The Rights Stuff

Today, we remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a day to honor the Civil Rights movement and a man who was willing to die for the chance to be heard. As was made perfectly clear in our own history (and, honestly, more than once or twice), we need to be loud to secure our rights and we need to be quick to cry out against injustice - the quieter we are and the longer we wait, the more bloodsoaked our hands become. Especially when we shake hands with the Devil.

So, yeah, these headlines worries me:

Last year, during his presidential campaign, Trump hammered then-President Barack Obama for lacking what Trump called the “moral courage” to publicly condemn “systematic violations of human rights” in Egypt....
Yet Trump’s passion for human rights was nowhere to be seen Monday, amid his elaborate display of camaraderie with el-Sissi in the Oval Office.

  • 'We Agree On So Many Things': Despite Human Rights Abuses, Trump Heaps Praise on Egypt's Al-Sisi

    President Donald Trump is meeting Monday with Egyptian President General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—who's overseen a "brutal human rights crackdown"—with the U.S. president telling the autocrat: "You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me."
  • Warm welcome awaits Sisi as Trump rolls out red carpet for Egypt strongman

    Trump’s choice to welcome Sisi to the White House contrasts with that of his predecessor.

    The US capped the aid it provides to Egypt in October 2013, shortly after Sisi seized power, reducing it to $1.3bn in annual military assistance and preventing the sale of some larger items such as fighter jets.

    The Obama administration also repeated demands for Egypt to refrain from the mass trials, widespread jailing of opponents and crackdown on civil liberties that swept Egypt under Sisi’s rule. While the aid cap was lifted in 2015, relations remained frosty until Obama’s exit.

    But Trump has yet to publicly mention Egypt’s human rights record. “Our approach is to handle these types of sensitive issues in a private, more discreet way. We believe it’s the most effective way to advance those issues to a favorable outcome,” the White House official said.
  • Enabling Egypt’s President Sisi, an Enemy of Human Rights

    American presidents must sometimes deal with unsavory foreign leaders in pursuit of America’s national interest. But that doesn’t require inviting them to the White House and lavishing them with praise and promises of unconditional support.

    Yet that’s what President Trump did on Monday in not just welcoming but celebrating one of the most authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, a man responsible for killing hundreds of Egyptians, jailing thousands of others and, in the process, running his country and its reputation into the ground.

There's more (of course there's more), but I can't list all the links here. I already list tons of links. Also, I thought it was shady enough that he was happy to shake el-Sisi's hand after refusing to shake Merkel's. But I guess he just has a thing for dictators. Or maybe he dislikes powerful women. Both?

Whatever. We already know the man has a crush on "strong leaders" like Putin and Hussein, and we know he has a history of treating women badly. That already shows a seriously disturbing callousness towards human rights. But to treat el-Sisi like a best buddy and say his documented horrors should be "discussed privately" is just repulsive.

And maybe we ought to be very, very worried about a president who isn't concerned with human rights, y'all. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty fond of human rights.

Pretty picture time:

In case you missed him, there's a little ant in the flower there. Here, let me show you:

I didn't see him there when I took the picture, so it was a lucky shot!

  • Library Land
    • If you publish Georgia’s state laws, you’ll get sued for copyright and lose "If you want to read the official laws of the state of Georgia, it will cost you more than $1,000. Open-records activist Carl Malamud bought a hard copyand it cost him $1,207.02 after shipping and taxes. A copy on CD was $1,259.41. The 'good' news for Georgia residents is that they'll only have to pay $385.94 to buy a printed set from LexisNexis.  Malamud thinks reading the law shouldn't cost anything." I'm with Malamud on this. 
    • 'Banksy of punctuation' puts full stop to bad grammar in Bristol "For more than a decade, an unknown corrector of poor English has been venturing out in the dead of night and tidying up the punctuation on Bristol’s shop fronts and street signs. The identity of the man remains unknown but on Monday the BBC announced it had tracked him down and had accompanied him on one of his night-time missions... When it was put to him that what he was doing was probably illegal, his defence was staunch. 'I’m sticking on a bit of sticky-back plastic. It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong.'" My hero!
    • We Need More Universities  "So then I think there is a reasonably plausible case to be made that there may be systematic under-entrance in the higher ed market. With entrance suppressed by key features of the market relating to what it means to be a university, price can be bid way up even as enrollees expand too, because expansion at a given university does not create price competition in the way expansion at two universities would." A real problem; an interesting solution. 
    • School Isn’t Uber And Never Should Be  "Our children — all of our children — deserve to go to school. That’s why Presidents Adams and Jefferson believed in 'the general diffusion of knowledge' as a public good and why Jefferson saw education as 'the keystone in the arch of our government.' Until we return to this most American value and belief, we are doomed to try on the failed experiment of making our public good into the private profit of an elite few."
    • 9 Real Life Places That Inspired Famous Classic Novels  Who wants to go on a trip?! (Also, can you pay my way?)  
    • 20 Fantastic Edible Books From The World’s Biggest Edible Book Festival Some of these are cute, some of them are...more complicated than I'm ever going to try, but gorgeous! None of them look like what I'm planning on doing for our Edible Books Festival next week.
  • Health, Science, & Technology
    • Government Paid for Poor Citizens' Health Care Some 300 Years Before Obamacare "Americans seem to have lost an understanding of government’s historical role in health care, as most of their political battles target programs just a few years old. Also lost is the promise the poor laws made for more than 300 years: If you need health care, you will receive it, thanks to the people you belong to."
    • Forget about Climate Change  "We should be embracing energy efficiency and the low-carbon economy because they promote jobs, national security and human health" I don't know about "forget climate change" - but, yeah, clean energy has lots of other benefits we can talk about.
  • Randomnesses
  • International News
    • Gas Attack Is Said to Kill Dozens in Syria "A toxic gas attack killed dozens of people in northern Syria on Tuesday morning, including women and children, and sickened scores more, according to medics, rescuers and witnesses in the rebel-held province of Idlib, who said the gas had been delivered by a government airstrike. A few hours later, according to several witnesses, another airstrike hit one of the clinics treating victims, who had been farmed out to smaller hospitals and maternity wards because the area’s largest hospital had been severely damaged by an airstrike two days earlier." Because of the large number of persons who were killed, that they died outside in the open air, and various physical reactions of the dead and sickened, it looks as though a toxic nerve agent, not chlorine gas, was used. 
    • North Korea fires another ballistic missile, South Korea says "North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the waters off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korean officials said.  The missile -- fired from the North's eastern coastal town of Sinpo on Wednesday morning -- flew about 37 miles, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement."
  • U.S. News
    • Hospitals rush to get accelerated visas for foreign medical residents Bad dudes, huh? "...a program that allows employers to fast-track H-1B visa applications for their employees has been suspended as of Monday. US immigration officials announced the change just a month ago — and Match Day, when new residents learn where they will be placed was March 17 — leaving some hospitals rushing to figure out who needed this kind of visa and to apply before 'premium processing' would no longer be an option." 
    • Republican Health Proposal Would Undermine Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions  "Late Monday night, word emerged that the White House and the group of conservative lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus had discussed a proposal to revive the bill. But the proposed changes would effectively cast the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions provision aside." Technically, insurance companies would still have to offer plans to people with pre-existing conditions - but they'd also be able to make it so expensive that only wealthy people could afford to buy it.
    • Nestle pipes water from national forest, sparking protests  "'The water is on National Forest Service land, it belongs to all people. This is everyone in California’s water,' [Aaron Mandell, of the University of Redlands' chapter of Young Progressives Demanding Action] said. 'And an international corporation is stealing it and selling it back to us for billions.'" California has gone through more than five years of drought, but Nestle took 32 million gallons of water in 2016 alone to sell as bottled water.
    • Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers "On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts. In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims."
    • Trump Donates Salary To National Parks Even As He Tries To Cut Interior Department  That's just shady! "Yeah, I know you need the car to get to work - but, see, I'm going to take your car and give it to dude over here who really wants a third car. You can have this unicycle, though! That's good enough, right?" Salt in the wound, man - salt in the wound. "Press secretary Sean Spicer delivered an oversized Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the start of Monday's White House briefing.... Conservationists denounced Trump's donation as a 'publicity stunt.'" Gee, you think?!
    • Justice Department To Review All Civil Rights Agreements On Police Conduct  "The new directive by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the bid to reconsider an agreement in Baltimore are the strongest signs yet that the Trump administration not only plans to scale back the number of new investigations it launches into unconstitutional policing, excessive force and other law enforcement misconduct allegations but also the likelihood it will seek to reopen agreements the Obama civil rights unit had already negotiated." This, despite repeated findings of "patterns of brutality and racial discrimination, problems the DOJ attributed to sweeping, systemic problems in local law enforcement agencies, not a few bad apples on the force." Because, as I mentioned above, Trump really could not care less about human rights abuses.  
    • Well, just in case you were still wondering if Trump was working for Team "We the People" or for Team "Big Business is People, Too - Only More So": President Trump delivers final blow to Web browsing privacy rules "'President Trump has signed away the only rules that guarantee Americans a choice in whether or not their sensitive Internet information is sold or given away,' said Chris Lewis, VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. Trump's action also 'eliminates the requirement that broadband providers notify their customers of any hacking or security breaches.'" 
      • Related: President Donald Trump Signs Off on Killing Internet Privacy Protections
        “Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but it didn’t take long for the swamp to drain him,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in an emailed statement to Newsweek.

        “The only people in the United States who want less internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies.”

        Greer also pointed out the irony of Trump expressing outrage about alleged violations of his own privacy while signing legislation that will significantly infringe on the privacy of Americans.


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