So that’s ok then

After initially not denying that he used the word ‘shithole’ at a meeting to describe Haiti, EL Salvador, and every single African nation, and even having his aide issue a statement that did not deny the use of the word, Donald Trump later started vigorously denying it, although Democratic senator Dick Durbin and Republican senators Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham confirmed his use of it. Trump accused Durbin of lying and was supported by two Republican senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue who said that he had never uttered the word.
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Responding to the “Can you explain that?” challenge

I have written several posts recently about investigations into the paranormal. While there is no conclusive evidence for such phenomena, many people do believe in them. I also recently had a discussion with some friends who are broadly skeptics but two of whom told me about events that seemed to have no material explanation. It was clear that they were puzzled by not only what they felt was a lack of a material explanation for the events but that the facts suggested that such an explanation was not even possible.
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Watch what happens in New Jersey

Now that New Jersey will swear in a new Democratic governor Phil Murphy tomorrow to replace the widely reviled Chris Christie, the party controls all three branches of government, and Murphy reportedly has plans to take the state in a more progressive direction, and other states will be watching closely.

On Tuesday, when he is sworn in, New Jersey will become one of just eight states where Democrats run every branch of government. If Murphy has his way, New Jersey will become a proving ground for every liberal policy idea coming into fashion, from legalized marijuana to a $15 minimum wage, from a “millionaire’s tax” to a virtual bill of rights for undocumented immigrants.

Undergirding all of it: automatic voter registration, early voting and the right to register with a political party as late as Election Day.
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Scaring young people with stories of the Rapture

That excellent radio program This American Life devoted its entire hour this week to a single story. It is about how parents hired a private basketball coach AJ for their son Cody who was in third grade and that over time, the boy formed a close bond with the coach who then, over a period of years and unbeknownst to the parents, proceeded to indoctrinate the boy with elaborate stories about the Bible and the Rapture and how there was an evil supercomputer somewhere in Belgium that was going to take over the world and how the Illuminati were planning to implant everyone with RFID chips as a way of controlling them. These chips are the prophesied ‘mark of the beast’ that any Rapturite will tell you identifies those who worship the anti-Christ.

It is pretty engrossing and also disturbing for any parent. At the end, Cody says that he cannot believe now that he believed all the crazy stuff that AJ told him, a common experience for those who eventually escape from the indoctrinating influence.

Sri Lanka backtracks on allowing women to buy alcohol

Last week I wrote about the Sri Lankan government declaring its intention to remove an unenforced old law that prohibited women from buying alcohol. But now the president, saying he had only heard about the move from newspapers, has ordered that the prohibition should not be lifted. It should not be a surprise that the Buddhist clergy, an utterly reactionary force in the country, has played a role in this.
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Who are the women who work in the Trump White House?

That Donald Trump is personally abusive towards women is beyond dispute. That is just another aspect of his charming personality, in addition to his racism. That the current White House has a toxic culture is also obvious. So in this climate, who are the women who work in close proximity to the president and what has been their experience? As far as I am aware, not having read the book, Michael Wolff’s book does not reflect much on gender issues in general, though he does talk about specific women.
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