Sudan abolishes death penalty for apostasy.

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Sudan abolishes death penalty for apostasy.

Sweeping reforms to Sudan’s 1991 Penal Code have been passed into law, including the removal of the death penalty for apostasy. Previously, Sudan was one of only 14 countries to impose capital punishment for leaving Islam and was ranked as the ninth worst country in the world for its treatment of the non-religious by Humanists International’s 2019 Freedom of Thought Report. Humanists UK has welcomed this reform as a significant move towards freedom of religion or belief in Sudan, and hopes that this is the first step towards full decriminalisation.

These reforms have also seem a ban on female genital mutilation come into force, a moratorium on the use of public flogging as a punishment, the relaxation of the prohibition on alcohol for non-Muslims, and ending the requirement for women to seek male permission to travel with their children. This followed on from earlier reforms last year that repealed the ‘decency laws’ which had imposed corporal punishment on women for breaches of dress-code.

The apostasy law was regularly used before its repeal, including in the case of Mohammad Salih, who in 2017 faced the death penalty after requesting the religion section on his national ID card be changed from Islam to non-religious. He only avoided it as he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. In 2014, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim narrowly avoided the death penalty after she was charged with apostasy for marrying into a Christian family.

However, apostasy and ‘religious insult’ will remain criminal offences in Sudan, so there is more work to be done to see freedom of religion, belief, thought, and expression be upheld.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are delighted that Sudan has taken this bold leap forward towards realising the right to freedom of religion or belief for its citizens, as well as improving the protection of women and removing brutal practices that have no place in the modern world. We hope that this will open a path to further reform in the future to decriminalise apostasy entirely, and for the 13 countries that still impose the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy to also abolish this practice.’

The 13 countries which maintain the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy are Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Source: https://bit.ly/3j5ceUW

Experimental Blood Test Detects Cancer up to Four Years before Symptoms Appear.

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Experimental Blood Test Detects Cancer up to Four Years before Symptoms Appear.

For years scientists have sought to create the ultimate cancer-screening test—one that can reliably detect a malignancy early, before tumor cells spread and when treatments are more effective. A new method reported today in Nature Communications brings researchers a step closer to that goal. By using a blood test, the international team was able to diagnose cancer long before symptoms appeared in nearly all the people it tested who went on to develop cancer.

“What we showed is: up to four years before these people walk into the hospital, there are already signatures in their blood that show they have cancer,” says Kun Zhang, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-author of the study. “That’s never been done before.”

Past efforts to develop blood tests for cancer typically involved researchers collecting blood samples from people already diagnosed with the disease. They would then see if they could accurately detect malignant cells in those samples, usually by looking at genetic mutations, DNA methylation (chemical alterations to DNA) or specific blood proteins. “The best you can prove is whether your method is as good at detecting cancer as existing methods,” Zhang says. “You can never prove it’s better.”


In contrast, Zhang and his colleagues began collecting samples from people before they had any signs that they had cancer. In 2007 the researchers began recruiting more than 123,000 healthy individuals in Taizhou, China, to undergo annual health checks—an effort that required building a specialized warehouse to store the more than 1.6 million samples they eventually accrued. Around 1,000 participants developed cancer over the next 10 years.

Zhang and his colleagues focused on developing a test for five of the most common types of cancer: stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver malignancies. The test they developed, called PanSeer, detects methylation patterns in which a chemical group is added to DNA to alter genetic activity. Past studies have shown that abnormal methylation can signal various types of cancer, including pancreatic and colon cancer.

The PanSeer test works by isolating DNA from a blood sample and measuring DNA methylation at 500 locations previously identified as having the greatest chance of signaling the presence of cancer. A machine-learning algorithm compiles the findings into a single score that indicates a person’s likelihood of having the disease. The researchers tested blood samples from 191 participants who eventually developed cancer, paired with the same number of matching healthy individuals. They were able to detect cancer up to four years before symptoms appeared with roughly 90 percent accuracy and a 5 percent false-positive rate.

The new study “offers several interesting approaches in the quest for a blood-plasma-based cancer-screening test,” says Colin Pritchard, a molecular pathologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. It will be important, though, for another research team to independently validate the findings in a different group of people before the test can be considered for clinical use, he says.

Usha Menon, a professor of gynecological cancer at University College London, who also did not participate in the study, observes that Zhang and his colleagues’ method provides a robust, preliminary baseline test—an “essential first step” toward a commercial cancer-screening product. “The authors are not suggesting that they have a test that can be used clinically at this stage,” she says. “They are clear that what they have is a robust preliminary demonstration of early detection of multiple cancer types four years prior to conventional diagnosis.”


Most likely, such a test would first target high-risk populations, Menon says. And it would require devising a second panel of tests to enable clinicians to determine the specific cancer type and rule out false positives.

Zhang believes such a feature could be developed with more work, and he agrees that further studies are needed. Given the challenges in repeating an effort of this magnitude, a government-industry partnership, he says, would ideally undertake the follow-up research. An ideal test would target the most common cancers, as Zhang’s study did, as well as the deadliest ones. “There are cancers where early detection can make a really big difference,” he says. Pancreatic cancer, for example, is the next target Zhang and his colleagues are working on.

If and when cancer blood tests do become available, Pritchard warns, they probably will not be able to detect all cancers before they become symptomatic. “One cancer might have a very long lead time, where another is very short,” he says. “Cancers that grow very quickly might not be detected even if someone is, for example, doing an annual screening.” It’s possible, too, that some types of malignancies may never be detected by blood tests because they do not produce a measurable signal in blood plasma.


“We are still a ways away from having an accurate blood-based ‘pan-cancer’ screening test. But it is not impossible to achieve,” Pritchard says. “There are several large efforts underway, with some promise for the future.”

Source: https://bit.ly/34vO2qI

Uber, Lyft algorithms charge more for rides to non-white neighborhoods.

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Uber, Lyft algorithms charge more for rides to non-white neighborhoods.

A new study that analyzed over 100 million ride-sharing trips in Chicago has come to some disturbing conclusions that some suspected all along: both Uber and Lyft are using algorithms that discriminate against riders seeking to travel to non-white neighborhoods.

Salon reports that researchers at George Washington University in Washington D.C cross-referenced the rides with census data to get an up to date snapshot of the racial demographics of the areas traveled to. And based on that analysis, study authors, Aylin Caliskan and Akshat Pandey found that when passengers were either picked up from or headed to minority and/or lower-income neighborhoods they were charged more per mile.

“While demand and speed have the highest correlation with ride-hailing fares, analysis shows that users of ride-hailing applications in the city of Chicago may be experiencing social bias with regard to fare prices when they are picked up or dropped off in neighborhoods with a low percentage of individuals over 40 or a low percentage of individuals with a high school diploma or less,” Caliskan and Pandey wrote in their conclusion.

“Unlike traditional taxi services, fare prices for ride-hailing services are dynamic, calculated using both the length of the requested trip as well as the demand for ride-hailing services in the area,” the authors explained.

The study continued with the assertion that Uber determined the demand for rides using machine learning models, using forecasting based on prior demand to determine which areas drivers will be needed most at a given time. The usage of machine learning to forecast demand may improve ride-hailing applications’ ability to provide service. However, it is also known to adopt policies that display demographic disparity in online recruitment, online advertisements, and recidivism prediction.

In response to the research, a representative from Lyft reached out to Salon with a statement. They denied that race was a factor involved in pricing.

“This analysis is deeply flawed. The researcher acknowledges that the study was not based on actual demographic data of rideshare users. In fact, the study makes clear that speed and demand have the highest correlation with algorithmically generated fares and that individual demographic data is neither available to rideshare companies nor used in the algorithms that determine pricing,” the statement read. 

“There are many factors that go into dynamic pricing — race is not one of them. We appreciate the researchers’ attempt to study unintentional bias, but this study misses the mark.”

Source: https://on.thegrio.com/2YwiD3T

The World’s Most Technologically Sophisticated Genocide Is Happening in Xinjiang.

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The World’s Most Technologically Sophisticated Genocide Is Happening in Xinjiang.

Two recent disturbing events may finally awaken the world to the scale and horror of the atrocities being committed against the Uighurs, a mostly secular Muslim ethnic minority, in Xinjiang, China. One is an authoritative report documenting the systematic sterilization of Uighur women. The other was the seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of 13 tons of products made from human hair suspected of being forcibly removed from Uighurs imprisoned in concentration camps. Both events evoke chilling parallels to past atrocities elsewhere, forced sterilization of minorities, disabled, and Indigenous people, and the image of the glass display of mountains of hair preserved at Auschwitz.

The Genocide Convention, to which China is a signatory, defines genocide as specific acts against members of a group with the intent to destroy that group in whole or in part. These acts include (a) killing; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm; (c) deliberately inflicting conditions of life to bring about the group’s physical destruction; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Any one of these categories constitutes genocide. The overwhelming evidence of the Chinese government’s deliberate and systematic campaign to destroy the Uighur people clearly meets each of these categories.


Over a million Turkic Uighurs are detained in concentration camps, prisons, and forced labor factories in China. Detainees are subject to military-style discipline, thought transformation, and forced confessions. They are abused, tortured, raped, and even killed. Survivors report being subjected to electrocution, waterboarding, repeated beatings, stress positions, and injections of unknown substances. These mass detention camps are designed to cause serious physical, psychological harm and mentally break the Uighur people. The repeated government orders to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins”; “round up everyone who should be rounded up”; and systematically prevent Uighur births demonstrate a clear intent to eradicate the Uighur people as a whole.

Ekpar Asat (brother of one of the present authors) is an emblematic example of how Uighurs are targeted regardless of their recognition as model Chinese citizens by the Communist Party. Asat was praised by the government for his community leadership as a “bridge builder” and “positive force” between ethnic minorities and the Xinjiang local government. But Asat still suffered the same fate as over a million other Uighurs and disappeared into the shadows of the concentration camps in 2016. He is held incommunicado and is reported to be serving a 15-year sentence on the trumped-up charge of “inciting ethnic hatred.” Not a single court document is available about his case.

In 2017, Xinjiang waged a brutal “Special Campaign to Control Birth Control Violations,” along with specific local directives. By 2019, the government planned to subject over 80 percent of women of childbearing age in southern Xinjiang to forced intrauterine devices (IUDs) and sterilization. The goal is to achieve “zero birth control violation incidents.” Government documents reveal a campaign of mass female sterilization supported by state funding to carry out hundreds of thousands of sterilizations in 2019 and 2020. This goes far beyond the scale, per capita, of forced sterilization inflicted on women throughout China under the past one-child policy.

To implement these policies, the Xinjiang government employed “dragnet-style” investigations to hunt down women of childbearing age.To implement these policies, the Xinjiang government employed “dragnet-style” investigations to hunt down women of childbearing age. Once apprehended, these women have no choice but to undergo forced sterilization to avoid being sent to an internment camp. Once detained, women face forced injections, abortions, and unknown drugs.
And statistics show that the government is meeting its birth prevention goals.

Between 2015 and 2018, population growth rates in the Uighur heartland plummeted by 84 percent. Conversely, official documents show that sterilization rates skyrocketed in Xinjiang while plunging throughout the rest of China, and the funding for these programs is only increasing. Between 2017 and 2018, in one district, the percentage of women who were infertile or widowed increased by 124 percent and 117 percent, respectively. In 2018, 80 percent of all IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang despite accounting for a mere 1.8 percent of China’s population. These IUDs can be removed only by state-approved surgery—or else prison terms will follow. In Kashgar, only about 3 percent of married women of childbearing age gave birth in 2019. The latest annual reports from some of these regions have begun omitting birth rate information altogether to conceal the scale of destruction. The government has shut down its entire online platform after these revelations. The scale and scope of these measures are clearly designed to halt Uighur births.

With Uighur men detained and women sterilized, the government has laid the groundwork for the physical destruction of the Uighur people. At least half a million of the remaining Uighur children have been separated from their families and are being raised by the state at so-called “children shelters.”

What makes this genocide so uniquely dangerous is its technological sophistication, allowing for efficiency in its destruction and concealment from global attention. The Uighurs have been suffering under the most advanced police state, with extensive controls and restrictions on every aspect of life—religious, familial, cultural, and social. To facilitate surveillance, Xinjiang operates under a grid management system. Cities and villages are split into squares of about 500 people. Each square has a police station that closely monitors inhabitants by regularly scanning their identification cards, faces, DNA samples, fingerprints, and cell phones. These methods are supplemented by a machine-operated system known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform. The system uses machine learning to collect personal data from video surveillance, smartphones, and other private records to generate lists for detention. Over a million Han Chinese watchers have been installed in Uighur households, rendering even intimate spaces subject to the government’s eye.


The Chinese government operates the most intrusive mass surveillance system in the world and repeatedly denies the international community meaningful access to it. It is therefore incumbent on us to appreciate the nature, depth, and speed of the genocide and act now before it’s too late.

Recognizing or refusing to name this a genocide will be a matter of life or death. In 1994, by the time U.S. officials were done debating the applicability of the term to the situation in Rwanda, nearly a million Tutsis had already been slaughtered. A document dated May 1, 1994, at the height of the genocide, by an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense stated: “Genocide finding could commit [the U.S. government] to actually ‘do something.’” Four years later, President Bill Clinton stood before Rwandan survivors and reflected on his administration’s historic failure and vowed: “Never again must we be shy in the face of the evidence.”

With the passing of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, the U.S. government has begun to take steps in the right direction to avoid another human catastrophe. Seventy-eight members of Congress have followed up with a call for the administration to impose Magnitsky sanctions on the responsible Chinese officials and issue a formal declaration of the atrocity crimes, including genocide. So far, the administration has officially imposed Magnitsky sanctions on four Chinese officials and an entity in charge of the Orwellian surveillance system and responsible for the expansion of the internment camps in Xinjiang. The U.S. government must now make an official determination of genocide. This will not be difficult, as U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus has already asserted that “what has happened to the Uighur people … is potentially the worst crime that we have seen since the Holocaust.”

A formal declaration of genocide is not simply symbolic. It will catalyze other countries to join in a concerted effort to end the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang. It will also prompt consumers to reject the over 80 international brands that profit off genocide. Furthermore, the determination will strengthen legal remedies for sanctioning companies that profit from modern slavery in their supply chains sourced in China and compel business entities to refrain from profiting from genocide and commit to ethical sourcing.

In our interconnected world, we are not only bystanders if we fail to recognize the genocide as we see it. We are complicit.

Source: https://bit.ly/34tZ7Zq

LeBron James Helps To Pay Fees Of Floridians With Felony Convictions So They Can Vote.

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LeBron James Helps To Pay Fees Of Floridians With Felony Convictions So They Can Vote.

voting rights group founded by NBA superstar LeBron James is raising funds to help people in Florida with felony records pay outstanding court debts that prevent them from voting, the group announced Friday.

More Than A Vote, a campaign the Los Angeles Lakers player started with other Black athletes and artists last month to fight Black voter suppression, is partnering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), a group that helped end Florida’s lifetime voting ban for most people with felony convictions in 2018. They hope to raise $100,000.

Miami Heat Forward Udonis Haslem, who’s also a member of More Than A Vote, said in a statement that the thinking is simple: “We believe that your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it.

There are around 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, the FRRC said. And as of 2016, one in five Black citizens in Florida were disenfranchised. As Politico noted, as many as 775,000 people in Florida with felony convictions face financial penalties that render them ineligible to vote until they can pay them.

Those penalties come in the form of restitution, court fines or other fees associated with their past convictions. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Florida’s rule blocking people from voting if they have any of those outstanding fees, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last year. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued the law disenfranchises people “simply because they are poor.” 

The FRRC, which has already raised more than $1.5 million for its fines and fees program, hopes teaming up with James’ campaign will raise awareness around the issue. 

“This partnership will improve lives and strengthen our democracy,” FRRC executive director Desmond Meade said, adding, “We look forward to the positive impact it will have on our communities and the lives of those who are hoping to vote and have their voices heard.” 

While the deadline to register for Florida’s August primary has already passed, residents have until Oct. 5 to register for the presidential election on Nov. 3. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, currently holds a 13-point lead over President Donald Trump in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. 

Source: https://bit.ly/32lVSR7

The 1% Are Cheating Us Out of a Quarter-Trillion Dollars in Taxes Every Year.

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The One Percent Are Cheating Us Out of a Quarter-Trillion Dollars in Taxes Every Year.

The next time you hear conservative politicians insist they want “law and order,” hate “looting,” and believe America can’t afford new government programs, show them two landmark reports that emerged in the last twenty-four hours. The data in those analyses tell the story of conservative politicians letting billionaires and corporations brazenly evade laws and effectively loot hundreds of billions of dollars from the public treasury — all while those same politicians plead poverty to justify cutting the social safety net during a lethal pandemic.

The first report came from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that between 2011 and 2013, $381 billion in taxes went unpaid every single year. Couple that data with recent Harvard University research showing that the top one percent of income earners are responsible for 70 percent of the tax gap, and you see the full picture: The wealthiest sliver of the population is depriving the American public of about $266 billion of owed tax revenue every year.

That tax gap didn’t just magically happen — it is the result of conservatives’ huge cuts to the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement budget, which resulted in a particularly precipitous decline in audit rates for the superrich. In fact, the $266 billion figure could be an understatement, because the congressional budget analysts were estimating the tax gap that existed before those IRS budget cuts.

“With the money that these tax cheats owe, this year alone, we could fund tuition-free college for all, eliminate child hunger, ensure clean drinking water for every American household, build half a million affordable housing units, provide masks to all, produce the protective gear and medical supplies our health workers need to combat this pandemic, and fully fund the U.S. Postal Service,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, who requested the CBO study. “That is an absolute outrage, and this report should make us take a long, hard look at what our national priorities are all about.”

“Shifting Over $1 Trillion in Profits Every Year to Corporate Tax Havens”

Just after the congressional report was released, the Tax Justice Network released a separate study showing that newly released international data prove “that instead of declaring profits in the countries where they were generated, multinational firms operating around the world are shifting over $1 trillion in profits every year to corporate tax havens” — moves that deprive governments of $330 billion in tax revenue that is owed but that is not being paid.

The study noted that just four small countries — the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg — “are together responsible for half of the world’s corporate tax avoidance.”

The United States alone is losing about $60 billion of revenue a year because of these corporate tax evasion schemes, according to Reed College economist Kimberly Clausing.

In case you thought the tax haven shenanigans were just limited to corporations, jog your memory and recall the Panama Papers and Credit Suisse scandals that spotlighted how wealthy individuals have gotten in on the offshore schemes.

We Know How to Fix Things, But Our Political System Is Rigged

At a time when the social safety net is being shredded in the name of budget austerity, the ruling class refusing to pay owed taxes is a grotesque form of looting. So what is Washington doing in response to all this?

On the domestic front, Donald Trump began his presidency proposing more IRS budget cuts, but this year, the White House is pushing for an increase. At the same time, though, Trump’s Justice Department is prosecuting far fewer criminal cases referred by the IRS: over the last 5 years, such prosecutions have dropped by more than 66 percent, according to data compiled by Syracuse University researchers.

On the international front, Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill included several provisions that “encourage American-based corporations to shift profits offshore,” according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The administration has also recently moved to roll back rules designed to crack down on so-called corporate inversions, whereby companies incorporate offshore in order to avoid tax liabilities. And thanks to Trump’s coronavirus legislation, firms that already pulled the inversion maneuver could now be rewarded with Federal Reserve bailouts, according to Bloomberg News.

The problem here isn’t that we lack the knowledge to fix things — the problem is our political system.

The lawmakers with the power to truly beef up enforcement and crack down on profit shifting operate inside a machine that runs on legalized bribery. Some of them are trying to do the right thing, but most of them are bankrolled, in part, by big donors and corporate interests that are enriched by lax tax enforcement and offshore tax evasion. Those bought-and-paid-for lawmakers will publicly insist they want “law and order” and oppose looting, but they’ll allow widespread looting and tax lawlessness to continue, while they pretend there’s no money to pay for anything.

Meanwhile, because advocacy groups, voting blocs, and political leaders tend to be organized around specific programs and issues (say, Medicare or public education), there remains no large mobilized constituency organized around the general goal of cracking down on tax cheating — even though such a crackdown could provide new resources for key programs and issues.

Maybe all of this can change. Maybe the rise of grassroots-funded elected officials can break the link between corruption and policies that encourage tax theft. And maybe one day we will see more explicit organizing, movement building, and public education around the tax issue — it has started to happen in the UK, where some celebrities have made tax fairness their cause, so maybe it can happen here.

But if it doesn’t happen, millions will continue fighting over a few budget crumbs while the one percent keeps taking bigger and bigger bites of the revenue pie.

Source: https://bit.ly/34uJWPJ

A Few Words About That Ten-Million-Dollar Serial Comma.

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A Few Words About That Ten-Million-Dollar Serial Comma.

The case of the Maine milk-truck drivers who, for want of a comma, won an appeal against their employer, Oakhurst Dairy, regarding overtime pay (O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy) has warmed the hearts of punctuation enthusiasts everywhere, from the great dairy state of Wisconsin to the cheese haven of Holland.

Nothing, but nothing—profanity, transgender pronouns, apostrophe abuse—excites the passion of grammar geeks more than the serial, or Oxford, comma. People love it or hate it, and they are equally ferocious on both sides of the debate. Individual publications have guidelines that sink deep into the psyches of editors and writers. The Times, like most newspapers, does without the serial comma. At The New Yorker, it is a copy editor’s duty to deploy the serial comma, along with lots of other lip-smacking bits of punctuation, as a bulwark against barbarianism.

While advocates of the serial comma are happy for the truck drivers’ victory, it was actually the lack of said comma that won the day. Here are the facts of the case, for those who may have been pinned under a semicolon. According to Maine state law, workers are not entitled to overtime pay for the following activities: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”

The issue is that, without a comma after “shipment,” the “packing for shipment or distribution” is a single activity. Truck drivers do not pack food, either for shipment or for distribution; they drive trucks and deliver it. Therefore, these exemptions do not apply to drivers, and Oakhurst Dairy owes them some ten million dollars.

Judge David J. Barron’s opinion in the case is a feast of subtle delights for anyone with a taste for grammar and usage. Lawyers for the defense conceded that the statement was ambiguous (the State of Maine specifically instructs drafters of legal statutes not to use the serial comma) but argued that it had “a latent clarity.” The truck drivers, for their part, pointed out that, in addition to the missing comma, the law as written flouts “the parallel usage convention.” “Distribution” is a noun, and syntactically it belongs with “shipment,” also a noun, as an object of the preposition “for.” To make the statute read the way the defendant claims it was intended to be read, the writers would have had to use “distributing,” a gerund—a verb that has been twisted into a noun—which would make it parallel with the other items in the series: “canning, processing,” etc. To the defendant’s contention that the series, in order to support the drivers’ reading, would have to contain a conjunction—“and”—before “packing,” the drivers, citing Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, said that the missing “and” was an instance of the rhetorical device called “asyndeton,” defined as “the omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence.”

Lest we lose perspective, this law on the books of the State of Maine applies to people who work with perishable foods, and the point is that pokey employees should not be rewarded for taking their sweet time getting the goods to market. Possibly (but improbably) for this reason, in an effort to illustrate (or not) ambiguity in a series, the coverage of O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy served up a lot of food imagery. The Times noted that it would break with style and add the serial comma in the following sentence: “Choices for breakfast included oatmeal, muffins, and bacon and eggs.” The Guardian, too, would avoid ambiguity at the breakfast table: “He ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea.”

Contrast these with a dinner described in a recent e-mail from John Pope, the author of a collection of obituaries that ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who remains adamant in his rejection of the serial comma: “The next day, I enjoyed pan-roasted oysters with a tomato sauce over rice, broccoli salad and bread pudding with chocolate sauce.” A comma after “broccoli salad” would have cleared the table before dessert.

The case of the dairy-truck drivers’ comma has got several things going for it. It’s got David and Goliath in the story of the little guy sticking it to a corporate boss. It’s got men driving around in trucks with copies of Strunk & White in the glove compartment. And you know what else it’s got? Of course you do. It’s got milk. For all the backlash against the dairy industry—the ascendance of soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk (note the asyndeton), none of which, by the way, are really milk, because you can’t milk a hazelnut—there is something imperishably wholesome about cows and milk.

Got milk? Got commas?

Source: https://bit.ly/3gEtQWG

The made-up and mysterious world of Munchhausen Syndrome / Factitious Disorder.

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Things to Know about Factitious Disorder.

Most of us hate going to the doctor and being sick. It’s no fun to get blood drawn, take medication or undergo procedures. So when you learn about someone who is intentionally creating an illness or exaggerating symptoms on purpose, it can be mind boggling and confusing.

Causing illness in yourself or in someone else isn’t just a disorder that happens in Hollywood or on the big screen. Instead, recent movies and shows like Mommy Dead and Dearest and The Act have helped to shine light on a very real illness.

Psychiatric social worker Karen Salerno, MSSA, LISW-S, helps to break down this type of mental illness.

So what actually is it?

Factitious disorder imposed on self (FDIS) is a type of mental disorder in which a person will intentionally cause, create or exaggerate an injury or illness in his or herself. It was formerly referred to as Munchausen syndrome.

Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA) is a type of mental disorder when someone in a caretaker role (usually a parent or someone caring for an elderly relative) intentionally creates, causes or exaggerates an illness or injury in the person they’re caring for. It was formerly known as Munchausen by proxy.

Someone with factitious disorder will go to great lengths to make it seem like he or she is very sick, when in reality they may be the cause of their own illness. From tampering with test results, to lying and causing physical harm to themselves or the person they’re caring for – nothing is off-limits.

And why would someone do this? The main motivator behind factitious disorder is often a concrete gain in attention from others. Whether it’s from family, neighbors, colleagues or even on social media.

It’s believed that an estimated 1 to 2% of hospitalized patients have factitious disorder. But because it’s a disease of deceitfulness (and takes a team of doctors to diagnose), the number could actually be higher.

“It’s hard to account for how many people might actually have factitious disorder,” says Salerno. “A person with this disorder typically goes to multiple doctors all over the country. It’s challenging to keep track of what the person is doing and to establish a pattern of behavior.”

It takes a medical team made up of multiple providers and close scrutiny of medical records to diagnose the disorder.

A disorder of deception

Most people with factitious disorder don’t believe they have a mental illness. And because this disorder deals with deception and dishonesty, it can be difficult to spot.

Signs of factitious disorder can include:

  • Reporting symptoms that aren’t witnessed by others.
  • Receiving healthcare from multiple providers and often leaving healthcare facilities against medical advice.
  • Undergoing numerous extensive procedures and treatment.
  • Erratic medical history with a strange set of symptoms.
  • Enjoyment from being hospitalized.
  • Reluctance to allow anyone else to speak with their doctors.

These red flags can also be true of factitious disorder imposed on another.

When illness becomes your identity

Factitious disorder can come in all shapes and sizes, but over the past several decades, medical experts have started to piece together this mysterious illness.

Here are eight things to know about the disorder:

1.) Electronic medical records have made it easier to identify.

Before the arrival of electronic medical records, those with factitious disorder could typically move from doctor to doctor with little explanation or paperwork. But when healthcare organizations switched over to digital patient files, it helped professionals begin to track and see a patient’s full medical history.

“It was harder to diagnose factitious disorder when medical records were just on paper,” explains Salerno. “You had no idea what other doctors the patient was seeing and what symptoms the patient was reporting. Electronic medical records still don’t show us everything, but it helps piece things together and establish a pattern of behavior.”

2.) People with factitious disorder are “professional patients.”

Most people with factitious disorder are knowledgeable about medical terminology and the medical field. Often times, the person may have worked previously in healthcare. This allows them to describe their symptoms and illness in great detail. He or she might know a lot about medication, tests and treatments and may even ask for invasive medical procedures by name.

3.) Social media has made it easier for patients to deceive a wider audience.

With social media, it has made it easier for those with factitious disorder to receive attention or sympathy from a larger group of people.

“A lot of people with this disorder will post things on social media about their illness that simply aren’t true,” says Salerno. “It’s all about attention-seeking behavior, whether it’s asking for money or to gain emotional support through others.”

4.) Factitious disorder imposed on another is a form of abuse.

Any time a person fakes or creates an illness in someone they’re caring for, it’s considered a form of abuse. This can be done to a child, elderly adult or someone with a disability.

Suspect it’s happening to someone around you? Salerno recommends to:

• Keep a journal of the person’s symptoms.
• If you can, discuss your concerns with the person’s treating physician.
• Call Child or Adult Protective Services (your identity will remain anonymous).

5.) Attention is often the main motivator.

People with factitious disorder are often looking for emotional support and attention from others. They believe they can achieve this through faking an illness or injury. The worst part? Attention only fuels more lies and deceitfulness.

“It can be attention from family, neighbors bringing over food or even strangers donating money on social media,” says Salerno. “The attention the person receives further encourages the behavior.”

6.) The cause is complex.

Although the exact cause of this illness is unknown, most experts believe that factitious disorder is linked to both biological and psychological factors, says Salerno. So whether it’s from family conflict, parental divorce, grief, trauma or abuse – it can all play a role in developing this type of mental illness.

7.) It takes a village to diagnose.

Given the lying and deception involved, those with the disorder are often times the least suspected – and that’s what makes it so tricky to identify. In order to be officially diagnosed, someone else has to physically witness the person inducing the illness or injury in themselves or in another person. Often times, it takes a large team to help diagnose (which can include psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, case managers, infectious disease specialists, bioethicists and sometimes even law enforcement officials). The medical team looks at the patient holistically and tries to piece everything together to get the bigger picture of what’s really going on.

8.) There is treatment available.

Some people with factious disorder might not ever admit to causing their symptoms. Those that do have a long road to recovery to identify the issues that caused this type of behavior in the first place. The person has to be willing to acknowledge that there’s a problem.

Types of treatment can include psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

“CBT helps identify thoughts and feelings that are contributing to the deceptive behavior,” says Salerno. “If the person strongly identifies in the ‘sick role’ then it’s hard to see themselves as healthy. CBT provides skills that the patient can use to form relationships that are not associated with being sick,” says Salerno.

U.K taxpayers were paying compensation to slave traders until 2015.

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U.K taxpayers were paying compensation to slave traders until 2015.

Revelations that UK taxpayers have been paying compensation to slave traders up until 2015 has caused outrage on social media following the Black Lives Matter protests.

The government pledged £20 million in 1833 in order to reimburse the owners of slaves when slavery was abolished in Britain.

The sum, while big now, was monstrous in 1833, and it took the British taxpayer 182 years to pay off.

The information was revealed by the Treasury after a freedom of Information request from the Bristol Post.

Slave capital of Britain

The city – once known as the ‘slave capital’ of Britain – has become the focus of protests after a statue of Edward Colston was toppled.

The bronze memorial to the slave trader, situated in the city centre since 1895, was torn down after crowds left College Green as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

It had been the subject of an 11,000-strong petition to have it removed.

Images showed crowds rushing to stamp on the statue, which stood in Colston Avenue, before it was rolled along the road and pushed into the harbour.

Slave descendants paying compensation to slave owners

But despite there being no compensation for the victims of the slave trade, what many people don’t realise is that UK taxpayers have been paying money to wealthy slave owners for centuries.

As Bristol historian Kirsten Elliott said at the time, not only were the freed slaves given no compensation themselves, the debt meant their descendants paid off the money that went to their ancestors’ owners.

“Am I right in thinking that means that descendants of slaves – who never got any compensation – have been paying for the compensation paid to slave owners?” she said.

Don’t you think it’s disgusting…

Stand-up comedian London Hughes has reignited the debate over slave trader compensation this week.

She tweeted:

“Don’t you think it’s disgusting that when slavery ended, the UK government paid out millions to former slave owners as a way of saying sorry. The debt was so huge it came out of tax payers money until 2015. Which means that I helped pay off the people that tortured my ancestors.”

And others were quick to point it out too.

Source: https://bit.ly/2ZavdXe

Facebook Copy-and-Paste Posts Promising to ‘Bypass,’ ‘Reset’ Facebook Are Hoaxes.

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Facebook Copy-and-Paste Posts Promising to ‘Bypass,’ ‘Reset’ Facebook Are Hoaxes.

Amid near-constant scrutiny for its content-review policy and data-sharing practices, Facebook has also been plagued with another problem—spam posts. An old scam/hoax has become new again as copy-and-paste posts go viral once more. The scam is about “bypassing” or “resetting” Facebook in order to see more friends in your newsfeed.

The posts, like many other Facebook scams, ask that users copy and paste the post into their newsfeeds. It reads: “Thanks for the tips to bypass FB y’all. I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years. Here’s how to bypass the system FB now has in place that limits posts on your news feed.”

Ignoring the fact that Facebook’s algorithm generally shows those you interact with most frequently as the ones you’ll see most often in your news feed, the post continues: “Their new algorithm chooses the same few people – about 25 – who will read your posts. Therefore, Hold your finger down anywhere in this post and ‘copy’ will pop up. Click ‘copy’. Then go to your page, start a new post and put your finger anywhere in the blank field. ‘Paste’ will pop up and click paste. This will bypass the system.”

Other cut-and-paste scams read in a similar way.

“Hi new and old friends! Fixed my blocked posts I wondered where everybody had been! This is good to know: It’s ridiculous friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post,” another post reads. “I ignored this post earlier, because I didn’t think it worked. It WORKS!! I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years.” The post continues with instructions of how to copy and paste into your newsfeed to “bypass Facebook.”

Newsweek reached out to Facebook for comment on the spam posts, but Facebook did not immediately respond.

According to the fact-checking site Snopes, the copy and paste Facebook hoax started last year. Some posts, the Snopes notes, Facebook limits your feed 26 people, while say 25. Facebook did switch its algorithm this year, but the change actually allowed more of your friends show up in your newsfeed at the expense of pages you follow.

“With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed,” Facebook said in an announcement on January 11. “These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to.

“We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values,” Facebook’s statement said.

Earlier this year, another old Facebook scam resurfaced—the fake Facebook friend request. Similar to the copy and paste posts, they were nothing more than spam posts filling up your newsfeed.

Source: https://bit.ly/38Rucq5