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Sun, 19 Nov 2017
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Democrat Ralph Northam has won Virginia governor's race while other big elections swing towards Blue as well

© Julia Rendleman / Reuters
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam
After a nail-biting race to replace outgoing Governor Terry McAuliffe, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam has become the new Governor of Virginia. The election was widely seen as a test of the impact of Trump's presidency.

With 59 percent of precincts reporting, Northam was projected the winner with 51.4 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Ed Gillespie's 47.4 percent, according to the Associated Press.

Northam said in his victory speech that the US is getting more diverse every year and that diversity is what makes the country great. He vowed to make Virginia an inclusive state that would "keep the light on and the door open."

Comment: Other election results have come in as well. Democrat Bill De Blasio was re-elected for a second term as mayor of New York City. Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey, defeating Republican Kim Guadagno with over 55% of the vote. While it's not surprising an incumbent Democratic mayor in NYC won, New Jersey had spent the last 8 years with a Republican governor in Chris Christie and Guadagno was his lieutenant. That is a noteworthy shift in the state's electoral views.

Speaking of a shift in views, Virginia elected the country's first transgender state legislator in Danica Roem. She beat out 28-year incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, who championed government transparency and was known for proposing a bill that would restrict which bathrooms transgender individuals could use.


Israel's Health Ministry to ban smoking at outdoor events, other public places

© Haaretz
The Health Ministry is seeking to expand the ban on smoking in public places to several currently exempted venues, including outdoor events, sports fields and playgrounds.

The rules have been submitted to the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and will take effect once the committee approves them.

Aside from the ban on smoking at open-air events, which tend to be very crowded, the new rules would also ban smoking everywhere in hospitals - though they do allow hospital directors to designate certain areas as smoking areas.

Red Flag

Top court rules Germany must legally recognize third gender

© David Bro / Global Look Press
Germany's top court has called on the country's parliament to legally recognize a 'third gender' which allows intersex people to identify as neither male nor female. Germany could become the first European country to allow a third gender on birth certificates.

The current law on civil status discriminates against intersex people as it rules out "the registration of a gender other than 'male' or 'female,'" the Federal Constitutional Court said in a ruling on Wednesday. The German parliament should introduce new provisions into current legislation by December 31, 2018, it said.

The court made its ruling in favor of an appeal brought earlier this year by an intersex person whose name hasn't been revealed in the German media. The person was registered as female but chromosome analysis showed that the plaintiff was neither male nor female. The person brought the appeal to the top court after several lower courts had ruled against the bid for gender change in the birth register.

Heart - Black

'Hell is Here': Photographer captures image of elephants fleeing crowd who lit them on fire in India

© Biplab Harza/Sanctuary Wildlife Photograph Awards
An image of two elephants fleeing a mob that set them on fire in eastern India highlights the ongoing human-elephant conflicts in the region.

The photograph, named "Hell is Here," was taken by Biplab Hazra and was named the winner of the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017.

The image shows a calf on fire as it and an adult elephant run for their lives - as a crowd of "jeering" people throw "flaming tar balls" and firecrackers at the pair.

According to the Sanctuary Asia Foundation, these type of scenes are common in the Bankura district of West Bengal.


Anti-smoking hysteria: Australian mother calls on gov't to ban smoking around children, labels it child abuse

© Getty Images
A Sydney mother is calling on the NSW government to issue a total ban on smoking around children, labelling it as child abuse.

Nina Belle said she was driving along Old Northern Road in Castle Hill when she saw three adults smoking alongside a toddler in a pram, with the smoke "blowing in the poor child's face".

Left in an absolute rage by what she saw, the young mum started a petition, calling on the state government to take action.

She is calling on those parents who do smoke around their children to be fined and given "ample education and support to quit, including counselling".

"I believe exposing babies and children to ongoing passive smoke is a form of child abuse. This view might sound outrageous, but it's not," Ms Belle wrote in her petition.

Comment: There isn't much (if any) real scientific evidence for second-hand smoking causing any health issues.

"We intervene when children are neglected due to alcohol or drug addictions, and we should intervene when children are exposed to ongoing second-hand smoke.

Comment: See also:

Red Flag

Sex week at Harvard University included anal sex workshop - Event organizer calls media backlash "latent homophobia and residual prejudices"

A workshop at Harvard University on Tuesday night delved into the ins and outs of anal sex, with a presenter denouncing the "stupidity of abstinence" and the joys of "putting things in your butt," according to a College Fix reporter who attended the event.

The workshop was held as part of the Ivy League university's Sex Week, which launched Monday and runs through Nov. 12. Titled "What What in the Butt: Anal 101," the event drew nearly 50 students.

At one point the presenter leading the workshop passed out gloves and butt plugs to students as she offered instructions on anal relaxation techniques.

"Remember it's all about practice, practice, practice," said the presenter, Natasha, a representative of the Cambridge-based adult shop Good Vibrations.

Red Flag

PC Culture gone mad: Columbia's Black Student Organization wants student group it disagrees with to be defunded

The Columbia University chapter of the College Republicans has few friends at the school. The Black Students' Organization (BSO) has no love for the right-leaning group, but rather than agreeing to disagree, the BSO has proposed the Student Governing Board strip them of their funding.

In its proposal, filed October 29, the BSO contends the College Republicans shouldn't be recognized as a legitimate organization or receive funding if they invite controversial speakers to campus. Recently, the group invited Tommy Robinson, the founder of the anti-Islam English Defence League, and Mike Cernovich, an alt-right commentator, as part of Free Speech Month.

The Student Governing Board (SGB) collects about $250,000 from students and reallocates it annually to student organizations on campus. Last year, the College Republicans received $4,640, according to the university's newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spectator.


No contraband deliveries: Norcal officials want a law banning drone flights over prisons

© Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Drones are becoming a growing concern among jail guards in Northern California. That's because people may try to use them to smuggle in drugs.

Right now there's no law banning drones flying over prisons, but Santa Clara County is worried about them making drug deliveries at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas.

Jail guards figured drones have been delivering contraband at the sprawling 62-acre complex for some time but they did not have proof until now.

A month ago a small drone crashed inside the jail perimeter. Investigators said they found a package of meth on board.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez learned about the drug drop on a recent tour and now wants the county to look into banning drone flights over the jail. She's says she's not anti-drone.

Comment: Prison officials try to stop drones from delivering contraband to inmates


Politicizing sports: Russian skier banned for life by IOC despite never testing positive for doping

© imago sportfotodienst / Global Look Press
Russian skier Alexander Legkov
Russian skier Alexander Legkov says he is shocked by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to give him a lifetime ban. The decision comes in spite of his never having failed a doping test in his professional career.

Last week the IOC handed life bans to two Russian skiers - Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov - prohibiting both from participating in any Winter Olympics, beginning with next year's Games in Pyeongchang.

The decision was based on the findings of the Denis Oswald Commission, sanctioned by the IOC to investigate alleged Russian state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Pointedly though, the Commission did not specify the kind of doping violations the athletes had committed.

Cell Phone

Dumbphones are starting to look better and better

These days, our smartphones can do it all.

"Track my sleep, track my workouts," said David Dahan of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

"I use it a lot for mobile banking," added Megan Killea of Philadelphia.

"Snapchat," laughed Alicia Dyson of North Philly.

Gone are the days when phones are used to simply talk or text. But, what if we could go back to just that?

"Disconnect for a while, stress-free," said Patrice White.

Christina Colon of Brooklyn, New York wasn't so sure. "I don't think I'd be able to function going back," she said.

Comment: See also: