By Yosef Kuperwasser
May 29, 2017
The Palestinian Authority has paid out some NIS 4 billion—or $1.12 billion—over the past four years to terrorists and the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terror attacks. Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets NIS 12,000 ($3,360) per month, nearly 10 times the average salary the PA pays employees. The Palestinians’ own budgetary documents clearly state that these payments to the Terrorists are salaries and not welfare payments. When terrorists are released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They also receive a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail.
People say, “Okay, we know that they pay salaries to terrorists,” but we have not properly understood the scale or significance of this practice. The money that the Palestinian Authority pays to reward terrorists now amounts to seven percent of the PA’s approximately annual $4 billion dollar budget. Over 20 percent of the annual foreign financial aid that the PA receives is now dedicated to the salaries of imprisoned terrorists as well as to the salaries of prisoners who are released from prison. Released Palestinian terrorists continue to receive salaries for terrorism, as do the families of those who died in their “struggle against Zionism.” The total payment was roughly 1.5 billion shekels for fiscal year of 2016.
This is hardly a unique occurrence. Every year, the PA has released a similar sum, roughly over one billion shekels (approx. $320 million dollars) per year for the past four years. I’m only providing the past four years as an example, but if we went back further, we would see that the number has also been higher than one billion. Due to international pressure, the Palestinian Authority decided that it was unable to directly pay the money, and so from its budget, through a trick that satisfied many international entities, they transferred the money, not directly to a ministry responsible for payments to prisoners, but to the PLO so that the terrorists’ salaries could be formally paid through Palestinian National Fund, which was declared afterward by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to be a terror-supporting organization. But this money all comes from the Palestinian Authority’s own budget.
The PA’s official support of terror is a deliberate and official act of state: It occurs on the basis of PA laws that have been passed since 2004, and provide legal grounds for payments to incarcerated terrorists and the families of Terrorist killed carrying out terror attacks against Israel. These are explicit PA laws, which mandate payments to prisoners of war, or as they call them “al-asra”; a normal prisoner is “sijir” in Arabic. “Prisoners of war and released prisoners of war,” says the second clause of the law, “are an inseparable part from the fighting sector of Palestinian society.” On that basis, the PA has determines that Palestinian terrorists are entitled to “heroic treatment and recognition.”
Texas’s “bathroom bill” hasn’t become law yet, but it’s already costing the state—to the tune of more than $200 million in bad publicity—according to a new report.
Texas Competes, a group of business leaders that support LGBT rights in the state, reviewed press coverage of Texas’s bathroom bill between January 10, 2016 and May 22, 2017. The bill made headlines again on Monday after the Texas House passed an amendment to an unrelated education bill that prohibits transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities. Texas legislators who support the amendment say it protects the privacy and safety of students. Another possible black eye for the state came on Sunday, when the Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective adopters on the basis of religion.
The state’s legislative session ends on May 29, meaning the “bathroom bill” would have to pass by that date to become law.
While not as far-reaching as its North Carolina counterpart, Texas’s bathroom bill is reminiscent of that partially repealed piece of legislation. When former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB2 in March 2016, outrage was swift and resulted in huge economic losses. The total economic cost of the bill for North Carolina is said to be nearly $4 billion.
Press coverage of the Texas bill has generated $216 million in bad publicity for the state, according to the report. More than 25,000 news articles were published about the legislation in the U.S. during the period studied, with the vast majority of them—20,000—published outside of Texas. Texas Competes used a media tracking algorithm to determine what portions of the coverage was positive, negative or neutral. Nearly three-quarters of the coverage was neutral and 25 percent was negative, according to the report.
The two percent of the “positive” coverage “largely described efforts by performing artists, businesses and sports organizations and others to protest ‘bathroom bills,’” said Texas Competes. The Associated Press published the largest number of articles about the bill, followed by the San Antonio Express-News; MyStatesman.com; and the Laredo Morning Times.
Continue reading at: http://www.newsweek.com/texas-bathroom-bill-216-million-bad-publicity-615019
Lauren McGaughy, Austin bureau
May 26, 2017
AUSTIN — Transgender student athletes like Euless Trinity wrestler Mack Beggs don’t have to worry about being disqualified for steroid use after a newly proposed law died this week in the Texas House.
The legislation would have let the University Interscholastic League, the state’s high school sports organization, declare athletes unfit to play if they’re taking the hormone. Athletes with a doctor’s prescription for a medical condition like gender dysphoria would still be at risk of disqualification under the bill.
The bill passed easily in the Senate but died unceremoniously in the House Public Education Committee after failing to be voted out before a key bill passage deadline. Committee Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said it failed because the House received the bill too late in the process.
“We got it late in the session,” Huberty said. “It was a timing issue.”
The bill’s author, Edgewood Republican Rep. Bob Hall, said Thursday he was “very disappointed” his proposal died.
Currently, UIL rules bar transgender athletes from competing against the gender with which they identify. So although Beggs identifies as male and is taking testosterone to aid his transition, he must continue to wrestle girls under state rules.
Last year on May 17, Guy Clark passed away. A song writer and a poet, a true Texas Troubadour.
In spite of having been raised Catholic I have always had a very hard time relating to Christianity. But as a hippie I’ve read the works of various philosophers and theologians as well as both the Bible and various works of mythology.
Seems like most religions that have made it to the modern age have an element of behavior towards others at their core. I haven’t come across one that really teaches lie to everyone and abuse your fellow humans. Thou shall not steal or commit murder seem pretty basic and universal. The sort of thing one shouldn’t need to have a God tell them: “Don’t do this.”
I always thought that how one behaves and especially how one treats others was an important part of morality.
Imagine my surprise over the last 20-30 years or so and the rise of the New Evangelical Christians for whom proclaiming their faith (what ever the fuck that means) is all important and as long as you do that it doesn’t matter if you are a lying thief who abuses and even murders people. Because you proclaim your love of Jesus all is supposed to be forgiven.
Lately I’ve been reading about the history of Judaism. We owe much of what we think of as ethic, humanism and even Christianity to the often murdered and abused Jews.
It may come as a shock to many but Jesus was a Jew. Much of his message came from Judaism and the teachings of Rabbis such as Hillel.
Maybe if people are going to call themselves Christians it would highly behoove them to try to actually act more like someone who follows the teachings of Jesus instead of running around proclaiming, while shrouded in ignorance and pompously abusing your fellow human beings.
Maybe if Christians acted more like Christians instead of pretentious bullies people would respect them and their commitment to their religion more.
Reading Thomas Cleary and Thomas Merton might be a good start.
Monday 8 May 2017
I was listening to a radio chat about the bishops’ election message the other day, encouraging us to vote, when I heard something rather startling. Apparently, in 2015, when the bishops last wrote a letter, there seemed to be a danger of them advocating a leftwing perspective. No chance of that this time, although they did daringly mention concern for “the weak, poor and marginalised”. But whatever is wrong with a leftwing perspective? Jesus had one. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth,” said he (Matthew 6:19), and the people of Sodom got into frightful trouble primarily because of their selfish economic behaviour.
I don’t want to sound naive, or corny, but I’ve often wondered how Trump and many members of our current government can call themselves Christians, while trampling on the weak, poor and marginalised, depriving them of healthcare, homes, food, decent jobs and such like, while goggling at the ghastly rich list, out again yesterday, and rewarding those tremendous show-offs included upon it.
Come on bishops, be bold. Promote some real Christian principles, because Anglicans are, according to YouGov, almost twice as likely to vote Conservative as Labour, which suggests that they haven’t quite got the hang of their own religion. And hurry up about it, because the world’s morals seem to be going down the plughole, and we’re beginning to worship the rich again, which no religion approves of. “He is not a believer, who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry at his side”, says the hadith, while Proverbs 14:31 states: “He that oppresses the poor blasphemes his maker.”
I don’t want to sound like Dot Cotton, because this is meant to be a secular country, and the church is not solely responsible for, or the only wellspring of, moral values. We atheists also should, and do, have moral values, I promise you. And like anyone else, we succumb to evil, which I did yesterday, by feeling a tiny but immoral spark of joy when I heard that cybercrime is becoming a threat to superyachts and their increasingly boastful owners. “Ha ha,” I thought, viciously. “Serves them right.” And I can’t even pray for forgiveness.
Misguided, overzealous rules wind up not being fair to anyone.
By Katelyn Burns
May 4, 2017
Last week, a Texas court dismissed a lawsuit that sought to ban Texas transgender high school wrestler Mack Beggs from wrestling in the girls division. Beggs was assigned female at birth and has been taking testosterone to raise his hormone levels to that of any other teenage boy as part of his medical transition. Since the University Interscholastic League has explicitly stated that Texas athletes must only compete in the gender divisions of their birth certificates, Beggs wrestles against girls and dominates his competitions.
The policy in Texas is unfair to cisgender (non-trans) female athletes, who are forced to wrestle against boys like Beggs, as well as to transgender girls who were assigned male at birth but are on hormone replacement therapy.
Texas’s policy, along with the six other states that define high school athletic gender divisions according to the gender on birth certificates, has no basis in scientific reality when it comes to how hormones work. The difference in musculature between men and women comes entirely from the difference in how efficiently our sex hormones build muscle. Testosterone, the primary sex hormone in cisgender males, is better at building muscle more quickly, which is why men have larger muscles than women, on average. Having more muscle also helps burn fat faster, which is evident when you hear the common lament from women how “it’s unfair that men lose weight faster.”
When transgender boys like Beggs medically transition, they get testosterone injections to bring their hormone levels in line with cisgender boys and reap the athletic rewards of doing so along the way. You can see this very clearly by examining Beggs’s dominance against female competition, as well as just looking at his muscular development. The lawsuit that was dismissed claimed that by taking testosterone, the boy was effectively taking a performance-enhancing banned substance.
When those assigned male at birth take additional testosterone, the resulting increase in muscular development also comes with significantly dangerous side effects, including liver, kidney and heart damage, impotence and suffering from “‘roid rages.” This is why taking testosterone to raise T levels above the normal range for cisgender boys and men is banned, both legally and in sporting contexts. It should be noted that cis men who have been diagnosed with low T are also prescribed the same testosterone injections as trans men. By taking just enough of the hormone to move his levels into the normal boy range, Beggs is not seeking a performance enhancer; he’s just trying to live a normal life as the boy he really is. So why would Texas go to the lengths that they do just to ensure that Beggs plays in his birth-assigned gender category? The true answer lies on the other side of the gender spectrum.
There’s a common societal perception that trans women and girls are really men, and with athletes, this perception translates into an assumption that trans girls and women have a permanent advantage from birth. That’s wrong. When trans girls medically transition, they need two separate hormone treatments, one to block testosterone production, and then an estrogen regimen, which brings their levels in line with those assigned female at birth. Because trans girls hormonally become indistinguishable from any other female athletes, requiring them to compete in the boys’ division would be unfair. Opponents of trans girls’ participation in female athletics often point to other advantageous physical traits such as height as reason enough for a wholesale ban. But that ignores the natural variance that cis women have in height and dismisses the fact that height is not an advantage in sports such as gymnastics.
Tim Rymel, M.Ed., Contributor
Since Evangelical Christianity began infiltrating politics, officially in the late 1970s, there has been a disturbing trend to limit or remove rights from those who don’t meet the conservative idea of an American. Many of these initiatives come in the form of “religious freedom” laws, which empower discrimination, while other legislation targets immigrants who believe differently. The result has been a sharp division in American culture, and the redefinition of Christian theology.
Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?
Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).
We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.
Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento said after the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” This “minister of God” showed no compassion for the families of the men and women who died. He appeared incapable of laying aside his religious beliefs for even a moment of shared human connection to a tragic event.
And recently, Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, according to her website, wrote a public blog called “Giving Your Child to the Devil.” She claimed, “Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.” She listed Matthew 10:37 as justification, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
In a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, martyr’s rant, she claims her son turned his back on God, and she was left with no other option but to abandon him. It turns out her son is gay and – it turns out – the day the diatribe was posted was his wedding day. Sharon Hambrick, a Christian writer, posted a wonderful response to this mom.
But mostly, rather than calling these people out for sociopathic behavior fellow Christians agree. Many of the comments on Higginbotham’s website say, “So sorry for your loss,” or, “Praying for you and your son.”
By Bill Berkowitz
May 11, 2017
While North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB2 law – its so-called bathroom bill — Target stores’ policy of allowing transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity, and public schools across the nation are working to accommodate transgender children, the religious right has placed transgender rights in its crosshairs. Dr. Paul McHugh, a former director of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychiatry and University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has over the years become the go-to guy for the Religious Right’s anti-trans attacks.
2016 was the deadliest year on record for murders of transgender people in the US. In an era of the public shaming of transgender students at public universities by alt-right representatives, and a predilection for fake news and pseudo science, McHugh has been stoking gender-identity hate, and has been blazing a path of misinformation and disinformation.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “McHugh has publicly called transgender people ‘caricatures’ and described them as ‘confused’ and ‘mad.’” He not only writes about these issues, but he’s also provided anti-trans testimony in courtrooms, and before state legislatures across the country.
According to a Political Research Associates profile, Dr. Paul McHugh “has actively worked against the medical treatment of trans people since the 1970s, [and] ….In an essay published in The American Scholar, McHugh indicates that part of his incentive for taking over Johns Hopkins’ psychiatry department was to shut down the institution’s Gender Identity Clinic, which had been at the forefront of transgender medicine since 1966.” He succeeded in shutting it down in 1979.
In addition to his prestigious position at Johns Hopkins University, McHugh has carved out “a platform” for his transphobia as a “member of the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), a small right-wing breakaway group that split from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 and was later called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2012.” The American College of Pediatricians should not be confused with the more legitimate American Academy of Pediatrics.
In a January 2017 statement – signed onto by McHugh — published at the American College of Pediatricians website titled “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” the organization “urges healthcare professionals, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.”
According to the Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates (PRA), McHugh has become one of the go-to academicians for the religious right’s attack on transgender rights. And while his work is often “cited as fact by the Christian Right, his own sources are questionable.”
PRA pointed out that “The Human Rights Campaign recently drilled down on this failure to engage in rigorous peer review as part of a new website called “McHugh Exposed” launched just ahead of the Earth Day “March for Science” in April 2017. This comes on the heels of McHugh jointly filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court opposing Virginia trans student Gavin Grimm in his case regarding access to the restroom appropriate to his gender identity. In March 2017, the Supreme Court reversed its decision to hear the case, and vacated a lower court’s ruling in favor of Grimm. How Title IX protections extend to trans students remain open to interpretation.”
The “McHugh Exposed” website recently published a pieced titled “How anti-LGBTQ activists are leveraging junk science to advance their agenda.” The website points out that “In August 2016, [McHugh] teamed up with Lawrence Mayer—a biostatistician who was recently paid $400 per hour to defend North Carolina’s infamous anti-LGBTQ HB2 law in court—on a report mischaracterizing research on gender and sexual orientation.” McHugh later admitted that the so-called [a 116-page] “special report,” which was “published in the New Atlantis [magazine], a right-wing think tank journal, was merely an ‘opinion piece.’”
From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/160651192690
May 14, 2017
The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.
Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice – a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.
It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House.
Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election – the most direct assault on American democracy in history,
Last Thursday, in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt about his firing of Comey, Trump said: “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump also said that he had pressed Comey during a private dinner to tell him if he was under investigation.
Trump conceded that the ongoing investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election, which includes a probe into the possibility that Moscow was coordinating with the Trump campaign, was one of the factors Trump considered before firing Comey.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’ ” Trump said.
The law is reasonably clear. If Trump removed Comey to avoid being investigated, that’s an obstruction of justice – an impeachable offense.
Continue reading at: http://robertreich.org/post/160651192690