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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Witness the greatest health care system in the world in action

Imamu Baraka was leaving work in Baltimore when he was stunned to see security personnel from the University of Maryland Medical Center take a woman and leave her out in the cold at a bus shelter and dump her things next to her on the ground. Despite the weather being near the freezing point, she was wearing just a flimsy hospital gown with no shoes or underwear. You can see the video he took here.
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The history of racism in rock and roll

It is well known that rock and roll originated in the black community but was coopted by white musicians like Elvis Presley and British groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Stereo Williams writes about the history of racism in rock and roll and says that there are many myths about it. In particular, he starts by closely examining the charges of racism against Presley supposedly based on something that he said.
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Leading Democrats support and enable Trump’s warrantless domestic spying

Given that Donald Trump has deep authoritarian tendencies and sees the government as existing to serve his personal needs and attack his opponents, you would think that Democrats would seize every opportunity to limit his powers. But although they have been deeply critical of him, when it comes to the national security state, the Democratic leadership seems willing to extend to him the sweeping domestic spying powers that Congress gave president Obama.
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Matt Taibbi provides a Cliff Nortes version of Michael Wolff’s book …

… so that you don’t have to spend your time wading through it.

Before he delves into the details, he gives us the gist:

1) Trump has almost no ideological convictions and is motivated almost entirely by the classic narcissistic value equation, i.e. how much praise or scorn he gets on a second-to-second basis, from whom, and why. Had he not run as a Republican – and in particular won on a platform scripted by ap nationalist true believer like Bannon – he might very well by now have been pushed into a completely different kind of presidency. Trump wants so badly to be liked that, especially with the influence of Kushner and Ivanka, he might easily have allowed his White House to drift back toward his original politics, which (as New Yorkers and furious conservatives alike will clearly remember) was once squarely in the Bob Rubin rich-guy sort-of Democrat mold.
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Swift global blowback to Trump’s racism

Donald Trump’s racist comments has had swift blowback around the world.

Remarks by Donald Trump describing immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from “shithole countries” were racist, the United Nations human rights office has said, as it led global condemnation of the US president.

The UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

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