26 September, 2021

How Church Sexual Abuse Cover-Ups Succeed


A second dynamic at work in various sorts of institutional cover-ups is that many of them count on co-opting or destroying those who can see or who have experienced what’s happening. Some people enjoy conflict and controversy—maybe especially so in an institution built around a founding story of a “great battle.” Such people, who long to find a grand purpose or meaning in their lives, can then reenact the battles of the past over and over, with an ever-narrowing and ever more ridiculous definition of who gets to be the “liberals” or “the Catholics” or whatever the enemy used to be.

What’s especially sad about this is that usually these people are conscripted to become the very thing they once fought against. If, for instance, an institution was once adrift, moving theologically leftward while those in charge used “double speak” (talking one way in the pulpit and another in the seminar room), we sometimes find that a generation later, the very people who objected to it are doing the same thing. Their about-face is not about whether the Virgin Birth happened or whether faith in Christ is necessary for salvation but about whether blatant racism demands repentance or whether rape and sexual assault—clearly condemned in the inspired and inerrant Word of God—are just part of a “liberal” #MeToo culture to which the church should not listen.

Just as some people in some traditions say, “Pay no attention to our theological heterodoxy, because if you do, the institution will be hurt,” in the fullness of time, people in other traditions can say, “Pay no attention to our set of theological heresies or our crimes or our cover-ups; otherwise, the institution will be hurt.” If we are in an institution where we have been taught literally since birth that our tradition is God’s best and only hope for reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, that argument often works.

23 September, 2021

What the Never Trumpers Want Now


Once, Republicans and conservatives defined themselves as the party of life. Human life was so precious that the law should require women unwillingly pregnant to give birth anyway. Then came a deadly pandemic, and suddenly “life” became less important than protecting the spring-break revenues of hotels and restaurants, or indulging the delusions and fantasies of people who got their scientific information from YouTube videos and Reddit threads. And again dissident Republicans and conservatives were left to wonder: What do we have in common with you?

This process of estrangement builds on itself.

I thought we believed X, says the dissident. You’re a bunch of hypocrites for now saying Y. You’re betraying everything I thought we believed.

No, reply the majority. We always deep down believed that Y was more important than X. We never before had to choose. Now we do. And if you choose X over Y, it’s you who are betraying us.

The leader of a Hawaii anti-vax group caught COVID-19 and almost died. He now supports vaccines and wants his group's protests to stop.


Wikoff said he previously believed vaccine mandates and passports seemed "over-the-top totalitarian control" because he didn't believe the disease was that serious, Hawai News Now reported.

"We were told the COVID virus was not that deadly, it was nothing more than a little flu," he told Hawaii News Now.

"Well, I can tell you: it's more than the little flu."

Wikoff's change of position came after he was hospitalized after catching COVID-19 in August, per Hawaii News Now. "I was afraid I was going to die," he told the outlet.

He urged people to stop participating in the protests and rallies his group was organizing, including those taking part outside of Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Josh Green's house, Hawaii News Now reported.

"Before I thought Josh Green was exaggerating the situation and after my experience, he sounds very rational to me," he said, per Hawaii News Now. 

21 September, 2021

Glitch Reveals Ballot Choices of N.Y.C. Voters, Including Mayor’s Son


The researchers were able to identify the voting records of the individual New York City voters by cross-referencing the New York State voter file — a list of every registered voter, whether they voted and their address — with the board’s cast-vote records, which contained hundreds of voting precincts where just one ballot was cast.

Those precincts included that of Mr. de Blasio, who is registered at Gracie Mansion, and that of Mr. Steel, a registered Republican who lives in NoHo, a heavily Democratic part of Manhattan.

20 September, 2021

Memo shows Trump lawyer's six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election


The Eastman memo laid out a six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election for Trump, which included throwing out the results in seven states because they allegedly had competing electors. In fact, no state had actually put forward an alternate slate of electors -- there were merely Trump allies claiming without any authority to be electors.

Under Eastman's scheme, Pence would have declared Trump the winner with more Electoral College votes after the seven states were thrown out, at 232 votes to 222. Anticipating "howls" from Democrats protesting the overturning of the election, the memo proposes, Pence would instead say that no candidate had reached 270 votes in the Electoral College. That would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote. Since Republicans controlled 26 state delegations, a majority could vote for Trump to win the election. 

18 September, 2021

‘I can still feel it’: Groundbreaking arm amputation surgery makes a ‘phantom’ hand seem real


Since the first of the new amputation procedures was performed in 2016, 30 patients have had the surgery performed on one or both legs — including U.S. Paralympian Morgan Stickney, a double amputee who just won two swimming gold medals in Tokyo. Their results show that Majetich’s experience is not uncommon.

“What we’ve found are a number of distinct advantages of the AMI amputation,” said Hugh Herr, an MIT Media Lab professor, using the shorthand for the procedure he jointly developed with Carty. (AMI stands for agonist-antagonist myoneural interface, which refers to the joining of opposing, agonist and antagonist, muscles.) Herr said the AMI patients have felt less pain in their residual limbs, and their limbs don’t atrophy, as is typical after a standard amputation, resulting in a poor fit and pain when using a prosthesis.

In a study published last December, MIT postdoctoral fellow Shriya Srinivasan and colleagues in Herr’s group reported that when AMI patients moved their phantom ankle, a part of the brain associated with proprioception lit up on functional MRI scans just as much as it did in patients with intact limbs. This suggests the surgery fully restored patients’ ability to sense their limbs’ position and motion, a result Herr called “truly remarkable.” In people who had standard amputations, activation of this region was significantly reduced.

08 September, 2021

The Other Afghan Women


Shakira was bewildered by the Americans’ choice of allies. “Was this their plan?” she asked me. “Did they come to bring peace, or did they have other aims?” She insisted that her husband stop taking resin to the Sangin market, so he shifted his trade south, to Gereshk. But he returned one afternoon with the news that this, too, had become impossible. Astonishingly, the United States had resuscitated the Ninety-third Division—and made it its closest partner in the province. The Division’s gunmen again began stopping travellers on the bridge and plundering what they could. Now, however, their most profitable endeavor was collecting bounties offered by the U.S.; according to Mike Martin, a former British officer who wrote a history of Helmand, they earned up to two thousand dollars per Taliban commander captured.

This posed a challenge, though, because there were hardly any active Taliban to catch. “We knew who were the Taliban in our village,” Shakira said, and they weren’t engaged in guerrilla warfare: “They were all sitting at home, doing nothing.” A lieutenant colonel with U.S. Special Forces, Stuart Farris, who was deployed to the area at that time, told a U.S. Army historian, “There was virtually no resistance on this rotation.” So militias like the Ninety-third Division began accusing innocent people. In February, 2003, they branded Hajji Bismillah—the Karzai government’s transportation director for Gereshk, responsible for collecting tolls in the city—a terrorist, prompting the Americans to ship him to Guantánamo. With Bismillah eliminated, the Ninety-third Division monopolized the toll revenue.

05 September, 2021

What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction

What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction is the 11th lessons learned report issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The report examines the past two decades of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. It details how the U.S. government struggled to develop a coherent strategy, understand how long the reconstruction mission would take, ensure its projects were sustainable, staff the mission with trained professionals, account for the challenges posed by insecurity, tailor efforts to the Afghan context, and understand the impact of programs. There have been bright spots—such as lower child mortality rates, increases in per capita GDP, and increased literacy rates. But after spending 20 years and $145 billion trying to rebuild Afghanistan, the U.S. government has many lessons it needs to learn. Implementing these critical lessons will save lives and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan, and in future reconstruction missions elsewhere around the world.