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CDC is preparing for the 'likely' spread of coronavirus in the US, officials say 22 Feb 2020, 12:55 am
South Korea accepted that its efforts to stop the coronavirus from infecting the country failed and says it's pivoting to containment 21 Feb 2020, 11:35 pm
Bernie Sanders Leads in Nevada and the Establishment Isn't Doing Much to Stop Him 21 Feb 2020, 10:24 pm
California grad students risk losing their jobs amid months-long strike 21 Feb 2020, 10:23 pm
Fellow students and faculty across state march in solidarity amid call for better pay as cost of living soarsAcross university campuses in California on Friday, students and faculty members marched, chanted and waved signs in support of the graduate students at the University of Santa Cruz who have been waging a months-long strike for a cost-of-living-adjustment amid soaring rents.But despite that widespread support, many of those same Santa Cruz graduate students were readying themselves for the possibility of losing their teaching jobs and being forced to drop out of school.Since December, 233 graduate student instructors and teaching assistants have refused to submit nearly 12,000 grades from the fall quarter. And as of this month, the strike as expanded to include all teaching and grading duties, with research assistants refusing to do additional work.The students are striking for a $1,412-a-month cost-of-living-adjustment, something they say they desperately need amid the towering rents in Santa Cruz and the growing housing crisis in California.Graduate students at UC Santa Cruz currently make $2,434 a month before taxes, but many students “end up spending 50% and oftentimes 60% to 70% of their wages on rent”, said Jane Komori, a third-year graduate student studying the history of consciousness. “This cost-of-living-adjustment is what we would require to no longer be rent-burdened. It’s nothing extravagant. The median rent for a one-bedroom in Santa Cruz is nearly $3,000. We’re not asking for that. We’re just asking enough of a wage increase so we can be out of our rent burden, address our other expenses, and teach and research as we’re meant to.”> Massive march meets the picket line and pours into the streets at UCSC as part of UC-wide action for COLA and to defendthestrike and spreadthestrike. @payusmoreucsc pic.twitter.com/gxiBO3K5Di> > — Will Parrish (@willparrishca) February 21, 2020Classes and office hours have been canceled throughout the strike. The administration responded with two supplemental programs that will cost about $7m a year – one that will offer a yearly $2,500 need-based housing fellowship and another that offers doctoral students a five-year funding program. The supplemental programs would not be nearly enough for graduate students to get by in Santa Cruz, Komori said. Two weeks ago, the students escalated their strike, and one week ago, the University of California president, Janet Napolitano, announced that the strike “will have consequences, up to and including the termination of existing employment at the University”.Lori Kletzer, the executive vice-chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, set a deadline for 11:59pm Friday for all graduate students to turn in their grades. “We are giving these students one final opportunity to fulfill their teaching responsibilities and show that they can fulfill future responsibilities,” she wrote. “Those who do not submit full grade information by February 21 will not receive spring quarter appointments or will be dismissed from their spring quarter appointments.”For many students, that will mean having to drop out of their programs, Komori said. For international students like Komori, who is from Canada, that can put visas at risk. “It’s a big scary decision for a lot of people, but there’s been a lot of really positive conversations,” she said. “One thing is that our administration hasn’t guaranteed that we won’t face some kind of discipline or retaliation even if we do turn in the grades. We haven’t closed the poll but a good number, potentially a majority of people, still plan on withholding grades and will continue to hold them past the deadline.”All the graduate students have pledged not to take the teaching assistantships of anyone who has been fired, a move that will have an impact on the next quarter. Komori adds that a mass firing could “significantly affect” the number of courses the school could offer in the next academic quarter.The graduate students are represented by United Auto Workers Local 2865, which negotiated a contract in 2018 that got them a 3% wage increase and included a no-strike clause – meaning this current strike, known as a “wildcat strike”, has been taken without the union’s approval. More than 80% of the members on campus voted against the contract initially.The administration has cited this as a reason for not negotiating with the graduate students. “To accede to the demands of a group of employees engaged in an unauthorized wildcat strike would undercut the very foundation of an agreement negotiated in good faith by the UAW and ratified by thousands of members across the system,” Napolitano said.The administration agrees the “housing crisis is complex, systemic, and at the same time, deeply personal for many”, Kletzer wrote. “Where we differ, however, is in the approach to solve this problem.”Meanwhile, the movement is growing. Talk of “spread the strike” has begun at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside and UC Merced, Komori said. On Wednesday, the Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted his support.> UCSC grad students are fighting to have their labor rights acknowledged. I strongly urge the president of the UC system to stop threatening them, especially immigrant students, for organizing. I stand with @payusmoreucschttps://t.co/x03yyR70ZT> > — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 20, 2020“It’s incredibly empowering for people who are getting fired on our own campus to know that there will be major disruption throughout the university system and a ton of pressure on the office of the president when those campuses go on strike with us,” Komori said. “I think if all the campuses stand together on this, they won’t have a choice but to address it.”
A recurring Biden campaign story about being arrested in South Africa is full of inconsistencies 21 Feb 2020, 5:40 pm
Former Vice President Joe Biden has a pretty good tale to share — but it may be a little tall.Biden, who is running for president, has been spicing up his recent campaign stump speeches with a story of how he was arrested while in South Africa trying to see Nelson Mandela, The New York Times reports. But that recollection of events has only recently come to light, and it was reportedly omitted from Biden's 2007 memoir that detailed his escapades in the country around that time.During recent campaign speeches, Biden says he "had the great honor" of meeting Mandela and "of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto." As Miami Herald reporter Alex Daugherty points out, Soweto is a ways away from Robben Island, where Mandela's maximum security prison was located.> Adding to @katieglueck's story is Biden's quote doesn't make geographical sense. "I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island." Soweto is almost 900 miles away from Robben Island https://t.co/WtlZMdkexq> > — Alex Daugherty (@alextdaugherty) February 21, 2020The arrest, which has seemingly only been brought up publicly by Biden in the last few weeks, was not found referenced anywhere by readily available news outlets, per the Times.The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 1977 to 1979 was Andrew Young. While Young reportedly acknowledged going to South Africa with Biden, he said he was never arrested in the country, and he told the Times he didn't think Biden had been arrested there either."I don't think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa," Young told the Times, although he did say some people were being arrested in Washington.The story, which was seemingly nonexistent before a few weeks ago, has been told three times on the trail as Biden heads into Nevada and South Carolina, where he needs to pull in big numbers in order to counteract a lackluster showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.Word of advice: there are other ways to make yourself look tough to voters that don't include broadcasting a trip to the slammer.More stories from theweek.com How much will Medicare-for-all save Americans? A lot. The stunning Southern Baptist controversy over Donald Trump and Russell Moore, explained Bernie Sanders' subtle warning to the Democratic Party
AP Exclusive: DEA agent accused of conspiring with cartel 21 Feb 2020, 4:49 pm
A once-standout U.S. federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting. Jose Irizarry and his wife were arrested Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of a 19-count federal indictment that accused the 46-year-old Irizarry of “secretly using his position and his special access to information” to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption," said Mike Vigil, the DEA's former Chief of International Operations.
Coronavirus: FBI orders $40k-worth of hand sanitiser to prepare for pandemic as number of infected in US rises to 34 21 Feb 2020, 4:05 pm
The FBI has ordered $40,000 of hand sanitiser and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic in the United States,” according to documents seen by CNBC.COVID-19, as the coronavirus is officially named, was declared a public health emergency by the government in January. On Friday, the number of US cases was confirmed at 34, with more expected.
Afghanistan Could End Up in a Civil War. Time For U.S. Forces to Leave. 21 Feb 2020, 2:48 pm
Three separate political groups in Kabul are threatening to form a government of their own in opposition to current President Ashraf Ghani—and against each other. Before the political situation in Kabul completely breaks down and American troops get caught in a multi-sided civil war—which perversely might not even include the Taliban—we must quickly and methodically withdraw our troops.
More than 100 wild animals in China died from poisoning in a mass die-off seemingly triggered by coronavirus disinfectant 21 Feb 2020, 2:42 pm
Ilhan Omar accuses Meghan McCain of hypocrisy towards 'Bernie bros' over online attacks 21 Feb 2020, 1:35 pm
Representative Ilhan Omar has accused The View's Meghan McCain of hypocrisy for her opinions about Bernie Sanders supporters and their online attacks given her own social media behaviour."The same people who chastise the progressive movement regularly traffic in anti-Muslim smears and hate speech against me and those I represent," the freshman representative wrote in a tweet Thursday.
Police: Couple forced boys off road, angered by Trump flags 21 Feb 2020, 1:34 pm
A northwestern Indiana couple allegedly used a car to force two teenage boys off a road, angered that the twin brothers were riding bicycles adorned with flags supporting President Donald Trump, before ripping one of the sibling's flag from his bike, police said Friday. Hobart police said Snapchat videos helped officers secure charges against Kyren Gregory Perry-Jones, 23, and Cailyn Marie Smith, 18, in connection with a July 22 incident. Police Capt. James Gonzales said the Hobart couple are accused of driving in their car, running the 14-year-old boys off of the road, and making threats toward them.
A 15-month-old last seen in December was reported missing only this week 21 Feb 2020, 1:21 pm
California Pension Fund Does Not Deny CIO’s Involvement in China’s ‘Thousand Talents Program’ 21 Feb 2020, 12:09 pm
The CEO of California’s public pension fund said Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) had made “baseless accusations” about the fund’s chief investment officer being involved in Chinese espionage — but did not deny that Yu Ben Meng had been recruited to the “Thousand Talents Program.”Marcie Frost, the head of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), also admitted that her organization — the largest public pension fund in the country with “approximately $400 billion in global assets — had increased its Chinese investments in 2019 after shifts in “well-established indexes.”“CalPERS rebalanced its portfolio in light of these changes accordingly, resulting in the removal of 143 stocks and the addition of 198 stocks. Nearly half of the companies added were Chinese companies because the MSCI and FTSE indices changed to include China A-Shares,” she wrote in a Thursday letter to Banks.Banks told National Review that Frost’s comments “failed to answer two fundamental questions raised in my letter to Governor Newsom,” which he sent last week over concerns about Meng’s history.Meng emigrated to the U.S. from China to study at the University of California, Davis. He initially worked for CalPERS in 2008, before returning in January 2019 as CIO. From 2015 to 2018, Meng worked as deputy CIO with China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), which oversees China’s U.S. Treasury security holdings.In his letter to Newsom, Banks highlighted a 2017 Chinese article which mentioned Meng’s role in Beijing’s Thousand Talents Program, which provides under-the-table funding to U.S. citizens in exchange for valuable information.“First question: Is Mr. Meng a member of the Thousand Talents Program, something the FBI called a ‘non-traditional espionage program?’” Banks said Friday after Frost’s response. “Second question: Since Meng came back as Chief Investment Officer of CalPERS, has CalPERS invested in companies that are affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army?”The Indiana Republican added that he wanted to hear from Meng over comments he gave to “the Chinese communist rag People’s Daily.”In the 2017 article, Meng mentions that his “roots were in China,” and says that “in human life, if there is an opportunity to serve the motherland, such responsibility and honor cannot be compared to anything.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has a Plan to Transform the Democratic Party 21 Feb 2020, 12:07 pm
Physicists spend $50M to support African American students 21 Feb 2020, 11:13 am
Moscow says Russian official detained in Spain after U.S. request 21 Feb 2020, 10:46 am
Meet Japan's Gestapo: The Kempeitai Secret Police That Americans Feared 21 Feb 2020, 10:21 am
Here’s $5.4 billion of stuff the US Navy says it wants but didn’t fit in its FY21 budget request 21 Feb 2020, 9:44 am
This Fighter Jet Is The Biggest Threat To Russia's Su-57 Stealth Fighter (Not the F-35) 21 Feb 2020, 8:55 am
The Culinary Union of Nevada takes a pass on endorsing – here's why that may be a winning political strategy 21 Feb 2020, 7:34 am
A picket line outside the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas proved to be a hot ticket for most Democratic hopefuls aiming to pick up a vote or two ahead of the Nevada caucuses.Elizabeth Warren turned up with donuts to support workers demanding a union contract, while fellow presidential candidates Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer also found time in their busy schedules to meet workers, pose for pictures and express solidarity.One candidate notable by his absence was Bernie Sanders. The reason may be related to a recent dust-up between the Vermont senator’s campaign and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, known in Las Vegas as “the Culinary.”Concern about damage to Sanders and the eagerness of his rivals to curry favor with the Culinary underscores the importance of the union in Nevada. Moreover, the political clout the Culinary possesses serves as an example of how unions can prosper at a time when legislators and politicans are working to limit labor rights.So who is the Culinary backing in the Nevada Democratic caucus? Nobody.The flash point in the Culinary’s decision not to endorse was the “Medicare for All” proposals of Sens. Sanders and Warren.In a leaflet distributed to members, the union stated that Sanders’ plan would “end Culinary Health Care” – the generous zero-deductible plan that serves 55,000 Culinary members and 70,000 of their dependents.Some of Sanders’ backers countered that the union had betrayed progressive values by protecting its members while sacrificing higher standards of care for all working-class families. Online, the fight quickly turned ugly. The Vermont senator disavowed supporters who “attack trade union leaders” during a televised debate with other candidates, but not before being accused by Pete Buttigieg of being “at war” with the Culinary.The online fracas harkened back to an old trope about labor unions that is relentlessly exploited by employers: that they don’t care about workers, only themselves and their own power. Which side are unions on?The spotlight on union power in Nevada comes at a time of debate within the labor movement over whether it needs to turn away from “business unionism” in order to survive. Business unionism, which organizes around specific goals for employees rather than a wider class struggle, was the dominant orientation of the labor movement in the U.S. though much of the 20th century.Some labor historians like Nelson Lichtenstein and David Montgomery point to business unions’ tendency to take care of their own rather than organizing new workforces as a primary reason for the decline of the labor movement to its current nadir, representing just 6.2% of the private sector workforce from nearly 35% in the 1950s.They have argued that in order to attract more members, unions need to adopt the tactics and strategies of new social movements and become engaged in political struggles for broad-based changes that affect all workers, not just those in unions.In a recent book, I argue that the Culinary bridges this traditional divide between business and social unionism.The union has been successful despite Nevada being a “right-to-work” state where employees don’t have to pay union dues to join a workforce and receive benefits. Culinary has grown its membership by touting the benefits that a strong union can bring, such as 24-hour health clinics, back-pay awards totaling hundreds of thousands dollars, and protections that have seen the return of terminated workers. At the same time, the Culinary has made political engagement a cornerstone of its value, both to its members and the wider public. In the 2016 election, the union knocked on more than 250,000 doors and was instrumental in getting Democrats elected to the state legislature, the governor’s office, and the U.S. House and Senate in Nevada.The social movement aspect of the union’s work is also seen in other policy areas that it used to compare the candidates: organizing rights and immigration reform. Policy changes on these issues will benefit members of the union, which include large numbers of recent immigrants. But it would also help many low-wage workers outside of the union. A brave face on JanusUnder President Trump, the National Labor Relations Board appears more intent on finding ways to limit labor rights than expand them. And the labor movement faced a major setback in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. ASCME that nonunion public sector workers could not be compelled to pay dues for services they receive. After that decision, the Culinary shows how the labor movement can adapt to the hostility of employers, government agencies and courts.It has been facing these headwinds for more than 80 years in Nevada. Today, Culinary members have wages and health care that are the envy of nonunion workers in the hospitality industry. But that standard came only as a result of historic strikes and hard-fought campaigns with multinational corporations like MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment.Other locals of the Culinary’s parent union Unite Here have backed Sanders, including in Boston. The Los Angeles local co-endorsed Sanders and Warren. But they are in states with very different politics than Nevada.The Culinary has always had a good sense of where the electorate is in Nevada, sometimes leading the union to endorse Republicans like former two-term Gov. Kenny Guinn. And it has been successful at helping to keep Nevada blue in the last three presidential elections, countering one of the more predictive variables for how a state will vote for president – whether or not it has a right-to-work law. My research has shown a correlation between right-to-work laws in red states and a vote for the Republican candidate for president. In the last election, Nevada and Virginia were and the only states to buck that trend. Far from being a referendum on Medicare for All, the Culinary’s non-endorsement returns the focus where they want it: getting the biggest turnout possible to meet the union’s goals of immigration reform, workers’ rights and better health care. The mixture of business and social unionism that made the Culinary a political force in Nevada can now serve as a model for other unions in the post-Janus era.[Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Something Democrats and Republicans have in common: Exaggerated stereotypes about both parties * When presidential campaigns end, what happens to the leftover money?Ruben J. Garcia does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
DNC announces qualifications for South Carolina debate 21 Feb 2020, 2:07 am
Who has qualified for the South Carolina Democratic debate so far? 21 Feb 2020, 2:01 am
New virus outbreaks in China, abroad rekindle concerns 21 Feb 2020, 1:05 am
An eruption of new virus cases in South Korea, Iran and Chinese hospitals and prisons rekindled concerns Friday about the spread of a deadly disease that has killed more than 2,200 people. The World Health Organization warned nations they could face a serious problem if they fail to "hit hard now" against the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 75,000 in China and over 1,100 abroad. China pointed to official numbers showing a drop in new cases this week as evidence that its drastic containment measures are working, but fresh cases emerged at two Beijing hospitals and more than 200 other cases in two prisons.
Democrat Warren, worried campaign will run out of cash, taps $3 million loan 21 Feb 2020, 12:37 am
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren raised more money than most of her Democratic presidential rivals in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses, but spent so heavily that her campaign took out a $3 million loan fearing she would run out of cash. Warren raised $10.4 million in contributions in January -- more than former Vice President Joe Biden's $9 million and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg's $6 million -- but ended the month with only $2.3 million in cash, according to disclosures filed on Thursday. All of the presidential hopefuls were required to submit financial disclosures on Thursday, public documents that offer insights into how they are managing their multi-million campaign operations.
46,000-year-old bird found in Siberia 20 Feb 2020, 10:46 pm
Quadruple murderer executed in Tennessee 20 Feb 2020, 10:23 pm
A quadruple murderer was put to death in Tennessee on Thursday despite lawyers asking the US Supreme Court for a stay of execution. Nicholas Sutton, 58, was found guilty of stabbing a fellow inmate to death in 1985. Sutton's lawyers in January asked the state's Republican governor, Bill Lee, to grant clemency, citing expressions of support for Sutton from prison officials.
Inmate says in letter that he killed 2 molesters in prison 20 Feb 2020, 10:08 pm
A California inmate serving a life sentence for murder confessed in a letter that he beat to death two child molesterswith another inmate's cane hours after a prison counselor ignored his urgent warning that he might become violent. In a letter to the Bay Area News Group, Jonathan Watson, 41, said he clubbed both men in the head on Jan. 16 at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in the small central California city of Corcoran. The first attack occurred after Watson became enraged that one of the sex offenders was watching a children’s television show,the East Bay Times reported Thursday.
Trump rally boos Greta Thunberg as he complains he should win Time Person of the Year 'every single year' 20 Feb 2020, 7:54 pm
Donald Trump's Colorado Springs rally has booed the name of climate activist Greta Thunberg, who he mentioned as he complained that he should be honoured as Time magazine's Person of the Year every year.Mr Trump attacked the 17-year-old by noting she had beat him out for the magazine honour in 2019, but noted that he has won in the past. He has previously complained about losing to Ms Thunberg, notably during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year.
Police search for man after 3 bodies found in California 20 Feb 2020, 7:38 pm
Authorities are seeking an “armed and very dangerous” man who is believed to have killed three men and left their bodies in a Southern California cemetery, the Riverside County sheriff said Thursday. The three men — Perris residents Jaime Covarrubias Espindola, 50; Jose Maria Aguilar-Espejel, 38 and Rodrigo Aguilar-Espejel, 28 — were killed at the same time. Sheriff Chad Bianco said at a news conferencethere is a felony warrant out for the arrest of Jose Luis Torres Garcia, 33, with $3 million bail.
Watch Out! U.S. Army Tanks Could Collapse Polish Bridges On Their Way to Battle Russia 20 Feb 2020, 7:33 pm
The U.S. Army and its closest allies have a problem. The region of the world where they arguably are most likely to deploy its heaviest vehicles for high-tech combat also is peppered with flimsy old bridges that can’t support the vehicles’ weight.
Elizabeth Warren trolls Republican donor with ad in his paper telling him how much tax she'll make him pay 20 Feb 2020, 6:51 pm
Elizabeth Warren has bought ad space in a newspaper owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, taunting the billionaire with an estimate for how much he would pay during the first year of her presidency with her promised 2 per cent wealth tax.“Here’s how much Sheldon Adelson pays under Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax in the first year: $2,300,000,000,’ the ad, printed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, says.
Apple has been granted a temporary restraining order against a man it says has been stalking Tim Cook 20 Feb 2020, 5:26 pm
Poll: Biden leads Sanders, Steyer in South Carolina 20 Feb 2020, 5:24 pm
Airport worker with no license takes plane for spin near D.C., almost crashes, feds say 20 Feb 2020, 4:53 pm
Grace Millane's mother tells killer she is 'haunted' by 'barbaric' murder 20 Feb 2020, 4:12 pm
The mother of murdered British backpacker Grace Millane said she will be forever “haunted” by the violent end her daughter met, as her Tinder date murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment. The 28-year-old New Zealand man, who retained temporary name suppression, was sentenced to life imprisonment at a New Zealand court on Friday morning, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. Millane had been in New Zealand for less than two weeks when she matched with her killer on Tinder. She was murdered on December 1, 2018, the night they first met in person, during what the court heard was rough sex in his hotel room after cocktails at downtown Auckland bars. Before the sentencing was read out, Millane's mother Gillian Millane made a moving victim impact statement via audio-video link from England. Gillian told the court she would be forever “haunted” by the way her daughter, whom she considered her best friend, had died. She said she experienced suicidal thoughts in the months after, and that she feared turning on the radio lest a song reminding her of her daughter be played.
Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries 20 Feb 2020, 4:08 pm
Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to U.S. Commision on International Religious Freedom.Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place. But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan. Blasphemy and apostasyOf 71 countries that criminalize blasphemy, 32 are majority Muslim. Punishment and enforcement of these laws varies. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Among non-Muslim-majority cases, the harshest blasphemy laws are in Italy, where the maximum penalty is three years in prison.Half of the world’s 49 Muslim-majority countries have additional laws banning apostasy, meaning people may be punished for leaving Islam. All countries with apostasy laws are Muslim-majority except India. Apostasy is often charged along with blasphemy. This class of religious laws is quite popular in some Muslim countries. According to a 2013 Pew survey, about 75% of respondents in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia favor making sharia, or Islamic law, the official law of the land. Among those who support sharia, around 25% in Southeast Asia, 50% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 75% in South Asia say they support “executing those who leave Islam” – that is, they support laws punishing apostasy with death. The ulema and the stateMy 2019 book “Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment” traces the root of blasphemy and apostasy laws in the Muslim world back to a historic alliance between Islamic scholars and government.Starting around the year 1050, certain Sunni scholars of law and theology, called the “ulema,” began working closely with political rulers to challenge what they considered to be the sacrilegious influence of Muslim philosophers on society. Muslim philosophers had for three centuries been making major contributions to mathematics, physics and medicine. They developed the Arabic number system used across the West today and invented a forerunner of the modern camera.The conservative ulema felt that these philosophers were inappropriately influenced by Greek philosophy and Shia Islam against Sunni beliefs. The most prominent in consolidating Sunni orthodoxy was the brilliant and respected Islamic scholar Ghazali, who died in the year 1111.In several influential books still widely read today, Ghazali declared two long-dead leading Muslim philosophers, Farabi and Ibn Sina, apostates for their unorthodox views on God’s power and the nature of resurrection. Their followers, Ghazali wrote, could be punished with death. As modern-day historians Omid Safi and Frank Griffel assert, Ghazali’s declaration provided justification to Muslim sultans from the 12th century onward who wished to persecute – even execute – thinkers seen as threats to conservative religious rule. This “ulema-state alliance,” as I call it, began in the mid-11th century in Central Asia, Iran and Iraq and a century later spread to Syria, Egypt and North Africa. In these regimes, questioning religious orthodoxy and political authority wasn’t merely dissent – it was apostasy. Wrong directionParts of Western Europe were ruled by a similar alliance between the Catholic Church and monarchs. These governments assaulted free thinking, too. During the Spanish Inquisition, between the 16th and 18th centuries, thousands of people were tortured and killed for apostasy.Blasphemy laws were also in place, if infrequently used, in various European countries until recently. Denmark, Ireland and Malta all recently repealed their laws.But they persist in many parts of the Muslim world. In Pakistan, the military dictator Zia ul Haq, who ruled the country from 1978 to 1988, is responsible for its harsh blasphemy laws. An ally of the ulema, Zia updated blasphemy laws – written by British colonizers to avoid interreligious conflict – to defend specifically Sunni Islam and increased the maximum punishment to death. From the 1920s until Zia, these laws had been applied only about a dozen times. Since then they have become a powerful tool for crushing dissent.Some dozen Muslim countries have undergone a similar process over the past four decades, including Iran and Egypt. Dissenting voices in IslamThe conservative ulema base their case for blasphemy and apostasy laws on a few reported sayings of Prophet Muhammad, known as hadith, primarily: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” But many Islamic scholars and Muslim intellectuals reject this view as radical. They argue that Prophet Muhammad never executed anyone for apostasy, nor encouraged his followers to do so.Nor is criminalizing sacrilege based on Islam’s main sacred text, the Quran. It contains over 100 verses encouraging peace, freedom of conscience and religious tolerance. In chapter 2, verse 256, the Quran states, “There is no coercion in religion.” Chapter 4, verse 140 urges Muslims to simply leave blasphemous conversations: “When you hear the verses of God being rejected and mocked, do not sit with them.”By using their political connections and historical authority to interpret Islam, however, the conservative ulema have marginalized more moderate voices. Reaction to global IslamophobiaDebates about blasphemy and apostasy laws among Muslims are influenced by international affairs.Across the globe, Muslim minorities – including the Palestinians, Chechens of Russia, Kashmiris of India, Rohingya of Mymanmar and Uighurs of China – have experienced severe persecution. No other religion is so widely targeted in so many different countries. Alongside persecution are some Western policies that discriminate against Muslims, such as laws prohibiting headscarves in schools and the U.S. ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries.Such Islamaphobic laws and policies can create the impression that Muslims are under siege and provide an excuse that punishing sacrilege is a defense of the faith.Instead, I find, such harsh religious rules can contribute to anti-Muslim stereotypes. Some of my Turkish relatives even discourage my work on this topic, fearing it fuels Islamophobia. But my research shows that criminalizing blasphemy and apostasy is more political than it is religious. The Quran does not require punishing sacrilege: authoritarian politics do.[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression * Imran Khan hopes to transform Pakistan but he’ll have far less power than past leadersAhmet T. Kuru is a FORIS scholar at the Religious Freedom Institute.
E. Jean Carroll, columnist who says Donald Trump raped her, fired from Elle 20 Feb 2020, 3:49 pm
Housing crisis: Berkeley law would put renters first 20 Feb 2020, 3:48 pm
The mayor of Berkeley, California, proposed a new housing policy Thursday aimed at giving renters first dibs when a property goes up for sale, as the state battles a severe housing shortage and homelessness that Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared his top priority. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin announced a proposed ordinance to give renters "the first refusal and right to purchase" when their apartment buildings or rented homes are put on the market. Berkeley's city council will vote on the idea later this month.
Iowa Professor Bound and Gagged Husband Before His Death: Cops 20 Feb 2020, 2:09 pm
An Iowa professor has been charged for allegedly gagging and binding her husband to a chair with rope for hours before his death, authorities said on Wednesday evening.Gowun Park, a 41-year-old assistant economics professor at Simpson College, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the death of her 41-year-old husband, Sung Nam, on Saturday, West Des Moines police told The Daily Beast. “Ms. Park’s actions and in-actions were directly responsible for Mr. Nam’s death. The injuries sustained by Mr. Nam were not self-inflicted,” a criminal complaint obtained by the Des Moines Register says. “Ms. Park stated that the only people present during the duration of the events were her and her husband, Sung Woo Nam.”California Woman Fabricated Firefighter Husband to Scam Donors: PoliceAuthorities allege Park bound her husband’s hands and feet with zip ties before tying him to a chair in their West Des Moines home on Saturday between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Park then allegedly stuffed “an item of clothing” into Nam’s mouth to prevent him from yelling in protest before finally using duct tape to place a towel over his head to cover his eyes.Several hours later, at about 5:05 p.m., police say Nam asked to be untied in distress, but his wife refused to free him. Gun finally called West Des Moines police officers at around 6:45 p.m., at which point deputies found Nam unresponsive with ligature marks on the front of his neck and throat. His wife was “performing CPR” on him, authorities said.“Ms. Park made efforts to hide and conceal the binding items prior to the arrival of emergency personnel,” the criminal complaint said. Nam was transported to UnityPoint Health-Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The next day, Park emailed her students to say she was canceling classes for the following week and postponing their midterm because of a “personnel issue,” according to the Des Moines Register. Park, who was hired at the small liberal-arts college in 2017, was arrested on Wednesday after faculty members saw deputies in her office. Air Force Major Charged With Murder After Missing Wife’s Remains Found“I witnessed three police officers in the faculty member's office searching through papers and drawers,” Brian Steffen, professor of multimedia communications, told the school’s newspaper, The Simpsonian. “I did see police officers remove a computer from her office. I don’t know whether they took other materials, but I did see them take a computer away.”A Simpson College spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the school has suspended Park following her arrest and is cooperating with authorities during the ongoing investigation. As of Thursday afternoon, Park’s staff profile page was removed from Simpson College’s website, as was any mention of the assistant economics professor.Wife Kills Husband, Admits It in a Bar Bathroom“The recent news has left me and other classmates in shock,” Kody Ricken, a sophomore and one of Park’s advisees, told the student newspaper. “We never would have expected her to do anything like this.”Park received her master’s degree in economics from New York University in 2010 before teaching there as an adjunct professor for five years, a school spokesperson confirmed. She later received her doctoral degree in economics in 2017 from the City University of New York just before joining Simpson College faculty, according to alumni records. Park is being held on a $5 million bond at Dallas County Jail. It was not immediately known whether she has a lawyer. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Trump’s spiritual guide urges congregation to neglect bills in favour of church donations 20 Feb 2020, 12:45 pm
Donald Trump’s pastor is telling Florida worshippers to prioritise giving money to her church over paying their own mortgages.Paula White, the controversial televangelist who serves as Mr Trump’s spiritual guide, warned thousands of congregants in Miami to put God before their own financial needs.
Roger Stone heckled as a ‘traitor’ at final sentencing 20 Feb 2020, 12:29 pm
A judge said on Thursday President Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone engaged in intolerable intimidating conduct toward her, but his lawyer asked that he get no prison time as he awaited sentencing on charges that include lying to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Family of man killed by trooper seeking more than $10M 20 Feb 2020, 11:38 am
Relatives of a black Connecticut man killed by a state trooper are seeking more than $10 million in wrongful death damages from state and local police, according to legal notices filed Thursday. Lawyers for the family of Mubarak Soulemane, 19, asked the state claims commissioner for permission to sue the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and top state police officials including Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella for $10 million. West Haven's counsel, Lee Tiernan, said the town's policy is not to comment on pending litigation.
Pete Buttigieg quips he's 'a Microsoft Word guy' during Democratic debate and attracts instant Clippy comparisons 20 Feb 2020, 11:06 am
U.S. blacklists five Iranian officials for impeding 'fair' elections 20 Feb 2020, 10:39 am
2 socialites have reportedly died after their Mercedes fell off a ferry leaving the most expensive ZIP code in the United States 20 Feb 2020, 10:24 am
China is offering families of doctors who died fighting the coronavirus a 'sympathy payment' of $716 20 Feb 2020, 9:47 am
Former national security adviser denounces the House's impeachment proceedings as 'grossly partisan' 20 Feb 2020, 9:26 am
Former national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday denounced the House's impeachment proceedings against President Trump as ”grossly partisan” and said his testimony would not have changed Trump's acquittal in the Senate, as he continued to stay quiet on the details of a yet-to-be-released book.
Rohrabacher confirms he offered Trump pardon to Assange for proof Russia didn't hack DNC email 20 Feb 2020, 8:14 am
Former congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed to Yahoo News he told Julian Assange President Trump would pardon him if he turned over information proving Russians weren't the source of Democratic emails published by WikiLeaks.
8 Statement-Making Cabinets to Make Any Room 20 Feb 2020, 8:00 am
Stone’s sentencing to begin after judge refuses new trial request 20 Feb 2020, 6:39 am
Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump and a self-described political dirty trickster, is set to be sentenced on Thursday for his attempts to sabotage a congressional investigation that posed a political threat to the president.