Friday, April 28, 2017

FFRF denounces San Antonio mayor for inappropriate remarks

April 25, 2017

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly criticizing the San Antonio mayor for her highly insensitive remarks about belief.

At a recent forum, Mayor Ivy Taylor was asked what she thought were the deepest, systemic causes of generational poverty in San Antonio.

"I'll go ahead and put it out there that to me, it's broken people, you know?" she replied, in part. "People not being in relationship with their Creator, and therefore not being in a good relationship with their families and their communities and, you know, not being productive members of society."

Taylor's shocking response is indefensible, FFRF asserts. (Her after-the-fact clarification through a Facebook statement doesn't help her case.)

To start with, Taylor's answer is untrue. In fact, when any given factor of societal health or well-being is measured, it is invariably the less religious countries that score better. The least religious countries of this world:

  • Have the lowest rates of violent crime, homicide and corruption.
  • Are the best places to raise children and be a mother.
  • Have the lowest levels of intolerance against racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Score highest when it comes to women's rights and gender equality.
  • Have the greatest protection and enjoyment of political and civil liberties.
  • Are better at educating their youth in reading, math and science.
  • Are the most peaceful, the most prosperous and have the highest quality of life.
  • The correlation between lower religiosity and higher societal well-being is not limited to an international analysis. This trend also exists within United States. Those states that are the most religious also have a high occurrence of societal ills. The most religious states in the nation tend to have the highest rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, murder and violent crime.

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Jeff Sessions wants to make forensic evidence in court completely useless and invalid (kelly Macias) · Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 8:11 pm

Here’s yet more proof (as if we needed it) on just how dangerous Jeff Sessions is to the American justice system and to the rights of almost everyone in this country. In late April, under the Trump administration, the charter for the National Commission on Forensic Science was not renewed. This means that the independent commission group of researchers, lawyers, judges, crime lab technicians, scientists and law enforcement officers who worked on trying to reform the field of forensic science and expert testimony are no longer at work. The message: important things like trying to promote scientific validity and improving federal coordination of forensic science are a waste of time and resources in the Trump era. This administration seems to have an aversion to all things scientific. And just like their denial of climate change and facts, this is not good.

Evidence regularly presented in court rooms—such as bite-mark, hair, and lead bullet analysis—that for decades have been employed by prosecutors to convict and even execute defendants are actually incapable of definitively linking an individual to a crime. Other methods, including fingerprint analysis, are less rigorous and more subjective than experts—and popular culture—let on.

But on the witness stand, experts routinely overstate the certainty of their forensic methods. In 2015, the FBI completed a review of 268 trial transcripts in which the bureau's experts used microscopic hair analysis to incriminate a defendant. The results showed that bureau experts submitted scientifically invalid testimony at least 95 percent of the time. Among those cases with faulty evidence, 33 defendants received the death penalty and 9 had been executed. No court has banned bite-mark evidence despite a consensus among scientists that the discipline is entirely subjective. One study found that forensic dentists couldn't even agree if markings were caused by human teeth. Until this month, the National Commission on Forensic Science was the most important group moving forensics into the modern scientific era.


The truth behind Trump’s “trade war” with Canada

Alexia Fern├índez Campbell · Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 5:56 pm

Trump didn't start the fight over Canadian softwood lumber

For 35 years, the US and Canada have been locked in an endless fight about imported lumber — a cycle of tariffs and truces that has repeated itself under every president since Ronald Reagan.

President Donald Trump, though, has found a way to use this otherwise mundane issue for political gain.

On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the United States will slap a 20 percent tariff on most Canadian softwood lumber imports, the kind of wood commonly used to build homes. The move was applauded by the US timber industry and widely framed as the beginning of a trade war between America and its northern neighbor.

But this is hardly a trade war. It’s more like the latest chapter in a long-simmering squabble between siblings — a squabble Trump has seized on because it fits his political narrative.

Here’s how the cycle goes. The American lumber industry periodically gets upset that it can’t compete with cheap Canadian softwood imports. It files an unfair trade case with the Commerce Department. Commerce prepares to levy tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Then both countries negotiate a truce, which usually involves Canada limiting timber exports to the United States. The truce expires, and everything starts over again.

Since the 1980s, the complaint-tariff-truce cycle has repeated itself six full times. We’re now somewhere in the seventh cycle.

“It never ends; it’s like Groundhog Day,” says Ben Cashore, director of the Program on Forest Policy and Governance at Yale University. Cashore had been researching this dispute for years, he says, until he realized that it would go on forever. “I thought there had to be a better use of my time.”

The big difference this time around is the politicization of the spat. Presidents and Cabinet members don’t normally publicize their response to such a mundane trade dispute.

But Trump’s campaign was defined by blaming free trade for American job losses and economic woes, so his administration’s decision to publicize the move is a political calculation: It makes his team appear to crack down on trade abuses, even though it’s just more of the same.

The administration will likely use the lumber issue, as well as a dispute over dairy, as leverage in upcoming NAFTA negotiations. And acting to protect the American lumber industry gives Trump an easy victory to claim before his 100th day in office this week. If history holds, though, the most likely outcome is a truce during NAFTA negotiations.

The United States imports billions of dollars in products from Canada

Compared to US trade with other countries, the trade deficit between the United States and Canada is relatively small: The US imports about $15 billion more worth of Canadian goods than it exports. That’s because Canadian businesses and consumers are a major market for US goods, and in 2015 they bought about $289 billion worth of American products.

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Hate group leader: Our allies 'are now very well placed' in the Trump administration (gabe Ortiz) · Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 4:10 pm

Yes, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign emboldened white supremacists and extremists, with a wave of hate crimes sweeping the nation in the immediate days following his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton. White nationalists like Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have found a new home in the administration, and as the New York Times recently noted, a number of lesser known but equally deplorable anti-immigrant voices have joined right alongside them:

Mr. Trump’s senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, worked tirelessly to defeat immigration reform as a staff member for Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. Gene P. Hamilton, who worked on illegal immigration as Mr. Sessions’s counsel on the Judiciary Committee, is now a senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the Border Patrol and ICE, where Mr. Feere is working. Julia Hahn, who wrote about immigration for Breitbart — with headlines like “Republican-Led Congress Oversees Large-Scale Importation of Somali Migrants” — has followed her former boss, Stephen K. Bannon, to the White House as a deputy policy strategist.

Daniel Tichenor, an immigration politics scholar at the University of Oregon, called it “highly unusual” in the post-World War II era to have proponents of sharply reduced immigration in such high-ranking positions.

“You would have to go to the 1920s and 1930s to find a comparable period in which you could point to people within the executive agencies and the White House who favored significant restrictions,” Mr. Tichenor said.

The ghoulish Miller helped Bannon draft Trump’s failed Muslim bans, and was personally responsible for derailing the second one in court after boasting on cable news that "fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome." Not the smartest bunch, but dangerous nonetheless. Miller’s extremism stretches back years, with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer calling him a college buddy and high school classmates recalling him making numerous racist remarks about Latinos and other people of color. No wonder he’s received such high praise from Trump and Sessions.


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Religious conservatives will try to deny human nature

Let's define it for what it is

The times - they do change