The Senate passed legislation on Thursday breaking with President Trump's Syria policy. Senators voted 77-23 to send the legislation to the House that includes a provision warning Trump against a "precipitous" withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan. It also asks the administration to certify that certain conditions have been met "for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan."
[...] In addition to the Syria amendment, the bill also included sanctions against the Syrian government, increased support for Israel and Jordan and a provision that would let states penalize businesses that take part in boycotts or divestments of Israel.
Both the Syria amendment and the anti-BDS provisions sparked division among Democrats. [...] Democrats had raised First Amendment concerns about the anti-BDS provision, which splintered most of the party's 2020 contenders and caucus leadership. "While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American's constitutional right to engage in political activity. It is clear to me that this bill would violate Americans' First Amendment rights," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement last week.
[*] BDS: boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Also at NYT.
MIT won't sever its financial and research ties to Saudi Arabian government groups over the brutal killing of a journalist, despite the urging of many faculty and students, and complaints by some of the university's female researchers that they face more restrictions than their male colleagues when working in the Saudi kingdom.
On Wednesday, MIT president, L. Rafael Reif, denounced the behavior of the Saudi regime for violating human rights but rejected calls to unilaterally pull out of engagements in the Middle Eastern country.
MIT needs to provide faculty autonomy to decide whether they want to remain on the current projects and can't abandon those in Saudi Arabia, including alumni, who are trying to modernize the kingdom, Reif said.
"MIT utterly condemns such brutal human rights violations, discrimination and suppression of dissent, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Reif said in a message to the MIT community. "Nevertheless, I hope we can respond to present circumstances in a way that does not suddenly reject, abandon, or isolate worthy Saudi people who share our principles and are doing good work."
San Francisco could become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition technology, criticized as biased by lawmakers and privacy advocates.
A new bill unveiled on Tuesday, known as the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, states that the risks of the controversial technology "substantially outweigh...its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring."
Officials in Minnesota have appointed anti-vaccine advocates to a newly formed state council on autism, sparking controversy in the wake of a record measles outbreak in the state.
State senator Jim Abeler formed the MN Autism Council last fall to address issues surrounding autism, including "treatment, educational options, employment opportunities, independent living, and more." While about one in 59 children in the US are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, the rate in Minnesota is one in 42.
Though the council is not designed to take up the issue of vaccination, it has been ensnared in controversy due to the anti-vaccine sentiments it includes, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. At least two of the council's more than 30 members are skeptical of vaccine safety and oppose compulsory immunizations. One of those skeptical members, Wayne Rohde, was one of three initial people Abeler appointed to the council. Rohde was charged with helping to shape the council and with picking other members.
President Trump has endorsed a bipartisan deal that would end the 35-day partial government shutdown. The three-week stopgap funding measure would reopen shuttered agencies while negotiations continue.
President Donald Trump has endorsed a deal to reopen the US government for three weeks, after a record-breaking shutdown of federal agencies.
But the pact does not include any money that Mr Trump has demanded for a US-Mexico border wall.
Philosophers deal with real, empirical, questions! From Quartzy, the ethical question of male facial hair.
Those who believe growing a beard is a personal fashion choice need to reconsider. The bristly facial hair of men is, in fact, the physical embodiment of deep ethical and aesthetic considerations. Henry Pratt, philosophy professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, wrote a detailed analysis of such philosophical conundrums in his aptly titled paper, “To Beard or Not to Beard: Ethical and Aesthetic Obligations and Facial Hair.”
Why now: well, it all goes back to the "fool says in his heart" guy, St. Anselm.
In this paper, presented at the January 2019 eastern division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in New York, Pratt considers the premise set out by Saint Anselm of Canterbury, an 11th century philosopher. Anselm writes:
Not having a beard is not dishonorable for a man who is not yet supposed to have a beard, but once he ought to have a beard, it is unbecoming for him not to have one. In the same way, not having justice is not a defect in a nature that is not obligated to have justice, but it is disgraceful for a nature that ought to have it.
However, one surprising consequence of my philosophical work on pogonotrophy is that I now find myself thinking that the choices made by myself and others about what to grow on our faces are actually pretty important. I find myself wondering whether I should worry about the masculinity projected by my beard, and the effects thereof. I also consider whether friends and associates should have the facial hair they grow. But just as it’s a bad idea to tell other parents they’re raising their kids wrong, I think it’s a bad idea to tell others that their beards are wrong. So far.
Other relevant sources:
The Philosophy of Beards: A Lecture Physiological, Artistic and Historical, by Thomas Gowing; 1875;
The Philosopher’s Beard
The Gentleman Lawyer’s Guide to Facial Hair
"Law of Conservation of Facial Hair" still applies.
A prominent civil rights group is marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day by pressing President Trump to honor his promise to create a national photo ID card for citizens.
Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the iconic civil rights leader and a co-chairmen of the Drum Major Institute, met with Trump two years ago on MLK Day. During that meeting, the then president-elect endorsed the idea of a national photo ID. This year, the group is calling on Trump to follow through.
William Wachtel, co-founder of the Drum Major Institute, said the group sees the issue as critical to ensuring King's work to remove barriers to voting.
[...] The idea has invited controversy in the past, in particular over privacy concerns. In 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a measure, the Protect Our Privacy Act, attached to a Senate immigration bill. The Paul amendment sought to prevent the creation of a national ID card, citing worries that it would make it easier for the government to track people. Wachtel sought to ease concerns about such an ID, saying it would not be mandatory and would only be an option for those who sought it.
Over the years, scientists have identified dams, pollution and vessel noise as causes of the troubling decline of the Pacific Northwest's resident killer whales. Now, they may have found a new and more surprising culprit: pink salmon.
Four salmon researchers were perusing data on the website of the Center for Whale Research, which studies the orcas, several months ago when they noticed a startling trend: that for the past two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years.
In a newly published paper, they speculate that the pattern is related to pink salmon, which return to the Salish Sea between Washington state and Canada in enormous numbers every other year — though they're not sure how. They suspect that the huge runs of pink salmon, which have boomed under conservation efforts and changes in ocean conditions in the past two decades, might interfere with the whales' ability to hunt their preferred prey, Chinook salmon.
Given the dire plight of the orcas, which officials say are on the brink of extinction, the researchers decided to publicize their discovery without waiting to investigate its causes.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet near the end of February for a second summit, despite evidence North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapons program.
The White House announced the summit and timing after Trump met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, a top aide to the North Korean leader and a former spy chief.
Trump's decision to go ahead with another in-person meeting -- further elevating Kim's global profile -- underscores the president's confidence that his personal involvement and negotiating skills can change the behavior of recalcitrant regimes in ways that traditional leverage and diplomacy, past U.S. leaders and his own emissaries could not.
With only approximately two more months before a default no-deal "hard Brexit," the British Parliament has decisively rejected Prime Minister May's proposed plan for leaving the European Union.
There is a no confidence vote in works which, if successful, will dissolve the government and force another general election.