who take issue with it as an institution. But a development that’s much newer is that the demographic now leading the shift away from tradition is Americans without college degrees—who just a few decades ago were much more likely to be married by the age of 30 than college graduates were.

Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference. The marriage gap for men has changed less over the years, but there the trend lines have flipped too: Twenty-five percent of men with high-school degrees or less education have never married, compared to 23 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees and 14 percent of those with advanced degrees. Meanwhile, divorce rates have continued to rise among the less educated, while staying more or less steady for college graduates in recent decades.

The divide in the timing of childbirth is even starker. Fewer than one in 10mothers with a bachelor’s degree are unmarried at the time of their child’s birth, compared to six out of 10 mothers with a high-school degree. The share of such births has risen dramatically in recent decades among less educated mothers, even as it has barely budged for those who finished college. (There are noticeable differences between races, but among those with less education, out-of-wedlock births have become much more common among white and nonwhite peoplealike.)

Plummeting rates of marriage and rising rates of out-of-wedlock births among the less educated have been linked to growing levels of income inequality. More generally, these numbers are causes for concern, since—even though marriage is hardly a cure-all—children living in married households tend to do better on a wide range of behavioral and academic measures compared to kids raised by single parents or, for that matter, the kids of parents who live together but are unmarried.

Whether this can be attributed to marriage itself is a contentious question among researchers, since some studies suggest that what really drives these disparities is simply that those who are likeliest to marry differ from those who don’t, notably in terms of earnings. (Other studies, however, find better outcomes for the kids of married parents regardless of the advantages those households tend to have.) Regardless, it is clear that having married parents usually means a child will get more in the way of time, money, and guidance from their parents.

Why are those with less education—the working class—entering into, and staying in, traditional family arrangements in smaller and smaller numbers? Some tend to stress that the cultural values of the less educated have changed, and there is some truth to that. But what’s at the core of those changes is a larger shift: The disappearance of good jobs for people with less education has made it harder for them to start, and sustain, relationships.

What’s more, the U.S.’s relatively meager safety net makes the cost of being unemployed even steeper than it is in other industrialized countries—which prompts many Americans to view the decision to stay married with a jobless partner in more transactional, economic terms. And this isn’t only because of the financial ramifications of losing a job, but, in a country that puts such a premium on individual achievement, the emotional and psychological consequences as well. Even when it comes to private matters of love and lifestyle, the broader social structure—the state of the economy, the availability of good jobs, and so on—matters a great deal.

* * *

Earlier this year, the economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson analyzed labor markets during the 1990s and 2000s—a period when America’s manufacturing sector was losing jobs, as companies steadily moved production overseas or automated it with computers and robots. Because the manufacturing sector has historically paid high wages to people with little education, the disappearance of these sorts of jobs has been devastating to working-class families, especially the men among them, who still outnumber women on assembly lines.

Autor, Dorn, and Hanson found that in places where the number of factory jobs shrank, women were less likely to get married. They also tended to have fewer children, though the share of children born to unmarried parents, and living in poverty, grew. What was producing these trends, the researchers argue, was the rising number of men who could no longer provide in the ways they once did, making them less attractive as partners. Furthermore, many men in these communities became no longer available, sometimes winding up in the military or dying from alcohol or drug abuse. (It’s important to point out that this study and similar research on employment and marriage focus on opposite-sex marriages, and a different dynamic may be at work among same-sex couples, who tend to be more educated.)

In doing research for a book about workers’ experiences of being unemployed for long periods, I saw how people who once had good jobs became, over time, “unmarriageable.” I talked to many people without jobs, men in particular, who said that dating, much less marrying or moving in with someone, was no longer a viable option: Who would take a chance on them if they couldn’t provide anything?

And for those already in serious relationships, the loss of a job can be devastating in its own way. One man I met, a 51-year-old who used to work at a car plant in Detroit, had been unemployed on and off for three years. (As is standard in sociology, my interviewees were promised confidentiality.) Over that period, his marriage fell apart. “I’ve got no money and now she’s got a job,” he told me. “All credibility is out the tubes when you can’t pay the bills.” The reason his wife started cheating on him and eventually left him, he said, was that “a man came up with money.”

His loss of “credibility” wasn’t just about earnings. He worried that, like his wife, his two young kids looked down on him. He’d always been working before; now they wondered why he was always home. In his own mind, being out of work for so long had made him less of a man. “It’s kinda tough when you can’t pay the bills, you know. So I have been going through a lot of depression lately,” he told me. Unemployment makes you unable to “be who you are, or who you once were,” he added, and that state of mind probably didn’t him make an appealing person to live with.

The theory that a lack of job opportunities makes marriageable men harder to find was first posed by the sociologist William Julius Wilson in regard to a specific population: poor, city-dwelling African Americans. (Disclosure: Wilson was my advisor in graduate school.) In later decades of the last century, rates of crime, joblessness, poverty, and single parenthood soared in cities across the country. Many conservatives blamed these trends on a “culture of poverty” that perpetuated indolence, apathy, and instant gratification across generations. Some, such as the political scientist Charles Murray, argued that federal assistance programs made these communities dependent on outside help and discouraged marriage.

Many liberals criticized these “cultural” explanations, pointing out that, among other things, the inflation-adjusted value of welfare and other benefits had been falling over this period—which meant overly generous government aid was unlikely to be the culprit. In a 1987 book, Wilson put forward a compelling alternative explanation: Low-income black men were not marrying because they could no longer find good jobs. Manufacturers had fled cities, taking with them the jobs that workers with less in the way of education—disproportionately, in this case, African Americans—had relied on to support their families. The result was predictable. When work disappeared, people coped as best they could, but many families and communities frayed.

Decades later, the same storyline is playing out across the country, in both white and nonwhite communities, the research of Autor, Dorn, and Hanson (as well as others) suggests. The factory jobs that retreated from American cities, moving to suburbs and then the even lower-cost South, have now left the country altogether or been automated away.

The predicament of today’s working class is no longer just about the decline in manufacturing jobs. A study last year by the sociologists Andrew Cherlin, David Ribar, and Suzumi Yasutake found that in places with relatively large disparities in earnings, parents were more likely to have at least one child outside of marriage. Part of the reason, the researchers concluded, was that these highly unequal areas had little in the way of jobs that paid well and that high-school graduates could get—not just factory jobs, but also lower-level office and sales jobs. What have replaced jobs like that are, for the most part, low-wage service jobs as janitors, restaurant workers, and the like. “The kinds of jobs a man could hold for a career have diminished,” the sociologists wrote, “and more of the remaining jobs have a temporary ‘stopgap’ character—casual, short-term, and not part of a career strategy.” The result: As many men’s jobs have disappeared or worsened in quality, women see those men as a riskier investment.

At the same time, they are not necessarily postponing when they have kids. As the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas have found in interviews with low-income mothers, many see having children as an essential part of life, and one that they aren’t willing to put off until they’re older, when the probability of complications in pregnancy can increase. For mothers-to-be from more financially stable backgrounds, the calculation is different: They often wait longer to have children, since their career prospects and earnings are likely to improve during the period when they might otherwise have been raising a child. For less-educated women, such an improvement is much rarer.

One wrinkle to the marriageable-man theory has to do with the role cultural norms—whether it’s socially acceptable not to marry, or to have kids outside of marriage—play in people’s decisions about starting a family. A study released earlier this year, by the economists Melissa Kearney and Riley Wilson, looked at a scenario that was the opposite of what Autor and his co-authors examined: What happens when men’s wages increase? Do men become more marriageable in women’s eyes, and do out-of-wedlock births decline? Kearney and Wilson compared marriage and childbirth rates in areas that had seen a bump in wages and the number of jobs (thanks to fracking booms) to the rates in areas that hadn’t. They found that, contrary to what the marriageable-man theory would predict, areas where fracking boosted wages did not see an uptick in marriages. The number of children born to married couples rose, though births to unmarried parents also increased somewhat.

How do these findings square with those of Autor, Dorn, and Hanson? The authors of the fracking study suggest that the disappearance of good jobs could well have played a crucial role in an initial turn away from marriage, as well as childbirth within marriage. But what had taken over since then, they speculate, was a new set of social expectations: Over several decades, Americans have come to view marriage as less of a necessity, and more of an ideal, and this shift has continued into recent years. Now that singlehood and out-of-wedlock childbirth have shed a degree of social stigma, the theory suggests, an increase in men’s incomes won’t revive norms that have already faded away.

As evidence of how social standards have changed, Kearney and Wilson describe how people living in Appalachian coal-mining communities responded in a quite different way to a similar economic boom in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, spikes in income led to dramatic increases in marriage and the proportion of births within marriage—the very things that apparently have failed to resurge in today’s boomtowns. The way that most couples decide matters of marriage and children nowadays, Kearney and Wilson argue, has taken on a momentum of its own, one that short-term improvements in the economy won’t easily redirect.

This model may seem to focus unduly on men’s economic prospects, compared to women’s, but that’s actually the point. Americans still on the whole expect men to provide, meaning their worth as partners is more closely tied to their income. In fact, what seems to be decisive in Autor, Dorn, and Hanson’s study is not really whether men’s incomes go up or down, but whether they go up or down relative to women’s. For instance, when competition from China chipped away at jobs in female-dominated manufacturing sectors, such as the leather-goods industry, marriage rates actually increased. As women’s wages fell compared to men’s, the economists argue, marriage was more likely to lead to economic security, and single motherhood became less attractive.

But even if expectations around gender and earnings remain firmly in place, they are clearly changing, likely in response to the reality that, nowadays, women are the primary breadwinner in four out of 10 families. I spoke to a 54-year-old former factory worker in Mount Clemens, Michigan, who told me that her husband’s resentment about the frequent temporary layoffs (which came during slow periods at her plant) eventually spilled over into vicious fights over money. “Anytime I got laid off, he got pissed,” she said. The two later separated. In today’s economy, when oftentimes both partners must pitch in their wages to make ends meet, it’s increasingly hard to see how anyone in the working class has the luxury of sticking with someone without a job—male or female.

* * *

Does it really have to be this way? Must a job—or a lack of a job—shape one’s romantic and family life? When I was doing research for my book, I talked to both Americans and Canadians affected by the retreat of manufacturing jobs, many of whom were separated by just a quick drive across the border between Michigan and Ontario. I was surprised, though, that unemployment appeared to be more toxic to the romantic relationships of the Americans I talked to, who were more likely to go through a separation or divorce following a layoff than my Canadian interviewees were.

To some extent, this reflects cultural differences. As Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist whose research was cited above, noted in his 2010 book The Marriage-Go-Round, Americans tend to place great importance on both marriage and personal autonomy, which is reflected in their very high marriage and divorcerates (higher than in other advanced industrialized countries, including Canada). An intensely individualistic worldview, when applied to relationships, may make someone more willing to end them when their partner doesn’t have a good job; the can-do, competitive values that America rightly celebrates can, when taken to extremes, make relationships seem to be as much about self-advancement as about unconditional love and acceptance.

At the other end of the earnings spectrum, this view of relationships leads well-educated people to search for partners who, on some level, will set them (and their children) up to be financially better off. Increasingly, this means that well educated people marry other well educated people—something that has always been the case, but not to this degree.

In discussing this trend—which researchers call “assortative mating”—in his recent book Dream Hoarders, the Brookings researcher Richard Reeves brings up the time a prominent Princeton alum advised current female students to snag a husband in college, where they are most likely to find someone “worthy” of them. The love life of a Princeton grad is an extreme example, but across all levels of education and income, there may be more of this weeding out of potential partners than there used to be. Finding a “worthy” partner is increasingly important in today’s economy, and for the working class, this sorting would be based on employment more than education.

All that said, the difference I detected in the durability of Americans’ and Canadians’ relationships following the loss of one partner’s job may also have to do with how the two countries’ social policies shape residents’ views on the stakes of being employed. Of course, some researchers believe that a strong safety net may actually discourage people from getting married in the first place. They point to the fact that in European countries with expansive government programs, there tend to be lower rates of marriage and childbirth within marriage. But it’s unclear whether the explanation is different values, or different policies. In many European countries, for example, cohabiting relationships are often long-term and stable, such that they look much like marriages. In the U.S. that tends not to be the case, which suggests that attitudes about live-in relationships, like views on marriage, diverge across the Atlantic.

My own research looks more narrowly at one question in this debate: Can certain policies help keep working-class married couples together after one of them loses a job? Ample support for worse-off families may keep the stresses of unemployment, and financial problems more generally, from tearing couples apart. In Windsor, Ontario, I met a 60-year-old Canadian man whose family went through a difficult time after he lost his job. One day, he walked to a highway overpass and decided he would kill himself by jumping in front of a truck. He stayed out there, on a cold December morning two days after Christmas, for three hours. But, unable to bring himself to carry out his plan, he went home.

He and his wife talked things over, and he decided to get help. A local support program for people out of work—an “action center” funded by the government and staffed by some of his former coworkers at the plant—provided him with a support network of peers who understood his situation. The center also lobbied his former employer to extend his remaining health-insurance coverage so that he could pay for his therapy. (Even under Canada’s single-payer system, not all health-care costs are covered by the government.) He said he emerged from that experience with a stronger marriage and a stronger relationship with his daughter. “Before, we didn’t have that openness, that communication,” he said.

The Canadian safety net later helped him in other ways. He took remedial courses to get his high-school degree and then trained to become an addiction counselor; the government paid all his tuition, which included a job placement at the end of the program. Even when his public unemployment benefits ended, he continued to receive income through a special program for laid-off workers like him who had worked at least seven out of the previous 10 years. The fact that he could still bring home a check every other week, he said, made him feel less ashamed about not working. “Everything is moving in the right direction,” he told me at the time. For that he credited his family, his own motivation, and the government’s help.

While a patchwork of programs in the United States provides similar kinds of retraining support, it tends to be less generous and more narrowly focused. Whether one’s partner is out of work matters more in America, where the safety net is thinner, because less of a lost paycheck is going to get replaced by the government (if any of it is in the first place). In their recent research on the white working class, the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton note this link. “The repeated re-partnering in the US,” they write, “is often driven by the need for an additional income, something that is less true in Europe with its more extensive safety net.”

Canada has a robust set of policies that help struggling families, especially those with just one earner. For example, Canadian parents receive “baby bonuses,” monthly tax-free cash benefits for each child under the age of 18, which were greatly expanded for lower-income households last year. (America’s federal government offers a child tax credit, but it helps only those who have done a certain amount of paid work that year, and jobless workers and low-income families who don’t pay much in the way of federal income taxes receive less or none of it.) Canadians with modest incomes also receive quarterly, tax-free payments to offset the costs of various sales taxes. Policies like these make having two full-time incomes less crucial in keeping a Canadian household financially afloat. They may also make the relationships in that household less transactional—that is, less dominated by a calculus that tallies what one partner does for another.

Confronted, like the United States, with global economic realities such as free trade and automation, some countries have built or strengthened safety nets to give their residents a measure of financial stability. There’s a reason American family relationships have been shaped so much by labor markets. It’s not a matter of destiny, but policy.

19 Businesses Millennials Are Killing

Original Article

By Kate Taylor

Millennials’ preferences are killing dozens of industries.

There are many complex reasons millennials’ preferences differ from prior generations’, including less financial stability and memories of growing up during the recession.

“I think we have got a very significant psychological scar from this great recession,” Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger told Business Insider.

Here are 19 things millennials are killing

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s

Brands such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee’s have faced sales slumps and dozens of restaurant closings as casual-dining chains have struggled to attract customers and increase sales.

In August, Applebee’s announced it would close up to 135 restaurants, in part because it focused too much on winning over millennials and forgot its “Middle America roots.”

“Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants,” Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders earlier this year.

 

Beer

In late July, Goldman Sachs downgraded both Boston Beer Company and Constellation Brands based on data suggesting that younger consumers prefer wine and spirits to beer, as well as the fact that they’re drinking less alcohol than older generations more generally.

Beer penetration fell 1% from 2016 to 2017 in the US market, while both wine and spirits were unmoved, according to Nielsen ratings.

While some argue that calling a 1% drop in penetration a beer-industry homicide case is an overreaction, small shifts have a huge financial impact on beer industry giants. Beer already lost 10% of market share to wine and hard liquor from 2006 to 2016.

Napkins

Younger consumers are opting for paper towels over napkins, according a Washington Post article from 2016.

The Post points to a survey conducted by Mintel, which highlights that only 56% of shoppers said they bought napkins in the past six months. At the same time, 86% surveyed said they had purchased paper towels.

Paper towels are more functional than napkins and can be used for more purposes. And the Post noted that millennials are more likely to eat meals out of the home, contributing to the decline.

“Breastaurant” chains like Hooters

"Breastaurant" chains like Hooters

Business Insider Video

People ages 18 to 24 are 19% less likely to search for breasts on the pornographic website Pornhub compared with all other age groups, according to an analysis conducted by the website.

For “breastaurants” like Hooters and Twin Peaks, a loss of interest in breasts is bad for business. The number of Hooters locations in the US has dropped by more than 7% from 2012 to 2016, and sales have stagnated, according to industry reports.

Hooters has struggled to win over millennials for some time now. In 2012, the chain attempted to revamp its image with updated decor and new menu items to attract more millennial and female customers.

Cereal

Cereal

Unsplash / Jennifer Pallian

Almost 40% of millennials surveyed by Mintel said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it, The New York Times reported in 2016.

Instead, younger consumers are turning to convenient options with minimal cleanup that can be eaten on the go, from yogurt to fast-food breakfast sandwiches.

Cereal sales dropped 5% from 2009 to 2014, even though more Americans are eating breakfast than ever before.

Companies such as Kellogg and General Mills have reported that sales have stopped falling in 2017, so cereal may not be dead just yet.

Golf

“From the golf industry statistics, we know that rounds are down,” Matt Powell of the industry-research firm NPD said in a video in 2016. “We know that millennials are not picking up the game, and boomers are aging out. The game is in decline.”

While millennials have created new fitness crazes, like SoulCycle and barre classes, golf has failed to capture their interest in the same manner.

 

Motorcycles

“Our data suggests the younger Gen Y population is adopting motorcycling at a far lower rate than prior generations,” AB analyst David Beckel said in a July note downgrading its rating of Harley-Davidson shares from “outperform” to “market perform.”

Motorcycle sales at Harley-Davidson, which represents about half of the US big-bike market, were down 1.6% overall in 2016 versus the year before. US sales fell 3.9%.

The company shipped 262,221 motorcycles overall, which fell short of expectations of 264,000 to 269,000 units.

Homeownership

Homeownership

Shutterstock

Homeownership is hitting record lows among millennials,

“We believe the delay in homeownership is due to tighter credit standard and lifestyle changes, including delayed marriage and children,” Michelle Meyer, a US economist at BAML, wrote in a recent note.

“We do not expect these factors to change in the medium term, keeping the homeownership rate low for young adults.”

Yogurt — especially light yogurt

Yogurt — especially light yogurt

Unsplash / Peter Hershey

Light yogurt sales fell 8.5% in the year ended in September 2016, dropping $200 million from roughly $1.2 billion to $1 billion, according to Nielsen data.

Wider yogurt industry sales declined 1.5%, the fourth consecutive year of falling sales.

The decline in light yogurt can be traced to a growing demand for natural, protein-rich foods that fill up health-conscious consumers, instead of simply low-calorie and low-fat options. That’s been a huge help for Greek yogurt, which appeals to customers seeking a filling option packed with protein.

On the flip side of the rise of protein and organic options is the fall of sugar.

Low fat-diets were the norm in the US in the 1980s and ’90s. As food makers worked to cut fat from products, they began replacing it with another ingredient: sugar. As a result, “light” yogurts were often packed with sugar yet advertised as low-fat, healthy choices.

Bars of soap

Bars of soap

Shutterstock

Bar soap sales fell 2.2% from 2014 to 2015, a time when the rest of the shower-and-bath category grew, according to Mintel.

And, millennials are to blame.

“Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus,” Mintel wrote in a press release.

Diamonds

Diamonds

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Fewer millennials are getting married, and those who are are increasingly choosing nontraditional rings, CNBC reported.

As sales of diamonds have slowed globally, trade associations such as Diamond Producers Association have attempted to win over millennial customers by retooling how the jewels are branded.

Fabric softener

Fabric softener

Thomson Reuters

Sales of liquid fabric softeners fell 15% in the US from 2007 to 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported. The market leader Downy fell 26% in the same period.

According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble’s head of global fabric care, millennials “don’t even know what the product is for.”

Banks

Banks

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Millennials distrust financial establishments and rarely visit physical banks.

“There’s a massive shift in consumer behavior and consumer trust,” Rick Yang, a partner at the venture-capital firm New Enterprise Associates, told Business Insider. “I think coming out of [the financial crisis], millennials have a massive distrust of existing financial services.”

While banks themselves will probably never die, bank branches and physical bank locations may soon be a thing of the past.

Nearly three-quarters of millennials with a bank account visit a branch once or less a month, according to BI Intelligence data. And slightly less than 40% of millennials do not visit physical banks at all.

Department stores like Macy’s and Sears

Department stores like Macy's and Sears

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

As millennials flock to fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara, Macy’s and Sears have suffered. Sears is closing more than 300 Sears and Kmart stores this year, while Macy’s plans to shutter 68.

Part of the reason is that when millennials do spend money, they’re spending more on experiences like restaurants and traveling. Millennials are less drawn to aspirational, designer brands, and they’re perfectly happy saving money by buying private-label lines, which further hurts traditional department stores.

Designer handbags

Speaking of once popular brands, millennials are also hurting designer handbag sales.

Brands like Michael Kors and Kate Spade have been forced to sell handbags at major discounts as millennials lose interest (and lack the money to spend on the bags). In some ways, the brands’ mega-popularity contributed to their downfall.

Widespread popularity is the “kiss of death for trendy fashion brands, particularly those positioned in the up-market younger consumer sectors,” industry expert Robin Lewis wrote on his blog.

Gyms

Gyms

Shutterstock/Uber Images

While millennials like to workout, they’re ditching gyms in favor of boutique, class-centric centers.

“Millennials don’t want to be tied down,” Megan Smyth, the CEO of FitReserve, a service that lets members book boutique studio classes, told the New York Post. “It’s a spontaneous demographic.”

In July, Foursquare found that mid-market gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, Snap Fitness, and New York Sports Club lost 5% of their gym visit share in the past year, as boutique fitness visits grew.

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's

Joe Raedle/Getty

While people have been investing more in their homes, some experts have questioned whether millennials’ reluctance to buy homes could ultimately hurt these retailers.

“Millennials are redefining the American family,” Jeff Fromm wrote in Forbes. “Millennials are delaying marriage and childbirth at rates never seen before. This cultural shift will have a near-term impact on housing: millennials may not need the same space, permanence, and practicality that most Americans want out of their housing.”

Football

Football

David Dermer/AP

Both college football games’ attendance and NFL viewership have recently declined.

Analysts said the drop could be tied to numerous things — the 2016 election, protests as NFL players have taken a knee during the national anthem, or that the game has simply gotten more boring.

However, one explanation would directly target millennials: Younger people are ditching cable at an increasing rate, leaving them to watch games in groups or simply stay updated on their iPhones.

Oil

Oil

AP/Jae C. Hong

Millennials’ conception of the oil industry means that it may struggle to find workers — and customers — in the future.

McKinsey found that 14% of millennials say they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry because of its negative image — the highest percentage of any industry. And a recent survey by EY found that millennials “question the longevity of the industry … Further, they primarily see the industry’s careers as unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society.”

Teens are even more critical, with two out of three saying the oil and gas industry causes problems instead of solving them.

Oregon Governer Kate Brown Aproves Gun Confiscation Law

Original Article

According to guns.com, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon approved a piece of gun legislation this week that establishes Extreme Risk Protection (ERP) Orders, that forces subjects to surrender their firearms.

The law allows police, or a member of a subjects family or house hold, to file a petition with the court that could lead to an order stripping an individual’s Second Amendment rights if it is believed that they pose an imminent risk to themselves or others.

The bill, SB 719A, passed the Senate 17-11 in May and the House 31-28 in July, the story says.

Brown said in the story that the new Extreme Risk Protection Orders the “best way to ensure that a person who is at risk of harming themselves or others is identified, while still ensuring their rights are protected by a court review.”

The law establishes a process for obtaining the orders, which will be issued by a judge in civil court. The subject will be prohibited from possessing or buying firearms or ammunition for one year, the story says and must surrender any firearms they own, or they may be stored with a third party fur the duration of the order.

Once a judge issues an ERP order, the subject has 30 days to request a hearing to keep their firearms, which then must be held within 21 days, the story says.

Another aspect of the bill has riled gun rights supporters. Once an order is issued, it also grants police enforcing that order the power to search for and seize guns that were not willingly surrendered or stored somewhere else.

The fact remains, the signing of this law could very realistically lead to situations where armed police officers are forced to go to private citizens homes to seize their firearms, which could result in violent confrontations, especially since the citizens in question are likely disturbed in some way because of the nature of the of the ERP orders.

To mitigate the chances of these orders being used for any reason other than their intended purpose, there are penalties in place. Anyone discovered filing a fake order could be imprisoned for up to a year, and/or pay a fine of up to $6,250.

Second Amendment groups have spoken out strongly against the process, saying it doesn’t provide enough structure for those deemed at risk to receive any kind of assistance or counseling. There are also no provisions for taking a person deemed to be dangerous into custody. The gun rights groups also say there are due process concerns, according to the story.

From a statement issued by the NRA-ILA:

“By allowing a law enforcement officer, family member, or household member to seek the ERPO, SB 719A would allow people who are not mental health professionals, who may be mistaken, and who may only have minimal contact with the respondent to file a petition with the court and testify on the respondent’s state of mind.”

New Oregon Bill for Funding Abortions to Include Illegal Immigrants

Original Article

Oregon has passed the nation’s most progressive abortion bill, requiring state insurers to provide free abortions for all, including illegal immigrants.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signed the historic health bill Tuesday, after the Legislature approved it in July. It would require Oregon insurance companies to cover reproductive procedures, all on the taxpayers’ dime.

The $10.2 million bill takes effect immediately, allocating $500,000 for abortions for the estimated 22,873 women eligible under the Oregon health plan, the Washington Times reported. This will include abortions for immigrants who are otherwise ineligible under the state’s Medicaid program.

Opponents argued that the bill will force people who morally object to abortions to assume some of the costs. They also predicted that lawsuits will quickly follow, arguing that the new law violates the Weldon Amendment, a 2004 congressional provision that prohibits Health and Human Services funds for states that discriminate against health care providers that refuse to cover abortions, the Washington Times further reported.

Providence Health Care, a nonprofit Catholic health care provider that is also the only insurer operating in Oregon that does not cover abortions, will have its expenses reimbursed by the state.

Two other states, California and New York, also require state insurers to cover abortion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leah Remini on Her Conterversial Scientology Series

Original Article

Round two of the battle between Leah Remini and the Church of Scientology begins Tuesday (A&E, 9 p.m. ET/PT) with the return of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

Despite pushback from the Church of Scientology, Remini forges ahead with 10 new episodes and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

“These people’s stories are important to be told, and exposing the abuses of Scientology is something I feel is the right thing to do, having been in it most of my life and having promoted it and supported it,” says Remini, a church member until 2013 and author of Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. “There’s a lot of people out there who have lost a lot because of Scientology, and they deserve to be heard.”

During Season 1, former Scientologists shared stories alleging harassmentphysical abuse and statutory rape. In response, the church has called into question the truthfulness of the accusers.

“Nothing about A&E’s Leah Remini ‘docuseries’ is honest. The singular goal of the program is to make money and boost ratings by spreading salacious lies to promote A&E’s ugly brand of religious intolerance, bigotry and hatred,” the church said in a letter to USA TODAY from spokeswoman Karin Pouw.

 

The show’s November premiere drew 2.1 million same-day viewers, making it the network’s largest launch of an original series in more than two years at the time.

Remini has found others to share their stories for Season 2 of her hour-long series, in spite of, she says, being made a pariah among celebrity Scientologists.

“Their job is to avoid me at all costs,” she says. “They just make sure, through their publicists, if I’m on one side of the room that they’re on another side of the room. Or they don’t show up to an event that they’re scheduled to be at if they know I’m gonna be there. That’s just the way it’s gotten.”

Remini delves into how Scientology policies affect members in the show’s second season.

“I think people would be shocked to know that when people go through a traumatic experience — like being raped or molested — that Scientology punishes the victim and makes them responsible for what had happened to them,” says Remini. In a statement from the church, the organization says the accusation that it condones sexual abuse is “false and defamatory.”

The first episode features  women who claim to have been molested while employees of the church, Remini says. The topic of suicide will also be covered this season.

“They don’t believe in therapies  other than Scientology, so people dealing with real mental issues don’t often get the help that they need,” Remini claims. The church refutes this:  “We do not treat those who are mentally ill; we encourage such individuals to be examined by a competent doctor.”

The church says it has been targeted because of Remini’s Aftermath. “To date, the Church has been subjected to more than 500 threats — including death threats, dangerous acts of vandalism and bullying directed at everyday parishioners — inspired by Leah Remini and her A&E show,” Pouw’s letter reads. “The violence provoked falls directly at the feet of A&E CEO Nancy Dubuc, President Paul Buccieri and (executive VP) Rob Sharenow, who should be ashamed for spreading bigotry and religious intolerance.” (A&E couldn’t be reached for comment).

“Sadly, as everyone knows from a number of recent tragic events, including those over the weekend in Virginia, we live in a volatile time of accelerated hate, bigotry and intolerance,” the letter continues. “A&E’s airing of salacious, unvetted falsehoods about the Church is reckless and irresponsible. The incendiary hate and bigotry they are fostering has no place in a tolerant America.”

The church has also posted a statement about Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath here.

Scientology has once again become a hot topic during water cooler chat thanks to ‘Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.’ The A&E docuseries has brought about allegations of physical abuse and statutory rape against members of the Church, which the organization has vehemently refuted. Here, we explore what celebrities have said about the religion, beginning with Remini, who left the Church in 2013. “I decided I didn’t want to raise my daughter in the Church,” the actress said in a clip from her TLC reality show ‘Leah Remini: It’s All Relative,’ “because from what I experienced and what I saw, was the Church becomes everything. It becomes your mother, your father, your everything. You are dependent on the Church.”  Richard Shotwell, Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Charlottesville Protester Fired

Original Article 

White nationalists who participated in the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend are being identified on social media, and at least one man has lost his job as a result.

Top Dog, a hot-dog restaurant in Berkeley, California, said it fired Cole White on Saturday after the man was named by a Twitter account devoted to outing rally participants.

“Effective Saturday 12th August, Cole White no longer works at Top Dog,” read a sign posted outside the restaurant on Sunday. “The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog. We believe in individual freedom and voluntary association for everyone.”

The Twitter account that identified White, @YesYoureRacist, is encouraging the public to help identify other attendees shown in photos from the event.

Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, was also identified in a photo from the rally and later defended himself in an interview with a Las Vegas TV station.

“As a white nationalist, I care for all people,” he told Channel 2 News. “We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”

In the photo, Cvjetanovic is holding a torch and shouting. He said he understood the photo had a “very negative connotation.”

Embed from Getty Images

Few other businesses have weighed in on the rally, though Tiki Brand, the company that makes tiki torches, issued a statement on its Facebook page Saturday after white nationalists used the torches at a rally on Friday.

“Tiki Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed,” the statement read. “We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way. Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”

New Star Trek: Discovery Seeks To Redefine It’s “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” Motto

Original Article

“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” That is one of Star Trek’s most prominent mottos (even if it was ultimately created out of a desire to sell merchandise). That is what the spirit of Trek is meant to embody. The wonder of the universe wrapped up in a statement of inspiration and acceptance, a promise to pursue that which we do not understand; to embrace it with optimism and open minds.

They are captivating words that Star Trek has worked hard to advocate, with varying results. But if Trek intends to be relevant long into the 21st century, those words could use re-examination. In this day and age, how can Star Trek renew its commitment to infinite diversity? What should this bright, shining future look like, fifty years after its inception?

Star Trek been held up as an example to aspire towards since its creation. The performers, writers, producers, and directors involved have long understood the impact of what they were helping to build. Actors to astronauts have cited Trek as the reason that they believed there were no limits to what they could achieve. It is a legacy that Star Trek fans are rightly proud to be a part of.

But Star Trek hasn’t always been a perfect embodiment of these ideals. Though it was quite progressive for its initial audience fifty years previous, the Original Series is painfully tame by current standards. That’s down to the passage of time—what seemed progressive in 1966 was old hat during Trek’s resurgence in the 1990s, and in turn what seemed progressive then is behind what seems forward-thinking now—but there are many areas where Trek never quite bothered to push the envelope. Up until the present moment, certain topics have been seemingly off-limits on Star Trek: discussions of human faith, of gender and sexuality, of deeply rooted prejudices that we are still working through every single day as a species, and more.

If Star Trek wants to continue its mission to elevate us, to showcase the best of our humanity and what we can achieve, it needs to be prepared to push more boundaries, to further challenge assumptions, to make people uncomfortable. And doing so in an era where viewers can instantly—and loudly—share their opinions will undoubtedly make that even harder than it used to be. But without a willingness to be a part of the present-day cultural conversation, Star Trek loses its relevance, and its legacy stops here.

There’s a lot left for Star Trek to explore, so where can the series go in its next 50 years? Here are just a few ideas to keep in mind.

LGBT+ is More Than Just the LGB

The showrunners for Discovery have confirmed that the show will feature a gay crew member—apparently following Bryan Fuller’s earlier plans for the series. This is certainly exciting news for many fans who have been pushing for better queer representation in Trek for decades, to finally answer the question of whether or not Trek’s future has a place for queer people.

Problem is, western culture has moved beyond that question in the past couple of decades. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters are a consistent part of mainstream entertainment now (especially in television), and have been visible in that arena for quite a while; in Star Trek: Beyond, Helmsman Hikaru Sulu was depicted as a gay (or possibly bi) man with a family. Granted, it’s true that despite the headway, queer characters are frequently mistreated in fiction, mired in stereotypes and then murdered just for daring to exist. But it doesn’t change the fact that, at this point in time and after such a storied history, having a gay crew member on the Discovery is the absolute least that Star Trek could do. It’s the bare minimum, a temporary patch on something that should have been fixed long ago.

What about the rest of that alphabet? Where are the asexuals in Trek? The trans and non-binary folks? Intersex people? What about the people who practice polyamory? Sure, we had Doctor Phlox on Enterprise, but he was an alien whose entire species practiced polyamory, thereby preventing any exploration of an example on the human front. (Having Phlox encounter a human who also practiced polyamory would have been a fascinating opportunity to compare and contrast, and would have also prevented polyamory from being put down to “an alien thing.”) Moreover, we never encounter his culture in any meaningful way to see how that polyamory functions in practice. So how do we examine and internalize these differences? If the answer is “well that was handled in one episode on TNG via another species”, that answer is not good enough anymore. These groups are full of people being maligned and ignored, and for many of them, that ignorance is costing lives. Having a gay crew member in Discovery will be wonderful, but there are still so many people who deserve to be represented in the future Trek creates.

Disabilities Don’t Need to Be “Cured”

Seeing Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation was a big deal over twenty years ago. Trek had depicted blindness before on the Original Series (in the episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”) but having a main character in a television series with such a clear disability was just as rare then as it is today. What’s more, Geordi was never defined solely by that disability, and had one of the most important jobs on the Enterprise (D and E!). All of these things were groundbreaking. The only thing was, due to his VISOR, Geordi could effectively see (in some ways even better than your average human).

To a certain extent, this makes sense. Star Trek occurs in the future, and medicine has leapt ahead by centuries. Its limits are defined by technology and morality rather than economy. More to the point, even now doctors and scientists are coming up with ways to fix issues in ways that were once unthinkable, transplanting organs, limbs, and even faces, and making rapid progress in creating controllable and flexible artificial limbs. (Perhaps it would make more sense to see Starfleet officers who look like the Borg, with cybernetic implants and robotic limbs aplenty.)

But as some diseases are cured, new ones always arise. And Trek has a strange track record in that regard, as it often runs the gamut between extremes when it comes to health and wellness; either you have a problem that can be easily amended with the use of tech and/or the right medicine, or you have a debilitating disease that is going to kill you. There is very little in-between. As a result, we find few characters living with disabilities in Trek. And the exceptions—such as Melora in her eponymous DS9 episode—frequently leave something to be desired, as they rely on the “medical model” of disability; meaning the idea of disability as something that should be solved or cured. Not only is this unhelpful in a broader sense, but it ignores the value of disabled lives by making it seem as though people who have disabilities are inherently missing out because they are not traditionally able-bodied.

If Star Trek were to key into the “social model” of handling disability, then we would see people with various disabilities—both mental and physical ones—working side by side with non-disabled friends and shipmates. Accessibility would be built into starship design, considerations made in prepping for away missions, text rendered in different fonts for officers with dyslexia, and so forth. We would see people with disabilities simply living their lives, and take that concept to heart going forward.

Focus On Current Issues

This is basically a given, but as Star Trek was a response to the politics and issues of its time, new incarnations must look to the current landscape and comment on the problems we now face. Nichelle Nichols has famously told and retold the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking her not to leave the role of Uhura midway through Star Trek’s original series run, due to how important her presence was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Having Pavel Chekov on the bridge during the Cold War was a deliberate move on Gene Roddenberry’s part to suggest that peace would triumph. The Cardassian occupation of Bajor detailed in DS9 brought issues of terrorism and the lives of refugees to the fore at a time when the Oslo Accords had just been signed. Star Trek has always looked to the here and now, and used our current conflicts as an example to promote hope rather than fear.

Nicholas Meyer thankfully gave confirmation of that same intent during the Star Trek: Discoverypanel at Mission New York, saying that commentating on present events is built into Star Trek (and then citing how the end of the Cold War was a springboard for the plot of Star Trek VI). Given the wealth of social, political, and environmental strife in the world, it shouldn’t prove any difficulty to find material for a Star Trek series today.

Complexities of Faith

Star Trek has worked hard over the years to offer detailed and fascinating faith systems for many of the aliens encountered by the franchise, including the Klingons and the Bajorans. But when it comes to humanity… there’s an odd absence. Some of this comes down to creator Gene Roddenberry being an avid atheist—he explicitly prevented stories about religion from being told while he was running the show, and whenever the Original Series encountered gods, they inevitably proved to be false. To whit, there’s an infamous treatment for the Star Trek motion picture where Roddenberry had Captain Kirk fighting Jesus.

But faith, in one form or another, is a long-standing part of humanity, in many ways irrevocably intertwined with culture. While some aspects of religion have divided humanity over time, faith can be truly beautiful and uplifting, and is needed by many as a source of comfort and community. And at a point in time where religions themselves often get demonized in place of the radical groups purporting to endorse them, showing these faiths alive and well in Star Trek would be a remarkable gesture. Religion is still often a cause for conflict among humans, but here there lies an opportunity to show how faith can create connections between people, and perhaps create dialogues between humanity and other alien races. Showing characters who live so far in the future engaging with faith in the interest of exploration and friendship is an example that humanity could use.

Faith as a construct is arguably as central to humanity as aspects that we cannot control, such as sexuality or ethnicity, and does not always apply to us in a religious sense; faith informs a large part of our various worldviews, regardless of whether or not it is attached to a deity or system. Without an acknowledgement of that, Trek’s vision of human beings is incomplete.

Handling All Forms of Prejudice

The initial concept of Star Trek was meant to show (during the height of the Cold War, no less) that humanity would not disappear in a nuclear winter. We would survive, learn from our mistakes, thrive, and work together toward a better future. When Star Trek tackled themes of prejudice, it typically used an alien scapegoat rather than a human one—the xenophobic terrorist organization Terra Prime, Picard’s fear of the Borg after his experience being assimilated, or the ways in which members of various Enterprise crews showed disdain and bigotry toward Spock and T’Pol. The idea was to suggest that humanity had gotten past the issue of internalized prejudice where its own species was concerned, yet still directed that impulse outward from time to time.

But by acknowledging that those prejudices still exist—even if they are focused primarily on Vulcans or Klingons—it becomes impossible to suggest that humans won’t ever aim those prejudices at other humans again. The spirit of Star Trek is not about humanity advancing to the point of perfection, it is about us striving for a better ideal. Which means that Trek must continue to show people making mistakes on account of internalized biases and learning from those mistakes. The utopian leanings of Star Trek are not due to a lack of conflict—they are due to people being enlightened enough to own up to their own shortcomings, to consider other perspectives, to work harder in the future.

All of this means that Trek must continue to acknowledge and display prejudice, between humans as well as alien cultures, and then set the bar when it comes to handling that conflict and moving past it. This was something that Deep Space Nine excelled at in particular, but doing the same on a Starfleet vessel will create a different atmosphere. The chance to explore the true difficulties of existing side-by-side on a starship with several hundred of the same faces for years on end will receive the consideration it deserves.

 

With all this in mind, where does that leave Star Trek’s luminary future? With us.

Star Trek is optimistic at its core, and loves to ruminate on what makes humanity so wonderful, often presenting us with a myriad of examples that other characters are meant to take to heart—Spock, Data, and Seven were constantly learning about what made humans unique and formidable as a species. And the answer Trek gives us is typically: we’re incredible because we’re imperfect. We are passionate, we blunder through, we are messy. It’s a good lesson to be sure, and a comforting take on human nature.

But what if there is more to us than that?

“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” These words are a cornerstone of Vulcan philosophy, but they are pointedly an apt description of the entire human race. The spirit of Star Trek is exploration, and the universe it resides in posits that humans will be the natural ambassadors of the Federation’s message of unity and discovery. That we are poised to enter the galaxy with our arms outstretched, and that others will want to join us. Based on what, though? Our charm, our creativity, our business acumen? Let us hope not. Let us hope instead that it is because we are so intricate as a species—so infinitely diverse—that we are perfectly equipped to handle what’s out there. That is the bright future we’re looking for. A point somewhere in the not-too-distant future when we are so interested in understanding each other’s differences, in honoring and respecting one another, that it is only natural for us to extend that exploratory spirit outward.

Fifty years later, it’s the only ongoing mission that truly matters. And it’s one that Star Trek—with any luck—will always uphold.

An earlier version of this article was originally published September 2016.

Twitter Campain Outing White Nationalist Charlottesville Protesters

Original Article

A campaign to name and shame people who marched at a bloody right-wing rally in Charlottesville has so far prompted two universities to condemn white supremacy — even as the outed students defend their decisions to attend.

Not everyone who went to the weekend rallies was a student, of course. Hundreds of people from all walks of life joined neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists for a weekend event dubbed “Unite the Right.”

As marches and countermarches devolved into violence — culminating Saturday when a man rammed his car into a crowd and killed a woman — the Twitter user @YesYoureRacist asked for help identifying “Nazis marching in Charlottesville.”

The anonymous user linked to copious photos and videos of the rally — swastikas and crowds of shouting white men.

Within minutes, names began to pour in, and consequences began to unfurl in home towns across the country.

The first target was a man spotted in a crowd of tiki-torch-wielding marchers, whom Twitter users identified as Cole White, a cook at a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, Calif.

By then, @YesYoureRacist was targeting a new marcher: Peter Cvjetanovic, who more than 10,000 petition signers think should be expelled from the University of Nevada.

“I have received death threats,” Cvjetanovic told the Reno Gazette-Journal after his name got out, but promised to nevertheless “defend tooth and nail my views as a white nationalist.”

He told KTVN News that “I came to this march with the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture” — and later wrote to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I went to honor the heritage of white culture here in the United States.”

These arguments apparently didn’t sit well with the University of Nevada, where Cvjetanovic also works on campus.

“The University unequivocally rejects the positions and ideology that were espoused during the white supremacist rally that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia,” school President Marc Johnson wrote in a statement late Monday.

But, Johnson wrote, “based on discussion and investigation with law enforcement, our attorneys and our Office of Student Conduct, there is no constitutional or legal reason to expel him from our University or to terminate his employment.”

Cvjetanovic condemned all violence in his interviews and said he left the Charlottesville rally before an alleged Nazi sympathizer was accused of plowing a car into a crowd.

“These last few days have turned into a disaster,” Cvjetanovic told ABC affiliate KOLO. But, he said, “I believe that cultures are being threatened. … Everyone is melding together.”

Cvjetanovic was infamous on campus for that kind of talk, according to Ed Donofrio, a self-described socialist who told The Post he used to share a dorm suite with the white nationalist.

“I remember having a discussion with him one time about the whole build-the-wall thing,” Donofrio said, referring to President Trump’s plan to wall off the border with Mexico. “He was a fan of shooting immigrants coming across.”

The shaming campaign claimed some innocent casualties along with avowed white nationalists. @YoureARacist apologized after claiming YouTube star Joey Salads went to the rally with a Nazi armband. (Salads wore the armband months earlier at a Donald Trump rally, as an experiment, apparently.)

And as the New York Times reported, the campaign sprawled beyond a single Twitter account, leading errant sleuths across the Internet to call for the firing of a University of Arkansas worker who was misidentified as a marcher who looked vaguely similar.

Another rally-goer being shamed on Twitter didn’t actually need to be outed, as he had announced his attendance and live-streamed the event for his fans.

All the same, James Allsup’s presence in Virginia caused a scandal back home at his school, Washington State University.

The school’s president first released a statement condemning “racism and Nazism of any kind,” then an open letter denouncing the rally for surfacing “the most vile and dehumanizing beliefs and actions of human history.”

But when Allsup was at the rally, ranting to Infowars that “low-IQ migrants” were going to destroy the country unless legal immigration was banned, a man beside him interrupted.

“Name international Jewry!” the man said. “That’s who the globalists are.”

Allsup didn’t look so uncomfortable. He grinned and laughed as the marchers around him cheered.

This post has been updated.

Allsup, who leads the College Republicans at the university, blamed “a handful of Nazi-flag-waving morons” for hijacking an otherwise respectable right-wing event.

“I would consider myself paleo-conservative,” the student told KREM 2. “More of a right-wing libertarian.”

And indeed, he made sure in his live-stream to disavow prominent racists such as David Duke, who was also in Charlottesville.

“I talked to dozens of rally attendees that were uncomfortable and put off by the Nazi imagery. Myself included,” the student wrote on Twitter. “Very, very bad look.”

 

Aspirant “Sleuths” Falsely Identify Charlottesville Marcher

Original Article

After a day of work at the Engineering Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Kyle Quinn had a pleasant Friday night in Bentonville with his wife and a colleague. They explored an art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and dined at an upscale restaurant.

Then on Saturday, he discovered that social media sleuths had incorrectly identified him as a participant in a white nationalist rally some 1,100 miles away in Charlottesville, Va. Overnight, thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

But Mr. Quinn’s experience showed the risks.

A man at the rally had been photographed wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” shirt, and the amateur investigators found a photo of Mr. Quinn that looked somewhat similar. They were both bearded and had similar builds.

By internet frenzy standards, that was proof enough.

Photo

Kyle Quinn Credit: Jennifer Mortensen

Fearing for their safety, he and his wife stayed with a colleague this weekend.

“You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to helping all people, trying to improve health care and train the next generation of scientists, and this is potentially throwing a wrench in that.”

For someone whose only sin was a passing resemblance to someone else — the actual man in the Charlottesville photo has not been conclusively identified — Mr. Quinn bore the direct consequences of the reckless spread of misinformation in breaking news, a common ritual in modern news events.

There is considerable controversy around the practice of “doxxing,” a term for publicly identifying — often with sensitive personal details like addresses, phone numbers and employer information — people who were otherwise anonymous or semi-anonymous. Many social media platforms, including Twitter, consider it a violation of their rules.

But it is also a standard practice in journalism to track down and identify individuals caught up in a public news event. While professional news organizations have had their fair share of misidentifications, the ability of anyone to launch a name to national prominence with a few mistaken retweets has heightened the likelihood of destructive mistakes.

In the case of Charlottesville, social media users hoped identifying rally participants would lead to real-world consequences for racism. One Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, was retweeted tens of thousands of times by people trying to help name the men in several photos.

The internet vigilantes claimed some successes over the weekend. One rally participant, Cole White, resigned from his job at a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., according to Berkeleyside.

“The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog,” the restaurant said in a sign that was posted on Sunday.

Another man, Peter Tefft, was repudiated by his entire family in a letter to The Forum, a North Dakota newspaper. Signed by the man’s father, the letter said he would no longer be welcome at family gatherings.

And Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, of Reno, Nev., was forced to defend himself after a picture of him shouting at the rally spread widely. He confirmed it was him but told KTVN-TV that “I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”

While the @YesYoureRacist account was one of the most visible leaders in the name-and-shame effort, it also made a misstep. The account apologized for using an old photo of Joey Salads, a YouTube star, from a different event in which Mr. Salads said he was wearing an armband with a swastika as an “experiment.” He was not at the rally. And the person behind @YesYoureRacist — who could not be reached for comment — was the target of an apparent doxxing by another Twitter user, who posted what appeared to be phone numbers and other personal information. Twitter deleted that tweet and suspended the account.

As news organizations have learned — sometimes through high-profile mistakes — misidentifying a person accused of wrongdoing can have bad consequences, from lawsuits to a loss of credibility.

Journalists at Storyful, a news agency that verifies social media content, aim to find eight to 10 pieces of corroborating information before confirming an identity, said Ben Decker, a research coordinator. Identification must be approved by several editors, he said. (The New York Times is a Storyful client, and Mr. Decker works directly with The Times.)

Simply looking at a photo can often lead to mistakes. There’s a lot of potential for human error related to lighting, positioning, how much of the face is seen, and how many similar faces are in the world, Mr. Decker said.

Having a name isn’t enough, either. For example, there are several men with military backgrounds in the United States named James Alex Fields, the name of the man charged in Saturday’s fatal attack with a car on protesters in Charlottesville, Mr. Decker said. An attempt at confirming an identity in that case would have required a date of birth and address, at least.

As for Mr. Quinn, the University of Arkansas professor, he fell victim to a resemblance to one of the rally participants, but the possibility that he was there wouldn’t have held up with more careful checking, Mr. Decker said. Such mistakes routinely happen during amateur sleuthing, he said.

“There’s ostensibly a very quick jump into the first detail that emerges,” he said.

People who then try to correct the record often feel drowned out by the false information.

Mark Popejoy, an art director in Bentonville, Ark., attempted to correct dozens of Twitter accounts that had inaccurately pegged Mr. Quinn as the Charlottesville rally participant. He would point out that the University of Arkansas had confirmed that Mr. Quinn was not involved, and ask that the Twitter users delete their erroneous tweets.

While some appreciated the new information, others adamantly refused to change their minds, he said in an interview on Monday. He said he didn’t know Mr. Quinn but sympathized with his position.

“I think it’s dangerous just to go out accusing people without any kind of confirmation of who they are,” he said. “It can ruin people’s lives.”

Church of England Rejects LGBT Conversion Therapy and Affirms Transgender People

Original Article

The Church of England is making major overtures to affirm transgender and LGBT people and rejecting any notion that gender transition or same-sex sexual orientation could be understood as sin.

On Sunday, the church’s general synod voted 284 to 78 in favor of a motion to affirm transgender people in parish churches and offer special liturgy services to mark their gender transition.

Reverend Christopher Newlands opened the debate on the motion saying he hoped to make a powerful statement. “We believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives,” he said.

The synod also voted to denounce what it calls “conversion therapy” for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

The motion was moved by Jayne Ozanne who called the therapy “harmful” and “dangerous” saying “people may be able to alter their behavior but they can never alter their innate desire.”

Those who opposed the motion noted that it could limit ministry to those struggling with same-sex attraction. The Guardian reports that some synod members expressed concern that it would constrict those in the church seeking to provide pastoral care and prayer for sexual minorities.

Conservatives in the Church of England have been concerned about its pro-LGBT movement for years and started the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in 2008 to “retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion.”

Anylists Believe Human Chipping to Become Mainstream In the Next 50 Years

Original Article

You will get chipped. It’s just a matter of time.

In the aftermath of a Wisconsin firm embedding microchips in employees to ditch company badges and corporate logons, the Internet has entered into full-throated debate.

Religious activists are so appalled, they’ve been penning nasty 1-star reviews of the company, Three Square Market, on Google, Glassdoor and social media.

On the flip side, seemingly everyone else wants to know: Is this what real life is going to be like soon at work? Will I be chipped?

“It will happen to everybody,” says Noelle Chesley, 49, associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.”

Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures, is an advocate for augmented reality, virtual reality and other new technologies. He thinks embedded chips in human bodies is 50 years away. “In 10 years, Facebook, Google, Apple and Tesla will not have their employees chipped,” he says. “You’ll see some extreme forward-looking tech people adopting it, but not large companies.”

The idea of being chipped has too “much negative connotation” today, but by 2067 “we will have been desensitized by the social stigma,” Munster says.

For now, Three Square Market, or 32M, hasn’t offered concrete benefits for getting chipped beyond badge and log-on stats. Munster says it was a “PR stunt” for the company to get attention to its product and it certainly succeeded, getting the small start-up air play on CBS, NBC and ABC, and generating headlines worldwide. The company, which sells corporate cafeteria kiosks designed to replace vending machines, would like the kiosks to handle cashless transactions.

This would go beyond paying with your smartphone. Instead, chipped customers would simply wave their hands in lieu of Apple Pay and other mobile-payment systems.

The benefits don’t stop there. In the future, consumers could zip through airport scanners sans passport or drivers license; open doors; start cars; and operate home automation systems. All of it, if the technology pans out, with the simple wave of a hand.

Wisconsin workers implanted with microchips

Not a GPS tracker

The embedded chip is not a GPS tracker, which is what many critics initially feared. However, analysts believe future chips will track our every move.

For example, pets for years have been embedded with chips to store their name and owner contact. Indeed, 32M isn’t the first company to embed chips in employees. In 2001, Applied Digital Solutions installed the “VeriChip” to access medical records but the company eventually changed hands and stopped selling the chip in 2010.

In Sweden, BioHax says nearly 3,000 customers have had its chip embedded to do many things, including ride the national rail system without having to show the conductor a ticket.

In the U.S., Dangerous Things, a Seattle-based firm, says it has sold “tens of thousands” of chips to consumers via its website. The chip and installation cost about $200.

After years of being a subculture, “the time is now” for chips to be more commonly used, says Amal Graafstra, founder of Dangerous Things. “We’re going to start to see chip implants get the same realm of acceptance as piercings and tattoos do now.”

In other words, they’ll be more visible, but not mainstream yet.

“It becomes part of you the way a cellphone does,” Graafstra says. “You can never forget it, and you can’t lose it. And you have the capability to communicate with machines in a way you couldn’t before.”

But after what we saw in Wisconsin last week, what’s next for the U.S. workforce? A nation of workers chipping into their pods at Federal Express, General Electric, IBM, Microsoft and other top corporations?

Experts contend consumers will latch onto chips before companies do.

Chesley says corporations are slower to respond to massive change and that there will be an age issue. Younger employees will be more open to it, while older workers will balk. “Most employers who have inter-generational workforces might phase it in slowly,” she says. “I can’t imagine people my age and older being enthusiastic about having devices put into their bodies.”

Adds Alec Levenson, a researcher at University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, “The vast majority of people will not put up with this.”

Three Square Market said the chips are voluntary, but Chesley says that if a company announces a plan to be chipped, the expectation is that you will get chipped — or risk losing out on advancement, raises and being a team player.

“That’s what we’re worried about,” says Bryan Allen, chief of staff for state Rep. Tina Davis (D), who is introducing a bill in Pennsylvania to outlaw mandatory chip embedding. “If the tech is out there, what’s to stop an employer from saying either you do this, or you can’t work here anymore.”

Several states have passed similar laws, while one state recently saw a similar bill die in committee. “I see this as a worker’s rights issue,” says Nevada state Sen. Becky Harris (R), who isn’t giving up. “This is the wrong place to be moving,” she says.

Should future corporations dive in to chipping their employees, they will have huge issues of “trust” to contend with, says Kent Grayson, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

“You’ve got to have a lot of trust to put one of those in your body,” Grayson says. Workers will need assurances the chip is healthy, can’t be hacked, and its information is private, he says.

Meanwhile, religious advocates have taken to social media to express their displeasure about chipping, flooding 32M’s Facebook page with comments like “boycott,” “completely unnecessary” and “deplorable.” On 32M’s Google page, Amy Cosari a minister in Hager City, Wisc., urges employees to remove the chip.

“When Jesus was raised, he was raised body and soul, and it was him, not zombie, not a ghost and we are raised up in the same way,” Cosari wrote. ”Employees of 32Market, you are not a walking debit card.”

Get used to it, counsels Chesley.

Ten years ago, employees didn’t look at corporate e-mail over the weekend. Now they we do, “whether we like it or not,” he says.

Be it wearable technology or an embedded chip, the always on-always connected chip is going to be part of our lives, she says.