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Sun, 25 Oct 2020
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Stormtrooper

Georgia opens first jail devoted to U.S. veterans

prison cell
© Dylan Oliphant
The problem of US military veterans falling into a life of crime after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has reached such levels that a law enforcer in Georgia has opened what is believed to be America's first county jail devoted to veteran inmates.

John Darr, the sheriff of Muscogee County in Columbus, Georgia, has created the new facility in an attempt to break the cycle of recidivism by providing them with specialist services to help them deal with the problems they carry with them when they decamp.

"It's really unique. What we're bringing together is a lot of resources," Darr told the local Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Among the partnerships that are being set up is a link to Veterans Court, a community group that works with veterans in prison suffering from mental illness. The new dormitory, that will house 16 incarcerated veterans, will also provide those soon to be released with advice and support as they transition back into the community.

Chart Pie

Greek main parties 'suffer big losses' at polls

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Exit polls in the Greek parliamentary election suggest the two main parties have suffered dramatic losses.

The latest polls put centre-right New Democracy in the lead with 19-20.5% of the vote, down from 33.5% in 2009.

Centre-left Pasok is put in third place with 13-14%, down from 43.9%. Syriza, a left-wing coalition, is put ahead of it in second place with 15.5-17%.

Pasok and New Democracy, in coalition since last November, were expected to lose support to anti-austerity parties.

There is widespread anger across Greece to harsh measures imposed by the government in return for international bailouts.

Syriza opposes the government's austerity measures.

Che Guevara

2,800 Palestinians on hunger strike and the world ignores them

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Ramallah - The number of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails has grown to at least 2800, human rights groups say, while two of the inmates hovered close to death as they entered their 69th day without food. The Israeli prison service disputes the numbers.

Israel's practice of jailing people without charge - known as administrative detention - is the main issue driving the hunger strikers, whose images are seen on posters throughout the West Bank and Gaza as the protests backing the prisoners grow.

About 320 Palestinians are being held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons, 24 of them are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

They are not informed of the accusations or evidence against them, there is no trial and they have no opportunity to defend themselves, the prisoners' rights group Addameer said.

The Israeli prison service disputes the number of prisoners on hunger strike and rejects the claims that lawyers are not being given access to the prisons.

Chalkboard

The Cult of the Expert: A Meditation

eggs
© Unknown
"A system of specialization requires the abdication to specialists of various competences and responsibilities that were once personal and universal. Thus, the average - one is tempted to say ideal - American citizen now consigns the problem of food production to agriculturalists and 'agribusinessmen,' the problem of health to doctors and sanitation experts, the problems of education to school teachers and educators, the problems of conservation to conservationists, and so on. This supposedly fortunate citizen is therefore left with only two concerns: making money and entertaining himself. He earns money, typically as a specialist, working an eight-hour day at a job for the quality or consequences of which somebody else - or, perhaps more typically, nobody else - will be responsible. And not surprisingly, since he can do so little else for himself, he is even unable to entertain himself, for there exists an enormous industry of exorbitantly expensive specialists whose purpose is to entertain him."

I suppose specialization is a feature, and not a bug, of the modern, industrial economy. To run such a complex and industrial infrastructure as we have come to rely upon, we need millions of people carrying out very specific and specialized tasks. This infrastructure is made up of uncountable widgets and devices and roles that all have their own particularity and that, thus, require their own particular machines or trained humans to be run and maintained. Broad classifications of generalized and necessary economic activity have been broken apart and splintered into much more specific niches, and then have been absorbed as a fraction into a far more sprawling beast we might refer to as the discretionary economy. In today's industrial economy, the necessities of life - food, water, shelter, a clean and functioning environment, community - are now almost an afterthought to the vast and consuming industry of non-necessity: distraction, destruction, profit-driven specialization, a massaging of and attentiveness to human ego both impressive and horrifying. We have discovered an infinite number of economic niches driven not by the particularities of place and community - which would be the basis of niches in a functioning and sane economy - but on the basis of catering to the human ego by creating an infinite number of variations on conformity so that we might convince everyone that, no matter how much they immerse and then lose themselves in the base homogeneity of our culture, they truly are a unique human being, as proven by their particular combination of iPhone apps, or which of the many Nabisco snacks they prefer, or which Anheuser-Busch-owned beer they drink.

Of course, as we've created this insanely complex yet oddly generic economy and industrial base, we've come to worship at the alter of specialization. We know that we need years upon years of education and training so that we may be successful in today's high tech, globalized economy. We know that to seize the bright future that is rightfully ours, we must *insert cliche here* so that *tribal term here* may compete in today's *overtly positive economic buzzword here*. And we know this because we're told it again and again, each time with slightly varying terms, and always emerging from the mouth of a respected "leader" or, even better, a certified expert.

Cult

Great Question! Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?

bible
© Shutterstock/Z-River
We try to persuade people out of almost every kind of idea there is. Why should religion be the exception? 

Why should religion, alone among all other kinds of ideas, be free from attempts to persuade people out of it?

We try to persuade people out of ideas all the time. We try to persuade people that their ideas about science, politics, philosophy, art, medicine, and more, are wrong: that they're harmful, ridiculous, repulsive, or simply mistaken. But when it comes to religion, trying to persuade people out of their ideas is somehow seen as horribly rude at best, invasive and bigoted and intolerant at worst. Why? Why should religion be the exception?

I've been writing about atheism for about six years now. In those six years, I've asked this question more times and not once have I gotten a satisfying answer. In fact, only once do I recall getting any answer at all. Besides that one exception, what I've gotten in response has been crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing by. I've been ignored, I've had the subject changed, I've had people get personally nasty, I've had people abandon the conversation altogether. But only once have I ever gotten any kind of actual answer. And that answer sucked. (I'll get to it in a bit.) I've heard lots of people tell me, at length and with great passion, that trying to persuade people out of their religion is bad and wrong and mean... but I haven't seen a single real argument explaining why this is such a terrible thing to do with religion, and yet is somehow perfectly okay to do with all other ideas.

So I want to get to the heart of this matter. Why should religion be treated differently from all other kinds of ideas? Why shouldn't we criticize it, and make fun of it, and try to persuade people out of it, the way we do with every other kind of idea?

Bad Guys

Horrible Injuries Blamed on BP Dispersant

corexit
Houston, Texas - Exposure to chemical dispersants BP used in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill left a commercial diver with seizures, unable to walk and going blind - and two members of his dive team committed suicide, the man claims in Harris County Court.

David Hogan and his wife sued BP and NALCO Co. - which made the Corexit oil dispersants - and a host of other defendants, including Halliburton, Transocean, ConocoPhillips, Xplore Oil & Gas and Stuyvesant Dredging Co.

After BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP hired contractors to spray and inject more than 1.8 million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico, according to the complaint.

Phoenix

Fireball Horror: Hundreds Injured as Gas Balloons Go Up in Flames at Political Rally in Armenia

Mass panic erupted after the hydrogen balloons exploded into a huge fireball, thought to have been caused by a smoker who lit a cigarette nearby
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© Getty Images
More than 140 people have been injured after hundreds of gas-filled balloons went up in flames at a campaign rally in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Mass panic erupted after the hydrogen balloons exploded into a huge fireball, thought to have been caused by a smoker who lit a cigarette nearby.

More than 100 of those injured were taken to hospital with burns following the rally, staged two days before the election by the ruling Republican Party in the centre of the city.

Nuke

Japan to Switch Off Final Nuclear Reactor (for now)

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© Agence France-Presse
This aerial view, taken in 2010, shows the Tomari nuclear plant in northernmost Hokkaido, northern Japan.

The last working reactor in Japan is to be switched off Saturday, leaving the country without nuclear power just over a year after the world's worst atomic accident in a quarter of a century.

As technicians ready to close down the No. 3 unit at Tomari in Hokkaido, the debate over whether Japan needs nuclear power has been reignited, amid increasingly shrill warnings of summer power blackouts.

Hokkaido Electric Power, which runs the plant, said they would at 5pm (0800 GMT) begin inserting control rods that would halt the chain reaction and bring the reactor to "cold shutdown" some time on Monday.

The shuttering will mark the first time since the 1970s that resource-poor and energy-hungry Japan has been without nuclear power, a technology that had provided a third of its electricity until meltdowns at Fukushima.

The tsunami-sparked disaster forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in an area around the plant -- some of whom may never be allowed to return.

It did not directly claim any lives, but has devastated the local economy, leaving swathes of land unfarmable as radiation spewed from the ruins.

X

Arizona Bans Funding to Planned Parenthood in Abortion Fight

AZ Governor Jan Brewer
© Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
Jan Brewer
US, Phoenix - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving money through the state, her office said in a statement.

The Republican-backed Whole Woman's Health Funding Priority Act cuts off funding for family planning and health services delivered by Planned Parenthood clinics and other organizations offering abortions.

"By signing this measure into law I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion," Brewer said in a statement.

Arizona joins six other states with similar laws, officials said. But three of those states -- Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina -- are facing legal challenges.

Arizona does not provide tax dollars for abortion, but backers said the law is needed to make sure that no indirect monies are funneled to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion and other health services. There were no estimates of how much money is involved.

Heart - Black

23 Dead in Day of Horror for Mexico Border City

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© Agence France-Presse/Raul Llamas
The bodies of four women and five men were found hanging off this bridge in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo with an apparent message from a drug gang, an army official said.
The northeast Mexico border city of Nuevo Laredo saw a brutal day of gang violence, with 14 headless bodies found stuffed in a vehicle and nine others hanging from a bridge.

Fourteen heads believed to correspond to the decapitated bodies were also found in ice boxes outside the city hall on Friday, according to local security forces in the city of almost 400,000 inhabitants across the border from Laredo, Texas.

Horrified motorists earlier encountered the blood-stained bodies of four women and five men hanging off a bridge, alongside an apparent message from a drug gang.

The grim spectacles were extreme even for Nuevo Laredo and the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which have seen some of the most gruesome episodes in Mexico's brutal five-and-a-half year drug war so far.

State security forces and soldiers cordoned off the areas where the bodies were found and gave no immediate comment.

Comment: Read about the Matamoros cult and the CIA (Part IV) to understand the ongoing horrors along the US-Mexico border:

Latin American High Weirdness: 'Hand of Death' Satanic CIA Cult Network