Trump administration says it won’t return children to immigrant parents in custody, but a judge orders families be reunited | LA Times

Hours after a Trump Cabinet member told Congress that the administration would not reunite migrant children with parents still held in immigrant detention facilities, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to begin doing just that.

In a preliminary injunction issued late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite nearly all children under age 5 with their parents within 14 days and older children within 30 days.

The administration’s actions related to separating families “belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution,” the judge wrote. “This is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers and small children.”

The order appears to set the stage for a legal clash over a crisis that was created by the White House and has sown increasing levels of fear and confusion.

Earlier Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, testifying on Capitol Hill, said the only way parents can quickly be reunited with their children is to drop their claims for asylum in the United States and agree to be deported.

If parents pursue asylum claims, administration officials planned to hold them in custody until hearings are complete — a process that can take months and in some instances years because of a backlog of several hundred thousand cases.

And while that process takes place and the parents are in custody, their children would not be returned to them, Azar said, citing current rules that allow children to be held in immigrant detention for no more than 20 days.

“If the parent remains in detention, unfortunately, under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can’t be reunified while they’re in detention,” Azar told the Senate Finance Committee. He said the department could place children with relatives in the United States if they can be located and properly vetted.

Azar’s department has custody of 2,047 children separated from their parents after they were apprehended crossing the border illegally since May. That’s when the Trump administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that required prosecution of all adults crossing the border — and separate detention of any minors with them.

His statement brought angry protests from Democrats and immigrant advocates.

“The administration is holding children hostage to push parents to drop their asylum claims,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tweeted.

The uncertain fate of the children, and wrenching reports of their plight, has created a political firestorm for the White House and a nightmare for the families affected. In some cases, parents have been deported without their children, or infants and young children have been moved to distant states while their parents await court processing.

The “zero tolerance” policy already has run partially aground over a lack of resources. On Monday, Border Patrol officials announced they had stopped handing over immigrant parents for prosecution because they were running out of beds. The reversal means newly apprehended families, in theory, could be released pending their court dates.

The limit on how long children can be held in immigrant detention facilities stems from a 1997 court ruling known as the Flores settlement. The administration has asked a federal judge to modify those rules and allow families to be held together in custody for longer periods.The Obama administration made a similar request in 2015, but a judge refused.

The White House has also asked Congress to change federal law to allow longer detentions. That process is moving slowly, and President Trump has proved an uncertain ally for Republican leaders, vacillating as to whether he wants new legislation or not.

The House is scheduled to vote on a Republican-drafted bill on Wednesday that would overhaul the immigration system, but its prospects are dim — and it almost certainly would die in the Senate.

Last-minute arguments over what should be in the bill led one of its lead sponsors, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), to declare the measure essentially dead.

“At the end of the day it is very clear that the Republicans cannot pass an immigration bill,” Denham said late Tuesday. “I think it’s a very clear message that Democrats and Republicans need to work together on an American solution. That’s the only way this is going to get done.

If the bill fails, as expected, the House may take up narrower legislation focused specifically on family separation. But Congress is set to recess on Thursday for an extended Fourth of July holiday, so the schedule will allow just hours to consider that proposal.

Trump signed an executive order last week that he said would halt the separation of parents and children by detaining families together. Since then, his administration has struggled to articulate a plan to reunite families.

Over the weekend, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services released a joint statement saying they had come up with a central database to link families and were working on ensuring children stayed in contact with their parents.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Health and Human Services officials refused to say whether they were still receiving children taken from parents at the border. The government has not released data on the ages of children in custody, nor how many in total have been separated or released.

Jonathan White, head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, said only that the department was working with other agencies “to facilitate reunification with a child as soon as that is practical.”

He suggested the department’s sole responsibility for now “is to determine whether the child has a safe place to go.”

White said his office knew “the status, whereabouts and care of every child” in its custody. “We have always known where all the children are,” he said.

But Azar conceded in his Senate testimony that the department has not yet been able to put all the parents in communication with their children.

“We want every child and every parent to be in communication at least twice a week so that they’re talking, by Skype or by phone,” he said. “We want this to happen.”

He also warned that if parents remain in a detention facility and the agency gives custody of a child to someone else — a relative in the U.S., for example — the parents eventually might have to go to court to get the child back.

“We cannot sort of pull a child back from a relative. We don’t have the legal authority,” he said.

Lawyers decried officials’ decision not to reunite children with their parents in detention as inhumane.

Jodi Goodwin, a south Texas immigration lawyer who mobilized a rapid-response team of attorneys to aid immigrant parents detained at the Port Isabel Detention Center on the Texas Gulf Coast, said officials needed to release parents with ankle monitors or bond so that they can be reunited with their children.

“That’s the only way to end the tragedy that has happened,” she said.

Zenen Jaimes Perez of the Texas Civil Rights Project said parents were so desperate they would waive their rights, drop their asylum claims and agree to deportation, not understanding that even that choice does not guarantee they will see their children again. Of the 400 parents his organization has interviewed, only four have been reunited with their children, he said.

“We know a lot of people are making these decisions under duress, with no counsel, and that is particularly cruel,” he said.

As families grappled with that choice, 17 states — including California — and the District of Columbia filed suit against the administration over its detention policies. The case joins a growing pile of lawsuits against the administration’s policies.

The continued action in Congress and the courts will keep the emotion-charged family separations in the public eye as lawmakers return to their districts four months before the midterm election.

Trump has blamed Democrats for the stalemate in Congress, but he has given wildly mixed signals about what he wants from Republicans.

The president initially said he opposed the compromise bill, then told Republican lawmakers he was “1,000%” for immigration legislation, and then tweeted that Republicans “should stop wasting their time” by trying to pass an immigration bill before the November election.

House Republican leaders acknowledged that they still don’t have the 218 votes needed to pass the compromise bill despite holding 235 seats in the chamber. They blamed Democrats, however, for not supporting their bill.

“Why doesn’t a few Democrats move over? If they are honest about wanting to secure the border, here is the opportunity,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said Monday on Fox News.

Few Democrats are inclined to help rescue Trump from a crisis he created. Moreover, Democrats had no role in crafting the bill.

“It’s just a bad bill. It has nothing to do with even being locked out of the process — it’s just a bad bill,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) said.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn’t discuss a proposed bill targeting only the family separations. A Senate proposal would add 225 immigration judges and expedite court proceedings for families, and there are indications that plan could get a vote this week.

Ryan said he wants to “do as well as we possibly can” in Wednesday’s vote, adding, “If that doesn’t succeed, then we’ll cross that bridge.”

Source: LA Times

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28 Signs That the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried with Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima| Global Research & The Truth

Global Research Note: 7 years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, we bring to the attention of our readers this piece originally published in October 2013. This situation is far more serious that what is described in this article.

The map below comes from the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center.  It shows that radiation levels at radiation monitoring stations all over the country are elevated.  As you will notice, this is particularly true along the west coast of the United States.  Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean.  That means that the total amouont of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain. 

Ultimately, all of this nuclear radiation will outlive all of us by a very wide margin.  They are saying that it could take up to 40 years to clean up the Fukushima disaster, and meanwhile countless innocent people will develop cancer and other health problems as a result of exposure to high levels of nuclear radiation.  We are talking about a nuclear disaster that is absolutely unprecedented, and it is constantly getting worse.  The following are 28 signs that the west coast of North America is being absolutely fried with nuclear radiation from Fukushima…

By Michael Snyder

1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores

Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.

The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…

At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die.   It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”

3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low.  Many are blaming Fukushima.

4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.

6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.

7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…

• 73 percent of mackerel tested

• 91 percent of the halibut

• 92 percent of the sardines

• 93 percent of the tuna and eel

• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies

• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…

Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.

11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish

“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”

12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.

13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.

14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.

15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.

18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.

19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.

20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year

Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.

21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.

22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.

23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning

“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”

24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time.  Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.

Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…

The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.

If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.

There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.

You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…

NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.

26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.

27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.

28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…

“Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.”

Are you starting to understand why so many people are so deeply concerned about what is going on at Fukushima?

About the author: Michael T. Snyder is a former Washington D.C. attorney who now publishes The Truth. His new thriller entitled “The Beginning Of The End” is now available on Amazon.com.

Source: The Truth & Global Research

Democrats are repudiating FDR’s precedent of détente with Russia | RT & The Nation

By Stephen F. Cohen

By criminalizing alleged “contacts with the Kremlin” – and by demonizing Russia itself – today’s Democrats are becoming the party of the new and more perilous Cold War.

Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics (at NYU and Princeton), and John Batchelor hold their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fourth year, are at TheNation.com.)

In light of recent events, from Washington to the false alerts in Hawaii and Japan, Cohen returns to a theme he has explored previously: the ways in which the still-unproven Russiagate allegations, promoted primarily by the Democratic Party, have become the number-one threat to American national security. Historical context is needed, which returns Cohen briefly to related subjects he has also previously discussed with Batchelor.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of what is usually said to have been the full onset of the long Cold War, in 1948. In fact, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of US-Russian cold wars, which began with the Russian Civil War when, for the next 15 years, Washington refused to formally recognize the victorious Soviet government – surely a very cold relationship, though one without an arms race. The first of several détente policies – attempts to reduce the dangers inherent in cold war by introducing important elements of cooperation – was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, when he formally extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, then ruled by Stalin. That is, FDR was the father of détente, a circumstance forgotten or disregarded by many Democrats, especially today.

Three major détentes were pursued later in the 20th century, all by Republican presidents: Eisenhower in the 1950s, Nixon in the 1970s, and by Reagan in the second half of the 1980s, which was so fulsome and successful that he and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, thought they had ended the Cold War altogether.

And yet today, post–Soviet Russia and the United States are in a new and even more dangerous Cold War, one provoked in no small measure by the Democratic Party, from President Clinton’s winner-take-all policies toward Russia in the 1990s to President Obama’s refusal to cooperate significantly with Moscow against international terrorism, particularly in Syria; the role of his administration in the illegal overthrow of Ukrainian President Yanukovych in 2014 (a coup by any other name); and the still-shadowy role of Obama’s intelligence chiefs, not only those at the FBI, in instigating Russiagate allegations against Donald Trump early in 2016.

(Obama’s so-called “reset” of Russia policy was a kind of pseudo-détente and doomed from the outset. It asked of Moscow, and got, far more than the Obama administration offered; was predicated on the assumption that Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, would not return to the presidency; and was terminated by Obama himself when he broke his promise to his reset partner, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, by overthrowing Libyan leader Gaddafi.)

It should also be remembered that the current plan to “modernize” US nuclear weapons by making them smaller, more precise, and thus more “usable” was launched by the Obama administration.

Which brings Cohen to President Trump, who, whether Trump fully understood it or not, sought to be the fourth Republican president to initiate a policy of détente – or “cooperate with Russia” – in times of perilous Cold War. In the past, a “dovish” wing of the Democratic Party supported détente, but not this time. Russiagate allegations, still mostly a Democratic project, have been leveled by leading Democrats and their mainstream media against Trump every time he has tried to develop necessary cooperative agreements with President Putin, characterizing those initiatives as disloyal to America, even “treasonous.”

Still more, the same Democratic actors have increasingly suggested that normal “contacts” with Russia at various levels – a practice traditionally encouraged by pro-détente US leaders – are evidence of “collusion with the Kremlin.” (A particularly egregious example is General Michael Flynn’s “contacts” with a Russian ambassador on behalf of President-elect Trump, a long-standing tradition now being criminalized.) Still worse, criticism of US policy toward Russia since the 1990s, which Cohen and a few other Russia specialists have often expressed, is being equated with “colluding” with Putin’s views, as in the case of a few words by Carter Page – that is, also as disloyal.

Until recently, Democratic Russiagate allegations were motivated primarily by a need to explain away and take revenge for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election. Now, however, they are being codified into a Democratic Party program for escalated and indefinite Cold War against Russia, presumably to be a major plank in the party’s appeal to voters in 2018 and 2020, as evidenced by two recent publications: a flagrantly cold-warfare article coauthored by former Vice President Joseph Biden, who is clearly already campaigning for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs; and an even more expansive “report” produced by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin purporting to show that Putin is attacking not only America, as he purportedly did in 2016, but democracies everywhere in the world and that America must respond accordingly.

Both are recapitulations of primitive American (and Soviet) “propaganda” that characterized the onset of the early stage of the post-1948 Cold War: full of unbalanced prosecutorial narratives, selective and questionable “facts,” Manichean accounts of Moscow’s behavior, and laden with ideological, not analytical, declarations.

Indeed, both suggest that “Putin’s Russia” is an even more fearsome threat than was Soviet Communist Russia. Tellingly, both implicitly deny that Russia has any legitimate national interests abroad and, with strong Russophobic undertones, that it is a nation worthy in any way. Both preclude, of course, any rethinking of US policy toward Russia except for making it more aggressive.

These latter approaches to Soviet Russia were eventually tempered or abandoned during the era of détente for the sake of diplomacy, relegated mainly to fringe groups. Now they are becoming the proposed policies of the Democratic Party.

Leave aside, Cohen continues, the consequences of another prolonged Cold War for a “progressive agenda” at home. Consider instead the supremely existential and real danger of nuclear war, which as Reagan wisely concluded, “cannot be won and therefore must never be fought.” And consider the false alarms of incoming nuclear missiles recently experienced in Hawaii and Japan. These episodes alone should compel any Democratic Party worthy of the name to support Trump’s pro-détente instincts, however inadequate they may be, and urge him to pursue with Putin agreements that would take all nuclear weapons off high alert, which gives both leaders only a few minutes to decide whether such alarms are authentic or false before launching massive retaliation; adopt a reassuring mutual doctrine of no-first-use of nuclear weapons; and move quickly toward radical reductions of those weapons on both sides.

But for that to happen, the Democratic Party would need to give American national security a higher priority than its obsession with Russiagate, which is currently very far from the case.

Some Democratic members of Congress seem to understand this imperative, at least privately, but evidently lack the civic courage to speak out. And, to be ecumenical, so do those Republican members and their media who now allege that Russiagate is somehow a function of “Russian propaganda” having been smuggled into American politics.

Hegel liked to say, “The Owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk” — that wisdom comes too late. A Hegel-like historical irony may also be unfolding. FDR was the first pro-détente president. Due primarily to today’s Democrats, Trump might be the last.

Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University and a contributing editor of The Nation.

Source: RT & The Nation

The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas: An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration | Snopes

By Dan McGuill

Over the past two years, many thousands of broadcast hours and probably millions of words have been devoted to Donald Trump’s relationship with the truth. Equally, the President has made accusations of dishonesty and bias against the media and his political opponents a central part of his persona and presidency.

What lies are told about the President? Is he lying when he makes these allegations? In a feverish atmosphere of claim and counterclaim, when everyone seems to reflexively accuse everyone else of “fake news”, it can be difficult to know what’s what.

There are many articles that exist detailing lies and misleading claims made by the Trump administration. This article is intended as a neutral, reliable analysis of the lies, false allegations and misleading claims made about and against Donald Trump since his inauguration in January 2017. We’ve attempted to strip away the hyperbole, name-calling and generalizations, and examine the patterns and trends at work: what characterizes these lies and exaggerations, the effect they have, what might explain them.

We pay particular attention to selected examples — claims that have gained prominence among the mainstream opposition to Trump, revealing much about the methods, priorities, and tone of that opposition, and illustrating how this movement both cultivates and plays off a number of caricatures of the 45th President and at times falls prey to a handful of identifiable and repeated errors of thought.

This is nothing new. Supporters and opponents of every high-profile politician in American history have done exactly the same, but in the current cultural atmosphere, where “the truth” is universally, even manically, exalted as an abstract concept but then widely degraded in practice, it’s essential to confront, correct, and analyze patterns of falsehoods like these.

This is not an exhaustive list. For that, and a litany of fact checks of claims made by the President, you can browse the Snope archive on him.

The focus here is on attacks against Trump. So for the purpose of this article, we’re not interested in false claims that are intended to reflect favorably on him. Nor does this analysis address claims made against his family members, of which there have been many. It’s also limited to the period following the inauguration on 20 January. This analysis was primarily based on an in-depth search of our own archives.

The Many Donald Trumps

Broadly speaking, most of the falsehoods levelled against Trump fall into one or more of five categories, each of them drawing from and feeding into five public personas inhabited by the President.

They are:

  • Donald Trump: International Embarrassment
  • Trump the Tyrant
  • Donald Trump: Bully Baby
  • Trump the Buffoon
  • Trump the Cruel Bigot

Some of these claims are downright fake, entirely fabricated by unreliable or dubious web sites and presented as satire, or otherwise blatantly false. But the rest — some of which have gained significant traction and credibility from otherwise serious people and organizations — provide a fascinating insight into the tactics and preoccupations of the broad anti-Trump movement known as “the Resistance,” whether they were created by critics of the President or merely shared by them.

Generally speaking, we discovered that they are characterized and driven by four types of errors of thought:

  • Alarmism
  • A lack of historical context or awareness
  • Cherry-picking of evidence (especially visual evidence)
  • A failure to adhere to Occam’s Razor — the common-sense understanding that the simplest explanation for an event or behavior is the most likely.

Infused throughout almost all these claims, behind their successful dissemination, is confirmation bias: the fuel that drives the spread of all propaganda and false or misleading claims among otherwise sensible and skeptical people. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for, find, remember and share information that confirms the beliefs we already have, and the tendency to dismiss, ignore and forget information that contradicts those beliefs. It is one of the keys to why clever people, on all sides of every disagreement, sometimes believe stupid things that aren’t true.

We’re going to take a look at the four major types of falsehood we found, which correspond with Donald Trump’s five public personas, and point out along the way how various errors in thought have played a role in their origins and their spread.

Donald Trump: International Embarrassment

What’s remarkable is the extent to which false claims about the President revolve around body language, nonverbal gestures and symbolism, all phenomena that are notoriously open to interpretation. These lies and misrepresentations are also often based on snapshots — visual evidence presented without proper context.

Take, for example, the claim that Trump was the only world leader at a G7 summit in May not to take notes, based on a photograph posted to Twitter by French President Emannuel Macron. Here Trump was portrayed as unprepared and out of his depth on the world stage, with a “ten-second attention span”. However, the claim was entirely untrue, with other images and video of the meeting showing that Trump did indeed have notes and a pen. Not only that, but the very image used to make the false claim clearly shows two other world leaders sitting with no note-taking paraphernalia. In this case, even the cherry-picked evidence chosen to make the point undermines it.

Or, from the same G7 summit, the claim that Trump was caught on video raising his middle fingerto Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni. Here we have Trump, contemptuous of other world leaders, once again risking international incident with his short temper and foul manners.

Except that he didn’t. The original source of the claim is revealing — the Twitter account of GiveHimTheFinger.com, an anti-Trump website that encourages his opponents to send the White House postcards designed as a middle finger.  A longer video of the discussion shows that Trump and Gentiloni spoke cordially before the incident, which undermines the implicit logic behind the claim — that Trump was expressing anger or distain for Gentiloni. Indeed, no one has ever explained why Trump supposedly flipped him the bird, and so Occam’s Razor comes into play here.

While it is possible, of course, that Trump had such a mercurial change of heart about Gentiloni that he went from sharing warm words with him to publicly insulting him in a matter of minutes, is it not far more likely that the US President just had an itchy head?

India's prime minister hugs the United States' president

And then there’s Newsweek’s claim that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “evaded” Trump’s “notorious… bone-crunching power handshake”, about which there has been a seemingly endless supply of every imaginable kind of analysis.

“In his visit to the White House Monday,” wrote Tom Porter in June,  “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi neatly sidestepped the challenge, swooping in for two bear hugs with the president during a joint press conference in the Rose Garden.” What’s missing from this account, in a theme repeated throughout this collection, is historical context, either by deliberate omission or due to the author’s lack of awareness.

Modi, as has long been noted, is famous for hugging world leaders, a gesture he bestowed upon Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, as well as the last two presidents of France, among others. Rather than being an example of yet another world leader “fighting back” (as the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has described what are essentially firm handshakes), this was an example of India’s prime minister continuing to greet another world leader in the way he always has.

Lack of historical context and cherry-picked evidence also played a role in another particularly egregious episode, in which Occupy Democrats placed a photograph of Pope Francis frowning beside Trump, next to one of the Pontiff grinning beside Barack Obama.

“See the difference?” the caption asked. Of course: Pope happy, Pope sad. But proper context (and basic common sense) would make it clear that no meaning whatsoever can be gleaned from these two snapshots.

People in the company of someone they like don’t keep a smile constantly plastered on their faces while devoutly maintaining a scowl when forced to hang out with someone who is not their favorite. And our facial expressions often have nothing to do with the people in our immediate vicinity (think: trapped gas, or checking your phone at the dinner table). A photograph of Francis frowning next to Obama was not hard to come by. Nor was one of him grinning next to Trump.

See the difference?

Trump the Tyrant

The second major strand of falsehood we have observed is one that portrays Trump as a would-be dictator, straying beyond his constitutional powers and imposing his will on whatever and whomever he chooses.

It has to be said that these claims have primarily come in the form of blatantly fabricated posts and stories from disreputable sources. Like a satirical News Werthy article that reported that Trump was looking into an executive order to abolish impeachment, or an artist’s “Future Internment Camp” signs in various vacant lots, which were mistaken for genuine by some readers and observers.

Then there was the satirical article that reported Trump had signed an executive order declaring himself the popular vote winner in 2016’s presidential election, or the claim that he had imposed martial law in Chicago, using a video of a police tank which has been in use since 2010. However, there have been more serious claims made about Trump’s supposedly authoritarian tendencies; a story published by the website Learn Progress offers a good illustration of this:“Trump Says Americans Have “No Right” to Protest Him. TYRANNY” reads the headline. In reality, three protesters thrown out of a Trump rally in March 2016 later sued him, alleging incitement to violence. As part of that case, lawyers for the President filed a motion arguing, in part, that protesters did not have a right to disrupt a campaign rally to the extent that they effectively denied the event organizers their own freedom of expression.

This is far more specific and limited than the absolutist way the motion was misrepresented in the article’s headline. Once again, a clue as to the falsehood of the claim is to be found in the very evidence used as its basis. The motion itself is prefaced by the disclaimer: “Of course, protestors have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views…” So not only did the evidence not support the claim that Trump thinks that Americans have “no right” to protest him, it actually supported the opposite.

A final example of how rushed and alarmist conclusions, a lack of context, and a pre-existing caricature of Trump as an incipient dictator have played a role in false claims made against him came early on in his presidency. In the days following Trump’s inauguration, claims emerged that his administration had literally rewritten the Bill of Rights, changing all mention of “people” to “citizens”.

The story horrified readers. “Not a joke,” read one widely-shared tweet, “not a drill.” But also, not true. The administration had changed WhiteHouse.gov’s summary of the Constitution, but not the Constitution itself. What’s more, the change from “people” to “citizens” in this summary had already been made during the tenure of President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump: Bully Baby

Closely linked to the “dictator” trope are several false claims based on Trump’s persona as a thin-skinned, narcissistic baby, lashing out at perceived insults and bullying much less powerful people. So when, in May, Stephen Colbert made a controversial joke about Trump performing fellatio on Vladimir Putin, it was almost inevitable that a fake story would follow, claiming that the President had forced CBS to fire Colbert, in a single phone call. Similarly, Alec Baldwin’s popular portrayal of Trump on Saturday Night Live prompted this fake story, which reported that the President had signed an executive order cancelling the show.

In the same vein, Crayola’s decision to drop the “dandelion” crayon was falsely attributed to pressure from an image-obsessed Trump administration, worried that children were using that particular color to create unflattering pictures of the President.

Sometimes these claims seem plausible enough to gain even more credibility and traction. In April, Trump met the public at the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll. A teenaged boy asked him to sign his “Make America Great Again” hat, and the President obliged, but appeared to toss the hat in the air.

This was presented as a callous act from a bullying, villainous Donald Trump by observers such as the Resistance Report web site, which wrote ” Trump Just Ruined This Kid’s Day at the Easter Egg Roll.” However, another camera angle clearly shows that Trump was playfully tossing the hat back to the boy, who happily receives the hat and walks away.

But even without the second camera angle, Occam’s Razor comes into play once again. Does it make sense that Donald Trump, asked by an enthusiastic young man to sign a hat bearing his iconic slogan, would sign the hat and then, smiling, deliberately throw it away from the boy? Or is it more likely that Trump was being playful with someone who acted admiringly towards him, and tossed the hat in the air with the intention of giving it back to the boy?

Trump’s “thin-skinned” persona has also been the source of falsehoods, like the one shared by writer Dana Schwartz in January, who claimed the President had doctored a photograph to make his hands look bigger. She attempted to prove this by comparing two pictures of the same embrace between Donald Trump and Barack Obama. The claim was based entirely on the fact that Trump’s left hand appeared bigger in one image than the other, but otherwise provided no evidence that the picture had been doctored.

This also ignored the fact that the two images were taken from slightly different angles and distances, enough to organically make one hand appear bigger than the other.

Trump the Buffoon

Another major strand of falsehood about the President is the one that feeds into his persona as a bumbling fool, prone to accidents and devoid of any cultural sophistication.

Here, one claim stands out. In March, Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny came to the White House for a traditional St Patrick’s Day visit with the sitting President. During a speech, Trump recited a verse (the relevant section starts at 9:21):

As we stand together with our Irish friends, I’m reminded of that proverb — and this is a good one, this is one I like, I’ve heard it for many, many years and I love it:

“Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.”

The response was huge. Almost instantly, Trump was mocked for citing as an Irish proverb a poem written by a Nigerian man. The Daily Kos web site wrote:

[Trump] took his moment to read the following, which he described as an old “Irish proverb”…Within minutes, the true origins of the “Irish proverb” were known and surprise! Not Irish. In fact, the words were from Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan.

The Root added:

Alhassan was born to Nigerian parents in the Kano State of Nigeria, which, coincidentally, is not Ireland. But according to Trump, it doesn’t matter if a proverb isn’t Irish; he can make it Irish.

Alhassan himself told Buzzfeed:

It’s actually strange. I’m wondering what must have made him relate it to Ireland even if he loves the lines.

Stephen Colbert devoted this three-minute segment to eviscerating what he presented as Trump’s cultural deafness and downright ignorance:

“That’s very nice, that’s very sweet,” Colbert said of Trump’s recitation:

Very sweet thought. Only problem — Trump’s “favorite Irish proverb” is not a proverb, it’s a poem, and it’s not from Ireland, it’s written by a Nigerian poet… Irish, Nigerian — it’s an honest mistake.

Only problem, as Colbert might say, Trump never once claimed the proverb was Irish.

The video of Trump’s remarks has been played countless times, embedded into mocking reports, and retweeted by thousands of people, aghast at his tone-deafness. The clip would have been edited by staff at Late Night for use, and Colbert himself would have heard the President’s words immediately before launching into the segment (which is frankly difficult to watch) in the knowledge that it is based on an entirely fabricated characterization. Not once, apparently, did anyone hear what Trump actually said — “a proverb”, not “an Irish proverb”.

Why would Trump relate the words to the Irish? The answer to the question posed by Albashir Alhassan is once again so simple that it appears to have eluded almost everyone.

“As we stand together with our Irish friends,” is how Trump prefaced his recitation. Now remember what those words were. “Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.” Standing next to the leader of a country with a long-standing friendly relationship with the United States, accompanied by “Irish friends”, Trump recited a verse about the loyalty of true friends. It makes complete sense for him to have read these words, and not once did he ever describe them as “Irish”.

Set aside the fact that, far from being written in 2013, those words date back at least 80 years; set aside, even, the fact that they appear online in several places, described as an “Irish proverb“. Trump never said they were Irish anyway.

The entire episode is a remarkable example of something bordering on collective hallucination, most likely brought on by confirmation bias. Here hundreds of thousands of people — including professional journalists working for influential news organizations, and a chat show host with more than three million nightly viewers — literally heard Trump say something he never said, in most cases probably because it confirmed a pre-existing image of the President as a poorly read, culturally ignorant buffoon.

Other fake stories have simply been designed to make him look ridiculous, like the widely-shared photographs doctored to show Trump with fake diarrhea stains on his golf pants, wearing a diaperor balloon breasts, or posing with a stripper.

Trump the Cruel Bigot

The final strand of false claims we are examining are those that have contributed to, and fed off, an image of the President and his administration as racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and cruel toward poor people.

Some are entirely fabricated or intended as satire, like the claim that Trump was planning to deport American Indians to India, and another that he had made English the official language of the U.S., or stories claiming that the President had banned the full-face Muslim veil or Sharia law.

Others, however, have gained more mainstream traction. The predominant theme, here, has been alarmism, particularly at the beginning of Trump’s tenure. On Inauguration Day, the actor and activist George Takei warned his Twitter followers that the new White House had removed references to climate change, healthcare, civil rights and LGBT rights from its web site. While that was true, content of all kinds was temporarily removed from WhiteHouse.gov and archived during a routine transition between the Obama and Trump administrations.

Similarly, there were claims that Trump’s administration had removed LGBT categories from the 2020 Census. In reality, such categories have never been included in the U.S. Census, reports that the Census Bureau had dropped plans to introduce them stemmed from a clerical error, and there is no evidence the Trump was involved in the Census Bureau’s decision-making anyway.

Trump has also been accused of various cruel cuts and attacks on funding and services, particularly around the time he proposed the 2018 Budget to Congress. In March, the Occupy Democrats web site claimed in a headline “Trump Just Announced Plan to End ‘Meals on Wheels’”. In this case, Trump proposed eliminating the Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding to several programs, including Meals on Wheels. However, only 3 percent of Meals on Wheels’ funding comes from federal sources like the Community Development Block Grant.

So not only did Trump not announce a plan to end Meals on Wheels, as such, but it would be an enormous exaggeration even to say that the effect of his proposals would be to end the program. We do not wish to downplay the fact that Meals on Wheels is a tremendously important program for many, and that any cuts at all might affect them; however, it is important to keep a sense of perspective in an environment increasingly fueled by outrage.

The president’s persona as callous and cruel also fed into, and was supported by fabricated stories such as the Satira Tribune’s claim that he had cut funding for the veteran suicide hotline, because he didn’t want the U.S. military to appear “weak”, or a fake Donald Trump tweet declaring that drug-testing would be a prerequisite for benefits recipients.

Conclusion

It has to be acknowledged that since January, many of Trump’s opponents, and even lukewarm supporters, have found considerable fault with his policies and behavior, based on accurate facts. There have been many occasions when Trump himself, undistorted and unfiltered, contributed mightily to the five personas we have outlined.

Indeed, in many instances the false claims against him carry a grain of truth. The president’s plan to scrap the Community Development Block Grant was real, and could very reasonably be expected to have significant consequences across a number of services and programs, including Meals on Wheels. All this is true, but it makes it no less false and no more acceptable to claim, on this basis, that he had singled out Meals on Wheels for elimination. He had not.

In some ways, these sorts of massive exaggerations and gross distortions are even more corrosive and destructive than fake news about diarrhea on the golf course, because they bear some distant relationship with the truth.

Source: Snopes

Top 10 Terrifying Assaults On Free Speech Happening Right Now | ListVerse

Hands up: who loves freedom of speech? By our count, roughly all of you now have your hands waving about in the air. And why wouldn’t you? Free speech is a cornerstone of any modern democracy and arguably the most important provision in the US Constitution.

But just because we all agree that something is awesome doesn’t mean that it’s going to be around forever. Right now, free speech is under assault across the world. And unless we do something to defend it soon, we’re gonna find ourselves living in a world where the “free” part of free speech is only ever used ironically.

Ten: The War On Online Comments

You may have noticed that the Internet is a pretty nasty place. If you don’t believe us, feel free to go on Twitter and start sending out, say, pro-feminist or anti-Islam messages and see how long it takes for a lynch mob to form. But there’s recognizing that an environment is toxic, and then there’s attempting to sterilize it with a flamethrower. Right now, big Internet companies are choosing the latter.

Take the popular comment system Disqus. The company recently announced it was going to start censoring hate speech on its platform by deleting posts it deems “toxic.” In practical terms, this means that a shady algorithm will be removing reader comments from sites like Listverse without any input from our moderators or editors.

This is, to put it mildly, insane. It’s one thing for a site owner to decide what they will allow on their own site; it’s another for a comment platform to make that decision for them. Debates on controversial topics risk being censored because some biased algorithm deems something “inappropriate.” Then there’s the fact that it’s not Disqus’s place to delete inappropriate stuff in the first place. The First Amendment explicitly defends stuff most people would class as hate speech.[1] If we truly believe in free speech, that means believing that even the worst viewpoints have a right to be aired online.

Nine: Assaults On Anonymity

In 2014, the Internet group Anonymous doxed a whole bunch of KKKmembers, releasing their identities online. People across the political spectrum cheered. Those who didn’t focused on the danger of accidentally outing an innocent person as a Klansman. But precious few spoke out about the real danger of doxing. By taking away these dumb racists’ right to express their dumbly racist opinions anonymously, the hackers were imperiling free speech for us all.

Multiple US Supreme Court rulings have asserted that the right to anonymous speech is covered by the First Amendment.[2] Three of the Founding Fathers, for example, wrote the Federalist Papers under a pseudonym. Anonymity gives us the chance to criticize the government without fear of reprisal. It lets us publish pictures of Muhammad without worrying about being gunned down in the street.

Doxing endangers all of that. It’s a growing threat in our online world, but actual doxing isn’t the real problem. It’s how we respond to it that really matters.

If we act like it’s cool to dox Klansmen, Gamergaters, outspoken feminists, or anyone at all, we’re signaling that some people don’t deserve anonymous speech. That’s a slippery path to go down. It means people will stop saying what they truly think for fear of their identity being outed. When we’re scared to speak our minds, we no longer have free speech.

Eight: Rising Blasphemy Cases

Last week, Ireland announced it was dropping a blasphemy case against British actor and comedian Stephen Fry. Pause and let that sink in for a second. The crazy thing here isn’t that Ireland decided not to prosecute a comedian for saying God was “stupid.” It’s the fact that the law to prosecute him with even existed in the first place.

Sadly, the Irish example is one of a rising number of blasphemy cases that is threatening to destroy free speech across the world.[3] While Islamic nations tend to be worse, jailing or even executing people who insult the Prophet, Western countries are also getting in on the action. Poland prosecuted a singer in 2014 for ripping up a Bible onstage, while Greece handed out a ten-month suspended sentence to a guy who uploaded a picture of an Orthodox monk with pasta Photoshopped onto his face. Both convictions were quashed on appeal, but the fact that they ever went to trial is appalling.

As others have pointed out before, blasphemy laws don’t even make much sense on their own terms. If your God can’t deal with some doofus making spaghetti pictures of him, then he isn’t much of a God in the first place. Yet it seems not everyone sees it this way. As Britain’s Independent newspaper noted, a shocking number of people online responded to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre not by reposting the offending cartoons (as we’re proud to say Listverse did) but by blaming the cartoonists for drawing them in the first place. If that’s not covertly supporting blasphemy laws, we don’t know what is.

Seven: The War On Journalism

It can seem right now like the media is everyone’s favorite punching bag. While it’s right and proper that journalists should be challenged on shoddy research, it’s a problem when people start thinking of journalists as the “enemy.” As the Index on Censorship has noted, this hostile climate led to 2016 being the most dangerous year for journalism in decades.[4]

Freedom of the press is so entwined with free speech that the First Amendment explicitly mentions it. If a journalist can’t file a story that makes the powerful look bad, then it doesn’t matter what the man on the street is or isn’t free to say; you are living in an anti-democratic society. Worryingly, this appears to be the case across the world more and more often. Journalists are frequently murdered for writing unflattering stories in places like Russia or locked up and “purged” from their jobs in countries like Turkey (as 2,500 recently were following the coup attempt against Erdogan).

Worryingly, the West, too, is turning its back on media freedom. France recently passed a law that could throw journalists in jail for seven years for protecting sources, while in the US, President Trump has threatened to muzzle the press with egregious new libel laws.

Six: Destroying Speakers’ Lives

At what point did we as a society decide that it was cool to completely ruin people’s lives just for speaking their minds? That’s a serious question. In the last few years, a trend has been building that sees those who slip up and say something “bad” forced from their jobs, publicly humiliated, and never able to work again.

This is seen clearest on US campuses. Over the past few years, students have tried to destroy the lives of administrators who wrote an e-mail that refused to condemn insensitive Halloween costumes, other students who made “all lives matter” posters, fraternities that threw Kanye West–themed parties, journalism students who wrote articles critical of Black Lives Matter, and professors who committed microaggressions as bizarre as questioning the concept of microaggressions.[5]

Is anyone else shivering due to the subzero chilling effect here? Worryingly, such humiliation of those who speak up exists outside the campus, too. In 2013, two random guys at a tech conference were covertly filmed making jokes about “big dongles.” They wound up losing their jobs over the phrase’s perceived misogyny. When we’re at the stage that we can’t even make piss-poor jokes with our friends without our livelihoods being trashed, something is seriously wrong.

Five: ‘Cultural Appropriation’

While we’re talking about insane assaults on free speech, we might as well deal with cultural appropriation. Wikipedia helpfully defines this as “ the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.” In practical terms, it means that talking about anything from a culture that isn’t your own can now land you in big trouble.

For example, a professor at the University of Ottawa had her student exercise classes cancelled for discussing yoga, with complainants likening her class to “genocide.” Also, food website Bon Appetit removed a contributor’s video and made them apologize after they confused the foods ramen and pho (which is certainly dumb but not worth getting censored over).[6] Or how about when Iggy Azalea was hounded online for being a white rapper. J.K. Rowling was harassed for daring to write a Native American magician into one of her books.

Does anyone else think this is completely absurd? While not as awful as arresting journalists or putting blasphemers on trial, we seem to have gotten to the stage where people are forced into silence on some subjects because they’re not from a specific demographic. When we’re seriously debating if it’s okay for a non-Asian food blogger to write Chinese food recipes, something has gone badly wrong with our culture’s conception of free speech.

Four: The Assassin’s Veto

There’s nothing like the fear of death to stop you from speaking your mind. That’s the whole concept behind the assassin’s veto. By gruesomely killing a handful of people who say something you dislike, you’ll shut down that entire avenue of conversation. Right now, it’s a veto that’s being wielded across the world to terrifying extremes.[7]

A whole lot of the time, it’s directed against those who insult or denigrate Islam. The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh for making a film about Muslim women being abused, the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff, and the hacking to death of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh has made even joking about Muhammad a dance with death. But it goes further than just the extremists of one religion. In Mexico, drug cartels have taken to torturing and brutally murdering anyone who speaks out against them. In Italy, the Mafia does likewise. In the US, both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists have been shot for simply expressing their opinions.

The bleakest part of all this is that it works. Speeches, plays, concerts, comedy shows, and lectures are all routinely canceled because of threats. Feminists, critics of Islam, right-wing speakers, and more have all been forced to curtail their own freedom of speech in case someone kills them. The effect is to dampen free speech across the entire world.

Three: Weaponized Protest

Freedom of speech includes the right to protest speech you disagree with. Those who punch protestors at rallies can no more claim to support free speech than Lenin could claim to support capitalism. But there’s exercising your democratic right to protest, and then there’s using that right to completely shut down the views you’re protesting against. Recently, it seems that protestors are aiming solely for the latter.

The idea of creating an environment your opponent is afraid to enter seems to have really taken off around 2013. Prior to that, protests at campuses rarely blocked an invited speaker from attending. Today, you hear about canceled lectures[8] with mind-numbing regularity. Right-wing speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos, Anne Coulter, and Ben Shapiro have been chased off college campuses, as have left-wing speakers like pro-abortion Supreme Court justice Carol Beier. Each time it happens, it demonstrates how little value is now placed on free speech and enlightened debate, versus simply shouting your enemy down.

Two: Awful Misuse Of Sexual Assault Law

We can’t believe we have to write this sentence. Penning an essay that deals with student-lecturer relationships in US colleges is not sexual harassment. We all know that. Yet, sexual harassment is exactly what it has been classed as. In 2015, feminist film professor Laura Kipnis (pictured above) was placed under investigation and risked losing her job for writing that very essay. The reason for all this? The chilling, free speech–destroying Title IX.[9]

If you’ve never heard of it, Title IX was a piece of legislation which President Nixon introduced that originally protected women from discrimination in colleges. Under Obama, its remit was expanded, and now it deals with sexual assault and sexual violence against female students. At least, it’s supposed to. But the wording is so vague that it can conceivably be made to define almost anything as “assault” or “harassment.” The result? A swathe of American professors unable to start an intellectual discussion without wondering if they’re going to be fired and smeared as sexual abusers.

This isn’t abuse as you or I would define it. Professors have been labeled as sexual deviants simply for using the phrase “f—, no” in front of students. They’ve been investigated as sex offenders for having relationships with students years after those students have graduated. In the most chilling case of all, they’ve even been investigated for complaining about the chilling effect of Title IX itself.

By branding those who use rude words or want to discuss harassment as sex offenders, we’re destroying any pretense of intellectual freedom on US campuses. Not only that, but we’re trivializing genuinely awful things like rape, and for what?

One: Partisan ‘Free Speech’

We mentioned earlier that supporting free speech means supporting free speech you do not like. Intellectually, we all agree with this. But in reality? It seems when push comes to shove, many people are only cool with free speech so long as it aligns with their values.

We saw this recently with the firing of flamboyant alt-right controversialist Milo Yiannopoulos from Breitbart. As long as Milo was using his free speech to attack women, feminists, and liberals, Breitbart was willing to champion his rights. The moment Milo said something that shocked conservatives (namely defending gay relationships between older men and teenage boys), they ditched him. Or look at parts of the left. During the Bush years, they vigorously defended the rights of libraries to stock books that the religious right disagreed with. Now they want to ban those same books for including “microaggressions.”

The trouble with writing about free speech is that people love their partisanbubble. They love to believe, for example, that being anti–free speech is purely the preserve of college liberals. But college conservatives also shut down speakers and try to get professors fired. A National Coalition Against Censorship survey recently found that both sides of the political spectrum are demanding trigger warnings for the different things they find offensive in books.[10] Yet if you asked most of them what they thought of free speech, we’re willing to bet they’d say they love it and that it was those on the opposite side who were against it.

If we carry on this partisan path, things are just going to get worse where the freedom to speak our minds is concerned. The real, terrifying assaults on free speech don’t come when small groups try to impose restrictions on us. They come when politics so blinds us that we’re willing to let our side say anything they want and then cheer them on when they try to shut down the other side completely.

Source: ListVerse

‘They’re terrified that peace was going to break out’ – Ron Paul on US Syria strike | RT America

By Ron Paul
“A victory of neo-conservatives” – that’s how Ron Paul, a former member of the US House of Representatives and three-time presidential candidate, described the US strike on Syria, adding that he does not expect peace talks to resume any time soon. Speaking to RT, Ron Paul said that there is no proof of Damascus’ guilt that could trigger such a rash and violent response from the US.


“I don’t think the evidence is there, at least it hasn’t been presented, and they need a so-called excuse, they worked real hard, our government and their coalition.”

This is not the first time something like this has happened in Syria or elsewhere, Paul said, but now it is convenient to pay attention and react immediately.

“If any of this was true, I don’t know why they couldn’t wait and take a look at it. In 2013, there were similar stories that didn’t go anywhere, because with a little bit of a pause, there was a resistance to it built in our Congress and in the American people. They thought that it was a fraud and nothing like that was happening, and right now, I just can’t think of how it could conceivably be what they claim, because it’s helping ISIS, because it’s helping Al-Qaeda.”

“From my point of view, there was no need to rush. There was no threat to national security. They have to give a reason to do these things,” Paul added.

A factor that contributed to the speedy reaction was of course the US president, the politician told RT.

“I have no idea what his purpose was. Maybe he just didn’t want to hear the debate, because the last time they debated it, they lost. And this time, it was necessary for them to jump onto this, before people came to know what was really going on.”

The Syrian situation now is “a victory for neo-conservatives, who’ve been looking for Assad to go,” Paul said.

“They want to get rid of him, and you have to look for who is involved in that. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are winning out on this, and the radicals, too! There is a bit of hypocrisy going on here, because at one minute we say, well, maybe Assad has to stay, the next day he has to go, and we’re there fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda. At the same time, what we end up doing is we actually strengthen them! It is a mess.

“I don’t believe that our people or the American government should be the policemen of the world, it makes no sense, it causes us more trouble and more grief, it causes us more financial problems, and it’s hardly a way that we could defend our constitutional liberty.”

This policy clearly does not lead to peace, Paul told RT.

“The peace talks have ended now. They’re terrified that peace was going to break out! Al-Qaeda was on the run, peace talks were happening, and all of a sudden, they had to change, and this changes things dramatically! I don’t expect peace talks anytime soon or in the distant future.”

Last but not least, the politician spoke out about the deeper reasons – and potential disastrous consequences – of the latest attack’s timing.

“I was wondering about the fact that the announcement came when Trump was talking to Xi [Jinping, the Chinese president]. And of course, [North] Korea’s high on the list of targets for our president and our administration. It might be a warning: this is what’s going to happen to you if you don’t do what we tell you. I just don’t like us being involved in so many countries, in their internal affairs; I think it’s so detrimental.”

Source: RT