2019 Free Thinkers Headline News
3-21-19 Christchurch shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons
New Zealand will ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said. New Zealand's PM said she hoped the ban would be in place by 11 April. The announcement comes less than a week after 50 people were killed at two mosques, allegedly by a lone gunman. Ms Ardern said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: "Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too." All of the dead have now been formally identified, police have confirmed. Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with one murder and was expected to face further charges. However, police said on Thursday that the person he was formally accused of killing had been wrongly declared dead. They said they had apologised to the woman and her family, and that the charge sheet would be updated when the suspect appeared in court on 5 April. "Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand," Ms Ardern said in a news conference. "Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines." An amnesty has been imposed so the owners of affected weapons can hand them in, and a buy-back scheme will follow. Ms Ardern said the buy-back could cost up to NZ$200m ($138m; £104m), but "that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities".The prime minister has called the Christchurch attacker a terrorist and said she will not utter his name. The gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines - the part of the gun which stores ammunition - so they could hold more bullets. As of Thursday, several weapons have been reclassified as military style semi-automatic firearms, making them harder to buy. "For many people, you will now be in unlawful possession of your firearm," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
3-21-19 US gun laws: Why it won't follow New Zealand's lead
Six days after the Christchurch mosque attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on "military-style" semi-automatic rifles, prompting questions in the US. Following a series of mass shootings in the US in recent years, there has been little in the way of sweeping gun-control reforms. On the federal level, at least, the interest and attention in new legislation has led to almost no action in decades, despite numerous polls showing widespread public support for measures like strengthened background checks and banning certain types of high-capacity gun magazines and military-style assault rifles. The Trump administration has issued a regulatory ban on bump-stock modifications that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns, and there have been some tweaks to the background check database for gun-store purchases. Last March, Donald Trump entertained the notion of more ambitious, "comprehensive" legislation, telling senators pro-gun lobbyists had little power over him. But no such talk from the president since. Part of the reason New Zealand is ability to move quickly, of course, is that it's a parliamentary democracy, ensuring that the government is controlled entirely by one party or a politically compatible coalition. That's not the only explanation for why the US has charted a different course, however. Here are five big obstacles that stand in the way of the kind of the US taking the kind of quick, major changes to firearm policy being advanced in New Zealand.
- The NRA: The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential interest groups in US politics - not just because of the money it spends on lobbying politicians, but also because of the engagement of its five million members.
- Gerrymandering: Despite these advances for the party, the House electoral playing field is still tilted toward Republicans, who tend to be for gun rights.
- The filibuster: ow that gun-control bills have hopes in the House of Representatives, the Senate - where the rural-urban divide plays itself out on the state level - becomes the biggest obstacle to legislative success
- The courts: Some of the laws have run up against another barrier, however - the US judicial system. In recent years the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the right to own personal weapons such as handguns is enshrined in the constitution.
- The enthusiasm gap: Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence.
3-20-19 Amnesty International says US air strikes 'killed Somali civilians'
Amnesty International says US air strikes have been killing civilians in Somalia, in a possible violation of international humanitarian law. The rights group said it had recorded 14 civilian deaths in five recent air strikes on territory held by jihadist al-Shabab militants. The US has stepped up its air war in Somalia, carrying out 110 strikes in the past two years. It says the strikes killed more than 800 people, none of them civilians. According to the US military, its drones and manned aircraft carried out 47 air strikes in Somalia in 2018. They have already conducted more than half that number of strikes in the first three months of 2019. The US military's Africa Command, or Africom, says it seeks to avoid civilian deaths, and insists the only casualties from its strikes have been "terrorists". However, this claim has been challenged in an Amnesty International report, entitled The Hidden US War in Somalia. The rights group said it had analysed five recent air strikes in the Lower Shabelle, a region outside Mogadishu that is largely under al-Shabab control. The report said 14 civilians had been killed and seven injured in the strikes. Its conclusion was based on 150 interviews with witnesses and relatives of the dead, as well as photographic evidence, satellite imagery and bomb fragments. The report highlighted a US military strike in the early hours of 12 November 2017, near the village of Darusalam. According to Amnesty, the strike killed three local farmers who were resting in the open after digging irrigation canals. The US military said at the time that the strike had killed al-Shabab militants. Brian Castner, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations, said the civilian deaths indicated that US secrecy over its role in Somalia's war had effectively provided "a smokescreen for impunity". (Webmaster's comment: Innocent men, women and children are being killed by the United States in a country we are not even at war with!)
3-7-19 Trump revokes Obama rule on reporting drone strike deaths
President Donald Trump has revoked a policy set by his predecessor requiring US intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of war zones. The 2016 executive order was brought in by then-President Barack Obama, who was under pressure to be more transparent. Since the 9/11 terror attack, drone strikes have been increasingly used against terror and military targets. The Trump administration said the rule was "superfluous" and distracting. The order applied to the CIA, which has carried out drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. "This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission," an official said. It required the head of the CIA to release annual summaries of US drone strikes and assess how many died as a result. Mr Trump's executive order does not overturn reporting requirements on civilian deaths set for the military by Congress. There have been 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of the Trump presidency, compared with 1,878 in Mr Obama's eight years in office, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based think tank. Lawmakers and rights groups have criticised Mr Trump's decision, saying it could allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes without accountability. "The Trump administration's action is an unnecessary and dangerous step backwards on transparency and accountability for the use of lethal force, and the civilian casualties they cause," Rita Siemion of Human Rights First told AFP news agency. Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat who chairs Congress's intelligence committee, called the requirement issued by Obama "an important measure of transparency," and said "there is simply no justification" for cancelling it.(Webmaster's comment: And now in order to terrorize "enemy" civilians the united States will be able to murder them wholesale without any accountability!)
It appears the billboard below was most likely correct!
2-26-19 'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused'
The US health department has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against detained migrant children from 2014-2018, documents show. The Department of Justice reportedly received an additional 1,303 sex abuse complaints against unaccompanied minors during the same period. Congressman Ted Deutch, who released the figures, said at least 154 claims are against facility staff members. A spokesman for the health department said it takes the claims seriously. "These documents demonstrate over the past three years there have been 154 staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - let me repeat that, staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - allegations of sexual assault," Congressman Deutch said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. The hearing, which focused on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that led to thousands of immigrant children being separated from their families, featured testimony from Jonathan White, the deputy director for children's program's at Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). "This works out, on average, to one sexual assault by HHS staff on an unaccompanied minor, per week," Mr Deutch continued. Mr White clarified that those allegations are not against HHS staff, but rather against the contractors who are paid by HHS to run the underage migrant detention facilities. "I will make that clarification. It doesn't make what happened any less horrific," Mr Deutch responded. Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the shelters are run by childcare service centres that are licensed by state officials. "These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances," she said in a statement to Axios, which first reported the documents. "When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond." The allegations include sexual relationships, showing pornographic videos to children and forcible touching, according to Axios. The figures were revealed as Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to issue subpoenas to Trump administration officials involved in the now-suspended policy of separating parents from their children after they illegally cross the US-Mexico border.
2-21-19 US Coast Guard officer hoped to 'kill every person on the earth'
A US Coast Guard officer has been arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack, court documents show. Police found a cache of weapons and ammunition at the Maryland home of Christopher Paul Hasson. The self-proclaimed white nationalist had drawn up a list of targets including prominent Democratic politicians, according to prosecutors. He is said to have drawn inspiration from the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. "The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," US District Attorney Robert Hur said in the court documents, requesting that he be held in detention pending trial. Mr Hasson is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and controlled substances, but prosecutors say these "current charges, however, are the proverbial tip of the iceberg". "The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct." The 49-year-old is a lieutenant at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington and lives in the Maryland suburb of Silver Spring. The Coast Guard confirmed that a member of the service had been arrested, and said he was no longer employed at the agency's headquarters. Fifteen guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition were found in Mr Hasson's basement flat along with illegal drugs, the attorney's office said. When agents raided his home, they discovered a locked case with more than 30 vials of human growth hormone, a steroid that prosecutors say he took thinking that it would "increase his ability to conduct attacks". Officials say he also had ordered more than 4,200 pills of the narcotic Tramadol since 2016, as well as synthetic urine in order to pass random drug tests at work.
2-19-19 Alabama newspaper editor calls on KKK to lynch Democrats
The editor and publisher of a local paper in Alabama is under fire for penning an editorial calling for mass lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The opinion piece ran in his print-only newspaper, the Democrat-Reporter, last Thursday, Goodloe Sutton told another newspaper. He said Democrats were going to raise taxes and that the KKK should hang them and raid Washington DC. Alabama lawmakers have called for Sutton to resign. The editorial began garnering attention online after students from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, tweeted photographs of the article. Sutton could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter. He was once a celebrated journalist, commended for his ethics by other news outlets - including the New York Times and American Journalism Review. A short editorial piece published without a byline on 14 February was entitled: "Klan needs to ride again." "Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again," the article said, referencing the KKK's terrorising raids through black communities. "Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama... This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people." "Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there." Sutton later confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser that he had written the article. "If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out DC we'd all been better off," he said. "We'll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them." "It's not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we're talking about." Sutton also told the paper he did not believe the Klan was a violent organisation. "They didn't kill but a few people. The Klan wasn't violent until they needed to be." (Webmaster's comment: The EVIL is back, but has it really ever left us?)
1-21-19 US Supreme Court allows Trump military transgender ban
The United States Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to enforce his policy of banning certain transgender people from the military. The court voted 5-4 to grant a Trump administration request to lift injunctions blocking the policy while challenges continue in lower courts. The four liberal judges on the court opposed the ruling. The policy prohibits "transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition" from serving. The president announced on Twitter in 2017 that the country would no longer "accept or allow" transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption". Former defence secretary Jim Mattis refined the policy to limit it to transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, and it makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly or willing to serve "in their biological sex". Several trial judges around the country had issued injunctions blocking it. The move is a reversal of an Obama administration policy that ruled transgender Americans could serve openly in the military as well as obtain funding for gender re-assignment surgery. Gender dysphoria is when a person's biological sex and identity does not match. There are currently some 8,980 active duty transgender troops, according to Department of Defense data analysed by the Palm Center, a public policy nonprofit.
1-15-19 First moon plants sprout in China’s Chang’e 4 biosphere experiment
A sprouting cotton seed on China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander is the first plant ever to germinate on another world, heralding a new era for life in space. Seeds of cotton, oilseed rape, potato and arabidopsis were carried to the moon as part of a biosphere experiment, along with fruit fly eggs and some yeast. Pictures sent back by the probe show cotton, rape and potato seeds sprouting and growing well, the scientist leading the experiment, Liu Hanlong, told South China Morning Post. Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon on 3 January and this image was dated 7 January. The organisms are kept in a sealed chamber, protected from the extreme temperatures and intense radiation on the moon’s surface. Understanding how to grow plants in space will help lay the foundation for establishing a human settlement on the moon, Liu said. The six organisms could make up a mini-ecosystem, with plants producing oxygen and food to sustain the fruit flies. Yeast could process the flies’ waste and dead plants to provide another food source. In a future human settlement, potatoes could provide food, rapeseed could be a source of oil and cotton could be used for clothing. Plants have been grown before in orbit in the International Space Station, including cucumbers. Astronauts got their first bites of space-grown romaine lettuce in 2015. Algae have even managed to survive 530 days on a panel on the outside of the space station. (Webmaster's comment: But the fact remains, China is taking the lead in space achievements.)
1-13-19 When kids think a shooter is coming
Lockdowns have become an ordinary feature of the American school day. Even when there's no violence, children suffer the psychic consequences. Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you OK?” In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that a man with a gun was stalking the hallways of her school in the nation’s capital, and MaKenzie feared what he might do to her. Three times between September and November, bursts of gunfire near MaKenzie’s public charter elementary school led DC Prep to seal off its Washington campus and sequester its students. During the last one, on Nov. 16, a silver sedan parked just around the corner at 10:42 a.m., then the men inside stepped out and fired more than 40 rounds. As MaKenzie’s class hid upstairs, teachers frantically rushed three dozen preschoolers off the playground and back into the building. The children of DC Prep hid for 20 minutes, until police officers arrived at the crime scene around the corner and began to take note of where the 40-plus bullet casings had scattered. What did not arrive was the caravan of TV trucks and reporters that so often descend on schools when such scenes play out in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. In the hours that followed, students began to unravel. Among the things they said: “Who’s going to shoot me?” “I want to shoot people.” “I want to shoot myself.” “The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared. In April, the country will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High, and that day will arrive in the aftermath of the worst year of school shootings in modern American history. Last spring, The Washington Post launched a database that tracked incidents of gun violence on campuses dating back to 1999, and the carnage in 2018 shattered every record. Most shootings at schools: 25. Most people shot: 94. Most people killed: 33. Most students exposed to gunfire on their campuses: 25,332.
1-4-19 Record Numbers of Americans Want to Leave the U.S.
While Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency focused on the number of people who want to get into the U.S., since he took office, record numbers of Americans have wanted to get out. Though relatively average by global standards, the 16% of Americans overall who said in 2017 and again in 2018 that they would like to permanently move to another country -- if they could -- is higher than the average levels during either the George W. Bush (11%) or Barack Obama administration (10%).
- 40% of women younger than 30 would like to leave the U.S.
- 22% who disapprove of Trump would like to move vs. 7% who approve
- Canada is top desired destination for would-be migrant Americans
(Webmaster's comment: Staying here in American more than doubles your odds for being beaten, raped or killed by the white male brutes. In Europe the statistics are 4 times better for your survival and a far happier life. You stay in America at a high risk of bodily harm!)
1-3-19 China’s Chang’e 4 makes historic first landing on the moon’s far side
For the first time, a spacecraft has landed on the side of the moon that is always facing away from Earth – an area that, until now, we had only seen from orbit. The China National Space Administration’s Chang’e 4 lander launched on 7 December and has spent the past month reaching the correct orbit to attempt the historic landing. The CNSA also launched a lunar satellite in May to facilitate communication with the lander, as there is never a direct line of sight between the moon’s far side and Earth. That lack of visibility meant that Chang’e 4 had to make its landing almost completely autonomously, with no input from mission control. At 10.26 am Beijing time on 3 January, the lander successfully touched down on the surface in an enormous depression called the South Pole-Aitken basin. This basin is particularly important because it is thought to be a crater from a huge impact during the moon’s early years. The impact may have punched through the crust and dug up rocks from deeper underground. If so, the spacecraft will be able to study these rocks to learn about the moon’s past as well as its present. The mission will also help prepare for the moon’s possible future. Researchers are keen to send radio telescopes to the far side of the moon, where radio wave pollution from Earth’s communications and power lines is blocked out. Chang’e 4 is also carrying a “biosphere” with potato seeds, cress and silkworm larvae to see if they can thrive in a sealed container on the moon. (Webmaster's comment: China is now the undisputed leader in space technology. United states now only leads in its number of military killing machines.)
1-2-19 US fires tear gas at migrants at Mexico border crossing
US agents have fired tear gas over the border into Mexico at migrants trying to enter the country illegally. Around 150 Central Americans tried to make the crossing near the town of Tijuana to the south of California on New Year's Day. One US official described the migrants as a "violent mob". It comes as the US federal government remains shut down as President Donald Trump and Congress argue over funding for his proposed border wall. The US said security forces used tear gas after migrants threw rocks, and that they were deliberately aiming upwind of rock-throwers who they say hindered agents from helping migrants who were passing children over razor wire. But the Associated Press reports rocks were only thrown after agents fired tear gas, and a Reuters witness says one migrant was struck by what seemed to be a tear gas canister. US Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman called the group a "violent mob", and said agents used "the minimum force necessary to defend themselves". In a statement, Ms Waldman called on Congress to "fully fund the border wall". US Customs and Border Protection said 25 people were detained, including two teenagers. The majority of migrants returned to Mexico. A spokesperson for Mexico's foreign ministry said the government "regrets the events" near Tijuana, and called on both sides to respect the law.
12-31-18 Parkland school shooting survivors' anger at Louis CK routine
Survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida have hit out at comedian Louis CK after he was heard poking fun at them in a stand-up set. The leaked audio apparently came from one of his comeback routines a year after he admitted sexual misconduct. In it, he ridiculed the Parkland pupils who have become anti-gun activists. Survivor Ryan Deitsch tweeted: "It's a shame when you sink so low that your comeback plan is to make fun of school shooting survivors for speaking out." Another survivor, Sofie Whitney, said he "must be really intimidated by us kids". Alex Wind said the audience members who could be heard laughing and clapping at Louis CK's jokes were "just as much at fault". And Delaney Tarr, who had to hide in a cupboard from the gunman, added her voice. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in February's shooting, suggested the comic "come to our house and try out your new pathetic jokes". Jaime was one of 17 people who were killed when a 19-year-old expelled former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February. A group of students went on to set up the campaign group March For Our Lives to lobby for tighter gun control measures. In his routine, Louis CK could be heard making fun of the survivors, saying: "Why does that make you interesting? You didn't get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I've got to listen to you talking?" A version of the comic's expletive-laden set was posted on YouTube on 30 December. Louis CK's career took a downturn after he admitted several instances of sexual misconduct in November 2017. He said he had "wielded power irresponsibly" and could hardly wrap his head around the "scope of hurt" he had caused. (Webmaster's comment: It all part of a white male brute's character. Rape them or shoot them or laugh about it!)
12-12-18 2018 'worst year for US school shootings'
This year, 113 people have been killed or injured in school shootings in the United States. That's the sobering finding of a project to count the annual toll of gun attacks in schools. At the beginning of 2018, Education Week, a journal covering education in the US, began to track school shootings - and has since recorded 23 incidents where there were deaths or injuries. With many parts of the US having about 180 school days per year, it means, on average, a shooting once every eight school days. Another database recording school shootings says 2018 has had the highest number of incidents ever recorded, in figures going back to 1970. That database, from the US Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), uses a different way of identifying gun incidents in school, and says this year there have been 94. The idea behind the year-long Education Week project was to mark each shooting - so that attacks should never come to seem "normal" and that every victim should be remembered. But it was also an attempt to fill in the gaps in knowledge, because while there was intense media coverage of multiple-casualty shootings, there was much less clarity about the attacks happening across the country each month. Lesli Maxwell, assistant managing editor of Education Week, said this year has "definitely been an outlier" with two large-scale school shootings, which have contributed to such a high annual loss of life. Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, there were 10 killed, with both gun attacks carried out by teenage boys. "This year also stands out because of all the activism that followed Parkland, with students leading the charge," says Ms Maxwell. These included a shooting at a primary school in Virginia last month, when a parent collecting their child was shot in the leg when a gun in the pocket of another parent was accidentally fired. Or in March in a high school in Maryland, when a 17-year-old teenager shot and injured two students and then, after he was confronted, killed himself. One of the injured, a 16-year-old girl, died a few days later. The shootings are a bleak list of teenagers, guns and innocent victims. The perpetrators are as young as 12 but are mostly 16 or 17. (Webmaster's comment: The slaughter of the innocent continues!)