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Sun, 02 Apr 2023
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Religious freedom? Expanding the power to impose beliefs on others

One of the most upsetting and disturbing developments in the past few years of wingnut propaganda is the attempt to define "religious freedom" as expanding the powers of the already-powerful over others, specifically with an eye towards coercing others to live by your religious rules. Even though the courts correctly (usually) see religious freedom being best protected by eliminating coercive prayer in schools, for instance, your average wingnut believes these rulings attack their religious freedom. After all, what's the point of religion if you can't impose it on others? Thus, the only way they can see to protect religious freedom is to give, say, schoolteachers the right to lead their class in prayer (as long as it's the correct Christian prayer, of course).

Same story with hollering "religious freedom" to justify giving your boss the right to impose his religious beliefs on your medical decision-making. Your insurance benefits you earn through work are yours, and no more belong to your boss than your paycheck does. Giving your boss a right to veto coverage of your contraception because he thinks vaginas are only for baby-making is a direct imposition on your religious freedom, a clear-cut example of your boss declaring he has a right to impose his religious values on you, even in a realm as private as your medical and sexual decision-making. (And since cost considerations exert a great deal of influence on how many women - say, someone making $10 an hour working the counter at Hobby Lobby - choose contraception, this boss's veto of coverage will actually change her choices.) But conservatives don't see employees as rights-bearing people. Just as with the "states rights" blather, the only rights they recognize are the "right" to exert power over those down the hierarchy from you.


Military suicides 'out of control'

Callaway - Libby Busbee pounded on the window of her son's maroon Dodge Charger as he sat in the driveway of their home on earlier this year. Locked inside his car, U.S. Army Spc. William Busbee sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to the side of his head.

"Look at me," his mother cried out as she to tried and get her son's attention. "Look at me."

He wouldn't look.

He stared out the front windshield, distant, said Libby Busbee, relating the story from an apartment complex in Callaway.

"I kept yelling, 'Don't you do this. Don't do it.' He wouldn't turn his head to look at me," she said, looking down at the burning cigarette in her hand.

A 911 call was made. The police pulled her away from the car.

William, Libby Busbee's 23-year-old son, was talking with a police officer when he fired a shot through the front windshield of his car, according to the police report.

The police recoiled. William rapped on the window in apparent frustration, the report indicated.

Then the second shot was heard.

"I knew that was the one," said Libby Busbee.

William Busbee took his life in March with his mother and sisters looking on.


Vendetta masks in UAE colours declared illegal

Product being sold online declared illegal as National Day draws closer

© Gulf News
Police officials have warned that wearing Guy Fawkes masks is illegal in the UAE.
Dubai: Police officials in Dubai have warned against wearing a mask that symbolises opposition to state authority during any celebrations connected to National Day and declared it illegal.

Any person found wearing Guy Fawkes masks, also known as 'Vendetta masks', risks police questioning as any object or action deemed to be instigating unrest or insulting the UAE is illegal, police officials said.

The masks are a stylised depiction of a man who was behind the failed Gunpowder Plot to blow up the British House of Lords in London in 1605. The plot is commemorated with a fireworks displays in the UK on November 5 each year in an event that has come to be known as Guy Fawkes night.

The masks being targeted at people in the UAE have mainly shown up on some online stores and are emblazoned with the colours of the UAE flag - red, white, green and black. They also feature the number 41 prominently - a reference to the 41st National Day on December 2.

Snow Globe Xmas

Pat Robertson's annual: 'Miserable' atheists are trying to 'steal' Christmas

The "War on Christmas" has already begun.

At least, this seems to be true for 700 Club host Pat Robertson, who recently warned his viewers that "the Grinch" is attempting to ruin the impending holiday.

As Right Wing Watch notes, Robertson used the iconic Seussian anti-holiday deviant as a metaphor for those "miserable atheists" who "want to steal [Christmas] away from you."


Supreme Court rejects plea to ban taping of police in Illinois

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Cook County state's attorney to allow enforcement of a law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state's anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers.

The law set out a maximum prison term of 15 years.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places, one of the group's long-standing monitoring missions.

Opponents of the law say the right to record police is vital to guard against abuses.

Last May, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the law "likely violates" the First Amendment and ordered that authorities be banned from enforcing it.

The appeals court agreed with the ACLU that the "Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests."

The appeals court ruling came weeks before the NATO summit when thousands of people armed with smart phones and video cameras demonstrated in the city. Officials had already announced that they would not enforce the law against summit protesters.

Light Sabers

Tens of thousands of traumatised civilians flee Goma in contrived US-created Congo 'war'

Congo's president has suspended the army's chief of staff, following the publication of a United Nations report which reveals that Gen. Gabriel Amisi oversaw a criminal network selling arms to rebels in the country's troubled east.

The firing of the general indicates that Congo is finally getting tough on its notoriously dysfunctional and internally divided army. It comes as an eight-month-old rebel group, made up of soldiers who defected from the army, pushed beyond Goma, the bustling regional capital of eastern Congo, which fell to the fighters earlier this week.

On Friday, M23 rebels patrolled the town of Sake, the next town on the road south from Goma. They manned checkpoints, drank vodka in local bars and let the corpses of Congolese soldiers rot in the streets. One of the soldier's bodies bore an execution-style bullet wound to the temple.

The rebellion is led by soldiers who defected from the Congolese army. Before their recent defection, their commanders benefited from a privileged relationship with Congo's government, despite mounting evidence of their complicity in grave abuses. The leader of the M23 is believed to be Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Comment: Actually, this kind of thing is really common in today's fake war theaters, where the psychopaths in power distract the masses back home while plundering resources from under the noses of traumatised people.

They're currently routing illegal arms to both 'sides' of the Congo 'war' through their Mafia connections in Albania:

Albanian weapons in the Democratic Republic of Congo

But the lion's share of the blame belongs back home, not to our Mafia friends 'over there'...
Report: U.S. Arms to Africa and the Congo War - World Policy Institute - Research Project
World Policy Institute, January 2000

Finding 1 - Due to the continuing legacies of its Cold War policies toward Africa, the U.S. bears some responsibility for the cycles of violence and economic problems plaguing the continent. Throughout the Cold War (1950-1989), the U.S. delivered over $1.5 billion worth of weaponry to Africa. Many of the top U.S. arms clients - Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC) - have turned out to be the top basket cases of the 1990s in terms of violence, instability, and economic collapse.

Finding 2 - The ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) is a prime example of the devastating legacy of U.S. arms sales policy on Africa. The U.S. prolonged the rule of Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Soko by providing more than $300 million in weapons and $100 million in military training. Mobutu used his U.S.-supplied arsenal to repress his own people and plunder his nation's economy for three decades, until his brutal regime was overthrown by Laurent Kabila's forces in 1997. When Kabila took power, the Clinton administration quickly offered military support by developing a plan for new training operations with the armed forces.

Finding 3 - Although the Clinton administration has been quick to criticize the governments involved in the Congo War, decades of U.S. weapons transfers and continued military training to both sides of the conflict have helped fuel the fighting. The U.S. has helped build the arsenals of eight of the nine governments directly involved in the war that has ravaged the DRC since Kabila's coup. U.S. military transfers in the form of direct government-to-government weapons deliveries, commercial sales, and International Military Education and Training (IMET) to the states directly involved have totaled more than $125 million since the end of the Cold War.

Finding 4 - Despite the failure of U.S. polices in the region, the current administration continues to respond to Africa's woes by helping to strengthen African militaries. As U.S. weapons deliveries to Africa continue to rise, the Clinton administration is now undertaking a wave of new military training programs in Africa. Between 1991-1998, U.S. weapons and training deliveries to Africa totaled more than $227 million. In 1998 alone, direct weapons transfers and IMET training totaled $20.1 million. And, under the Pentagon's Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, U.S. special forces have trained military personnel from at least 34 of Africa's 53 nations, including troops fighting on both sides of the DRC's civil war - from Rwanda and Uganda (supporting the rebels) to Zimbabwe and Namibia (supporting the Kabila regime).

Finding 5 - Even as it fuels military build-up, the U.S. continues cutting development assistance to Africa and remains unable (or unwilling) to promote alternative non-violent forms of engagement. While the U.S. ranks number one in global weapons exports, it falls dead last among industrialized nations in providing non-military foreign aid to the developing world. In 1997, the U.S. devoted only 0.09% of GNP to international development assistance, the lowest proportion of all developed countries. U.S. development aid to all of sub-Saharan Africa dropped to just $700 million in recent years.
Those figures are dwarfed by the post-9/11 flow of arms to Africa under the Bush and Obama regimes.

Then there's Afghanistan. Not that long ago, US and UK military brass were caught organising the transportation of 'Taliban' forces around Afghanistan in an effort to make it seem like a real war was taking place:

British army is airlifting Taliban around Afghanistan

US counter-insurgency in action: Blackwater helicopters airlifting 'Taliban terrorists' around AfPak

War by design: Helicopter rumors refuse to die


War's silent scourge: Sexual violence against women

Sexual Violence
© John Cantile / AFP-Getty Images
Syrian women walk down a souk shielded from the rain in Syria's northern city of Aleppo on November 11, 2012.
Nearly 40,000 people have died already in Syria's civil war, and close to 100 are still being killed each day. Homes, hospitals, water infrastructure, and sanitation systems have been destroyed. But one element of this ongoing brutality has been largely overlooked in the media: the appalling sexual violence being visited on the Syrian people by government and militia forces. Such use of sexual violence as a tactic of war is shocking - yet depressingly familiar.

Today, Nov. 25, marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence. These awareness-raising campaigns are vital, both because, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeated time and again, women's rights are human rights; and because, without accountability for sexual violence and other acts of severe violence against women and girls - which are often designed to humiliate and degrade victims and the groups with which they identify - security and development are impossible.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, has referred to sexual violence as the "silent scourge of war." The sheer scale of the brutality, and the lack of accountability surrounding it, is nothing short of sickening. During the Bosnian War, between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped, many of them in camps specifically designed for the purpose. But this tidal wave of systematic brutality has resulted in only 30 convictions. All this took place in Europe within the past two decades.


U.S. Supreme Court poised to take up gay marriage

gay marriage
© Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
When the U.S. Supreme Court convenes behind closed doors Friday, the justices will weigh whether to jump headlong into the historic same-sex marriage debate -- or merely dip their toes in the roiling legal waters.

The high court could decide whether to rule once and for all on California's Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. And it could choose to hear up to eight other cases that challenge the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Depending on how far the court goes, it could end up legalizing gay marriage nationwide, banning it nationwide, or continuing the current state-by-state experiment in whether gays and lesbians can marry and whether they are entitled to equal benefits under federal law.

All the cases on the court's docket involve lower court decisions declaring gay marriage restrictions unconstitutional.

Both sides in the gay marriage battle and legal experts have little doubt the Supreme Court will take up at least some of the cases to put its stamp on one of the country's most pressing social issues. The mystery is in how far it will go.

If the Supreme Court chooses not to review the challenge to Proposition 8, gay and lesbian couples will have the right to legally marry in California.


Casey Anthony murder trial investigators missed Google search for 'fool-proof' suffocation

Casey Anthony
© Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty
Casey Anthony
The search was made from a computer in Anthony's home on the day her daughter was last seen alive.

Florida sheriff's investigators missed a key piece of evidence - a Google search of "fool-proof" suffocation - in the Casey Anthony murder probe, they acknowledged Sunday.

The search, made from a computer in Anthony's home on the day her daughter was last seen alive, could have helped convict her in the death of 2-year-old Caylee, said Orange County Sheriff's Capt. Angelo Nieves.

"It's just a shame we didn't have it," prosecutor Jeff Ashton told an Orlando TV station.

In July 2011, a jury acquitted Anthony, 24, of murdering Caylee, whose skeletal remains were found six months after she vanished in a wooded area near her home.

Nieves said the sheriff's office's computer investigator missed a June 16, 2008, search made from a computer Anthony used.


Alleged shoplifter dies after being subdued by Walmart workers

The Black Friday shopping weekend apparently took a tragic turn early Sunday morning when an alleged shoplifter died while being apprehended by employees and a contract security officer outside a Lithonia Walmart.

Two associates who helped catch and subdue the suspect before police arrived have been placed on leave; the security officer who police say may have placed the suspected thief in a choke hold, is no longer working for Walmart.

"No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life," Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee said Sunday in a statement that emphasized that it was early in the investigation into the incident and all the facts were not known yet. "Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk."