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« Reply #5115 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:29 AM »

Campfire songs in a war zone: Syria's girl scouts earn their stripes

Arabic could become the fourth official language of the world Girlguiding movement, as Syria’s girl scout network wins international recognition

Rebecca Ratcliffe
20 September 2017 11.30 BST

Badges are hard to come by, and camping trips difficult to arrange – but despite the war in Syria, a growing girl scouts movement will soon get official recognition.

Six years of vicious conflict have devastated the country and left 45% of the population displaced. But throughout, girl scouts have continued to work in government-controlled areas, running camping trips as well as sessions on citizenship and self-esteem. This week, Scouts of Syria will become an official member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, while Arabic could become the organisation’s fourth official language – following English, French and Spanish.

“When we organise meetings at times it’s more difficult than at other times, but we’re getting through,” says Zain, 22, a scout leader, speaking from Damascus. “The main problem with finding safe areas is when we want to go camping there aren’t as many safe spaces.”

Many of the girls attending the meetings have been forced to leave their home towns, are unable to attend school and have lost friends and family members. “We as scouts have a responsibility towards them as in cheering them up, playing with them and helping them,” says Zain.

At first, some parents were reluctant to send their children on camping trips, but the numbers have doubled since last year, with 60 attending this summer. In Damascus, local meetings are held as often as three times a week, and badges are brought into the country by staff members after they have attended international events.

“One of the things that’s very important to girl scouts in Syria is how normalising it is, how important it is to have structured activity and to be able to connect to a global organisation, to be able to feel part of something,” says Nicola Grinstead, chair of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The organisation’s world conference begins this week in New Delhi.

As well as playing games and singing, girls are taught about issues such as body confidence and preventing violence against women. Before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, women’s groups warned that rape and gender-based violence were a serious concern. Syrian law allows rapists to avoid punishment by marrying their victim, and the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Last year, the UN said government forces and non-state armed groups have been committing systematic rape throughout the war.

Sessions on gender-based violence involve boy scouts as well as groups of girls, says Zain. “We make sure girls understand what their rights are, but it’s also very important boys understand this as well. We teach boys to respect women, care and defend them. We teach both genders to care for each other, and do their best to stop the violence when they see it happening.”

Scouts of Syria also works closely with the UN and Red Crescent to provide psycho-social support to traumatised young people. “Some of them have been displaced, they left where they lived and migrated to another city. Some others have experienced the difficulty of seeing someone shot or killed in front of them,” says Rim, commissioner and board member of Scouts of Syria, based in Damascus. Each year a camp is held for children of soldiers who have died, she adds. “It is the guides and scouts’ duty to look after their children and make special programmes for them each year.”

One of Scouts of Syria’s main aims, she says, is to teach girls about their roles as good citizens. “The focus is on citizenship rather than politics. The main objective is that since I am a Syrian citizen, I have to have a role in Syria – because the war is on Syrian people not between Syrian people.

“It’s about discussing with them their role in the country. Then they are motivated and they believe in the idea of staying.”

This week, Aruba, Azerbaijan and Palestine will also become full members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and Albania and Niger will become associate members.

    First names have been used to protect identities

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« Reply #5116 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:33 AM »

'They want a devout generation': how education in Turkey is changing

As pupils begin their new school year, they will find evolution removed from texts and less time spent on Atatürk’s secular ideals

Kareem Shaheen and Gözde Hatunoğlu in Istanbul
Wednesday 20 September 2017 05.00 BST

After 25 years of teaching, Ayşe Kazancı decided to retire early.

The social sciences teacher, who asked that a pseudonym be used to avoid repercussions from the government, had long faced difficulties because of her activism, joining teachers’ union strikes and advocating for leftist and Kurdish causes. After last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, she was put under investigation.

But the introduction of a new curriculum at schools across the country this academic year was the last straw.

As children return to school after the summer break, they will find the introduction to the theory of evolution gone from their high school biology textbooks.

The time dedicated to teaching the secular ideals espoused by the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, has been greatly reduced, and public schools will now have to teach the concept of jihad, an attempt, the government says, to counter the use of religion to justify violence, but one that has elicited widespread opposition from secularists.

“The government has an agenda for education because affecting the minds of youth is of the utmost importance to them,” Kazancı said. “The changes to the curriculum are ideological, not scientific and academic. This manipulating of history and avoiding evolution is no good for children.”

Education has emerged as a key battlefield in a polarised Turkey that has yet to come to terms with a traumatic coup attempt last year. The country’s divisions have been exacerbated in the year following the coup with a wide-scale purge of suspected coup plotters as well as dissidents, and a controversial referendum that broadly expanded the powers of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before elections in 2019. About 33,000 teachers have been dismissed as part of the crackdown.

The battle between secularists and conservatives to influence the direction of society is just one of many divisions in Turkey today.

Opponents of the changes to the curriculum say they betray the founding values of Atatürk’s secular republic and are an attempt to instil Sunni Muslim religious values in youth. The government insists the changes are necessary to prepare Turkey’s student population for a competitive career.

“We are a middle-way people. We are moderates,” said Ismet Yılmaz, the education minister, at a recent press conference introducing and defending the education reforms. “We want a quality educational system that helps us look forward.”

The elimination of evolution from the high school curriculum is one of the most controversial changes. Education officials said the the subject was too complicated for students and would therefore be deferred to university.

Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy prime minister, has described it as a theory that is archaic and lacks evidence. There is little acceptance of evolution as a concept among mainstream Muslim clerics in the Middle East, who believe it contradicts the story of creation in scripture, in which God breathed life into the first man, Adam.

The concept of jihad has been added to the curriculum of religious classes alongside other tenets of Islam such as prayer, fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca. The aim, officials say, is to seize control of the word, which means struggle, and emphasise Islam’s peaceful nature, so students do not see jihad as a violent concept.

“We will teach it the right way,” Yılmaz said. “Islam is the religion of peace.”

The July coup attempt, which is widely believed in Turkey to have been orchestrated by followers of Fethullah Gülen, an exiled US-based preacher, will also become a topic taught in school along with how it was defeated by people marching through the streets in protest – though the legacy of the coup attempt remains fraught amid ongoing trials for the alleged plotters.

The changes were based on a broad public consultation in which parents and the public played a key role, Yılmaz said.

They come hand in hand with an increase in the number of İmam Hatip schools, which were founded in the early years of the republic to train imams and preachers.

Gaye Usluer, an MP with the opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) and a member of parliament’s education committee, said there was now an İmam Hatip school for every 5,000 people in Turkey, when in previous years that number had been as low as one for every 50,000.

“The purpose of the new curriculum and also the issue on evolution are all ideological,” she said. “They want to raise a generation best suited to their ideological ideals.”

Yılmaz defended the government’s decision to remove evolution, saying topics such as genetic mutation and adaptation would continue to be taught in school. The curriculum will also emphasise the contributions of Muslim scientists such as Avicenna, he said.

But Usluer, the opposition MP, argued that the changes were just one step in an attempt at a wholesale transformation of society that aimed to raise a devout generation.

In the undermining of secular values, the growing emphasis on religion and morality, and the decline of scientific discipline, exemplified by removing evolution from the curriculum, she saw a focus on Sunni Islam as the basis of religious education.

“The values they will teach are not universal values,” she said. “They want to impose their own ideologies on children.”

“Erdoğan said he wanted a religious, devout generation, and these changes are made for this wish,” she added.

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« Reply #5117 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:35 AM »

Brazilian judge approves 'gay conversion therapy', sparking national outrage

The ruling overturns a national psychology council decision in 1999 forbidding psychologists from offering treatments claiming to ‘cure’ gay people

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

A Brazilian judge has approved gay “conversion therapy” in a ruling which prompted widespread outrage and raised fears of a conservative backlash.

Waldemar de Carvalho, a federal judge in the capital of Brasília, overruled a 1999 decision by the Federal Council of Psychology that forbade psychologists from offering widely discredited treatments which claims to “cure” gay people.

Coming a week after a bank cancelled an exhibition of gay art after protests from rightwing and evangelical Christian groups, the ruling has raised fears that progressive policies could be overturned.

Brazil has a growing population of evangelical Christians who have protested vociferously at plotlines in television soap operas featuring gay or transgender characters, and increasingly ally themselves with burgeoning rightwing groups.

“This decision is a big regression to the progressive conquests that the LBGT community had in recent decades,” David Miranda, a leftist councillor in Rio de Janeiro and one of the country’s few openly gay politicians, told the Guardian. “Like various countries in the world, Brazil is suffering a conservative wave.”

Ivete Sangolo, one of Brazil’s most celebrated singers, wrote: “The sick ones are those who believe in this grand absurdity,” in an Instagram post commenting on the ruling.

Judge de Carvalho ruled in favour of an action brought by Rozangela Justino, an evangelical Christian and psychologist whose licence was revoked in 2016 after she offered “conversion therapy”.

In a 2009 interview with the Folha de S Paulo newspaper, Justino said she saw homosexuality as a “disease”, advised patients to seek religious guidance and said: “I feel directed by God to help people who are homosexual.” She did not respond to a request to comment.

The Federal Council of Psychology said in a statement that the decision “opens the dangerous possibility of the use of sexual reversion therapies” and promised to contest it legally.

Council president Rogério Giannini, a psychologist based in São Paulo, said its 1999 decision prohibiting “sexual conversion” therapy had already faced off other legal actions and even a proposed bill in Congress.

“There is no way to cure what is not a disease,” Giannini told the Guardian. “It is not a serious, academic debate, it is a debate connected to religious or conservative positions.”

He noted that the ruling also said academic research into sexual conversion therapy should be allowed, which the council has never banned.

“We have no power over research,” he said. “The way it was put by the judge gave the impression that we prohibited research which is not true.”

As hashtags like #curagay (“gay cure”) trended in Brazil, Twitter users used memes and GIFs to ridicule the decision.

“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no,” tweeted one Brazilian using the name Ubiratan.

    Ubiratan (@ubimalanconi)

    They tried to make me go to rehab
    I said, no, no, no #curagay 🌈 pic.twitter.com/maqS4B0MMu
    September 19, 2017

One of the country’s biggest pop stars, Larissa Machado – known as Anitta – expressed the feelings of many Brazilians when she said that the country should concentrate on its many problems.

“That’s what happens in my country. People dying, hungry, the government killing the country with corruption, no education, no hospitals, no opportunities ... and the authorities are wasting their time to announce that homosexuality is a sickness,” she posted on Instagram.

Her comments were viewed almost 900,000 times.

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« Reply #5118 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:38 AM »

Fact check: Aung San Suu Kyi's speech on the Rohingya crisis

Address by de facto leader of Myanmar on forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Muslims contained truths, half-truths and falsehoods

Oliver Holmes, South-east Asia correspondent
Wednesday 20 September 2017 08.39 BST

Following weeks of silence in the face of claims of ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s Rohingya population, the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has delivered a controversial speech.
Aung San Suu Kyi says Myanmar does not fear scrutiny over Rohingya crisis
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In it, she claimed her government did not “fear international scrutiny” over its handling of violence in Rakhine state. But she was criticised for what some saw as her ongoing reluctance to address the crisis and the government’s role in it.

How do Aung San Suu Kyi’s remarks stand up to scrutiny?

    I think it is only fitting that I should remind you today that our government has not yet been in power for even 18 months.

True: Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide election in late 2015, ending decades of military rule. The army keeps controls of three key ministries – defence, home affairs and border affairs – making for weakened and arguably less effective civilian government in the face of the crisis.

    After several months of seemingly quiet and peace, on 25 August, 30 police outposts … were attacked by armed groups.

Half true: While the current wave of violence began on 25 August with attacks by militant Rohingya groups, there was no “quiet and peace” in northern Rakhine, where the persecuted minority live. Before the attack, hundreds of Rohingya were prevented for weeks from going to work or fetching food.

The army was conducting regular, sometimes deadly, “clearance operations”. Rohingya militants have also been accused of killing suspected government informants.

    It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence.

False: The government and state media in majority-Buddhist Myanmar have squarely and repeatedly blamed the conflict on “extremist terrorists”, without condemning widely-reported abuses by the security forces or ethnic Buddhist mobs.

    Human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict norms of justice.

Half true: There are very few records of Myanmar security forces stationed in Rakhine state being disciplined. Myanmar said in January that four police officers had been detained after a video emerged of them beating Rohingya. It is not clear if they were prosecuted. A government investigation this year into alleged military abuses found the accusations were groundless.

    Those who have had to flee their homes are many – not just Muslims and Rakhines, but also small minority groups, such as the Daing-net, Mro [Kamee], Thet, Mramagyi and Hindus, of whose presence most of the world is totally unaware.

True: International attention has focused on the burning of Rohingya villages, confirmed by satellite imagery, and the 421,000 Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh. However, there are also reports of roughly 30,000 members of other ethnicities who have been displaced.

    Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations.

False: Setting villages ablaze – which can be seen from Bangladesh – continues, while armed clashes have been heard regularly in Rakhine since 5 September. Aung San Suu Kyi’s own office reported on its Facebook page that security personnel have conducted “clearance operations” since then.

    More than 50% of the villages of Muslims are intact.

Half true: The destruction of Rohingya villages has been systematic and seemingly indiscriminate across a large area. Citing satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch says 214 villages have been almost completely destroyed. A week ago, the government said 40% of villages targeted by the army were now empty and burnings have not ceased since then.

As there is no unfettered access to Rakhine for journalists and other observers, it is impossible to verify an exact percentage. Equally, not all Muslims in Rakhine are ethnically Rohingya, further distorting attempts to define the conflict through statistics.

    All people living in the Rakhine state have access to education and healthcare services without discrimination.

False: Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and access to essential government services in Myanmar. Medical care is highly restricted. Many are unable to attend school or university, especially Rohingya living in internal camps where they need special permission to leave.

    Since December 2016, local and foreign media groups have been given access to areas previously off-limits in Rakhine. Even after the outbreaks on 25 August, we arranged for several media groups to visit the afflicted areas.

Half true: The government has organised a limited number of trips for journalists, but blocked access completely to some areas. During a recent official visit, several reporters observed ethnic Rakhine Buddhists burning a Rohingya village.

    There has been a call for the repatriation of refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. We are prepared to start the verification process at any time.

Half true: Myanmar’s national security adviser was quoted as saying the government will only allow those who have “proof” of citizenship or another form of residence evidence to return. Having suffered repeated bouts of violence since the late 1970s, the Rohingya as an ethnic group are not widely recognised in Myanmar. They are instead referred to as “Bengali”, which ignores their historical ties to the country.

This makes the Rohingya officially stateless, meaning they would not be eligible under the current system. However, Aung San Suu Kyi hinted that “verified” refugees may be allowed to return, which might mean citizenship is not needed.

    There have been allegations and counter-allegations.

True: There is now a vast cache of evidence that there have been atrocities committed in Rakhine against the Rohingya. Refugees with burn marks and bullet wounds have told of vicious army abuses. Satellite imagery shows Rohingya villages burnt to the ground while neighbouring Buddhist settlements remain intact. The UN’s top human rights office describes what is happening as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, the government and its supporters have only blamed “terrorists”.

    We are now starting another round of humanitarian aid endeavour, which we hope will take care of all the peoples in the region.

Half true: Myanmar may begin to distribute food, water and medicine but it has been denounced for a blockade on international aid, including forbidding United Nations agencies from entering the conflict zone. Recently, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been afforded limited access.

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« Reply #5119 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:49 AM »

A blunt, fearful rant: Trump's UN speech left presidential norms in the dust

His maiden address was unlike any delivered by a US president, and when it was over a sense of incoherence and menace hung in the air

Julian Borger at the United Nations
20 September 2017 19.30 BST

Donald Trump’s maiden address to the UN general assembly was unlike any ever delivered in the chamber by a US president.

There are precedents for such fulminations, but not from US leaders. In tone, the speech was more reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.

It did echo George W Bush’s 2002 “axis of evil” speech. That was delivered to a domestic audience, and there was little doubt that in his mind Trump was looking beyond the stony foreign faces looking up at him from the hall – where his customary pauses for applause were filled with uneasy silence – to the cheering crowds of supporters that carried to him to his stunning electoral victory, and to the centre of the world stage.

He did not even bother to mention climate change, generally seen as the greatest threat to the planet at the UN, but viewed as a liberal hoax by much of Trump’s political base – a view he has encouraged over the years.

The speech struck some of the darker notes of Trump’s earlier rhetoric, like the “American carnage” he described at his inauguration in January, and his evocation of an embattled western civilisation in his speech in Poland in July.

All three used fear as their major key. All three bore the combative hallmark of his chief speechwriter, Stephen Miller, a nativist acolyte of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who has left the White House but clearly still wields formidable influence.

Like Bush, Trump offered the world a black-and-white choice between the “righteous many” against the “wicked few” – but his choice of language was far blunter than his predecessor. There can not have been many, if any, threats to “totally destroy” another nation at a UN general assembly. He did not even direct the threat at the regime, making it clear it was North Korea as a country that was at peril.

Trump issued the warning just minutes after the UN secretary general, António Guterres, had appealed for calmer rhetoric. “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” Guterres had said in his own first general assembly address, and it was clear who those remarks were directed towards.

Trump’s rhetoric was aimed at a jumpy and defensive regime at a time of high tension. In the aftermath of North Korea’s sixth nuclear weapons test and second launch of a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific, the US has resumed overflights of the Korean peninsula by heavy bombers, even carrying out practice runs with real bombs near the demilitarized zone.

The day before Trump’s address, the US defence secretary James Mattis claimed that there were “many military options” for dealing with Pyongyang, even suggesting, cryptically, that some of those options did not put Seoul at risk.

Kim Jong-un and his regime expect to be targeted by a “decapitation strike” and have shaped their military strategy accordingly, threatening annihilation of Seoul and other targets within reach of its nuclear missiles and artillery.

Like Bush 15 years ago, Trump concentrated on trio of enemies: although the current president removed Iraq and added Venezuela alongside North Korea and Iran. Iran was included for being its regional role, such as its backing for the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, and also because of the nuclear deal that Tehran sealed with six global powers in 2015, including the US.

Trump used the green marble UN podium to pour scorn on the agreement, the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama, the predecessor he so blatantly despises.

Venezuela was targeted for the socialist policies of the Nicolás Maduro government and the erosion of its democracy, but Trump did not attempt to distinguish Venezuela’s faults from other autocratic regimes with whom Trump has sought to cultivate.

Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Nor was Russia, although there was, early on in the speech, a rare public expression of support for Ukrainian sovereignty.

Nor was there any explanation of how the castigation of these “rogue regimes” dovetailed with the dominant theme of the first half of Trump’s speech, which was devoted to the assertion of the undiluted sovereignty of the nation state.

Seeking to draw a sharp line between his view of international relations and those of his predecessors in the Oval Office, Trump stressed that diverse nations had the right to their own “values” and “culture” without the interference of outsiders. The UN was there as a forum for cooperation between strong and independent nations, not to impose “global governance” from on high.

In a briefing on the eve of the speech, a senior White House official had insisted that Trump had pondered long and hard over this “deeply philosophical” segment of his address, as it marked an important exposition of his approach to foreign policy, labelled “principled realism”.

Trump and his administration have frequently invoked such ideas to justify the absence of criticism for Saudi Arabia, Russia and other perceived partners for their appalling human rights records.

With Tuesday’s address, however, Trump punched yawning holes in his own would-be doctrine, singling out enemies, expressing horror at their treatment of their people and threatening interference to the point of annihilation.

What was left, when the muted applause died down in the UN chamber, was a sense of incoherence and a capricious menace hanging in the air.


The Guardian view on Trump at the UN: bluster and belligerence


The US president is wrong to think that nations acting in their own self-interest would on their own create a more stable world. Countries need to work together under rules to which they agree to adhere


Whatever its difficulties, the United Nations must surely be cherished. Founded in 1945 under US leadership after the defeat of Nazism and imperial Japan, the UN remains the central pillar of the global order. At its core has stood the ambition that peace, international security and human rights would be better protected than they were by the 1930s League of Nations (whose founding treaty the US Senate refused to ratify). The UN is the only existing forum where the representatives of all nation states can be brought together to try to address crises and common challenges.

Donald Trump’s first address to the organisation’s annual general assembly was anticipated with dread by many – and rightly so. This US president is after all the first in history to have made heaping scorn on the UN something of a pastime. His views on the subject have ranged from crude hostility to abject ignorance. The speech he delivered was scripted – not the ramblings of a maverick whose taste for rash tweets and cheap provocations have become an almost daily routine. It was deeply worrying all the same. Unlike his eloquent predecessor, President Trump trades in crass belligerence. His speech will be remembered for its ominous language.

On North Korea he mocked its young leader Kim Jong-un, saying that “rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime”. He threatened that “if [the US] is forced to defend itself and its allies, it will have no other choice but to destroy North Korea”. Iran, he said, was “a corrupt dictatorship” whose “chief export is violence, bloodshed and chaos”. Trump called the 2015 nuclear deal “the worse transaction ever” – a sign perhaps he may be getting ready to pull out of it, or ensuring Iran is provoked enough to do so itself. What the White House could have done is appeal to the Iranian people directly, offering a “new beginning” in the relationship between the two nations. But the US president has not displayed the slightest interest in fundamental democratic values. His speech carried enough of a whiff of “regime change” to make Tehran think hard over nuclear compliance.

As last week’s UN security council vote on sanctioning North Korea has shown, there is an international consensus on the dangers presented by Pyongyang’s behaviour. But on Iran, President Trump risks finding himself in stark isolation, with European allies already making clear they want to preserve the 2015 agreement, not tear it up. The US president no doubt speaks to his base as much as he does to an international audience. But the nationalist ideology he espouses was yet again made clear, not least with the emphasis he put on “strong, sovereign, independent nations”, rather than on the body of universal values that the UN is meant to uphold.

President Trump wants the UN to put pressure on North Korea and Iran, but he’s brought little clarity as to the wider strategy he contemplates. Threats and grandstanding are just bluster, not policy. Crises require a deftness the Trump administration has failed to demonstrate. He wants allies to back him, but seems oblivious that his lack of personal credibility is an obstacle to international cooperation. An “America First” approach runs counter to the UN’s multilateralism. His credo could be summed up by his claim that nations acting in their own self-interest create a more stable world. The question is what rules would states operate under? Not the UN’s, Trump’s response appeared to suggest. The president may want to speak of “principled realism”, but he is a reckless and dangerous leader, sitting, alas, in a most powerful position.


‘They just never learn’: Morning Joe blasts GOP for again trying to rush ‘radical’ health care plan

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
20 Sep 2017 at 07:44 ET                  

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tried to imagine the reaction if Democrats had passed the Affordable Care Act the same way Republicans are, once again, trying to pass a deeply unpopular replacement.

The “Morning Joe” host guessed only about 14 percent of Americans approved of the “absolutely terrible” health care bill proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and he questioned why they were rushing the measure through.

“They just never learn, it’s really incredible,” Scarborough said. “I talk about putting your hand on the hot stove. Yeah, we have been mocking Donald Trump for doing what only 33 percent of the country wants — which by the way, his approval rating’s gone up three weeks in a row for the first time.”

Scarborough consistently criticized the former White House chief strategist for crafting messages that appealed only to Trump’s base, and he said GOP lawmakers were targeting an even smaller segment of the public.

“The Republicans, they’re not on Steve Bannon’s 33 percent plan,” he said. “They’re on their own 17 percent plan. Every one of these health care bills are horrible, every one is worse than the last.”

He blasted Republicans for rushing health care bills to a vote without having them scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and he said it violated the fundamental principle of conservatism.

“It’s unbelievable the so-called conservatives saying we’re going to reorder one-sixth of the economy and have absolutely no idea of the impact it’s going to have on all of America, on their health care — it is the most radical thing anybody can do,” Scarborough said.

Republicans have set a Sept. 30 deadline to vote on the Graham-Cassidy measure, without bothering to hold hearings or give the public much opportunity to see how the bill would impact their health care.

“How can you vote for something that, once again, has all the worst qualities of the last health care bill?” Scarborough said. “Imagine — you know, we always play this game — what if Democrats had done what Republicans have done? Imagine what the press would say.”

“Imagine if the Democrats had tried to pass a bill in seven or eight days reordering one-sixth of the economy and rush through it without a Congressional Budget Office,” he added. “Republicans, right-wing radio, everybody on the far right would be going absolutely ballistic right now.”

Watch: https://vid.me/HOvJF


WATCH: Katy Tur corners GOP senator over Obamacare repeal in ‘painful’ MSNBC interview

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
19 Sep 2017 at 21:32 ET                  

MSNBC anchor Katy Tur conducted a “painful” interview with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on the policy implications of the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare bill.

Tur repeatedly attempted to get Sen. Barrasso to answer questions about be bill being rushed through the Senate, yet the conservative senator refused to answer and instead kept attempting to shift the conversation back to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“Senator I just want to know one thing: can you guarantee the people of Wyoming that the costs associated with their preexisting conditions will not go up so much so that they will not be able to afford it?” Tur asked.

“The costs have gone up almost already gone up on Obamacare, Katy, so much that people can’t afford it,” Sen. Barrasso replied while dodging the question.

At this point there was much talking over each other, as Sen. Barrasso continued to refuse to answer the question.

“I’m asking it for Graham-Cassidy, something you are going to be voting for,” Tur responded, trying to refocus the conversation on the pending legislation.

Sen. Barrasso again refused to answer Tur’s question.

“I’m trying to get you to answer the question that I asked,” Tur said.

    Watched this live – painful. But thanks for pressing him @KatyTurNBC https://t.co/JW09H9AUx9

    — julie rovner (@jrovner) September 20, 2017

“Respectfully, this is the bill that you are voting for,” Tur reminded.

“Can you tell your voters — the people of Wyoming — that the costs associated with their preexisting condition will not go up so much that they will not be able to afford health care coverage?” Tur again asked.

“People can’t afford it now,” Sen. Barrasso claimed.

“That’s not what I asked, senator,” a frustrated Tur noted.

Watch: https://vid.me/Muidk


‘He will go down as the worst secretary of state’: Rex Tillerson quickly cementing his place in history

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
20 Sep 2017 at 11:10 ET                   

Less than a year into the job, many experts already call Rex Tillerson one of the worst secretaries of state of all time — if not the worst.

The former Exxon/Mobil CEO has little influence over President Donald Trump and other White House officials, and he has shrunk the State Department by forcing out longtime employees and neglecting to replace them, reported Vox.

“Tillerson would be at or near the bottom of the list of secretaries of state, not just in the post-Second World War world but in the record of US secretaries of state,” said Paul Musgrave, a foreign policy scholar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “He took the job and made it smaller.”

His efforts at “reform” will likely weaken the State Department for a generation, according to George Washington University’s Elizabeth Saunders.

Tillerson has been rumored to be on his way out almost since the moment his wife talked him into taking the job, and Trump reportedly likes United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley as his replacement.

Jared Kusher, the president’s son-in-law, plays an unofficial but influential role in setting diplomatic policy, further eroding Tillerson’s authority.

“I think he really will go down as one of the worst secretaries of State we’ve had,” said Eliot Cohen, counselor to the State Department under President George W. Bush.

Ilan Goldenberg, who specialized in Israel-Palestine issues for the State Department under President Barack Obama, said Tillerson has already cemented his place in history.

“He will go down as the worst secretary of state in history,” Goldenberg said.

« Last Edit: Sep 20, 2017, 09:15 AM by Rad » Logged
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Was Stonehenge Used to Predict Astronomical Events?

21 Sep 2017 at 05:48 ET 

This Friday night and Saturday morning, druids, pagans, hippies, and assorted hangers-on will gather at Britain’s world-famous neolithic “Stonehenge” site to mark the fall equinox, the point when summer ends and the days begin to shorten.

But what will they be celebrating and what even is Stonehenge for, anyway? Here’s what you need to know.

The fall equinox

“This is the third of the four ‘sky points’ in our Wheel of the Year and it is when the sun does a perfect balancing act in the heavens,” says a piece on the Stonehenge blog. “After this celebration the descent into winter brings hours of increasing darkness and chiller temperatures. It is the time of the year when night conquers day.”

According to the blog, in rural Britain, including in Wiltshire where Stonehenge is located, it was traditional to drink Dandelion and Burdock—a class British soft drink—to “cleanse the blood” and provide “a good tonic for the body.”

The nearest full moon to the equinox is known as the “harvest moon.” Farmers would celebrate it as the end of the second harvest. Livestock would then be salted and preserved at the equinox to provide food for the winter.

The pagan term for the celebration is Mabon. During medieval times, like all pagan festivals the occasion was Christianized by the Church, who called it Michaelmas, the feast of St Michael.

Stonehenge was first associated with druids by Early Modern writers amid a resurgence of ancient Pagan culture in England, and many neo-druid orders have held ceremonies there since the early 20th century.

The significance of Stonehenge

Nobody knows for sure what the purpose of the stone circle at the Stonehenge site was.

“With a history spanning 4,500 years Stonehenge has many different meanings to people today. It is a wonder of the world,” says the site’s page on the English Heritage website, “a spiritual place and a source of inspiration.”

The circle as it is seen today was erected in about 2,500 BC. It comprises two types of stones; larger “bluestones” and smaller “sarsens.”

According to English Heritage, “the interpretation of Stonehenge which is most generally accepted is that of a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun.”

It could have functioned as a calculator for predicting lunar eclipses, many believe: “By moving one of Stonehenge’s markers along the 30 markers of the outer circle, it’s discovered that the cycle of the moon can be predicted,” the Stonehenge blog says.

“Moving this marker one lunar month at a time... made it possible for them to mark when a lunar eclipse was going to occur in the typical 47-month lunar eclipse cycle.”

“The marker would go around the circle 38 times and halfway through its next circle, on the 47th full moon, a lunar eclipse would occur.”

But that’s far from the only theory that’s been put forward. According to English Heritage: “It has also perhaps been the focus of more theories about its origin and purpose than any other prehistoric monument.”

“These have included a coronation place for Danish kings, a Druid temple, a place where ancestors were worshipped or a cult centre for healing.”

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« Reply #5121 on: Today at 04:27 AM »

Flesh-eating bacteria cure cannot come soon enough

21 Sep 2017 at 09:16 ET 

A Texas man survived a flesh-eating infection he contracted from Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters after intensive treatment at a Houston hospital.

Many victims of such bacterial illnesses suffer a worse fate. But improved therapies and vaccines might be on the way, if scientists can use some new findings from that same hospital on how some bacteria that cause these infections work.

On August 29, J.R. Atkins kayaked through floodwaters left by Hurricane Harvey to check on his neighbors. When he woke up on Wednesday, he noticed that the swelling he’d seen the day before had begun to spread down his arm. He documented his experience, from an urgent care clinic to the ICU of Houston Methodist’s Sugar Land facility, on Facebook.

Flesh-eating infections, also called necrotizing fasciitis, are extremely serious and can be deadly without proper treatment, according to the CDC.

Atkins said he received “massive amounts of antibiotics” over the course of his hospital stay. Doctors also operated on his hand and arm three times to drain fluid and remove some tissue. After reaching out to support groups, he said, “I’ve realized that three is an anomaly. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had seven or more surgeries.

“I’m very fortunate because I caught it so quickly,” he said.

Atkins was infected with the bacteria most often linked with necrotizing fasciitis: group A strep bacteria, which is also responsible for strep throat.

There’s nothing particular about post-hurricane waters that makes them more likely to carry bacteria associated with flesh-eating infections, noted Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “The water has been everywhere. It increases the chance that someone could be exposed to the water.” 

“Our advice, always, is avoid contact with the water as much as you can, though that’s not always going to be possible,” he said. “If you get a cut, wash it with soap and clean water, don’t expose that cut or whatever that open wound is to water anymore.”

In a remarkable coincidence, scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute published research on Monday that could ultimately contribute to the development of more effective vaccines or treatments for group A strep infections.

Dr. Muthiah Kumaraswami, a pathology professor at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, and his team described a key signaling mechanism behind group A strep bacteria’s virulence for the first time. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team found two proteins that the bacteria produces when it’s in a large cluster with other bacteria. One protein sends a signal and the other receives it. Together, the proteins let the bacteria know that it is in a crowd of other strep bacteria. That information triggers the cluster to produce enough toxin to overwhelm a host’s immune response. That toxin can cause tissue damage and spread the infection further. The flesh-eating component of the infection is a result of the bacteria trying to survive inside the host.

“I think it’s too early to say what’s going to come out of this finding,” Kumaraswami said, but the pathway he’s found might make a good target for a vaccine. He hopes to continue studying this pathway to see whether it could lead to a vaccine or a treatment.

Some preliminary clinical trials for strep A vaccines in humans have been planned. However, Kumaraswami noted that many candidates may only protect against one kind of bacteria or provoke the immune system to attack the tissue in human hearts.

"The sense of urgency for a group A strep vaccine is pressing among researchers [in this field] worldwide, including myself," he said.

Atkins would also like to see more research done on potential vaccines or treatments. Seeing how dramatically other survivors’ lives changed after similar infections was shocking, he said. “I would like to get more people aware of it and get some very smart people working on how to prevent it.”

For the moment, he’s focused on completing occupational therapy for an injured hand so he can return to work in a few weeks. “I’m tired of sitting on the couch and watching bad TV,” he said. 

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