Religion

Roy Moore, From the Gadsden Mall to the Ten Commandments Monument

by Todd Gitlin – Sin of the sin-catchers. The spectacle of 30-something Deputy District Attorney Roy Moore cruising the Gadsden, Alabama, mall hunting for high school girls to chat up, grope and “date” rivets our attention, and deservedly so. Not everyone’s attention, of course. As CNN’s Brian Stelter points out, Alabama’s own media have long overlooked his depredations. Even now, a local paper persists in claiming that the ex-judge has “refuted” his accusers. (They meant “rebutted,” but even that isn’t true.) Still, for all the back-and-forth, most commentators stop short of noting that the defrocked Alabama Chief Justice belongs to a tradition and a culture. Proliferating stories of Moore’s life as a predator invite reflection on what he and Harvey Weinstein share in common — their privileged positions in a protective culture where men get away with whatever they can get away with. No one outside a deep cave lacking Wi-Fi is altogether astonished to...

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Evangelical Attack on Women’s Rights Hidden in GOP Tax Reform

by Rmuse – Religious Republicans made another sneak attack on American women’s right to self-determination last week and there was barely a whimper; which is the reason the attack was done through subterfuge. And besides a lack of outrage,  there was a lack of media reporting that Republicans are embracing a Vatican dictate as their official legislative weapon of choice in the evangelical Republicans’ war on women. Based on the machinations Republicans are using to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, including the right to use contraceptives, they certainly know their agenda is highly unpopular; it is precisely why they ensconced a “personhood” provision deep in the 429-page Republican House tax reform legislation. Despite several varied states rejecting the bizarre, and frankly absurd, idea of “personhood,” as a legal provision and as a concept, Republicans are pushing the issue as a means of completely controlling women’s reproductive lives. For the second time in Trump and preacher Pence’s burgeoning theocracy, the federal...

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Meet the Spiritual Shepherd of Black Lives Matter

by Jack Jenkins – “We came with a Bible in one hand, and a protest sign in the other.” When Rev. Traci Blackmon took the stage in mid-October at the Prophetic Resistance Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana, she was technically slated to give a “keynote address,” a phrase that brings to mind Powerpoint presentations and break-out sessions. But what she actually delivered to 350-odd clergy was, well, a sermon. The Missouri native, well known for her skills as a preacher, did not disappoint. Over the course of 25 minutes, her voice cracked with passion as she invoked the biblical story of Moses, using the instance of God speaking through a burning bush as a metaphor to explain the world’s many ills. But Blackmon, a pivotal spiritual voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, did not speak in generalities. She listed the tragedies impacting communities of color by name. “Bushes were burning in Ferguson long...

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Saudi Arabia and Iran in War of Words

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of “direct military aggression” through the Houthi rebels in Yemen, firing another warning shot at the Islamic Republic. Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi heir apparent, was referring to the missile fired over the weekend at Riyadh from Yemen in pointing the finger at Iran for supplying the weapon. Iran has dismissed the accusation, reported by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday, as “contrary to reality”. The Houthis have given warning that Saudi and UAE airports could be their next firing targets. The Islamic Republic supports the Shia Houthi rebels but denies arming them. However, the current crisis extends far beyond Yemen: Saudi Arabia has made clear it wants to curb Iranian influence not just in the Arabian Peninsula but across the region. Iran has proxies across the Middle East: in Iraq, it controls paramilitary forces that are stronger than the state. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia...

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Roy Moore Collected $1 Million From His Own ‘Charitable’ Foundation—and That’s Not All That’s Odd

by Hunter – An unbreakable law of conservative politics is that every Republican running for something will have had, at some point, either their own far-right radio talk show or a side business that looks reeeeeeally dodgy when you start to examine it too closely. If you look at Caleb Moore’s resume, his current position is assistant executive director at the Foundation for Moral Law, the organization founded by his father, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. But if you ask the foundation, he is not an employee there and hasn’t been one, at least for the past year. The story gets odder from there. Either Roy Moore’s son Caleb is an “assistant executive director” of Roy Moore’s FML, or he is an entry-level underling, or he is a nobody. (Caleb achieved some fame of his own for his history of domestic violence, drug charges, and other arrests. Given that pa has...

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Hours After Horrific Mass Shooting, Texas Attorney General Urges More People to Bring Guns to Church

by Judd Legum – “As a country, what do we do? How can we get our arms around this and stop this insanity?” Just hours after a mass shooting left at least 26 people dead at a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, state Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared on Fox News. His message to Texans: Bring a gun to church. “As a Texan, as a father, can you wrap your brain around what we’re learning today, that children were killed, children were shot, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor was killed in this type of attack? As a country, what do we do? How can we get our arms around this and stop this insanity?” Fox News anchor Eric Shawn asked Paxton.  “All I can say is, you know, in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have concealed-carry, And so if it’s a place where somebody has the ability to carry, there’s always the opportunity that gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very...

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The New GOP Tax Reform Bill Would Politicize Churches

by Jack Jenkins – This provision will likely make leaders of the Religious Right very happy. The newly unveiled Republican tax reform bill includes a provision that will likely make leaders of the Religious Right very happy—by amending a part of the tax law that keeps churches from engaging in explicit political advocacy. Embedded within the bill’s more than 400 pages is a small provision that would change an aspect of the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” a provision of the tax codes that prohibits churches, faith communities, and other non-profits from outright endorsing political candidates. Under the Johnson Amendment, it is illegal (albeit rarely enforced) for a faith leader to, say, endorse a candidate from the pulpit. Some conservative leaders—including paragons of the Religious Right and Trump’s own lawyer Jay Sekulow—have long argued this law infringes on their freedom of speech or religion. The GOP’s new bill appears to placate these concerns, using the following...

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Afghanistan Reels After Two Mosque Bombings Kill Nearly 90 People

by Ali M. Latifi – “Never in my life could I have imagined that mosques would come under attack.” For years, Ali Kadem has had a perfect view of the Imam Zaman Mosque from the window of the bread bakery where he works. As he sits cross-legged handing out 10 Afghani ($0.15) loaves of bread, the 18-year-old often looks out onto the mosque he has been to thousands of times. He has watched members of his community in the Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood of Kabul enter the green-and-white mosque for the five daily prayers, Eid holidays, Ashura commemorations, and any number of other occasions. But nothing could prepare him for what would befall dozens of worshippers on Friday evening. Kadem was preparing loaves of bread when the sound of the bomb rang out throughout the neighborhood. “We were just sitting here when we heard the sound and saw the smoke rising,” he...

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Federal Judge Halts the Third Version of Trump’s Muslim Ban

by Ian Millhiser – Turns out, banning Muslims isn’t a thing that a president can do. President Donald Trump has now revised his Muslim ban twice, both times in efforts to rescue the ban from court decisions halting at least some of its provisions. On Tuesday, however, a federal judge held that Trump’s latest efforts are not good enough. According to Judge Derrick Watson’s opinion in Hawaii v. Trump, the latest round of changes to Trump’s ban are not significant enough to rescue it from the same legal attacks that placed the previous version of the ban in legal jeopardy. Watson handed down a temporary order on halting the ban. This round of litigation concerns the provisions of the ban restricting citizens of certain nations from entering the United States. Though the Supreme Court has not fully considered any version of these provisions on the merits, it handed down a temporary order...

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Taxpayers are Picking up the Tab for White Nationalists’ ‘free speech’ Rallies

by Luke Barnes – Security for Richard Spencer’s latest speech will cost half-a-million dollars. Campus officials at the University of Florida are preparing for white nationalist Richard Spencer to visit their campus next month — and are being forced to spend upwards of $500,000 to provide him with security. It’s the latest in a series of right-wing rallies which taxpayers and beleaguered universities are picking up the bill for. Spencer, fresh off leading another torch rally at Charlottesville, will travel to Gainesville, Florida on October 19th, despite the University not inviting him or wanting him to host his event there. “People are concerned for their well-being and safety,” senior Dwayne Fletcher told the Washington Post. “Gainesville will definitely have a different atmosphere in the days to come, and afterward, because of his presence.” According to the Washington Post, the university is also being forced to close several key medical centers, including surgery centers and...

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Trump’s Health Department Declares That Life Begins at Conception

by Amanda Michelle Gomez – Trump and his health department said they’d promote a faith-based, anti-choice agenda. They’re delivering. The Trump administration has repeatedly delivered on a campaign promise to the religious right that he’d prioritize a faith-based, anti-choice agenda. The latest evidence comes in the form of the draft strategic plan released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which defines life as “beginning at conception.” The draft was released two weeks ago, before HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned, and it outlines the priorities of the agency and its governing offices. As Dr. Jen Gunter, an obstetrician and gynecologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, pointed out, HHS went beyond the normative promise from conservatives to promote faith-based partnerships, and declared that the life of each human begins at conception. “It’s concerning because HHS isn’t just a theoretical group that writes think pieces no one reads,” Dr. Gunter told ThinkProgress. “We are replacing...

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America has a Skewed Perception of What Qualifies as Terrorism

by Jack Jenkins – Researchers say Americans react differently depending on a perpetrator’s race, religion, and methods. By many metrics, Monday’s horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada — which left nearly 60 people dead and hundreds wounded — followed the agonizingly familiar patterns of America’s endless string of mass shootings. But one thing was different. As many observers on social media pointed out with deepfrustration, law enforcement negated the possibility that the shooter is a “terrorist” with alarming speed — especially when compared to other recent attacks in which the suspected perpetrator was a Muslim or a person of color. Authorities have thus far held firm in their assessment that there isn’t enough evidence to label suspected shooter Stephen Paddock a terrorist in the literal sense, dismissing claims by extremist group ISIS that the shooter was acting on their accord. Erin Kearns, a terrorist expert and professor of criminology at the University of Alabama, said this is...

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The Silent Terrorism on Our Doorsteps

by Christian Christensen – Why aren’t mass killings related to domestic violence given the same media attention as Islamic terrorism? Let’s begin with two questions. Can you name the location of the two most deadly US mass shootings of 2017? And, can you identify what the two events had in common? The answers? The Sept. 10 killing of eight in Plano, Texas, and the May 27 killing of eight in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. The link? Both were acts of domestic violence. Were the mass murders covered by portions of the US media? Yes. Were they given the same level and intensity of coverage as instances of national and international ”terrorism” with far fewer, or even no, fatalities? No. Not even close. In fact, many people in the US could be forgiven for not having heard of what happened in Plano or Bogue Chitto, let alone that these were instances of domestic violence. It...

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How Segregated America Made Trump Inevitable

by Donald Earl Collins – Racial and social segregation has built Trump’s electorate and the dominant white narrative it subscribes to. Let there be no doubt. US President Donald Trump is a mercurial, inept, me-first racist. In recent weeks, Trump has thrown in with Charlottesville’s white supremacists and pardoned known anti-immigrant xenophobe Joe Arpaio. Trump has pursued an agenda of rescinding more and more of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), potentially leading to the deportation of undocumented immigrants who were children when they came to the US. Trump’s behaviour isn’t unprecedented. His racist, incompetent, and callously narcissistic performance as president shares similarities with that of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, and Richard Nixon. And although he continues to follow the lead of some of America’s most racist and inept presidents, he continues to retain many of his supporters. WATCH: Trump’s DACA decision leaves many dreams in limbo (2:26) Millions of supposedly...

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Conservative Groups Launch New Attack on SPLC to Circumvent ‘hate’ Label

by Zack Ford – They take no accountability for their own rhetoric. A coalition of conservative groups has launched yet another attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in an attempt to discredit the organization’s “hate group” labels. Despite the SPLC’s long history of tracking and documenting extremism, the groups contend, in a new open letter issued to the media Wednesday, that it is actually the SPLC that is stoking violence. The letter, organized by the Family Research Council (FRC) and Media Research Center, was signed by nearly 50 right-wing leaders, many of whom are either affiliated with groups the SPLC has designated as hate groups or have been personally identified as extremists themselves. The signers are predominantly aligned with evangelical Christianity and are known for advocating anti-LGBTQ and/or Islamophobic positions, including Michael Farris (Alliance Defending Freedom), Sandy Rios and Tim Wildmon (American Family Association), Frank Gaffney (Center for Security Policy), and...

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Nearly Half of Trump Voters Think Whites, Christians are Most Oppressed Groups

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – He has come for Mexicans, Muslims, Black people, trans people, Democrats, the news media, activists and even leading members of Congress from his own party. Few have been spared Donald Trump’s scorn, but when it came time to condemn white supremacists for inciting deadly violence last week, the president was quick to argue that it wasn’t entirely their fault. A storm of media controversy followed, but Trump refused to back down, defending his initial remarks about the racist invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia. Then he held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona this week where he threatened to shut down the government over funding for his unpopular border wall and flirted with pardoning former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a known racist who is facing jail time because he refused to stop racially profiling Latinos. However, Trump’s approval rating is not as low as some assume it is. It continues to hover just below...

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Catholic Leaders Get Final Chance to Take Stand Against Nazis

by SemDem – One of the darkest chapters of the Catholic Church last century was during the start of WWII, when Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, signed a treaty on behalf of the Vatican with Adolf Hitler. The Reichskonkordat gave moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime that Hitler sought—even after he had acquired dictatorial powers through the Enabling Act of 1933.  The treaty promised that Bishops would swear loyalty to the leader of the German government, and it allowed the Nazis to claim that the Third Reich had been given “full approval by the highest spiritual power on earth”. As you might have expected, Hitler never honored his part of the agreement on Church protections.  In essence, the future pope made a deal with the devil, and it didn’t end well. You can’t make deals with the devil and ever expect it to… I’ve completely given up on evangelical Christians,...

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Most Americans View Openness to Foreigners as ‘essential to who we are as a nation’

by SAMANTHA NEAL – For a large majority of Americans, the country’s openness to people from around the world “is essential to who we are as a nation.” In a new Pew Research Center survey, 68% say America’s openness to foreigners is a defining characteristic of the nation, while just 29% say “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.” The belief that openness to people from around the world is essential is widely shared across most demographic groups. However, Democrats and younger people are considerably more likely than others to hold this view, according to the national survey, conducted June 27-July 9 among 2,505 adults. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, an overwhelming share (84%) thinks America’s openness is essential to who we are as a nation. Republicans and Republican leaners are divided: 47% say America’s openness is essential,...

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Universal Health Care Would Save $17 Trillion

by David Akadjian – $32 trillion. You may have seen this number in corporate media coverage and Republican propaganda. It’s the estimated cost of universal health care over a 10-year period. It’s a big number—a big, scary number. So hacks like the editorial board at The Washington Post use it to scare people with titles like “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag.” Not just high—astonishingly high. Of course what the editorial board of The Washington Post leaves out (though you think they’d know better) is any comparison to what we’re currently spending. Compared to what we’re currently spending, universal health care or single-payer health care would save us $17 trillion over 10 years. In order to demonstrate this, we just need a couple of numbers. The first number is how much we currently spend on health care per year. National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE) This is a number called the National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE). NHE measures everything we...

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Congress Wants to Let Churches Play Partisan Politics and Keep Tax Exempt Status

by Ian Thompson – During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump publicly lamented the fact that religious groups could not endorse his candidacy without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. “I know people who want to endorse me, but they’re afraid to endorse anybody because they don’t want to get political,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “So essentially, they’ve taken a lot of the power away from the church.” Earlier this year, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.” The Johnson Amendment, which has been part of the U.S. tax code since 1954, prohibits all tax-exempt non-profit organizations — including churches and other houses of worship as well as all secular nonprofits — from engaging in partisan political activities, specifically endorsing or opposing political candidates. Six months into the Trump presidency, the Johnson Amendment remains on the books. However, last week the House Appropriations Committee, which is...

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Rev. Barber: An Open Letter to Clergy Who Prayed With Donald Trump

by William J. Barber, II – The Scripture cautions us to lay hands on no man suddenly, lest we become a party to his sins. Dear Reverends Jack Graham, Johnnie Moore, Greg Laurie, Paula White, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and others, I write you with a heavy heart as a fellow Christian and a fellow preacher during a trying time in our nation’s public life. Last week, Capitol Hill police arrested me along with other clergy and people with health issues outside Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s office for doing what you and I do every week in our pulpits, over dinner tables, and in the public square: reading the Word of God and attempting to let the Spirit speak its ancient truth through me into the present. While we may differ on Biblical interpretation, we do share a common effort to understand God’s Word and discern God’s will. I have noted...

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Hundreds of German Choir Boys Abused

Victims describe time at prison-like school as marked by helplessness and fear, says lawyer probing cases. Priests and teachers physically or sexually abused more than 500 boys at a Catholic choir school in Germany between 1945 and 1992, according to a report. Allegations in Tuesday’s report involving the Domspatzen choir at the Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows school were among a spate of revelations of abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Germany that emerged in 2010. Many of the 547 victims remembered their time at the school as “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, violence and helplessness”, said lawyer Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned two years ago by the diocese to probe the cases. The victims said the school was “prison, hell and a concentration camp”, he added. The report counted 500 cases of physical violence and 67 of sexual violence, committed by a total of 49 perpetrators. The lead investigator criticised...

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Where is the Outrage Over Anti-immigrant Bills?

by Sonali Kolhatkar – Two pieces of legislation just passed by the House go “hand-in-hand with a coordinated effort by the administration to paint all immigrants as criminal just by nature of their immigration status.” While many of us are rightfully angry over Donald Trump’s treatment of the media, over the GOP’s attempt to gut health care for millions of Americans and over myriad other issues, two little-noticed but impactful bills sailed through the House of Representatives last week with barely a peep from progressive voices. The bills were the first immigration-related pieces of legislation taken up by the House since Trump’s inauguration and apply harsh penalties for undocumented people. They also help the president live up to some of his most xenophobic rhetoric and were passed with little or no debate, even receiving some Democratic support. They now head to the Senate, and unless there is a major public outcry,...

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Theresa May ‘delaying report on funding of extremism’

Publication of report, which reportedly focuses on Saudi Arabia, has been delayed by the PM, British media says. British Prime Minister Theresa May is withholding a report on “foreign funding of extremism” which reportedly criticises Saudi Arabia, according to UK reports quoting statements by the Home Office and Downing Street. Both offices said that the prime minister is personally responsible for deciding whether to release the report, which had been commissioned by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015 and approved by May, who was home secretary at the time, The Guardian reported. In a written reply to a June 27 question by the Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, May said on Monday: “Ministers are considering advice on what is able to be published and will report to Parliament with an update in due course.” According to The Guardian, Sarah Newton, a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Home Office, also responded to Lucas this week: “The...

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The Dire Consequences if Justice Kennedy Retires

by Ian Millhiser – Say goodbye to Roe, racial justice, voting rights, and any new progress on LGBT rights. This past weekend, as most Americans were preparing for cookouts and fireworks, NPR’s Nina Totenberg dropped a bombshell. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Supreme Court has to a swing vote, has told young lawyers seeking clerkships in his chambers that “he is considering retirement.” If Kennedy does retire, that decision presents an existential threat to many civil rights that seemed safely entrenched before Donald Trump’s second-place victory in last November’s election. Four years from now, Trump may be remembered as both a political accident and the man who inspired a broad coalition of voters to cast his unique brand of racist incompetence out of office. He owes his job to a constitutional relicthat allows the loser of a presidential election to nonetheless take office, and Trump has thus far struggled to advance...

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U.S. Rejects Travel Visa for Afghan Teenage Girl Robotics Team

by Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani – “We want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance.” The United States denied travel visas for six teenage girls from Afghanistan looking to attend an international robotics competition in Washington, D.C this month. The all-girl team from Herat, a city in western Afghanistan, applied for a one-week travel visa to attend the FIRST Global Challenge in mid-July. To interview for their visas, they had to travel about 500 miles to the U.S. embassy in Kabul. They made that trek a second time after their first application was rejected, but they were rejected yet again. Roya Mahboob, who founded the Citadel software company in Afghanistan and organized the team of girls, told Forbes that when the team heard their visa applications were rejected again, they cried all day. “It’s a very important message for our people,” she said. “Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan.” The...

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More Than 100 Federal Agencies Fail to Report Hate Crimes to the FBI’s National Database

by A.C. Thompson and Ken Schwencke – The gaps in data damage efforts to understand the nature and scope of violence driven by racial and religious hatred. In violation of a longstanding legal mandate, scores of federal law enforcement agencies are failing to submit statistics to the FBI’s national hate crimes database, ProPublica has learned. The lack of participation by federal law enforcement represents a significant and largely unknown flaw in the database, which is supposed to be the nation’s most comprehensive source of information on hate crimes. The database is maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which uses it to tabulate the number of alleged hate crimes occurring around the nation each year. The FBI has identified at least 120 federal agencies that aren’t uploading information to the database, according to Amy Blasher, a unit chief at the CJIS division, an arm of the bureau that is overseeing the...

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Trump Administration Eliminates Funding for Group Countering White Nationalism

by Laurel Raymond – The group will no longer get any funding through the Countering Violent Extremism program. The Trump administration has dropped federal support of an organization dedicated to countering white nationalist and neo-Nazi extremism, a Politico report revealed on Friday. The organization, Life After Hate, was founded in 2009 and is run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of racist activist and extremist movements, and who now work to de-radicalize others involved in violent extremist groups. In its final days, the Obama administration awarded the group a $400,000 grant as part of its Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Life After Hate was the only group dedicated to fighting white nationalist extremism to receive a grant under the program. It’s also in increasing demand: Picciolini told Politico that since President Trump’s election, Life After Hate has seen a 20-fold increase in requests for help, coming “from people looking...

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Supreme Court Partially Lifts Block on Trump’s ‘Bigoted’ Travel Ban

by Jake Johnson – “We’ll be ready,” said the ACLU in response to the announcement. The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear arguments on President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban—also known as the Muslim Ban 2.0—which had previously been blocked by two federal appellate courts, one of which ruled the ban is “rooted in religious animus” and therefore unconstitutional. Arguments in the case are set to be heard in October. Commentators were quick to point out that the Supreme Court’s announcement contained a victory for the Trump administration, as the court decided to reinstate portions of the Muslim ban, exempting only those with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The Washington Post reports: The action means that the administration may impose a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the...

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Wunderkind Jared Kushner Busy Blowing Up Israeli/Palestinian Talks

by durrati – Jerusalem Post A Palestinian official claims Abbas is furious at American demands, accuses the US of taking sides. “US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.  The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.  Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.” Well, that’s a good start, Jared, blowing up the meeting with Abbas by presenting Israeli demands before the Maqluba can even be served. San Diego Jewish World has more details. “A meeting between Palestinian Authority President...

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Israel Plans Most Settlement Homes Since 1992 (VIDEO)

Defence minister says first half of 2017 has seen most illegal expansion since before “Oslo peace process” began. Israel has so far this year advanced its highest number of settlement projects since 1992, the defence minister said, despite warnings such plans make a two-state solution impossible. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the comments on Sunday as Israel’s government faced mounting pressure from leaders of the settlement movement, who wield heavy influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. Netanyahu has found himself seeking to balance the competing demands of the settlers and US President Donald Trump, who has asked him to hold back on such projects for now as he seeks a way to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman told journalists and ministers at the start of a cabinet meeting that, so far this year, plans had been advanced for 8,345 homes in the occupied West Bank,...

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Trump Cuts Millions From the US Holocaust Museum, Sparking Outrage

by SemDem – Who would have guessed that the same guy who installed alt-right Nazis in the White House, gets his information from anti-Semitic hate sites, and refused to even mention Jews on Holocaust Memorial Day would do something like this: A bipartisan group of 64 members of Congress is demanding a reversal on $3 million in funding cuts to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum… I heard about this from my Congresswoman, Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), who is spearheading the effort to get it reversed.  On Friday, the 64 members of Congress signed  a letter to the Interior appropriations subcommittee that reads, in part: “In our view, the mission of the museum has never been more important, particularly as the number of anti-Semitic attacks around the world rises… Now is not the time to cut funding for this national treasure.” The wave of anti-Semitic attacks, which the letter refers to, means the massive spike in assaults, bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations that have occurred since Trump’s election. As has been...

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Get Ready for a Supreme Court Decision on the Muslim Ban this Week

by Ian Millhiser – We’re about to find out it the courts actually will provide a check on Trump. After months of drama, airport chaos, emergency court orders, shifting policies, and the confirmation of Donald Trump’s choice to join the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land will finally weigh in on Trump’s Muslim ban. A decision, at least on a very significant preliminary matter, is likely to come this week. Last month, a federal appeals court handed down International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, holding that Trump’s longstanding practice of bragging that he intends to implement a Muslim ban demonstrates that an executive order he signed — which prevents many people from six majority Muslim nations from entering the country — was in fact a Muslim ban. The Trump administration argued, unsuccessfully, that the appeals court must defer to Trump’s stated reason for issuing the order — national security — under the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Kleindienst v. Mandel. In a more recent...

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CNN Dropping Reza Aslan Over Anti-Trump Tweet Reveals a Lot About So-called ‘objective’ Journalism

by Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani – Banning criticism is not objectivity. CNN canceled Reza Aslan’s show Believer, days after he posted a tweet criticizing Trump. In firing Aslan, the media network revealed everything wrong with how it approaches so-called “objective” journalism. CNN said on Friday that it “decided to not move forward with production” on Aslan’s Believer series, a show about religions around the world which premiered in March and which was already cleared for a second season. In the tweet in question, which has since been deleted, Aslan called Trump “a piece of shit” and an “embarrassment to humankind” after the president once again pushed for his Muslim ban, following the attacks in London last week. CREDIT: Screenshot/Twitter Aslan later deleted the tweet and apologized for his choice of words and said he “should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims...

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Pope Involved in New Sex Abuse and Dirty War Cases per Argentine Press

by Betty Clermont – Recent Argentine articles reported the pope’s personal involvement in the sexual torture of children (one of the two UN committees the Pope Francis obstructed and ignored “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”) and his role in the aftermath of the Dirty War. His envoy heaped insult on top of injury after Pope Francis, informed of horrible sex abuse, did nothing and children suffered. On May 19, the priest sent by the pope to investigate the horrific sexual assaults in the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Argentina, dismissed some cases because, he said, children can be “spiteful. For example, a girl or a boy falls in love with a priest, and he doesn’t respond back.” On the same day, the pope’s representative stated he was refusing to cooperate with the civil court prosecuting the atrocities....

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The Trump Administration has Started Rolling Back the Birth Control Mandate

by Laurel Raymond – Employers will soon be able to opt-out of providing coverage for birth control by citing religious objections. Federal officials, under orders by President Donald Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back the Obama-era mandate that birth control be included under all employer insurance plans. The final shape of roll back is still uncertain: The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website says that it is reviewing the “interim final rule” to relax the requirements on preventative services. The rule change is specifically aimed at accommodations for religious organizations, some of whom have strongly objected to requirements that they include birth control coverage under their insurance for employees. Typically, when an agency considers changing a rule — which can have immediate and sweeping policy impacts — they publish a preliminary version, solicit comments from the public, and incorporate the feedback into revisions before handing down the final change. If...

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Islamophobia’s Anniversary

by SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN – How a disinformation campaign changed America. In the annals of American democracy, hardly anything of lasting consequence ever took place at a meeting of one of New York City’s community boards. These panels of volunteers, many of them appointed by local political bosses, hold no binding power and are only an advisory voice on issues like land use, construction and zoning. There is, however, one red-letter date associated with the community board that covered the southern tip of Manhattan, and we are approaching its anniversary. May 25 was the seventh anniversary of Islamophobia in America. Not that the irrational fear and hatred of Muslims and Islam started then and there, but rather that the events helped coalesce a loose alliance of bigots and opportunists into a political movement, the same movement that ultimately elected Donald Trump as president. On that spring evening in 2010, the members...

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Atheism More Prevalent Among Americans Than the Polls Generally Show (VIDEO)

by Ronald Bailey – A new study finds that 26 percent of Americans likely do not believe in God. Although acceptance of atheists is increasing, their fellow Americans still eye them with considerable suspicion. The percentage of Americans who declare themselves religiously unaffiliated has risen from 5 percent in 1972 to 25 percent now. But depending upon the poll, the share of Americans who call themselves atheists varies from a low of 3 percent to around 11 percent. Given the social stigma attached to atheism, researchers at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hypothesized that polls might underreport the number of Americans who are nonbelievers. To test this hypothesis, they used the unmatched count technique, in which poll respondents are randomly divided into two groups. The control group is asked how many of a number of harmless statements—”I am a vegetarian,” “I can drive a motorcycle,” “I own a dog,” etc.—are...

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‘Wrong, Wrong, Wrong’: An Expert Assessment of Joe Lieberman as FBI Director

by Alan Pyke – “Why in the name of all the saints and stars would you appoint a politician to a 10-year statutory term in a post that is supposed to be above politics?” Just 10 days after he fired James Comey as Director of the FBI, Donald Trump reportedly views former Senator Joe Lieberman as the frontrunner to replace the man he fired for investigating Russia’s influence in the 2016 election too vigorously. Lieberman would be a concerning choice. He would break decades of precedent that FBI directors should come from the criminal justice realm. He holds Bill of Rights protections for American citizens in low regard. And his late-career embrace of the American political right — complete with a move into Trump’s own professional locker room after leaving the Senate — would make for a polarizing and potentially caustic tenure at the embattled domestic security agency. Lieberman has been a professional politician almost...

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How I Always Win the Abortion Argument

by SemDem – This past Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the deceptively named “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” a bill that does nothing for infants but prohibits physicians from performing abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Tennessee Republicans blocked all efforts from Democrats to include exceptions for incest, mental health, or even rape. (After all, if a woman is raped, GOP lawmakers say it must be God’s will.) The “pro-life” movement has never been about “life,” it has, and always will, be about control. Control over a woman’s reproduction—taken from the individual and given to GOP legislators, like Republican Billy Long.  The entire movement has been a scam from its inception: it all began with a single disingenuous conference call to come up with ways to gin up support for segregationist Bible colleges. Up until that point, churches didn’t have any problem with it. Why should they? The Bible says nothing about it. Even though abortion was practiced way back in...

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Amid Rising Anti-Semitism, a Synagogue Burns in Manhattan

by Jack Jenkins – The cause of the fire remains under investigation. A historic synagogue in Manhattan’s Lowest East Side went up in flames over the weekend, possibly heightening anxiety among American Jews as they continue to wrestle with an uptick in anti-Semitism. According to NBC New York, the 120-year-old historic Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol succumbed to a three-alarm blaze that erupted at around 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening, burning late into the night. The 19th century synagogue once served as the oldest worship space for orthodox Russian Jews in the country, but has been vacant since 2007. Representatives from the New York Fire Department told ThinkProgress the cause of the fire remains under investigation, and it is unclear if the building was subject to arson or set aflame in another fashion. According to the Forward, the same building was also subject to a small blaze inside the walls earlier last week....

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With Muslim Ban 2.0 in Court, Trump Campaign Website Scrubs Call for Ban

by Deirdre Fulton – Statement calling for “total and complete shutdown on Muslims” entering U.S. removed from Trump campaign website Monday afternoon. Minutes after a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer why President Donald Trump’s campaign website still broadcast his call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” that page went blank, according to reports on Monday afternoon. Trump’s call for a Muslim ban figures prominently in arguments against his second executive order blocking entry to the United States for people from six majority-Muslim countries. Opponents like Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, say statements like that one “made absolutely clear that wanted to target Muslims.” Lawyers for both sides argued their cases “en banc” on Monday afternoon, before a panel of all active and eligible judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers...

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Trump Gets Sued by Atheists Over Religious Liberty Executive Order; Heralded “Triumph of Fake News.”

by ursulafaw – Trump’s recently signed Religious Liberty Executive Order is yet one more step along the cobble stoned path towards a gate marked “Erosion Of Church And State.”  How did we get there from an order whose purported use was merely to loosen restrictions on political activity by religious groups? Daily Beast is heralding it as a “triumph of fake news.” Take a look: But what the order does do is solves two problems that simply do not exist. First, the order effectively nullifies the 1954 law called the Johnson Amendment, by directing the IRS to not enforce it.  The law forbids all tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches, from engaging in political campaigns, endorse candidates, or collect contributions to a political campaign. According to the Christian Right’s fake news machine, this common-sense law has muzzled the free speech rights of pastors, who can’t say anything political from the pulpit.  Actually,...

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The World Will Be Watching as Muslim Ban 2.0 Goes to Court

by Cody Wofsy – Monday marks a critical next stage in the legal battle against President Trump’s Muslim Ban executive order. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Virginia, will hear legal arguments in a case, International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, brought by the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center (NILC). This will be the first argument in front of a court of appeals, which reviews orders from trial courts, addressing the revised executive order (also known as Muslim Ban 2.0). The stakes are enormous — for the plaintiffs, for Muslim and immigrant communities around the country, and for vital constitutional principles. A quick refresher on where things stand: The president rolled out the original Muslim Ban 1.0 on January 27. The impact was immediate and devastating, as families across the country were separated from their loved ones and thousands of people flooded the airports with messages of...

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2016 was a Horrible Year for Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes. 2017 is Much Worse

by Jack Jenkins – 2016 was a banner year for anti-Jewish hatred. New data suggests incidents of anti-Semitic hatred have spiked compared to this time last year, an ominous shift that advocates say signals a multi-year increase of vitriol directed at American Jews. According to a report published on Monday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 541 anti-Semitic incidents have occurred so far this year — an 86 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016. This includes 161 highly-publicized bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers and schools beginning in January. The FBI and foreign authorities recently arrested two different men — one in Missouri and one Israel — suspected to be the main culprits behind the various waves of threats that sparked mass evacuations at Jewish institutions across the country. But even excluding the bomb threats, the numbers for 2017 are unsettlingly high. Overall, the report says 380 “harassment incidents” have already occurred this year...

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Israeli Government Is Petrified of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

by Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview – The following is an interview with Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace and the editor of On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice. Mark Karlin: How is the charge of antisemitism used to smear critics of the Israeli government and its ignoble policies toward Palestinians? Rebecca Vilkomerson: As Tony Lerman’s contribution to the On Antisemitism book explores, Israel and its advocates have worked hard to portray criticism of the state of Israel as the “new antisemitism.” However, using the charge of antisemitism to shut down legitimate criticism of Israeli policies diminishes the meaning of the term and makes it harder to combat the real thing. In our advocacy work for Palestinian rights, we must always be vigilant for cases of real antisemitism directed against Jewish people — as opposed to protest against the Israeli state — just as...

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Malala Yousafzai Made an Honorary Canadian Citizen

by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours – The advocate for girls’ right to education worldwide is only the sixth person to ever receive the symbolic title. Ottawa, Canada – Pakistani human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has become only the sixth person, and the youngest, to ever receive honorary Canadian citizenship. Canada bestowed the title on Yousafzai, 19, during an honorary citizenship ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday. “I’m humbled to accept honorary citizenship of your country,” she said in the House of Commons, where she received several standing ovations from parliamentarians and members of the public that packed the gallery. Malala and Satyarthi receive joint Nobel “While I will always be a proud Pashtun and a proud citizen of Pakistan, I’m grateful to be an honorary member of your nation of heroes,” Yousafzai said. “Though I still require a visa, but that’s another discussion,” she added, with a laugh. Yousafzai...

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With Gorsuch Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice, a New Conservative Era Begins

by Deirdre Fulton – Neil Gorsuch could immediately make an impact on cases dealing with religious freedom, gun rights, and immigration. After a bruising Senate confirmation battle, former federal judge Neil Gorsuch was sworn in Monday as the 113th Supreme Court justice, restoring a 5-4 conservative balance to the nation’s high court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the constitutional oath at 9:00am in a private ceremony; later Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy—for whom Gorsuch formerly clerked—will ask his new colleague to take a second oath in a public ceremony at the White House. Watch below: Gorsuch “is widely expected to shift the ideological balance of the court to the right,” wrote Lydia Wheeler for The Hill, “with his views seen as mostly in line with the man he is replacing: the late Justice Antonin Scalia.” However, she continued, “some court watchers say Gorsuch may be even more conservative than Scalia, his mentor...

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Mexican Archdiocese: Companies That Help Build Trump’s Wall Are “Traitors”

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘The wall is a monument of intimidation and silence, of xenophobic hatred’. Denouncing President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States as “an open threat that violates relations and peace,” the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City said Sunday that companies who profit from its construction are “traitors to the homeland.” The country’s largest archdiocese made the charge in an editorial (Spanish) published in its weekly newsletter, Desde la fe. A spokesman said the editorial represented the views of the diocese. “Joining a project that is a serious affront to dignity, is to shoot yourself in the foot,” the editorial declared. “The wall is a monument of intimidation and silence, of xenophobic hatred.” It continued: “Any company with the intention to invest in the wall of the fanatic Trump would be immoral, but above all, its shareholders and owners should be considered traitors...

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UN Report: Israel has Established an ‘Apartheid Regime’

by Ben White – Report breaks new ground on the UN’s examination of the situation in occupied Palestine by using the word ‘apartheid’. A new United Nations report accuses Israel of having established “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. The publication comes amid renewed debate about whether, through its settlement policy and rejection of Palestinian self-determination, the Israeli government is creating – or even has already created – a de facto “one-state”, which critics warn would constitute a form of apartheid. It urged governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives”. The report – Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid – was commissioned and published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and launched in Beirut. John Reynolds, a lecturer in law at the National University of Ireland,...

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