2020-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-01-09 19:36:44 UTC
2020-01-14 16:29:14 UTC
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Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years, according to Pew Research Center's latest annual study on global restrictions on religion.
The share of countries with "high" or "very high" levels of government restrictions – i.e., laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices – ticked up from 24% in 2014 to 25% in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage of countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities – i.e., acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society – increased in 2015, from 23% to 27%. Both of these increases follow two years of declines in the percentage of countries with high levels of restrictions on religion by these measures.
Among the world's 25 most populous countries, Russia, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Nigeria had the highest overall levels of government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. Egypt had the highest levels of government restrictions in 2015, while Nigeria had the highest levels of social hostilities.
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The Associated Press via CBC reports on preliminary results of a referendum held in Turkey on whether the powers of the president should be increased:
With 99 per cent of the ballots counted, the "yes" vote stood at 51.37 per cent, while the "no" vote was 48.63 per cent, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The head of Turkey's electoral board confirmed the "yes" victory and said final results will be declared in 11-12 days.
BBC News quotes the leader of an opposing party:
The main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), has called for a recount.
Deputy leader Bulent Tezcan denounced "violations" in the electoral process. "We will pursue a legal battle. If the irregularities are not fixed, there will be a serious legitimacy discussion," he said.
Common Dreams reports Erdoğan Claims Ultimate Power in Turkey After Nearly Split Vote.
As one opponent of the referendum noted: "Threats, oppression, imprisonment, censorship, defamation--and yet half of the people of Turkey voted" against.
In a very close--and closely watched--referendum vote, Turks on [April 16] handed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan what many say is authoritarian rule.
With more than 99 percent of ballots counted, Erdoğan claimed a win with 51.36 percent voting in favor of the referendum and 48.64 voting against.
However, the Guardian reported,
disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast. [Sadi Guven, the head of Turkey's high electoral board, or YSK] said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be fraudulent after a high number of complaints--including one from the ruling AK Party--that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.
The No campaign said the YSK's last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote.
TheFederalistPapers.org reports Turkey Votes To Turn Itself Into An Islamic Dictatorship.
Turkey's new dictator, President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan claimed victory in Sunday's vote on whether he should essentially take almost complete control over the country.
The opposition has said they would contest the election, citing rampant voter fraud, but the election is no less stunning.
Turkey is a member of NATO and a crucial ally (sometimes) in the fight against terrorism.
[...] If the results are upheld, it gives Turkey's government--with Erdoğan at the helm--widespread authority to scrap the centuries-old parliamentary system, replacing it with a presidential model. It would concentrate massive power in the hands of the president who has recently jailed opponents and cracked down on dissent.
Erdoğan will be able to appoint senior judges, declare a state of emergency, dissolve parliament, and in some cases issue new laws be [decreed].
It will also theoretically allow Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics as president and prime minister since 2003, to stay in office until 2029.
A FISA warrant was obtained to monitor Trump campaign aide Carter Page before the election:
The FBI obtained a warrant to secretly surveil former Donald Trump aide Carter Page last summer under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to a Tuesday Washington Post report.
The FBI and Justice Department demonstrated probable cause that Page is acting on behalf of a foreign state in order to be granted the warrant.
The FISA warrant was part of the FBI's investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump campaign associates, law enforcement and U.S. officials told the Post.
"This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance," Page told the Post Tuesday. "I have nothing to hide."
Page has not been accused of committing a crime.
Also at MarketWatch.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Former President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce "detailed spreadsheets" of legal phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova.
"What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals," diGenova told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group Monday.
[...] Other official sources with direct knowledge and who requested anonymity confirmed to TheDCNF diGenova's description of surveillance reports Rice ordered one year before the 2016 presidential election.
Common Dreams reports
The Trump administration's anti-science bent has reached the Department of Justice (DOJ), with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying [April 10] that the department is ending the National Commission on Forensic Science.
The 30-member panel was described by ThinkProgress as "a group of scientists, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other experts tasked by the Obama administration in 2013 with raising standards for the use of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings".
In its place, a senior forensic advisor will be appointed "to interface with forensic science stakeholders and advise department leadership", Sessions' statement said.
[...] "The reliance of law enforcement on questionable science and the overstatement of the reliability of that science has been a leading cause of the wrongful conviction of innocent people", said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) president Barry Pollack on Monday. "The reason the National Commission on Forensic Science has been so important is that it includes leading independent scientists, allowing an unbiased expert evaluation of which techniques are scientifically valid and which are not. NACDL is terribly disappointed that even while acknowledging the crucial role played by the National Commission on Forensic Science, the Attorney General has chosen to disband it."
The Center for American Progress reports
After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) decision to prevent a president of the opposite party from nominating anyone to the Supreme Court, it's doubtful that any justice will ever be confirmed again when the presidency is controlled by a different party than the Senate. That means America will lurch back and forth between extended periods with a understaffed Supreme Court, followed by massive shifts in the law as one party fills a backlog of vacancies.
[...] Several states have shown that there is a better way [than what, it appears, will happen at the federal level from now on].
The Missouri plan
As America struggled through the Great Depression, Missouri's courts were a den of partisanship and corruption. As former Chief Justice of Missouri Michael Wolff explains, judges were "selected in elections in which nominees were chosen by political parties under a patronage system." In much of the state, judges were selected by a single machine party leader, "Boss" Tom Pendergast. Throughout Missouri, "judges were plagued by outside political influences, and dockets were congested due to the time the judges spent making political appearances and campaigning."
Frustrated with their politicized judiciary, the people of Missouri passed a ballot initiative replacing the state's corrupt process with a non-partisan coalition--at least for the state's top judges.
When a vacancy arises on the state's supreme court, a seven person commission consisting of "three lawyers elected by the lawyers of The Missouri Bar . . . three citizens selected by the governor, and the chief justice" submits three candidates to fill that vacancy to the state's governor. The governor then has 60 days to choose among those three names. If the governor fails to meet this deadline, the commission selects one of the three.
Finally, after a year of service, the newly appointed judge must survive a retention election, where a majority of the electorate can cast them out of office--though this only happens rarely.
This method of judicial selection, as well as variants upon it, was adopted by many states since its inception in Missouri.
Alabama lawmakers have voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police department. The church has over 4,000 members and is also home to a K-12 school and a theological seminary with 2,000 students and teachers:
"After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement," church administrator Matt Moore said in a statement, referring to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a deranged man with an AR-15 style rifle just before Christmas 2012. "The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests." The church would pay the bill for its officers.
[...] "It's our view this would plainly be unconstitutional," Randall Marshall, the ACLU's Acting Executive Director, told NBC News. In a memo to the legislature, Marshall said they believe the bills "violate the First Amendment or the U.S. Constitution and, if enacted, would not survive a legal challenge." "Vesting state police powers in a church police force violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," his memo states. "These bills unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has resigned after pleading guilty to abusing his office, allegedly to conceal an affair with a political adviser.
[...] The Associated Press describes the scene as the plea agreement was signed:
"Bentley appeared sullen and looked down at the floor during the Monday afternoon session. ...
"The agreement specifies that Bentley must surrender campaign funds totaling $36,912 within a week and perform 100 hours of community service as a physician. He also cannot seek public office again."
The governor, a Republican, was briefly booked into Montgomery jail, according to local media reports, before heading to the state Capitol to announce his resignation.
Republican state Rep. Ed Henry, who had introduced articles of impeachment against Bentley last year, said, "I think we have a great day for Alabama, where justice was done. Corruption was spotted, recognized and dealt with. ... even though it was slower and little more painful than we had anticipated."
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
Rightwing computer scientist and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer was the top donor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He contributed $13.5 million and laid the groundwork for what is now called the Trump Revolution. Mercer also funded Cambridge Analytica (CA), a small data analytics company that specializes in "election management strategies." CA boasts on its website that it has psychological profiles, based on 5,000 separate pieces of data, on 220 million American voters. CA scoops up masses of data from peoples' Facebook profiles and uses artificial intelligence to influence their thinking and manipulate public opinion. They used these skills to exploit America's populist insurgency and tip the election toward Trump.
[...] We enter and participate in this digital world every day, on our laptops and our smartphones. We are living in a new era of propaganda, one we can't see, with the collection and use of our data played back in ways to covertly manipulate us. All this is enabled by technological platforms originally built to bring us together. Welcome to the age of platform capitalism—the new battleground for the future.
Previously on SoylentNews: Do Advertisers Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?
MOSCOW — If Russia once maintained at least a semblance of distance from President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, it rushed to his defense after the American missile strike ordered by President Trump on Thursday. The attack cemented Moscow more closely than ever to the notorious Syrian autocrat.
Even as the United States condemned Mr. Assad for gassing his own citizens and held Russia partly responsible, given its 2013 promise to rid Syria of chemical weapons, the Kremlin kept denying that Syria had any such capability.
By championing Mr. Assad and condemning American "aggression," President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia seemed to be burying the idea that he could somehow cooperate with the Trump administration to end the conflict on his terms.
"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." Attributed to Abraham Maslow.
What is “lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.
In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.
In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments.
Source: The New York Times