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

How Much Do We Need The Police?

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How Much Do We Need The Police?

One effect of the widespread protests across U.S. cities this week has been to renew discussions of what role the police should play in society.

For many Americans, it goes without saying that the police are critical in maintaining public safety. Have an emergency? Call the police. But many others — especially black people and poor people — have long countered that the police pose more of a threat to their safety than a boon. See a police officer? Walk in the other direction.

So it seems like a good moment to talk to Alex S. Vitale. He’s the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing. In it, he argues that rather than focus on police reform or officer retraining, the country needs to reconsider fundamentally what it is the police should be doing at all.

I spoke with Vitale about what roles police should and shouldn’t play, what he makes of the current protests and what actual change in the way police in this country do their jobs might look like. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

One of the arguments you make in The End of Policing is that police are being asked to do too much. They’re basically being tasked with addressing every social problem that we have. So what are police asked to do? And what should they be asked to do?

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

But the policing has become more intensive, more invasive, more aggressive. So what I’m calling for is a rethink on why we’ve turned all of these social problems over to the police to manage. And as we dial those things back, then we can think more concretely about what the rest of policing should look like and how that could be reformed.

You brought up homelessness. In many cities police are tasked with dealing with people experiencing homelessness — but they don’t have many options besides basically moving people or arresting them.

Well, we’ve created this situation where our political leaders have basically abandoned the possibility of actually housing people. Which, of course, is the real solution, supportive housing for those who need extra support. But basically, we have a massive failure in housing markets that is unable to provide basic shelter for millions of Americans.

So instead of actually addressing that fundamental problem, we have relabeled it as a problem that is the fault of the disorderly people who we label as morally deficient. And then we use police to criminalize them, to control their behavior and to reduce their disorderly impact on the rest of us. And this is perverse and unjust. So then it places police in this completely untenable situation, because they completely lack the tools to make this problem any better. And yet we’ve told them it’s their problem to manage.

Part of our misunderstanding about the nature of policing is we keep imagining that we can turn police into social workers. That we can make them nice, friendly community outreach workers. But police are violence workers. That’s what distinguishes them from all other government functions. … They have the legal capacity to use violence in situations where the average citizen would be arrested.

So when we turn a problem over to the police to manage, there will be violence, because those are ultimately the tools that they are most equipped to utilize: handcuffs, threats, guns, arrests. That’s what really is at the root of policing. So if we don’t want violence, we should try to figure out how to not get the police involved.

There are obviously a lot of people who agree broadly with the notion that the way that policing happens in this country is a problem and that there needs to be some sort of change. But they’re pretty invested in the idea that police are needed to maintain public safety. People ask the question, without police, what do you do when someone gets murdered? What do you do when someone’s house gets robbed? What do you say to those people who have those concerns?

Well, I’m certainly not talking about any kind of scenario where tomorrow someone just flips a switch and there are no police. What I’m talking about is the systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and attempting to develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them. And my feeling is that this encompasses actually the vast majority of what police do. We have better alternatives for them.

Even if you take something like burglary — a huge amount of burglary activity is driven by drug use. And we need to completely rethink our approach to drugs so that property crime isn’t the primary way that people access drugs. We don’t have any part of this country that has high-quality medical drug treatment on demand. But we have policing on demand everywhere. And it’s not working.

Obviously, a big part of what is on people’s minds right now is the role that police have in dealing with protesters, dealing with different types of political unrest. In your book, you talk a lot about the history of how police have been used to quell social unrest. Can you talk about that history a little bit?

Well, I think that one of the myths we have about policing is that it is politically neutral, and that it is always here to sort of create order in a way that benefits everyone. But the reality is that America’s social order has never been entirely equitable. We have a long history of exploitation of the Indigenous population, of African Americans through slavery, Jim Crow and today.

And while we’re not using police to manage slavery or colonialism today, we are using police to manage the problems that our very unequal system has produced. We’re invested in this kind of austerity politics that says the government can’t afford to really do anything to lift people up. We have to put all our resources into subsidizing the already most successful parts of the economy. But those parts of the economy are producing this huge group of people who are homeless, unemployed, have untreated mental health and substance abuse problems. And then we ask the police to put a lid on those problems — to manage them so they don’t interfere with the “order” that we’re supposedly all benefiting from.

But if you’re one of those poor people, one of those folks with a mental health problem, someone who’s involved in black market activities to survive, then you experience this as constant criminalization.

And would you say the same goes for people who are political protesters?

Political protest has always been a part of this dynamic, right? Political protests are a threat to the order of this system. And so policing has always been the primary tool for managing those threats to the public order. Just as we understand the use of police to deal with homelessness as a political failure, every time we turn a political order problem over to the police to manage, that’s also a political failure. I think the mayor of Minneapolis, for instance: Jacob Frey. He has consistently tried to frame this as a problem of a few bad apples. And he says, “Why are you protesting? We fired them.” But this completely misunderstands the nature of the grievances. And instead of actually addressing those grievances, he’s throwing police at the problem.

Are the interactions that are happening right now between police and protesters something that you think is predictable? Or is this something new that we haven’t seen before?

It’s not completely new; it’s just the intensity of it compared [with], let’s say, five years ago during the Eric Garner and the Mike Brown protests. What we’re seeing is really an immediate escalation to very high levels of force, a high degree of confrontation.

And I think part of it is driven by deep frustration within policing, which is that police feel under assault, and they have no answer. They trotted out all the possible solutions: police-community dialogue sessions, implicit bias training, community policing, body cameras. And it just didn’t work. It didn’t make any difference. And so they ran out of excuses.

So the protests today are a much more kind of existential threat to the police. And the police are overreacting as a result.

If we were to take serious steps toward moving in the direction of having police address fewer of our social problems and putting those problems in the hands of people who are actually more equipped to deal with them, what would be the next step? What is the next thing that we as a country have to push for?

I think this will look like a series of local budget battles. And that’s really what’s going on across the country, is when we have these divest campaigns in places like Los Angeles and Minneapolis and New York and Durham, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., and Dallas, Texas. These are folks who are saying concretely: “We don’t want police in our schools. We want that money spent in ways that help our children, not criminalize them. We don’t want more money for overtime for narcotics officers. We want actual drug treatment programs, safe injection facilities, things that will help people.” So that’s what this looks like. It’s about rallying city council members and mayors around a new vision of creating healthier communities.

When you’re looking around at what’s happening right now, what are the things that you think people need to understand to really process what is going on around the country?

Well, I think the police are making the argument for us, right? People started this conversation by saying policing is out of control; they’re not making the situation better. They have not been reformed. Well, now all you have to do is turn on the nightly news and see how true that is.

The level of aggression and unnecessary escalation is stark evidence of how unreformed policing is, and I argue how unreformable it is. The question is whether or not people will take it to the next step and ask the tough political questions. Why are our mayors turning this over to the police to manage? Why are we using curfews instead of having conversations? Why are we throwing protesters in prison instead of trying to figure out what’s driving all of this anger?

Source: https://n.pr/2O5hM4p

The pandemic shows it’s time for an alternative to American capitalism.

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The pandemic shows it’s time for an alternative to American capitalism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the inherent flaws of American capitalism, a profit-driven system of winners and losers that is unprepared to respond to a national emergency and ill-equipped to address the basic needs of society. While the coronavirus has created an historic economic crisis, a dire emergency of economic inequality and injustice in this country long predated the outbreak. Capitalism must undergo structural change. The nation has an opportunity to take advantage of this transformative event and pursue an alternative to the current system.

The failures and shortcomings of American capitalism have made the country particularly vulnerable to a plague. Over 47 million people—more than 1 in 4 U.S. workers—have filed for unemployment since mid-March. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the pandemic is projected to cost the U.S. economy nearly $8 trillion in real GDP through 2030, prompting calls for more federal assistance to states and businesses to stave off permanent job loss. The coronavirus killed all jobs created since the Great Recession, and the economic environment rivals the Great Depression in severity of unemployment. Research suggests many of these jobs will never return. The newly unemployed now form mile-long bread lines as farmers destroy crops and euthanize herds.

The pandemic has exposed a U.S. economy lacking resilience, and a social welfare system which has been gutted and lacks robustness thanks to corporate lobbying and Reagan-era conditioning that government is part of the problem. Although other countries have suffered greatly, the U.S. was uniquely positioned for disaster as the only wealthy nation without universal healthcare, and because of the perilous decision by its political leadership to choose massive unemployment with little relief beyond a one-time stimulus payment, much less a plan for recovery. In contrast, European nations and Canada are offering monthly government payments, providing as much as 90 percent of workers’ salaries for the duration of the pandemic.

Under American capitalism, which operates on competition and individualism rather than collective action and social uplift, the U.S. is not protecting the health and economic security of its citizens. The wealthiest nation in the world has failed to provide adequate testing, contact tracing, ventilators, and masks during the pandemic—because this is not profitable. In a mad rush to reopen, state governments and big business are forcing workers to make a choice: Return to work and risk their lives, or stay home, lose their unemployment benefits, and go hungry. And while Wall Street enjoys bailouts and billionaires profiteer during the pandemic, poor and working people are suffering from years of widening inequality, with no relief in sight. The U.S. economic system was not designed for this moment.

These times demand a reinvention of the corporation. A concept that has gained ground of late is stakeholder capitalism or moral capitalism—the notion that business requires moral leadership and cannot solely concern itself with the corporate world, because all areas of society are interconnected. Whereas the business world is driven by the supremacy of company shareholders and increasing the return on their investment, stakeholder capitalism dictates that members of the greater community are just as important as those who own stock in the company.

Last year, the Business Roundtable issued a statement from 181 CEOs “who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders,” and redefine the purpose of a corporation to promote “an economy that serves all Americans.” Arguing the “American dream is alive, but fraying” and advocating the free market as the best system for job creation, economic opportunity, innovation, and the environment, the group declares “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity.”

But the free market has been anything but free, as the private sector has long depended on government intervention, and workers are left to fend for themselves. Corporations were rewarded with bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis and exorbitant tax cuts in 2017 that benefited the few, and were funneled into stock buybacks to give more money back to shareholders rather than workers, who still face more layoffs amid rising profits. Now the coronavirus has exposed the precariousness of workers, as worker bargaining power has declined over the past decades and given rise to the gig economy. According to a 2018 Federal Reserve survey, almost 40 percent of Americans were unprepared for a $400 emergency, and a quarter skipped necessary medical care because they couldn’t afford it. Amid wage stagnation, working people have depended on credit cards to survive.

While the business sector can and should do better, labor advocates argue that employers cannot rely on CEO morality to save them, as employer benevolence comes only through labor unions and organizing, and even the most enlightened corporations are motivated foremost by profit and the market. Capitalism is failing workers, they argue, pointing to companies’ union-busting activities and the firing of labor organizers who seek protections for workers that threaten to eat into corporate profits. Democratic control of corporations through worker buyouts, employee ownership, and worker cooperatives would fuel a more equitable distribution of wealth through good wages and benefits and an equal share of company profits, center the needs of workers and the community, and address greed and corruption at a time when many companies are failing to provide a living wage.

COVID-19 has ushered in a new reality that makes going back to normal impossible and more state action in the economy inevitable. Under a system of “managed capitalism,” the government would regulate the business sector more robustly; tax corporations to pay for infrastructure, education, and other social goods; and implement industrial policy in the mold of many East Asian nations such as Japan, China, and South Korea. Industrial policy involves aggressive and heavy-handed government intervention in the economy that incentivizes private production of goods, subsidies to industries, protection of certain sectors from foreign competition, and other measures, with coordinated, long-term goals.

A sustainable and equitable capitalism would mean lower pay for CEOs, particularly of, but not limited to, companies receiving government bailouts; higher taxes for corporations; and, like Belgium, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland, a wealth tax that would raise trillions of dollars in revenue, tackle endemic inequality, and redistribute wealth downward. Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed taxing a family’s wealth over $50 million at 2 percent annually and at 3 percent on wealth over $1 billion, while Bernie Sanders proposed a tax on extreme wealth for people worth above $32 million. Such a tax could pay for universal childcare and healthcare, affordable housing, and other social programs.

Rethinking American capitalism means overcoming an addiction to infinite economic growth that is plundering the planet and imposing unbearable environmental and societal costs. The country requires a planned de-growth of the economy that, unlike austerity and disaster capitalism, favors human well-being, including a cut in unnecessary consumption, a shorter workweek, a low-carbon, less industrialized society to deal with climate change, and a universal basic income. Other countries with a more robust social safety net have not experienced the inequality, economic turmoil, and dislocation Americans have faced in the so-called “land of opportunity.”

Transforming the American economy requires a rethinking of the political system. According to a 2017 report from the Harvard Business School, the U.S. political system is the primary impediment to solving the country’s major challenges, a factor that has undermined U.S. competitiveness and public trust in the federal government. Further, the authors argue that the system is not broken, but rather is delivering based on how it was designed. “The real problem is that our political system is no longer designed to serve the public interest, and has been slowly reconfigured to benefit the private interests of gain-seeking organizations: our major political parties and their industry allies,” the authors wrote, recommending a restructuring of the election process and system of governing, and diminishing the influence of money in politics.

American capitalism cannot return to normal, because a system thriving on inequality, greed, and abject cruelty rather than the common good is inherently flawed and unsustainable. Throughout history, wars, pandemics, and other crises have acted as agents for social change. Rather than seek incremental reforms, the U.S. must shift course as it is compelled to do, and pursue nothing short of an overhaul to avert economic devastation and social unrest.

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

White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots In U.S Christianity.

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White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots In U.S. Christianity.

When a young Southern Baptist pastor named Alan Cross arrived in Montgomery, Ala., in January 2000, he knew it was where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his first church and where Rosa Parks helped launched the famous bus boycott, but he didn’t know some other details of the city’s role in civil rights history.

The more he learned, the more troubled he became by one event in particular: the savage attack in May 1961 on a busload of Black and white Freedom Riders who had traveled defiantly together to Montgomery in a challenge to segregation. Over the next 15 years, Cross, who is white, would regularly take people to the old Greyhound depot in Montgomery to highlight what happened that spring day.

“They pull in right here, on the side,” Cross said, standing in front of the depot. “And it was quiet when they got here. But then once they start getting off the bus, around 500 people come out – men, women and children. Men were holding the Freedom Riders back, and the women were hitting them with their purses and holding their children up to claw their faces.” Some of the men carried lead pipes and baseball bats. Two of the Freedom Riders, the civil rights activist John Lewis and a white ally, James Zwerg, were beaten unconscious.

Though he had grown up in Mississippi and was familiar with the history of racial conflict in the South, Cross was horrified by the story of the 1961 attack on the Freedom Riders. Montgomery was known as a city of churches. Fresh out of seminary, Cross had come there to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Why didn’t white Christians show up?” he recalled wondering.

To his dismay, Cross learned that many of the people in the white mob were regular churchgoers. In the years that followed, he made it part of his ministry to educate his fellow Christians about the attack and prompt them to reflect on its meaning.

“You think about the South being Christian, but this wasn’t Christianity,” Cross said. “So what happened here in the white church? How did we get to that point?” It’s a question he explored in his 2014 book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.

The answer to the question lies partly in U.S. history, beginning in the days of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, but not ending there. Elements of racist ideology have long been present in white Christianity in the United States.

Racism from the pulpit

Less than three weeks after the 1961 attack on the Freedom Riders, Montgomery’s most prominent pastor, Henry Lyon Jr., gave a fiery speech before the local white Citizens’ Council, denouncing the civil rights protesters and the cause for which they were beaten — from a “Christian” perspective.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for 15 years I have had the privilege of being pastor of a white Baptist church in this city,” Lyon said. “If we stand 100 years from now, it will still be a white church. I am a believer in a separation of the races, and I am none the less a Christian.” The crowd applauded.

“If you want to get in a fight with the one that started separation of the races, then you come face to face with your God,” he declared. “The difference in color, the difference in our body, our minds, our life, our mission upon the face of this earth, is God given.”

Lyon saw himself as a devout Bible believer, and he was far from an extremist in the Southern Baptist world. A former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, his Montgomery church had more than 3,000 members.

How respected people of God could openly promote racist views was a question that would trouble many Southerners in the years that followed. Among them was a young woman growing up in East Texas in the 1970s, Carolyn Renée Dupont. The girl’s grandmother took her regularly to church, made her listen to sermons on the radio and gave her a quarter for every Bible verse she memorized. But the grandmother believed just as deeply in the superiority of the white race.

“I asked her about that once,” Dupont recalled, “and she said, ‘I just don’t believe Blacks should be treated the same as whites.’ ” Dupont, now a historian at Eastern Kentucky University, said the experience with her grandmother spurred her to focus her research on the racial views of Southern white evangelicals. “I wanted to understand what seemed like a central riddle about the South,” she said. “The part of the country that was the most fervent about religious faith was also the one that practiced white supremacy most enthusiastically.” It was the same question that bothered Cross as a young pastor in Montgomery.

Slavery and the Bible

At an earlier point in American history, some Christian theologians went so far as to argue that the enslavement of human beings was justifiable from a biblical point of view. James Henley Thornwell, a Harvard-educated scholar who committed huge sections of the Bible to memory, regularly defended slavery and promoted white supremacy from his pulpit at the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., where he was the senior pastor in the years leading up to the Civil War.

“As long as that [African] race, in its comparative degradation, co-exists side by side with the white,” Thornwell declared in a famous 1861 sermon, “bondage is its normal condition.” Thornwell was a slave owner, and in his public pronouncements he told fellow Christians they need not feel guilty about enslaving other human beings.

“The relation of master and slave stands on the same foot with the other relations of life,” Thornwell insisted. “In itself, it is not inconsistent with the will of God. It is not sinful.” The Christian Scriptures, Thornwell said, “not only fail to condemn; they as distinctly sanction slavery as any other social condition of man.”

Among the New Testament verses Thornwell could cite was the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes, “Slaves, obey your human masters, with fear and trembling and sincerity of heart.” (Biblical scholars now discount the relevance of the passage to a consideration of chattel slavery.)

Thornwell’s reassurance was immensely important to all those who had a stake in the existing economic and political system in the South. In justifying slavery, he was speaking not just as a theologian but as a Southern patriot. In the First Presbyterian cemetery, Thornwell’s name appears prominently on a monument to church members who served the Confederate cause in the Civil War.

“Slavery, in the minds of many, was necessary for the South to thrive,” said Bobby Donaldson, director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina. “So Thornwell used his pulpit to defend the South against charges by the North, by abolitionists. … He provided the intellectual defenses that many slaveholders needed.”

Thornwell’s First Presbyterian congregation included slave owners and businessmen and other members of the political and economic elite in Columbia, and as their pastor he represented their interests. A belief in white supremacy was a foundational part of Southern culture, which is one reason some otherwise devout Christians have failed to challenge it.

The Southern way

Lyon’s opening prayer before the white Citizens’ Council meeting in Montgomery included words starkly reminiscent of the Civil War era. “We stand on the sacred soil of Alabama in the cradle of the Confederacy of our beloved Southland,” he said. “Help us to realize with all of the fervency of our heart and mind that every inch of ground we stand on tonight is sacred and honorable.”

A fear that their regional culture was at risk lay behind much of the opposition to the civil rights movement among Southern Christians. Cross, the Montgomery pastor who was dismayed by what he learned of the attack on the Freedom Riders, ultimately decided that the best explanation for the involvement of Christians was that they were acting on the basis of their perceived self-interest.

“People try to protect their way of life,” he said. “You know, ‘What’s best for me and my family?’ You even begin to use God as a means to an end. It makes a lot of sense to people, and they’re, like, ‘Well, that’s what everybody does.’ ”

A “don’t-rock-the-boat” philosophy can have a powerful appeal among people who are unnerved by the prospect of social change, and church leaders may feel powerless to counter it.

In 1965, Lyon’s more moderate son, Henry Lyon III, was called to lead an all-white Baptist church in Selma, Ala. He arrived in the city two months after the “Bloody Sunday” confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, when more than 2,000 civil rights marchers were savagely attacked by Alabama state troopers and local law officers. The younger Lyon, who died in 2018, never adopted his father’s bigoted rhetoric, and his wife, Sara Jane Lyon, said he was willing to open his church to African Americans. During the 21 years Lyon was the church’s pastor, however, his congregation never accepted Black members, apparently because he did not feel free to press the issue.

“Selma wasn’t ready for it,” Sara Jane Lyon told NPR in an interview. “He knew it would accomplish nothing if he upset everybody and pushed, you know, to integrate the church.”

Churches operate within a cultural context. By challenging local customs and perspectives, pastors may alienate the white economic and political players who serve as their deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers and financial supporters.

In his sermons, Sara Jane Lyon recalled, her husband would tell his congregation, “I have not come here to change your heart. There’s no way I can do that. … Only the Lord can change your heart.” Asked whether her husband ever discussed racial justice as a pastor, she said, “That was not his style of preaching. He didn’t get up and talk about local issues. He preached the Word of God.”

The church and the status quo

After leaving Selma, the Lyons relocated to Montgomery and joined the First Baptist Church there. With about 5,000 members, the church has a central place in civic life. The congregation is almost entirely white, but it’s not because of a deliberate policy. The pastor, Jay Wolf, said he welcomes everyone.

“When I came to know the Lord, I became colorblind,” Wolf said. When some visitors asked Wolf how many African Americans attended his church, he said he had “no idea.”

“I don’t know how many white members we have,” Wolf told NPR. “Like, does it make any difference? I just know that we have people, crafted in the image of God. I am completely resistant to this idea of breaking things down on a demographic basis. We are the body of Christ, and we need Jesus, and that’s all I need to know.”

On the other side of Montgomery, where African Americans are concentrated, Pastor Terrence Jones also preaches about needing Jesus, though with a message attuned to a multiracial congregation. The son of a Black Southern Baptist preacher, Jones said he thinks the Christian church is partly to blame for America “dropping the ball,” in his words, on race issues.

“The message of Jesus is a unifying message,” Jones said. “According to Ephesians 2, he tears down ‘every dividing wall of hostility’ through his death on the cross. I think we’ve done a poor job of showing the world that, because we’ve been so segregated.”

Jones argues that Christians need to focus on racism far more seriously.

“When people get shot, when our president says something racially charged, people get pushed into their corners, and they don’t wrestle with what does this mean for me as a minority, what does this mean for me as a white person, but also, what does this mean for me as a follower of Jesus?”

At the time of the civil rights movement, King argued that church leaders needed to take a broad view of their mission and accept responsibility for addressing social inequity. In his 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, written in longhand from his jail cell, King lamented the failure of “white churchmen” to stand up for racial justice when it meant challenging the local power structure.

“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound,” King wrote. “So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent — and often even vocal — sanction of things as they are.”

A theology of inaction

Some white Christian leaders have even provided moral and theological reasoning for their reluctance to challenge the existing system. Evangelicals in particular generally prioritize an individual’s own salvation experience over social concerns. The primary mission of the church in this view is to win souls for Christ. Working for racial justice, in contrast, may be seen as a “political” issue.

“In that configuration, immorality only lives in the individual person,” said Dupont, the religion historian who grew up in Texas. “There’s no conception of systemic injustice and systemic sin.”

Civil rights activists who cited the Bible in support of their cause were often dismissed as “a bunch of theological liberals,” Dupont said. “And then it becomes an argument about who really believes the Bible. If Christianity is really about individual salvation, and the mission of the church is to win the lost, then [it is said that] these people who are telling us we need to get involved in the civil rights movement are just trying to lead us astray.”

The rejection of a “social gospel” remains popular among those conservative evangelicals today who see advocating for Black Lives Matter or immigrant rights as political activities. It is an argument with roots extending back to the theology of Thornwell and like-minded religion scholars of the 19th century.

“What, then, is the Church?” Thornwell asked in his 1851 Report on Slavery. “It is not, as we fear too many regard it, a moral institute of universal good whose business it is to wage war upon every form of human ill, whether social, civil, political or moral.”

Such pronouncements have made Thornwell popular among “orthodox” Christian theologians who rebel against liberal interpretations of the church’s mission in the modern world. Once his pronouncements on slavery and race are disregarded, Thornwell’s theological views still resonate.

One of the buildings on the grounds of his former church in South Carolina is Thornwell Hall. Until it closed due to concerns over the coronavirus, the building was used for children’s education. The First Presbyterian ministerial staff has not been overly concerned that by honoring Thornwell, it may be offending potential African American members.

“As far as I know, it has not kept people from our doors,” said Gabe Fluhrer, an associate pastor at the church.

Fluhrer has studied Thornwell’s writings, many of which are highly sophisticated, and he is dismayed that the theologian’s views on slavery and race have made it more difficult for people to appreciate his broader biblical insight.

“If it were an impediment [to someone],” Fluhrer said, “I would love to speak to that person and say, ‘Look, we need to condemn what is wrong with him, and we need to celebrate what is good.’ He got a lot right on the Scriptures and everything wrong when it comes to race.”

Getting everything wrong with regard to race, however, can be an unforgivable failing for people whose life experience is shaped by racism.

For many years, African American worshippers were relegated to the First Presbyterian balcony. Church authorities later permitted them to have a church a few blocks away where they could worship separately under the supervision of the First Presbyterian elders. It became known as Ladson Presbyterian Church, after one of the church’s early pastors.

The church has only a few dozen active members these days, but the congregation is close, and the Sunday services are intimate and joyful gatherings. There is no longer any connection to the original church.

“I don’t know anyone who goes to First Presbyterian,” said Rosena Lucas, 88, a longtime Ladson member. “I’ve never had any interest [in attending].”

Nor has Hemphill Pride, an elder in the Ladson congregation. “I see that church as a stranger, really,” he said. For Pride and other Ladson members, the Thornwell connection still taints the parent church.

“It’s an affront to me,” Pride said. “[To have] buildings named after people who interpreted the Bible in that manner is disrespectful to all Black people.”

Source: https://n.pr/2BncNJO

Scientists estimate there are around 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

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Scientists estimate there are around 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

Are we alone in the universe? Astronomers have been debating this question for centuries, hunting for signs of life in a world that is not our own. Humans have built satellites, probed the stars, and in general just pondered the binary answers of “yes” and “no” for centuries.

However, a team of researchers have developed a new approach to help resolve life’s biggest mystery. Based on what we already know of how life evolved on Earth, they came to the stunning conclusion that there could be more than 30 intelligent civilizations across the galaxy that are active right now.The study, published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal, not only narrows down previous estimates of life in the wider cosmos, but also sheds light on the longevity of life here on Earth. If other civilizations don’t exist at the same time we do in the Milky Way, then maybe our time is rather short lived.

Is anybody out there? For a 100 years, humans have been trying to communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations. KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

THE SOLAR SYSTEM FORMED AROUND 4.5 BILLION YEARS AGO, and our home planet formed from a swirling disc of gas and dust millions of miles away from its host star. However, the first signs of microbial life appeared on Earth around 3.5 billion years ago, taking about a billion years to develop.

And it then took much longer for modern humans to evolve, dating back around 200,000 years, and for modern civilization to begin around 6,000 years ago.

Following all those years, human beings became an intelligent, communicating civilization around 100 years ago.

Considering that it took nearly 5 billion years for a technological civilization to exist on a planet, and assuming that life evolved on other planets the same way it did on Earth, the team of researchers behind the new study estimate that there could be 36 other alien civilizations or more in the Milky Way alone.

The criteria for these civilizations is based on how long they have been actively sending out signals of their existence out into the universe, such as radio transmissions, the same way that Earthlings have.

“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale,” Christopher Conselice, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

Rather than the traditional method of looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in the distant cosmos by discovering and exploring alien planets, the study came up with an estimate based on how long it took for our own civilization to develop on Earth, and how long we have been around on this planet.

However, the researchers estimate that these extraterrestrial civilizations may be located around 17,000 light years away, which would make it hard to detect or communicate with them with our current technology. But, maybe they’re ahead of us with their own technology.

Of course, if it turns out that no other active modern civilization exists elsewhere in the Milky Way at the moment, it doesn’t bode very well for us. It could be an indication that the survival window for civilizations like ours is quite small, and we basically keep missing each other.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Conselice said. “If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence.”

Abstract: We present a cosmic perspective on the search for life and examine the likely number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations in our Galaxy by utilizing the latest astrophysical information. Our calculation involves Galactic star formation histories, metallicity distributions, and the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones, under specific assumptions which we describe as the Astrobiological Copernican Weak and Strong conditions. These assumptions are based on the one situation in which intelligent, communicative life is known to exist—on our own planet. This type of life has developed in a metal-rich environment and has taken roughly 5 Gyr to do so. We investigate the possible number of CETI civilizations based on different scenarios. At one extreme is the Weak Astrobiological Copernican scenario—such that a planet forms intelligent life sometime after 5 Gyr, but not earlier. The other is the Strong Astrobiological Copernican scenario in which life must form between 4.5 and 5.5 Gyr, as on Earth. In the Strong scenario (under the strictest set of assumptions), we find there should be at least civilizations within our Galaxy: this is a lower limit, based on the assumption that the average lifetime, L, of a communicating civilization is 100 yr (since we know that our own civilization has had radio communications for this time). If spread uniformly throughout the Galaxy this would imply that the nearest CETI is at most lt-yr away and most likely hosted by a low-mass M-dwarf star, likely far surpassing our ability to detect it for the foreseeable future, and making interstellar communication impossible. Furthermore, the likelihood that the host stars for this life are solar-type stars is extremely small and most would have to be M dwarfs, which may not be stable enough to host life over long timescales. We furthermore explore other scenarios and explain the likely number of CETI there are within the Galaxy based on variations of our assumptions.

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

U.S added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time.

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U.S added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time.

The murder of the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi — in a year when more than half of all journalists who were killed around the world were targeted deliberately — reflects a hatred of the media in many areas of society, a free-press advocacy group said Tuesday.

At least 63 professional journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2018, a 15 percent increase over last year, said the group, Reporters Without Borders. The number of deaths rises to 80 when all media workers and people classified as citizen journalists are included, it said in its annual report.

The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three — India, Mexico and, for the first time, the United States — where journalists were killed in cold blood, even though those countries weren’t at war or in conflict, the group said.

“The hatred of journalists that is voiced … by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and began writing for The Washington Post after moving to the United States last year, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October.

His death sparked worldwide outrage. Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his death.

Reporters Without Borders said the three most dangerous countries for journalists to work in were Afghanistan, Syria and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the shooting deaths of five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in June propelled the United States into the ranks of the most dangerous countries for the first time.

Reporters Without Borders said 348 journalists were being detained worldwide, compared with 326 at this time in 2017. China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt hold more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists, it said.

How to Safely and Ethically Film Police Misconduct.

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How to Safely and Ethically Film Police Misconduct.

On one of the first warm spring weekends in New York City, photos and videos circulated on social media featuring police officers handing out masks to groups of mostly white residents lounging in city parks. That same weekend, videos of police officers — some of whom weren’t wearing protective gear — using excessive force to arrest Black and Brown civilians for allegedly violating social distancing guidelines also circulated online. Videos, filmed by bystanders and community members, are helping to illuminate this new iteration of racist policing during COVID-19.

Over the past six years we’ve seen how critical video documentation can be in exposing violent and discriminatory policing, galvanizing public support around calls for accountability, and on rare occasions, even helping to secure justice in a courtroom. But far too often videos of police violence don’t lead to convictions, despite what appears to be clear evidence of abuse. While people are inclined to whip out their phones and film when they see something alarming happening, those videos are not always recorded in a way that can be used as evidence in a legal proceeding or to support advocacy tactics.

At the human rights organization WITNESS, where I work as the senior U.S. program coordinator, we’ve learned that video has a greater chance of making an impact when it’s filmed ethically and strategically, and released in coordination with advocacy and legal efforts. Using the camera in your pocket can be a valuable way to ensure the world bears witness to abusive policing and systemic racism, help hold authorities accountable, and advocate for the real safety of our communities. To help you film safely, ethically, and effectively, see the guidance below:

1. Safety first
The most important thing to consider when filming a police interaction is safety — your own and of the person you are filming. Filming or witnessing can escalate a situation, and sometimes bystanders become the target of police violence. The risk to your safety can depend on your identity — your background, race, gender, ethnicity, and so on — so it’s important to think about whether or not you feel comfortable filming before you press record. There are important ways to bear witness even if you don’t film, including standing in solidarity to let the person being targeted know they are not alone, or by taking notes. No footage is ever worth your safety.

2. Know your rights
In the United States, you have a 1st Amendment right to record law enforcement in public spaces as long as you don’t interfere — even during COVID-19. But remember:

Whether or not you are interfering is totally up to the police officer in the moment (and later up to a judge or jury), so it’s best to keep at least six feet of distance (or a car’s length) between you and the incident while filming, especially during social distancing.

If the police officer tells you to back up, comply with their orders. You can even film your feet as you’re backing up and say aloud, “I’m complying with orders.”

If the police officer tells you to stop filming, you can assert your right to film if you feel comfortable doing so.

You can stay safe and still film critical footage from a distance, like from a window, balcony, rooftop, or fire escape.

For more information, see Justice Committee’s COVID Copwatch Guidance

3. Prepare before you film
Even though an incident with police might occur without any notice, there are still ways you can prepare to ensure you are safe when filming:

Lock your phone with at least a six-digit passcode, not just the touch ID, face ID or pattern lock. For the most part, courts have ruled that you have a 5th Amendment constitutional right to not give up your cell phone passcode during a legal search. But that right is murkier when it comes to touch ID, face ID, or pattern lock, and courts have ruled both ways in the past. So it’s safest to just stick with a six-digit passcode for now.

Set your phone to automatically back up to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive. That way even if you break your phone, lose it, or it gets confiscated for any reason, you’ll still have a backup of the video you filmed (we’ve seen this tactic work before). However, backing up footage to the cloud could leave the data vulnerable to legal requests from the police, depending on the company’s policy.

4. Tell a story with your footage
Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t here, what would I need to see to understand what happened?” Focus on details like:

Number of officers present, uniforms, badges, license plates, and any other identifying markers

Are the officers wearing masks and gloves? Are they practicing social distancing?

Are they using excessive force or violence? Are they using any racial slurs or discriminatory language?

Do they have weapons with them? Are they using them? Have they caused any property damage, ripped clothing, or injuries?

5. Try to provide evidence that your footage is real
In an era of fake news and rampant misinformation online, you want to make sure that your footage is as verifiable as possible. To do this:

Film street signs, landmarks, or exteriors of buildings to help determine the location.

Film a clock, phone home screen, newspaper, or something that helps verify the time and date.

It could be helpful to also state the time, date, and location out loud on camera, or write it down on a piece of paper and hold it up to the screen.

You can turn on GPS location services to help verify your location.

Film continuously instead of stopping and starting your camera; this will help fight against claims that footage was edited or manipulated.

6. To speak or not to speak
Sometimes it’s most powerful and helpful to stay quiet and let the footage speak for itself, like when the world heard Eric Garner utter his last words, “I can’t breathe.” But adding commentary to your footage can be a great way to help the audience understand what’s happening, especially if you’re unable to film at a close distance. If you decide to narrate:

Stick to the facts. Try not to include any biased or emotional language. This could hurt your chance of the footage being used as evidence in a legal proceeding.

Think like a sports commentator. Focus on time, date, location, i.e., “It’s 3 p.m. and four police officers just approached two women on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. The officers are holding tasers and are not wearing their masks properly.”

If you know the person being targeted, don’t allege anything about their criminal history or immigration status on camera. Something learned during an enforcement might be used against the person in a legal proceeding.

7. More filming tips
We’re all used to filming on our phones for fun, but filming for evidence and advocacy requires a little practice. Here are some tips on how to make your videos more valuable:

Film horizontally as opposed to vertically to capture more content in the frame.

Try to hold your shot for at least 10 seconds before moving your phone. This might feel uncomfortable, but lawyers, advocates, and investigators will need to be able to actually see what’s happening in the footage to use it. We often hear from the lawyers we work with that footage is too shaky or moving around too quickly for them to make sense of it.

Use slow and steady pans instead of quick, jerky movements.

Hold your elbows tight into your body, just over your hips (like a natural tripod for your camera). This will help save your arms from getting tired.

8. Sharing your video
So you filmed a video, what do you do now? The first thing to do is pause. Take a deep breath. You may have just witnessed a violent or traumatic event, so it’s important to take care of yourself. Wait before you post the footage to social media. Think through a strategy first, or work with a lawyer or advocacy organization to ensure your footage makes an impact. Before you share, ask yourself:

“Do I have consent from the person I just filmed?” Even if you filmed in a public space where people do not have an expectation of privacy, it can be a courtesy to check in with them or their friends/family before sharing footage of a vulnerable moment publicly. In most cases it might not be possible to get consent, but when possible, speak to them before sharing the footage, or give them the footage so they can decide how it’s used.

“Do I need to blur anyone’s face before uploading the footage in order to protect their identity or location?” YouTube offers a free tool for this (watch a tutorial on how to use it here).

“Do I want to share the footage with a lawyer?” If so, it’s best to share a completely unedited version with them. If you make any edits to the footage (including just changing the file name), do so from a copy; otherwise it could hurt the video’s chances of being used in a legal proceeding.

“Do I want my name associated with the video?” Having your name publicly tied to a video can make you vulnerable to aggressions from internet trolls or even the police. After Ramsey Orta filmed the death of his friend Eric Garner at the hands of Staten Island police, he says he and his family became a target of local police harassment. He was eventually arrested on drug charges, and was recently released from prison after serving a four-year sentence. In a Time magazine article that followed up with Orta one year after the event, he expressed regret for not sharing the video anonymously. At WITNESS, we’ve seen it can be helpful to first share your footage with a journalist or advocacy organization so that they can share the footage publicly instead.

“How can I make sure people see my video?” Unfortunately, just posting a video on social media and hoping it goes viral doesn’t usually work, and might not even be the most strategic option. It’s not about how many eyes see the video; it’s about which eyes see the video. To help a video reach the best audience, share your footage with an advocacy organization to support their campaign work and advocacy goals.

“When should I release the footage?” It’s helpful to collaborate with advocates or a lawyer to determine when to release your footage so that it makes the biggest impact. When Feiden Santana waited until the police report was released before sharing his video of a police officer fatally shooting Walter Scott in South Carolina, the video helped combat the official narrative. The police officer was eventually charged with second degree murder.

Source: https://bit.ly/3e1ShMK

Before face masks, Americans went to war against seat belts.

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Before face masks, Americans went to war against seat belts.

A small but vocal minority of people in the US are protesting face-mask mandates.
In the early 1980s, the public safety battle was over seat belts. Most Americans didn’t use them and 65% opposed them being enforced by law. “There was a libertarian streak among resistors,” car safety pioneer Ralph Nader told Business Insider. “They took the stance that ‘you’re not going to tie the American people up in seat belts.'”
More than 50 years after “Unsafe at Any Speed,” Nader said “we are a very hard society to change cognitively.”

State and federal officials nationwide have ordered the use of protective face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many businesses have instituted similar policies to protect customers and staff.

It’s a relatively straightforward precaution with proven public health benefits. Still, a small but vocal minority is resisting.

Some are fighting mask policies by invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act. Others are starting fistfights or even killing people.

Backlash against public health safeguards has plenty of precedents: When the influenza pandemic swept through San Francisco in 1919, hundreds of “mask slackers” disobeyed the law and were arrested.

Even the seat belt, one of the most ubiquitous safety devices in modern history, faced a contentious battle for acceptance.

The long road to seat-belt safety
As cars became increasingly popular through the 20th century, vehicular fatalities skyrocketed. Between 1920 and 1960, the rate of auto deaths doubled, from 11 people per 100,000 to 22 people.

Edward J. Claghorn first patented an automobile safety harness in 1885, mainly to help keep tourists from falling out of New York taxicabs. But it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that many carmakers even offered seat belts as an option.

Most motorists declined: In 1956, only 2% of Ford buyers took the $27 seat belt option, and the death toll kept rising.

In 1959, American politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan described the situation as “the epidemic on the highways.”

Then came Ralph Nader.

In 1965, Nader, 31, penned “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a best-selling expose that claimed car manufacturers were sacrificing lives for style and profit.

Nader argued that Detroit willfully neglected advances in auto safety, like roll bars and seat belts, to keep costs down.

His investigation spurred Congress to create what eventually became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which required all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seat belts in 1968.

But using them was strictly voluntary. And many Americans didn’t want to.

As late as 1983, less than 15% of Americans said they used seat belts consistently.

New York became the first state to pass a mandatory seat-belt law, in 1984. Other states soon followed.

While there was already clear evidence seat belts saved lives, these measures faced stiff opposition. A Gallup poll from July 1984 showed that 65% of Americans opposed mandatory belt laws, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a survey one year later, drivers said they thought the restraints were “ineffective, inconvenient, and uncomfortable.”

Some argued — incorrectly — that it was safer to be thrown clear from a wreck than trapped inside one.

“In this country, saving freedom is more important than trying to regulate lives through legislation,” wrote one staunch opponent in a 1987 Chicago Tribune editorial.

The auto industry actually supported seat-belt requirements, mainly to circumvent legislation that would have mandated airbags.

But the public bristled.

Some people cut the belts out of their cars. Others challenged seat-belt laws in court.

Massachusetts radio personality Jerry Williams transformed his talk-show into a crusade against seat belts, gathering 45,000 signatures in three months. He managed to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the state’s new belt law.

“We don’t feel we should be forced to buckle up and have a police officer sent in by the state to make sure we’re buckled up,” Williams told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1986.

“There was a libertarian streak among resistors,” Nader told Business Insider. “They took the stance that ‘you’re not going to tie the American people up in seat belts.'”

‘They’re not community people’
A similar ideology seems to be fueling pushback against face-covering during the pandemic.

Republican governor Mike DeWine of Ohio was forced to rescind his face-mask order, he told ABC News, when he realized Ohioans “were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”

In California, an anti-lockdown protestor held a sign comparing wearing masks to slavery, Newsweek reported.

Nader says he believes most modern-day mask slackers are fueled by obstinance, not a political agenda.

“It’s just an ornery personality trait by some people,” he said. “They’re not community people.”

The former presidential candidate is quick to mention that few Americans oppose the current public health measures. A recent Washington Post poll found that fewer than 20% of Americans opposed wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“It’s a tiny percent of the population — let’s not exaggerate,” Nader said.

Americans have grown comfortable with seat belts, too: More than 90% buckle up regularly. New Hampshire — whose license plates proclaim “Live free or die “— remains the only state without a mandatory seat belt law.

But that shift took time. It also took public service campaigns, legal enforcement, and even regular reminders from our cars themselves.

“We are a very hard society to change cognitively,” Nader said, some 55 years after publishing “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

He hopes holdouts against pandemic precautions come around more quickly.

“The same people who don’t want to do social distancing and face masks get in their car and put their seat belt on,” he said. “Nice irony, huh?”

Source: https://bit.ly/3dwZ9lb

Christian missionaries are setting fire to sacred Aboriginal objects.

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Christian missionaries are setting fire to sacred Aboriginal objects.

Christian missionaries are causing a fresh wave of upset in outback Australia, promising to bring people back from the dead, and promoting the idea traditional Aboriginal culture is a type of devil worship.

An investigation by Background Briefing has uncovered dramatic scenes in the Kimberley region, where Aboriginal followers of a Tongan-born preacher have set fire to artefacts considered sacred by many local elders, and dismantled and burned a spiritual law ground.

The approach of some recently arrived evangelists has been slammed by some Aboriginal leaders, including Labor senator Pat Dodson.

“They are a type of virus that has really got no credibility,” he said. “If they really understood the gospel then the gospel is about liberation.

“It’s about an accommodation of the diversity and differences that we have in our belief systems.”

He believes the destruction of traditional culture is “an act of bastardry”.

“It’s about the lowest act you could perform in trying to indicate to a fellow human being that you have total disdain for anything they represent.”

But the born-again Christian converts have defended their beliefs and practices, saying it is their decision to make, and finding God has brought them peace and happiness.

The bonfire at Wangkatjungka

The Aboriginal community of Wangkatjungka has been the site of some of the greatest tensions, after dozens of local people were ‘born again’ and baptised following the arrival of young Tongan preacher Ana Makahununiu in 2015.

Local women called her a ‘prophetess’, believing God spoke through her.

A year after Ms Makahununiu arrived, her followers built a bonfire to destroy ‘satanic’ objects they thought were cursing their community, and filmed the process.

One of the women who helped organise the bonfire said the devil had caused disruption and violence in the community.

“We used to getting bashed from our partners and smoking, drinking with them, every family,” she told Background Briefing. “It’s just not good for the kids.

“It’s not the people really who are getting wild, it’s the devil behind them getting wild.”

A grainy video of the bonfire shows people cheering as objects are thrown into the flames and black smoke billows into the air.

“For many years we have been deceived by Satan and his demonic beings,” an unidentified man narrates as the fire burns.

“Now we throw away all the things that have been keeping us in bondage and slavery.”

Local women have told Background Briefing people started burning things associated with ‘sinful’ behaviour, before escalating to cultural items.

“For me, I was a smoker,” one woman said. “I went back home and get a little bit of tobacco and a paper.

“I take it back to the fire and throw it down in the fire. From that day on, I never smoke and I thank the Lord for that.”

The women then burned the dresses they had worn for ‘women’s business’ — the cultural practices and gatherings shared by women — while a local man decided to destroy a bundle of weapons passed down to him by his ancestors.

Later, worshippers turned their attention on a nearby bough shed, or shade structure, where cultural elders gathered when putting local boys through traditional ‘law business’, or coming-of-age rituals.

“We got my car, my Landcruiser,” said one woman. “Then we just slowly moved it, all the bits and pieces, like tin everything, like poles.”

According to the woman, they burnt it all.

The ‘Prophetess’

Ms Makahununiu’s followers said they happily paid for her food and accommodation so she could stay in Wangkatjungka for about three years.

She now lives in Sydney, preaching at a Pentecostal church in Homebush and working cash-in-hand jobs, despite admitting she’s not legally allowed to work in Australia due to her visa status.

Ms Makahununiu said while she didn’t instruct the Wangkatjungka locals to burn sacred objects, she supported them in their decision to try to cleanse the community of evil.

“My focus was for the people who [were] addicted to drugs or alcohol, cigarettes, all those things,” she said.

“Most of them, they was shouting and happy,” she said. “It was really exciting for them.”

“The most important thing for me is to see the people happy and free not to live in bondage anymore.”

She said she started viewing traditional Aboriginal beliefs as devil-worship after arriving in the Kimberley and meeting local people.

“When they talk, and share the type of spirit they’re using, I can say is very demonic.

“I’ve been seeing that is all connected to witchcraft — that is not from God, that’s all from the devil.”

Some local Aboriginal women like Olive Knight agree. She helps run the small but strong Christian fellowship still operating in Wangkatjungka.

“The spiritism that I grew up with, it was so restrictive, there was lots of fear, retribution all the time,” she said.

“Would it be better to live in a culture that … there’s nothing but fear and retribution, or go to someone who’s loving, a loving God?”

Ana Makahununiu is planning on returning to the Kimberley soon, with a team of missionaries from Sydney.

“We are planning to rise up again and we’re going to travel to Wangkatjungka, and then I believe this will be a time we’re going to bring everybody all together.”

Pentecostalism rising in the Kimberley

Christian missionaries have a long history of trying to assimilate Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, and discouraging them from practicing their traditional religious beliefs.

Peter Murray is the CEO of the Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation south of Fitzroy Crossing.

He thinks some of the new wave Pentecostal preachers don’t understand Indigenous culture and are destroying it, instead of allowing Christianity and traditional culture to live side by side.

“People in the Kimberley are moving onto other churches,” he said. “People are choosing something more exciting that will give them blessings.”

Pentecostalism is the type of Christianity behind popular mega-churches like Hillsong and Horizon Church, which is attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The number of Pentecostals grew by 20 per cent in the decade to 2016, while other Christian denominations shrank.

But the Pentecostalism flourishing in remote areas is based on a more literal interpretation of the Bible and focuses on God’s ability to affect real-world change for followers. Practices like being ‘slain in the spirit’, with parishioners collapsing during prayer in religious ecstasy, as well as speaking in tongues are increasingly common.

‘Penetrate the Aboriginal’

Forward in Faith is one of the Pentecostal churches that has entered the Kimberley in recent years.

Founded in Zimbabwe, the church has 68 congregations in Australia, many in largely Aboriginal towns and communities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

At a recent prayer meeting in the town of Port Hedland, Elder of the church Kenneth Chihwayi told Background Briefing Aboriginal spirituality is not compatible with Christian faith.

“We don’t touch on their culture, but you’ll find that slowly, slowly they will stop their culture, because there are some bad things in their culture which do not meet with the Christian faith,” he said.

“They were into drugs, they were drinking, they had broken marriages, they had bitterness, they had all these things,” he said.

“We preach the love of God, and when a person understands and accepted the love of God inside him, he will decide I want to stop drinking, this is not good. That’s how we have managed to penetrate the Aboriginal.”

Mr Chihwayi believes his church is particularly well placed to appeal to the Aboriginal community.

“Generally speaking, Aboriginals mistrust white people,” he said. “They consider Africans as brothers, so they open up to us.”

Aboriginal converts to Forward in Faith believe the church has helped them in their everyday lives, including Bidyadanga resident Sue Mandijello.

“In this Ministry, Forward in Faith, I have found that I changed my life,” she said. “Some years back I was on dialysis for five-and-a-half years and come 2011, I received a new kidney, so just believing God, this is a gift from him.”

But others are cynical about the promised benefits, including Karajarri man Gordon Marshall, who worked for more than 20 years as a police liaison officer in the Kimberley.

“These people, they’re vulnerable, and they [the church] come along and catch them and say, ‘I can help you’,” he said. “I think they just prey on vulnerable people.”

He said one of the most disturbing incidents he heard about was an attempt by born-again Christians in the central Kimberley to bring a baby back from the dead.

Raising the dead

A belief circulating among born-again Christians in several remote communities Background Briefing visited is deceased people can be resurrected through prayer.

Witnesses described distressing scenes at one funeral held in 2015, where Pentecostal converts attempted to resurrect a baby girl who’d died of an illness.

It’s understood the burial was delayed for several hours while people sang, danced and prayed for the baby to ‘wake’.

Witnesses have told Background Briefing the instigator for the resurrection attempt was a pastor with the Zimbabwean Church Forward in Faith.

A church spokesperson said they had no knowledge of the incident, and raising people from the dead was not “part of the Gospel we preach”.

He said the pastor allegedly involved has been on medical leave for about two years, and does not act on behalf of the church.

For Senator Dodson, promises faith could solve the problems of poverty and disenfranchisement are dangerous and misleading. He said real solutions still required work.

“It is about getting effective, real education into these locations,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about strengthening leadership, and the leaders getting supported in their stands for what they understand and know are true to their cultures and societies.”

Source: https://ab.co/2XXIGkv