Religion

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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