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Fri, 10 Jul 2020
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Christianity and the Heresy of Capitalism

Just as, 50 years ago, liberalism was the vital center of our politics, our religious landscape then was dominated by mainline Protestants and a Catholic Church becoming less Roman and more American every year. One of the most symbolic events occurred in 1958 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower laid the cornerstone for the new headquarters of the National Council of Churches here in New York City. Before a crowd of 30,000, Eisenhower quoted George Washington, who described religion as the firm foundation of the country's moral life.

That was the decade America put God on our paper money and in the Pledge of Allegiance. And though the churchly DNA often fostered racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and Cold War dogmatism, many thought biblical religion, in its various incarnations, was the engine driving the American future.

But then, says Ross Douthat, American Christianity went off the rails -- and now threatens to take American society with it. Furthermore, the snake in the garden is not atheism, nor is secular humanism the worm in the apple. Our fall, he argues, is the work of heresy, as you see in the title of his latest book: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.


Epidemic of Incarceration Costs US Taxpayers $63.4 billion Annually

A sign of overcrowding at Gadsden County Jail in Florida, where there are more inmates than beds.
Is it fair to call the United States the "incarceration nation"? That's what some experts say. And even some veteran law enforcement and correction officials think something's gone wrong. Our Cover Story is reported now by Martha Teichner:

At the Gadsden County Jail near Tallahassee, Fla., there are bunks, and mattresses on the floor.

The jail has a capacity of about 150 inmates, but there are presently 230 inmates in the facility right now.

Walter McNeil, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, sees the same story everywhere he goes in the U.S.

In one "pod" of Gadsen jail, in which there are 24 bunks, there are 28 inmates - and by the time the weekend comes, there will be five or six more inmates.

That's nothing compared to California. Overcrowding was so bad there, the U.S. Supreme Court called it "cruel and unusual punishment," and last May ordered the state to cut its prison population by more than 30,000.

Nationwide, the numbers are staggering: Nearly 2.4 million people behind bars, even though over the last 20 years the crime rate has actually dropped by more than 40 percent.


Gulags in America: Profitability of our Prison Slave System

© Missouri State Parks
Higginsville Confederates Veterans Home
The U.S. Civil War, which was fought to abolish slavery, was not really that long ago. My father tells the story of visiting the Higginsville home for Civil War veterans near his childhood home in Missouri. The Missouri River was a dividing line between North and South, and so when the war was finally over, many families had veterans -- and casualties -- on both sides. My father remembers watching two old soldiers, one Union, one Confederate, each dressed up in the remnants of their uniforms, having an argument that ended up with one attacking the other with a pair of crutches. Hearing this as a little girl was the first time the Civil War seemed real to me. It is a vivid reminder of the close links that bind this country to its history of slavery, which still haunts our national conscience.


Inequality in America worse than it was in Ancient Rome

Roman carving
The 99 percent has found an ally 2,500 years in the past. It just so happens that it's with those that found themselves in the Ancient Roman plebian and slave classes.

According to research done recently by historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen, cited by Per Square Mile's Tim De Chant, the income inequality gap in modern day America is far greater than the separation within the societies during the days of Julius Caesar. During the Ancient Roman Republic, says the duo's study published in Per Square Mile, the top one percent controlled 16 percent of society's wealth. If you fire up the Delorean and go from the Diocletian Empire to twenty-first century USA, you'll see that things are a little more uneven. Today, that one percent on top controls 40 percent of the country's wealth.


Bomb Explosions Kill 10, Wound 18 in Iraq's Diyala

Baghdad - Ten people were killed and 18 others wounded when two explosions struck a popular coffee shop in the restive Iraqi province of Diyala, security sources said on Thursday.

Diyala province, a fertile agricultural area, has long been one of the most volatile regions in Iraq, inhabited by a mix of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds.

The attacks took place in a mainly Sunni village on the outskirts of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, a policeman in the village and a source in Diyala operations command said.

The sources said the first explosion, set off by a suicide car bomber, killed 10 people and wounded 15 others. The policeman said a second bomb planted inside the coffee shop wounded three more people. "We received 10 bodies and 18 wounded," Abdul-Razaq Hussein, a doctor in Baquba hospital, told Reuters, adding that the toll was final.


Thousands Gather to Sing Song Breivik Hates

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Norway's capital Oslo to sing a popular children's song that mass killer Anders Breivik says he hates.

About 40,000 people sang the 1970s song Children of the Rainbow near the courthouse where Breivik is being tried for the murder of 77 people last July.

Breivik says he considers the song to be a Marxist "brainwashing of Norwegian pupils".

But one of the demonstrators, Torbjorn Sandvik, says it is a song of unity.

"This song represents the opposite of everything he stands for," he said.

"Because this song represents getting people together, negotiate, make the world a better place."

The demonstrators braved rainy weather and waved roses as they sang the song, by Norwegian folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen.

Its chorus goes: "Together, we will live, each sister and each brother, small children of the rainbow and a green Earth."


Separate Bomb Blasts Rock Nigeria's Newspapers, at Least Six Killed

© Olamikan/The Associated Press
People gather front of the bombed office of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, April 26, 2012.
Kano, Nigeria - Separate bomb blasts went off today at the offices of Nigeria's major national newspapers in two cities, killing at least six and injuring at least 25 others, in what appears to be coordinated attacks.

The explosion at the Abuja office of Thisday, an influential daily newspaper, occurred at about 11:45 a.m. local time. Around the same time as the Abuja blast, an explosion rocked the building that houses offices for the Daily Sun, The Moment, and Thisday in the northern city of Kaduna.

"NEMA officials are on the ground. They are trying to move those injured to the hospitals, but we don't have any information on casualties yet," said NEMA spokesperson, Yushau Shuaib.

While no one has taken credit for the blasts at the time of publication, the methods used in the attacks on the newspaper offices mirror those used by Boko Haram, the Islamist fundamentalist group, responsible for waging deadly attacks against the Nigerian government, United Nations offices, and against Christian churches and parishioners in the past two years.


Judge Refuses to Combine Charges in WikiLeaks Case

© Mark Wilson/Getty Images file
Army Pvt. Bradley Manning is escorted away from a hearing in February at Fort Meade, Md.
US: Fort Meade, Maryland - A military judge rejected defense motions Thursday to consolidate some of the 22 charges against an Army private accused in the biggest leak of government secrets in U.S. history.

Col. Denise Lind said she would rule late in the afternoon on a defense motion to dismiss the most serious charge against Pfc. Bradley Manning - aiding the enemy - which carries a maximum life sentence.

Lind opened Thursday's session of pretrial proceedings by rejecting the defense's argument that the government had piled on duplicative charges to increase Manning's potential punishment. For example, the defense had argued that Manning's alleged theft of 380,000 Iraq war logs from a military database and his alleged transmission of those files to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks should have been charged as one offense, not two.

Lind said a theft can occur whether or not the stolen material is transmitted. She said the 10-year penalty for each of those offenses wasn't unreasonable given the "voluminous government records" involved. And she said that if the government had truly wanted to pile on charges, it could have alleged numerous aiding-the-enemy violations.

Lind said the defense could raise the consolidation motion again for sentencing purposes if Manning is convicted.

She denied another defense motion seeking to dismiss a count on the grounds that it was improperly charged. That count alleges that Manning wrongfully and wantonly caused intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing it would be accessible to the enemy.

Comment: Bradley Manning's treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules
Bradley Manning Nobel Peace Prize Nomination 2012

Hasn't Manning already served a life sentence, hasn't some part of him already been killed? Perhaps a photo will give us a clue.

Need we say more?

Black Cat

'Polite' Burglar Offers to Trade Items with People He Robbed

© KIROTV.com
Travis Foreman discusses the "polite burglar" who broke into his home
US - Hours after breaking into a Washington State home, a burglar dialed up the victimized homeowners' cousin, asking if he could stop by swap some of the stolen items in exchange for a few personal items he'd left behind.

KOMO News reports that the only thing the alleged burglar asked in return from the homeowners was that they not call the police to report the actual crime.

"It's very unusual," Sgt. Kevin Crane of the Bremerton Police Department told KOMO. "I've never seen this happen before where a burglar contacts the victim trying to make a deal to exchange things he left behind for some of the items he stole from the victims."

Earlier on Tuesday, the burglar had fled the scene of the crime after he broke into the residence only to find one of the occupants, a former Marine, was at home and holding a gun. "Get out! I have a gun!" Travis Forman allegedly said, according to KIRO TV.


Shot in the back: Paris police demonstrate after officer charged with homicide

Paris police demo
© AFP / Bertrand Langlois
Hundreds of angry policemen demonstrated on the Champs-Elysees in Paris late Wednesday to protest charges laid against a colleague who had shot dead a serial offender in the capital's suburbs.

As the policemen, some of them in cars with sirens blaring, paraded on the French capital's best-known avenue and in the suburb of Bobigny where the drama occurred, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said he "understands their emotion."