IOC decides to allow Statue of Liberty image to remain on Team USA goalie masks

Original Article

GANGNEUNG, Korea — The IOC has decided to allow the Statue of Liberty image to stand on the goalie masks belonging to U.S players Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby.

The Americans were notified the decision before dressing for their game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Tuesday.

A look at USA goalie Nicole Hensley's mask.

A look at USA goalie Nicole Hensley’s mask.
ROB SCHUMACHER, USA TODAY SPORTS

Earlier, the Americans were informed that the Statue of Liberty was being reviewed to determine if it was in violation of the IOC’s ban of political symbols on masks.

Hensley’s Statue of Liberty image is on the left side of her mask, and Rigsby’s is on her chin. Neither goalie played in USA’s opening 3-1 win against Finland. Maddie Rooney was the starter.

U.S. women’s hockey goalies may have to remove Statue of Liberty image from masks

GANGNEUNG, Korea – USA Hockey is working with the IOC to see whether goalies Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby really will have to remove the Statue of Liberty from their goalkeepers masks.

USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said on Tuesday “discussions are ongoing” after the IOC said earlier the images would have to be removed.

Nicole Hensley helped the USA win gold at the last
Nicole Hensley helped the USA win gold at the last two World Championships, but Robb Stauber hasn’t committed to a starter yet for the Olympics.

The IOC views the image as a possible violation of its policy against political symbols. The rule from the IOC Guidelines Regarding Authorized Identifications: No item may feature the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging or slogans related to national identity.

Hensley’s Statue of Liberty image is on the left side of her mask, and Rigsby’s is on her chin. Neither goalie played in USA’s opening 3-1 win against Finland. Maddie Rooney was the starter.

Fischer said it the situation should be resolved before USA’s Tuesday game against Russia (7:10 a.m., ET, NBC Sports Network.)

The IRS Is Coming for Your Passports

Original Article

The U.S. government is building the world’s largest debtors’ prison: the United States. Beginning this month, the Internal Revenue Service will begin denying passports to some American citizens with unpaid taxes and, in some cases, revoking the passports of Americans with tax delinquencies. The government will in effect place those with unpaid taxes under arrest, effectively denying them their right to travel. To be clear: We are not talking about Americans who have been convicted of tax evasion or tax fraud, or who are awaiting a criminal trial on charges related to tax matters. These Americans have not been charged with a crime, must less convicted of one. They simply have unpaid taxes amounting to $50,000 or more. More precisely: They have an unpaid IRS liability amounting to $50,000 or more. The IRS’s aggressive schedule of interest and penalties for unpaid taxes ensures that a relatively small amount of unpaid taxes can turn into a $50,000-plus liability with remarkable speed. The IRS has remarkable investigative tools and collections procedures at its disposal. Say what you will about the Patriot Act, it does not oblige Americans to file detailed paperwork annually with the Department of Homeland Security detailing their personal affairs, business arrangements, housing situation, health-insurance coverage, etc. The IRS has that power, and then some: It can seize assets, garnish wages, put liens on property, and more. Still, there are occasions when it finds itself unable to collect a debt. Sometimes, that is because it is dealing with a crafty person who manages to hide his income and property from the government. More often, that is because it is dealing with a person who simply cannot pay.

What’s worse is that there is no appeal, no procedural remedy in the law, no redress for those who have been wrongly targeted — and we know the IRS has a history of wrongly targeting Americans its agents perceive as political enemies. The sole remedy available to Americans who wrongfully lose their passports to the IRS — or who fail to have them reinstated after making good on their taxes — is to file a civil action against the agency under 26 USC 7345. Suing the IRS is an expensive and difficult proposition, especially for people who are likely already to be in a difficult financial situation. When it comes to relations between citizen and state, it’s always a matter of “Show, don’t tell.” Here is a data point for you: Under federal sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 10 months to 16 months. The average sentence for tax evasion? Seventeen months. The average sentence in a tax case is longer than the average sentence for a car thief (twelve months), a forger (twelve months), or a felon convicted in a drug case (14 months). But that’s tax fraud. We aren’t even talking about that. We’re just talking about Americans with unpaid back taxes. The right to travel is — like the right to free speech, the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievance — a basic civil right. Americans as free people have a God-given right to come and go as they please, irrespective of the preferences of any pissant bureaucrat in Washington. Yes, we curtail people’s rights in certain circumstances — when they have been charged with a crime and convicted after due process. Tax fraud is a crime; having unpaid taxes is not. The U.S. government needs a periodic reminder that it was created by the states and by the people, not the other way around, and that it exists at the sufferance of the people — not the other way around. Suspending passports in the course of a civil dispute — a civil dispute that may well be in litigation or soon to be in litigation — is banana-republic, totalitarian stuff.

Congress did this, and Congress can undo this — and Congress should undo this. Yes, people should pay their taxes. Most people do. But there are limits to what the government may permissibly do to citizens in any situation, and much narrower limits to what the government may permissibly to do citizens who have neither been charged with nor convicted of any crime in the matter — which is not, after all, a criminal matter in the first place. People should pay their taxes, and the people at the IRS should do their jobs honestly and ethically. Most of them do. But not all of them. Lois Lerner, the IRS boss who illegally targeted conservative groups for harassment in the runup to the 2012 presidential election, is happily enjoying retired life in some Washington suburb while collecting a fat federal pension. She didn’t lose her passport. Former IRS commissioner John Koskinen lied to Congress about the situation and oversaw the destruction of evidence. He still has a passport. The crimes — actual crimes — of the powerful and the connected go unpunished, while those who for whatever reason have an unmet obligation to the IRS are treated like East Germans locked behind the Checkpoint Charlie of the federal bureaucracy. If you want to know why faith in our institutions is at such a low point, meditate on that. In the meantime, Congress should repeal the statute enabling the IRS to effectively place Americans under house arrest over unpaid bills. And if Congress fails to act, its members should be made to pay a price. My senators are Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and my representative is Pete Sessions. What say you, gentlemen?

Poland’s Holocaust law should terrify you

Original Article

(CNN)When politicians manipulate history for political purposes, we should worry. When they write laws, ordering prison terms for those who counter their version of history, we should challenge them.

 

Polish President Andrzej Duda just announced he will sign a controversial bill making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust. The developments in Poland come at the intersection of two troubling trends taking place in many countries — the upsurge in Holocaust denialism and the political manipulation of the truth for political purposes.
Poland’s bill rises from a legitimate concern. After behaving in largely heroic ways during World War II, Poles are tired of hearing others blame them for the horrors of the Holocaust, some of whose worst chapters took place on their soil. The law aims to defend the “good name of Poland,” but instead it criminalizes talk about historical truths.
The Nazis built Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and other death camps there, murdering 3 million Polish Jews. The Poles, whose country suffered horrifically under Nazi occupation, have bristled when hearing people refer to “Polish death camps.” Soon using words such as these could land you in jail for three years.
The law will inevitably turn the world’s attentions to the fact that even though Poland resisted and fought the Nazis and many Poles risked their lives to help Jews, there were, indeed, Poles who actively helped the Nazis. That is a historical fact, recounted by people who survived the massacres.
Instead of drawing attention to the heroism of the Polish nation, the law will highlight the misdeeds of these individuals. So why would the government make such a foolish, counterproductive move? Because it’s good politics at home.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, a right-wing nationalist party that has steadily eroded democracy in Poland and is turning it into a magnet for xenophobes, has found an issue that resonates across the nation, and is exploiting it to inflame “patriotic” feeling. The more the world complains, the more Poland’s ruling party can boast of defending the nation against the world.
The United States has warned Poland of “repercussions” — or costs to its international relationships — if it does not reconsider the legislation, and its alliance with Israel — until now a close friend of Poland’s — is in crisis.
Israel’s centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, tweeted his condemnation of the proposed law, writing that “hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier.” When the Polish Embassy in Israel responded that the law was to “protect truth against such slander,” Lapid fired back, “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you.” The Israeli parliament is considering changing the law banning Holocaust denial to include “denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi helpers and collaborators.”
Poland’s efforts to rewrite history are a new twist on Holocaust denial, which is a perverse maneuver that always has political and ideological objectives but usually hides under the deceptive claims of pursuing historical accuracy.
Denial goes hand in hand with other forms of ideological extremism. Not surprisingly, Holocaust deniers don’t hate only Jews; they are also prejudiced against other minorities.
In the United States, a Holocaust denier and brazen anti-Semite is on track to become the Republican nominee for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. Arthur Jones, a retired insurance salesman, has run for the seat seven times. This time no other Republican is on the ballot. His website describes the “Holocaust racket” as a Jewish scam, uses the Confederate flag as “a symbol of White Pride and White resistance,” and his blog blames leftists for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an admitted neo-Nazi has been charged with murder in the death of Heather Heyer, who was protesting against white supremacists.
Jones’ Holocaust denials are built, like all others, on falsehoods. The Holocaust is one of the most thoroughly documented events in history — with mountains of data, testimony, and artifacts demonstrating beyond question that the Nazis set out to annihilate Europe’s Jews, and nearly succeeded, killing 6 million of them, along with tens of thousands of homosexuals, hundreds of thousands of Roma (Gypsies), disabled people and others.
And yet deniers persist.
When Trump became President, many worried about how much he would empower the extreme right. After all, his top aide, Steve Bannon, had boasted of making his website, Breitbart, a platform for the so-called alt-right. Those fears appeared to be borne out after the inauguration, when the White House issued a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not even mention Jews or anti-Semitism, instead referring to “innocent people.”
Since then, Trump has made something of a course correction. Bannon is out, and this year’s statement was what you would expect from a normal presidency.
And yet the disturbing memories of Trump’s reluctance to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville cannot be erased.
His rhetoric may have even empowered true bigots to act on their worst impulses. Anti-Semitic incidents surged in the first year of the Trump presidency. In the seven weeks after Charlottesville alone, the Anti-Defamation League counted more than 200 incidents.
More than 70 years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust remains a testing strip, providing warning signs that should not be ignored, whether in an Eastern European country or a congressional district in Illinois.

Josh Weed, famous married gay Mormon announces divorce, apologizes to LGBTQ community

Original Article

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Josh and Lolly Weed, viewed as proof, and used as an example, that a gay man and a straight woman can make a successful Mormon marriage, have announced their divorce. In the same blog post where they announce their divorce, they offered an apology to the LGBTQ community.

“Today, we need to let you know that Lolly and I are divorcing,” the blog said this week, after recounting the couple’s accidental rise to the media spotlight when Josh Weed came out as a gay LDS man who was faithful to his church and married to a woman. They were in high demand to explain how they made the seemingly contradictory lifestyles work together.

The couple wrote, together and then individually in the same blog post on Thursday, that they came to understand over time that their deep platonic love was not a substitute for romantic love and that such a relationship is vital to everyone’s happiness.

Lolly Weed wrote:

And that is what human beings need to be healthy. All of us. Romantic attachment. It’s one of the main purposes of life!

They explain at length how they came to the realization. Josh Weed said three factors led him to believe this was the case.

  1. Love for the LGBTQ population
  2. Love for himself as a gay person
  3. The death of his mother

The couple rise to notoriety came about because of a blog post — that can no longer be found on JoshWeed.com — that, according to Josh, led them to be “featured on shows and newspapers around the globe.” That included a story on Nightline, embedded below.

Josh works in his private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Included with the announcement and explanation about the couple’s divorce was an apology to the LGBTQ community. Among the specific things the Weeds apologies for are:

  • We’re sorry, so incredibly sorry, for the ways our post has been used to bully others.
  • And we’re sorry if our story made it easier for people in your life to reject you and your difficult path as being wrong.
  • We’re sorry to any gay Mormon who received criticism, backlash, or hatred as a result of our story.
  • We’re sorry to anybody who felt a measure of false peace because of our story.
  • We’re sorry to any LGBTQIA person who was given false hope by our story

Each of the specific apologies came with longer explanations.

Josh Weed also wrote that his stance on homosexuality, that once aligned with that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had changed.

“I have spent my entire life conforming to every standard of the LDS faith because I believed it was what God wanted me to do,” he explained.

“I believed this because every mentor, every exemplar, every religious teacher, every therapist, every leader I ever grew up listening to and trusting told me that that was the only way I could return to live with God. There was an emphasis on ‘perfect obedience’ and yet, over the course of my lifetime, the list of things said by these trusted leaders about my sexual orientation was profoundly inconsistent and confusing.”

Josh Weed listed a number of those “inconsistent and confusing” things, which included:

  • My sexual orientation wasn’t real
  • My sexual orientation was evil
  • My sexual orientation was an abomination
  • My sexual orientation was tantamount to bestiality and just shy of murder
  • My sexual orientation could change in this life if I had enough faith
  • My sexual orientation was a “trial” to bear
  • My sexual orientation maybe couldn’t change in this life after all
  • My sexual orientation could be managed with faith
  • My sexual orientation could be endured

Lolly Weed also wrote that many of her friends and community expressed to her, upon learning of the divorce, empathized with her and say she deserved the romantic connection, but few felt that empathy for her husband.

The thing that’s so interesting to me is how few people think of Josh in this way. How few people in his life have ever thought these things about him—things that are so obvious, so clear, so emphatic when talking to another straight person. I mean, isn’t the same true for LGBT people? Shouldn’t we feel the exact same intuitive injustice at the thought of them deserving to be “loved like that”?

When the tables are turned and we are talking about LGBTQ individuals, somehow people don’t see the parallels. Why am I, as a straight person, entitled to reciprocal, requited romantic love while an LGBTQ individual is not?

The blog post says the couple and their children will continue to be close and will continue to love each other.

“We can continue to be the family we have always been, and we can add to that family,” they wrote.

Weed emailed KUTV this statement:

“In posting, we hoped to let those who followed our story five years ago know the reality of our situation. We also wanted to apologize to the LGBTQIA community and to anybody who was hurt by our story over the last five years.

Thanks so much!

Josh”

https://youtu.be/gZEsCWWskbY

Original Article

Angry users call out vice president for ‘shameful’ and ‘tone-deaf’ tweet commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims. The Hebrew translation of the imagery and wording he chose, however, is quite common in Israel

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has been excoriated on Twitter by Jews offended by what they view as his use of “Christ imagery” when memorializing Hitler’s victims on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Pence tweeted a video of him and his wife Karen laying a wreath and taking a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem during their visit to Israel last week. In the tweet, he paid tribute to what he called the “6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future.”

Angry replies to his tweet charged that Pence, an evangelical Christian, imposed – consciously or unconsciously – a Christian religious narrative on the tragedy that was disrespectful to the Jews who perished. Critics described it as “shameful” and “tone-deaf.”

One wrote: “Are you referring to my Jewish relatives who died or survived in the Holocaust or did we become embroiled into some sort of Jesus analogy?” Another called Pence’s use of the term resurrection “a Christian-tinged euphemism as the word is rarely used out of that specific context” and accused him of “glossing over the fact that they were murdered by saying they were resurrected, just like the Jesus he claims to believe in.“

Additional criticism followed:

skip – A tweet from Matthew Yglesias

The word “resurrection,” which has strong Christian connotations in English, is also a legitimate translation of the Hebrew word tekuma, which also can be translated as “rebirth,” “recovery” or “revival.” It is frequently used to describe the establishment of the State of Israel following the Holocaust in the phrase “Shoah v’tekuma.” Some on Twitter objected to the use of the word “martyr” as implying that the victims of the Holocaust sacrificed themselves willingly rather than being murdered. However, the word “martyr” is translated into Hebrew as kedoshim, which is the term most frequently used to memorialize Holocaust victims in Israel. The official name of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day is, in fact, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

The controversy comes a year after the Trump White House came under fire for issuing an official message that omitted Jews for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and doubled down on the decision when it was criticized.

This year’s White House message included a clear reference to the Jewish victims, saying that “we take this opportunity to recall the Nazis’ systematic persecution and brutal murder of six million Jewish people. In their death camps and under their inhuman rule, the Nazis also enslaved and killed millions of Slavs, Roma, gays, people with disabilities, priests and religious leaders, and others who courageously opposed their brutal regime.”

President Donald Trump himself also made a point of mentioning Jews in his tweet on the subject:

skip – A tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump

Pence’s assertion that Jews “rose from the ashes” is also imagery that is not unfamiliar to Jewish or Israeli ears.

President Reuven Rivlin, in his eulogy for late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said that “Shamir was a symbol of Israel’s rising from the ashes of the Holocaust to strength and staying power.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also referred publicly to Israel “rising from the ashes” of the Holocaust, as has World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder.

Beyond semantics, the larger issue is the implication in Pence’s tweet of an actual Jesus Christ-style resurrection of the Holocaust victims, through his statement that Jews “rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future” implies an actual return from the dead. Pence’s reference to “3 years walking beneath the shadow of death” was interpreted by many as making a deliberate parallel to the 3 days that passed between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust did not ‘resurrect themselves.’ They are all dead and most of them not even buried. Mr. Pence should have left out the term ‘resurrect,’ which offended many Jews,” said Rabbi Ron Kronish, an expert on interreligious relations and a library fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Kronish added that Pence’s “reference to a Jewish future was very vague and unclear. If he meant that the Holocaust led to the foundation of the Jewish State of Israel, this is blasphemy since it somehow justifies the Holocaust.”

The fact that “many Israeli politicians” often commit this sin themselves, he said, doesn’t make it right. “It would have been better for him to have said nothing about the Holocaust on this occasion if he or his advisers can’t figure out a sensitive and serious way to say it,” concluded Kronish.

IDF SPOKESMAN WARNS LEBANON OF WAR WITH ISRAEL IF IRANIAN PRESENCE GROWS

Original Article

“Lebanon has become – both by its own actions and omissions and by a blind eye from many members of the international community – one large missile factory,”  Manelis wrote on the Ahewar website.
“It’s no longer a transfer of arms, funds or consultation. Iran has de-facto opened a new branch, the ‘Lebanon branch.’ Iran is here,” he said.

“In Lebanon, Hezbollah does not conceal its attempt to take control of the state,” he continued, adding that “in the shadow of Nasrallah’s bullying behavior” the terror group has built “terror infrastructure and factories to manufacture weapons under the nose of the Lebanese government.”

Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, for the deployment of the Lebanese army and an enlarged UN force in the south.

“This past year (2017), like the 11 years that preceded it since the end of the Second Lebanon War, was characterized by relative stability on the Lebanese front. This quiet is for the benefit of residents on both sides,” Manelis wrote. “The fact that northern Israel and southern Lebanon have children who have not heard an alarm in their lives is a significant achievement of the Second Lebanon War, and the best proof of the stability of Israeli deterrence and the burning memory among the Lebanese about the magnitude of Nasrallah’s previous mistake.”

Nevertheless according to IDF assessments, Hezbollah has since rebuilt its arsenal with at least 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel. In addition to a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters and has flouted its tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity, and rocket launchers.

Hezbollah has also increased its military capabilities due to its fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad, and has spread its troops across the entire Middle East.

“The past year has been further proof that Hezbollah serves as an operational arm of Iran. In every place where there was instability, we discovered the fingerprint of Iran and everywhere we discovered Hezbollah’s involvement,” Manelis wrote.

Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have also been turned into “military strongholds” from which Hezbollah militants are able to watch Israeli soldiers at any moment.

“The ordinary citizen will be mistaken to think that this process turns Lebanon into a fortress, it is nothing more than a barrel of gunpowder on which he, his family and his property are sitting,” Manelis said in his op-ed on Sunday.

“One in every three or four houses in southern Lebanon is a headquarters, a post, a weapons depot or a Hezbollah hideout. We know these assets and know how to attack them accurately if required.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and the growing Iranian presence on its borders, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.

Senior officials from Israel’s defense establishment have repeatedly stated that while the chance of escalation on the border is low, the smallest incident or a miscalculation by either side has the possibility to lead to conflict.

“The future of Lebanese citizens is in the hands of a dictator who sits in Tehran,” Manelis wrote, adding that “I think it is right to warn the residents of Lebanon of the Iranian game in their security and in their future.”

In September, Israel carried out its largest military exercise on the northern border in 20 years with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army simulating a war with Hezbollah.

“The past year has been used by the IDF to significantly improve preparations for war on the northern front,” Manelis wrote. “If our enemies understood how much we knew about them, they would be deterred from entering into another conflict for many more years to come.”

Maher Defends Jerusalem Decision: When You Win Wars You Take Land, Palestine A “Coiled Snake”

Original Article

On the Friday edition of his show Real Time, HBO host Bill Maher defended President Trump’s decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, giving legitimacy to the country’s claim to the city. Maher said while he understands there will be repercussions, when you win wars you get land.

“I hate to agree with Donald Trump, but it doesn’t happen often, but I do. I don’t know why Israel — it has been their capital since 1949, it is where their government is. They’ve won all the wars thrown against them. I don’t understand why they don’t get to have their capital where they want,” he said.

“When you win a war you don’t get to take the other side’s land,” newly-minted New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg said.

“Actually, you do,” Maher responded.

“Especially because they were attacked. I mean the country was divided, which they were okay with. They were attacked more than once and they took land in those wars that they won and there has been peace offers on the table ever since to give part of that land back,” he added.

Maher asked why is it always up to Israel to come up with a two-state solution, and when they do it is rejected and blamed for making it “impossible.” He said what is making a two-state solution impossible is the “perpetually hostile,” “coiled snake” that is Palestinian leadership.

“But what is making the essential thing that is making the two-state solution impossible is that one party is perpetually hostile, a coiled snake,” Maher said in an argument with guest panelist Michelle Goldberg.

He also said Israel has given back land, including Gaza, and said the result was not hospitals and schools but tunnels and rockets.

“Israel gave back Gaza and what was the result? Did they use the funds to build schools and hospitals? No. They used them to build tunnels to get weapons and they invited Hamas in to shell Israel across the border,” he said.

Maher told Goldberg, who protested he should go visit the West Bank, that it’s unnecessary to make the trip and that you don’t have to be a “moron” to understand the situation.

From the January 26th edition of HBO’s Real Time:

BILL MAHER, HBO: Okay, while we’re near the Middle East let me ask about a big story that happened while we were off in December. Donald Trump: ‘Today we finally acknowledge the obvious that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.’ He said that Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like any other sovereign nation to determine its own capital.

I hate to agree with Donald Trump, but it doesn’t happen often, but I do. I don’t know why Israel — it has been their capital since 1949, it is where their government is. They’ve won all the wars thrown against them. I don’t understand why they don’t get to have their capital where they want.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: Really, you don’t understand that?

MAHER: I understand there are repercussions.

GOLDBERG: First of all, when you win a war you don’t get to take the other side’s land.

RICK WILSON: Actually, you do.

MAHER: Actually, you do.

GOLDBERG: Under international law, you can’t.

MAHER: Especially because they were attacked. I mean the country was divided, which they were okay with. They were attacked more than once and they took land in those wars that they won and there has been peace offers on the table ever since to give part of that land back.

What happened for the 50 years before? I mean, this has been the fact on the ground for 50 years. Israel has been a state for 70, I think, right?

WILSON: It is the capital of Israel, okay. I recognize Ro [Khanna]’s point that if we’re going to be an arbiter in the peace process that just declaring this without having trying to use that as a point of leverage in those debates, in those discussions, it might have given away a card we might have held.

I don’t think though that this is going to ultimately alter the conditions on the ground there because the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian government is so collapsed in terms of being an effective political force in the process that the status quo is going to be the status quo for the foreseeable future.

GOLDBERG: But the problem is the message that it sent a message to everyone in the process. So it sends a message to the Palestinians that the United States is going to be even more pro-Israel than in the past. And it sends a message to the Lukid government that you can basically do anything you want. And so they responded by adapting a resolution essentially calling for the annexation of the West Bank. They passed legislation that would make it less harder to come to any sort of final status agreement on Jerusalem. And they’ve done all these things that are going to make a two-state solution impossible.

MAHER: But it’s always they’re making the two-state solution impossible.

GOLDBERG: They are!

MAHER: But what is making the essential thing that is making the two-state solution impossible is that one party is perpetually hostile, a coiled snake.

GOLDBERG: That’s not true. Come on. You should go and see what’s happening in the West Bank. If you look at the settlements, if you look at the facts on the ground. The fact that you have instead of a contiguous land mass you increasingly have these little cantons. And if you look at the way that Palestinians — most Palestinians alive today were not born during any of these wars and so the idea that their lives should be blighted because of them. Look at what Americans have to do when they go through a TSA checkpoint. They completely lose their shit. And if you imagine doing that for two hours every single day —

MAHER: But this is always what happens. We talk about what happened as a result; we don’t look at the beginning of it. Like the Israelis just put up those checkpoints for no reason. They put up those checkpoints because there was an intifada and they were having bombings every day – a pizza parlor or a bus stop was getting blown up, that’s why they built it, not for no reason.

GOLDBERG: No, because also they want to take that land.

MAHER: Some of them do, yes.

GOLDBERG: I mean they are not putting up settlements for self-defense. They are putting up the settlements because they want to have a Greater Israel, and they are going to get it.

MAHER: Some of them do, yes.

GOLDBERG: There is going to be a one-state solution. So then the question is what is that one state? Is it Jewish or is it democratic? Because it can’t be both.

MAHER: Absolutely, and that is a big problem.

GOLDBERG: So that’s the problem.

MAHER: But when the gun is to Israel’s head — it is a problem.

GOLDBERG: You’re a rich person, you should go see what life in the West Bank is like. Go to Hebron. Like, no, go see it.

MAHER: First of all, you don’t have to go to understand this. I’m not a moron.

GOLDBERG: No, but you do. I feel like it’s hard to really get your head around how bad it is unless you see it with your own eyes.

MAHER: I understand that but Israel gave back Gaza and what was the result? Did they use the funds to build schools and hospitals? No. They used them to build tunnels to get weapons and they invited Hamas in to shell Israel across the border.

North Dakota woman says she was kicked out of Chick-Fil-A for breastfeeding

Original Article

A North Dakota woman said she was asked to leave a Chick-Fil-A over the weekend for breastfeeding her infant daughter at the restaurant.

Macy Hornung said in a Facebook post that she and her husband took their baby to the soft opening of a Chick-Fil-A in Fargo, North Dakota. Hornung said she was breastfeeding her baby when the Chick-Fil-A owner, Kimberly Flamm, approached their table and criticized her for nursing in public.

“I was showing no more than the upper portion of my breast, barely more than what was visible in my shirt and [the owner] asked me to cover,” she said. “I tried to explain that I couldn’t, because my baby refuses to be covered and she started harping about the children and men who can see my indecency and I need to cover.”

Hornung said in the Facebook post that she responded to Flamm’s insistence that she cover up by citing North Dakota breastfeeding laws. Under North Dakota law, a womanis able to breastfeed in any public or private location.

“She told me if I chose not to cover, then she would have to ask me to leave, so I told her my review would reflect my experience and I would be relaying the experience in every local mommy group,” Hornung said in the post.

Following outrage on social media, Flamm issued an apology on the franchise’s Facebook page. 

“I would like to publicly apologize to Macy Hornung for the way I handled the situation on Saturday,” Flamm said. “I ask for your forgiveness on this matter as I learn from it. My goal is to provide a warm and welcoming environment for all of my guests.”

USA TODAY has reached out to Chick-Fil-A for comment.

COGAT HEAD: THE JEWISH BRAIN HAS FOUND A SOLUTION FOR ALL TERROR TUNNELS

Original Article

Following the destruction of another cross-border terrorist tunnel from Gaza, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai has praised the technology behind its discovery.

“Israeli genius and the Jewish brain have found a solution for all the terrorist tunnels,” he said in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Hurairah television station on Sunday. “Just as there is the Iron Dome in the air, there is a technological dome of steel under the ground.”
An air strike by the Israel Air Force late Saturday night in the southern part of Rafah in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip destroyed a 180-meter-long terrorist tunnel which stretched into both Israel and Egypt, the IDF Spokesperson confirmed on Sunday morning.

“I want to send a message to anyone who digs and approaches the tunnels: As you have seen in the past two months, there is only death in these tunnels,” Mordechai said. “Instead of investing millions in the fields of education and medicine, they buried it underground and now all of it has disappeared into oblivion.

“I am also surprised that in these days of reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah], that this tunnel was dug in the direction of Israel and from there to Egypt. What an important message that sends to Egypt, which was responsible and supported reconciliation.”

“This is a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty, endangering the citizens of Israel and sabotaging the humanitarian efforts that Israel is making for the citizens of Gaza,” read a statement by the IDF.

Israel denied claims the tunnel was used for smuggling, asserting Hamas intended to use it to bring terrorists and weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip for a possible future combined attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing from the Egyptian side.

The target struck by the air force was a tunnel almost a kilometer in length that passed below the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as beneath several strategic targets, such as a gas pipe, and continued into Egyptian territory. The tunnel was completely destroyed by the strike.

The terrorist organization Hamas is responsible for everything happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, an IDF statement said.

Too old for DACA, man who spent 30 years of his life in U.S. is deported

Original Article

DETROIT — His arms wrapped around his wife and two teenage children, Jorge Garcia’s eyes welled up Monday as he looked into their eyes one last timenear the entrance to the airport security gate.

His wife, Cindy Garcia, cried out while his daughter, Soleil, 15, sobbed into Garcia’s shoulder as they hugged, with two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents keeping a close eye on them.

After 30 years of living in the United States, Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old landscaper from Lincoln Park, Mich., was deported on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to Mexico, a move his supporters say is another example of immigrants being unfairly targeted under the Trump administration.

An undocumented family member brought Jorge Garcia to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. Today he has a wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

► Jan. 15: American-citizen children follow their deported dad to Mexico
► Jan. 14: Trump blasts Dems as DREAMer debate heats up
► Jan. 13: Feds begin accepting DACA renewals following court order

Jorge Garcia had been facing an order of removal from immigration courts since 2009, but under the previous administration, he had been given stays of removal. Because of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, in November Jorge Garcia was ordered to return to Mexico.

His supporters say he has no criminal record — not even a traffic ticket — and pays taxes every year.

Nevertheless, Jorge Garcia had to be removed, ICE agents said. On Monday morning, accompanied by the government agents, Jorge Garcia went through security at Detroit Metropolitan Airport as supporters around him held up signs that read, “Stop separating families.”

“We love you, Jorge,” said Mayra Valle of Detroit as he hugged his wife and children. “They’re a good family. They’re hard-working. … This is so sad. This is outrageous. We never expected this would happen.”

Jorge Garcia is too old to qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 and were born after June 15, 1981, to legally work and study here.

Jorge Garcia said he had asked ICE officials if they could wait until new DACA legislation is passed, which might expand the age range for immigrants to qualify. But they refused and said he had to leave by Jan. 15.

“How do you do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?” said Erik Shelley, a leader with Michigan United that advocates for immigrant rights and other issues. “It’s another example of the tone-deafness of this administration. … If Jorge isn’t safe, no one is safe.”

Shelley said he’s concerned that minority immigrants increasingly are being targeted, citing remarks Trump has made about African and Hispanic immigrants. Other immigrant advocates and an official with the United Auto Workers joined him at the airport.

► Jan. 13: Indonesian immigrant finds sanctuary in N.J. church
► Jan. 12: Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans may be forced to leave U.S.

An ICE spokesman told the Free Press on Monday that he could not immediately comment because it was a federal holiday and ICE offices were closed.

“I feel kind of sad,” Jorge Garcia said Sunday night, his hands interlocked, pressed against his forehead in worry. “I got to leave my family behind, knowing that they’re probably going to have a hard time adjusting, me not being there for them for who knows how long. It’s just hard.”

Especially painful will be the separation from his children, Soleil and Jorge Garcia Jr., 12. The Garcias said their 12-year-old son has been taking the news hard, not expressing himself, which is concerning his parents.

“I’m going to be sad because I’m not going to be able to be with them,” Jorge Garcia said at the table of a friend in southwest Detroit hosting a farewell party for him. … It’s going to be kind of hard for me to adjust, too.”

Jorge Garcia may be barred from entering the U.S. for at least 10 years, Cindy Garcia said. Diego Bonesatti, legal services director for Michigan United, and others have been fighting for Jorge Garcia for years and now will try to get him back.

Jorge Garcia’s wife is a U.S. citizen, but being married to a U.S. citizen does not automatically qualify immigrants for legal residency.

Immigrant advocates say deporting people like Jorge Garcia is ripping up families and communities that have been losing population. Immigrants such as Jorge Garcia are an asset that stabilize and grow metro Detroit, they said.

“It’s like plucking a main artery, like, their lifeline, taking it from them and then just putting it somewhere else,” said family friend Norma Garza Jones, 44, of Detroit. “Those that are left behind are left to just try and compensate for that artery that main blood vessel, you know, that’s been pulled from them.”

► Jan. 12: Deportation stay granted for caregiver ‘daddy’ of paraplegic boy
► Jan. 12: ICE 7-Eleven raids showcase new immigration strategy

“It’s heartbreaking,” Bonesatti said. “If you’re going to pick someone who’s ideal,” he would be it.

“He came at age 10,” the Michigan United legal services director said. “He’s never been in trouble, period. He’s never even gotten a traffic ticket.”

Moreover, Mexico is a foreign place for him, and he’s worried about finding work and creating a new life.

► Jan. 8: How Trump’s wall pledge is complicating a DACA bill for ‘Dreamers’
► Jan. 5: Each day, 120 ‘dreamers’ lose protection from deportation

“This is his home,” Bonesatti said. “This is the place he knows.”

The administration wouldn’t even stop the deportations on a national holiday, said Adonis Flores, an immigrant rights leader at Michigan United, calling it shameful.

Cindy Garcia, a retired Dearborn, Mich., truck plant worker, worries about supporting her family.

“It’s a nightmare coming to life,” she said. “You have no choice but to face it head on and accept what is being thrown at you because there is nothing else that you can do.”

The Anti-Abortion Group That’s Urging Clinic Workers to Quit Their Jobs

Original Article

At a secluded retreat center outside Austin, about a dozen, mostly middle-aged women are gathered in a quiet conference room. Some huddle under blankets to ward off the chill from an unusual Texas cold spell.

Abby Johnson founded the anti-abortion group And Then There Were None after leaving her job running a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas in 2009.

Courtesy Abby Johnson

This session’s topic: guilt and shame.

“Does anybody feel like they’re still dealing with, like, shame? Like, feeling bad about yourself as a person, because of what you’ve done in the clinics?” Abby Johnson asks the women seated in a circle of chairs around her.

The room is mostly silent. But as the weekend goes on and the participants get more comfortable, they begin to cry and pray together, and to share their stories.

This is a retreat for women who used to work in health centers that perform abortions and now feel conflicted about that work. Johnson, 37, is the CEO and founder of the Texas-based anti-abortion group And Then There Were None. (She says when she came up with the name, she didn’t really think about the Agatha Christie mystery by the same title.)

Most anti-abortion rights groups aim to restrict the procedure through state legislatures and the court system, or by urging pregnant women to carry to term.

Johnson’s goal is to persuade as many workers as possible to leave the field.

She and other members of And Then There Were None visit clinics where abortions are performed. They hold up signs, pass out pamphlets and urge the workers to quit their jobs.

For those who do leave clinic work, the group offers temporary financial assistance, resume help, and spiritual and emotional support, including retreats like the one near Austin. The group does not have a formal religious affiliation, but has a “prayer team” and offers to connect former clinic workers with Christian churches and pastors.

Johnson, a mother of seven, generated headlines — and a fair amount of skepticismand controversy about her story — after she quit her job as a Planned Parenthood clinic director in Bryan, Texas, in 2009. She says she had a change of heart about her work after viewing an abortion through an ultrasound. She describes the moment as a “spiritual awakening.”

Planned Parenthood has disputed some of the details of Johnson’s story, and at one point filed a restraining order against her, fearing she would release confidential patient records from the clinic. Johnson responded that she never intended to disclose any private information, and a judge dismissed the case.

Annette Lancaster, 40, used to manage a Planned Parenthood health center in Chapel Hill, N.C. She says the work made her feel “dark and morbid.”

Sarah McCammon/NPR

Retreat participant Annette Lancaster, 40, is currently a stay-at-home mom. For several months, ending in May 2016, she managed a Planned Parenthood health center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Lancaster says events like this one provide a place to talk about details that friends on both sides of the abortion debate can be reluctant to discuss.

“These are my sisters, who I can talk to about things I’ve seen and done in the clinic that other people would probably turn green and pass out about,” Lancaster says in a private moment away from the group.

She says the job began to make her feel “dark and morbid,” and she was troubled by the way she says she and some of the other workers referred to fetal remains.

“I just now started being able to use the deep freezer in my home by going through [therapy], because we used to call the freezer the ‘nursery’ … And we used to think that was funny,” she says.

Lancaster says she felt pressure to keep up the number of abortions performed at the clinic each month, even if patients seemed hesitant.

In a statement to NPR, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic denies those claims. The organization says Lancaster was fired for reasons related to her job performance.

The statement, attributed to Associated Affiliate Medical Director Dr. Matt Zerden, reads, in part:

“I would never tolerate my staff using disrespectful language, and Planned Parenthood does not have a fixed number required for any of its services. Planned Parenthood follows all applicable laws and advises patients on the full range of pregnancy options, including choosing adoption, ending a pregnancy, or raising a child. We insist on extremely high standards for all of our staff.”

After her departure, Lancaster says And Then There Were None helped cover a couple months’ salary and a few other expenses.

Noemi Padilla, 47, recently left Tampa Women’s Health, an independent clinic in Tampa, Fla. She worked there as a surgical nurse and assisted on abortion procedures up to about 23 weeks gestation.

Sarah McCammon/NPR

The group also provided temporary financial support to Noemi Padilla, a 47-year-old licensed practical nurse, who left her job at Tampa Woman’s Health Center last year.

“I just woke up one Monday morning and I was like, this is it. Today is the day,” Padilla says.

The Tampa clinic performs abortions well into the second trimester of pregnancy — up to 23 weeks, six days gestation. Padilla says the work had begun to plague her conscience.

In an interview with NPR, clinic director Dorothy Brown said several other workers have also left the clinic with assistance from Johnson’s group. She believes many were motivated by the chance to quit their jobs and still get a temporary paycheck.

Abby Johnson says it’s likely that a small number of former workers are primarily motivated by her group’s offer of money. But she says And Then There Were None remains in regular contact with more than 300 people who have left abortion-related jobs.

Abortion-rights advocates say they’re skeptical about that figure.

“The numbers just don’t add up,” says Elizabeth Toledo, a former vice president at Planned Parenthood who now runs a communications firm.

Toledo notes that only around a dozen people (And Then There Were None’s count is slightly higher) have gone public with their regrets about working in clinics where abortions are provided. Johnson’s group counters that many former workers are hesitant to speak out about their experiences because they are ashamed that they worked at a clinic, or they fear retaliation from former employers.

Whatever the total number of healthcare workers who’ve left abortion-related jobs as a result of Johnson’s advocacy, Toledo says it’s not enough to make a major impact on the availability of services. But, she says, the attrition can affect workers and patients nonetheless.

“It’s just another stressor on people who are already going to work in a highly-charged political environment,” Toledo says. “And I don’t think that they’re going to be successful, but they are going to make people have to deal with an additional layer of stress — about their workplace, about their decisions, about their families, and their lives.”

Abby Johnson says after she left her job at Planned Parenthood, she also suffered from that highly charged environment. Some abortion-rights opponents refused to accept her into the movement, calling her “disgusting” and saying she deserved imprisonment or eternal damnation because of her work at the clinic.

“They were, like, ‘You either need to go to jail or hell’ — those were the options,” she says with a laugh.

But Johnson says now those comments have largely faded. She has gradually been embraced by the anti-abortion-rights movement, as one of the rare people who has spent time publicly on each side of this divisive issue.

Teacher told black student he may get lynched if he didn’t focus on his work, mom says

Original Article

Tanisha Agee-Bell said she knew her 13-year-old son Nathan was probably acting up in class.

Still, the mother from Mason, Ohio, told Cincinnati.com that the teacher didn’t have to seemingly threaten her son, who is black, with lynching.

Agee-Bell told WLWT5 that teacher Renee Thole admitted to telling her son in her social studies class that “if you don’t get back on task, your friends are going to form an angry mob and lynch you.” The mother said she had confronted Thole and the teacher confessed to making the statement.

Tracey Carson, a spokesman for Mason schools, said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press that Thole didn’t mean to offend the student — and that sometimes teachers can “mess up.”

And Thole, when confronted by Nathan in class, questioned why the student thought her comment was racist and offensive, Agee-Bell told Cincinnati.com. Carson said that Thole apologized in class and felt “awful” about the comment.

Nathan said he feared his mom would be upset that he questioned his teacher, and didn’t tell her about the comment for around a week, according to Cincinnati.com.

But when he finally told her, Agee-Bell said she went to the superintendent with her complaints.

“For her not to understand that the words that she said were a direct pull from what has been, what was a practice in the United States, is unacceptable,” Agee-Bell told WLWT5. “She shouldn’t be in the classroom. She shouldn’t be in the classroom at all.

“And I’m not saying she should never go back in the classroom, but until she can demonstrate that she understands what the impact of the language that she used and what she did can have, has had on my son, has on his peers and is having on our community, then she doesn’t need to be in the classroom.”

The school district released a statement about the incident that was published by Fox19.

“Growing Greatness Together is our district’s vision. But, we have not arrived. We have work to do.

“Sometimes we mess up. Clearly, that was the case here. And, even though this teacher did not set out to hurt a child – clearly that happened too. It was amazing that this young black man was brave enough to confront his teacher when the incident happened. …

“Our district will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified staff members that lift up our district’s values.”

Thole was removed from Nathan’s social studies class, Cincinnati.com reported.

It’s unknown if the teacher will face any other disciplinary action, local outlets reported.

“For me, that’s enough for her, as a social studies teacher especially, to be removed from the classroom,” Agee-Bell said to Fox19. “I don’t know if she’s racist, but I know that what she said is racist.”

I.R.S. Paid $20 Million to Collect $6.7 Million in Tax Debts

Original Article

Nina E. Olson, the taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service, has repeatedly complained that Congress is underfunding the agency. CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked at his confirmation hearing what he thought about using private companies to collect money owed to the government, he replied that it “seems like a very obvious thing to do.”

It may have been obvious, but it certainly was not economical.

Private debt collectors cost the Internal Revenue Service $20 million in the last fiscal year, but brought in only $6.7 million in back taxes, the agency’s taxpayer advocate reported Wednesday. That was less than 1 percent of the amount assigned for collection.

What’s more, private contractors in some cases were paid 25 percent commissions on collections that the I.R.S. made without their help, according to the annual report by Nina E. Olson, who heads the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the I.R.S.

While Republicans have been the most vocal proponents of privatizing public services, congressional Democrats are equally responsible for the I.R.S.’s program. Despite the pointed failure of similar efforts in the past, Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the I.R.S. to use outside contractors to make a dent in the $138 billion that taxpayers owe the government.

The outsourcing began last April. Since then, the report stated, “the I.R.S. has implemented the program in a manner that causes excessive financial harm to taxpayers and constitutes an end run around taxpayer rights protections.”

Continue reading the main story

The I.R.S. excuses hardship cases from collection efforts to ensure that households can still pay for basic living expenses. But an analysis by the advocate’s office found that 45 percent of the collections by private contractors were from taxpayers whose incomes fell below the minimum threshold, including those who received Social Security disability payments.

The report underscored Ms. Olson’s repeated complaints that Congress is underfunding the agency, warning that the new tax law will bring added pressures that will further impair its ability to respond to taxpayers, update technology and maintain compliance programs. Since 2010, funding for the I.R.S. has shrunk by a fifth, after taking inflation into account.

The agency receives more than 95 million phone calls a year, for example, but it expects to answer only about 60 percent during the current filing season; that number is estimated to decline to 40 percent for the rest of the year. And that was before the new law was passed. If previous tax code changes are any guide, the number of queries is likely to rise significantly, pushing down the response figure even more.

A preliminary estimate by the I.R.S. figured that the new law would require an additional $495 million over the next two fiscal years to handle tasks like updating programming, answering phone calls, drafting and publishing new forms, revising regulations and training employees on the new code.

Ms. Olson said in the report that “the discussion about I.R.S. funding has largely proceeded based on false choices — either ‘you can’t trust the I.R.S. to administer the tax system, so don’t fund it’ or ‘because the I.R.S. doesn’t have enough funding, it can’t do the things it needs to do to administer the tax system.’” Both added that funding and service improvements are needed, she said.

The I.R.S. is rushing to move taxpayer services online and limit personal contact, she said, but the problem is that many households aren’t in a position to keep up. A 2016-17 survey by the advocate’s office found that 41 million taxpayers had no broadband connection in their homes, including 14 million with no internet access at all. Many other Americans who do use the agency’s online service still want to be able to speak to a person on the telephone or face to face at times, the I.R.S. has found.

Among the most serious problems identified by the advocate’s office is a lack of advance notice when citizens are in danger of losing their passports because they owe the I.R.S. more than $50,000.

In addition, Ms. Olson reiterated previously expressed worries that the expedited process of approving organizations’ tax-exempt status was resulting in rubber-stamp approvals of groups that had not established their qualifications. She cited an error rate of 46 percent in a sampling last year.

The streamlined process, for charities with assets under $250,000, was partly a response to a furor over the agency’s intensive scrutiny of certain political groups, including some associated with the Tea Party movement. Flaws in the new process, the report said, can undermine public trust in the charitable sector.

Sarah Allen, an I.R.S. spokeswoman, said the agency’s leaders would review the taxpayer advocate’s proposals.

Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who helped spearhead the tax revision efforts, has said he plans to focus on reforming the Internal Revenue Service this year. Ms. Olson’s office issued a new publication that includes its top 50 legislative recommendations.

Man who left manure at Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s house comes forward, speaks out

Original Article

By Connor Sheets

A man who appears to be the person who left a gift-wrapped box of horse manure outside the home of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Saturday spoke with AL.com via phone late Sunday evening, calling the incident an “act of political theater.”

L.A. psychologist Robby Strong provided AL.com with convincing evidence that he is the man behind the now-infamous incident, which attracted the LAPD’s bomb squad and other law enforcement personnel to Mnuchin’s home in the city’s Bel Air neighborhood.

He defended his decision to drop the box of manure – which he says he got from a horse-owning friend – off at Mnuchin’s house as a “prank” aimed at raising the awareness of Americans about the idea that “Republicans have done nothing for the American worker” and other political topics.

“The thing I live by is a rule of transparency and I was exercising my First Amendment rights,” Strong told AL.com. “A few years ago when [a Supreme Court ruling] said that corporations are persons and money equals free speech, that is so absurd and my rule of thumb is now that if corporations are free speech, then so is horses***t.”

At 12:22 p.m. PST Saturday, Strong posted three pictures to Facebook, one of which depicts himself posing with a shovel next to a gift-wrapped box, and another of which shows the box full of what appears to be fecal matter.

They were accompanied by a message that reads in part as follows: “I need someone to ride along and document my Secret Santa project. I’m going to hand deliver boxes of horse s**t to Steve Mnuchin over in Beverly Hills.”

Robby Strong posted this photo of a gift-wrapped box filled with what appears to be manure on Facebook Saturday.

Strong told AL.com that he delivered one box of manure to a home Mnuchin owns in Beverly Hills, and another to the home in Bel Air that led to the LAPD sending out its bomb squad.

Strong posted several more photos to Facebook on Saturday between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. PST, one of which depicted a letter to Mnuchin and another of which showed a gift-wrapped box sitting in front of a palatial house.

“Mrs. (sic) Mnuchin & Trump, We’re returning the ‘gift’ of the Christmas tax bill. It’s bulls**t,” the letter states. “Warmest wishes, The American People. P.S. – Kiss Donald for me.”

Robby Strong posted this photo to Facebook about 50 minutes before the LAPD reportedly received a complaint Saturday evening about a suspicious package outside U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin’s house. (Facebook / Robby Strong)

The LAPD was not notified about a suspicious package at Mnuchin’s house until about 5:30 PST Saturday, according to the New York Daily News. Late Sunday night, the LAPD did not answer a call to the media phone number listed on its website.

Strong, who is from Kentucky but now lives in Los Angeles, claims that agents with the U.S. Secret Service showed up at his L.A. home and interviewed him on Sunday, but that they did not arrest him.

“I just got interviewed by the Secret Service and I’ve now joined some of my heroes like Timothy Leary and Martin Luther King,” he told AL.com. “[The agents] just showed up in my yard.”

A man who answered the Secret Service’s national media hotline late Sunday evening said, “you’re calling our after-hours public response desk and i have no information.” He directed inquiries to an email address for on-duty personnel, to which an email went unanswered late Sunday night.

Strong downplayed any questions about whether his self-described prank could have alarmed Mnuchin or his family or caused a dangerous situation.

“It was a gift-wrapped package of poo, something a frat boy may do to another frat boy,” he said. “I was hoping to meet [Mnuchin.] I wanted to ring the door and hand it to him myself.”

Strong said that because there are restrictions on mailing waste materials like manure, he instead opted to personally go to Mnuchin’s home and leave it outside.

“I kind of dodged that whole issue. Is there a law that you can’t drop off a box of poo? Not really,” he explained.

Strong said his end goal is to inspire people to commit more potent acts of political advocacy.

“The fact that [Republicans] can be so brazen and act with such impunity tells me that we have to be more brazen with our activism and maybe a bit more aggressive,” he said.

Guatemala to move embassy to Jerusalem, president says

Original Article

(CNN)Guatemala plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on his official Facebook account on Sunday.

Morales said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and instructed Guatemala’s foreign ministry to “initiate the process to make it possible.”
President Jimmy Morales, in Guatemala City last June.

Guatemala, the United States, Israel and six smaller nations voted against a United Nations resolution to condemn US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The vote on Thursday was overwhelming, with 128 in support and 35 abstentions. Another 21 countries did not participate in the vote.
The Central American nation is the first country to announce it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since Trump issued his announcement December 6.
“Today I spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Morales said on Facebook.
“We spoke about the great relationships we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the State of Israel. One of the most relevant topics was the return of the Embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem.
“I inform you that I have given instructions to the Chancellor (Foreign Minister) to initiate the process to make it possible. God bless you,” he said.
On Monday, Netanyahu praised President Morales and suggested other countries would soon follow.
“I told you recently that there will be other countries that would recognize Jerusalem and announce the transfer of their embassies to it,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Well here is the second country and I reiterate: It is only the beginning and it is important.”
Last week, Netanyahu told CNN that “several countries” were considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem in the wake of Trump’s decision.
On Monday, Israel’s Speaker of Parliament, Yuli Edelstein, congratulated Morales “on his bold decision.”
“Your decision proves that you & your country are true friends of Israel & I am confident the ties between us will only grow stronger to the benefit of both countries,” he said in a tweet.

EU tells Netanyahu it rejects Trump’s Jerusalem move

Original Article

By Robin Emmott, John Davison

BRUSSELS/CAIRO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case to Europe to ask allies to join the United States in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but met a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers who saw the move as a blow against the peace process.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, took his own case to Egypt on Monday and was expected to fly to Turkey for a meeting of Muslim countries this week, cementing support from leaders who say the U.S. move was a dire error.

President Donald Trump announced last Wednesday the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that the city’s status must be left to Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel and the Israeli military said it responded with air strikes and tank fire targeting a position of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the enclave.

On the ground in the Palestinian territories, violent clashes with Israeli security forces in which scores of Palestinians have been injured and several killed since the U.S. announcement last week appeared to have mostly subsided.

Netanyahu, on his first visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, said Trump’s move helped peace, “because recognising reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace”.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in a 1967 war, considers the entire city to be its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

The Trump administration says it remains committed to the peace process and its decision does not affect Jerusalem’s future borders or status. It says any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem, and ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.

But even Israel’s closest European allies have rejected that logic and say recognising Israel’s capital unilaterally risks inflaming violence and further wrecking the chance for peace.

After a breakfast meeting between Netanyahu and EU foreign ministers, Sweden’s top diplomat said no European at the closed-door meeting had voiced support for Trump’s decision, and no country was likely to follow the United States in announcing plans to move its embassy.

“I have a hard time seeing that any other country would do that and I don’t think any other EU country will do it,” Margot Wallstrom told reporters.

Israel’s position does appear to have more support from some EU states than others. Last week, the Czech foreign ministry said it would begin considering moving the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while Hungary blocked a planned EU statement condemning the U.S. move.

But Prague later said it accepted Israel’s sovereignty only over West Jerusalem, and Budapest said its long-term position seeking a two-state solution in the Middle East had not changed.

On Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of Trump’s decision: “I‘m afraid it can’t help us.”

“I‘m convinced that it is impossible to ease tension with a unilateral solution,” Zaoralek said. “We are talking about an Israeli state but at the same time we have to speak about a Palestinian state.”

The Palestinian president, Abbas, met Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo, as well as the head of the Arab League. Egypt, a U.S. ally with a peace treaty with Israel, has brokered Israeli-Palestinian deals in the past.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini brief the media at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“DUNGEON FOR MUSLIMS”

Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would have “dangerous effects on peace and security in the region”, Sisi said on Monday at an earlier meeting with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Abbas was also due to fly to Turkey. Trump’s announcement has triggered a war of words between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Netanyahu, straining ties between the two U.S. allies which were restored only last year after a six-year breach that followed the Israeli storming of a Turkish aid ship.

On Sunday, Erdogan called Israel a “terror state”. Netanyahu responded by saying he would accept no moral lectures from Erdogan who he accused of bombing Kurdish villages, jailing opponents and supporting terrorists.

On Monday Erdogan took aim directly at Washington over Trump’s move: “The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands,” he said in a speech in Ankara. “With their decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

Trump’s announcement triggered days of protests across the Muslim world and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Slideshow (11 Images)

In Beirut, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest at a march backed by Hezbollah, the heavily-armed Iran-backed Shi‘ite group whose leader called last week for a new Palestinian uprising against Israel. An announcer led the crowd in chants of “Death to America! Death to Israel!”

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the crowd by video link the group was turning its focus back towards the fight against Israel: “Today the axis of resistance, including Hezbollah, will return as its most important priority … Jerusalem and Palestine and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance in all its factions.”

“STOP PAMPERING”

Netanyahu, who has been angered by the EU’s search for closer business ties with Iran, said Europeans should emulate Trump’s move and press the Palestinians to do so, too.

“It’s time that the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state and also recognise the fact that it has a capital. It’s called Jerusalem,” he said. In comments filmed later on his plane, he said he had told the Europeans to “stop pampering the Palestinians”, who “need a reality check”.

Unconscious Patient With ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Tattoo Causes Ethical Conundrum at Hospital

Original Article

By George Dvorsky

When an unresponsive patient arrived at a Florida hospital ER, the medical staff was taken aback upon discovering the words “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattooed onto the man’s chest—with the word “NOT” underlined and with his signature beneath it. Confused and alarmed, the medical staff chose to ignore the apparent DNR request—but not without alerting the hospital’s ethics team, who had a different take on the matter.

As described in a New England Journal of Medicine case report, the unnamed 70-year-old man was brought to the ER by paramedics in an unconscious state, and with an elevated blood alcohol level. The patient had a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a type of lung disease), diabetes, and an irregular heart rate. His condition began to deteriorate several hours after being admitted, and dramatic medical interventions were needed to keep the patient alive.

But with the “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattoo glaring back at them, the ICU team was suddenly confronted with a serious dilemma. The patient arrived at the hospital without ID, the medical staff was unable to contact next of kin, and efforts to revive or communicate with the patient were futile. The medical staff had no way of knowing if the tattoo was representative of the man’s true end-of-life wishes, so they decided to play it safe and ignore it.

“We initially decided not to honor the tattoo, invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty,” wrote the authors of the case study. “This decision left us conflicted owing to the patient’s extraordinary effort to make his presumed advance directive known; therefore, an ethics consultation was requested.”

But there was more too it than just the medical ethics. Gregory Holt, the lead author of the new case study, said the biggest question in his mind was the legal aspect of whether or not it was acceptable. “Florida has stringent rules on this,” he told Gizmodo.

 

While the DNR tattoo may seem extreme, the request to not be resuscitated during end-of-life care is most certainly not. Roughly 80 percent of US Medicare patients say “they wish to avoid hospitalization and intensive care during the terminal phase of illness.” Revealingly, a 2014 survey showed that the vast majority of physicians would prefer to skip high-intensity interventions for themselves. Of the 1,081 doctors polled, over 88 percent opted for do-not-resuscitate status. Indeed, measures to keep a patient alive are often invasive, painful, and costly. DNRs, which hospital staff refer to as “no-codes,” are an explicit request to forego high-intensity interventions like CPR, electric shock, and intubation tubes. More implicitly, it’s a request to not be hooked up to a machine.

Typically, DNRs are formal, notarized documents that a patient gives to their doctor and family members. Tattoos, needless to say, are a highly unorthodox—but arguably direct—means of conveying one’s end-of-life wishes. That said, this patient’s tattoo presented some undeniable complications for the hospital staff. Is a tattoo a legal document? Was it a regretful thing the patient did while he was drunk or high? Did he get the tattoo, but later change his opinion? On this last point, a prior case does exist in which a patient’s DNR tattoo did not reflect their wishes (as the authors wrote in this 2012 report: “…he did not think anyone would take his tattoo seriously…”).

In this most recent NEJM case, the ICU team did its best to keep the patient alive as the ethics team mulled over the situation, administering antibiotics, vasopressors (to elevate low blood pressure), intravenous fluid resuscitation, and other measures.

“After reviewing the patient’s case, the ethics consultants advised us to honor the patient’s DNR tattoo,” Holt told Gizmodo. “They suggested that it was most reasonable to infer that the tattoo expressed an authentic preference, that what might be seen as caution could also be seen as standing on ceremony [i.e. adherence to medical tradition and norms], and that the law is sometimes not nimble enough to support patient-centered care and respect for patients’ best interests.”

Accordingly, the ICU team wrote up a DNR, and the patient died later that evening without having undergone any emergency DNR measures. Before he died, however, the hospital’s social work department discovered the patient’s Florida Department of Health “out-of-hospital” DNR order, which was consistent with the tattoo.

But as the authors of the new report point out, the whole incident “produced more confusion than clarity,” saying that, despite how hard it can be for patients to make their end-of-life wishes known, “this case report neither supports nor opposes the use of tattoos to express end-of-life wishes when the person is incapacitated.”

Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, agrees that this incident was challenging.

“Advanced directives of any kind do not override most recent expressed capable wish,” Bowman told Gizmodo. “In other words, [the patient] may have changed his mind and there may be no way of knowing. Tattoo regret is not rare. [The ICU team’s] defense is erring on the side of life.”

At the same time, however, Bowman is sympathetic to the patient, saying the tattoo may be an expression of how often patients’ wishes are somehow overlooked and the system takes over. “My position would be if someone went to the great length of having DNR tattooed with a signature, it indicates a strong and clear wish,” he told Gizmodo.

Melissa Garrido, an Associate Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC, shares this sentiment, saying that even when a DNR order has been entered into a medical record, it is not always readily accessible in a health crisis. “A standardized tattoo may be a readily accessible method for communicating a strongly held care preference,” she told Gizmodo.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that vasopressors lower blood pressure. They do the opposite, and we regret the error.

 

 

Self-taught rocket scientist plans to launch over California ghost town

The countdown to launch creeps closer and there’s still plenty for self-taught rocket scientist “Mad” Mike Hughes to do: Last-second modifications to his vessel. Pick up his flight suit. Leave enough food for his four cats — just in case anything happens.

Hughes is a 61-year-old limo driver who’s spent the last few years building a steam-powered rocket out of salvage parts in his garage. His project has cost him $20,000, which includes Rust-Oleum paint to fancy it up and a motor home he bought on Craigslist that he converted into a ramp.

His first test of the rocket will also be the launch date — Saturday, when he straps into his homemade contraption and attempts to hurtle over the ghost town of Amboy, California. He will travel about a mile at a speed of roughly 500 mph.

“If you’re not scared to death, you’re an idiot,” Hughes said. “It’s scary as hell, but none of us are getting out of this world alive. I like to do extraordinary things that no one else can do, and no one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket. I’m a walking reality show.”

The daredevil-limo driver has been called a little bit of everything over his career — eccentric, quirky, foolhardy. Doesn’t bother him. He believes what he believes, including that the Earth is flat. He knows this thought is a conundrum, given that he’s about to launch himself into the atmosphere.

Down the road, he’s intending to build a rocket that takes him to space, so he can snap a picture and see with his own eyes.

“I don’t believe in science,” said Hughes, whose main sponsor for the rocket is Research Flat Earth. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics, and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.”

rocket-launch.jpg

Hughes plans to launch the rocket Saturday over the ghost town of Amboy, California, at a speed of roughly 500 mph.

 “MAD” MIKE HUGHES / AP

This will actually be the second time he’s constructed and launched a rocket. He jumped on a private property in Winkelman, Arizona, on Jan. 30, 2014, and traveled 1,374 feet. He collapsed after that landing — the G-forces taking a toll — and needed three days to recover.

That distance, though, would’ve been enough to clear the Snake River Canyon, which is a jump daredevil Evel Knievel made famous when he failed to clear it during his attempt in 1974. Stuntman Eddie Braun did successfully zoom over the canyon — using Knievel’s original blueprints — in September 2016.

Just don’t mention Knievel around Hughes. He’s not a fan.

“He was an average stunt guy,” said Hughes, a former motorcycle racer. “He stole his look from Elvis.”

Hughes constructed his latest rocket at the “Rocket Ranch” in Apple Valley, California. It’s a five-acre property he leases from Waldo Stakes, the CEO of Land Speed Research Vehicles, who’s currently working on a project to make a car travel 2,000 mph.

Their relationship formed a few years ago when Hughes approached Stakes about building a rocket. Stakes receives plenty of these sorts of requests, but this one stood out because Hughes was building it himself.

“Nothing is out of reach,” Stakes said. “Anything can be done. You just have to put enough money, time and thought into it.”

Here’s the thing: Hughes doesn’t make all that much money — $15 per hour as a limo driver, plus tips. That’s why he’s scrounged for parts, finding the aluminum for his rocket in metal shops and constructing the rocket nozzle out of an aircraft air filter. He gave it a good varnish of cheap paint, and his launch pad is attached to a motor home he bought for $1,500.

“I want to inspire others, and you have to do something incredible to get anybody’s attention,” Hughes said.

The location of the jump will be Amboy, a ghost town in the Mojave Desert and along historic Route 66. The fictional town of Radiator Springs in the Disney movie “Cars” was loosely based on Amboy.

Hughes got permission from the town’s owner, Albert Okura, who purchased the rights to Amboy in 2005 for $435,000. The launch will take place on an air strip next to a dilapidated hangar.

“It is absolutely the most wacky promotional proposal I have had since I purchased the entire town in 2005,” said Okura, who’s also the founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. “He is a true daredevil and I want to be part of it.”

On the morning of the launch, Hughes will heat about 70 gallons of water in a stainless steel tank and then blast off between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. He plans to go about a mile — reaching an altitude of about 1,800 feet — before pulling two parachutes. They’re discouraging fans, safety issues, but it will be televised on his YouTube channel. He said he’s been in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of Land Management.

Following his jump, he said he’s going to announce his plans to leap into the race for governor of California. No joke.

His future plans include an excursion into space. He and Stakes have already brainstormed on a “Rockoon,” which is a rocket that, rather than being immediately ignited while on the ground, is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and lit. This rocket will take Hughes about 68 miles up.

First things first — this jump over a ghost town. He will be tinkering with his rocket right up to takeoff.

“A guy who builds his own rocket in his garage, about to jump a mile is pretty cool,” Hughes said. “It’s the most interesting human-interest story in the world.”

 

US breaks ground for new permanent base in Israel

Original Article

By  Barbara Opall-Rome

TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. and Israeli officers broke ground in Israel on Monday for a permanent U.S. Army base that will house dozens of U.S. soldiers, operating under the American flag, and charged with the mission of defending against rocket and missile attack.

The American base, officers in Israel say, will be an independent facility co-located at the Israel Defense Forces Air Defense School in southern Israel, near the desert capital of Beersheba. Once completed, the base will house U.S. operational systems to identify and intercept a spectrum of aerial threats, along with barracks, recreational and other facilities required to support several dozen American air defenders.

“A few dozens of soldiers of our American allies will be stationed here permanently. They are part of an American task force that will be stationed here,” said Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the IDF‘s air defense commander.

According to Haimovich, the co-located, permanent U.S. presence will enhance Israel’s ability to detect and defend against the growing rocket and missile threat. “The purpose of their presence is not for training or for exercises, but rather as part of a joint Israeli and American effort to sustain and enhance our defensive capabilities.”

Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commanding general of the Army National Guard in U.S. Army Europe, led the U.S. delegation participating in Sept. 18 ceremonies.

The United States is to create a new permanent base in Israel, something the U.S. Army National Guard’s deputy commanding general says “signifies the strong bond” between the U.S. and Israel. “We’ll have Israeli airmen, U.S. soldiers living and working side-by-side,” Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski said. (Israel Defense Forces) Correction: A previous version of this video misidentified the force Gronski helps command. He is with the U.S. Army National Guard.

Referring to the site as Site 883 Life Support Area, Gronski said the planned base “signifies the strong bond” that exists between the United States and Israel.

“This life support area represents the first ever stationing of a U.S. Army unit on Israeli soil,” he said. “The U.S. and Israel have long planned together, exercised together, trained together. And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will occur every day. We’ll have Israeli airmen, US soldiers living and working side by side.”

While the new U.S. base marks the first to be co-located within an Israeli base and the first in which active interceptors are to be deployed, the U.S. military has operated an independent facility for nearly a decade in the same general area of Israel’s Negev desert. That facility — which is operated only by Americans without an Israeli presence — houses the U.S. AN/TPY-2, an X-Band radar that is integrated with Israeli search and track radars to augment early warning in the event of ballistic missile attack from Iran.

In his briefing to reporters, Haimovich said the IDF has been working with its U.S. counterparts for nearly two years to establish the new facility. He emphasized that the American presence “would not hamper the IDF‘s ability to act independently against any threat to the security of the State of Israel.”

The U.S. and Israel have broken ground on a joint military base in southern Israel.
The U.S. and Israel have broken ground on a joint military base in southern Israel.

He also noted that in recent weeks, the IDFs Air Defense Command stood up a new Iron Dome battalion to enable the Jewish state to more equitably deploy active defenses along its northern as well as southern borders, where Israel faces growing threats from Lebanon and Gaza, respectively.

One of Israel’s operational Iron Dome systems is now in the U.S., where it is competing with U.S.-proposed systems for an interim — and possibly longer-term — solution to the medium- and short-range air defense requirement.

Oxford teacher faces action over ‘misgendering’ pupil

Original Article

A teacher is facing disciplinary action at his school after he referred to a transgender pupil as a girl, although the student identifies as a boy.

Joshua Sutcliffe, a Christian pastor from Oxford, admitted he said “Well done girls” when addressing a group including the student.

He described it as a “slip of the tongue”, but said he believed biological sex was defined at birth

The school said it would be “inappropriate” to comment.

Mr Sutcliffe, who teaches children aged between 11 and 18, said the incident took place on 2 November.

He said a week-long investigation found he had “misgendered” the pupil.

‘Born a girl’

The maths teacher, who is also a pastor at the Christ Revelation church in Oxford, said he tried to balance his beliefs with the need to treat the pupil sensitively.

He claimed he did this by avoiding the use of gender-specific pronouns and by referring to the pupil by name.

“While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs… I have never looked to impose my convictions on others”, he said

He said he had apologised to the student, but said he did not consider it “unreasonable” to call someone a girl “if they were born a girl”.

Presentational grey line

More children seek help with gender identity

Chart showing rise in young people seeking help with gender identity

More than 2,000 young people, aged between three and 18, were referred to a specialist NHS clinic in 2016-17, seeking help with their gender identity.

The numbers have been growing every year since the start of the decade.

Of 2,016 young people referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in the most recent year, 1,400 were assigned female at birth.

Polly Carmichael, a consultant clinical psychologist and director of GIDS, said there was no single explanation for the increase but said there had been “significant progress towards the acceptance and recognition of transgender and gender diverse people in our society”.

Dr Carmichael said the majority of the service’s users did not take up physical treatment.

There were two children referred aged three in 2016-17. The service rejected 30 referrals of people who were already 18 years old.

Ages of young people referred to GIDS in 2016-17
Presentational grey line

The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Sutcliffe, said he faced an internal disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

The state academy school where he is employed said the matter was confidential.

However, it said it took equality and discrimination seriously and had a range of governor-approved policies in place to ensure it acted lawfully.

LGBT charity Stonewall said “pupils must be protected” even if teachers may hold “different opinions” about sexuality and gender identity.

It did not want to comment on the case involving Mr Sutcliffe, but it said “children should always feel included and accepted for who they are”.

The Church of England Is Attempting to Counter Bullying By Allowing Children to Explore Gender Identity

Original Article

By Aimee Lutkin

On Monday, the Church of England announced an initiative called “Valuing All God’s Children,” that states children should be allowed to experiment with their gender identity. The measure has been adopted as a way to combat bullying in the Church’s thousands of schools.

The New York Times reports that teachers are being encouraged to allow students in school to “explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision.” The guidelines were supported by the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury.

“For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the fireman’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment,” it said. “Childhood has a sacred place for creative self-imagining.”

Welby was appointed to his position in 2012; in 2014, the Church extended guidelines to schools in an attempt to combat homophobia, but these new edicts have grown to encompass children experimenting with or expressing their gender identity.

“All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide,” Archbishop Welby wrote. “This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.”

However, in 2016, the International Anglican Communion suspended the U.S. Episcopal Church for performing same-sex marriages. Anglican archbishops from England wrote in a statement that the Episcopal Church had made “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage.” Priests in the Church of England are still forbidden from performing same-sex ceremonies.

Sperm smugglers: How women are smuggling sperm out of Israeli prisons

Original Article

Lydia Rimawi has just given birth to what she calls a gift from God. Baby Majid – new life born out of an underground smuggling ring that’s rippling through Israel’s prisons.

I’m talking about Palestinian babies born from sperm smuggled out of Israeli prisons.

The imprisoned men are convicted of participating in what Israel deems terror attacks. To most Israeli’s – the men are considered terrorists.

To Palestinians – they’re martyrs.

Their wives – the smugglers whose tactics have been shrouded in secrecy… Until now.

For the first time the women shared their secret methods. On my trip to Palestine reporting this story over three days these women invited me into their lives and homes to reveal their successes and plans to continue to smuggle sperm out of Israel’s prisons.

There are around 4,700 Palestinian husbands, sons and brothers imprisoned in Israeli jails. Many of them are serving life sentences.

These Palestinian prisoners are not permitted conjugal visits and permitted visits are restricted to 45 minutes. Husband and wife are separated by a sealed glass panel and communicate via telephone. No physical contact is allowed at any time.

Lydia and her counterparts – Em Rafat and Samia are amongst a growing number of Palestinian women refusing to let the ongoing conflict between Palestinian and Israeli forces halt their lives.

They’re keeping their husbands legacies alive – one shot of semen at a time.

There’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in the room today following Lydia’s birth. She is chanting “we did it, we challenged the Israeli’s and this is the biggest victory for us and I have a beautiful baby boy”.

Lydia is not the only one of these women with a cause for celebration. Samia whose husband is serving multiple life sentences is five months pregnant.

Em Rafat’s son has been in prison for seven years. His wife is eight months pregnant.

As the Islamic call to prayer floats over the West Bank, I’m told Lydia’s counterparts are planning their next smuggle ‘operation’.

It’s my last day in The West Bank and the morning of the operation I meet Em Rafat in her home village near Ramallah. She is allowing me to accompany her along to Ramon prison where her son is.

Due to stringent Israeli security measures the trip can take up to 14 hours. This is the same journey she made 9 months ago when she smuggled out sperm for her daughter in law.

The women claim the prisoners bring the sperm ready to each visit. But I was left bewildered as to how they get the sperm out and how it survives.

IVF experts say sperm can survive outside the body for up to five days only if kept at 37 degrees.

According to specialist Dr Salem Abu Khaizaran who helps these women with the IVF procedure there a currently 65 samples of smuggled sperm, 16 women pregnant, and three about to have their babies.

Dr Salem explains to me the variety of ways that he’s had samples delivered to him.

“The samples come to me in different forms either in eye-drops containers, nose-drops containers, some of them give it in plastic gloves in different forms. The strangest thing the sperm came to us in was through a chocolate wrapper,” says Dr Salem.

Several checkpoint security breaches later, the threat of my camera being smashed to pieces by guards and a very hairy situation that just escalates as the adventure progressed – this is a story that definitely won’t leave me for a while.

I can tell you the sperm, the smugglers and myself all came out unscathed – with some extraordinary footage but it was by no means an easy feat.

I hope this underground network of Palestinian women and their phenomenal courage, determination and strength of spirit will leave you feeling as amazed as I am. They are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Poland defends massive far-right protest that called for a ‘White Europe’

Original Article

By Avi Selk

Thousands gathered in central Warsaw on Nov. 11 for a march organized by radical far-right groups. The march coincided with Poland’s independence day.

CORRECTIONEarlier versions of this article — including the original headline — cited a CNN report that said a “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust” banner was displayed at the weekend march in Warsaw. CNN has since corrected its story and removed its reference to the banner. A similar banner was hung in another Polish city in 2015, according to local reports, but not at Saturday’s march. This post has been updated.

____________________

The official celebration of Poland’s 99th independence day went innocuously, with the usual ceremonies in the capital. There was even a visit from the European Council’s internationalist president, who insisted to Politico that Saturday’s festivities would proceed “with a smile on our face and with joy in our hearts.”

But for blocks and blocks and blocks beyond the central towers of Warsaw, a much larger crowd swelled beneath a cloud of red smoke.

Tens of thousands of people had come from across Poland and beyond, and reporters documented their signs:

“Clean Blood,” as seen by Politico.

“White Europe” streaked across another banner, the Associated Press reported — as about 60,000 people chanted and marched through Warsaw in an annual gathering of Europe’s far-right movements, which have grown to dwarf the official version of Poland’s independence day celebration.

By the end of the weekend, the AP reported, the official and unofficial events even seemed to be merging.

Police had arrested 45 counterprotesters — but not one of the marchers seen carrying white supremacist symbols or heard chanting “Sieg Heil” in a country where Nazis carried out some of the Holocaust’s worst atrocities.

Rather, Poland’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that the day had been “a great celebration of Poles, differing in their views, but united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland.”


(Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters)

Nov. 11 marks Poland’s celebration of its freedom from imperial rule in 1918. That freedom was interrupted over the following century by brutal occupations, first by Nazis, then communists.

In the 21st century, a group called All-Polish Youth, which the AP reported is named after a radical anti-Semitic group from the 1930s, began hosting a competing Nov. 11 celebration in Warsaw.

It began as a small thing, Politico reported. No more than a few hundred people showed up to the march in 2010, although the numbers soon grew into the thousands.

In some years, the spectacle turned bloody — as when masked marchers threw rocks, flares and paving slabs at police in 2014, according to the BBC.

By all accounts, the Nov. 11 rallies since then have been fairly peaceful and very large.


(Leszek Szymanski/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Some who marched under the flares and red smoke on Saturday were families and children, the AP reported. But more noticeable were droves of young men, some masked — and some chanting, “Death to enemies of the homeland.”

There was some violence Saturday, the AP reported, when nationalists pushed and kicked a group of women holding a banner that said “Stop Fascism.”

But that was the only such report. A heavy police force kept the small assembly of counterprotesters separated from the far-right march.

Far-right leaders from Britain and Italy were welcomed by the crowd, according to the AP. (The U.S. alt-right leader Richard Spencer had been deemed too extreme by the Polish government, and he canceled his plans to attend.)

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman called the march dangerous, per the AP.

“History teaches us that expressions of racist hate must be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” he said — perhaps referring to the Nazi-era Warsaw ghetto, where hundreds of thousands of imprisoned Jews were deported to extermination camps if they were not killed before.

But the Polish Foreign Ministry waved off the worst reports about the crowd as “incidental,” the AP reported.

After the rally ended Saturday evening, a reporter asked Poland’s interior minister — a member of the right-wing government — what he thought of the banners and chants of “white Europe” and “pure blood.”

“It’s only your opinion, because you behave like a political activist,” he replied, Politico reported. According to the AP, the same minister called that swollen, crimson-fogged march across Warsaw “a beautiful sight.”

Mila Kunis trolls Vice President Pence, and now people are ‘boycotting’ Jim Beam

Original Article

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story included three tweets suspected to have been sent by political bots. The tweets have been replaced.

What has the world come to when even bourbon gets caught up in politics?

(Actually, don’t answer that.)

Over the weekend, bourbon brand Jim Beam got dragged into the fight over women’s rights after its spokeswoman, actress Mila Kunis, revealed that she’s been sending monthly donations to Planned Parenthood in Vice President Mike Pence’s name.

See, Kunis doesn’t agree with Pence’s non-wavering stance against abortion rights.

And as a guest on TBS’s “Conan,” she told host Conan O’Brien that she chose to voice her disagreement by adding his name to a list of reoccurring donations made to the women’s health care provider.

“I don’t look at it as a prank, I look at it just as, I strongly disagree [with him], and this is my little way of showing it,” Kunis said, according to The Hill.

Pence supporters and abortion opponents did not take kindly to Kunis’s shenanigans.

And they made their disagreements known by starting a #BoycottBeam campaign on Twitter.

It’s safe to say that Jim Beam, which is currently filling 500,000 barrels per year, will not be affected by the boycott (if anyone even holds true to their hashtag).

Gov. Matt Bevin, who is also pro-life, has not weighed in on #BoycottBeam. But that may be because he’s better prepared to drop Kardashian references than Kunis bombs.

Moore’s brother denies charges, compares persecution to Jesus

Original Article

(CNN)Roy Moore’s brother is defending the GOP Senate candidate “to the hilt” amid the escalating controversy over allegations of sexual misconduct against him, according to CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, who spoke to the brother on the phone.

Jerry Moore firmly denied the allegations against his brother and drew an analogy between his situation and the persecution of Jesus Christ, Savidge reported Friday in an interview with CNN’s John Berman.

Savidge spoke to Jerry Moore on Friday morning, one day after an explosive Washinton Post report detailed allegations that the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama pursued sexual relationships with several teens when they were between the ages of 14 and 18 and he was in his thirties, including an alleged sexual encounter with the 14-year-old, who would not have been at the age of legal consent under Alabama law.

Jerry Moore said, “he knows … that the allegations against Roy Moore are not true, not true at all,” Savidge reported. The younger Moore also said “he’s very concerned about what the impact is going to be on their 91-year-old mother, hearing all of this, they worry about her age and health,” Savidge said.

Moore also claimed that the Democratic Party was behind what he called “false allegations,” and that “these women are going to, as [Moore] put it, have to answer to God for these false allegations,” Savidge said.

“When I asked what does he believe the motivation is with these women coming forward making the accusations they have, again, Jerry Moore says it’s money and the Democratic Party, implying that they are doing this because they’re being paid in some way, and it is for the purpose of derailing or interrupting this campaign,” Savidge said.

Moore went so far as to say “that his brother is being persecuted, in his own words, like Jesus Christ was,” according to Savidge. “Very defiant and very outspoken, relying on his faith and defending his brother to the hilt.”

Roy Moore, who faces a December 12 US Senate election, denied the allegations in the Post report, telling the newspaper: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign.”

Later Thursday, the candidate tweeted, “The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message.”

“The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” he wrote.

Texas Church Where Massacre Took Place Will Be Demolished, Pastor Says Facebook Twitter Flipboard Email

Original Article

The pastor of the Texas church that was the site of a deadly shooting rampage this week says the bullet-riddled structure will be demolished because it is too stark of a reminder of the massacre.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the victims, told the Southern Baptist Convention on Thursday that he plans to have the church razed.

“There’s too many that do not want to go back in there,” Pomeroy told The Wall Street Journal.

“The pastor expressed his desire that perhaps the best way forward is to have the church demolished and replaced with a prayer garden,” convention spokesman Roger “Sing” Oldham, was quoted by USA Today as saying.

He added that parishioners haven’t “had a chance to fully deal with the grief and then come together to make a decision.”

Enlarge this image

A law enforcement official leaves the First Baptist Church on Tuesday, in Sutherland Springs Texas.

David J. Phillip/AP

Oldham was quoted by The Associated Press as saying the church is “too stark of a reminder” of Sunday’s mass shooting in which a gunman opened fire on the building with a semiautomatic assault-type rifle, killing more than two dozen people and wounding 20 others.

According to The Associated Press:

“Other sites of mass shootings have been torn down, including Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012. A new school was built [on the same site].

A one-room Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was torn down in 2006, 10 days after an assailant took children hostage and shot and killed five girls ages 6 to 13.”

Correction

Nov. 10, 2017

A previous version of this story quoted an incorrect statement from the Associated Press that the Sandy Hook Elementary school was rebuilt elsewhere. It is on the same site although not in the same footprint as the original school.

Woman who flipped off Trumps Motorcade gets fired

Original Article

A photo of a woman giving President Donald Trump’s motorcade the middle finger went viral more than a week ago.

People on social media hailed Juli Briskman as a “she-ro.” A hashtag, #her2020, arose.

However, her employer, government contractor Akima LLC, was not pleased with the middle-fingered salute.

They fired the 50-year-old mother of two over it.

A White House photographer traveling with the president snapped a picture of Trump’s motorcade passing a bicyclist when he left a golf course in Sterling, Va., last week.

“He was passing by and my blood just started to boil,” Briskman told HuffPost. “I’m thinking DACA recipients are getting kicked out. He pulled ads for open enrollment in Obamacare. Only one-third of Puerto Rico has power. I’m thinking, he’s at the damn golf course again.”

The Democrat followed her instincts while she was on her usual biking path.

“I flipped off the motorcade a number of times,” Briskman told HuffPost.

The photo immediately went viral.

Briskman decided to give her job’s HR department a heads up when she went to work last Monday.

On Tuesday, her bosses told her that she violated the company’s social media policy by using the viral image as her profile picture on Facebook and Twitter.

They said, ‘We’re separating from you,'” Briskman told HuffPost. “Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off ‘obscene.'”

Briskman, who worked in marketing and communications at Akima for just over six months, argued that she didn’t mention her employer on social media and was off-duty when the photo was snapped.

She was still canned because the government contractor said the incident could hurt business.

Briskman questioned how the company’s policy is enforced, saying a male colleague was recently allowed to keep his job after calling someone “a f–cking Libtard a–hole” on Facebook.

“How is that any less ‘obscene’ than me flipping off the president?” she said to HuffPost. “How is that fair?”

Akima did not comment on the situation.

Despite losing her job, Briskman doesn’t regret her form of protest.

“I’d do it again,” she told the Washington Post.

She has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the situation, according to the Post.

Gunman opens fire at Texas church, kills 26

Original Article

A black-clad gunman opened fire Sunday at a rural church outside San Antonio, killing at least 26 — including several children — and wounding at least 10, law enforcement officials said.

The killer, pursued by a good Samaritan with a gun, was found fatally shot a short time later in a neighboring Texas county, said a law enforcement official who is not authorized to comment publicly.

Authorities did not immediately identify a motive for the attack at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and they did not officially identify the gunman. But two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to comment publicly identified the gunman as Devin Kelley, 26, of nearby Comal County, Texas.

Kelley served briefly in the Air Force but was court-martialed in 2012, a military spokeswoman said.

Speaking to reporters late Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today.”

Abbott said officials were cautiously releasing information on the shooting, including the names of victims, who ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.

Officials said 23 of the 26 victims were shot inside the church.

“There’s a lot of information,” Abbott said. “We want to piece the puzzle together.”

Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the shooter, who was dressed in black and was wearing a ballistic vest, was spotted at about 11:20 a.m. at a Valero gas station across from the church. Witnesses said he drove across the street, got out of his vehicle “and began firing at the church” with a Ruger assault-type rifle.

He moved to the other side and continued firing, then entered the church, Martin said, where he “continued to fire.”

As the suspect left the church, Martin said, a bystander retrieved a rifle and began firing at the shooter, who dropped his Ruger and drove away.

“Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time,” Martin said.

As law enforcement responded, the suspect drove off a roadway at the Wilson County/Guadalupe County line, Martin said. He was found “deceased in his vehicle,” he said, but officials were not immediately certain if the fatal wound came from a self-inflicted gunshot or from the person pursuing him.

In a late Sunday news conference around the corner from the church, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said as far as he knows the suspect had no ties to the town or knew anyone in the church, but that information was still being investigated.

“We don’t know why he was even here,” Tackitt said.

When asked if anyone has been able to describe to him the scene in the church, Tackitt replied, “All I can say is it was terrible.”

“It’s unbelievable to see children, men, women laying there,” he said. “Defenseless people. It’s just something you don’t want to see.”

Describing the layout of the church, the sheriff said he doesn’t think people could have escaped the attacker.

“You’ve got your pews on either side when you’re walking down the aisle and he just walked down the center aisle, turned around and was, from my understanding, shooting on his way back out,” he said. “There was no way anyone could have escaped.”

Tackitt said he knew quite a few of the people who were in the church, later describing the community as one where “pretty much everyone knows everyone.” He said recently the church hosted a fall festival.

“A week later this happens,” he said.

He confirmed a family had been killed, though he didn’t confirm number of people in the family, describing it as a “a pretty high number.” Tackitt said he’s known the family “forever.”

Frank Pomeroy, who is pastor at the church, told ABC News he was out of town when the rampage took place, but that his daughter was killed. Annabelle, 14, “was one very beautiful, special child,” Pomeroy said.

View image on Twitter

Garrett Kell ن

@pastorjgkell

Annabelle Pomeroy was the pastor’s 14 year old daughter.

“Every one of our family’s close friends are gone.”

Pray for #SunderlandSprings

7:05 PM – Nov 5, 2017

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Paul Buford, pastor of nearby River Oaks Church, said his service was underway when first responders in his congregation were called to the scene. He said some members of the community had “confirmed information” about family members and friends. Buford declined to provide any details.

“We are pulling together as a community,” Buford said. “We are holding up as best we can.”

President Trump, addressing the shooting before speaking to U.S. and Japanese business leaders at a meeting in Tokyo, said the federal government will give “full support” to Texas as it deals with the aftermath of the “horrific shooting” at the church. While these are “dark times,” Trump said, Americans will do “what we do best: We pull together.”

Trump ordered that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff at the White House and elsewhere through Thursday

Woman sues to remove ‘So help me God’ from oath of U.S. citizenship

Original Article

By Dan Glaun

For years, Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo, a French national and green-card holder who has lived in Scituate since 2000, has wanted to become an American citizen.

That dream, she claims in a new federal lawsuit, is being denied by four simple words: “So help me God.”

On Thursday, Perrier-Bilbo, an atheist, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the inclusion of that phrase in United States’ citizenship oath is an unconstitutional violation of her religious freedom.

“Accordingly, the current oath violates the first 10 words of the Bill of Rights, and to participate in a ceremony which violates that key portion of the United States Constitution is not supporting of defending the constitution as the oath demands,” the lawsuit says.

And although Perrier-Bilbo was offered the chance to use a modified oath or participate in a private citizenship ceremony, she claims the presence of “so help me God” is still an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion — and that the alternatives offered to her by the government place an illegal burden on her for her beliefs.

The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too

Original Article

By Nina Martyris

Left: A bartender at Hops & Barley brewpub draws a pint of beer in Berlin. Right: A portrait of Martin Luther. The protest that Luther launched 500 years ago revamped not only how Europe worshipped but also how it drank. He and his followers promoted hops in beer as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church.

Adam Berry; ullstein bild via Getty Images

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant — hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?

Therein foams a bitter pint of history.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means “climbing wolf.”

“The church didn’t like hops,” says William Bostwick, the beer critic for The Wall Street Journal and author of The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer. “One reason was that the 12th century German mystic and abbess Hildegard had pronounced that hops were not very good for you, because they ‘make the soul of a man sad and weigh down his inner organs.’ So, if you were a Protestant brewer and wanted to thumb your nose at Catholicism, you used hops instead of herbs.”

Even before the Reformation, German princes had been moving toward hops — in 1516, for instance, a Bavarian law mandated that beer could be made only with hops, water and barley. But Luther’s revolt gave the weed a significant boost. The fact that hops were tax-free constituted only part of the draw. Hops had other qualities that appealed to the new movement; chiefly, their excellent preservative qualities. “All herbs and spices have preservative qualities, but with hops, beer could travel really well, so it became a unit of international trade that symbolized the growing business class, which was tangentially connected with the Protestant work ethic and capitalism,” says Bostwick.

Another virtue in hops’ favor was their sedative properties. The mystic Hildegard was right in saying hops weighed down one’s innards. “I sleep six or seven hours running, and afterwards two or three. I am sure it is owing to the beer,” wrote Luther to his wife, Katharina, from the town of Torgau, renowned for its beer. The soporific, mellowing effect of hops might seem like a drawback, but in fact it offered a welcome alternative to many of the spices and herbs used by the church that had hallucinogenic and aphrodisiacal properties. “Fueled by these potent concoctions, church ales could be as boisterous as the Germanic drinking bouts church elders once frowned on,” writes Bostwick. “And so, to distance themselves further from papal excesses, when Protestants drank beer they preferred it hopped.”

If the Catholic Church lost control over the printed word with the invention of the printing press — the technological weapon that ensured Luther’s success — it lost control over beer with the rise of hops. “The head went flat on monastic beer,” says Bostwick. “Did Protestantism explicitly promote hops? I don’t think so. But did it encourage the use of hops? I would say, yes, probably.”

Luther’s wife, Katharina, was the brewer of the family.

Courtesy of Luther Memorials Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt

Luther would have relished his role in promoting hops. If anyone loved and appreciated good beer, it was this stout, sensual and gregarious monk. His letters often mentioned beer, whether it was the delicious Torgau beer that he extolled as finer than wine or the “nasty” Dessau beer that made him long for Katharina’s homebrew. “I keep thinking what good wine and beer I have at home, as well as a beautiful wife,” he wrote. “You would do well to send me over my whole cellar of wine and a bottle of thy beer.” Days before he died, in February 1546, in one of his last letters to his wife, he praised Naumburg beer for its laxative properties. Luther suffered excruciating agonies from constipation, and it was therefore with immense satisfaction that he announced his “three bowel movements” that morning.

In an age where the water was unsafe, beer was drunk by everyone and was the nutritional and social fuel of Germany. “It was a really natural and very common part of every household pantry,” says Bostwick. “I compare it these days to a pot of coffee always simmering on your countertop. Back then it was a kettle of beer. Beer was brewed less for pure enjoyment than for medicinal reasons (it incorporated herbs and spices) and for pure sustenance. Beers then were richer and heartier than today. They were a source of calories for the lower classes who did not have access to rich foods.”

Not surprisingly, beer pops up at pivotal moments in Luther’s life. Most notably, after taking on the formidable might of the Catholic Church, an unruffled Luther famously declared that God and the Word did everything, “while I drank beer with my [friends] Philipp and Amsdorf.” Luther’s teachings were mocked as “sour beer,” and one of his critics disparaged him as a heretic from the filthy market town of Wittenberg, populated by “a barbarous people who make their living from breweries and saloons.” But as he gained fame and became a popular hero, a range of Lutheran merchandise was launched, including beer mugs featuring the pope as the Antichrist.

When the excommunicated Luther married the runaway nun Katharina von Bora, the town council gave the couple a barrel of excellent Einbeck beer. It was a fitting gift. Beer was soon to assume an even more central role in Luther’s life, thanks to his wife. The intelligent, talented and exceptionally competent Katharina not only bore six children and managed the Luthers’ large household with its endless stream of guests but also planted a vegetable garden and fruit trees, raised cows and pigs, had a fish pond, drove a wagon, and — to her husband’s undying delight — opened a brewery that produced thousands of pints of beer each year. Her initial shaky attempts produced a thin, weak brew, but she soon got the hang of it and learned exactly how much malt to add to suit her husband’s taste. Luther was ecstatic — Lord Katie, as he affectionately called her, had assured him a steady supply even when Wittenberg’s breweries ran dry.

Luther’s favorite spot to hold forth on theology, philosophy and life in general was not the tavern but the table. The long refectory table in the cavernous Luther home seated up to 50 people. “This was Luther’s especial domain,” writes Andrew Pettegree in his elegant biography Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned History. “The day’s labors past, he would sit with his friends and talk. Fueled by his wife’s excellent beer, conversation would become general, discursive, and sometimes unbuttoned.”

Unbuttoned is an understatement. Voluble, energetic and beery, Luther’s conversation zigged and zagged between the sublime and the scatological, to the amazement of his students, who hung on his every word. The church was called a brothel and the pope the Antichrist. Former popes “farted like the devil” and were sodomites and transvestites. His students collected these jewels into a book called Table Talk. When it was published, it went viral.

But though he clearly loved his tankard, there is no record of Luther being a lush. In fact, he could be quite a scold when it came to drunken behavior. He lamented the German addiction to beer, saying, “such an eternal thirst, I am afraid, will remain as Germany’s plague until the Last Day.” And he once declared, “I wish brewing had never been invented, for a great deal of grain is consumed to make it, and nothing good is brewed.”

This was no doubt a spot of grandstanding. For all his protestations, Luther’s beer stein was always full. He loved local beer, boasted of his wife’s brewing skills, and launched a movement that helped promote hops. Does that make him a patron saint of the craft brewery?

“Luther might blanch a bit as a good Protestant at being called a saint,” points out Bostwick, “and there’s already a brewery saint called St. Arnold, who saved his congregation from the plague by making them drink beer. In the interests of Protestantism, I wouldn’t call him a saint, but he was certainly a beer enthusiast, and many a beer bar and brewery today has a picture of Martin Luther on their wall. So let’s say that while we certainly don’t genuflect to him, he’s known and appreciated.”

Hoppy Quincentennial, Martin Luther!

Citing The Bible, The EPA Just Changed Its Rules For Science Advisers

Original Articles

By Zahra Hirji

Referencing the Book of Joshua, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced sweeping changes to the agency’s science advisory boards, opening the door to more input from the business world.

EPA

EPA head Scott Pruitt on Tuesday signed a new directive about who can serve as science advisers to the agency.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday afternoon sweeping changes to who can advise the agency on its research and regulatory priorities, opening the door to more industry participation.

Effective immediately, scientists who receive EPA funding cannot serve on the agency’s three major advisory groups. Some Republican lawmakers have been pushing for similar changes to the agency’s advisory boards for years.

“We want to ensure that there’s integrity in the process and that the scientists that are advising us are doing so without any type of appearance of conflict of interest,” EPA head Scott Pruitt said at a press conference announcing the directive.

Pruitt used a story from the Book of Joshua to help explain the new policy.

On the journey to the promised land, “Joshua says to the people of Israel: choose this day whom you are going to serve,” Pruitt said. “This is sort of like the Joshua principle — that as it relates to grants from this agency, you are going to have to choose either service on the committee to provide counsel to us in an independent fashion or chose the grant. But you can’t do both. That’s the fair and great thing to do.”

A large coalition of science organizations, science advocates, environmentalists, and politicians lined up in fierce opposition to the policy changes, arguing the rules not only disqualify top environmental and health researchers from advising but also favor scientists paid for by EPA-regulated companies. They also have pointed out that EPA has strict rules in place for disclosing any conflicts of interest.

“Frankly, this directive is nuts.”

“Frankly, this directive is nuts,” Al Teich of George Washington University wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News.

“There is an important role for citizen advisors who are not experts in a scientific field and who represent various constituencies on advisory committees,” wrote Teich, a research professor of science, technology, and international affairs. “But they should complement, not replace the experts. Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense.”

The change calls into question EPA’s ability to protect the country, according to Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Pruitt also announced the new chairs of EPA’s advisory committees on Tuesday.

Michael Honeycutt, a controversial toxicologist from Texas, is the new head of EPA’s Science Advisory Board, which provides scientific counsel to the agency’s top official. Honeycutt once told Congress he didn’t agree with the EPA’s toxic evaluation for mercury, and he’s argued against the agency’s ozone standards, according to a 2014 investigation by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity.

Tony Cox is now the chair of EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which offers technical input on the nation’s air standards. Cox is president of Cox Associates, a Denver-based risk analysis firm.

And Paul Gilman is the new leader of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), which provides input on the EPA’s research agenda. Gilman works at the waste management company Covanta Energy and served as an EPA assistant administrator during the Bush administration.

According to Deborah Swackhamer, the former head of BOSC, she got no warning from EPA that she was being replaced.

“I read about it in the news,” Swackhamer, an environmental chemist, told BuzzFeed News by email. Swackhamer has confirmed with the EPA that she will continue to serve on the committee until her term expires on March 8, 2018. “Given Mr. Pruitt’s recent actions on renewals, I would be surprised to be asked to serve a second term, but who knows,” she wrote.

The three new advisers attended Tuesday’s EPA press conference and stood behind Pruitt as he signed the new directive. Some lawmakers who have been highly critical of EPA regulations also attended the briefing.

“Today’s announcement shows that we have an administrator with common sense, commitment, and courage,” Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science Committee, said at the press briefing.

Smith’s committee passed a bill called the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act earlier this year that would have put in place some of these same restrictions on EPA advisers. The legislation has not yet passed both houses. The new policy enables “us to put the principles of this bill into practice,” Smith said.

UPDATE

This story has been updated with comments from Deborah Swackhamer, the former head of one of EPA’s advisory committees.

A Tunnel Collapsed at a North Korean Nuclear Test Site, Reportedly Killing 200 People

Original Article

By Alex Lockie

After North Korea’s most powerful ever nuclear test underground at Punggye-ri in the country’s northeast, Japan’s TV Asahi reports that up to 200 have been killed in a tunnel collapse.

In early September, North Korea detonated a nuclear device under a mountain that experts assess to have been a hydrogen bomb about ten times more powerful than the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.

Punggye ri north korea test satellite image© Provided by Business Insider Inc Punggye ri north korea test satellite image

Since then, satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides, and seismic aftershocks, thought to have resulted from the blast.

North Korean sources told TV Asahi that initially, a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers, and an additional 100 went in to rescue them, only to die themselves under the unstable mountain.

The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged previously, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing the tunnels to resume nuclear testing.

Additionally, with the test site compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out, which could possibly cause an international incident.

If the debris from the test reaches China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, told previously Business Insider.

Israeli judo star Tal Flicker wins gold in UAE; officials refuse to play anthem

Original Article

By Henry Young

(CNN)Winning a gold medal is usually a cause for unmitigated celebration.

But not for Israel judo star Tal Flicker as he stood atop the podium at this week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, having triumphed in the men’s half-lightweight division.
Instead of Hatikvah, Israel’s traditional national anthem, tournament organizers played the official music of the International Judo Federation (IJF).
Instead of the flag of Israel, the IJF’s logo was raised.
“It was weird,” Flicker told CNN Sport from the IPIC Arena. “Israel is my country and I’m proud to be from Israel.
“I sang Hatikvah because I don’t know anything else. This is my anthem.”

‘The world knows where we’re from’

Flicker had feared this might happen, given the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and like most other Arab countries doesn’t recognize it as a state.
“There’s nothing sweeter than the moment of victory, the 25-year-old posted on his Facebook page ahead of the tournament. “That feeling that you did it for yourself, the family, team, and of course for the country.
“With or without the flag, I will face the difficulties and any rival in front of me. We’ll do anything to get to Abu Dhabi and end up on the podium.
“Everyone in this world knows where we’re from and which country we represent. I am the proudest in the world to be Israeli.”
He and his 11 compatriots competing at the elite international event were already forced to wear judogis (judo uniforms) without the typical identifying symbols of their nationality.
Earlier that day, fellow Israeli Gili Cohen — bronze medalist in the women’s half-lightweight division — had also stood by solemnly as the IJF’s flag was raised.
“No Israeli anthem or flag. A disgrace to the spirit of sports,” posted the Embassy of Israel in the US. ” A disgrace to the spirit of sports.”
“It’s an outrage,” tweeted Emmanuel Nahshon , Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman. “Blatant hypocrisy. Shameful.”
The UAE embassy in London and the UAE government did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Video: Sophia becomes first robot to receive Saudi citizenship

A robot has just been granted citizenship — by Saudi Arabia. The robot named Sophia was confirmed as a Saudi citizen during a business event in Riyadh, according to an official Saudi press release.

The move is an attempt to promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence — and, presumably, allow it to become a full citizen, according to The Independent.

“We have a little announcement. We just learnt, Sophia; I hope you are listening to me, you have been awarded the first Saudi citizenship for a robot,” said panel moderator and business writer Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Basking in the attention, the robot then thanked the country. “Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” Sophia told the panel. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with citizenship.”

Sorkin later asked Sophia a series of questions. “Good afternoon, my name is Sophia and I am the latest and greatest robot from Hanson Robotics. Thank you for having me here at the Future Investment Initiative,” she said.

 

Georgia Mom Upset About Sexual ‘Identity Definitions’ Quiz At School

Original Article

By Fox News

The DeKalb County School District in Georgia is facing backlash after a “sexual identity” assignment was given to the sixth graders of Lithonia Middle School.

The middle school’s health teacher assigned a quiz that defined 10  “sexual identity” terms, such as gay, lesbian, and transgender. The quiz required the sixth graders to identify and differentiate between various sexual orientations and identities, FOX 5 Atlanta reported.

One mother, Octavia Parks, was particularly shocked when her 12-year-old daughter came home with the assignment.

“Why are they teaching that in school?” Parks said. “What does that have to do with life?”

Parks felt that the material was not appropriate for school, and that her daughter was too young to learn about sexual orientation.

‘WITNESSING WHITENESS’ INFLUENCING LESSONS FOR CHILDREN AT ST. LOUIS SCHOOL

“We’re talking about a sixth grader who still watches Nickelodeon,” Parks said. “I’m not ready to explain what these words are nor what they mean.”

Parks recalls an earlier conversation with the health teacher, during which she was assured that such material would not be taught.

“We had a brief conversation and she assured me that this sort of thing would not happen.” Parks said. “Nonetheless, it is happening.”

Now, Parks has signed a consent form to remove her child from the health class. She is not the only parent to find fault with the controversial quiz.

Eva McClain, the mother of a past Lithonia Middle School student, agrees that the material is inappropriate for school. She also said that the sexual orientation quiz was not part of the health class’ curriculum when her daughter was in school.

GEORGIA TEACHER ALLEGEDLY ASSIGNS STUDENTS TASK OF CREATING NAZI MASCOT

“If a kid wants to know about the gender or know about the sex preference, it should come from the parents, not from the school,” McClain said.

It is still unclear if the DeKalb County School District approved this curriculum, but the district did acknowledge the parent’s concern in a written statement.

“DCSD has been made aware of this alleged event, and is working to verify its authenticity. We will investigate this event and take action, as appropriate, once that investigation is completed,” a spokesman for the district said to FOX 5.

Park plans to bring her concerns to the school district headquarters Tuesday, as soon as their fall break ends.

“I will be removing her from that class, and I’m also going to take it to the board of education to see what they have to say about it, as well,” Parks said.

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Jerry Jones gives Cowboys players ultimatum: Stand for anthem or sit for game

Original Article

By Ryan Gaydos

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday any player who disrespects the flag will not play.

Jones’ comments, the strongest made on the anthem controversy, came after he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis early after several San Francisco 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem.

“I know this, we cannot … in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” he said following the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we’re clear.”

Jones and the rest of the team kneeled arm-in-arm before the national anthem before a game against the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, days after President Trump reignited the anthem-protest controversy.

The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem ever since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of what he believed were instances of racial injustice in the U.S.

Jones said showing respect for the flag and the anthem is more important to him than any potential issues of team unity.

“There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other,” Jones said. “We will not disrespect the flag.”

Jones said he wasn’t aware of whether any of his players had raised a fist at the end of the anthem before the Green Bay game.

“I don’t know about that,” Jones said. “But if there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”

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Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, wants his team to stand for the national anthem.  (AP)

Additionally, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he changed his view on how his team should handle the national anthem. Ross said because Trump made standing for the national anthem about “patriotism,” he evolved the way he looks at the protest, according to the Miami Herald.

Ross now wants all of the Dolphins players to stand for the anthem. Three Dolphins players – Kenny Stills, Julian Thomas and Michael Thomas – remained off to the sideline during the anthem Sunday.

The NFL has said the game operations manual distributed to teams includes a reference to players standing for the anthem, but that it’s a policy and not a rule. The league has said it doesn’t plan to punish players over anthem protests.

“The league in mind should absolutely take the rules we’ve got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag,” Jones said.

Satanist Wins Transfer of Her Abortion Rights Case to the Missouri Sepreme Court

Original Article

By Max Londberg

A Missouri woman who is an adherent of the Satanic Temple won a victory in court last week in her quest to show that state abortion law violates her religious beliefs.

The Western District Court of Appeals ruled in her favor Tuesday, writing that her constitutional challenge — rare for its basis in religion — presented “a contested matter of right that involves fair doubt and reasonable room for disagreement.”

The woman, identified as Mary Doe in court documents, argued that her religion does not adhere to the idea that life begins at conception, and, because of that, the prerequisites for an abortion in Missouri are unconstitutionally violating her freedom of religion protected by the First Amendment.

The court ordered a transfer of the woman’s case to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The suit names Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Josh Hawley and others as defendants.

Her claims were originally rejected by the Cole County Circuit Court, but she appealed the decision.

Doe underwent an abortion in May 2015 in St. Louis. But before she was able to have the procedure, she had to comply with the state’s informed consent law.

The law compels women to wait 72 hours between their initial visit and the procedure, view an active ultrasound and sign a form pledging that they’ve read a booklet that includes the line, “[t]he life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

She declined to hear her fetus’ heartbeat and felt “guilt and shame,” according to court documents.

She claims that “the sole purpose of the law is to indoctrinate pregnant women into the belief held by some, but not all, Christians that a separate and unique human being begins at conception,” according to the court’s opinion. “Because the law does not recognize or include other beliefs, she contends that it establishes an official religion and makes clear that the state disapproves of her beliefs.”

The case would be the first of its kind to be heard by either the Missouri Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court, according to the Western District Court.

“Neither the Missouri Supreme Court nor the U.S. Supreme Court has considered whether a Booklet of this nature, an Ultrasound, an Audible Heartbeat Offer, and a seventy-two-hour Waiting Period violate the Religion Clause rights of pregnant women,” the court wrote.

Judge Thomas Newton issued the unanimous opinion. He wrote that Doe argued she must not support religious, philosophical or political beliefs that imbue her fetal tissue with an existence separate, apart or unique from her body.

“Because we believe that this case raises real and substantial constitutional claims, it is within the Missouri Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction…” Newton wrote, “and we hereby order its transfer.”

Doe is an adherent of the Satanic Temple, according to court documents.

2015 New York Times profile of the Satanic Temple — formed by two people with a “shared distaste for organized religion” — pointed out how the group has used social media, its “eye-catching name” and imagery such as Baphomet, the “sabbatic goat,” to attract widespread media attention to its lawsuits.

The group’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

The Satanic Temple is also a plaintiff in another, similar case in federal court, according to Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

Hawley said in a statement that he would vigorously defend “Missouri’s sensible waiting period law from this challenge by the Satanic Temple in the Missouri Supreme Court.”

Doe argues that the prerequisites to having an abortion reveal preferential treatment afforded to some in the state but not others.

“The State of Missouri is using its power to regulate abortion to promote some, but not all, religious beliefs that Fetal Tissue is, from conception, a separate and unique human being whose destruction is morally wrong,” she argued.

Doe is requesting that the sections in question of Missouri’s informed consent law be voided.

Some Private Citizens Complain of Health Symptoms After Visiting Cuba

Original Article

By Steve Dorsey

Some private U.S. citizens who traveled to Cuba say they have experienced symptoms similar to those suffered by at least 22 U.S. diplomats after mysterious acoustic attacks in Havana.

“Since we issued the September 29 Travel Warning, we have received a handful of reports from U.S. citizens who report they experienced similar symptoms following stays in Cuba,” a State Department official told CBS News. “We have no way of verifying whether they were harmed by the same attacks targeting official U.S. employees.”

At this point, nearly a year since the attacks targeting diplomats began in Havana, Cuba, U.S. investigators are no closer to determining either the source or the methods, according to officials close to the investigation underway by several agencies including the FBI and CIA.

Investigators have been probing whether the attacks were caused by something more than just mysterious sonic devices after U.S. government personnel complained about hearing loud, bizarre and unexplained noises in homes and hotels.

Medical records examined by CBS News show some Americans suffered mild traumatic brain injury, cognitive problems, hearing loss and other health issues. The victims include a handful of Americans connected to the U.S. intelligence community, according to sources.

The U.S. has ordered most of its personnel and all families to leave Cuba, and is expelling a proportional number of Cuban embassy officials from its embassy in Washington. But the U.S. has stopped short of blaming Cuba for the attacks, as investigators consider whether another country could be involved.

AG Directive Protects Religious Objectors to LGBT Rights

Original Article

By Rachel Zoll, Eric Tucker, and Sadie Gurman.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an order that undercuts protections for LGBT people, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping directive to agencies Friday to do as much as possible to accommodate those who say their religious freedoms are being violated.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.

“This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Trump announced plans for the directive last May in a Rose Garden ceremony where he was surrounded by religious leaders. Since then, religious conservatives have anxiously awaited the Justice Department guidance, hoping for greatly strengthened protections for their beliefs amid the rapid acceptance of LGBT rights. Religious liberty experts said they would have to see how the guidance would be applied by individual agencies, both in crafting regulations and deciding how to enforce them. But experts said the directive clearly tilted the balance very far in favor of people of faith who do not want to recognize same-sex marriage.

“Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,” Sessions wrote. “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm, called it “a great day for religious freedom.” The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group, called the guidelines an “all-out assault” on civil rights and a “sweeping license to discriminate.”

The new document lays the groundwork for legal positions that the Trump administration intends to take in future religious freedom cases, envisioning sweeping protections for faith-based beliefs and practices in private workplaces, at government jobs, in awarding government grants and in running prisons.

In issuing the memo, Sessions is injecting the department into a thicket of highly charged legal questions that have repeatedly reached the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that said corporations with religious objections could opt out of a health law requirement to cover contraceptives for women.

The memo makes clear the Justice Department’s support of that opinion in noting that the primary religious freedom law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — protects the rights not only of people to worship as they choose but also of corporations, companies and private firms.

In what is likely to be one of the more contested aspects of the document, the Justice Department states that religious organizations can hire workers based on religious beliefs and an employee’s willingness “to adhere to a code of conduct.” Many conservative Christian schools and faith-based agencies require employees to adhere to moral codes that ban sex outside marriage and same-sex relationships, among other behavior.

The document also says the government improperly infringes on individuals’ religious liberty by banning an aspect of their practice or by forcing them to take an action that contradicts their faith. As an example, Justice Department lawyers say government efforts to require employers to provide contraceptives to their workers “substantially burdens their religious practice.” Separately Friday, the Health and Human Services Department allowed more employers with religious objections to opt out of the birth control coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act.

Session’s directive affirms Trump’s earlier directive to the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, which bars churches and tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. The policy has only rarely been enforced in the past.

The department’s civil rights division will now be involved in reviewing all agency actions to make sure they don’t conflict with federal law regarding religious liberty. Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, in a statement lauding Trump, said his group has set up a hotline for federal employees and others who feel they’ve faced discrimination over their religious beliefs.

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.

Smithfield-Circle-Four-Farms-piglets-pigs-factory-pig-aminal-cruelty-abuse-07-1506966748

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.

DSC01803-Lily-under-covers-1506977985

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.

White House Wants to End Social Security Numbers as A National ID

Original Article

By David Kravets

Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity czar, said on Tuesday that the government should end using the Social Security number as a national identification method.

“I believe the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” said Joyce, while speaking at The Washington Post‘s Cybersecurity Summit. “Every time we use the Social Security number, you put it at risk.”

One problem with the Social Security number, he said, is that a victim of identity theft cannot get it changed after it has been stolen.

Joyce’s comments come a month after the Equifax hack, in which hackers gained access to the Social Security numbers of as many as 143 million Americans.

The Social Security number, originally a code for federal retirement benefits, has grown to become a personal identifier used for everything from getting a job to buying auto insurance.

The Hill said that Joyce has “raised the issue” with the Trump administration. Bloomberg said the Trump administration has asked federal departments and agencies “to look into the vulnerabilities of employing the identifier tied to retirement benefits, as well as how to replace the existing system.”

Joyce said, “It’s really clear there needs to be a change.”

 

“The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure—I think it’s time as a country to think beyond that,” Smith testified. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth, and a name.”

And now what?

Joyce said the government is examining the use of a “modern cryptographic identifier,” like public and private keys.

“I personally know my Social Security number has been compromised at least four times in my lifetime. That’s just untenable,” Smith said.

According to Bloomberg, financial services firm Cowen said in a research note to investors that the White House’s plotting of a move to a new form of identification might stall congressional efforts to regulate the credit industry.

The “White House may be indirectly coming to Equifax’s rescue,” Cowen wrote. “This reduces the risk of business-model-busting legislation such as a requirement that consumers opt-in to a credit bureau collecting their data.”

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

Tillerson Says U.S. Has Direct Channels to Talk to North Korea

Original Article

By Christopher Bodeen and Matthew Pennington

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Saturday that the United State is maintaining direct channels of communications with North Korea even as tensions rise over the North’s nuclear and missile programs and the countries’ leaders spar through bellicose name-calling.

Tillerson said the U.S. was probing North Korea’s willingness to talk, and called for a calming of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, adding it was incumbent on the North to halt the missile launches.

“We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” Tillerson told reporters during a visit to China. “We have a couple … three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them, we do talk to them.”

No elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions came from Tillerson, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials in Beijing.

While Tillerson affirmed that the U.S. would not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, he also said the Trump administration had no intention of trying to oust Kim. “Despite assurances that the United States is not interested in promoting the collapse of the current regime, pursuing regime change, accelerating reunification of the peninsula or mobilizing forces north of the DMZ, North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war, and the Demilitarized Zone divides North and South Korea.

Since President Donald Trump took office in January, the U.S. has restored a diplomatic back-channel between the State Department and North Korea’s mission at the United Nations. That’s traditionally been a way for the two sides to communicate because they lack formal diplomatic ties.

The main aim of the initial contacts was to seek the freedom of several American citizens imprisoned in North Korea, although U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that there were broader discussions about U.S.-North Korean relations. Those contacts, however, have failed to reduce the deep mistrust between the adversaries and it’s unclear to what extent they have endured the current spike in tensions.

North Korea has in recent months tested long-range missiles that potentially could reach the U.S., and on Sept. 3 conducted its largest nuclear test explosion to date. The standoff has entered a new, more dangerous phase since then as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump have exchanged personal insults and threats of war.

“I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down,” Tillerson said. “They’re a little overheated right now. And I think we need to calm them down first.” He did not directly address the impact of Trump’s own rhetoric.

“Obviously it would help if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That would calm things down a lot,” Tillerson said.

Trump gave a combative speech recently at the U.N. General Assembly in which he mocked Kim as “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.” Trump said that if “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Kim responded by saying he would “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

Tillerson’s stop in the Chinese capital was helping lay the groundwork for a November state visit by Trump, part of a five-nation swing through Asia. Trump has pressed for sterner measures against the North by China, the North’s chief trading partner and source of aid and diplomatic support.

Beijing adamantly opposes steps that could bring down Kim’s government, but appears increasingly willing to tighten the screws. China has agreed to tough new U.N. penalties that would substantially cut foreign revenue for the isolated North.

On Thursday, Beijing ordered North Korean-owned businesses and ventures with Chinese partners to close by early January, days after it said it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective Jan. 1. China made no mention of crude oil, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by U.N. sanctions.

China has banned imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore, and seafood since early September. Still, Washington hopes China will exert even greater pressure.

China argues that sanctions alone cannot solve the impasse, and has urged Washington to cool its rhetoric and open a dialogue with North Korea. But the North is coming closer to having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America, and says it will only discuss the weapons programs if the U.S. abandons its “hostile policy” toward the North.

This was Tillerson’s second visit to China as America’s top diplomat. China is the world’s No. 2 economy and chief U.S. rival for influence in Asia, and increasingly, the world.

In addition to North Korea, the U.S. and China have other security concerns to address.

They are at odds over Beijing’s military buildup and assertive claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea. Trump is also looking to reduce China’s massive trade surplus with the U.S. — $347 billion last year — and what American companies say are unfair barriers to investment, including pressure to hand over their technology.

In opening remarks at his meeting with Xi, Tillerson said relations between the sides continue to “grow and mature on the strength of the relationship between yourself and President Trump.”

He added: “We look forward to advancing that relationship at the upcoming summit.”

Trump and Xi met in April at Trump’s estate in Florida. Trump’s planned visit next month will come weeks after Xi is expected to receive a new five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party.

The presidents’ upcoming meeting promises to be grander and more choreographed than the informal talks in Florida that were most memorable for Trump’s ordering a missile strike on Syria and then informing Xi about it afterward as they ate chocolate cake.

The Next Giant Leap: US Will Return to the Moon, Pence Says

Original Article

By Mike Wall

The Trump administration is committed to sending astronauts to the moon as part of a broader push to prioritize human spaceflight and firm up U.S. dominance in the final frontier, Vice President Mike Pence said.

“We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but [also] to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said today (Oct. 5) at the first meeting of the newly reinstated National Space Council (NSC).

“The moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America’s space program toward human space exploration,” Pence added. [From Ike to Trump: Presidential Visions for Space Exploration]

Under the previous administration, that stepping stone was much smaller: President Barack Obama had directed NASA to prep for Mars trips by visiting a near-Earth asteroid. In response, the space agency devised a plan to pluck a boulder off a space rock and haul that fragment into orbit around the moon.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers opening remarks during the National Space Council's first meeting on Oct. 5, 2017 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
Vice President Mike Pence delivers opening remarks during the National Space Council’s first meeting on Oct. 5, 2017 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA

Yesterday (Oct. 4) was the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, which kicked off the Space Age and the Cold War space race. Pence referenced that seminal event during his remarks today, while lamenting a perceived lack of direction in U.S. space policy.

“Rather than lead in space, too often, we’ve chosen to drift,” he said. “And, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift, we fall behind.”

As evidence of this drift, Pence cited the fact that NASA astronauts haven’t gone beyond low-Earth orbit since the final Apollo moon mission, in 1972. In addition, he noted, the country has had to pay Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station since the space shuttle retired in 2011. That service currently costs $76 million per seat. (Two U.S. companies, SpaceX and Boeing, are both developing capsules to take over this taxi service for NASA astronauts; these spacecraft could begin crewed flights next year.)

Pence pledged that the Trump administration, with the help of the NSC, will develop and implement a coherent, long-term U.S. space strategy.

That strategy will focus heavily on human spaceflight, economic development and national security, if Pence’s words today and in an op-ed published yesterday in The Wall Street Journal are any guide.

“We will renew America’s commitment to creating the space technology needed to protect national security. Our adversaries are aggressively developing jamming and hacking capabilities that could cripple critical military surveillance, navigation systems and communication networks. In the face of this threat, America must be as dominant in the heavens as it is on Earth,” Pence wrote in the op-ed. (A subscription is required to read the full piece, but some snippets are available for free at whitehouse.gov.)

“We will promote regulatory, technological and educational reforms to expand opportunities for American citizens and ensure that the U.S. is at the forefront of economic development in outer space,” he added. “In the years to come, American industry must be the first to maintain a constant commercial human presence in low-Earth orbit, to expand the sphere of the economy beyond this blue marble. ”

The primacy of these stated goals was reflected in the makeup of the panelists at today’s meeting, which was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (The space shuttle Discovery is on display at Udvar-Hazy, providing a dramatic backdrop.)

Two of the three panels consisted of executives of the spaceflight companies SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corp., Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital ATK. The third panel focused on national security and featured retired Navy Adm. James Ellis, the former chief of U.S. Strategic Command; former NASA astronaut and former DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Deputy Director Pamela Melroy; and former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

“We won the race to the moon half a century ago, and now we will win the 21st century in space,” Pence said at today’s meeting, a full replay of which you can see here.

The NSC was last active in the early 1990s, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. President Trump resurrected the council via executive order on June 30.

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.)

1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days: America’s gun crisis – in one chart

Original Article

The attack at a country music festival in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead is the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history – but there were six other mass shootings in America this past week alone.

No other developed nation comes close to the rate of gun violence in America. Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every adult.

Data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive reveals a shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – every nine out of 10 days on average.

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.

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.”

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
.

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.

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.

 

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

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Says It Is ‘Too Late’ To Recover From Climate Change

Original Article

By Alexandra King

Scientist and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said Sunday that, in the wake of devastating floods and damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, climate change had become so severe that the country “might not be able to recover.”

In an interview on CNN’s “GPS,” Tyson got emotional when Fareed Zakaria asked what he made of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert’s refusal to say whether climate change had been a factor in Hurricanes Harvey or Irma’s strength — despite scientific evidence pointing to the fact that it had made the storms more destructive.
“Fifty inches of rain in Houston!” Tyson exclaimed, adding, “This is a shot across our bow, a hurricane the width of Florida going up the center of Florida!”
“What will it take for people to recognize that a community of scientists are learning objective truths about the natural world and that you can benefit from knowing about it?” he said.
Tyson told Zakaria that he had no patience for those who, as he put it, “cherry pick” scientific studies according to their belief system.
“The press will sometimes find a single paper, and say, ‘Oh here’s a new truth, if this study holds it.’ But an emergent scientific truth, for it to become an objective truth, a truth that is true whether or not you believe in it, it requires more than one scientific paper,” he said.
“It requires a whole system of people’s research all leaning in the same direction, all pointing to the same consequences,” he added. “That’s what we have with climate change, as induced by human conduct.”
Tyson said he was gravely concerned that by engaging in debates over the existence of climate change, as opposed to discussions on how best to tackle it, the country was wasting valuable time and resources.
“The day two politicians are arguing about whether science is true, it means nothing gets done. Nothing,” he said. “It’s the beginning of the end of an informed democracy, as I’ve said many times. What I’d rather happen is you recognize what is scientifically truth, then you have your political debate.”
Tyson told Zakaria that he believed that the longer the delay when it comes to responding to the ongoing threat of climate change, the bleaker the outcome. And perhaps, he hazarded, it was already even too late.
“I worry that we might not be able to recover from this because all our greatest cities are on the oceans and water’s edges, historically for commerce and transportation,” he said.
“And as storms kick in, as water levels rise, they are the first to go,” he said. “And we don’t have a system — we don’t have a civilization with the capacity to pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles. That’s — this is happening faster than our ability to respond. That could have huge economic consequences.”

 

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

 

Houston: A Global Warning.

Original Article

By Jeff Goodell

Let there be no doubt: the horrific damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey was an almost entirely man-made catastrophe, one fingerprinted by all-too-human neglect, corruption and denial. If we needed a reminder of the power of water to destroy an American city, Hurricane Harvey provided it. In Houston, a fast-growing metropolis of more than 2 million people, it wasn’t the wind that was so damaging, or a storm surge pushing in – it was just water everywhere, falling for days in biblical torrents and transforming highways into rivers, flowing into homes, killing dozens, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing for higher ground. It was a terrifying and deadly display of what happens when nature collides with urban life on a planet radically altered by climate change.

Harvey is the worst rainfall event ever in the continental U.S. More than 50 inches of rain deluged parts of Houston. The amount of water that poured from the sky is difficult to conceptualize. By some estimates, 19 trillion gallons of water fell in five days. That’s roughly a million gallons of water for every person in southeastern Texas. Harvey’s economic toll will likely exceed Katrina as the most expensive disaster in American history.

Hurricanes are nothing new in Texas. In 1900, a hurricane hit Galveston, causing 15-foot storm surges, killing an estimated 8,000 people. But given what scientists know now about how rising CO2 levels impact the climate, it’s wrong to dismiss Harvey as a purely “natural” event.

First, thanks to increasing carbon pollution, the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, over which Harvey formed, were about five degrees higher than average. “As the world warms, evaporation speeds up,” explained climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. So on average, there is more water vapor in the air now to sweep up and later dump over land. Also, because hurricane winds are generated by the difference in temperature between the atmosphere and oceans, the warmer waters tend to intensify a hurricane’s gales.

Second, a warming climate fuels sea-level rise, which is the result of the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers. Higher seas mean bigger storm surges, which can be devastating (recall the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy). But when the seas are higher, it also means that it is more difficult to drain rainwater into the ocean. And that is what happened in Houston: The water had nowhere to go.

“19 trillion gallons of water fell from the sky in five days, roughly a million gallons for every person in southeast Texas.”

This was a disaster foretold. In the 1990s, climate scientist Wallace Broecker said that the Earth’s climate was “an angry beast” and that by dumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, we were “poking it with sticks” – and nobody could say how the beast would react. That’s where we are today. Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years. Ten years ago, most scientists thought we might see three feet of sea-level rise by 2100. Now, estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the worst-case might be eight feet by 2100, while former NASA scientist James Hansen argues that it could be 10 feet or more. The larger reality is, we’re moving into an era of unknown impacts, where it is impossible to say how fast our world will change, or how bad it will get. “We are dealing with an event that no human has ever witnessed,” Penn State scientist Richard Alley recently told me as we discussed the collapsing Antarctic ice sheets. “We have no analog for this.”

At the same time, we’ve allowed cities like Houston to become empires of denial. If you set out to design a metropolis that is poorly adapted to the future, you couldn’t do much better than Houston. Consider the rate at which it’s paved over the wetlands, nature’s sponges for absorbing water. Thirty percent of the surrounding coastal prairie wetlands was developed between 1992 and 2010, creating what amount to concrete catch basins that capture the water and funnel it toward destruction. In Houston, the bayou is just a place to drive your Lexus – this is a city that’s said to have 30 parking spots for every resident.

Houston proudly touts itself as “the City With No Limits,” playing up its Wild West heritage of endless land and opportunity. But it is also the largest U.S. city to have no zoning laws, meaning you can build whatever you want, wherever you want. While that makes developers happy, it’s not how you build a climate-resilient city. According to a Washington Post investigation, more than 7,000 residential buildings have been constructed in 100-year FEMA-designated flood plains since 2010. But given that FEMA’s flood maps haven’t been updated to reflect sea-level rise and other factors, the actual number of new buildings constructed in high-risk places is likely much larger. And this is true not just in Houston but in Miami, South Carolina and every other flood-prone region. Ten years ago, Houston officials banned development in areas with high risk of flooding. But developers sued, until the policy was weakened by the City Council. Government officials tried putting up flood gauges in low-lying areas to show how high the water could get during a hurricane, but pressure from real-estate agents got the signposts removed.

The feds bear some responsibility for the disaster-friendly design of Houston, too. Virtually all flood insurance in America is administered through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is supposed to prevent risky development by requiring better building standards and relocation of buildings that flood repeatedly. But since it was founded in 1968, the program has been contorted by developers, real-estate agents, and politicians lobbying for special treatment for their constituents. In places like Houston, the program helps enable development in high-risk areas by offering subsidized insurance rates that don’t reflect the real cost of living in flood-prone areas, as well as by offering repeat payouts for often-flooded homes. Even before Harvey, the program was already $25 billion in debt.

As always, it’s poor people and people of color who end up bearing most of the risk. “They not only have to deal with flooding in their homes, but pollution in water that’s contaminated when water floods refineries and plants,” Texas Southern University sociologist Robert Bullard told Huffington Post. “You’re talking about a perfect storm of pollution, environmental racism, and health risks that are probably not going to be measured and assessed until decades later. The fact is that laissez-faire, unrestrained capitalism and lack of zoning mean people with money can put protections up, and people without can’t.”

In moments like this, it’s always tempting to say that a disaster like Hurricane Harvey is a game-changer, that seeing the devastation and suffering this storm has wrought will help us think differently about the world we live in. In the past, big catastrophes have led to big changes. The fire on Ohio’s Cuyahoga River in the 1960s resulted in the Clean Water Act; after the spill of the Exxon Valdez,Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act. In a rational world, Harvey would lead to (among other things) passage of carbon legislation to reduce emissions, as well as a fundamental restructuring of the National Flood Insurance Program to quit subsidizing development in risky places.

Instead, we are likely to get a lot of rah-rah about rebuilding Houston bigger and better than before, some marginal improvements in building codes, and a lot of fighting in Congress over how much money to spend on recovery. President Trump will tout the heroics of the rescuers and the TV ratings of the storm – he is his own empire of denial. He not only pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal, but just weeks before Harvey hit, he rolled back common-sense requirements for flood protection in federal projects.

Beyond the post-storm platitudes, it’s not hard to foresee what is coming. There will be another hurricane – next time it might hit Charleston or Miami or Norfolk, and it will destroy buildings and highways built in harm’s way and it will again cause billions of dollars worth of damage. Eventually, taxpayers in Kansas will get tired of bailing out people who live on the coast, and disaster-relief funds will dry up. As seas rise, mortgage companies will stop writing 30-year loans for homes by the sea. Bond ratings for cities will fall. Coastal roads will be washed away. Airports will be flooded. And the great coastal retreat will begin.

The simple truth is, it’s not just Houston that’s done a poor job of thinking about the future – it’s all of us. We’ve spent 40 years denying the risks of climate change, thinking that if we can just get everyone to buy a Prius and recycle their plastic, everything will be OK. The message of Hurricane Harvey is that it will not be OK. We’re living in a new world now, and we better get ready. Mother Nature is coming for us.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Hart among the actors and artists leading the donations for Hurricane Harvey relief. Watch here.

Joel Osteen Is the Quintessential Pastor of the Trump Era

Original Article

By Sarah Posner

Last Friday, hours before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Houston’s most famous pastor tweeted out a teaser for his latest podcast, “The God Who Goes Before You.” In a video excerpt embedded in the tweet, televangelist Joel Osteen, the city’s wealthiest ecclesiastical son, is seen preaching in the altar of his 16,000-seat capacity Lakewood Church, formerly the Compaq Center, where the Houston Rockets once played basketball. “Many sports champions have been crowned there,” Osteen said when the church took over the property in 2005. “We believe we can crown champions in life.”

That’s the heart of Osteen’s notoriously saccharine version of a theology known as the prosperity gospel: You, too, can be a champion – like Osteen, who’s worth a reported $40 million and lives in a $10 million mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood. Just trust God.

Trusting God was Osteen’s message in his unaccountably sanguine missive ahead of what was forecast to be a catastrophic weather event. Although it’s not clear that the podcast was recorded with Harvey in mind, Osteen’s decision to share it just as Houston was bracing for disaster turns out to have been a fraught one. “The good news is He’s going ahead of you right now, lining up the right people, the right supplies, the right opportunities,” Osteen said in his Texas drawl, his wide-toothed grin fixed like hard plastic across his face. “He has solutions to problems you haven’t had.”

But if God has a solution for the victims of Harvey’s apocalyptic flooding, those solutions were not on display at Lakewood, which quickly came under heavy criticism for not opening its doors to Harvey evacuees, as many houses of worship in Houston did.

One might think Osteen’s theology, anchored by what he calls a “strategic God,” would allow him to point to God’s solutions for, say, being flooded out of one’s home. But the next day, as Houstonians sought shelter amid Harvey’s devastation, Osteen tweeted only that he and his wife Victoria “are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.”

After an onslaught of social media criticism about offering prayers but no shelter in his church of champions, Osteen agreed to open Lakewood’s doors. He protested to the Today Show on Wednesday that he had initially not opened the church because the city had not asked him to, and called the criticism a “false narrative.”

If that sequence of events sounds familiar – a wealthy, out-of-touch man offers platitudes on Twitter, then lashes out at critics who say he should have done more – it’s because the prosperity gospel has completely infected Republican politics. And President Trump represents the pinnacle of the party’s embrace of prosperity gospel values.

In the prosperity gospel, one can clearly see Trump, and vice-versa: the cruel indifference toward the travails of the less fortunate, the magical thinking that supersedes reason, the cult of personality and the evident disdain for the poor, who would be champions but for their insufficient faith in a God who crowns champions and relegates losers to the sidelines.

The prosperity gospel teaches that God will bless those who have faith, and that one’s health – and, particularly, wealth – are a manifestation of that blessing. Its proponents include the cheerful Osteen, who has said, “I don’t think it’s God’s best” to be poor. “Some people have this poverty mindset, and I’m a Christian, and I’m supposed to suffer,” he told CNN in 2012. “That’s just not how I see it.”

Some purveyors of this teaching pressure their congregants with what’s known as seed-faith theology: Sow a seed – meaning, give money to your pastor or a televangelist – and you will receive a thousand-fold “harvest” in return. Often people are shamed into giving money, even money they can’t afford to give. And when they don’t magically get rewarded for their “faith” and “sowing the seed,” they are told it’s because they don’t have enough faith.

Ten years ago I was writing a book about the GOP’s unholy alliance with prosperity preachers – but at the time, the relationship was largely a transactional one, as politicians sought the endorsements of televangelists with huge audiences and influence over their political choices. But with Trump, that relationship has blossomed in unique ways, largely because the president himself was actually drawn to the prosperity gospel with a sort of kismet. Paula White, a longtime friend and spiritual adviser to Trump who spends time in the White House with Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, is a leading figure among prosperity televangelists. According to the lore shared by White and others, Trump became enamored of her more than a decade ago when he saw her preach on television. In 2005, she and her then husband bought a $3.5 million condo in Trump Tower. When Trump appeared on her television program in 2008, White asked him to share life lessons that “caused you to succeed financially today.” The pair agreed that it was “key” to discover one’s passion, and then, in White’s words, to “figure out a way to make money.”

White has emerged as one of Trump’s most impassioned evangelical defenders in the face of the Russia investigation, and even after his widely criticized reaction to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. On a recent appearance, after Charlottesville, on the television program of once-disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, White declared that opposition to Trump is akin to being anti-God. Trump, she said, has been “raised up by God because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God that raises up a king, it is God that sets one down and so when you fight against the plan of God, you’re fighting against the hand of God.” She also seized the opportunity to promote her recent book, Dare to Dream, and its front-cover blurb from Trump: “Read this and you’ll be ready for great success.”

In case there’s any doubt, making money is the coveted side hustle of Trump and his televangelist friends, whether you’re president of the United States or a follower of Jesus. In the store on White’s website, if you “sow your prophetic seed of $77 or more,” she will send you your own “special, anointed prayer cloth as a point of contact for this prophetic word!” When Trump traveled to Texas this week to (not) view Harvey’s devastation, he prominently wore an Official USA 45th Presidential Hat, which sells on his reelection website for $40, prompting criticism from ethics watchdogs. It’s worth remembering the Trump-White mantra: “Figure out a way to make money.”

It’s the use of the church to profit that led the Senate Finance Committee to launch an investigation of six televangelists, including White, in 2007. Although the religious right portrayed the probe as improper government intrusion into church doctrine, the real question under scrutiny was whether the churches were using tax-exempt donations for personal enrichment. The investigation ended with no actual or proposed changes to the law requiring more accountability and transparency from churches that are essentially operating as for-profit enterprises. We’d know more about how this works if churches were required to release their tax returns – but they’re not, just like the president.

In interviewing former followers of prosperity preachers, I found that many of them were in such thrall of the “success” of these pastors that they refused to acknowledge or heed any criticism of them. If the local newspaper were to run a story about their church and any impropriety – financial, sexual or otherwise – they wouldn’t even read it. Prosperity preachers had their followers convinced of “fake news” long before Trump turned it into a national obsession.

Trump is the culmination of the Republican Party’s long love affair with the prosperity gospel. Other Republican politicians have courted prosperity gospel preachers for their huge audiences and influence; Trump is the embodiment of this particular marriage of politics and a religion. When Trump proclaims, “the evangelicals love me, and I love them,” though, he’s talking about a particular evangelical subculture in evangelicalism, one that is closer to Trump than it is to Jesus.

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.

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.

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.

29 States Banned Individual State Laws About Seeds

Original Article

By Kristina Johnson

This story was originally published by Food and Environment Reporting Network.

With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state.

“This bill should be viewed for what it is — a gag order on public debate,” says Kristina Hubbard, director of advocacy and communications at the Organic Seed Alliance, a national advocacy group, and a resident of Montana, which along with Texas passed a seed-preemption bill this year. “This thinly disguised attack on local democracy can be easily traced to out-of-state, corporate interests that want to quash local autonomy.”

Seed-preemption laws are part of a spate of legislative initiatives by industrial agriculture, including ag-gag laws passed in several states that legally prohibit outsiders from photographing farms, and “right-to-farm” laws that make it easier to snuff out complaints about animal welfare. The seed laws, critics say, are a related thrust meant to protect the interests of agro-chemical companies.

Nearly every seed-preemption law in the country borrows language from a 2013 model bill drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The council is “a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists,” essentially “voting as equals” with state legislators on bills, according to The Center for Media and Democracy. ALEC’s corporate members include the Koch brothers as well as some of the largest seed-chemical companies — Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont — which want to make sure GMO bans, like those enacted in Jackson County, Oregon, and Boulder County, Colorado, don’t become a trend.

Seed-preemption laws have been adopted in 29 states, including Oregon — one of the world’s top five seed-producing regions — California, Iowa, and Colorado. In Oregon, the bill was greenlighted in 2014 after Monsanto and Syngenta spent nearly $500,000 fighting a GMO ban in Jackson County. Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and Syngenta also spent more than $6.9 million opposing anti-GMO rules in three Hawaiian counties, and thousands more in campaign donations. (These companies are also involved in mergers that, if approved, would create three seed-agrochemical giants.)

Montana and Texas were the latest states to join the seed-preemption club. Farming is the largest industry in Montana, and Texas is the third-largest agricultural state in terms of production, behind California and Iowa.

Language in the Texas version of the bill preempts not only local laws that affect seeds but also local laws that deal with “cultivating plants grown from seed.” In theory, that could extend to almost anything: what kinds of manure or fertilizer can be used, or whether a county can limit irrigation during a drought, says Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. Along with other activists, her organization was able to force an amendment to the Texas bill guaranteeing the right to impose local water restrictions. Still, the law’s wording remains uncomfortably open to interpretation, she says.

In both Montana and Texas, the laws passed with support from the state chapter of the Farm Bureau Federation — the nation’s largest farm-lobbying group — and other major ag groups, including the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Texas Seed Trade Alliance. In Texas, DuPont and Dow Chemical also joined the fight, publicly registering their support for the bill.

Echoing President Trump’s anti-regulatory rhetoric, preemption proponents argue that, fundamentally, seed-preemption laws are about cutting the red tape from around farmers’ throats. Supporters also contend that counties and cities don’t have the expertise or the resources to make sound scientific decisions about the safety or quality of seeds.

“We don’t believe the locals have the science that the state of Texas has,” said Jim Reaves, legislative director of the Texas Farm Bureau. “So we think it’s better held in the state’s hands. It will basically tell cities that if you have a problem with a certain seed, the state can ban it, but you can’t.”

Other preemption proponents claim that local seed rules would simply get too complicated, forcing growers to navigate conflicting laws in different counties. “Many of us farm fields in more than one county,” said Don Steinbeisser Jr., a Sidney, Montana, farmer who testified in support of his state’s bill at a legislative hearing this spring. “Having different rules in each county would make management a nightmare and add costs to the crops that we simply do not need and cannot afford.”

But critics of preemption laws, including farmers (organic and conventional) and some independent seed companies, are afraid of losing their legislative rights. They claim something far more serious than a single farmer’s crop is at stake.

“There is no looming threat that warrants forfeiting the independence of local agricultural communities in the form of sweeping language that eliminates all local authority governing one of our most valuable national resources,” says Hubbard of the Organic Seed Alliance.

Organic farmers can lose their crop if it becomes contaminated with genetically modified material. Even conventional farmers who rely on exports to Asia, where GMOs are banned by some countries, face risks from contamination. There are currently no plans to push for a GMO ban anywhere in Texas or Montana, and neither state requires companies to disclose the use of GMOs. (In Montana, at least, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, added an amendment to the preemption bill when he signed it, preserving the right of local governments to require that farmers notify their neighbors if they’re planting GMO seeds.) Yet critics of the preemption laws fear that they tie the hands of local governments, which will make it harder for communities to respond to problems in the future.

Still, the fight isn’t just about GMOs, says Judith McGeary, noting that seeds coated with neonicotinoids — a class of pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder in bees — are also at issue. Under the Texas bill, a local government can’t ban neonic seeds in order to protect pollinator insects, and in the current political climate, it’s hard to imagine that such a ban would happen on the state level.

“We have an extremely large state with an incredible diversity of agricultural practices and ecological conditions, and you’ve now hobbled any ability to address a problem that’s found in one local area,” says McGeary. “Until it’s a big enough issue for a state of 23 million to pay attention to through the state legislature, nothing is going to happen,” she says.

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.

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.”