Category Archives: Humanity

US Religion is Worth $1.2 trillion a Year, More Than America’s 10 Biggest Tech Companies, Combined

Cory Doctorow reports for Boing Boing:

The largely tax-free religion industry is one of the biggest in America, worth $1.2 trillion a year, a number that includes religious “healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.”

The figure comes from The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis, co-authored by Georgetown’s Brian J Grim and Newseum’s Melissa E Grim, and published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. The authors describe the estimate as “conservative” and note that while religion as a whole is declining in the US, spending on religious “social programs” has tripled since 2001, to $9T.

Grim and his co-author Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute in Washington came up with three estimates of the worth of US religion. The lowest, at $378bn, took into account only the revenues of faith-based organisations. The middle estimate, $1.2tn, included an estimate of the market value of goods and services provided by religious organisations and the contributions of businesses with religious roots.

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The Myth of the Alt-Left

Sam Kriss writes for Politico:

GettyImages-832184054.jpgThe words “alt-left” sounded strange coming from Donald Trump’s mouth, but then most words do. After a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead, including an anti-fascist activist murdered by the far right, Trump has refused to unequivocally condemn the “alt-right” neo-Nazis responsible for the violence. Instead, he complains that his exterminationist supporters have been treated “very unfairly.” What about the violence of the anti-fascists, he wants to know: “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem?”

The existence of this strange and terrifying alt-left is new to most people; Trump’s mention of it seemed like a transparent attempt to somehow pretend that the murderousness of the Nazis and the Klan is no worse than the people forced to defend themselves against it. And that’s exactly what the idea of an “alt-left” is. But not in the way you might think.

After Trump announced the existence of the alt-left on live TV, media outlets scurried to tell the world exactly where the term emerged from. CBS explains that it “came out of the conservative media.” CNN, quoting a director at the Anti-Defamation League, describes it as a “made-up term used by people on the right.” Heavy.com writes that “the term ‘alt-left’ began being used by the online conservative media in 2016 before it slowly migrated to more mainstream conservative voices, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” (Hannity, who repeatedly uses the term on his TV show, seems to be getting widespread credit.) The British Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, flatters the president with a power of logodaedaly he definitely doesn’t have, claiming the phrase was “coined by Mr Trump” himself.

None of these explanations is really true. The term “alt-left” was probably simultaneously invented hundreds or thousands of times, always bearing a slightly different meaning depending on its inventor. But up until now, the people who most forcefully pushed the idea of an alt-left weren’t Nazis or 4chan posters or anyone else in the orbit of Trump and pro-Trump Republicans trying to invent a mythical opposite to the alt-right. The alt-left is, first and foremost, a figment of centrist Democrats.

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Antifa: A Look at the Antifascist Movement Confronting White Supremacists in the Streets

Amy Goodman speaks with Mark Bray about one of the groups who confronted the white supremacists in the streets, the antifascists known as Antifa. Bray is the author of the new book titled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. (Democracy Now!) 

A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

A.C. Thompson and Karim Hajj report for ProPublica:

Image result for Twitter Facebook Comment Email A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in CharlottesvilleThe white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.

Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.

Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.

These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.

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U.S. Cities Step Up Removal of Confederate Statues, Despite Virginia Violence

Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life — And He Isn’t Going to Change After Charlottesville

Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept:

RICHMOND, VA - JUNE 10: A man wears a shirt with a confederate flag on it as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, VA on Friday June 10, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)[…] Yes, the U.S. has had plenty of presidents in recent decades who have dog-whistled to racists and bigots, and even incited hate against minorities — think Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Reagan and his “welfare queens,” George H.W. Bush and the Willie Horton ad, and the Clintons and their “super-predators” — but there has never been a modern president so personally steeped in racist prejudices, so unashamed to make bigoted remarks in public and with such a long and well-documented record of racial discrimination.

So can we stop playing this game where journalists demand Trump condemns people he agrees with and Trump then pretends to condemn them in the mildest of terms? I hate to say this, but it is worth paying attention to the leader of the Virginia KKK, who told a reporter in August 2016: “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.”

So can we stop pretending that Trump isn’t Trump? That the presidency has changed him, or will change him? It hasn’t and it won’t. There will be no reset; no reboot; no pivot. This president may now be going through the motions of (belatedly) denouncing racism, with his scripted statements and vacuous tweets. But here’s the thing: why would you expect a lifelong racistto want to condemn or crack down on other racists? Why assume a person whose entire life and career has been defined by racially motivated prejudiceand racial discrimination, by hostility toward immigrants, foreigners, and minorities, would suddenly be concerned by the rise of prejudice and discrimination on his watch? It is pure fantasy for politicians and pundits to suppose that Trump will ever think or behave as anything other than the bigot he has always been — and, in more recent years, as an apologist for other bigots, too.

We would do well to heed the words of those who have spent decades studying this bizarre president. “Donald is a 70-year-old man,” Trump biographer David Cay Johnston reminded me in the run-up to his inauguration in January. “I’m 67. I’m not going to change and neither is Donald.”

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Sales of Mind, Body, Spirit Books Boom In UK Amid ‘Mindfulness Mega-Trend’

Alison Flood reports for The Guardian:

Image result for mindfulness mega-trendThe UK’s “mindfulness mega-trend” shows no sign of running out of breath, with sales of “mind, body, spirit” books booming, against a background of slowing sales elsewhere on the shelves.

Topped by Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim’s The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, a guide to “how to be calm in a busy world” that has sold more than 43,000 copies this year, sales of titles offering spiritual assistance are up by almost 13.3% in volume in 2017, according to sales monitor Nielsen Book. This sits against a total consumer market drop of 1.6% on the same measure.

Rhonda Byrne’s perennial bestseller The Secret is the next-best performer, with 29,000 print sales. Other hits include Eckhart Tolle’s 1999 guide to spiritual enlightenment, The Power of Now, Gabrielle Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and Dominique Loreau’s L’art de la Simplicite: How to Live More With Less.

In fourth place is the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy, with sales of more than 12,000 copies so far this year. Its premise perhaps best sums up what anxious book buyers have been looking for this year: “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?”

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Feeling Bad About Feeling Bad Can Make You Feel Worse

Yasmin Anwar reports for Berkeley News:

Image result for pressure to feel happyPressure to feel upbeat can make you feel downbeat, while embracing your darker moods can actually make you feel better in the long run, according to new UC Berkeley research.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” said study senior author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.

At this point, researchers can only speculate on why accepting your joyless emotions can defuse them, like dark clouds passing swiftly in front of the sun and out of sight.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss said. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The study, conducted at UC Berkeley and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Denver, Co., metropolitan area.

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Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War

Jake Johnson reports for Common Dreams:

U.S. President Donald Trump and Pastor Robert Jeffress participate in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on July 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C.After President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” on Tuesday, many began to worry about the prospect of nuclear war.

Not Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.

Shortly following the president’s remarks, Jeffress—who is also one of Trump’s “evangelical advisers“—released a statement declaring that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un,” the leader of North Korea.

Jeffress went on to say he is “heartened to see that our president…will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”

“When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it,” Jeffress concluded. “Thank God for a president who is serious about protecting our country.”

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Trump and the Christian Fascists

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.

Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.

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Why Autocrats Fear LGBT Rights

Masha Gessen writes for the New York Review of Books:

July 26, 2017, was a personal anniversary for me: one year earlier I had written a piece in which I argued for setting aside the idea of a Trump-Russia conspiracy (yes, this idea was with us a year ago) for the much more important task of imagining what a Trump presidency might bring. I wrote that Trump would unleash a war at home and while it was difficult to predict the target, “my money is actually on the LGBT community because its acceptance is the most clear and drastic social change in America of the last decade, so an antigay campaign would capture the desire to return to a time in which Trump’s constituency felt comfortable.” This was a thought exercise; even as I made an argument that I believed to be logical, I could not believe my own words. On Wednesday of this week, one year to the day since I made that prediction, President Trump announced, by tweet, that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military—a policy reversal that would directly and immediately affect thousands of people.

Many commentators immediately branded this move a distraction, an attempt to draw attention away from the Russian-conspiracy story, the health care battle, or anything else they deem more important than the president’s declaration that a group of Americans are second-class citizens. This is not only a grievous insult to transgender people but a basic failure to understand the emotional logic of Trumpism. This is a logic that Trump shares with most modern-day strongmen, and it was this logic that made his attack on LGBT rights so predictable, even while he was literally draping a rainbow flag over his body last year.

Trump got elected on the promise of a return to an imaginary past—a time we don’t remember because it never actually was, but one when America was a kind of great that Trump has promised to restore. Trumps shares this brand of nostalgia with Vladimir Putin, who has spent the last five years talking about Russian “traditional values,” with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, who has warned LGBT people against becoming “provocative,” and with any number of European populists who promise a return to a mythical “traditional” past.

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Declining Sperm Count Could Lead to ‘Extinction’

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

In the first systematic review of trends in sperm count, researchers this week reported in the journalHuman Reproduction Update a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries.

They found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status. In contrast, no significant decline was seen in South America, Asia and Africa, although far fewer studies have been conducted there.

The study also indicates the rate of decline among Western men is not decreasing: the slope was steep and significant even when analysis was restricted to studies with sample collection between 1996 and 2011.

Dr Hagai Levine, of Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, the lead author, told the BBC that if the trend continued humanity was in deep trouble. “If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”

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Donald Trump’s AmeriKKKa: His Craziest, Most Racist Supporters

A collection clips showing a selection of some just some of the hate-filled lunatics who support U.S President Donald Trump. (Reich Wing Watch)

Welcome to Hell: Police Repression at G20 Decried as a Dystopian Nightmare

In the first interview, Amy Goodman speaks with Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat, co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25). In the second interview, Jaisal Noor speaks with South African activist Patrick Bond, while demonstrators from the G20 protests in Hamburg also provide their views. (Democracy Now!/The Real News)

Black Friday: Hamburg’s G-20 Security Failure

Jörg Diehl reports for SPIEGEL:

Hamburg riot policeIn light of Friday’s rioting, recent statements made by Hamburg officials ahead of the G-20 seem naive in the extreme. One came from the Hartmut Dudde, the head of operations for the Hamburg police, who said: “If we say here’s where things stop, then that’s where they stop. We will also take action. We’re not going to wait if crimes are being committed.”

Another statement came from his boss, Hamburg Police Chief Ralf Martin Meyer. “We are better prepared than we ever have been,” he boasted in the run-up to the G-20.

And then, of course, there’s the statement from Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz, who promised the city’s residents: “Don’t worry, we can guarantee your safety.”

But on Friday, July 7, none of these sentences applied. Even that morning, a marauding gang was raging through the Hamburg neighborhoods of Ottensen and Altona, setting cars on fire by the dozens. Later in the day, a mob raged for hours in the alternative Schanzenviertel neighborhood, long a hotbed of leftist activity. They broke windows, lit barricades on fire, looted stores and threatened to kill police. Many would later say hyperbolically that it was like “a war zone.” Others described the scene as anarchy — as though the state had receded before the mob.

The question that must now be answered is clear: What went wrong?

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New NRA Video and Trump’s Media Attacks Are Symptoms of America in Decline

Jaisal Noor speaks with historian Gerald Horne about Trump’s latest attack on the media and an alarming new NRA recruitment video. (The Real News)

Margaret Atwood, the Prophet of Dystopia

Rebecca Mead writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for MARGARET ATWOOD, THE PROPHET OF DYSTOPIA[…] Margaret Atwood has long been Canada’s most famous writer, and current events have polished the oracular sheen of her reputation. With the election of an American President whose campaign trafficked openly in the deprecation of women—and who, on his first working day in office, signed an executive order withdrawing federal funds from overseas women’s-health organizations that offer abortion services—the novel that Atwood dedicated to Mary Webster has reappeared on best-seller lists. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is also about to be serialized on television, in an adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, that will stream on Hulu. The timing could not be more fortuitous, though many people may wish that it were less so. In a photograph taken the day after the Inauguration, at the Women’s March on Washington, a protester held a sign bearing a slogan that spoke to the moment: “make margaret atwood fiction again.”

If the election of Donald Trump were fiction, Atwood maintains, it would be too implausible to satisfy readers. “There are too many wild cards—you want me to believe that the F.B.I. stood up and said this, and that the guy over at WikiLeaks did that?” she said. “Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, ‘That is never going to happen.’ ” Atwood is a buoyant doomsayer. Like a skilled doctor, she takes evident satisfaction in providing an accurate diagnosis, even when the cultural prognosis is bleak. She attended the Toronto iteration of the Women’s March, wearing a wide-brimmed floppy hat the color of Pepto-Bismol: not so much a pussy hat as the chapeau of a lioness. Among the signs she saw that day, her favorite was one held by a woman close to her own age; it said, “i can’t believe i’m still holding this fucking sign.” Atwood remarked, “After sixty years, why are we doing this again? But, as you know, in any area of life, it’s push and pushback. We have had the pushback, and now we are going to have the push again.”

Unlike many writers, Atwood does not require a particular desk, arranged in a particular way, before she can work. “There’s a good and a bad side to that,” she told me. “If I did have those things, then I would be able to put myself in that fetishistic situation, and the writing would flow into me, because of the magical objects. But I don’t have those, so that doesn’t happen.” The good side is that she can write anywhere, and does so, prolifically. She is equally uninhibited about genre. Atwood’s bibliography runs to about sixty books—novels, poetry, short-story collections, works of criticism, children’s books, and, most recently, a comic-book series about a part-feline, part-avian, part-human superhero called Angel Catbird. She is offhanded about her versatility. “I always wrote more than one type of thing,” she said. “Nobody told me not to.” On one occasion, over tea, she showed me her left hand: it had writing on it. “When all else fails, you do have a surface you can write on,” she said.

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In Major Church-State Decision, U.S. Supreme Court Sides with Religious Institution

Amy Goodman speaks with Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com and the author of the recent piece: ‘Did the court just seriously wound the separation of church and state?(Democracy Now!)

No Is Not Enough: Naomi Klein on Her New Book

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with journalist and author Naomi Klein about her book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. (Democracy Now!)

 

Did Trump Campaign Rhetoric Empower the White Extremist Who Killed Two Bystanders on Portland Train?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, about how for the second time in a week, a military man was killed by a white extremist. (Democracy Now!)

Noam Chomsky: I Would Vote For Jeremy Corbyn

Evan Davis speaks with American intellectual Noam Chomsky about Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, populism in Europe and Julian Assange. (BBC Newsnight)

The Stephen Colbert Gay Joke Row is a Repulsively Cynical Ploy by Far-Right Homophobes

Lindy West writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Stephen Colbert gay joke[…] It’s important for progressives to have in-group conversations about how we talk about our political enemies and the people who hurt us. It matters (and it’s telling) when men jump straight to misogynist tropes when criticising rightwing commentator Ann Coulter, or when thin people use fatphobic slurs to decry New Jersey governor Chris Christie. It’s also important to keep a grip on nuance in those conversations, taking into account a person’s track record (Colbert was a staunch advocate of marriage equality) and intent and willingness to listen and change. And criticism within the arts is a living dialogue, not a hard-and-fast binary.

But as the Colbert situation mushroomed over the next few days, I realised that there was another potential reading of the man’s question. The far right, smelling an opportunity to manipulate the left into eating their own powerful and popular satirist, had pounced on Colbert. Oh, the homophobia, they wailed! Wasn’t it terrible? #FireColbert took hold on Twitter – strangely, not on the feeds of those oppressed by homophobia, but on the feeds of homophobes. That same week, Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty, which turned out to be a toothless dud, but was a symbolic nod to religious homophobes all the same. Colbert is now being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission, a relatively routine procedure, but alarming in the context of Trump’s obsession with punishing unfriendly media outlets and flirtation with amending the first amendment.

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The War Between Globalism and Nationalism Is Just Getting Started

Ian Bremmer writes for Time Magazine:

When the storm turns out to be less severe than the warnings, there’s always a sigh of relief–and maybe a bit of over-confidence after the fact. If fans of the European Union felt better after populist Geert Wilders came up short in the Dutch elections in March, they also took heart from the absence of anti-E.U. firebrands among the leading contenders for this fall’s German elections. Then came May 7. The victory of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections signaled that “the season of growth of populism has ended,” Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said on May 8.

Not so fast. Europeans will soon remember that elections are never the end of anything–they’re a beginning. And whether the issue is unelected Eurocrats’ forcing voters to abide by rules they don’t like or fears that borders are insecure, there are good reasons to doubt that the anti-E.U. fever has broken. France’s Macron now faces powerful opposition on both the far right and the far left. Hungary and Poland are becoming increasingly illiberal. Brexit negotiations are getting ugly. And resentment toward the E.U. is still rising throughout Europe.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump may be pushing what increasingly resembles a traditional Republican agenda, but polls show that his supporters are still eager for deeper disruption. Trump’s embrace of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte suggests a lasting affinity with aggressive strongmen. His chief adviser and nationalist muse, Stephen Bannon, may be under fire, but he’s still there. The Trump presidency has only just begun.

In short, nationalism is alive and well, partly because the problems that provoked it are still with us. Growing numbers of people in the world’s wealthiest countries still fear that globalization serves only elites who care nothing about nations and borders. Moderate politicians still offer few effective solutions.

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The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

JP Sottile writes for Truthout:

Duc Tran, an automation engineer, observes the fully autonomous robotic truck loader during a test at the Wynright Robotics facility in Arlington, Texas, July 18, 2012. (Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux / The New York Times) September 17th changed everything.

On that day in 2013, Oxford University published an innocuously titled academic paper by two mostly unknown economists. But “The Future of Employment” wasn’t just another number-crunching exercise in opacity by a couple of dreary scientists. No, their bombshell report portended a coming robot apocalypse that could change the nature of human civilization, and perhaps even human beings themselves.

Thankfully, the forthcoming carnage described by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne isn’t a doomsday scenario where Skynet systematically wipes out humankind, or a darkly lit near-future where attractive Replicants violently struggle to make sense of their emerging emotions in a perpetually damp Los Angeles.

Instead, the economists previewed an all-too-real world where the second-richest man on the planet — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — gleefully parades around like Sigourney Weaver in a massive robotic exoskeleton built by Hankook Mirae Technology.

They presaged the impending doom from robots like Handle, the Michael Jordan-esque robot built by Boston Dynamics. Handle can leap like a superhero, can run a marathon in under three hours and, if Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is right, will probably be smarter than you in just a few decades.

They foresaw a future with the likes of Gordon, the “first robotic barista in the U.S.” Gordon can serve “about 120 coffees in an hour.” They also predicted the likes of Otto, the self-driving big-rig designated by Uber to deliver truckloads of beer to thirsty consumers. And then there’s Pepper, the empathic, “day-to-day” companion that is not just working in airports and banks, but being “adopted” into Japanese homes … and even “enrolling” in school.

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Bullshit Jobs with David Graeber

David Graeber talks about bullshit jobs and the concept of work under capitalism. (The Real News/RSA)

Austrian Court Rules Facebook Must Delete ‘Hate Postings’

The Associated Press reports:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The conference will explore Facebook's new technology initiatives and products.Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online “trolling”.

The case — brought by Austria’s Green party over insults to its leader — has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling.

The case comes as legislators around Europe are considering ways of forcing Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to rapidly remove hate speech or incitement to violence.

Germany’s cabinet approved a plan last month to fine social networks up to 50 million euros ($55 million) if they fail to remove such postings quickly and the European Union is considering new EU-wide rules.

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UK Parliament Takes First Step Towards Making Google and Facebook Censor Everything

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

Image result for UK Parliament Takes First Step Towards Making Google and Facebook Censor EverythingLook, let’s just start with the basics: there are some bad people out there. Even if the majority of people are nice and well-meaning, there are always going to be some people who are not. And sometimes, those people are going to use the internet. Given that as a starting point, at the very least, you’d think we could deal with that calmly and rationally, and recognize that maybe we shouldn’t blame the tools for the fact that some not very nice people happen to use them. Unfortunately, it appears to be asking a lot these days to expect our politicians to do this. Instead, they (and many others) rush out immediately to point the fingers of blame for the fact that these “not nice” people exist, and rather than point the finger of blame at the not nice people, they point at… the internet services they use.

The latest example of this is the UK Parliament that has released a report on “hate crime” that effectively blames internet companies and suggests they should be fined because not nice people use them.

[…] This is the kind of thing that sounds good to people who (a) don’t understand how these things actually work and (b) don’t spend any time thinking through the consequences of such actions.

First off, it’s easy for politicians and others to sit there and assume that “bad” content is obviously bad. The problem here is twofold: first, there is so much content showing up that spotting the “bad” stuff is not nearly as easy as people assume, and second, because there’s so much content, it’s often difficult to understand the context enough to recognize if something is truly “bad.” People who think this stuff is obvious or easy are ignorant. They may be well-meaning, but they’re ignorant.

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Venezuela in Crisis: The Catastrophe the World Has Been Ignoring

E.A. Crunden writes for Think Progress:

[…] Venezuela’s descent into chaos has been ongoing for several years. Once an oil-rich nation with considerable sway in the region, Venezuela is now struggling under the weight of a crumbling economy and devastating food shortages. In February Venezuela was suspended from voting in the U.N. General Assembly over millions of dollars of unpaid debt — the second time in two years.

The country’s current crisis can arguably be traced back to price controls instituted by the government of former President Hugo Chavez. But the problem escalated in 2014, after oil prices plummeted and food shortages became an issue. As food became scarce, rising prices and increasing problems with smuggling caused the situation to spiral. Venezuela now has the world’s fastest-contracting economy and an inflation rate of almost 1,000 percent.

Venezuelans have been fleeing to Colombia and Brazil in an effort to find food and an escape from the country’s escalating crisis. Blackouts caused by electricity shortages are also a fact of life these days. Surveys indicate that 80 percent of medicines are scarce (if available at all), while 50 to 80 percent of food supplies are scarce. Contraceptives, water, toiletries, and paper have also been impacted.

Making the situation far worse is its leadership. Venezuela’s government is not doing much to fix the country’s staggering problems. President Nicolás Maduro claims that efforts to unseat him are a bourgeois plot, one that he has often linked to the United States. And while the United States has historically played a role in destabilizing governments in Latin America, Venezuela’s leader has been a deeply unpopular president.

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Blaming Islam: Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor In Terror Attacks

Mehdi Hasan reported for The Intercept in March:

What do you think of when you hear the word “terrorist”? Big beards and brown skins? Turban-wearing Muslim migrants from the Middle East? Refugees maybe?

Yet according to a report from the New America Foundation, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” A recent study in Britain, which last week endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 2005, revealed that more than two out of three “Islamism-inspired” terrorist offenses were carried out by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK.”

The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”

Sorry, what? The 52-year-old perpetrator of the London attack, Khalid Masood, was born and brought up in the UK and would not have been affected in the slightest by a travel ban on Muslims from the Middle East. He was neither a refugee nor an immigrant. He was not of Middle Eastern origin either, and he was not even a Muslim for the vast majority of his life. Born to a white mother and black father as Adrian Elms, and raised as Adrian Ajao, he is believed to have converted to Islam in prison in 2003 and had a well-documented history of criminality prior to mowing down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament.

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Woman Who Laughed at Jeff Sessions Hearing Convicted for Being ‘Disorderly’

Jamiles Lartey reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Desiree FairoozA jury in Washington has convicted a woman who was arrested after laughing during a confirmation hearing for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Desiree Fairooz, an activist with the leftwing NGO Code Pink, was found guilty of engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings, as well as “parading, demonstrating or picketing”.

The charges stem from the hearing on 10 January, when Sessions’ then colleague, fellow Alabama Republicansenator Richard Shelby, said Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented”.

Fairooz laughed out loud twice at this claim, and according to the charges filed by the prosecutor, “grew loud and more disruptive” as an officer attempted to remove her from the room.

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