All posts by JR

Twitter crackdown sparks free speech concerns 


Twitter’s verification program put the company at the center of another political headache this week, with the social media giant stuck between liberals who demand stricter rules about hate speech and misinformation and conservatives who fear the site will target them for their political views.

Twitter’s “blue checkmark” verification program is meant to authenticate the identities of high-profile users. But it’s also come to be seen as an endorsement or mark of approval from Twitter, sparking outrage when the checkmarks were bestowed on white nationalists like Richard Spencer or Charlottesville, Va. “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler.

The social media site responded to the criticism Wednesday by taking checkmarks away from several users affiliated with the far right or white nationalism, as well as kicking one prominent Charlottesville marcher off the platform permanently.

Further changes are expected next week, when Twitter says it will implement more rules. Twitter declined to comment on the changes. 

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/360806-twitter-crackdown-sparks-free-speech-concerns

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Calls mount for action on ‘killer robots’ after UN talks


Geneva (AFP) – “Robots are not taking over the world”, the diplomat leading the first official talks on autonomous weapons assured Friday, seeking to ease criticism over slow progress towards restricting the use of so-called “killer robots”.

The United Nations was wrapping up an initial five days of discussions on weapons systems that can identify and destroy targets without human control, which experts say will soon be battle ready.

The meeting of the UN’s Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) marked an initial step towards an agreed set of rules governing such weapons.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.yahoo.com/news/calls-mount-action-killer-robots-un-talks-155430106.html

Democrats face sexual assault allegations 


Democrats called Al Franken’s behavior unacceptable, returned his campaign donations, and hinted that — absent a satisfying explanation in response to a sexual harassment allegation — they’d eventually demand he resign.

Anything less would risk catastrophe for a party that stakes its political reputation on fighting for women. Especially one that is just now, 20 years after the fact, grappling with its unyielding support of Bill Clinton.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Talk show host Leeann Tweeden on Thursday accused Franken of sexually assaulting her during an overseas USO tour in 2006, three years before he became a Democratic senator from Minnesota. She said Franken forcibly kissed her, and later posed for a photo in which he groped her chest while she slept.

The Minnesota Democrat issued a statement apologizing to Tweeden and said he’d welcome a congressional ethics investigation into the incident. But the allegations had by that time already sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party. Democrats, who rely heavily on women for votes, regularly criticize Republicans for being insufficiently supportive of women on issues like abortion rights and gender pay equity.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article185091388.html

Artificial climate intervention could completely destroy the planet


That terrible Hollywood disaster movie Geostorm fell flat on its face at the box office and got so many things wrong when it comes to science that it’s really not even worth remembering, but it did manage to predict something vaguely accurately: manipulation of the climate is bad news. In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, a team of researchers led by climate gurus at the University of Exeter reveal that dabbling in artificial cooling of the planet as a countermeasure to manmade global warming is a recipe for disaster.

The research utilized advanced climate models to simulate the effects of the proposed climate intervention techniques — including the intentional injection of aerosols into the atmosphere to lessen the sun’s ability to fuel devastating storms — and the results are not exactly encouraging.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

http://bgr.com/2017/11/14/geoengineering-climate-change-intervention-study/

Ivanka Trump says child tax credit ‘not a pet project’


BAYVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Yes, it turns out, there is something that chafes at the unflappable Ivanka Trump.

The presidential daughter and adviser, in a “full-blown sprint” as she sells the Republican tax overhaul plan and juggles other initiatives, has had it with all that talk about her “pet project” to increase the child tax credit.

“I get a little bit frustrated when people call it a pet project,” Trump told The Associated Press as she spent a day shuttling between events in multiple states. “This is a major project, this is not a pet project. This is a major initiative to ensure that there is meaningful middle-income tax relief for the American taxpayer.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.apnews.com/b9a66f37fe074f30ad896bfa9be68ece/Ivanka-Trump-says-child-tax-credit-‘not-a-pet-project

U.S. Catholic Leaders Signal Resistance to Pope’s Agenda – WSJ


BALTIMORE—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chose a conservative archbishop for a key post Tuesday, signaling resistance to Pope Francis’s vision for the church among the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, was elected chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities. In a vote of 96 to 82, he defeated Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, who is seen as a liberal in the church and a close ally of the pope. 

The vote breaks a longstanding tradition of the position being held by a cardinal—an unusual lapse of deference in a highly rank-conscious body—and suggests that Catholic leaders in the U.S. remain largely resistant to the changes Pope Francis is trying to bring to the church.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-catholic-leaders-signal-resistance-to-popes-agenda-1510677737

Sen. Franken Demands Social Media Censorship Over “Russian Collusion” 


Franken appeared to be an over-reaction to testimony given by legal counsel for Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 31, in which each of the Internet social media content giants reported statistics that showed minimal Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Yet, in the face of this concrete evidence, Franken seems determined to continue beating the New McCarthyism narrative advanced by Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party supporters to explain away her devastating 2016 loss to Donald Trump.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.infowars.com/sen-franken-demands-social-media-censorship-over-russian-collusion/

Venezuela Goes Bust 


As of Tuesday evening, the Investment Swaps and Derivatives Association still had not declared Venezuela in default. That matters because this will trigger the insurance obligations inherent in the credit default swaps. But S&P Global Ratings declared the country in default Monday. On Tuesday morning the Luxembourg Stock Exchange issued a suspension notice for the bonds with missed payments.

President Nicolás Maduro has formed a commission to restructure up to $150 billion of the debt and put Vice President Tareck El Aissami —who is under U.S. sanctions for drug trafficking—in charge. Mr. El Aissami called a meeting of creditors on Monday in Caracas, which most bondholders did not attend. Press reports said Mr. El Aissami delivered a monologue on Venezuela’s intention to pay and took no questions. He argued that Trump Administration sanctions make it difficult for the dictatorship to arrange refinancing.

The real problem is that restructuring assumes the country can grow again. That’s nearly impossible without a change in policy that will free the economy.

If Caracas doesn’t find a way to settle with bondholders, they will soon ask authorities to seize Venezuelan assets such as oil shipments at sea and Citgo facilities in the U.S. Such are the wages socialism.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuela-goes-bust-1510703305

Conversion Therapy Against LGBT People in China 


Homosexuality is neither a crime nor officially regarded as an illness in China. For decades, the legal status of consensual same-sex activity between men was ambiguous, but that was cleared up in the revised criminal code of 1997. In 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This is consistent with the consensus of global medical associations that homosexuality is not a medical condition.

However, public hospitals and private clinics in China continue to offer so-called “conversion therapy,” which aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a disorder that needs to be remedied. Despite a legal framework that requires that the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders comply with diagnostic standards and standards on the categorizations of mental disorders, Chinese authorities have not taken the necessary steps to stop public hospitals or private clinics from offering conversion therapy. The steps should include: issuing clear guidelines to all public and private hospitals and clinics indicating that conversion therapy contravenes existing law; closely monitoring medical facilities to determine whether conversion therapy is taking place; and, where it is, holding such facilities accountable, including by suspending the licenses of errant facilities or practitioners.

This report documents multiple abusive aspects of conversion therapy, including coercion and threats, physical abduction, arbitrary confinement, forced medication and injection, and use of electroshocks. It is based on interviews with 17 individuals who underwent conversion therapy under intense family and social pressure, as well as parents and rights activists.

All interviewees were emphatic about one thing: they would not have undergone conversion therapy were it not for family and social pressure. Some said their parents took them forcibly to hospitals for such therapy: Chinese society continues to strongly favor children who can pass on their family name. For individuals who are gay or lesbian, this creates intense family pressure to enter heterosexual marriages and have children. Despite all efforts, no one experienced any change to their sexual orientation.

Human Rights Watch found that, in most cases, conversion therapy took place in public hospitals, which are government-run and monitored. In a few cases, conversion therapy was conducted in privately owned psychiatric or psychological clinics, licensed and supervised by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/11/14/have-you-considered-your-parents-happiness/conversion-therapy-against-lgbt-people

 US scientists try 1st gene editing in the body


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person’s DNA to try to cure a disease.

The experiment was done Monday in California on 44-year-old Brian Madeux. Through an IV, he received billions of copies of a corrective gene and a genetic tool to cut his DNA in a precise spot.

“It’s kind of humbling” to be the first to test this, said Madeux, who has a metabolic disease called Hunter syndrome. “I’m willing to take that risk. Hopefully it will help me and other people.”

Signs of whether it’s working may come in a month; tests will show for sure in three months.

If it’s successful, it could give a major boost to the fledgling field of gene therapy. Scientists have edited people’s genes before, altering cells in the lab that are then returned to patients. There also are gene therapies that don’t involve editing DNA.

But these methods can only be used for a few types of diseases. Some give results that may not last. Some others supply a new gene like a spare part, but can’t control where it inserts in the DNA, possibly causing a new problem like cancer.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR 

https://apnews.com/4ae98919b52e43d8a8960e0e260feb0a/AP-Exclusive:-US-scientists-try-1st-gene-editing-in-the-body