Category Archives: Religion

Trump’s Swedish lie; Hilarity quickly ensues


It’d be funny if he was anything other than the leader of the deadliest nation on earth, intent on looting the poor for the sake of his plutocratic pals and racist puppetmasters.

We begin with BBC News:

During another ferocious attack on the media on Saturday evening, US President Donald Trump cited a non-existent incident in Sweden, baffling many – not least Swedes.

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible,” the new US president told a crowd of supporters at a rally in Florida.

It was not entirely clear which incident he was referring to, as many on Twitter pointed out, including the former Swedish prime minister:

>snip<

There were no reported terrorist incidents in Sweden on Friday.

Sweden’s Aftonbladet website helpfully summarised the day in news, which included:

  • A man setting himself on fire at a plaza in central Stockholm
  • Famous singer Owe Thornqvist suffering technical problems in rehearsals for the aforementioned Melfest
  • A man killed in workplace accident
  • Road closures in northern Sweden due to “harsh weather”
  • Police car chase through central Stockholm of a suspected drunk driver

More from the New York Times:

Others speculated that Mr. Trump might have been influenced by a Fox News interview of Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who asserts that migrants in Sweden have been associated with a crime wave, by the correspondent Tucker Carlson. “They often times try to cover up some of these crimes,” Mr. Horowitz said, arguing that those who try to tell the truth about the situation are shouted down as racists and xenophobes.

(Mr. Carlson interjected, “The masochism of the West knows no bounds at all.”)

Mr. Horowitz said, “Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago, so they’re now getting a taste of what we’ve been seeing across Europe already.”

It was not clear what he was referring to. In 2010, a suicide bomber struck central Stockholm, injuring two people. The bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, was an Iraqi-born Swede who had developed an affinity for Al Qaeda. But that attack occurred long before the current wave of migrants fleeing war and deprivation.

And the ribaldry erupts. . .

A former Swedish Prime Minister quickly took to Trump’s favorite medium to express his bemusement:

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Meanwhile, Swedes and their friends have also taken to Twitter, documenting Trump’s claim, using the hashtag #LastNightInSweden.

Here’s one illegal alien apprehended in the act:

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More alien invaders:

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And then there’s this horror:

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And this one:

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Inevitably, a certain Swedish brand served as a trope:

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And the reason the Pussygrabber can’t take it too far:

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But relax, folks. All is well:

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The sacred landscape: DAPL, tradition, & profit


For somebody like Donald Trump, who sees a stretch pristine coastline as merely the opportunity of a golf course and a landmarked historic building as an inconvenienced to be bulldozed to make way for a new hotel,  nothing must get in the way of turning a quick buck.

So it was only natural that he’d reverse the freeze on the Dakota Access Pipeline in order to keep the profits flowing for his campaign contributors.

But for many Native Americans, the landscape through which the pipline passes is a sacred text, a living presence integral to the stories of their origins and being.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, a Native American scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion at Harvard University, explains in an essay for The Conversation, an open access academic journal written for the lay reader:

For several months Native American protesters and others have been opposing the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The plans for construction pass through sacred land for the Native American tribe, Standing Rock Sioux.

But, within days of taking office, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum supporting the construction of the pipeline. Recently a U.S. federal judge denied a request by tribes to halt construction on the final link of the project.

On Wednesday, however, the protesters appeared to have received support from none other than Pope Francis, a long-time defender of indigenous people’s rights. The pope said indigenous cultures have a right to defend “their ancestral relationship to the Earth.” He added,

“Do not allow those that destroy the Earth, which destroy the environment and the ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples.”

As a Native American scholar of environmental history and religious studies, I am often asked what Native American leaders mean when they say that certain landscapes are “sacred places” or “sacred sites.”

What makes a mountain, hill or prairie a “sacred” place?

Meaning of sacred spaces

I learned from my grandparents about the sacred areas within Blackfeet tribal territory in Montana and Alberta, which is not far from Lakota tribal territory in the Dakotas.

My grandparents said that sacred areas are places set aside from human presence. They identified two overarching types of sacred place: those set aside for the divine, such as a dwelling place, and those set aside for human remembrance, such as a burial or battle site.

In my forthcoming book “Invisible Reality,” I contemplate those stories that my grandparents shared about Blackfeet religious concepts and the interconnectedness of the supernatural and natural realms.

My grandparents’ stories revealed that the Blackfeet believe in a universe where supernatural beings exist within the same time and space as humans and our natural world. The deities could simultaneously exist in both as visible and invisible reality. That is, they could live unseen, but known, within a physical place visible to humans.

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Chart of the day: Religious feelings and U.S. politics


How favorably Americans rate different religious varies both across partisan lines and with in each party, with the greatest disparity being seen over the last three years in how favorably Democrats and Republicans see Evangelical Christians:

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More from the report:

On the heels of a contentious election year in which partisan politics increasingly divided Americans, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that when it comes to religion, Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups today than they did just a few years ago. Asked to rate a variety of groups on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100, U.S. adults give nearly all groups warmer ratings than they did in a June 2014 Pew Research Center survey.

While Americans still feel coolest toward Muslims and atheists, mean ratings for these two groups increased from a somewhat chilly 40 and 41 degrees, respectively, to more neutral ratings of 48 and 50. Jews and Catholics continue to be among the groups that receive the warmest ratings – even warmer than in 2014.

Evangelical Christians, rated relatively warmly at 61 degrees, are the only group for which the mean rating did not change since the question was last asked in 2014. Americans’ feelings toward Mormons and Hindus have shifted from relatively neutral places on the thermometer to somewhat warmer ratings of 54 and 58, respectively. Ratings of Buddhists rose from 53 to 60. And mainline Protestants, whom respondents were not asked to rate in 2014, receive a warm rating of 65 in the new survey.

The increase in mean ratings is broad based. Warmer feelings are expressed by people in all the major religious groups analyzed, as well as by both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults.

Chart of the day: Europeans say no more Muslims


Or, more precisely, no more immigrants from countries where Muslims are in the majority.

The sad news in graphic form from a new report from Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, better known as Chatham House:

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From the report:

[W]here do the public in European countries stand on the specific issue of Muslim immigration? There is evidence to suggest that both Trump and these radical right-wing parties reflect an underlying reservoir of public support.

Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries. Our results are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread.

In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.

Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.

Will Trump’s National Security Advisor depart?


Before he became National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn had been a controversial figure. Under Barack Obama he had served as the country’s top military spook, right up until he was canned for inflammatory Islamophobic prouncements.

But mere vulgar blatherings were no big deal to a man known for making a few himself. Indeed, they became valuable assets.

Back in November, after Trump’s win, CNN reported:

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has been asked to serve as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, has, on his verified Twitter account, interacted with far right and anti-Semitic figures, maligned the Muslim faith, and shared unfounded news stories.

A CNN KFile review of Flynn’s Twitter account finds that the retired lieutenant general, who once served as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, tweeted routinely with members of the so-called alt-right movement, going so far as to endorse a book by one controversial figure who regularly makes offensive comments.

Flynn faced criticism in July when he retweeted an anti-Semitic message. Flynn said the retweet was an accident and deleted the message.

Has Flynn crossed over a line in the sand?

Maybe, but it’s more likely Flynn is headed to the altar of Trumpism as a sacrificial lamb.

The reason?

Allegations of secret per-inauguration talks with the Kremlin.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances Sunday to publicly defend embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration.

The uncertainty comes as Trump is dealing with North Korea’s apparent first missile launch of the year and his presidency, along with visits this week from the leaders of Israel and Canada.

Trump has yet to comment on the allegations against Flynn, and a top aide dispatched to represent the administration on the Sunday news shows skirted questions on the topic, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter.”

Pressed repeatedly, top policy adviser Stephen Miller said it wasn’t up to him to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

“It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind,” he said on NBC. “That’s a question for the president.”

But wait, there’s some context to consider

Compared to Richard Nixon’s track record, pre-election talks with Russia amount to chump change.

Consider Tricky Dick and H.R. Haldeman, his soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff.

Nixon and his 1968 campaign allies conducted secret negotiations with a nation the U.S. were currently fighting on the battlefield, actively pushing the North Vietnamese government to hold off on peace talks until after the election.

Nixon then campaigned as the peace candidate against then-Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey, promising he had a secret plan to end what was proving to be an ever costlier and bloodier morass, with most of the rest of the world aligned against the U.S. government’s relentless pursuit of an unwinnable and morally reprehensible desire to impose its will and control over an Asian nation.

The secret talks with Hanoi were rumored but unreported during Nixon’s subsequent impeachment hearings.

Haldeman ended up doing time in federal prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, stemming from the coverup of a secret funding-and-bugging operation to ensure a Nixon reelection win four years later the Hanoi talks.

Talk about your interfering with a presidential.

So in that context, Flynn’s alleged talks with the Kremlin on behalf of an already openly Putin-friendly candidate, while illegal and possibly criminal, didn’t cost additional U.S. citizens their lives, as did Nixon’s push to delay peace talks.

Trump’s travel ban’s impact at the doctor’s office


While folks rightly invoke human rights and basic human decency to oppose the Trumpster’s travel ban, there are also purely pragmatic reasons for opposition.

On of those reasons is simple: An extreme travel ban could result in longer lines at the doctor’s office.

John Burkhardt and Mahshid Abir, two physician/academics from the University of Michigan medical school, explain in this essay from  The Conversation, an open source academic journal written for lay readers:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Feb. 9 upheld the restraining order on President Trump’s immigration ban. A key argument used by the States of Washington and Minnesota was the negative impact of the ban on higher education, but an important corollary is the impact on medical care in the U.S. While the world waits for a final decision on the matter, potentially from the Supreme Court, it’s critical to look at the potential ramifications of the ban.

Regardless of the ultimate ruling, the travel ban has already had significant consequences for people from the seven targeted majority Muslim countries and American citizens. Doctors are among those people directly affected – and that has big implications for health care delivery in U.S. hospitals, particularly those in rural America and inner-city safety net hospitals.

Physicians who are citizens of these nations who were traveling outside the country at the time of the ban have been detained or refused access to the U.S.

Larger-scale, lasting effects of a ban on the graduate medical education system are likely to be even more severe and may further strain an already overstretched health care system and affect the care of communities across the U.S. Indeed, the president of the American Medical Association already has written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, explaining how the ban could affect those who are already underserved by limiting doctors from other countries.

As physicians involved with educating and training the next generation of doctors, we see dire consequences for health care delivery in our country if the travel ban is reinstated.

Even though the ban has been temporarily lifted, the timing could not be worse for international applicants hoping to train in the U.S. While new resident physicians typically begin on July 1, the match process that allots positions occurs much sooner. On Feb. 22, residency program directors must submit their rank list of which applicants they would like to have in their program.

Therefore, without clear signs that travel for foreign applicants will be possible by July, program directors who want to protect their training program from staffing shortages may decide against ranking these applicants. The loss of a single incoming class of international medical graduates will significantly decrease the number of residents in training and physician capacity in hospitals and health care systems across the U.S.

Graduates from outside the United States constitute 26 percent of the U.S. graduate medical training. These foreign medical graduates usually fill resident training positions that are left vacant after medical schools match U.S.-based students to residency programs.

Therefore, foreign graduates typically do not take spots away from graduates of American medical schools, but instead provide medical care in hospitals that will otherwise be understaffed. These include rural hospitals around the country, where it is especially hard to recruit physicians, and safety net hospitals serving the poor.

Even if all current residency positions could be filled with U.S. medical school graduates and eliminate the need for any additional resident physicians from outside the U.S., the projected demand for physicians in the near future will still not be met.

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Fear of TrumpAmerica™ leads to refugee exodus


And so great is their fear and uncertainty of their futures in the U.S. that they’re walking across snow and ice at freezing temperatures to seek a new haven in Canada.

From Reuters:

Refugees in the United States fearing a worsening climate of xenophobia in the wake of a divisive U.S. presidential campaign are flocking to Canada in growing numbers.

Manitoba’s Welcome Place refugee agency helped 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25 – more than the agency normally sees in a year. Most braved the freezing prairie winter to walk into Canada.

“We haven’t had something before like this,” said Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, which has helped refugees get medical attention and housing. “We don’t know what to do.”

A temporary restraining order by a U.S. judge of President Donald Trump’s executive order that blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of the travel ban has provided a reprieve for refugees trying to come to the United States.

But Canadian advocacy organizations are bracing for a greater influx of asylum-seekers, driven in part by the contrast between the ruling Liberal government’s acceptance of Syrian refugees in Canada with Trump’s anti-foreigner rhetoric.

A refugee’s account of a cold crossing

One of the many who made the trek over the weekend described the crossing to CBC News:

The temperature dipped below –20 C as a large group of refugees trudged through snowy Manitoba fields near the U.S. border Saturday.

Farhan Ahmed says he couldn’t feel his fingers or his toes as he walked about 12 kilometres along a road.

“It was very, very cold and it was icy that night,” Ahmed said.

Over the weekend, RCMP said, 22 people crossed the border near Emerson, located about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg — 19 on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Ahmed and his group, including a family with children, finally called 911 for help. RCMP brought the refugees to a Canada Border Services Agency location where they could make their refugee claims.

“They gave us heat. If we didn’t get that, I couldn’t feel my hands. I couldn’t feel my hands, it was hard,” Ahmed said.