Brainwashing foster children into Christianity

My attention was caught by this news item from Akela Lacey about how the state of South Carolina is seeking to discriminate against foster parents who are not Christian.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is considering whether to grant a South Carolina request that would effectively allow faith-based foster care agencies in the state the ability to deny Jewish parents from fostering children in its network. The argument, from the state and from the agency, is that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not force a Protestant group to work with Jewish people if it violates a tenet of their faith.

If granted, the exemption would allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant social service agency working in the state’s northwest region, to continue receiving federal dollars while “recruiting Christian foster families,” which it has been doing since 1988, according to its website. That discrimination would apply not just to Jewish parents, but also to parents who are Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic or other some other non-Protestant Christian denomination.

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Thai-Russian relations

Thailand is unique among the nations of South East Asia in that it avoided being conquered by the European powers during their period of colonial expansion. I knew about this and had been mildly curious about how Thailand maintained its independence while the countries around it were falling but had never really followed up the question until I happened to meet a Thai socially recently and posed the question to her.
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Following the Jeffrey Epstein money trail

As I had hoped, many more news outlets have started digging into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s financial background. In my ongoing attempts attempt to try to understand the financial elements of this saga, I found an informative time line of his life that appeared in the Sunday, July 14, 2019 edition of the Plain Dealer that they had created using Vanity Fair and the Miami Herald as their sources.

1953: Born to middle-class parents in Brooklyn.
1969-71: He attends Cooper Union School of Engineering but never attains a degree.
1973: He’s hired to teach math and physics at The Dalton School in Manhattan. Donald Barr, father of current Attorney General William Barr, is the school’s headmaster at the time.
1976: He joins Investment banking company Bear Stearns at the urging of chairman Alan Greenberg, whose son was a Dalton student.
1982: Epstein launches J. Epstein & Co., managing the finances of clients with $1 billion or more.
1990: He purchases a secluded Palm Beach, Florida, mansion, the site of several alleged assaults.
1996: He relocates his company, which he’s renamed Financial Trust Co., to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
1996: Epstein declares a Manhattan mansion at 9 E. 71st St. to be his, but the details are unclear. It’s mentioned by several accusers as the location where they were assaulted.
1998: He buys Little St. James Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. ”Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,”’ said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. ”It’s our dark corner.”
2005: A 14-year-old girl says she was paid to give Epstein a massage. The police investigation uncovers that he is in contact with many girls.
2006: In May, Epstein is charged with multiple counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor. In July, the investigation is referred to the FBI.
2007-08: Epstein receives a plea deal with Alex Acosta, who was then U.S. attorney for Southern Florida. Epstein receives 18 months in jail but serves only 12. The Miami Herald has since reported that Acosta signed off on a nonprosecution agreement that was ”negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes.” Acosta went on to become secretary of Labor in April 2017; he resigned Friday amid the growing scandal.
2011: Epstein fails to report as a sex offender to New York.
2015: Virginia Roberts states in a sworn affidavit that he began abusing her at the age of 15 in 1999 while she was employed at Mar-a-Lago.
2018: Beginning in November, the Miami Herald publishes a series outlining Epstein’s sexual misconduct and judicial leniency.
2019: Jennifer Araoz alleges that a woman recruited her outside high school in 2001, and that Epstein later raped her. She was 14.
July 2019: Epstein is arrested July 6 on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. He’s accused of paying more than a dozen women and girls to engage in sex acts. Epstein’s lawyers claim that at worst, it was akin to soliciting prostitution.

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Crank up the right wing outrage machine: The next James Bond is a black woman!

Daniel Craig is handing over the James Bond baton to Lashana Lynch.

In news that will surely come as a shock to James Bond fans and the film industry at large, it was revealed today that longtime 007 Daniel Craig will pass the Walther PPK to black British actress Lashana Lynch in the iconic role.

For years there has been intense speculation about who would take over the reins of one of the most durable and profitable film franchises in history once Craig stepped aside. Much of that speculation has revolved around whether the series might make a nod toward diversity and cast a person of color or a woman for the first time.

But if the report today from UK tabloid the Daily Mail is to be believed, the 007 producers are going for a radical twofer: casting a 31-year-old black female newcomer as Bond’s heir apparent.
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Much needed clarity on what Medicare for All means

The idea of Medicare for All has been steadily increasing in popularity, so much so that pretty much all the Democratic candidates for the presidency have endorsed it, a far cry from when Bernie Sanders advocated for it in his 2016 campaign, when it was seen as some kind of unrealistic Utopian goal. As a result, the right wing attacks on it have intensified and they have made all manner of misleading statements about it.

This ad from the Sanders campaign nicely sets the record straight.

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England win cricket World Cup in wild and crazy final

I cannot really do justice to the incredible game that was just played. England won in the end after a tie-breaker within a tie-breaker. It was really wild, with fortunes swinging this way and that, and with some freak plays at the very end. You can read a comprehensive report here. In short (and this summary comes nowhere close to capturing the drama that took place on the field) , what happened was that New Zealand batted first and scored 241 in their 50 overs (300 deliveries) for the loss of eight wickets. England also scored exactly the same number of runs in their 50 overs, losing their last wicket off the very last ball, making it a rare tied game.
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Republicans see migrant detainee abuse. Will they care? Of course not.

A group of Republican lawmakers went to an immigrant detention facility in Texas. Donald Trump had sent them there, supposedly to dispel reports of awful conditions that had been coming from so many different sources. The video below shows vice president Mike Pence, and senators Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, Marsha Blackburn, John Cornyn, and Thom Tillis and possibly other senators visiting a detention center where men were housed in severely overcrowded cages and the guard wear masks to presumably avoid the stench of a large mass of people who have been denied basic sanitary facilities.
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We already knew this

Another leaked memo from the departing UK ambassador to the US Kim Darroch says that Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in order to spite his predecessor Barack Obama who had negotiated the deal.

Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal to spite Barack Obama, according to a leaked memo written by the UK’s former ambassador to the US.

Sir Kim Darroch described the move as an act of “diplomatic vandalism”, according to the Mail on Sunday.

It says the memo was written after the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appealed to the US in 2018 to stick with the nuclear deal.

The newspaper reports that after Mr Johnson returned to the UK from the US, Sir Kim wrote that President Trump appeared to be abandoning the nuclear deal for “personality reasons” because the pact had been agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The paper reports that Sir Kim wrote a memo to Mr Johnson, saying: “The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the president; but on the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons – it was Obama’s deal.”

We knew this. The insecure and petulant man-child president’s main agenda has always been to reverse anything that was done by Obama.

Don’t believe your lying eyes

In an earlier post I showed what I thought was an impressive video only to be informed by commenters that it was a CGI fake. So once again I had been fooled by a fake video into thinking it was the real thing. The techniques have become so sophisticated that people can now create ‘deep fakes’, where images of one person are superimposed onto videos of someone else. These are done so seamlessly that it is almost impossible for ordinary people casually watching a video to detect that the person they are seeing did not actually say or do the things that we see with our own eyes.

Apparently the software to do this does not require all that much sophistication to use and thus the potential for malicious actors to exploit it is huge. The video below explains what is going on and how some people are trying to find ways to more quickly identify deep fakes, initially focusing on all the candidates for the next presidential election whom mischief makers are most likely to target. (I think this video is real but what do I know?)
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English cricketer Jason Roy behaves badly and stupidly

In the semi-final game against Australia, English batter Jason Roy let loose with a fiery tirade against the umpires when, as was clear from the replay, he was mistakenly given out.

Roy, leading England’s chase of Australia’s 223, was batting on 85 when he attempted to pull Pat Cummins’ short delivery and missed by a fair margin, as replays later confirmed. Alex Carey dived to his left behind the stumps and pulled off an excellent collection and went up in appeal along with the bowler and some of the Australian fielders. Umpire Dharmasena looked uncertain but raised his finger, and with Jonny Bairstow having wasted England’s review earlier in the innings, Roy had to go.

He stood his ground at first and then walked off clearly unhappy, remonstrating with the umpires – Marais Erasmus was the other on-field official – on his way out and making his displeasure obvious. The stump mics even caught a furious Roy yelling “that’s f***ing embarrassing”.

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