www.theguardian.com

Show post

André Schmitt, the Kommando Pipeline and unnamed German preppers #wingnut #psycho theguardian.com

A network of elite German combatants with links to far-right “prepper” circles secretly trained civilians in “commando-like structures”, raising fears the group planned to build up a paramilitary fighting unit.

Drone footage filmed in June 2018 at a former barracks of the German armed forces in the southern town of Mosbach shows a group of around half a dozen men in military-style gear moving in formation across sandy terrain, holding what appear to be assault rifles in a firing position.

Experts interviewed by the German public broadcaster ARD’s Monitor programme after viewing the footage classified the exercises as “combat training” – illegal in Germany unless carried out by active members of the military, police or private security companies and supervised by state authorities.

The exercise in Mosbach, however, was organised by Uniter, a private support network for active and former soldiers and security personnel. Its founder, André Schmitt, is known to have founded and administered a Germany-wide Telegram chat group, which had sub-groups in which so-called preppers discussed plans to build up parallel infrastructures in preparation for the anticipated collapse of the prevailing social order.

The group chat, which was divided into southern, northern, western and eastern districts, expanded in the autumn of 2015, when Angela Merkel’s refugee policy became the focus of the national debate in Germany. Members discussed the threat of terrorist attacks and how to respond to them by hoarding weapons, munitions and food supplies.

They have since dismissed their chats as “thought experiments”.

[...]

Internal documents presented on the programme suggest the exercises were part of “Kommando Pipeline” training designed to produce in its last phase “combat-ready” fighters trained in handling rifles and handguns, as well as close combat and urban warfare.

In recent months a number of investigations across Germany have tried to establish a fuller picture of the network’s activities. In November, a member of one of the northern German chat groups went on trial in the north-east city of Schwerin accused of illegally hoarding and stealing weapons, partly from the German military.

A member of the southern network, a disgraced former army officer known as Franco A, is to stand trial over alleged plans to impersonate a Syrian refugee and carry out a terrorist attack that would be perceived as motivated by Islamist extremism. Investigators found a Uniter badge at his home, though the association denies he was a member of the network.

Germany’s public prosecutor general is also investigating a police officer and a lawyer who are suspected of plotting to round up and murder “representatives of the political left”. The accused deny any such plans.

War on Women Award

Show post

Ohio Republicans #fundie #sexist theguardian.com

Ohio bill orders doctors to ‘reimplant ectopic pregnancy’ or face 'abortion murder' charges

Ohio introduces one of the most extreme bills to date for a procedure that does not exist in medical science

A bill to ban abortion introduced in the Ohio state legislature requires doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus – a procedure that does not exist in medical science – or face charges of “abortion murder”.

This is the second time practising obstetricians and gynecologists have tried to tell the Ohio legislators that the idea is currently medically impossible.

The move comes amid a wave of increasingly severe anti-abortion bills introduced across much of the country as conservative Republican politicians seek to ban abortion and force a legal showdown on abortion with the supreme court.

Ohio’s move on ectopic pregnancies – where an embryo implants on the mother’s fallopian tube rather than her uterus rendering the pregnancy unviable – is one of the most extreme bills to date.

“I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible,” wrote Ohio obstetrician and gynecologist Dr David Hackney on Twitter. “We’ll all be going to jail,” he said.

An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, which can kill a woman if the embryonic tissue grows unchecked.

In addition to ordering doctors to do the impossible or face criminal charges, House Bill 413 bans abortion outright and defines a fertilized egg as an “unborn child”.

It also appears to punish doctors, women and children as young as 13 with “abortion murder” if they “perform or have an abortion”. This crime is punishable by life in prison. Another new crime, “aggravated abortion murder”, is punishable by death, according to the bill.

The bill is sponsored by representatives Candice Keller and Ron Hood, and co-sponsored by 19 members of Ohio’s 99-member House.

Mike Gonidakis, the president of the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life, declined to comment on the bill, and said he was still reading the legislation because, it’s “approximately 700 pages long”. He said his office is “taking off the rest of the week for Thanksgiving”.

The Guardian also contacted the Susan B Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization. The organization did not reply to a request for comment.

Keller, Hood and eight of the bill’s 19 co-sponsors did not reply to requests for comment. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association also did not reply to a request for comment.

Ohio passed a six-week abortion ban last summer. The “heartbeat bill”, as supporters called it, banned abortion before most women know they are pregnant. Reproductive rights groups immediately sued, and the bill never went into effect. Abortion is legal in all 50 US states.

In May, researcher Dr David Grossman argued reimplanting a fertilized egg or embryo is “pure science fiction” in a Twitter thread that went viral in May, when the bill was first introduced.

“There is no procedure to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy,” said Dr Chris Zahn, vice-president of practice activities at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “It is not possible to move an ectopic pregnancy from a fallopian tube, or anywhere else it might have implanted, to the uterus,” he said.

“Reimplantation is not physiologically possible. Women with ectopic pregnancies are at risk for catastrophic hemorrhage and death in the setting of an ectopic pregnancy, and treating the ectopic pregnancy can certainly save a mom’s life,” said Zahn.

Show post

Siddhartha Chaibub, Olavo de Carvalho and Ernesto Araújo #psychoceramics #dunning-kruger theguardian.com

Siddhartha Chaibub’s suspicions that the Earth wasn’t really round were first aroused when he stumbled across a YouTube video while living in Brazil’s capital, Brasília.

“I was always very sceptical about things,” said the 35-year-old freelance designer, who soon dived deep into the flat Earth universe: reading, watching videos and joining a dedicated WhatsApp group.

By the end of 2015, he was convinced. “The model that is imposed on us – that the Earth is spherical – is full of contradictions,” he said.

Today, his YouTube channel Professor Terra Plana (Flat Earth Professor) – featuring videos such as “25 examples that prove Nasa is a fraud” and “gravity doesn’t exist” – has nearly 29,000 subscribers.

Like Britain and the United States, Brazil is seeing a revival of flat Earth theory: 7% of the population – 11 million Brazilians – believe that the Earth is flat, according to the polling firm Datafolha. The poll noted believers were more likely to be religious or poorly educated.

Last week, Chaibub and three of his flat Earth fellows got their biggest break yet when they appeared on the country’s most-watched talkshow, The Night, to promote Brazil’s first ever flat Earth convention this Saturday in São Paulo.

The location of the event will only be disclosed on the day, organizers say, for security reasons. “There is a lot of prejudice,” said Chaibub

[...]

Accusations of links to the flat Earth movement have dogged Bolsonaro’s government.

In January, the science minister, Marcos Pontes – South America’s first astronaut – said that he felt a “knot in the stomach” when he heard suggestions that the Earth is flat.

But just a few months later, Olavo de Carvalho – a former astrologer who is considered the intellectual guru of Bolsonaro and his inner circle – prompted outrage and ridicule when he tweeted: “I didn’t study the subject of the flat Earth. I just watched a few videos of experiments that show that aquatic surfaces are flat – and so far I haven’t found anything to refute them.”

Carvalho – who has also claimed Pepsi was sweetened with aborted foetuses and that oral sex can cause cancer – dined with Bolsonaro and Steve Bannon in Washington during the Brazilian president’s state visit to the US in March.

When questioned about flat Earthism, the foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo – an Olavo disciple who believes climate change is a Marxist plot – also seemed sympathetic to the movement, saying: “For me, the Earth is round. But it’s important to have this spirit of questioning,”

Show post

Unnamed Kabiangek teacher #sexist theguardian.com

A 14-year-old schoolgirl in Kenya took her own life after a teacher allegedly embarrassed her for having her period in class.

The girl’s death has prompted protests from female parliamentarians and reignited a national conversation about “period shaming” and access to menstrual products.

The girl’s mother said her daughter was found dead last Friday after she got her period during class and stained her clothes. Her teacher allegedly called her “dirty” and expelled her from the classroom in Kabiangek, west of Nairobi.

It was the girl’s first period, her mother told local media, and she did not have a sanitary pad.

The incident has cast a spotlight on a 2017 law requiring Kenya’s government to distribute free sanitary pads to all schoolgirls. Poor implementation of the law is the subject of a parliamentary investigation.

On Wednesday, female MPs “laid siege” to the education ministry to protest about the girl’s death and discuss the programme, MP Esther Passaris wrote on Twitter.

Show post

Jair Bolsonaro #wingnut theguardian.com

Jair Bolsonaro has taunted Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, over the Chilean dictatorship that tortured her and her parents, after she criticised rising police killings and a “shrinking” space for democracy in Brazil.

“She is defending the human rights of vagabonds,” the Brazilian president told reporters on Wednesday. “Senhora Michelle Bachelet, if Pinochet’s people had not defeated the left in 73 – among them your father – Chile would be a Cuba today.”

Bachelet’s father, Alberto, an air force general, was imprisoned and tortured for opposing the 1973 military coup led by Augusto Pinochet, and died of a heart attack in prison. In 2014, two retired Chilean military officers were handed prison sentences for torturing him. Bachelet and her mother, Ángela Jeria, were also imprisoned.

Bolsonaro has frequently praised Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship and expressed admiration for rulers such as Pinochet, whose regime killed more than 3,000 people from 1973 to 1990.

His comments came after Bachelet criticized the increase in police killings in Brazil’s two biggest cities.

Show post

Father Dan Reehil and the St Edward Catholic school #fundie theguardian.com

A private Catholic school in Nashville has removed the Harry Potter books from its library, saying they include “actual curses and spells, which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits”.

Local paper the Tennessean reported that the pastor at St Edward Catholic school, which teaches children of pre-kindergarten age through to 8th grade, had emailed parents about JK Rowling’s series to tell them that he had been in contact with “several” exorcists who had recommended removing the books from the library.

“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” Rev Dan Reehil wrote. “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

Curses and spells included in the bestselling books, which were published between 1997 and 2007, include “avada kedavra”, the “killing” curse; “crucio”, the torture curse; and “imperio”, which allows the wizards to control others’ actions.

Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Catholic diocese of Nashville, told the Tennessean that Reehil had sent the email after an inquiry from a parent. She added that “he’s well within his authority to act in that manner”, because “each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school”.

Show post

Shin Ok-ju and the Grace Road Church #fundie theguardian.com

The leader of a South Korean doomsday cult who held 400 people captive in Fiji and subjected them to violent beatings has been sentenced to six years in jail.

Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, convinced her followers to move to Fiji in 2014, which she said was the “promised land”, pointed to in the Bible, where they would survive coming apocalyptic events.

Once they arrived on the island their passports were confiscated. Those who left the group reported brutal rituals, called “threshing floors” in which people were beaten as punishment for sinful actions or to drive out evil spirits.

On Monday a South Korean court found Shin guilty on multiple criminal charges including violence, child abuse and fraud.

“The victims suffered helplessly from collective beatings and experienced not only physical torture but also severe fear and considerable mental shock,” said the Anyang sub-court of the Suwon district court.

“Heavy punishment is inevitable against illegal acts carried out in the name of religion,” it added in a statement earlier this week.

Shocking footage showing Shin beating her followers and ordering them to beat one another was shared with the Guardian by South Korean police last year.

In several videos, Shin was shown calling members of the church forward during her sermons and then hitting them in the face, pulling and cutting their hair and throwing them to the ground.

She was arrested along with three other church leaders when they landed at Incheon airport just outside the South Korean capital Seoul in July 2017.

People have joined Grace Road Church and travelled to join the group in Fiji from all over the world.

In an interview with the Guardian, one American teenager who was taken to Grace Road Church by her mother, told how she was trapped there, had her passport taken, her medication withheld and all contact with her father and sister in the US cut off. She eventually escaped by running out of the church and making a phone call from a convenience store.

Grace Road Church still owns and operates multiple businesses across Fiji, including farms, cafes and construction companies.

After the sentence was handed down, an opposition leader in Fiji called for an investigation into alleged links between the Fijian government and the cult, according to RNZ, saying that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the government should do more to investigate concerns about modern-day slavery in Fiji.

Show post

Barbara O’Neill #quack theguardian.com

A naturopath who told vulnerable clients that their cancer was a fungus that could be cured with bicarbonate soda rather than through conventional medical treatment has been barred from practising for life, according to the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission.

Barbara O’Neill describes herself as a qualified naturopath and nutritionist and has worked at health retreats in Queensland, Victoria and NSW. She gives lectures internationally, has authored books on health and nutrition, and appears in YouTube videos. The HCCC found: “Mrs O’Neill does not recognise that she is misleading vulnerable people including mothers and cancer sufferers by providing very selective information.”

“The misinformation has huge potential to have a detrimental effect on the health of individuals as Mrs O’Neill discourages mainstream treatment for cancer, antibiotics and vaccination,” the commission’s decision, published in October, found.

The commission’s investigation found O’Neill never held any membership with any accredited professional health organisation and had failed to obtain any relevant health-related degrees or diplomas. According to the investigation she also failed to keep records of consultations with clients, falsely claimed to be able to cure cancer, did not treat clients in a safe or ethical manner and posed a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.

She has been permanently barred from providing any health services either voluntarily or in a paid capacity, including giving lectures. It comes after the commission received numerous complaints about O’Neill between October 2018 and January.

These included complaints about dietary advice for babies that O’Neill published on her personal website which, if followed, would lead to the child’s death or injury. According to the HCCC’s decision, O’Neill told the commission the dietary advice was based on her own experiences and she had never read the National Health and Medical Research Council’s infant feeding guidelines for health workers, which provide evidence-based recommendations.

A complaint was also received by the commission after O’Neill allegedly gave a lecture promoting the discredited theory that cancer is a fungus. The investigation found she encouraged clients to remove essential food groups from their diet such as fruits and carbohydrates, and to instead use probiotics and bicarbonate wraps to treat their cancer. According to the investigation, O’Neill falsely claimed in one lecture that a doctor had a 90% success rate curing cancer with sodium bicarbonate injections. She produced no evidence to support the statistic.

According to the HCCC, O’Neill also gave advice based on theories from medical doctors who have been sued by their former patients for failing to treat them appropriately, including one doctor who was found guilty of manslaughter. The HCCC noted that after being informed by the commission of these legal cases, O’Neill said she would continue to use the advice from those discredited doctors in her lectures. The HCCC found that she also told her clients that following her treatments would be more successful if they gave up chemotherapy and other conventional treatments.

The HCCC noted that O’Neill frequently told the commission that she did not give clients advice, but merely provided them with information. The HCCC said this information included telling pregnant women not to take antibiotics for streptococcus B infections because “no baby has ever died from Strep B catching out of birth”. However, statistics from the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists indicate early-onset Strep B has a fatality rate of 14% in neonates, a risk that can be reduced by 80% with antibiotics.

Show post

Genesis II Church of Health and Healing #quack #fundie theguardian.com

A group calling itself Genesis II Church of Health and Healing plans to convene at a hotel resort in Washington state on Saturday to promote a “miracle cure” that claims to cure 95% of all diseases in the world by making adults and children, including infants, drink industrial bleach.

The group is inviting members of the public through Facebook to attend what they call their “effective alternative healing” at the Icicle Village Resort in Leavenworth on Saturday morning. The organizer of the event, Tom Merry, has publicized the event on his personal Facebook page by telling people that learning how to consume the bleach “could save your life, or the life of a loved one sent home to die”.

The “church” is asking attendants of the meeting to “donate” $450 each, or $800 per couple, in exchange for receiving membership to the organization as well as packages of the bleach, which they call “sacraments”. The chemical is referred to as MMS, or “miracle mineral solution or supplement”, and participants are promised they will acquire “the knowledge to help heal many people of this world’s terrible diseases”.

In fact, MMS consists of chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach that is used both on textiles and in the industrial treatment of water. It has been banned in several countries around the world for use as a medical treatment.

In the US, the chemical cannot be sold for human consumption. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a public warning after it was notified of many injuries to consumers from drinking the fluid, with symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration and one person who had a life-threatening reaction.

The FDA issued the blunt advice: “Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away.”

Show post

Philip Manshaus #wingnut #racist #psycho theguardian.com

The suspected gunman in an attack on a mosque in Norway on Saturday was inspired by recent white extremist attacks in New Zealand and the US, online posts suggest.

Police in Norway have so far only said the attack in Baerum, a town 20km from Oslo, the capital, will be investigated as a possible act of terrorism.

In messages posted on the day of the attack, Philip Manshaus, a 21-year-old man who has been named by local media as the main suspect, described himself as “chosen” by “Saint [Brenton] Tarrant”, the gunman who killed 51 people at mosques in New Zealand in March.

“My time is up, I was chosen by Saint Tarrant after all … We can’t let this continue, you gotta bump the race war threat in real life … it’s been fun,” one post reads.

In a meme also posted by Manshaus, three rightwing extremists suspected of being responsible for other attacks this year are depicted and praised as heroes of the white nationalist movement.

Tarrant is described as having “addressed the Muslim problem” while Patrick Crusius, who has been charged with the attack in El Paso, Texas, in which 22 people died, is praised for “fighting to reclaim his country”.

A third attacker suspected of killing a woman during a Passover celebration at a synagogue in California in April is also praised, alongside antisemitic abuse.

Show post

Carlos Bolsonaro #wingnut theguardian.com

The rumbustious son of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has come under heavy fire from across the political spectrum after claiming rapid political change was unachievable “through democratic means”.

Carlos Bolsonaro – a politician and social media fanatic known for his incendiary and often unintelligible tweets – sparked the maelstrom on Monday evening with a 43-word post on Twitter.

“The transformation Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we yearn for through democratic means,” he tweeted to his 1.3 million followers.

That comment triggered an immediate outcry in a country that only emerged from two decades of dictatorship in 1985 and whose current leader is a notorious pro-torture admirer of that military period and other authoritarian regimes.

[...]

The conservative Estado de São Paulo newspaper condemned Carlos Bolsonaro’s “vile statement” and demanded an urgent statement from his father on the matter.

Show post

Evo Morales #conspiracy #falseflag theguardian.com

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has accused opposition leaders and foreign powers of attempting a “coup” against him amid growing tensions over the result of Sunday’s desperately tight election.

In an angry televised speech on Wednesday, Morales said: “A coup d’etat is under way. The right wing prepared the coup with international support.”

Morales went into elections needing 40% of votes and a 10-point margin of victory to avoid a second-round runner against the main opposition candidate, Carlos Mesa. By Wednesday afternoon 97% of the official results had been processed, giving him 46.49% and a 9.5-point lead.

With most outstanding votes from remote rural areas expected to go in his favour, Morales repeated his declaration of a first-round victory, which he had made prematurely on Sunday night.

But on Wednesday the Organization of American States (OAS) said that a runoff should be held even if Morales breached the 10-point margin.

“In the case that … the margin of difference exceeds 10%, it is statistically reasonable to conclude that it will be by negligible margin,” said Manuel González, the head of the OAS election observation team in Bolivia. “Given the context and the problematic issues in this electoral process the best option continues to be the convening of a second round.”

International observers have expressed concern over an unexplained daylong gap in the reporting of results which was followed by a surge in Morales votes when the count resumed on Monday.

“Why did the government shut down the reporting of results?” asked Carlos Trujillo, US ambassador to the OAS, at a special session convened to discuss the Bolivian situation. “The government allowed a somewhat fair election because they did not realise their own popularity and thought they could win under their system. When they realised they could not win in the first round they shut down the results so that they could steal the election.”

The vice-president of Bolivia’s electoral board resigned on Tuesday, saying that the decision of the board’s six-member panel to suspend reporting results had discredited “the entire electoral process, causing unnecessary social convulsion”.

Mesa has accused Morales of trying to conduct “a giant fraud” and vowed that his party “will not recognize a fraudulent result”.

In a video statement on Wednesday, Mesa called for “permanent protests” until a second-round vote was confirmed, and said he would present evidence of electoral fraud.

Allegations of electoral fraud have already sparked street violence, in which anti-government protesters clashed with police, and set fire to electoral offices in eight of Bolivia’s regional capital cities.

On Tuesday the OAS said it would conduct an analysis of the election, focusing on the results reporting systems and the chain of custody of ballot boxes. However, the results of such an analysis are unlikely to please either side as the positions become increasingly entrenched.

Civil society groups in eight of the country’s nine departments called for a general strike that could bring the country to a standstill. “Not even an ant will move in Santa Cruz,” declared Luis Fernando Camacho, the leader of the civil society group for Santa Cruz, the country’s largest and richest city.

Morales has overseen relative stability and growth, but angered many by running for a fourth consecutive term despite a 2016 referendum which ruled against lifting term limits.

The results reflect the split between Bolivia’s urban population – which broadly backed the opposition – and the rural Andean populations that remain loyal to Morales, a former coca farmer.

“I don’t think Evo will accept the OAS’s calls for a second round,” says Jorge Derpic, a Bolivia specialist and assistant professor at the University of Georgia. “This is the first time we have seen protests by the middle classes in all the country’s major cities against Morales. Evo has called to mobilize his base – the coca growers, the miners and the campesinos [the rural poor] – and we could see further partisan violent clashes between rural and urban areas.”

Show post

Unknown CPC authorities #fundie #racist theguardian.com

China accused of rapid campaign to take Muslim children from their families

Relatives tell of more than 100 missing children amid reports of Xinjiang boarding school building drive

China is reportedly separating Muslim children from their families, religion and language, and is engaged in a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools for them.

The attempts to “remove children from their roots” exists in parallel to Beijing’s ongoing detention of an estimated 1 million Uighur adults from the western Xinjiang region in camps and sweeping crackdown on the rights of the minority group, the BBC reported.

“I don’t know who is looking after them,” one mother told the BBC, pointing to a picture of her three young daughters. “There is no contact at all.”

The BBC says its investigation is based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members living overseas. In 60 separate interviews, parents and other relatives gave details of the disappearance of more than 100 children in Xinjiang, all of them Uighurs – members of the region’s largest and mostly Muslim ethnic group.

“I heard that they’ve been taken to an orphanage,” another woman said, holding a photograph of her four children.

In one township alone, more than 400 children have lost one or more parents to either the camps or prison, it reports.

A Chinese state media outlet called overseas reports on China’s mass detainment of Uighur Muslims in internment camps “fake news” and published detailed denials of eight “rumours”, on the 10th anniversary of the Urumqi riots, in which at least 140 people were killed and 828 injured. Many Uighurs say the riots precipitated the increasing oppression of Muslims in the region.

“Despite China’s efforts to tell what is really happening in Xinjiang, some western media and politicians insist on making and spreading fake news,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid run by the official newspaper of the Chinese communist party, the People’s Daily.

The denials contradict well-documented evidence from media outlets and researchers. China initially denied the existence of the camps in Xinjiang, which is home to about 12 million Muslims. But last year, it began rebranding them as “free vocational training”, claiming those detained within them are taught language, culture and vocational skills.

The editorial, published shortly after midnight, denies Uighurs are being targeted and mistreated, that the state is looking to wipe out their history and culture, and that they were sent to “vocational training centres” for being Muslim.

It also denies there were a million people being held at these centres, says the camps were there for “counter-terrorism and deradicalisation efforts”, and the centres existed to “nip terrorist activities in the bud”.

An earlier BBC report showed a teacher describing inmates as “affected by religious extremism”, and saying that the purpose of the camps was “to get rid of their extremist thoughts”.

The prominent Uighur author Nurmuhammad Tohti, 70, died after being held in one of the re-education camps.

His granddaughter said he had been denied treatment for diabetes and heart disease, and was released only once his medical condition meant he had become incapacitated.

China has in recent weeks invited media outlets to view these camps, but has tightly controlled their access to the facilities and detainees.

Show post

Chinese state media and pro-Beijing HK lawmakers #racist #conspiracy theguardian.com

'A cop said I was famous': China accuses foreigners in Hong Kong of being 'agents'

Chinese state media and pro-Beijing lawmakers post images of westerners to stoke suspicions of ‘external forces’

Westerners living in Hong Kong are being targeted online by China’s state-owned media and local pro-Beijing politicians who have accused them of stoking demonstrations that have now run into their eighth week.

Images showing foreign workers at the site of protests are being circulated, sometimes alongside speculative text questioning why they are there.

Some images have been circulated so widely that one foreign worker and long-term Hong Kong resident said he was now recognised in the street, including by police. “I now sometimes have to pose for CIA selfies with protesters,” he said, referring to a post which asked if he was a member of US intelligence.

The online tactic reinforces the assertion by Beijing that “foreign forces” are behind the protests. On Monday, the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party, published an editorial warning citizens against “provoking external forces” that “lead the wolves into your home and hurt the country”.

The move also comes amid ongoing protests. On Wednesday, dozens of protesters faced court accused of rioting in the wake of Sunday’s violence.

In one example, Ann Chiang, a Hong Kong pro-Beijing lawmaker, shared a video of a foreign worker who regularly livestreams the protests and tweets under the name Hong Kong Hermit, and questioned why he was at every protest as a “commander”.

He now fears he might lose his job, or that he might be at risk of getting targeted by either the police or triads. “My boss now knows about it,” the worker told the Guardian. “And an angry cop on Sunday night, between rounds of tear gas, told me he knew who I was as ‘you are internet famous’. I also wait to see if this makes me more or less at risk of harm from the police at protests.”

In another case, an American academic living in Hong Kong, whose name is being withheld to protect his privacy, found out last month that his photo and name were being circulated on social media, along with accusations of instigating violence.

After the attacks on protesters by thugs in Yuen Long on 21 July, he received a warning from a friend that the triads “believe the narrative about western meddling”, telling him that he’d be targeted. He said messages like that “really changed my mind about what’s happening here”.

“I’ve been warned by locals in my neighbourhood that I could be in danger if pro-Beijing people knew that was me in that photo [being circulated],” he added, explaining that the area where he lived was a stronghold for a local pro-establishment party. His wife has asked him if their family is in danger.

Even journalists have been targeted. Ta Kung Pao, a Chinese state-owned newspaper based in Hong Kong, described the movements of a New York Times employee as “suspicious”, publishing a photograph of him as well as a close-up image of his phone, showing the text message conversation he was having about the protests with colleagues. Several other state-owned publications ran similar stories.

The same Ta Kung Pao article mentioned that Austin Ramzy, a New York Times reporter in Hong Kong, had written “18 reports”, “most of which have criticised Hong Kong police officers and the HKSAR government while turning a blind eye to the illegal activities of the mobs”. Ramzy later commented about the experience.

On Monday, the top Chinese government body for Hong Kong and Macau affairs denounced “external interference”, accusing western politicians of formulating a “plot” to “destroy Hong Kong and turn it into trouble for China, thereby restricting or curbing China’s development”.

And on Sunday, state-owned media outlet China Daily compared the Hong Kong protests to the revolutions instigated in the Middle East and North Africa, saying that local anti-government actors were “colluding with external forces to topple governments”.

The moves are all part of a strategy, suggested China researcher Adam Ni. “By blaming the current crisis on outside forces, it negates or neutralises stories about internal troubles,” said Ni.

Show post

Unnamed Tower Hamlets father #conspiracy theguardian.com

A man who refused to register his son’s birth because he says he does not want him to be controlled by the state has lost a high court case.

Tower Hamlets social services, the London council which has responsibility for the baby’s welfare, asked a high court judge to intervene in the case after the man and his partner, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, failed to register the child’s birth earlier this year.

Mr Justice Hayden ruled the council had the right to step in as the child’s “institutional parent” to register the birth.

The judge considered the issue at a private hearing earlier this month in the family division of the high court in London and outlined his decision in a written ruling published online.

The child, referred to in the case only as T, is currently the subject of a care order while his parents are “subject to a residential assessment”.

The judge was told that the couple’s parenting skills were being assessed before decisions about the boy’s long-term future were made. He also noted that the father’s behaviour towards a judge in the family court resulted in a prison sentence for him and his partner.

Hayden said the couple’s deliberate decision not to register the birth stemmed from the boy’s father’s unusual and somewhat eccentric beliefs about the concept of personal sovereignty. He said the boy’s mother was not prepared to register the birth herself, but was not opposed to somebody else registering it.

He said the father had a genuinely held belief in the power and writ of the individual. The father told the judge: “We are each our own sovereign. We are governed by a common law but only to the extent that we depart from three principles. These three imperatives are: to do no harm; to cause no loss; to inflict no injury.”

Show post

Nigel Farage #conspiracy #racist #fundie theguardian.com

Nigel Farage under fire over 'antisemitic tropes' on far-right US talkshow

Exclusive: Brexit party leader referred to ‘new world order’ in interviews with Alex Jones

Nigel Farage is facing strong criticism from Jewish organisations and a series of other groups after it emerged he repeatedly took part in interviews with a far-right US talkshow host, during which the Brexit party leader openly discussed conspiracy theories, some of which have been linked to antisemitism.

A Guardian investigation has found Farage has appeared at least six times on the show of Alex Jones, who was sued by bereaved parents after claiming a US school shooting was faked, and was banned permanently from Facebook last week.

Among those expressing alarm at the spread of conspiracy theories is a father whose six-year-old son died in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, and a man whose son died in the London bombings on 7 July 2005, which Jones has claimed were a government plot.

Farage, who led Ukip for many years, quit the party last year because he said he disliked its hard-right, anti-Islam stance under Gerard Batten. However, the website that Jones fronts, Infowars, regularly features anti-Islam stories.

In his various appearances on Jones’s show, Farage discussed themes commonly associated with an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish financiers are behind a plot to replace nation states with a global government.

In the six identified interviews, which date from 2009 to last year, Farage, whose Brexit party is leading polls for the upcoming European elections, repeatedly uses words and phrases such as “globalists” and “new world order”, which regularly feature in antisemitic ideas.

In the interviews, Farage also says:

Members of the annual Bilderberg gathering of political and business leaders are plotting a global government.

The banking and political systems are working “hand in glove” in an attempt to disband nation states.

“Globalists” are trying to engineer a world war as a means to introduce a worldwide government.

Climate change is a “scam” intended to push forward this transnational government.

In the most recent interview, filmed in April last year, Farage said the EU is “the prototype for the new world order”, and “globalists have wanted to have some form of conflict with Russia as an argument for us all to surrender our national sovereignty and give it up to a higher global level”.

In an earlier interview with Jones, who is also banned from Twitter, Farage mentions Bilderberg, saying: “These lunatics genuinely believe that they know what’s best for us, genuinely believe in this concept of global government, and it will be a disaster.”

Later in the same interview, from June 2010, Farage argues Bilderberg members, along with other supposed plotters, could soon start “censoring and maybe ultimately even imprisoning those who challenge them and fight them”.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “It is vital that our politicians distance themselves from conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists, including those who trade in antisemitic tropes. We would call on Nigel Farage to repudiate these ideas and to commit not to dignify oddball nasties like Alex Jones with his presence again.”

The Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitic sentiment, said Jones was “a notorious conspiracy theorist who should be beyond the pale for any mainstream politician”.

A spokesman said: “Furthermore, for Jones’s conspiracy-minded audience, Farage’s references to ‘globalists’ and ‘new world order’ will be taken as familiar codewords for antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said Farage’s close links with Jones and Infowars “demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by Mr Farage and a willingness to tolerate Islamophobia”.

The Labour MP David Lammy said the interviews showed “serious questions should be asked about Farage’s associations and networks”.

He added: “His indulgence in conspiracy theories about a ‘new world order’ should send chills down the spine of all who are aware of how these tropes have been used in the past.”

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son, David, was among 52 people killed by Islamist attackers on 7 July 2005, said he was aghast at Farage’s decision to be interviewed by Jones so many times.

“It fills you with despair that such a high-profile politician could even consider giving people like that the time of day,” he said. “It’s hard to understand. There can be no rational motivation to speak to people who are, shall we say, in need of help.”

Lenny Pozner, whose six-year-old son, Noah, was the youngest of 26 people shot dead at Sandy Hook, has sued Jones for saying the massacre was faked. In a recent legal deposition, Jones said he had argued this because of “psychosis”.

In a statement to the Guardian, Pozner said: “When people hear stories like mine, where conspiracy theorists or purveyors of fake news are destroying an individual or a family, they often feel sympathy or express their shock or horror over the ways that these people are affecting our lives. But many fail to realise that this behaviour doesn’t simply affect me or other victims of mass-casualty events.

“When people in positions of authority or influence consume, perpetrate, and regurgitate conspiracy theories, they legitimise the lie, they normalise the hate, and build policy that affects every citizen on this planet.”

Farage and the Brexit party were contacted for comment.
April 2018

Jones: “Why is the left allied with radical Islam?”

Farage: “Because they hate Christianity. They deny, absolutely, our Judeo-Christian culture, which if you think about it actually are the roots, completely, of our nations and our civilisation. They deny that. They also want to abolish the nation state – they want to get rid of it. They want to replace it with the globalist project, and the European Union is the prototype for the new world order.”
August 2016

Farage: “If America, as the leader of the western world, once again becomes the leader of the free world, well then I think, basically, we will have done away with the globalists.”
November 2012

Farage: “The fact is that the banking system and politics became hand in glove – one and the same thing. And that’s been a complete disaster. The amazing thing is, we have had elected prime ministers in Greece and Italy removed by the bully boy bureaucrats and replaced by former Goldman Sachs employees. You honestly cannot believe what is going on.”

June 2010

Farage: “You mention yourself the Bilderberg group – these lunatics genuinely believe that they know what’s best for us, genuinely believe in this concept of global government, and it will be a disaster.”
February 2010

Farage: “Yes, it all fits together, doesn’t it? Hand in glove – the big businesses, the bureaucrats, they have the sole right to make laws. It all fits together. They’re all very happy with the world they’re creating.”
December 2009

Farage: “We have a political class across the world that are basically aiming for a form of global governance. If you don’t believe me, look at what’s happening in Copenhagen. Governments are sitting there trying to sign us up to treaties on a very, very questionable concept of global warming caused by C02 emissions.”

Show post

Aung San Suu Kyi & Viktor Orbán #racist #fundie theguardian.com

Aung San Suu Kyi finds common ground with Orbán over Islam

On a rare trip to Europe, Myanmar leader and Hungary PM discuss issue of ‘growing Muslim populations’

From her failure to speak out against ethnic cleansing to imprisoning journalists, the reputation of Aung San Suu Kyi in the west has taken a battering in recent months.

But the leader of Myanmar has found a new ally in far-right, staunchly anti-immigrant Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

In a rare trip to Europe, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize laureate who was once the figurehead of the fight for democracy in Myanmar, met Orbán in Budapest. There, the two leaders found common ground on the subject of immigration and Islam .

“The two leaders highlighted that one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions – south-east Asia and Europe – is migration,” read a statement released after their meeting.

“They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of co-existence with continuously growing Muslim populations.”

Once lauded as the great democratic hope for Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected as civilian leader in 2015 after living under house arrest by the military for 15 years, has proved a marked disappointment to most western governments who were her champions.

Her failure to condemn the military’s violent crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017 – which saw thousands of Rohingya raped and killed in what the UN described as an exercise in ethnic cleansing – and her defence of the military’s brutal actions against Myanmar’s Muslims have proved particularly contentious.

Show post

German far-left rioteers, Andreas Beuth #fundie theguardian.com

Extra police sent to Hamburg as G20 protest violence escalates
Demonstrators set fire to cars and throw rocks at shop windows in Altona district as world leaders meet in nearby Messehalle

Overnight clashes between anti-capitalist protesters and police continued into the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg as dozens of cars were set aflame and shop windows smashed around the city while world leaders met at the Messehalle conference centre.

Masked protesters in black clothes used flares to set fire to at least 20 cars and pelted rocks at the windows of banks and smaller shops as they made their way through the Altona district and along the Elbchaussee road along the river at about 7.30 am on Friday morning.

Police forces around Germany dispatched reinforcements to help 15,000 police already deployed to the northern port city for the summit as violence escalated.

On Friday morning, many shops and cafes in the area, including a local Ikea, boarded up their windows in anticipation of further rioting.

Other protest groups marched peacefully through Hamburg’s harbour area and historic centre, blocking access routes for delegates and envoys travelling in and out of the conference centre where leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel gathered on Friday morning.

Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, was reportedly stopped from attending an event in the G20’s supporting programme by the protests. “Police has not given us security clearance to leave the guest house,” Trump’s spokesperson told German press agency dpa.

A planned visit for leaders’ partners to a climate research centre was scrapped and replaced with a presentation by climate scientists at a luxury Hamburg hotel.

Hamburg police spokesperson Sven Jahn said that a group of around 60 masked protesters attacked three police vehicles with molotov cocktails, and that a flare fired at a police helicopter only narrowly missed its target.

Authorities claimed 160 police officers had been injured. At least 15 people were arrested and dozens more held for questioning. Organisers of Thursday evening’s “Welcome to Hell” march said three protesters had been seriously injured and one person remained in a critical condition, while several others had sustained lighter injuries during the skirmishes.

Andreas Beuth, a lawyer who had co-organised the march at a riverside plaza used for Hamburg’s weekly fish market, accused police of knowingly risked an escalation of the volatile situation in the city with heavy-handed tactics.

Contrary to police claims, Beuth said protesters had complied with orders to remove their masks when hundreds of officers used water cannon and teargas to disperse the crowds. “The escalation was clearly started by the police,” said Beuth at a press conference inside the stadium of local football club FC St Pauli on Friday morning.

A number of journalists working for leftwing German newspapers reported on Friday that their press accreditation had been withdrawn from them without an explanation.

Show post

Ramzan Kadyrov #fundie theguardian.com

Chechnya verdict could mark new purge of human rights activists

Lawyers and colleagues say case against Oyub Titiev was fabricated to punish him for his work

A court in Chechnya will deliver a verdict in the trial of a prominent human rights worker on Monday that could mark a new purge of activists from the Russian republic.

Oyub Titiev, the local head of the human rights organisation Memorial, has been accused of marijuana possession, as part of a case that his lawyers say was fabricated to punish him for his work documenting human rights abuses. The prosecution has asked for a sentence of four years in prison.

The case may also mark a new stage in the region’s crackdown on dissent. Chechnya’s strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that the government will no longer tolerate human rights activists.

“I officially declare to human rights activists: after the end of the trial, Chechnya will be forbidden territory for them, like it is for terrorists and extremists,” Kadyrov said last August in a speech to local law enforcement broadcast on local television.

Western countries applied sanctions against Kadyrov following revelations about the secret arrest and torture of dozens of gay people in Chechnya in 2017. Three people were reported to have died in the pogrom. Kadyrov framed action against human rights groups as a tit-for-tat move.

“Since I can’t go to Europe and the west, I say: their employees, the ones who call themselves human rights activists, will not have the right to travel in my territory,” he said.

Activists should have legal protections in Chechnya but in the region Kadyrov’s word is law.

For years, Chechnya has been one of the most dangerous regions in Russia for human rights activists and journalists. Natalya Estemirova, a former head of Memorial’s Chechnya branch, was abducted in Grozny, driven out of town and shot to death in 2009. In 2016, masked attackers brutally beat eight journalists and human rights activists traveling into Chechnya, and set fire to their minibus. A week later, Igor Kalyapin, the head of the Committee to Prevent Torture, was attacked in the region’s capital.

The campaign of intimidation has continued during Titiev’s case. One lawyer fled his legal team over threats. An office space and an automobile used by colleagues have been destroyed in arson attacks.

Colleagues have said they expect Titiev to be found guilty. Oleg Orlov, a senior Memorial member, wrote that the case was “fabricated” and was “effectively of a political nature”. Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch called the case a “show trial”.

The specific reason Titiev was arrested is unclear. Memorial has always been a target for Kadyrov’s anger. The activist had been documenting cases of secret and illegal detentions of Chechens by the security forces, although according to colleagues, not the cases involving the gay purges.

The widespread condemnation of the Chechen leader in recent years, and measures such as the closure of his Instagram account, are said to have angered Kadyrov, who has sought ways to lash out at his critics.

“Kadyrov and top leaders in Chechnya have had human rights activists and investigative journalists in their crosshairs since the anti-gay purge,” Denber said in an interview in Moscow last week.

Titiev, who has worked for Memorial for nearly two decades and lives in Chechnya, was an easy target. In his closing remarks in court last week, he said he knew he would be found guilty.

“How many human rights activists can be murdered or put behind bars?” Titiev said. “When, finally, will the authorities pay attention to this?”

Show post

Pete Hegseth #conspiracy theguardian.com

Donald Trump’s favourite TV show, Fox & Friends, has a reputation for giving airtime to conspiracy theories that benefit the White House agenda. But host Pete Hegseth may now have managed to upset the famously germaphobic president – by revealing that he has not washed his hands in a decade.

The admission came as Hegseth discussed eating day-old pizza that had not been refrigerated. He did not see any issue with eating the pizza, he said, then added that he didn’t think he had washed his hands in 10 years.

“Really,” he said. “I don’t really wash my hands ever.”

Met with laughter, he explained: “I inoculate myself. Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them, therefore they’re not real.”

Show post

Chinese authorities #fundie theguardian.com

Revealed: 17 Australian residents believed detained in China's Uighur crackdown

Exclusive: Activists urge embassy to ‘tell us if they’re alive or dead’ amid claims of inaction by Canberra

Seventeen Australian residents are believed to be under house arrest, in prison or detained in China’s secretive “re-education” centres in Xinjiang, the Guardian can reveal.

The 17 cases – 15 Australian permanent residents and two on spouse visas – have been collected by Nurgul Sawut, an advocate for Uighurs in Australia, through interviews with their family members.

The individuals are believed to have been detained while on trips to China visiting relatives. Many have children or spouses who are Australian citizens.

It is difficult to confirm their fates, given the secretive nature of the camps, but Sawut believes one of the group is in prison, four are under house arrest, and the remaining 12 are in detention centres.

Advocates for Australia’s 3,000-strong Uighur community are calling on the government in Canberra to secure the release of the detainees. Shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, has urged the government to investigate.

At the same time, members of Australia’s Uighur population have reported serious harassment by Chinese authorities on Australian soil, including intimidating phone calls and requests to send over personal data, with the threat of reprisals against family if they do not comply.

Penny Wong, Labor’s spokeswoman on foreign affairs, said her party was “particularly concerned” by reports of Uighurs who were Australian residents being detained. She said: “Engagement with China is very important to Australia but, as with any other country, it never means we abandon our values, or our sovereignty.”

In response to a list of questions about the detention of the 17 residents and the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra said: “It is a wish shared by people of all ethnic groups for Xinjiang to maintain enduring social stability, since it serves their fundamental interests. The series of measures implemented in Xinjiang are meant to improve stability, development, solidarity and people’s livelihood, crack down on and prevent ethnic separatist activities and violent and terrorist crimes, safeguard national security, and protect people’s life and property.”

The missing

Dilmurat Tursun, 52, is among those missing. The Australian permanent resident had lived in Sydney since 2011. In 2017 he took a trip to China with his wife, Dilbar Abdurahaman. Once inside the country, family members say their passports were confiscated and pair were unable to return home. In 2018 Tursun disappeared.

He is believed to have been taken into a detention centre. His wife is trapped in China under house arrest and lives in fear that she too will be taken to a camp.

“I feel desperate and a sense of hopelessness,” said Abdurahaman’s sister Zulfiyah Kurash. “The only crime we can think of [that led to his imprisonment] is that he came to Australia and has relatives here.”

Other Uighur Australians have spoken of their difficulty in getting politicians to take their situation seriously.

Jurad Addukerin, 53, from Sydney, visited Canberra with some members of the World Uighur Congress in 2018 to meet MPs, but arrived during one of the Liberal party’s leadership contests.

“I felt they were not very serious about this conversation, they said they were very busy because they were in the middle of this other thing,” Addukerin said. “I hope that since 3 million people are being detained illegally and may be facing genocide … that politicians should do more, should raise their voice about this issue, instead of not doing anything or saying anything.”

‘We cannot live free, even if we live here’

Uighurs in Australia continue to detail harassment by the Chinese authorities.

On Christmas Day, Rashida Abdughupur was at a picnic at Victor Harbour, south of Adelaide, with other members of the Uighur community when she received a video call through the messaging service WeChat. It was the Chinese police, who turned the phone around to show that they had Abdughupur’s mother handcuffed at a police station, she said. They told Abdughupur they would take her mother to the camps unless she gave them information.

Terrified, Abdughupur showed them her driver’s licence, passport, visa and Medicare card, which shows her children’s names.

“After that, the police said don’t ring your mum, they deleted her account, so I don’t know if she’s in the camp or not. I was just sitting there crying, I didn’t know what to say,” she said.

More than a dozen Uighurs in Australia have told the Guardian of intimidation and harassment from the Chinese authorities.

Ali*, 34, received a call from a family member in 2017, who told him she would be sent to the camps unless he sent copies of his children’s birth certificates and passports, as well as where they went to school, where the family lived and where he and his wife worked.

“We cannot live free, even if we are living in Australia,” he said.

Several Uighurs told the Guardian they had received calls purporting to be from the Chinese embassy in Canberra, or a Chinese consulate telling them to come in to collect a parcel or package.

One person received 10 such calls over the course of a month, despite being an Australian citizen with no connection to China except that he was married to a Uighur woman.

Another said he received four calls from a Canberra-based number telling him to come to the embassy, despite being an Australian citizen who had lived in Australia for 15 years.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra said: “The Chinese Embassy in Australia has never made the phone calls you mentioned. Last year, the Chinese embassy, AFP and ACT Police urged members of the Chinese community to be aware of the scam calls targeting Chinese nationals.”

Show post

Indonesian lawmakers #fundie theguardian.com

Indonesia seeks to ban negative 'foreign' influences on music

Artists concerned that draft bill, which follows outcry over K-pop band, will destroy freedom of expression

Hundreds of musicians in Indonesia have lashed out against what they say is a ludicrous draft bill that could “destroy” freedom of expression.

Among the most contentious aspects of the draft is Article 5, which outlaws “negative foreign influences” as well as blasphemous or pornographic content, punishable by imprisonment or a fine.

The article states: “In creating, everyone is prohibited from […] bringing negative influences from foreign cultures or demeaning a human being’s dignity.”

Jerinx, a member of the Indonesian punk-rock band Superman is Dead, is one of 200 musicians who have criticised the proposed legislation.

Writing on his Instagram account, Jerinx said the draft bill would “rape his rights of freedom of expression, and eventually destroy them”.

The Balinese drummer also pointed to what he described as “high-level hypocrisy” from the Indonesian government, given that President Joko Widodo is widely known as a fan of foreign heavy metal bands such as Metallica.

The exact target of the bill is unclear, although there is occasional uproar about the perceived immorality of foreign popstars.

In December a TV ad featuring members of the K-pop all girl band, Blackpink, which showed them wearing miniskirts and short dresses, was pulled after the broadcasting commission said it flouted decency and moral norms. In 2012 Lady Gaga was forced to cancel a sold-out concert in Jakarta after Islamic hardliners threatened to physically stop her from getting off the plane.

Indonesian musician Kartika Jahja said the bill, which “came out of nowhere”, had in recent days united artists from across the country and musical spectrum to form a coalition to reject the bill.

“Everyone is concerned because there are so many problematic chapters inside the draft,” Jahja told the Guardian, “For me personally the first one is the chapter that regulates the content of music, that it cannot contain negative influences from the West and blasphemy and so on. I think that is a very dangerous ground, if that bill is passed, to silence musicians because music is one of the greatest and biggest agitators for various social and political movements in this country.”

The coalition launched a petition against the draft law on change.org on Sunday evening, which by Monday had been signed by more than 65,000 people.

In addition to overlapping with existing copyright and other laws, the draft bill on music further contradicts Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution, which upholds freedom of expression in a democratic state, the petition states.

Designated as a priority bill by the House of Representatives, the draft bill has been widely condemned online, trending on Twitter with the hashtag #TolakRUUPermusikan, which translates as: “reject the draft music law”.

Concerned the bill will “shackle freedom of expression”, a group of Indonesian musicians met with lawmakers to discuss the it last week, calling for comprehensive discussion with artists and industry players and further consideration before the legislation is tabled.

Show post

For Women Scotland #sexist theguardian.com

Scottish feminist group says transgender laws risk women's rights

For Women Scotland says government is ‘sleepwalking’ towards erosion of rights

The Scottish government risks sleepwalking towards a significant erosion of women’s rights, according to a group of feminist activists and academics that held its first public meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday evening to discuss proposed changes to transgender legislation.

The group, For Women Scotland, claims that it has support from MSPs across the political spectrum who share their concern that the SNP government is failing to consider adequately the implications for the rights of women and girls of proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004, such as allowing individuals to change their legal sex by means of self-declaration.

When the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, originally pledged to radically reform gender recognition law for trans people in 2016, she said that the move would be as important in her next parliamentary term as equal marriage was to the last. But the proposals were not included in last autumn’s programme for government, which has been taken as an indication of the concern within the SNP.

The intersectional feminist activists Sisters Uncut Edinburgh organised a protest against the meeting, stating: “While For Women Scot do a sterling job of making transphobia look respectable, their actions and statements do real damage to Scotland’s trans and non-binary community.”

Among the 40-strong protest, Red, a charity worker, said: “Groups like this are selling a very weighted narrative, and obscuring the facts. For example, they say that changes to the GRA will allow trans women into women’s spaces, when actually they were allowed before. They are trying to make it seem an immediate and sudden threat.”

Another protester, Cathy, said: “As a trans woman, I feel this whole event is designed to make transphobia appear respectable, and it’s very disingenuous. If a debate is what these people want, then there needs to be mutual respect.”

Speaking to a largely female audience of about 150 within the meeting venue, Susan Smith, of For Women Scotland, said: “We are concerned that the Scottish government is sleepwalking towards a significant erosion of women’s rights, both in terms of proposals to reform the GRA to allow self-identification and the failure to prevent other organisations running ahead of the law and adopting policies which are in breach of the Equality Act.

“We’re not here to quibble about toilets and we’re not here to create trouble for those who have battled crippling gender dysphoria. We welcome extra provisions for other vulnerable groups that don’t involve dismantling existing rights. If we cannot see sex, then we cannot see sexism, we cannot define sexuality, and it is the most vulnerable women who will suffer from this.”

Thursday’s meeting marked the most public expression in Scotland of increasingly vocal concerns around transgender issues.

The meeting also discussed concerns about guidelines for schools, contained in a document, Supporting Transgender Young People, and written in partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Trans Alliance, which say that schoolchildren should be able to compete in the sports events and use changing rooms and toilets for the gender they identify with.

Another feminist campaign group, Women and Girls in Scotland, published their own children’s rights impact analysis earlier this week. It argues that the guidelines undermine 10 articles of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

On Tuesday, a group of 25 academics, activists and former MSPs signed an open letter calling on Sturgeon to commit to carrying out a full equality impact assessment of the proposed reforms to the GRA. It noted: “Many individuals responding to the consultation raised concerns about how the proposals could affect the practical operation of the single-sex protections under the Equality Act 2010.”

Last month, the Guardian reported on concerns amongst data experts that proposed changes to the question about sex, to be asked in Scotland’s next census, risk undermining the reliability of the survey and set a difficult precedent for equalities protection.

Show post

Unknown FBI investigators #racist theguardian.com

Revealed: FBI investigated civil rights group as 'terrorism' threat and viewed KKK as victims

Bureau spied on California activists, citing potential ‘conspiracy’ against the ‘rights’ of neo-Nazis

The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights group in California, labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against neo-Nazis in 2016, new documents reveal.

Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), spying on the leftist group’s movements in an inquiry that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed at the white supremacist rally, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files reveal:

The FBI investigated Bamn for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux Klan” and white supremacists.

The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan, writing: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.”

The FBI’s monitoring included in-person surveillance, and the agency cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry.

The FBI’s 46-page report on Bamn, obtained by the government transparency non-profit Property of the People through a records request, presented an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and far-right expert who reviewed the documents for the Guardian.

The report ignored “100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the present day”, German said. “This description of the KKK should be an embarrassment to FBI leadership.”

Shanta Driver, Bamn’s national chair, criticized the investigation in a statement to the Guardian, saying, “The FBI’s interest in BAMN is part of a long-standing policy ... Starting with their campaign to persecute and slander Dr. Martin Luther King, they have a racist history of targeting peaceful civil rights and anti-racist organizations, while doing nothing to prosecute the racists and fascists who attacked Dr. King and the movement he built.”

The FBI launched its terrorism investigation and surveillance of Bamn after white supremacists armed with knives faced off with hundreds of counter-protesters, including Bamn activists, at a June 2016 neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento. Although numerous neo-Nazis were suspected of stabbing at least seven anti-fascists in the melee, leaving some with life-threatening injuries, the FBI chose to launch a inquiry into the activities of the leftwing protesters.

The documents, though heavily redacted, did not include any conclusions from the FBI that Bamn violated laws or posed a continuing threat. Its members have not faced federal prosecution. The FBI declined to comment on Bamn.

“It’s clear the FBI dropped the investigation having no evidence of wrongdoing. It never should have been opened in the first place,” Driver said.

The 2016 rally was organized by two white supremacist groups: the Traditionalist Worker party (TWP) and an affiliated California entity, the Golden State Skinheads. California law enforcement subsequently worked with the neo-Nazis to identify counter-protesters, pursued charges against stabbing victims and other anti-fascists, and decided not to prosecute any men on the far-right for the stabbings.

The FBI appeared to have adopted a similar approach. In a redacted October 2016 document, the FBI labeled its Bamn investigation a “DT [domestic terrorism] – ANARCHIST EXTREMISM” case. The FBI’s San Francisco office wrote that it was investigating allegations that “members of Bamn attended a Ku Klux Klan rally and assaulted a Nazi supporter”. It summarized the Sacramento incident this way:

In 2016, law enforcement learned that the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a rally at the State Capitol Building … The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda. In response, a number of groups mobilized to protest the rally. Flyers were posted asking people to attend in order to shut down the rally.

The KKK and Traditionalist Worker party have similar ideologies but are distinct groups. It’s unclear why the FBI labeled the rally a KKK event.

The FBI’s report also appeared to obfuscate details about the political affiliations of stabbing perpetrators and victims, saying: “Several people were stabbed and hospitalized”. That’s despite the fact that California police investigators reported that neo-Nazis were seen on camera holding knives and fighting with counter-protesters (who suffered severe stab wounds).

The FBI file said its research into Bamn found that the group “lawfully exercised their First Amendment rights by engaging in peaceful protests”, but added that its “members engaged in other activity by refusing to disperse, trespassing in closed buildings, obstructing law enforcement, and shouting during and interrupting public meetings so that the meetings could not continue”.

Bamn has long advocated for racial justice and immigrants’ rights, frequently protesting at public events and organizing rallies.

The FBI report said it was “possible the actions of certain BAMN members may exceed the boundaries of protected activity and could constitute a violation of federal law”.

The “potential violations of federal law”, the FBI said, included “conspiracy against rights” and “riots”. The FBI cited Bamn’s website, which encouraged supporters to protest the KKK, featured slogans like “SMASH FASCISM!” and “NO ‘FREE SPEECH’ FOR FASCISTS!”, and celebrated the “mass, militant demonstration” that “shut down” the neo-Nazi rally. The FBI also included screenshots of Bamn pages that referenced a number of the group’s other advocacy issues, including campaigns against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality”.

The FBI files further included mentions of Yvette Felarca, a Bamn member who was stabbed at the rally, but is now facing state charges of assault and rioting. (Her lawyers have argued in court that the police investigators and prosecutors were biased against anti-fascists and worked to protect neo-Nazis).

Driver, who is also Felarca’s attorney, said the FBI should have mentioned that Felarca was “stabbed and bludgeoned by a fascist in Sacramento”. She added: “Instead of finding the person who assaulted anti-racist protesters, the FBI chose to target BAMN, which by their own admission holds demonstrations that are protected by the First Amendment.”

The bureau’s justifications of the investigation and surveillance were disturbing, said Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the People. “The FBI discovered that these protesters once shouted at a meeting and somehow that evidence was mobilized to support a full-fledged terrorism investigation,” he noted.

In November 2016, the FBI engaged in surveillance of a protest outside the Berkeley school district, according to the Bamn files. Due to the redactions, it’s unclear whom the FBI was watching, though the report noted that the FBI observed “several children … sitting outside … with signs next to them”.

The FBI report said its investigation and surveillance were not “intended to associate the protected activity with criminality or a threat to national security, or to infer that such protected activity itself violates federal law”. The report continued:

However, based on known intelligence and/or specific, historical observations, it is possible the protected activity could invite a violent reaction towards the subject individuals or groups, or the activity could be used as a means to target law enforcement. In the event no violent reaction occurs, FBI policy and federal law dictates that no further record be made of the protected activity.

Property of the People’s records requests broadly sought FBI documents on anti-fascists. The FBI did not release additional Bamn records beyond 2016.

The FBI’s insinuation that Bamn’s actions could provoke violence was odd, said German, the former FBI agent, who is now a Brennan Center fellow. He noted that it was white supremacists “who have used this tactic for decades” and said the violent provocations of rightwing groups were well known when he worked on domestic terrorism for the FBI in the 1990s. The Bamn report, he said, gave the “appearance of favoritism toward one of the oldest and most active terrorist groups in history”.

He added that the report should have made clear that the “KKK consists of members who have a bloody history of racial and anti-Semitic violence and intimidation and is known for staging public spectacles for the specific purpose of inciting imminent violence”.

Asked whether the Bamn investigation was ongoing and whether the FBI had opened any equivalent inquiry into the neo-Nazis in California, an FBI spokesperson said the bureau does not confirm or deny the existence of specific investigations. “We cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, natural origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the FBI said in a statement. “The FBI does not and will not police ideology.”

The bureau “investigates activity which may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security”, the statement added.

The Bamn case follows numerous recent controversies surrounding the FBI’s targeting of leftist groups, including a terrorism investigation into Standing Rock activists, surveillance of black activists, and spying on peaceful climate change protesters.

The justice department inspector general previously criticized the FBI for using non-violent civil disobedience and speculation of future crimes to justify terrorism investigations against domestic advocacy groups, German noted, adding that the Bamn files suggest the FBI “seems to have learned nothing from these previous overreaches”.

Even knowing the FBI’s legacy of going after activists, the report was still shocking, said Shapiro.

“A bunch of anti-fascists showed up at a Nazi rally and were attacked by Nazis, and the response form the bureau was to launch a domestic terrorism investigation into the anti-fascists,” he said. “At its core, the FBI is, as it has always been, a political police force that primarily targets the left.”

Show post

Tim Hunt #sexist theguardian.com

A Nobel laureate who said that scientists should work in gender-segregated labs and that the trouble with “girls” is that they cause men to fall in love with them has resigned from his position at University College London (UCL).

Tim Hunt, an English biochemist who admitted that he had a reputation for being a “chauvinist”, had made the comments at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea, where he said: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

In a statement published on its website UCL said that it could confirm that Hunt had resigned on Wednesday from his position as honorary professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences, “following comments he made about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 9 June”.

It added: “UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality.”

Hunt, a 72-year-old who won the 2001 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, had also said that he was in favour of single-sex labs, adding that he didn’t want to “stand in the way of women”.

Show post

Steve King #racist theguardian.com

Trump ally Steve King: I don't know how 'white supremacist' became offensive term

The Republican congressman says the diverse Democratic party appears to be ‘no country for white men’

A nine-term Republican congressman and close ally of Donald Trump known for making racially provocative statements said in an interview published Thursday that he did not understand why the phrases “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” had “become offensive”.

Congressman Steve King, who has represented his rural Iowa district in Washington since 2003, made the remarks in an interview with the New York Times.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

In the same interview, King expressed a sense of racial alienation at the swearing-in of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, which includes a record number of women and people of color, as well as the first Muslim American and Native American women elected to Congress.

“You could look over there and think the Democratic party is no country for white men,” King said.

King, who has forged personal alliances with far-right, anti-immigration groups across Europe, has a long track record of making statements widely perceived as racist, although he denies the charge.

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he has tweeted. He has called illegal immigration a “slow-rolling, slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States” and a “slow-motion Holocaust” and tweeted: “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”

King has amassed national political power as a conservative gatekeeper in a state that votes first in the presidential primary process and can give Republican candidates a crucial early boost – or sink a candidacy.

When Trump began visiting Iowa as a candidate, he found an ideological ally, particularly on issues such as immigration.

King has long advocated building a wall on the Mexican border, authored legislation to make English the official language of Iowa and has said of immigrants: “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130lb and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75lb of marijuana across the desert.”

“He may be the world’s most conservative human being,” Trump approvingly said of King at a rally in Iowa before the recent midterm elections. The congressman replied on Twitter: “I do my best to pull President Trump to the right:-)”

But King’s repeated provocations appear to have made him freshly vulnerable to political challengers. He beat a Democratic opponent in his most recent election only narrowly, in a district Trump won by 27 points. A Republican challenger, Randy Feenstra, an assistant majority leader in the state senate, has announced he will take on King in the 2020 primary race, saying King’s “distractions” had robbed Iowans of “a seat at the table”.

Show post

Lu Shaye #fundie theguardian.com

China’s ambassador accuses Canada of ‘white supremacy’ in Huawei CFO arrest

Ambassador Lu Shaye wrote in an op-ed for an Ottawa-based paper that western countries are employing a ‘double standard’

China’s ambassador to Canada has accused the country of “white supremacy” in calling for the release of two Canadians detained in China last month.

The arrests were in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in Canada.

But Ambassador Lu Shaye said in an op-ed in the Ottawa-based Hill Times on Wednesday that western countries are employing a “double standard” in demanding the immediate release of the Canadians.

“The reason why some people are used to arrogantly adopting double standards is due to western egotism and white supremacy,” Lu wrote.

“What they have been doing is not showing respect for the rule of law, but mocking and trampling the rule of law.”

China detained Canadian ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on 10 December 2018 on vague allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China.

The arrests came 10 days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US, which wants her extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. A Canadian judge granted Meng bail while she awaits extradition proceedings.

Le wrote that “elites” in Canada are completely dismissing China’s law by demanding the immediate release of the Canadians.

“It seems that, to some people, only Canadian citizens shall be treated in a humanitarian manner and their freedom deemed valuable, while Chinese people do not deserve that,” Lu said.

Lu also wrote that Meng was arrested without violating any Canadian law, suggesting that Canada should never detain someone for extradition.

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, called Lu’s claims “hogwash”.

“I don’t know what the ambassador was trying to accomplish but his article won’t help China’s cause,” Paris said.

Paris noted Canada is following extradition law while the Canadians were seized in China under suspicious circumstances and China has held them without charge.

Julian Ku, the senior associate dean for academic affairs at Hofstra Law, noted China has still not revealed any specific information about what Kovrig and Spavor are charged with and have not given them a judicial hearing and thus Canada is not wrong with calling the arrests arbitrary.

“I am struck by how brazen they are being by making this appeal,” Ku said. “He says: ‘You are being racist by not respecting our law.’ That’s an easy card to play.”

Lu also seemed to admit detaining the Canadians was in retaliation for the Meng arrest.

“I have recently heard a word repeatedly pronounced by some Canadians: bullying. They said that by arresting two Canadian citizens as retaliation for Canada’s detention of Meng, China was bullying Canada. To those people, China’s self-defence is an offence to Canada,” Lu wrote.

Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, did not address Lu’s claims.

Huawei, whose billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei has long had ties with both the People’s Liberation Army and the Communist party, has faced national security concerns in multiple countries.

Huawei has been banned from involvement in the installation of 5G mobile networks in India, New Zealand and Australia, blocked from making acquisitions in the US and banned from selling phones on military bases by the Pentagon.

But, in his column, Lu dismissed such concerns and instead pointed to monitoring and spying programs carried out by the US National Security Agency and the Five Eyes alliance countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US).

“Something is considered as ‘safeguarding national security’ when it is done by western countries. But it is termed ‘conducting espionage’ when done by China. What’s the logic?” he wrote.

Show post

G. Nageshwar Rao and others #fundie theguardian.com

India outcry after scientists claim ancient Hindus invented stem cell research

The organisers of a major Indian science conference said they were concerned by speakers citing religious texts and ideas at the event

The organisers of a major Indian science conference distanced themselves on Sunday from speakers who used the prestigious event to dismiss Einstein’s discoveries and claim ancient Hindus invented stem cell research.

The Indian Scientific Congress Association expressed “serious concern” as the unorthodox remarks aired by prominent academics at its annual conference attracted condemnation and ridicule.

The distinguished gathering of Indian researchers and scientists, which was held over the weekend, hosts Nobel laureates, but in recent years has seen Hindu faith-based theories edging onto the agenda.

At this year’s congress, the head of a southern Indian university cited an ancient Hindu text as proof that stem cell research was discovered on the subcontinent thousands of years ago.

“We had 100 Kauravas from one mother because of stem cell and test tube technology,” said G. Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor at Andhra University, referring to a story from the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

Rao, who was addressing school children and scientists at the event, also said a demon king from another centuries-old Hindu epic had two dozen aircraft and a network of landing strips in modern-day Sri Lanka.

“Hindu Lord Vishnu used guided missiles known as ‘Vishnu Chakra’ and chased moving targets,” added the professor of inorganic chemistry.

Event organisers tried to hose down the remarks, saying it was “unfortunate” the prestigious event had been derailed by controversy.

“We don’t subscribe to their views and distance ourselves from their comments. This is unfortunate,” said Premendu P Mathur, general secretary of Indian Scientific Congress Association.

“There is a serious concern about such kind of utterances by responsible people.”

Another speaker, a scientist from a university in southern Tamil Nadu state, also raised eyebrows by questioning the breakthroughs of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

India is no stranger to prominent figures citing ancient Hindu texts like the Puranas and Vedas as ironclad evidence of the country’s technological prowess.

India’s minister for higher education Satyapal Singh last year said Darwin’s theory of evolution was wrong, and vowed to change the national school curriculum to reflect that.
Advertisement

The minister hails from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules 17 of India’s 29 states and territories outright or through alliances.

BJP leader and prime minister Narendra Modi in 2015 pointed to Hindu scriptures as proof that plastic surgery existed in ancient India.

Science minister Harsh Vardhan last year said ancient Greeks took credit from India for early mathematical principles and misquoted Stephen Hawking as praising the Vedas for discoveries greater than Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Breakthrough Science Society, an Indian-based educational charity, said it was “astounded and even horrified” at the remarks made at an academic summit.

“Puranic verses and epics are poetic, enjoyable, contain moral elements and [are] rich in imagination but [are] not scientifically constructed or validated theories,” the group said in a statement Sunday.

“Such a hallowed assembly of scientists has been misused to make false and chauvinistic claims about ancient India.”

Show post

SOMuffin #sexist theguardian.com

"Third wave feminists" essentially took the Mysogeny Textbook and inverted it, replacing "man" by "woman" and vice versa. The last thing they want is a world where people feel at ease with each other, consider each other as fellow human beings. The wall separating the genders is for them even more significant than for the moribund male sexists. And any movement across the wall, any act of friendship or complicity or easy-going contact, is for them high treason.

In Latin world (where, historically and today, women thrived more) it is usual for friends meeting to embrace (yes, man-on-man as well). But the role model for Third-Wave feminists is Victorian rigidity and prudishness. They are the worst enemies of female progress this side of religious fundamentalism.

Show post

LBukem #sexist theguardian.com

As a 6ft 3 guy, am I no longer allowed to put my arms around any girlfriend I have who is likely to be shorter than me?

Maybe equality now means surgically enhancing women to get over natural differences in height?

What's next, hand holding signifies 'ownership'? Buying a gift signifies ownership? Opening a door signifies ownership?

No wonder men are confused by this ever changing dictatorial thought. The stakes are always stacked in favour of the feminists as they get to decide what is right and wrong. Get it wrong and you're done for.

Show post

ionetranq #sexist theguardian.com

[Re. men putting their arm around women's shoulders]

Trust me, it's an annoying form of territorial pissing.

I, and many others, don't trust you. If you think it is always "territorial pissing" then you're miserable and misanthropic. The people viewing it always as such are the ones doing the territorial pissing - feminists marking other women, and how and what they think, as their territory.

You can't speak for all the men who do it, nor the women who they have their arms around. As is obvious from the comments, plenty of men do it affectionately, and many women like it.

Show post

Residents of Tijuana #fundie theguardian.com

Hundreds of residents of the Mexican border city of Tijuana protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived in the hope of starting a new life in the US. On Sunday, local residents waved Mexican flags, sang the national anthem and chanted 'Out! Out!' At one point, police formed a barrier between the Central American migrants and protesting locals. Protesters have called the migrant caravan an 'invasion' and are accusing the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They are concerned Mexican taxes might be spent to care for the group as they wait, possibly months, to apply for asylum in the US

Show post

The Trump administration #fundie theguardian.com

Trump administration trying to define transgender out of existence – report

The Trump administration is attempting to strip transgender people of official recognition by creating a narrow definition of gender as being only male or female and unchangeable once determined at birth, the New York Times reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undertaken an effort across several departments to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, the Times said, citing a government memo.

That definition would be as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals a person is born with, the Times reported.

Such an interpretation would reverse the expansion of transgender rights that took place under President Barack Obama.

It would also set back aspirations for tolerance and equality among the estimated 0.7% of the population that identifies as transgender. Most transgender people live with a profound sense that the gender assigned to them at birth was wrong and transition to the opposite sex. Others live a non-binary or gender-fluid life.

A HHS spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called “allegedly leaked documents” but cited a ruling by a conservative US district judge as a guide to transgender policy.

In Texas in 2016, ruling on a challenge to one aspect of the Affordable Care Act, judge Reed O’Connor found there was no protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

A leading transgender advocate called the government’s reported action a “super aggressive, dismissive, dangerous move”.

“They are saying we don’t exist,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Rights.

The Obama administration enacted regulations and followed court rulings that protected transgender people from discrimination, upsetting religious conservatives.

The Trump administration has sought to ban transgender people from military service and rescinded guidance to public schools recommending that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.

A draft of the Trump administration memo says gender should be determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable”, the memo says, according to the Times.

Medical science seeking to explain what makes people transgender is in its infancy. Psychiatrists no longer consider being transgender a disorder and several US courts have found the Obama interpretation of protecting transgender people against discrimination to be sound.

But the Trump administration has chosen to abide by the ruling of O’Connor, the Times said.

“The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is abiding by it as we continue to review the issue,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement.

Show post

Li Xiaojun #fundie theguardian.com

China claims Muslim detention camps are education centres

Chinese officials have pushed back against growing criticism of the detention of Muslim minorities in internment camps, claiming authorities are merely providing professional training and education.

Beijing is facing allegations of mass incarceration and repression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang in China’s north-west. An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where, according to former detainees and other witnesses, inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.

“It is not mistreatment,” Li Xiaojun, the director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Information Office, told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres – educational centres.”

Li added: “If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the west has failed in doing so. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

Show post

Daniel Ortega #fundie theguardian.com

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has hit out at what he has claimed is a “murderous, coup-mongering satanic sect” behind a three-month uprising against his rule that has left more than 300 dead.

There is growing international consensus that Ortega’s own forces and pro-government militias are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the violence that has gripped Nicaragua since protests erupted in April.

However, during a pro-government rally in Managua on Thursday, Ortega sought to shift blame for the bloodshed on to the “diabolical force” he claimed was part of a US-backed conspiracy to topple him.

“We have to re-establish order in our country,” the former guerrilla told thousands of flag-waving supporters who had assembled in the lakeside Plaza de la Fe to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the 1979 Sandinista victory over the Somoza dictatorship. “The road isn’t war, but peace and dialogue.”

Show post

Fraser Anning #racist theguardian.com

An Australian crossbench senator has invoked the term “the final solution” in an inflammatory speech calling for a plebiscite asking voters whether they want to end all immigration by Muslims and non-English speaking people “from the third world”.

Fraser Anning, formerly of the far-right Pauline Hanson One Nation party, and now a member of the Katter’s Australia party, used his maiden speech in the Senate to call for “a plebiscite to allow the Australian people to decide whether they want wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the third world, and particularly whether they want any Muslims”.

His comments were widely condemned on Wednesday. Malcolm Turnbull said he condemned “racism” and said Australia was the most successful multicultural society in the world. Cabinet minister Mitch Fifield said the speech was deeply regrettable, telling Nine Network: “I thought we had moved beyond this in the parliament. Australia is a warm and open nation.”

Anning also invoked the white Australia policy, suggesting Australians may want “to return to the predominately European immigration policy of the pre-Whitlam consensus”. The white Australia policy, which restricted non-European immigration, ran from 1901 until it began to be dismantled in the late 1960s.

He said neither the former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam, nor any subsequent government, had asked Australians what kind of immigration they wanted. “What we do need a plebiscite for is to decide who comes here.”

Anning declared on Tuesday the reasons “for ending all further Muslim immigration are both compelling and self-evident”.

“The record of Muslims who have already come to this country in terms of rates of crime, welfare dependency and terrorism are the worst of any migrant and vastly exceed another immigrant group,” he said.

“The majority of Muslims in Australia of working age do not work and exist on welfare. Muslims in New South Wales and Victoria are three times more likely than other groups to be convicted of crimes.”

“We have black African Muslim gangs terrorising Melbourne, we have Isis-sympathising Muslims trying to go overseas to try and fight for Isis and while all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims.

“So why would anyone want to bring more of them here?”

Show post

Dr Simon Gathercole #fundie theguardian.com

(The author repeatedly asserts that the evidence for Jesus is overwhelming and established. Gives no evidence throughout the entire article).

What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago

The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?

The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.

What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?

As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.

About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) and Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” and Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.

Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?

Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary and a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian and philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who
questioned whether Jesus lived.

How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?

In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus and Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?

Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” and an “icon of Holy Saturday”.

It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish and Roman writers form the most significant evidence.

These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died. The more interesting question – which goes beyond history and objective fact – is whether Jesus died and lived.

Simon Gathercole is Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Show post

Carlos Hualpa and Martín Vizcarra #sexist theguardian.com

Women’s rights activists in Peru have expressed outrage after the country’s president responded to the murder of a woman who was burned to death by a stalker by saying “sometimes that’s how life is”.

Eyvi Agreda died on Friday from infections caused by the attack in April which left 60% of her body covered in second and third-degree burns.

Agreda’s assailant, Carlos Hualpa, doused her with petrol on a bus and set her alight, telling her: “If you aren’t mine then you’ll be nobody’s.” According to her family, he had harassed her for two years, but police had not responded to her complaints.

Late on Friday, Peru’s president Martín Vizcarra offered his sympathies to Agreda’s family and demanded a life sentence for Hualpa – but then provoked widespread fury by adding: “Sometimes that’s how life is and we have to accept it.”

Show post

Jeff Rosenthal #fundie theguardian.com

Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite

When these young entrepreneurs bought a remote ski resort in Utah, they dreamed of an exclusive, socially conscious community. Is this the future, or Mt Olympus for Generation Me?

by Paul Lewis

Jeff Rosenthal is standing near the top of his snow-covered mountain wearing a fluffy jacket, fingerless gloves and ripped jeans. “It’s surreal, man!” he says, shivering as he surveys the landscape of newly laid roads and half-built homes. “That’s Ken Howery’s house, the co-founder of PayPal. Awesome house!”

He lists the other investors who are turning this remote Utah community into a crucible of “generational ideology, innovation and entrepreneurship”. Richard Branson will have a house here, and so will the world’s most powerful marketing executive, Martin Sorrell. The Hollywood producer Stacey Sher and the actor Sophia Bush will be their neighbours, as will Miguel McKelvey, a co-founder of WeWork, and the renowned technology investor and author of The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss.

The audacious real estate project – branded Powder Mountain – is becoming a mecca for altruistically minded members of the global elite. “The goal will always remain the same,” says Elliott Bisnow, Rosenthal’s business partner: “To be a beacon of inspiration and a light in the world.”

Bisnow, Rosenthal and three friends, all entrepreneurs in their 30s, dreamed up the scheme after spending years running Summit, an exclusive gathering described by insiders as a “Davos for millennials”.

Applicants to Summit are screened and interviewed to ensure they display the correct “psychographic” (or mindset) for the events. It is pitched as an entertaining ideas festival, comparable to TED and Burning Man, featuring speakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Jane Fonda, Peter Thiel and Jeff Bezos. Guests pay $3,000-$8,000 (£2,200-£5,800) for access to three-day flagship events, hosted everywhere from beaches in Tulum, Mexico, to cruise ships in the Caribbean.

Having finessed the art of persuading rich people to pay to join these getaways, the founders convinced their friends to help them buy an entire mountain in Utah, complete with 10,000 acres of some of the best ski terrain in the US.

They bristle at the idea that they’re trying to build a high-altitude utopia for plutocrats, but then casually refer to a segment of their clientele as “the billionaire set” – and don’t hesitate to mention that their mountain happens to be located between towns named Eden and Paradise.

The beautiful surroundings and unique blend of people, Rosenthal believes, will create the “exponential opportunities of the future”. “I have this whole rap with Gertrude Stein, Katharine Graham, De’ Medici, Bauhaus. There’s this rich history of groups coming together, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, right?” he says. “I think that’s what’s happening here.”

Such hype might seem detached from reality, but it is much in vogue among the technology sector’s new generation of millionaires and billionaires, who seem keen to distance themselves from the selfish excess of their predecessors from 1980s Wall Street. They show less interest in super-yachts or sports cars; instead they speak about spiritual enrichment, connections to nature and purpose. It is against this backdrop that countless Summit-like festivals, retreats and communities have emerged in and around California, promising to help wealthy clients find a better version of themselves.

Further Future, a gathering in the Nevada desert attended by the ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, which has been described as “Burning Man for the 1%”, promises a culture of “mindful optimism, wonder and exploration”. Scott Kriens, the chairman of the technology multinational Juniper Networks, recently opened a retreat for self-improvement and introspection in a redwood forest near Santa Cruz, California, recognising that, despite its great advances, the internet “did not help people connect to themselves”. And Esalen, an institute perched on a cliff in Big Sur that has been a magnet for a bohemian set searching for spiritual enlightenment for half a century, is now directly courting guilt-laden tech executives. “The CEOs, inside they’re hurting,” the director, Ben Tauber (a former Google product manager), recently said of his clients. “They wonder if they’re doing the right thing for humanity. These are questions we can only answer behind closed doors.”

Summit prides itself on its progressive “content”, with talks about global warming, inequality, racial divisions and the war in Syria, but there is a celebrity draw, with talks such as “Jessica Alba on defying expectations” and “Andre Agassi on scaling change”.

During the February weekend I attend (a smaller retreat on the mountain, which costs around $2,000), there are only three talks, each lasting an hour; the remaining three days are spent skiing, snowshoeing, eating and drinking, relaxing in yoga or spa sessions, or partying in crowded hot tubs.

For all its intellectual bravado, a big appeal of Summit has always been recreational. Food is provided by Michelin-starred chefs, and top musicians are flown in for dance parties; the Summit crowd contains a dedicated contingent of Burning Man aficionados, known as “Burners”, who are adept at adding fuel to the festivities. (Rick Glassman, a comedian flown from LA for a 10-minute set, prompts howls of laughter when he says Summit had taught him that “everyone does mushrooms”.)

[snip]

The story of how Bisnow and his friends – Rosenthal, Ryan Begelman, Jeremy Schwartz and Brett Leve – came to occupy their bubble on a mountaintop in Utah has become something of a legend. It began in 2008, when Bisnow, with the boundless confidence of a 23-year-old businessman, cold-called entrepreneurs he admired and invited them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah. Bisnow shouldered the cost of the 19-strong gathering on his credit card, then repeated the trick with another get-together in Mexico, racking up $75,000 in debt. Bisnow and the others quickly coalesced a sort of “mutual aid society” for young, well-connected businessmen, which in the early days included the co-founders of Twitter and Facebook and the real-estate heiress Ivanka Trump.

Soon, Bisnow and his friends were running dozens of closed-door events dedicated to creating “positive impact” – and hosting their flagship conferences on cruise voyages that sailed from Miami to the Bahamas. Those events acquired a reputation as booze cruises for white, male tech bros, so a few years ago Summit decided it was time for a rebrand. They introduced cheaper tickets for women to improve the gender ratio, and abandoned the Caribbean for a more down-to-earth location: Los Angeles. “Not Santa Barbara. Not Beverly Hills,” Rosenthal says. “But downtown LA – where you’re literally in the throes of gentrification and homelessness.”

For years the team worked remotely in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, New York, Miami and Barcelona. They would combine work with snowboarding in Montana and surfing in Nicaragua. But by late 2011, the friends were approaching 30 and starting to travel less. They were living and working out of a mansion in Malibu and, Rosenthal recalls, hosting “amazing dinners that became pretty culturally significant in LA at that time”.

t was around this time they heard from a Utah-based venture capitalist that Powder Mountain was for sale and hatched a plan to transform their considerable social capital into real estate.

The plan was enacted months later, after a gathering they hosted in Lake Tahoe. They chartered a Boeing 737 and flew about 75 of their wealthier patrons from northern California to a tiny airport in Utah’s Ogden Valley. From there, it was just a short drive to the top of Powder Mountain. They arrived in time for sunset, lit a bonfire in the snow and laid out their vision.

Each investor who helped them buy the mountain would receive a plot of land – and, assuming the plan worked, their money back at a future date. They bought the mountain for $40m in 2013, but it is only in recent months that the wooden shells of the first 26 properties have mushroomed out of the mountainside, along with roads, bridges and ski lifts.

Much to the frustration of some locals, machines have been drilling wells deep into the mountain in search of water. One day there will be 500 homes on the mountain, and a village with coffee shops, juice bars, restaurants, a sound studio and a five-star hotel.

Rosenthal takes me on a driving tour of the mountain, to explain how they plan to create a community that is different from exclusive resorts such as Aspen, Colorado. Restrictions prevent anyone from building a home larger than 4,500 sq ft, and residents must use vetted architects to ensure that their home is “subservient to the land” and in a style that has been called “heritage modernism”.

“None of the architecture should express taste or wealth,” Rosenthal says, nodding to the spot that will become a central promenade. “That is a very walkable main street – we will have soft Italian kerbs.”

I steer the conversation to the subject of how utterly detached from the real world elites seem to have become. “Elitism, the way I would define it, is obtainable,” he replies. “All that stands between you and being elite is your own investment in yourself.”

I tell Rosenthal that I’ve met many people in America who work as hard as him and his friends – harder, in fact – but struggle to make ends meet. He acknowledges that he’s benefited from considerable advantage, but insists we now live in an era in which “the internet is the great equaliser”.

“What are you doing to create the utility for yourself? Are you introducing people so they can collaborate?” he says. Struggling Americans, he adds, might want to “host a dinner. Invite 10 strangers. See what happens.”

Show post

Umar Haque #fundie theguardian.com

A dangerous extremist who attempted to build an army of child jihadists by radicalising pupils has been convicted of a range of terrorist offences. Umar Haque, 25, taught an Islamic studies class despite the fact he had no teaching qualifications and was employed as an administrator. He was allowed to supervise classes of 11- to 14-year-olds on his own, during which he re-enacted attacks on police officers and showed students videos of beheadings.

Police fear Haque attempted to radicalise at least 110 children, some of whom he was in contact with at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, east London. Thirty-five of those children are receiving long-term support. Haque also worked at the £3,000-a-year Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school, where he was again allowed access alone to children under the pretence of teaching Islamic Studies when he was in fact employed as an administrator.

Jurors were told he attempted to radicalise children at the school but were unable to agree on a count of disseminating a terrorist document which related to his time at the school. Haque was convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey on Friday of a range of offences, including plotting terrorist attacks and collecting information useful for terrorism. He had previously admitted four charges of collecting information useful for terrorism, and one count of disseminating a terrorist document, in relation to his attempts to radicalise children at the mosque. He was acquitted of conspiring to possess firearms.

Two other men, Abuthaher Mamun, 19, and Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted for their roles in helping him. A fourth defendant, Nadeem Patel, 26, who had previously pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun, was acquitted of plotting with Haque. After he was found guilty, Haque shouted “I want to say something”, but was dragged out of the dock by officers. The judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said he would be sentenced later.

The schools watchdog, Ofsted, is facing questions over how it was able to rate the Lantern of Knowledge school as “outstanding” after an inspection held at a time when Haque was allegedly preaching hate to the children. In response to the conviction it said that Haque’s activities were a matter of deep regret and said it was “hampered by limitations on our powers” to inspect out-of-school settings. “His plan was to build an army of children,” said commander Dean Haydon, the head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard. “He had shown them graphic terrorist videos of barbarity – beheading videos and serious injuries mostly in terrorist attacks overseas.

“He had instructed children not to say anything in relation to not telling their teachers or their parents. We had a wall of silence. “He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them role-play terrorist attacks in London. Part of that re-enactment including attacking police officers.” Haque was employed at Lantern of Knowledge from September 2015 to September 2016 as an administrator but also carried out duties as a classroom assistant. He allegedly used his laptop in the school to project on to a whiteboard images of guns, knives, beheadings and passports being burned, the court heard.

In late 2016 and early 2017, Haque was involved in the running of evening classes in a madrasa, based in a large marquee attached to the mosque in Ripple Road. He told the boys aged about 12 to 14 he had established contact with Isis and showed them a series of videos projected on to the wall inside the marquee, ensuring the doors were closed. The horrifying images included blood, wounds, and people falling from buildings. In one film, the exhumation of a boy was shown. Haque told the children the child’s body had deteriorated because he had been beaten after death when he was unable to answer questions put to him by angels.

In the madrasa, Haque had the children doing push-ups, races and grappling in order to train them. There were sessions of role-playing during which the children would be divided into the police and attackers. There were demonstrations of how to sever a head. After the Westminster Bridge attack by Khalid Masood last March, Haque used the atrocity as inspiration for the role-playing.

He said he intended to teach the children to drive as they got older so he could carry out multiple attacks across London. He forced them take an oath not to tell their parents, friends or teachers. He aimed to recruit 300 jihadists, it is claimed. The 35 children in long-term support were “paralysed in fear” by Haque, Haydon said. “He threatened them if they were to talk. It doesn’t appear that any of those children raised the alarm.” Six children gave evidence in court. The trial was shown video of a police interview with a child, who said: “He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight.”

The boy said: “He has been training us, kind of. Apparently fighting is good. If you fight for the sake of Allah, on judgment day when you get judged for your good deeds and bad deeds, fighting is good.” In November 2015, Ofsted inspectors visited the Lantern of Knowledge school, two months after Haque started working there. In their report, they said: “The strong sense of community, harmony and respect within the school reflects the school ethos and aims of leaders and governors to develop well-rounded citizens. “The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is outstanding. They have an excellent understanding of the world around them and make a positive contribution to their community.”

In April 2016, Haque was stopped at Heathrow airport as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul – a well-trodden route to Syria for aspiring Isis recruits. As a result of the stop and searches conducted of his phone, in May 2016 he had his passport revoked and police started investigating him. In May, he and three others were arrested and charged with attack planning. Further charges related to attempting to radicalise children were filed a few months later. Haque had a long-term plan to launch terrorist attacks on a wide range of possible targets including the Queen’s Guard, parliament and media organisations.

Last June, Ofsted made an emergency inspection at the Lantern of Knowledge school in response to concerns about safeguarding children. On this occasion, the inspectors found it had not met regulatory requirements. After an announced inspection in December, Ofsted dramatically reduced all the ratings from “outstanding” to “requires improvement”. The report said: “Leaders do not ensure that training about risk assessments and procedures to support pupils’ welfare are applied consistently enough during some routine activities.” The Charity Commission is investigating the Ripple Road mosque. Ofsted’s chief operating officer, Matthew Coffey, said it was a matter of “deep regret” that Haque was able to work with children.

“Ofsted is committed to protecting children from harm, including radicalisation,” he added. “However, our ability to do so is hampered by limitations on our powers. We have no ability to inspect out-of-school settings, such as madrassas, and we believe greater powers in this area could help keep children safe in the future. “We know the government is keen to address these matters and welcome their commitment to closer working.”

Show post

California Police & members of Traditional Worker's Party #racist theguardian.com

California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs, court documents show.

The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after protesting at a Sacramento rally. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.

Defense lawyers said the case at the state capital offers the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters after violent clashes.

...

Some California highway patrol (CHP) investigation records, however, raise questions about the police’s investigative tactics and communication with the TWP (Traditional Worker's Party).

Felarca’s attorneys obtained numerous examples of CHP officers working directly with the TWP, often treating the white nationalist group as victims and the anti-fascists as suspects.

The TWP is “intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations” and “advocates for racially pure nations”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its leaders have praised Trump, and the group claimed to bring more than 100 people to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, where a counter-protester was killed.

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

“I’m gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved,” Ayres told McCormack, adding that he didn’t know who had requested records of the permit and noting, “If I did, I would tell you.”

Ayres’s reports noted that McCormack was armed at the rally with a knife.

The officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

As evidence, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. The officer wrote that the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazi group. He was ultimately not charged.

Show post

Johann Hari #fundie theguardian.com

Johann Hari: ‘I was afraid to dismantle the story about depression and anxiety’
In 2011, the writer and author was the subject of accusations of plagiarism that led to the end of his career as a newspaper columnist. His new book, Lost Connections, explores the problems with our understanding of mental health

Johann Hari is a writer and author of several books, and a former columnist for the Independent. His latest book, Lost Connections, explores the causes and cures of depression and anxiety. It argues that the notion of inherent depression has been overstated, and that environmental factors are too often neglected. In 2011, he was the subject of accusations of plagiarism that led to the end of his career as a newspaper columnist.

(Submitter's note: Q&A, with the questions bold)

You started work on the book, you say, because you were puzzled by several mysteries. But did you have an idea of what conclusions you would come to?
I think most of the things that are in the book I had inklings about. For many years I had wanted to find out what causes depression and anxiety and how to really solve them. However, I was afraid that if I dismantled the story that I had about depression and anxiety – even though that story hadn’t worked well for me – I would have no story at all, and it would feel really chaotic, and I would feel really vulnerable. For the 13 years during which I was taking antidepressants, despite some doubts, I did believe in the theory that saw chemicals as the main approach.

As well as taking antidepressants, you’ve seen a therapist for 14 years. How effective has that been?
There are three kinds of causes of depression and they interact. There’s the biological causes, which are real, and can make you more vulnerable to depression, but don’t cause it on their own. There’s environmental causes, which are about how we live together socially. And then there are psychological causes, which are about how we think about the world. Clearly, therapy speaks most to the psychological causes, which are very real. Therapy helped me to think about that aspect of it.

Do you think that therapy has worked for you?
I experienced some quite extreme acts of violence when I was a child, from an adult in my life, when my mother was very ill and my father was in another country. I felt a significant fall in depression once I was eventually able to talk about those experiences with my therapist. Given that we have the evidence that therapy does indeed help with the specific area of the psychological causes of depression, I think it’s fair to assume that, when therapy is done well, it can also help with other forms of depression.

Why do you think it is that doctors hand out so many antidepressants when the wealth of evidence as you present in your book suggests they are largely ineffective?
I wouldn’t want to overstate their ineffectiveness. Between 65 and 80% of people taking antidepressants become depressed again within a year. However, that’s not 100%. Of course some people would have recovered anyway through natural processes. I’m not critical of doctors for this. Part of the problem is that we’ve put the onus for solving these problems on to people who are not in a position to solve them alone. Telling people, as I was told by my doctor, that depression is caused by a problem in your brain is, firstly, untrue and it is also really problematic because it cuts people off from finding the real causes of their depression and anxiety. We’ve been telling ourselves this chemical story for 35 years and every year depression and anxiety gets worse.

Why are depression and anxiety issues on the increase?
The umbrella answer is that human beings have innate psychological needs just as we have physical needs. We need to feel we belong, that we have meaning and purpose, that people value us and that we have autonomy. We also live in a culture that’s not meeting those psychological needs for most people. It does not manifest as full-blown depression and anxiety in most people; for some people it’s just a feeling of unhappiness and a life less fulfilling than it could have been. We’ve built a society that has many great aspects, but it is not a good match for our human nature.

In the book you mention a crisis in your life that was “unequivocally terrible”. Was that when you lost your job at the Independent in 2011 and returned your Orwell prize, after being accused of plagiarism?
Yes, it was that, in combination with someone I love very much having a bad addiction crisis. Just to outline events, because some people won’t know, I did two things that were completely wrong. One is that when I interviewed people I often presented things that had been said to other journalists or had been written in books as if they had been said to me, which was not truthful. The second is that I edited Wikipedia entries regarding other people under a pseudonym and, sometimes, in very nasty ways.

Most people who go through your experience tend to flee from public view. You’ve come back and had success. Has that been a difficult process?
When you fuck up and do several things completely wrong, as I did, it should really hurt. And you should pay a really big price. It did hurt and I did pay a really big price, as is entirely right. The reason I’m reluctant now to go into how that felt for me is because that’s saying to people “see it from my point of view”. However, I don’t think that they should see it from my point of view. I think they should see it from the point of view of those people who were harmed by me: my readers, the people I was nasty about and the people at the Independent that I let down.

Have you apologised to the people who were affected by your Wikipedia tampering?
Yes, I wrote to two of the individuals involved, and I’d rather keep private what was said.

Has what you’ve learned by writing this book helped to alleviate your depression? Are you, for want of a better phrase, a happier person?
Massively, but I want to just caveat that. What this book is not is a simplistic guide saying: “Hey, I did these things, and now you can do them too.” I think that would be quite cruel because I was in this incredibly privileged position. I had money from my previous book, which meant that I could change my life in quite radical ways in order to strip out some of the causes of my depression. Lots of people are not in a position to do that.

A big part of the argument of the book is to say that we need to change our culture so that more of us are free to do the things that I was very fortunate to be able to do. In my own life I’ve been able to devote much less time to seeking status and external achievement and much more to engaging with what I think really matters, the people I love and the causes that I think are important. Before, when I started to feel bad, I would have done something for myself. Now, I can see it’s better to cheer someone else up. That’s had a radical effect on my mental health.

Show post

Johann Hari #fundie theguardian.com

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?
In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 13 years, calls for a new approach

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression – one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression – like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called “the grief exception”, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain – it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. It’s not caused by your life – it’s caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances – losing a loved one – might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

"Drug companies would fund huge numbers of studies and then only release the ones that showed success"

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way – by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill – down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we don’t, she said, “consider context”. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take people’s actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require “an entire system overhaul”. She told me that when “you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Let’s get to the deeper problem.”

[...]

With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger – and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didn’t need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old job—working in the rice paddies—was leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depression—which had been profound—went away. “You see, doctor,” they told him, the cow was an “antidepressant”.

To them, finding an antidepressant didn’t mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “must be abandoned”. We need to move from “focusing on ‘chemical imbalances’”, they said, to focusing more on “power imbalances”.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: “This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. It’s not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief – for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you aren’t yet – but you can be, one day.”

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

(Summitter's note: Rebuttal by Steven Novella)

Show post

Satyapal Singh #fundie theguardian.com

Indian education minister dismisses theory of evolution

Scientists condemn Satyapal Singh for saying ‘Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong’

India’s minister for higher education has been condemned by scientists for demanding the theory of evolution be removed from school curricula because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

Satyapal Singh stood by his comments on Monday, saying his ministry was ready to host an international conference where “scientists can come out and say where they stand on the issue”.

“I have a list of around 10 to 15 great scientists of the world who have said there is no evidence to prove that the theory of evolution is correct,” Singh told a crowd at a university in Assam state, adding that Albert Einstein had agreed the theory was “unscientific”.

Singh, who has a postgraduate degree in chemistry from Delhi University, said he was speaking as a “man of science”.

“Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong,” he said at the weekend. “It needs to change in the school and college curriculum.

“Since man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they ever saw an ape turning into a human being.”

More than 2,000 Indian scientists have signed a petition in response calling Singh’s remarks simplistic, misleading and lacking in any scientific basis.

“It is factually incorrect to state that the evolutionary principle has been rejected by the scientific community,” the statement said. “On the contrary, every new discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor.”

Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution nearly 160 years ago, arguing that all species, including humans, evolved over time through a process of natural selection. He argued that humans and apes share a common ancestor who lived more than 7m years ago, an idea frequently misunderstood to be suggesting modern apes turned into human beings.

Ancient Indian scholars are credited with advances in astronomy and mathematics including the invention of the concept of zero, but religious nationalist figures have been accused in recent years of pushing “ideological science”.

That includes claims by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, that myths from the origin texts of Hinduism include evidence of plastic surgery and genetic science.

YS Rajan, a prominent scientist, said in response to Singh’s comments that Hindu texts such as the Rigveda included lines that explicitly embraced knowledge from across the world.

“Nothing in ... Bharatiya samskaar [Indian philosophy] would demand rejection of such theory or for that matter any scientific findings,” he wrote on Facebook.

Show post

LD50 #fundie theguardian.com

Art gallery criticised over neo-Nazi artwork and hosting racist speakers
Artists and campaigners call for closure of the LD50 gallery after accusing it of promoting ‘hate speech not free speech’ but owner criticises protesters

A London art gallery has come under criticism for exhibiting neo-Nazi artwork and hosting openly racist speakers.

This weekend, artists and campaigners will protest calling for the closure of LD50, in Dalston, east London, after accusations the gallery gave a platform to anti-immigrant, Islamophobic and “alt-right” figures and promoted “hate speech not free speech”.

Guests at LD50’s Neoreaction conference last summer included Brett Stevens, the white supremacist whose writing was an inspiration to Oslo far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people in 2011.

After Breivik’s attack, Stevens wrote: “I am honored to be so mentioned by someone who is clearly far braver than I, no comment on his methods, but he chose to act where many of us write, think and dream.”

Others on the conference programme included anti-immigration activist Peter Brimelow, who runs Vdare, described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as “an anti-immigration hate website” that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and antisemites”.

Brimelow’s talk at LD50 was orientated around the threat imposed on “native white Americans” by a “great influx of third world immigration”. He said that while it was socially acceptable for Hispanic and Asian ethnic activists to call for more immigration, the only people who get criticised are whites; described the Black Lives Matter movement as a Democratic party racket purely designed to increase turmoil; and referred to the Jewish faction of the Democratic party vote as problematic.

Gallery owner Lucia Diego said in a statement published on the LD50 website that the programme was intended to create “a dialogue between two different and contrasting ideologies” and that the audience for the conference was “very liberal”.

However, a recording of Brimelow’s talk reveals that members of the audience who contributed to the discussion were predominately sympathetic to his views, agreeing with his statement about the need to remove the “corrupt treacherous elite” in government and one professing support for David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and Holocaust denier.

Shut Down LD50 has accused the gallery, which has previously exhibited works by Turner Prize nominees Jake and Dinos Chapman, of curating “one of the most extensive programmes of racist hate speech to take place in London over the past 10 years”. They said the fact that the list of names of the conference speakers had been made public only after the event was finished was telling. “At first in secret, LD50 has acted as a platform for a cross-section of the most virulent advocates of contemporary extreme-right ideology.”

Alongside the conference, the gallery hosted an art exhibition titled Amerika, which explored far-right and Nazi imagery and featured video works of far-right and neoreactive texts being read out by avatars. A pink swastika was graffitied onto the gallery front door last week.

Writing on his ultra-conservative blog, Amerika.org – which is directly linked to on the gallery’s website – Stevens said the neoreaction conference had been held behind a “veil of secrecy to prevent the usual suspects (Leftists and other neurotics) from attacking”.

Last week, in an Facebook exchange with artist Sophie Jung, Diego described the left as “more like a fascist organisation than the real fascists” and indicated her support for Donald Trump, writing: “I’m not even sure if I disagree with the Muslim ban. I see it also as a temporary measure in order for America to get sorted while they transition to another form of government.”

In an open letter, Shut Down LD50 said that it could not “creditably be argued that the talk series was an instance of artistic license or of the free-spirited ‘exploration’ of ideas.

“The fact that the gallerists decided to make the details of their conference public only in late November, after the Trump election victory, is the clearest evidence of conscious purpose”.

Andrew Osborne, a fine art technician at the Royal College of Art, who is among the campaigners, said they would be handing out 2,000 leaflets in the area around the gallery on Saturday to make the public aware of the gallery’s allegiances, adding that the campaign had the backing of businesses neighbouring the gallery. “We believe this is a matter of public safety,” he added.

In her statement, Diego defended the gallery’s programme, writing: “We feel that the exceptionally aggressive, militant and hyperbolic reaction this has provoked vindicates our suspicion that at some point, as a society, we have drifted into a cultural echo chamber.”

She said the reaction of the protesters was proof that anyone who disagreed with the left was “publicly vilified, delegitimated and intimidated with menaces”.

“Our position has always been that the role of art is to provide a vehicle for the free exploration of ideas, even and perhaps especially where these are challenging, controversial or indeed distasteful for some individuals to contemplate.”

Show post

Jens Maier and Beatrix von Storch #racist theguardian.com

Noah Becker, son of the German tennis star Boris Becker, plans to press charges against a deputy from a far-right party who called him a “little half-negro” on Twitter, the Bild newspaper has reported.

The 23-year-old, whose mother, Barbara Becker, is the daughter of an African American man and a German woman, took the decision in consultation with his father.

“I have been retained to quickly take the necessary steps under criminal and civil law against MP Jens Maier on the basis of this clearly racist tweet,” the Becker family lawyer Christian-Oliver Moser told Bild.

Maier, a former judge who was one of nearly 100 members of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party elected to parliament in the September election, had attacked Noah Becker over an interview in which he complained about being seen as the “eternal son” of his famous father.

“It seems the little half-negro simply got too little attention – that’s the only explanation for his behaviour,” said the tweet posted from Maier’s account on Tuesday.

It has since been deleted and Maier told Bild that one of his staff members had written it. It was the second time in a week that AfD deputies had stirred outrage on social media.

On Tuesday German police filed a complaint against Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the party’s parliamentary group, over a tweet on New Year’s Eve which they say violated laws against incitement to hate.

Von Storch had criticised Cologne police for sending a new year’s greeting in Arabic on Twitter.

“What the hell is going on with this country? Why is an official police site … tweeting in Arabic?” she wrote. “Did you mean to placate the barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping hordes of men?”

Show post

Anonymous Brexiteers #fundie theguardian.com

Anna Soubry, one of the 11 Conservative MPs who defied government whips this week when the government suffered its first Commons defeat over Brexit, has received multiple messages saying she should be hanged as a traitor.

Messages received by Soubry’s office – usually seen first by her parliamentary staff – also feature abuse, with one Facebook message saying: “Go hang yourself slag.”

It follows death threats to Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, who drew up the amendment to the EU withdrawal bill that passed on Wednesday by 309 votes to 305, ensuring MPs must have a final vote on any Brexit deal.

The rebellion prompted a scathing response by some newspapers. The Daily Mail said 11 “self-consumed malcontents” had betrayed their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters.

On Twitter, a post by Soubry defending herself against the Mail’s attack prompted a reply: “You and these traitors should be hung in public.”

Another Twitter user posted a link to a separate Daily Mail article that claimed Soubry and other rebels had celebrated their success with champagne, something the MP has vehemently denied.

A reply to this tweet compared Soubry to William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw, who was hanged after the second world war for his wartime radio broadcasts from Nazi Germany. It ended: “Traitor Anna Soubry deserves to stand trial for the same crime.”

Other tweets called for the Queen to seek treason charges against Soubry so she could be hanged, while another said: “Back in the day you would have walked through traitors gate and been beheaded in the tower of London, you are the true definition of a traitor.”

Emails sent to Soubry’s office, and seen by the Guardian, took similar lines.

One, from a man in Tonbridge, Kent – about 150 miles from Soubry’s Broxtow constituency – read: “You deserve to be HUNG for your attack on our democracy yesterday. WE VOTED OUT! OUT! OUT!” The writer, who gave his full address and telephone number, ended the email: “MAY YOU BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY.”

Another rebel Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, also said that she had been threatened.

Soubry told the Guardian her main worry was for her staff: “As with all members of parliament they have access to my emails, they take the phone calls. So they have to read all this stuff. I think people forget it’s the parliamentary staff who feel even more intimidated than members of parliament.”

The media had “fuelled a lot of this”, Soubry argued: “The words in certain newspapers are replicated – so ‘mutineer’ is then in an email saying: ‘We all know what happens to mutineers, let’s see you hanging from a lamppost or a tree.’

“I got an email from somebody yesterday saying: ‘In the past, traitors were taken out and shot.’ It’s appalling. I’m sure some of these people, if they took a step back, would actually be appalled themselves. But they are being whipped up into a frenzy by certain sections of the media that have frankly lost the plot.”

While the abuse came from a tiny minority of people, Soubry said, it seemed indicative of deep divisions in the country that were not being addressed.

“It’s the job of government to do everything they can to bring people together, and it’s the responsibility of everybody in public life to build a more tolerant society,” she said.

The idea perpetuated in some newspapers that she and other Tory rebels were seeking to overturn Brexit was nonsense, Soubry said.

“I said I will honour the result of the referendum, so I voted to trigger article 50. So, I accept we are leaving the European Union, even though the result was close. My argument now is how do we get the best deal, and I want parliament, finally, to be involved in getting the best deal for our country. Why does that make me a traitor?”

Show post

Extreme vegans and David Dewey #fundie theguardian.com

Feet away from the butchers carving pork loins and beef shanks, the owners of a California meat shop have installed a peculiar sign in their window: “ATTENTION: Animals’ lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it’s done.” The odd poster seeming to discourage customers from buying their meats is the result of a months-long dispute between the owners of the Local Butcher Shop – which sells “locally sourced, sustainably raised” meat – and animal rights activists who have staged more than a dozen loud and gruesome protests outside the family-owned business in Berkeley.

With the placement of the sign, written by the activist group Direct Action Everywhere, the vegan protesters have agreed to cease their weekly rallies outside the shop, which sometimes involved nearly nude protesters dripping in fake blood and wrapped in plastic, along with recordings of pigs screaming inside a slaughterhouse.

The 15in-by-15in sign began receiving international attention this week after the activists declared victory, following four months of protests and counter-protests among liberals in the northern California college city widely known for the 1960s free speech movement and anti-war hippies. The anti-meat activists have claimed that the sign is a groundbreaking win and are now promising to target other independent merchants with similar tactics that they hope will spread across the US.

“To be threatened and forced to abide by their beliefs just makes me sad,” said co-owner Monica Rocchino as she sat outside the shop on Wednesday afternoon while customers nearby munched on the sandwich of the day. “Their tactics are really extremist … This is ethical extortion.” Rocchino and her husband, Aaron, opened the shop in 2011, promoting meats in line with a California food culture that values fresh and ethical produce.

Matt Johnson, a Direct Action Everywhere organizer, said that he and his group “challenge places that do put this ‘humane’ marketing out there. People are paying a lot more for these dead animals … They have some notion that these animals are being treated well.”

The group argues that there is no ethical way to kill animals for food and are campaigning to make Berkeley the first “city free of violence toward animals” – meaning banning the sale of meat. The Rocchinos, who partner with local farmers and offer butchery classes, reached out to the activists to find a resolution. Direct Action Everywhere leaders eventually said they would end the protests if the shop agreed to become a “vegan butcher” that did not sell any meat, or if they canceled classes.

Unwilling to sacrifice their entire business, the owners later agreed to a third option: a sign condemning the killing of animals. The activists made two additional concessions: the sign could be three inches smaller than they originally proposed and the shop could place it in a slightly less prominent storefront window. But they said they reserved the right to two protests a year, and that the agreement was “temporary”.

“We want businesses and our culture to face the truth about violence against animals,” said Paul Darwin Picklesimer, an activist who negotiated the agreement, adding: “We do feel that animals are people. We don’t feel that only humans are people, but of course it’s not universally accepted.” The attack on the Berkeley shop and threats of similar protests have sparked backlash across the state.

“I don’t understand why activists would pick on a mom-and-pop shop supporting the most humane farmers, rather than the animal factories and meatpackers responsible for brutality on an unimaginably greater scale,” said Michael Pollan, the well-known American food writer and a University of California, Berkeley professor, in an email. “Unless you believe the complete abolition of meat-eating is a realistic goal, attacking this sector of the animal economy … strikes me as misguided.”

There is a McDonald’s a few blocks away, he added. David Dewey, president of the California Association of Meat Processors, blamed cartoons for making children believe that animals have emotions and feelings. He added: “This is the order of things, even in the wild. Fish eat other fish. Birds eat other birds … That’s just the way the world circles.”

Johnson said the sign was meant to stigmatize meat-eating in the way tobacco warnings discouraged smoking. “Our vision of the world is a world in which every animal has a right to live happy, safe and free as humans by and large do,” he said.

Asked about the rights of humans who aren’t safe and free, such as prisoners, Johnson said: “It’s a form of deflection. It’s a way of not thinking about the issue at hand.”

“I feel like anybody coming here already knows where their meat comes from,” said Ariel Lay, 28, who decided to visit the shop for the first time after reading about the controversy. “They are not going to look at the sign and say, ‘Oh, I had no idea!’” In between bites of her roast beef sandwich, she added, “The whole, ‘We are not going to stop until Berkeley is a vegan city’ thing rubbed me the wrong way. You’re not going to tell me what to eat.”

Richard Healey, a 74-year-old not-for-profit consultant, who works next door to the shop and buys lunch there twice a week, said he suspected people wouldn’t read the poster and that regular customers would continue to be drawn to the delicious meats. “I didn’t even know it was there until someone pointed it out,” he said, adding, “These people make great sandwiches. I think about it and my mouth waters.”

Show post

Kevin Johnson #fundie theguardian.com

People usually laugh when I tell them I am a convicted terrorist. I try not to open with that – it seems a little bit forward. First, I explain how my friend Tyler and I entered a fur farm in the dead of night. I describe the unspeakable suffering we found there. I tell people how Tyler and I opened every single cage and released 2,000 mink to save their lives. And once they have the context, I segue into the terrorism thing.

Now that I have been out of prison for more than a year, I can be a bit more lighthearted about it. But the seventh circuit court of appeals doesn’t see the humor. Last Wednesday, the court upheld the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, the federal statute that put me away for three years and that my lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights have been trying to challenge for nearly a decade.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a piece of designer legislation written and paid for by the agriculture and pharmaceutical industries. It federalizes non-violent property crime and punishes it as terrorism – but only when the perpetrators are motivated by the belief that animals deserve to live free from violence. The court explicitly stated that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act did not apply to four Fresno, California, teenagers who sneaked into a Foster Farms facility and bludgeoned 900 chickens to death with a golf club because “they killed the chickens for no reason”.

Put succinctly, I am a terrorist not because of what I did, but because the government dislikes why I did it. I remember organizing my first protest, outside of the circus, in 2005. I was 19 years old. My friend and I argued with the police about whether our group could stand on a courtyard by the Staples Center and whether we could use megaphones. We asserted our rights, and we were successful.

That same year, the FBI declared animal rights activists to be the nation’s “number one domestic terrorism threat”. A year later, Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Suddenly, I found myself being followed as I drove to work. My parents and siblings were harassed. My home was raided by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Three times. We no longer argued with the police about where we could chant and hold our signs. The police brandished assault rifles, and we did as they said. Then, when we were done, they openly followed us back to our cars to photograph our license plates. While the rest of the nation took no notice, simply organizing a protest became a frightening prospect if you were an animal rights activist.

In this atmosphere, more and more of my friends stopped speaking out for animals. Countless times I heard people say they were scared of being placed on a list. More than once, someone told me they had canceled their subscriptions to animal-related magazines. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act achieved its intended outcome. When the distinguishing feature of a “terrorist” is simply an ethical concern for animals, such concerns become marginalized, and voicing them becomes dangerous. What remains is silence.

Now I watch as the rhetoric honed and the precedents established against animal rights activists are expanded to cover an increasingly broad swath of dissent. In Donald Trump’s America, states across the country are introducing legislation designed to bully and deter protesters. Some of these proposed laws include five-year prison sentences for protesters who block traffic.

Lawmakers in Arizona seek to charge protest groups as organized criminals, and seize their assets. In Oregon, a statute would automatically expel students who violate protest laws. Missouri wants to criminalize the use of costumes during protests. And, following the horrors of Charlottesville, lawmakers in half a dozen states have introduced legislation to indemnify drivers who run over protesters, as if the drivers were the ones in need of protection.

This is not how a free society operates. Our rights are meaningless if the government intimidates us out of using them. But as Wednesday’s decision makes clear, the judiciary will not protect us from such abuse. The court has legitimized the government’s use of the word “terrorism” to describe nearly any activity of which it disapproves – and emboldened lawmakers around the country who are beginning to do just that. It is evident that our leaders consider our speech and assembly a threat to their unencumbered exercise of power. Now, more than ever, we must show them that they are right.

Show post

Unknown Islamic schools #fundie theguardian.com

At least 10 Islamic schools in England are still segregating boys and girls in co-educational schools, while others are likely to be separating the genders for certain activities, despite a recent court ruling outlawing the practice. Details emerged in an appeal court judgment on Tuesday, which turned down an attempt by the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) to join a legal action to seek leave to appeal to the supreme court for a review of the segregation ruling.

The request followed a judgment last month when three court of appeal judges found that Al-Hijrah Islamic school in Birmingham had caused unlawful discrimination by formally segregating girls and boys from the age of nine. The court heard that boys and girls were taught in different classrooms and were made to use separate corridors and play areas. The segregation policy also applied to clubs and school trips.

The judgment overturned an earlier high court ruling which found that Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalise the school on the basis of an “erroneous” view that the segregation amounted to discrimination. In its successful appeal, Ofsted argued that the school had breached the 2010 Equalities Act. The AMS, which represents 133 Muslim faith schools including Al-Hijrah, said 10 of its members and probably other non-members still had formal segregation policies in place, while other schools segregated children for particular activities. Other faith schools were also likely to be implicated, it said.

The written judgment said the AMS chairman, Ashfaque Alichowdhury, told the court the association’s role was to ensure member schools complied with their legal obligations and acted in a way that was consistent with Islamic teachings and practices. “The court of appeal’s judgment may have created a conflict between these two fundamental requirements which compromises the association’s ability to fulfil what it understands are its purposes,” Alichowdhury said.

“The judgment also puts the segregating schools at immediate risk of challenge from statutory bodies and other interested parties. Clearly where there is a conflict, the schools and the association must obey the law. However, the association believes that this is an important issue and would welcome a review of the court of appeal decision by the supreme court.” The AMS also said the ruling had created uncertainty over future Ofsted inspections at affected schools, and complained of a lack of guidance from Ofsted or the Department for Education over segregation.

An Ofsted spokesperson said on Tuesday that any school potentially affected by the judgment could seek legal advice if required.

“In each case, the school’s individual circumstances would need to be assessed. And the DfE, as the registration body for schools, will support it to make any necessary changes. “We are discussing the implications of the judgment, and what they mean for future inspections, with the DfE.”

Refusing the AMS application to join the legal action, the judges said Al-Hijrah school, which was the subject and claimant in the proceedings, accepted the decision and was working with the council to implement it. “The school does not encourage or support the desire of AMS to obtain permission to appeal in order to overturn the decision.”