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South Carolina Bill Requires Schools to Teach NRA-Approved Second Amendment Curriculum

A father teaches his young son how to shoot a rifle. (Torrey Wiley)

A father teaches his young son how to shoot a rifle. (Torrey Wiley)

South Carolina state legislators have proposed a bill that would force the state’s public schools to spend more time teaching National Rifle Association-approved pro-gun material than some high schools spend teaching about the Civil War or World War II.

The bill, H.3023, the “Second Amendment Education Act 2015,” is being co-sponsored by state Reps. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry), Richard Yow (R-Chesterfied) and Garry Smith (R-Greenville). If passed into law, it would designate December 15 as “Second Amendment Awareness Day” and require all state public schools to “conduct poster or essay contests with related themes.”

The most important part of the bill would require “all public elementary schools, middle schools and high schools [to] provide instruction in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution for at least three consecutive weeks in one grading period in each academic year.”

This coursework may be used to partially satisfy teaching requirements for the US Constitution, and would be required for students to graduate from high school.

One of the most controversial provisions in the bill requires the state superintendent of education to “adopt a curriculum for teaching the Second Amendment that has been developed or recommended by the National Rifle Association.”

Critics cite additional text in the proposed bill as proof that the measure is politically motivated:

Whereas, the right to bear arms has been increasingly and unjustly made the target of criticism when acts of violence involving gun use occur, rather than focusing on the underlying causes that led to the violent act; and

Whereas, one result of hostility toward the second amendment has been an absolute intolerance for any discussion of guns or depiction of guns in writing or in assignments in public schools, which is an affront to First Amendment rights and harshly inhibits creative expression and academic freedom.

ThinkProgress analyzed numerous high school advanced placement United States history syllabi and found that the three weeks of pro-gun education required under the proposed legislation was longer than some schools spend teaching some of the most seminal historic events, like slavery, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II.

Furthermore, the South Carolina bill would require the NRA-designed or -approved material to be taught at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels.

Republicans in numerous states have attempted to pass legislation mandating gun education for children as young as six years old. In 2013, Missouri state Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla) introduced a bill that would use NRA-produced cartoons to teach first-graders about gun safety. Similar measures have been introduced in Texas and Maine.

Gun control advocates counter that the best way to protect children from harm caused by firearms is to not have guns. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 86 percent of child firearm-related deaths occur at home. Statistics show a higher rate of both homicide and suicide in homes with guns.

FBI: Colorado Springs NAACP Bombing May be Domestic Terrorism

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating Tuesday’s explosion outside a building housing the Colorado Springs office of the NAACP as a possible hate crime or act of domestic terrorism.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports investigators have not yet determined the motivation behind the bombing, and that several possibilities are being explored.

“It is certainly a possibility of being a hate crime or domestic terrorism, however we are exploring all possibilities of potential motive,” Denver FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders told the paper.

US Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner told the Gazette that an assistant US attorney with expertise in “both terrorism-related matters and matters related to destructive devices” is supporting the FBI investigation.

That probe, which involves federal, state and local law enforcement officials, has been ongoing since Tuesday’s blast, which rocked a building housing the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at 603 South El Paso Street at around 10:45 a.m. Police attributed the explosion to an improvised explosive device (IED).

Fortunately, no one was injured and damage was limited to a charred wall at Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios, a barber shop in the same building as the office of the civil rights group. Mr. G’s owner Gene Southerland told the Gazette that police told him the blast was caused by a flare and a pipe bomb next to a gas can, which did not explode.

State and national civil rights leaders condemned the bombing, calling it possible terrorism.

“This certainly raises questions of a potential hate crime,” Sondra Young, president of the Denver NAACP chapter, told the Los Angeles Times. “But at this point we’re still gathering information. It’s a very sad situation, but we’re happy our people in Colorado Springs are safe.”

Young added that her NAACP branch “stands tall with the community of Colorado Springs in rejecting an attempt to create fear, intimidation and racial divisiveness.”

“Although this is an active investigation, one thing is clear: This is an act of domestic terrorism,” she said.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the only living member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was one of the first Freedom Riders, tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by the bombing in Colorado.”

“It reminds me of another period,” he said, referring to the violence inflicted on civil rights activists and other blacks and their supporters in the 1960s. “These stories cannot be swept under the rug.”

Southerland, the barber shop owner, said he believes the bombing is related to the heightened racial tensions which have been stoked by numerous deaths of unarmed black men and boys by police officers. The NAACP has been very outspoken about these cases, including the August shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri officer Darren Wilson. A grand jurydeclined to indict Wilson, sparking weeks of civil unrest in Ferguson and in cities around the nation.

“Personally, I think that it’s all related,” Southerland told the Gazette. “What’s happening in Ferguson, what’s happening here, it’s all related.”

The Denver Post reports authorities are seeking a “person of interest” described as a white male, around 40 years old, who neighbors say they saw fleeing the scene of the explosion.

“He may be driving a 2000 or older model, dirty, white pickup truck with paneling, a dark-colored bed liner, open tailgate and a missing or covered license plate,” the FBI said, urging anyone with information about the case to call 303-435-7787.

#KillAllMuslims Trending on Twitter in Wake of Paris Terrorist Attack

French protesters took to the streets of Paris and other cities to express solidarity with the victims of Wednesday's terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. (Gwenael Piaser)

French protesters took to the streets of Paris and other cities to express solidarity with the victims of Wednesday’s terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. (Gwenael Piaser)

The twitter hashtag #KillAllMuslims has been trending strong in the wake of Wednesday’s Islamist terrorist attack on the headquarters of a controversial French satire magazine known for its cartoons skewering religion.

But the popularity of the alarming tweet is not all that it seems, the BBC reports. While the call for mass murder of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims has been tweeted since 2013, and while the hashtag’s use spiked after Wednesday’s attack, the overwhelming majority of tweets containing the hashtag have been posted in repudiation of its genocidal incitement.

First, a sampling of the bad and the ugly…

“I’m so sorry for those French journalists, fucking Muslims I always hated and always will hate them. #KillAllMuslims,” tweeted @EchtGandolf, whose account appears to have been disabled or suspended.

@EchtGandolf also posted other tweets with the offensive hashtag, including this one asserting that “We as Europeans must unite against these fucking Muslims and drive them away once and for all.”

In another conversation thread, Steven Renner (@EpikMani) tweeted, “#KillAllMuslims is the only viable response to this war on Western culture.”

@BigBobbyTCOT, aka ‘The Angry Patriot,’ added, “KILL ALL MUSLIMS, WE HAVE TOLERATED THEM LONG ENOUGH!”

@sailboat22 warned that “Islam is a vicious cult. Mudlums have no place in any civilized country! Deport and kill them before they kill you!”

#KillAllMuslims

Frequent Fox News contributor Erik Rush, who tweeted that Muslims are “all evil, let’s kill them all,” in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, did not use the #KillAllMuslims hashtag this time. But he did tweet, ” I say crap on their muhammed and their phony god.”

Now, the good. If there is a silver lining to this story, it is the mass rejection of the hateful hashtag’s message. These repudiations far outnumbered the hateful tweets.

“#KillAllMuslims is trending. The same mentality that Hitler, Al Qaeda, ISIS, KKK & other extremists hold. What a great time to be alive,” tweeted @KareemFenty.

“If you really cared about democratic rights and values, you’d be defending Muslims from hate and bigotry. Not starting #KillAllMuslims,” posted @Payitforward87.

#KillAllMuslims

More good news: #RespectForMuslims has been heavily trending Thursday, as #KillAllMuslims fell from Twitter’s top trending topics.

Sadly, numerous violent attacks against Muslims, especially against mosques, have been reported throughout France in the wake of Wednesday’s Islamist attack on the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine which gained international attention for its provocative cartoons lambasting Islam and other religions.

Twelve people — 10 Charlie Hebdo staff members and two policemen — were shot and killed by the attackers, two of whom remained at large as of Thursday evening. A third suspect turned himself in to police on Wednesday night.

Republican Senators: Paris Attack Justifies Heightened NSA Surveillance

Sen. Corker, now Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says letting the NSA do its job is more important than checking its abuses (Photo: Bob Corker)

Sen. Corker, now Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says letting the NSA do its job is more important than checking its abuses (Photo: Bob Corker)

As Republicans took control of the US Senate and its powerful intelligence committee, leading GOP senators pointed to Wednesday’s Islamist terrorist attack in Paris as proof that controversial National Security Agency surveillance is justified.

The National Journal reports a number of leading Senate Republicans cited Wednesday’s attack on the Paris headquarters of the satirical anti-religion magazine Charlie Hebdo in an effort to drum up support for a heightened state of government surveillance as the United States continues to lead a 14-year global war against terrorism.

“If it can happen in Paris, it can happen in New York again or Washington, DC,” warned Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s a lesson to learn.”

“I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said. “I believe our national security infrastructure designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

Graham was referring to the bipartisan effort to put checks on NSA surveillance in the wake of recent revelations, many of them by exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden, of a massive global spying program in which billions of electronic communications in dozens of nations were monitored. No one was immune from the surveillance — targets included foreign corporations, friendly heads of state, the Pope and even online video gaming communities like World of Warcraft.

The CIA has also come under heavy fire, largely due to revelations about its secret torture and extraordinary rendition programs authorized by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Last month, the Senate released a much-anticipated summary of a report detailing the scope and brutality of the CIA ‘enhanced interrogation’ program, under which detainees were tortured and killed, after a long push by then-Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other Democrats.

But Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told the National Journal that allowing the NSA to effectively carry out its duty to protect America is more important than reigning the agency in.

“To me, Congress having oversight certainly is important,” said Corker, “but what is more important relative to these types of events is ensuring we don’t overly hamstring the NSA’s ability to collect this kind of information in advance and keep these kinds of activities from occurring.”

Corker said it was necessary to remind Americans of the security risks posed by terrorism and other threats during this time of waning public trust in the nation’s security and intelligence agencies.

“I think events like [the Paris attack] and people’s recognition that the only way to keep those from happening is through outstanding intelligence-gathering,” he said. “That alone, unfortunately, does shape people’s opinions.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who now heads the Intelligence Committee, said he is concerned about President Barack Obama’s ability to provoke adequate fear of terrorism among a war-weary public.

“My only concern is that the language that [Obama] has used does not adequately convey to the American people how severe the threat is from terrorism and that public support of what our intelligence committee does is really crucial to the long term effectiveness of our entire community,” said Burr.

But one prominent GOP senator, the libertarian-leaning Tea Party favorite Rand Paul (KY), warned against surrendering freedom to gain safety.

“I’ve always said that we should defend against terrorism, we should just use it while using the Constitution,” said Paul. “We don’t have to get rid of the constitutional protections of liberty in order to have security.”

‘Banksy’ Instagram Account Posts Charlie Hebdo Tribute

('Banksy' Instagram)

(‘Banksy’ Instagram)

UPDATE: Mashable posted this correction on Thursday morning:

We now know that the illustration below wasn’t by Banksy and was not an original piece of art. It was illustrated by Lucille Clerc, a London-based graphic designer and printmaker, who shared it on social media on Wednesday night.

Social media accounts linked to the enigmatic street artist Banksy posted a touching tribute to the 12 people killed by Islamist terrorists in Paris on Wednesday.

Hours after the three gunmen massacred 10 staff members of the controversial satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and two police officers near the Bastille monument in the French capital, the “Banksy” Instagram account posted an “RIP” tribute to the terrorism victims.

Although the identity of the account holder has not been confirmed, it has long been assumed to belong to the famous artist and the script in the drawing matches his handwriting. The simple yet poignant drawing depicts a whole pencil with the caption “yesterday,” atop the pencil broken in half captioned “today,” followed by both halves as functioning pencils with the caption “tomorrow.”

The drawing soon went viral on Facebook and Twitter as well, where many users noted similarities between the drawing attributed to Banksy and earlier cartoon drawings posted by other artists.

Je Suis Charlie

“If that really is a Banksy offering, then he has nabbed the idea wholesale from a cartoon I saw earlier this afternoon. Just THIEVED it,” tweeted computer repairman Aaron Abernethy from Carryduff, Northern Ireland.

Cartoonists and other artists from all over the world have been posting tributes on social media in the wake of the Paris tragedy. Many Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users also reposted many of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons mocking Islam (and other religions) and depicting the Muslim ‘prophet’ Mohammed, which is strictly forbidden in that religion.

In this Charlie Hebdo cartoon, the Muslim 'prophet' Mohammed says, "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter."

In this Charlie Hebdo cartoon, the Muslim ‘prophet’ Mohammed says, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”

The Huffington Post reports some media are self-censoring, however, with the Associated Press, CNN, New York Daily News and Britain’s The Telegraph among the major corporate mainstream media outlets which have refused to show Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Many people around the world also paid tribute to the Paris victims with social media posts with a #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) theme.

“You can kill journalists, cartoonists. You can’t kill the freedom of the press. You have only made their message stronger. #JeSuisCharlie,” tweeted writer Emily Koch from Bristol, England.

Meanwhile, Mashable reports a small number of Twitter users posted messages applauding the terrorists and warning that such attacks are the price to pay for insulting Islam.

It’s the Religion, Stupid

(Freedom From Religion Foundation)

(Freedom From Religion Foundation)

When will humanity acknowledge the inherent dangers of Abrahamic religion —Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and stop being apologists for belief systems which kill, oppress and repress countless millions of people in nearly every society on earth?

How many Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, Israeli colonizations and occupations, 9/11s and Charlie Hebdo attacks will it take before our ‘wise’ species wises up to the fact that the perpetrators of these and countless other atrocities and crimes against humanity are acting not in a manner anathema to their respective religions, but in a manner often prescribed by them?

When a nuclear reactor melts down, there are strident calls for shuttering nuclear power plants.

When gunmen massacre innocent school children, outraged citizens push for firearm bans, or stricter controls.

When carbon pollution, global temperatures and sea levels rise, people around the world press their governments for corrective action.

But when Zionists commit ethnic cleansing, occupation, colonization and apartheid because “God” deeded them, “His Chosen People,” all of Palestine, we declare our undying solidarity with Israel and lavish its criminal military with billions of dollars in annual aid.

When, by the Pope’s own admission, thousands of Catholic priests and other clergy rape and molest children and the Church’s highest authorities conspire to conceal the epidemic, we turn blind eyes and continue to revere that Church as one of the most respected Western institutions.

When fundamentalist Muslim theocracies execute gays, adulterers, blasphemers and those who reject Islam, we don kid gloves and go out of our way to demonstrate how we understand that this abhorrent repression, under which hundreds of millions of people suffer throughout the Muslim world, is “not representative of the ‘religion of peace.'”

Why is religion, which clearly does so much harm to so many people in every corner of the world, treated so differently?

Of course, the fact that the vast majority of humanity believes in supernatural deities or ‘spirits,’ even absent any corroborating scientific evidence, largely explains the perpetual “get out of jail free (and tax-free) card” that we as a species bless religions with.

But let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. If any other group’s most important texts claimed that the highest authority in the universe not only endorsed, but verily commanded its followers to commit genocide, enslavement, rape and all sorts of other inhuman outrages in its name, that group would be shut down, banned, and its leaders tried, convicted, imprisoned or even executed for crimes against humanity.

Yet instead, those of us who dare note the perverse criminality inherent in the holiest texts and teachings of the Abrahamic faiths are accused of bigotry.

This reminds me of the manner in which those of us who condemn, or even acknowledge, racism in America are too often called racists by people who clearly have little or no concept of what racism is, sometimes because they’re racists themselves.

Exposing and opposing the crimes of Abrahamic religion is not bigotry. Are those progressives who rail against the well-documented crimes of corporatism bigoted against Wall Street bankers? Are pro-life conservatives who picket Planned Parenthood clinics expressing bigotry against women who choose to have abortions?

Of course they aren’t. People choose to be bankers, or to have abortions — or to belong to one religion or another. Choices are always open to criticism.

A more reasonable, but still imperfect, argument can be made that Abrahamic religion is bigotry. After all, Jews believe they’re “God’s Chosen People.” Christians believe you’re either ‘saved’ or ‘damned’ based on acceptance of Jesus Christ. Muslims divide the world into believers (Dar al-Islam, or House of Peace) and infidels (Dar al-Harb, or House of War), with eternal paradise promised to the former and aggression and discrimination condoned against the latter in ‘this world,’ with ever-lasting damnation awaiting their lost ‘souls’ (except in Judaism, which has no ‘Hell’) in the ‘afterlife.’

Any objective, reasonable, thinking person should immediately understand that any belief system which divides humanity into ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ and which revolves around the deadly and oppressive commandments of a supernatural deity for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence, is inherently supremacist.

And by the way, if you rail against the “evils” of one religion while ignoring or glossing over the crimes of yours, or hate people solely because they worship differently than you do, that’s bigotry. Yes, Islam might be getting the lion’s share the bad press today, and deservedly so, but Christianity has caused as much, if not more, suffering throughout the millennia, and Gaza’s bombed-out neighborhoods and dead children stand as a stark reminder of what happens when an entire people believes it has ‘God’ on its side.

Religion is dangerous. It kills, oppresses and represses hundreds of millions of people in nearly every nation on earth. Here in San Francisco, arguably the gayest place on earth, my LGBT brothers and sisters could not, for the longest time, marry who they loved due to the insidious machinations of crusading Mormons and other Christian sects. And our gays have it good — they face life imprisonment in Christian Uganda, and they’re stoned to death in Islamic fundamentalist theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, places where women who have sex outside of wedlock and people who insult Islam or its ‘prophet’ are beheaded in the name of Allah the Merciful.

“But I’m a Muslim and I don’t believe those terrible things,” apologists assert incessantly. So what? They’re still in your holiest texts. When apologists parrot the lie that Islamist terrorists do not represent the “religion of peace,” intellectual honesty demands immediate rebuke. For it is written. Today’s Paris attackers were merely following instructions of the ‘holiest’ kind.

Countless apologists, even progressive ones, inevitably fall back on noting all the good that religion has done. Often, they will relate how one religion or another has “saved” them. But I submit that 100 good deeds are negated by one atrocity. Does it matter that an oil company donates to environmental groups when that same profusely polluting corporation is responsible for environmental devastation and degradation on a global scale? And what if I were to argue that joining the Aryan Nation “saved” me? After all, did Hitler not also do some good deeds?

The bottom line is that the crimes committed in the name of Judaism, Christianity or Islam should not be chalked up to a “few bad apples” acting in a manner inconsistent with the these religions. No, I’ll repeat — they were just following ‘God’s’ instructions. And when ‘God’ simultaneously commands “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and “Kill both man and woman, child and infant,” the latter commandment, which after all affects life and death on a global scale, should trump the former in terms of how we view that religion.

Conservative Darling Dr. Ben Carson Caught Plagiarizing 12 Times in ‘America the Beautiful’

January 7, 2015 by Brett Wilkins in Conservatives with 0 Comments
Ben Carson speaking at a gala event hosted by Wake Up America at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, September 5, 2014. (Gage Skidmore)

Ben Carson speaking at a gala event hosted by Wake Up America at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, September 5, 2014. (Gage Skidmore)

Several sections of a bestselling 2012 book ‘authored’ by renowned neurosurgeon and potential Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson were plagiarized from multiple sources, including an anti-socialism website, BuzzFeed has revealed.

Multiple passages totaling hundreds of words from Carson’s America the Beautiful were lifted word-for-word from numerous sources, including the now-defunct website socialismsucks.net.

In trashing socialism, Carson copied entire paragraphs and passages from the site. For example:

Anytime you give to government the responsibility and authority to provide government-made jobs, old-age financial security, “free” health care, and “free” education and indoctrination of children, it will control the lives of the people who live under its jurisdiction, and individual liberty and freedom of choice are sacrificed.

Ironically, Carson writes in America the Beautiful about how he was caught plagiarizing in college and given a second chance to re-write a research paper:

“[My professor] pointed out that I had plagiarized and told me that the consequences for doing so normally included expulsion. I could see all of my dreams of becoming a doctor dashed by my stupidity,” he wrote. “Even though I did not know the implications of plagiarism, I certainly should have known inherently that what I was doing was wrong. I had done it before without consequences and probably would have continued doing it if I had not been caught.”

“Fortunately for me, the professor was very compassionate, realized that I was naïve, and gave me a chance to rewrite the paper,” he added. “This raises another question: Is ignorance an acceptable excuse for unethical behavior?”

Carson certainly cannot claim ignorance this time around, as BuzzFeed has listed no fewer than a dozen examples in which he plagiarized sources ranging from press releases to CBS News.

Sealey Yates, a spokesperson for the world-renowned neurosurgeon, thanked BuzzFeed for revealing Carson’s plagiarism.

“If it is determined that additional citations or attribution are required, the appropriate revisions will be made in subsequent printings,” Yates promised. “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

It is uncertain what, if any, impact that the discovery of Carson’s cheating will have on his presidential prospects. A darling of right-wing politicians and pundits, Carson recently took a major step toward running for the 2016 Republican nomination by forming a political action committee (PAC), One Nation, and selecting Houston businessman Terry Giles as his campaign chairman should he decide to run.

The revelation of Carson’s literary theft comes less than a year after another conservative favorite, libertarian-leaning US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was embroiled in his own plagiarism scandal after BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that among other pilfering, an entire three-page section of his 2013 book, Government Bullies, was reprinted verbatim from a decade-old case study by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Kaczynski reported last April that Paul himself has been the victim of Republican plagiarism, with no less than eight GOP candidates copying and pasting from the “issues” section on the Kentucky senator’s website.

South Korea: North Korea Has 6,000-Strong ‘Cyber Army’

January 6, 2015 by Brett Wilkins in Asia/Pacific with 0 Comments
An undated picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows leader Kim Jong-Un looking at a computer during a military drill.

An undated picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows leader Kim Jong-Un looking at a computer during a military drill.

South Korea officials warned on Tuesday that rival North Korea has a 6,000-member cyber army tasked with attacking and disrupting its democratic neighbor’s military and government computer networks.

It was previously believed that North Korea’s cyber force numbered around 3,000, the Washington Post reports. Despite endemic poverty and malnutrition among much of its citizenry, the Pyongyang regime has still managed to muster the resources necessary to maintain a large cyber warfare force capable of inflicting damage upon the South.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said the North’s cyber warriors are dedicated to “paralyzing the South psychologically and materially” and have been launching electronic attacks targeting military and government networks. South Korea has accused its neighbor, which is ruled by the brutal Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-un, of carrying out at least half a dozen major cyber attacks against it since 2007.

The United States has accused North Korea of a cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Hollywood film studio which produced The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco which skewers Kim. The film’s scheduled nationwide Christmas day release was suspended after many of the largest US cinema chains cancelled screenings.

Although Pyongyang denies being behind the attack, the Obama administration has responded by tightening already severe economic sanctions against North Korea. The ‘hermit kingdom’s’ limited Internet network has also been repeatedly knocked offline by unknown cyber assailants, with many believing Washington to be conducting ‘retaliatory’ action.

The North’s cyber warfare activities have an air of irony, since most North Koreans, who live under what is arguably the most repressive regime on earth, have never even used or seen the Internet before.

The Korean peninsula remains technically in a state of war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. There are still some 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea to deter a possible North Korean attack.

In related news, the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that North Korea may have developed missiles capable of striking the United States mainland, and that Pyongyang is attempting to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit atop such missiles. North Korea has conducted three nuclear weapons tests since 2006, most recently in 2013.

Pyongyang says it is developing missiles to launch satellites, and that its nuclear arsenal is a necessary deterrent against American aggression.

Jeb Bush Softens Anti-Gay Stance as Florida Becomes 36th State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

January 6, 2015 by Brett Wilkins in Conservatives, LGBT with 0 Comments
Jeb Bush, who once compared gays to "polluters and pedophiles," now says we should "respect" them. (Gage Skidmore)

Jeb Bush, who once compared gays to “polluters and pedophiles,” now says we should “respect” them. (Gage Skidmore)

While not fully embracing LGBT equality, Jeb Bush is softening his once staunchly anti-gay stance after a judge legalized such marriages in Florida, as its former governor prepares for a possible 2016 presidential run.

On Monday, Florida became the 36th US state to permit same-sex marriage after Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted her stay of a July 2014 ruling which declared a prior ban unconstitutional.

“Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest,” Zabel wrote in her July decision. “It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.”

The case challenging the ban, Pareto v. Rubin, was brought by Catherina Pareto of Coconut Grove and Karla Arguello, her partner of 14 years.

“It’s been a very emotional year for all of us, and we can’t wait to get married — in about an hour, I hope,” Pareto told the Miami Herald outside the Miami courtroom where Zabel lifted the stay in front of tearful and jubilant men and women who have now at long last achieved marriage equality. “I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated,” she added.

As same-sex couples rushed to obtain marriage licenses and tie the knot, Bush, who as governor in 2004 said he would support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage “if there was a threat that gay marriage would be accepted in our state,” and who has vehemently opposed same-sex adoption rights, toned down his anti-gay rhetoric a bit.

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said on Monday. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

The former governor’s call for “respect” is a far cry from the stance he expressed when running for governor for the first time. In a 1994 Herald op-ed, he argued against equal rights for LGBT Americans, comparing them to “polluters and pedophiles.”

“[Should] sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is no,” wrote Bush. “The statement that the governor must stand up for all people on all matters is just silly,” he added, noting that government does not defend the rights of everyone “with equal verve and enthusiasm.” As examples, he listed “polluters, pedophiles, pornographers, drunk drivers and developers without proper permits.”

Buzzfeed, which unearthed the 1994 op-ed, asked Bush if he still held such anti-gay beliefs.

“Gov. Bush believes that our society should have a culture of respect for all people, regardless of their differences, and that begins with preventing discrimination, including when it comes to sexual orientation,” said Kristy Campbell, Bush’s spokeswoman. “This opinion editorial from 20 years ago does not reflect Gov. Bush’s views now, nor would he use this terminology today.”

Despite his mild evolution, Bush expressed disappointment that a court has overruled the will of the majority of Florida voters, 62 percent of whom voted in favor of a 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.

“It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” Bush told the Herald. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”

Bush’s comments came as he prepares for a possible run for the Republican nomination for president next year. On Tuesday, he filed paperwork to start a political action committee (PAC), Right to Rise, which will support conservative candidates.

Last month, Bush announced he was “actively exploring” a run for the White House in 2016, and he has recently resigned from numerous posts which may present conflicts of interest, including from the boards of Rayonier Inc., Tenet Healthcare Corporation and Barclays, the British bank which has been embroiled in criminal scandal.

The arrival of LGBT marriage equality in Florida caps a stunning year of advancement for same-sex marriage rights across America. A year ago, 17 states had legalized gay marriage. Florida now becomes the 36th state to do so. It is now far easier to list the states which do not allow same-sex marriage than those that do. The remaining holdouts are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay Called ‘Racist’ for Anti-Racism #EndWhiteSilence Tweet

#EndWhiteSilence

Why do so many white Americans reflexively accuse those who dare acknowledge the existence of white racism of being racists? It’s a question I find myself asking more and more these days, and today’s headlines provided yet another fresh example.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Police Chief Cameron McLay is being lauded by the city’s mayor, as well as by social justice advocates of all colors, for his December 31 retweet of a photo of him holding a sign reading, “I RESOLVE TO CHALLENGE RACISM @ WORK #END WHITE SILENCE.”

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, activists from the anti-racism group What’s Up?! Pittsburgh approached the chief in a coffee shop during the city’s First Night celebration and asked him to pose with the sign they’d made. The activists then posted the photo on Twitter.

McLay’s actions were an innocuous and very welcome acknowledgement of one of the most serious and enduring problems facing black and brown Americans today, a statement of solidarity at a time when sympathetic voices in law enforcement seem all but impossible to come by. In this heated “us vs. them” atmosphere, in which heavily militarized police engage in “wartime policing” in response to legitimate outrage over the impunity with which white cops kill unarmed black men and children, Chief McLay’s gesture of conciliation ought to be roundly applauded.

And it was, by many. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he saw the photo on social media and liked it so much he shared it on his own Facebook page.

“I thought, ‘What a great way to begin the new year,'” the first-year mayor, who hired McLay in September, told the Associated Press.

Plenty of people in Pittsburgh — and beyond — agreed.

What’s Up?! Pittsburgh applauded the McLay’s post, tweeting “@ChiefCSMcLay just committed to challenge racism at work. #endwhitesilence. We gonna hold you to it Chief!”

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To which McLay replied, “It’s time for courageous conversations about implicit bias, race and gender @ work & in our communities.”

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Even Anonymous, the hacktivist collective that has so often been at odds with police, gave props, with Pissed_Off_Anonymous tweeting “many of us will be honored to work with you in any way we can.”

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“Thank you, Chief! I just showed ur tweet to my partner, who broke down in tears. Honored to have u serve,” tweeted @aniktwit.

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“Thank you Chief McLay! You give me hope that together we can fix the inJustice system,” commented Facebook user Lori Keith

“I love the effort; just worried about some of the possible backlash,” Pittsburgh native Craig Stack commented on Mayor Peduto’s Facebook post.

“They are going to turn their backs on him,” tweeted @truemira, a reference to the cold shoulder given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio by many of his own police officers, who claim their boss “sided with protesters” demonstrating against NYPD brutality and racism.

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There was no shortage of the backlash that Stack and others feared. Much of it came from within McLay’s own department.

“By Mayor Peduto labeling us ‘corrupt and mediocre’ and now our current Chief insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession, I say enough is enough,” railed Fraternal Order of Police president Howard McQuillan in an email to Peduto’s office published in part in the Post-Gazette.

McLay responded with an email to the police union apologizing if he offended officers but standing by his tweet, noting it’s a “statistical fact” that policing has “a disparate impact on communities of color.”

“The predominant pattern of our city’s increased violence involves black victims as well as actors,” wrote McLay, acknowledging the black-on-black crime that many whites claim is a far bigger problem than white racism. “If we are to address this violence, we must work together with our communities of color.”

“I was hired to restore the legitimacy of the police department,” added McLay. “I did not seek these young activists out. I was stopping for coffee at First Night. Their message is not anti-anybody. It is simply a call for awareness. The photo was a great, spontaneous moment in time. Please join dialogue for community healing.”

There were the inevitable accusations of racism leveled against McLay by those who are apparently unaware that the chief is white.

“[McLay] should be reprimanded for that white silence crap. To me that is reverse racism,” commented Gary Galilei on Facebook.

“This is so insulting to white people. Do you get that? So racist,” tweeted @citrussage.

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“.@ChiefCSMcLay you are on crack! I will not set foot in Pittsburgh, knowing the chief of police is a spineless twat,” spat Matthew S. Harrison.

“Oh white people,” an exasperated Janet S. commented on the Post-Gazette website. “You are so defensive, know everything, and are so put down in this world by black people. Its a wonder you make it in this world with black people oppressing you so much.”

Since so many of my white brothers and sisters seem to have so much trouble grasping basic concepts of racism, I’ll say it again for the gazillionth time: Acknowledging and opposing racism is not racist. Refusal to acknowledge the existence and severity of racism, however, is a sign that the naysayer is racist, or at least harbors racist views. Those who delude themselves into believing that racism is something that ended in the 1960s, or at the very latest, when Barack Obama was elected, are blind to the realities of black and brown life in “post-racial” America.

The truth is, deeply entrenched racism remains an institutionalized scourge upon American society. From our biased criminal (in)justice system to housing, health, wealth, education, employment and more, inequality and (often increasing) racial disparities are the rule in 2015 America, not the exception. Until white America adequately assesses and addresses these glaring problems, it cannot honestly claim to be “post-racial.”

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