December 31, 2017

Watch Celebrate 2018 New Year Celebrations Around The World

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2017 Was a Good Year But Only if you are Republican



Was 2017 a good year for the world? Yes, if you’re a Republican

Two in three Republicans say 2017 was a good year compared to just a quarter in 2016 

2017 was a good year – at least for Republicans. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 43% of Americans describe the past year as a good year for the world, up 14 points from what the public said at the end of 2016. However, that improvement is mostly the result of a GOP turn from negative to positive – today, two-thirds of Republicans say that 2017 was a good year. Last year, just 25% of Republicans believed 2016 was a good year for the world.




Independents also feel better about 2017 than they did about 2016; Democrats feel somewhat worse.

Last year, only 8% of Republicans said the United States had become more respected in the world in 2016. As for 2017, 48% of Republicans believe the country has become more respected. 80% of Democrats say it has become less respected.

Of course, much of the difference is due to the change in Administrations in Washington, and the replacement of Democratic President Barack Obama by Republican President Donald Trump. The partisan difference extends to the assessment of how 2017 has treated one’s own family. Last year, a majority of Republicans said that 2016 had been a bad year for themselves and for their families. This year, three-quarters of Republicans say the past year has been good for themselves and their loved ones.

As for Democrats, their assessment of how the past year has been for their families is about the same as the way they rated 2016 last December.
One area where Republicans and Democrats agree is how they view the state of American political discussion – it has become much more negative in the last few years. This year, 66% say political discussion had become more negative in 2017. Last year, 59% said that about 2016, and in 2015, 55% said the same.

That doesn’t mean that politics has become more interesting. Only 27% think that, which is a few points lower than the 32% who said so in 2016 and 2015.

As for the President himself, his approval rating during his first year in office has never risen above 43% in the Economist/YouGov Poll, and has not been above 40% in the last few months. This week, at the end of 2017, 38% approve, while 52% disapprove. Disapproval has increased since the beginning of the Trump Administration.



The President has generally met the public’s expectations for his first year in office, though just 23% say he has accomplished more than they expected of him. 29% say he has accomplished less than they expected. On specifics, many Americans are still waiting. Even though the tax cut bill just became law, only 49% say he has kept his promise to cut taxes. Even fewer, 31%, say his actions have succeeded in repealing Obamacare.

Looking ahead to how Americans expect history will judge Donald Trump as President, less than a third say he will be viewed as outstanding or above average, something two-thirds of Republicans believe will be the case. Half think the Trump Presidency will be seen as below average or even worse – 40% think he will be regarded as a “poor” president.


Assessment of President Obama near the end of his second term was slightly better, but like the public’s current judgment of President Trump, it was also partisan. At the end of 2016, 49% of Republicans thought President Obama’s performance would be regarded by history as poor. Now, 71% of Democrats say Donald Trump will be regarded as a poor President.

In fact, many think that President Trump will be a one-term President. Half the public, including 44% of Republicans, do not think he will be elected to a second term in 2020.



But despite GOP skepticism about what will happen in the 2020 election, two-thirds of Republicans still want the President to run for re-election then.


Image: Getty

YouGov Surveys on The Most Important Issues (make money with your opinion)

December 30, 2017

"I Can't Breathe" Eric Garner While Dying of Police Choke (2014)His Daughter Erica Now Also dead

 Erica Garner, who became a civil rights activist against police brutality after the death of her father in 2014, has died aged 27.
A video of Eric Garner, in a police chokehold complaining he could not breathe, sparked national protests.
Ms Garner became a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter movement following her father's death.
She had been in a coma since 23 December after suffering a heart attack triggered by an asthma attack.
Her official twitter account, being run by her family, said she had suffered major brain damage from a lack of oxygen. officialERICA GARNER
@es_snipes
Erica the world loves you. I love you. I am glad you came into our lives. May you find the peace in the next life that you deserved while you were here. I will always love you my sister. love you9:36 AM - Dec 30, 2017

"When you report this you remember she was human: mother, daughter, sister, aunt. Her heart was bigger than the world. It really really was," a tweet posted to her account said.
"She cared when most people wouldn't have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice."

Erica Garner pictured lying on the floor, leading a demonstration march and "die in" eventImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionErica Garner, pictured demonstrating in the spot where her father died, in 2014


                                                     

Father-of-six Eric Garner, 43, was detained by police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island in July 2014. Mr Garner also had asthma, and was filmed telling officers multiple times: "I can't breathe"
His words became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters, and the video of the arrest made headlines around the world. 
Mr Garner's death was ruled a homicide by medical examiners, but a grand jury did not charge any arresting officers in the case
Ms. Garner was a mother-of-two and had a son in August whom she named after her father.
BBC

On a Wimp Trump Fires The Entire HIV (PACHA) Advisory Staff






Donald Trump fired the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) Wednesday, reportedly informing them without explanation with a letter delivered by FedEx.
The mass dismissal of the advisers marked another nadir in the administration’s dealing with the council. In June, six members resigned from PACHA writing in an open letter, published in Newsweek, saying the Trump White House was pushing for legislation that would harm people living with HIV.




Scott A. Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and one of the members of the advisory panel who resigned over the summer, tweeted yesterday that the remaining council members had been fired for calling President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “dangerous.”
“Remaining #HIV/AIDS council members booted by @realDonaldTrump. No respect for their service,” Schoettes wrote on the social media site. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed,” he added. 
Sources with knowledge of the terminations told the Washington Blade that council members had been fired despite having more time on their appointments.
Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a remaining member of PACHA said the reasons for the firings remain unclear but may have been borne of a desire by the Trump administration to clear out appointments made by his predecessor Barack Obama.
“I can only speculate,” Maldonado said. “Like any administration, they want their own people there. Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”
The decision by an administrator to clear house at PACHA is not unprecedented. The Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees in the same way.
However, HIV/AIDS activists have been deeply critical of the White House’s approach over the past year. In the 2018 fiscal year budget, Trump has sought huge cuts to programs including $150 million on HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control. The administration has also sought more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
Just under a year into his first term, Trump has yet to appoint an HIV/AIDS chief, the first time since Bill Clinton created the position in 1993 that a president has failed to do so.
Impulse Group DC, a Washington-based HIV awareness, and advocacy group, told Newsweek via email that to lose the expertize of the existing council threatens to unravel years of progress and efforts to end HIV. Sources close to the decision explained they suspect the charter for PACHA will be re-written with the renewed focus on abstinence and religious, non-evidence based public health approaches.
“Now is not the time for complacency,” President of Impulse Devin Barrington-Ward said. “Every organization serving people living with HIV and fighting to end this epidemic must galvanize their networks of clients, staff, and volunteers to resist and fight back against these dangerous HIV policy decisions," he added

Callum Paton
Newsweek


Undocumented American Citizens





Sonny’s parents warned him: Authorities could turn him into immigration enforcement at any time. So, growing up in rural California, he cowered at police, avoided applying for jobs, and never drove.

“I thought they could pick me up whenever and send me back,” said Sonny, now 20, who was born in Mexico and crossed the border at age five with his mother and younger brother. “When cops would pull my friends over and I was in the car, if they asked for my ID I’d say I didn’t have it. I didn’t want them to know something was up with my citizenship.” 

As Donald Trump campaigned last fall, Sonny entered 12th grade more anxious than ever, internalizing Trump’s promises to purge the nation of undocumented immigrants and to erect a 70-foot-tall cement border wall with Mexico. “I started hearing things like, ‘Mexicans and immigrants are all bad,’” recalled Sonny, who requested his last name not be used to protect his family’s privacy. “It made it harder to imagine staying here, being scared so many people are against you.”

Then one day after school, as Sonny found solace in watching his favorite movie, Dances with Wolves, his father burst into his room with an outrageous proposal.

“He walked in and said I could be a citizen,” said Sonny. “I thought it was going to be another scam.”


He had good reason to distrust the claim. His family had already overpaid a notary to help him apply for DACA, an Obama-era program that provided deportation relief for young undocumented immigrants in two-year increments. In the family’s tiny town outside Davis, California, immigration attorneys were scarce and Sonny knew no other youths—other than his brother—in his position.

“People tell you different stories over here, and they charge you different amounts,” Sonny’s father Jose told me of notaries pledging to help immigrants adjust their legal status. “I went to a notary public who charged us $700 to fill out a two-year application. I decided I needed to get a second opinion.” 

Jose’s quest led Sonny and his brother Jose, who had always believed they lived illegally in the States, to a stunning realization: They are, and always have been, US citizens.

An unknown, but significant amount of US residents spend their lives ignorant of the fact they, too, are citizens, due to the complexity of citizenship requirements and a lack of education about those criteria.

“It's very common actually,” said immigration attorney Holly Cooper, co-director of the immigration law clinic at UC Davis, who specializes in citizenship claims and handled the brothers’ case. “It’s a life-changer for so many of our clients who live their lives thinking they're undocumented and then we turn around and tell them, ‘You’re a citizen.’”

Cooper estimated that about 5 percent of the individuals who approach her for immigration help are unwittingly citizens.

“You find a lot of these people in rural communities because of a lack of access to lawyers in rural communities,” she said, noting that even in many “know your rights” presentations for immigrants people skip over explanations about citizenship.

Sonny and Jose had a straightforward case: Their father (also named Jose) was a US citizen who had lived in the US more than ten years before the sons’ birth, making them also automatic citizens, Cooper explained.

Jose was born in Chicago to Mexican immigrant parents and spent his life in the States but visited Mexico regularly, meeting his future wife on one of those trips. He moved briefly to Mexico, where they married and had children, but then returned to the US to work as a forklift operator, and his family soon followed. 

If you sort through a somewhat complicated chart at the USCIS website, it’s clear that Sonny and Jose qualify for citizenship. But it’s not intuitive to many that they would. Even highly educated people—including some attorneys—are unclear about the criteria for citizenship, said Cooper.

“I work with public defenders all the time who don't understand this,” she told me. “It’s hard to educate people about because it’s so complicated. It’s a labyrinth of laws.”


The easiest criteria for citizenship is birth in the United States, but people can also be citizens through their parents or grandparents, and the requirements vary depending on what year they were born since citizenship laws have evolved over time. To prove their citizenship, a qualified individual can either apply for a US passport through the US State Department or for a certificate of citizenship through US Citizenship and Immigration Services—a process that takes months, even years, depending on the complexity of the case and discretion of the government officials.

The boys’ father had significant proof of his US birth and residency, but it still took months for Cooper and her law students to secure their citizenship from the Department of State, she said. The younger son, Jose, now 18, got confirmation of his status by May, while Sonny only just received his confirmation this fall.

“For Jose, it was easier but Sonny had a different passport officer who wanted all the documentation for his father’s schooling, his tax returns, birth certificate, marriage certificate,” Cooper said, explaining that the passport office guards against fraud in this way. 

The officer also asked for documents of every job the father had worked and every time he had left the country and returned, resulting in a “45-year history of Jose’s life,” said Cooper’s law student Apurva Behal*, who compiled the information.

A US State Department spokesman said the agency receives first-time passport applications from US residents asserting their citizenship on occasion, but could not provide specific statistics. He told me individuals born and living abroad more frequently contact US consulates asserting citizenship claims because they have realized they qualify for citizenship through a parent.

With no central database of US citizens and a lack of clarity over individual cases, the US federal government has also been known to detain and to deport US citizens.

More than 800 individuals were released from immigrant detention facilities between 2007 and 2015 after they proved they were citizens, according to data obtained by an FOIA request by Northwestern University professor Jacqueline Stevens and analyzed by NPR. Stevens, director of Northwestern’s deportation research clinic, has estimated that thousands of more people have been wrongfully detained and deported without having the chance to prove their citizenship. In one recent high-profile case, a citizen named Davino Watson was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for over three years but was denied any compensation for his imprisonment. 

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded told me that the agency “takes very seriously any and all assertions that an individual in its custody may have a claim to U.S. citizenship.”

“Analyzing US citizenship for individuals born abroad can often be very complex, as it often involves investigating the individual’s birth and immigration history, residency history, immigration status, marital status of the individual’s parents, and the ever-changing body of law that was in place at the time of the individual’s birth,” the spokesperson, Danielle Bennet, said in an emailed statement. “This complexity means that some individuals don't even know they are U.S. citizens until well after they are encountered by ICE.”

Fortunately for Sonny and Jose, their father thought to investigate his sons’ legal status before they had an encounter with immigration enforcement, and before they ever moved out of his house.

“We probably would have moved to Mexico already, because ICE was doing roundups,” the elder Jose told me of the deportation raids enacted under the Trump administration. “It’s changed now: They can do what they want to do and they can study what they want to study.”

For Sonny, who ran daily to his mailbox this fall to check for his passport, the document gave him the hope he lacked for a future in the US.

“The first day I slept with it under my pillow to keep it safe—I didn't want to lose it,” he said of the night in early October. Now Sonny, an understated young man who draws and does martial arts, has begun applying for jobs with his ID and celebrated his citizenship last month along with his 20th birthday. 

“It feels good, I can finally work, travel, and vote,” he told me. “I feel more like this is my home"



Two Bakers Loose Appeals of The Cake and Fine($135k) For Refusing to Bake for Gay Couples


 

 

The Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a ruling — and a $135,000 fine — that two Gresham bakery owners discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make them a wedding cake, violating Oregon law. 

The courts did reverse a portion of the Bureau of Labor and Industries decision that said Melissa and Aaron Klein violated Oregon law by communicating their intent to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future. 

The appeals court decision, released Thursday, came almost nine months after attorneys representing the Kleins and the attorneys for the Bureau of Labor and Industries argued before the three-judge panel. 

It came years after Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer first stopped at the Kleins' custom-cake bakery. 

The couple had no idea a simple item on their pre-wedding to-do list would end in such controversy. 

They decided to order a cake from Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham bakery recommended by a relative, for their upcoming commitment ceremony. Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother stopped by the shop for a tasting and to order the cake.  


When Aaron Klein found out the cake was for two brides, he told Bowman-Cryer he and his wife did not make cakes for same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs. 

According to a brief filed by the civil rights organization Lambda Legal, when Bowman-Cryer's mother returned to the bakery to reason with Aaron Klein, he called her daughter and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law "abominations."

The Bowman-Cryers filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, alleging they were denied public accommodation of the Kleins' business services because of their sexual orientation. 

BOLI investigators determined the refusal constituted unlawful discrimination and ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in damages to the Bowman-Cryers.

The Kleins balked at first, then paid the $135,000 and vowed to appeal the case. The money was placed in a government account until the appeals process ends.

Oregon bakery owes damages to same-sex couple
First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, which represented the Kleins along with Boyden Gray said attorneys will review the decision and consider their options for further appeal with the Kleins. The case could continue to the Oregon Supreme Court if they file a petition within 35 days. 

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said they are disappointed in the ruling. 

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others," Shackelford said. "Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech.”

A similar case, involving a Colorado bakery, went before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. 

Paul Thompson, attorney for the Bowman-Cryers, said he will be watching that case closely.  

The Oregon Court of Appeals listened to an appeal Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017, in Salem by the lawyer for Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Oregon bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. The couple that sued the Kleins listened during the hearing.  

When Thompson contacted the couple Thursday morning, he said they were elated but still processing the news.

"We're really happy with the outcome," he said. "It's a great day for equality in Oregon."

The Bowman-Cryers held a commitment ceremony in June 2013 and were married in May 2014, four days after same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon.

The legal battle made national and international headlines.

According to the Oregonian/OregonLive, donations poured in for the Kleins, they campaigned in Iowa with Ted Cruz at "Rally for Religious Liberty," and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House Counsel for George H.W. Bush, offered to represent the couple for free. 

Since their complaint became public, the Bowman-Cryers have received countless harassing messages calling them evil and "the dumb lesbians who ruined those Christian bakers' lives," according to Lambda Legal's brief. 

The Bowman-Cryers said the case was not simply about a wedding cake, their marriage or their wedding. It is about whether it is OK for a business to refuse to serve people because of the owner's religious beliefs.

The couple said they moved to Oregon because the state stands strong for equality and they are proud to raise their daughters where people believe in dignity and respect.

"Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all," BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian said in a statement. 

The shop front for Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in 2013, but the couple continued to run the business out of their home until 2016, when it closed permanently.

"We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build," Melissa Klein said following oral arguments before the Oregon Court of Appeals in March.

Through tears, Klein said she poured her heart and passion into each cake and designed each one to fit each couple perfectly. As a devout Christian, she incorporated her faith into every aspect of her life, especially her work. 

The Oregon Court of Appeals listened to an appeal Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Salem by the lawyer for Melissa and Aaron Klein (center), the Oregon bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. 

"I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn't participate in the ceremony that goes against what I believe," she said. 

Klein said she feels like the government violated her family's religious beliefs and told her what to believe. 

During oral arguments before the Oregon Court of Appeals in March, the Kleins' attorney Adam Gustafson said forcing someone to participate in a same-sex wedding violated their free speech and religious freedom.

Oregon court hears Sweet Cakes bakery owners' appeal
The law cannot compel art, he said. Simply put, Melissa's custom cake-baking was her art and should be fully protected by the First Amendment.

The Kleins did not discriminate based on sexual orientation; rather, they chose not to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony because they believe marriage should only exist between a man and a woman, Gustafson said.

Judge Joel DeVore asked whether it would be discrimination if a baker refused to make a cake for an interracial couple based on religious belief.

"Race is different from sexual orientation," Gustafson said, adding that laws barring interracial marriages were proxies for racial bias and white supremacy.

The First Amendment also protects the right to be free from compelled speech. The state is required to extend an exemption for religious hardship to protect "decent and honorable" people like the Kleins, he said.

Carson Whitehead, the assistant attorney general with the Oregon Department of Justice, represented BOLI. He argued the case turns on two simple facts: The Kleins refused to provide the exact same service for a same-sex couple that they would with a heterosexual couple, and the denial of services was based on sexual orientation.

The Kleins denied the couple service before there was even a discussion of an inscription. Whitehead said this constituted a refusal of services, not compelled speech.

"Cake baking isn't pure speech," Whitehead said, adding that cakes serve all kinds of functions for all kinds of reasons.

He also argued that the damages awarded to the couple were reasonable considering the emotional distress they experienced. 

The appeals court ruled that the Oregon law barring discrimination was clear and the Kleins violated it by refusing service based on the couple's sexual orientation.

The judges also stated the Kleins' attorney failed to show that wedding cake constituted "fully protected speech or art." At the most, the business was a combination of expressive and non-expressive elements. Therefore, the Kleins' First Amendment rights were not violated. 

The court also ruled the $135,000 fine was reasonable and consistent with past BOLI rulings on emotional distress. 

After the arguments in March, the Bowman-Cryers left the courthouse in tears. The Kleins gathered with their attorneys outside. 

"I'm thankful we actually got to have our day in court," Aaron Klein said. "Man's court is going to do what man's court is going to do. The honest truth is we just seek to serve the Lord."

In a statement issued Thursday, the Bowman-Cryers said now all Oregonians can go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person. 

"It does not matter how you were born or who you love," they said. "With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America."

 By Whitney Woodworth: wmwoodwort@statesmanjournal.com, call 503-399-6884 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth


December 29, 2017

Iran Hit by Anti Goverment Demonstrations




Large numbers reportedly turned out in Rasht, in the north, and Kermanshah, in the west, with smaller protests in Isfahan, Hamadan and elsewhere.
The protests began against rising prices but have spiralled into a general outcry against clerical rule and government policies.
A small number of people have been arrested in Tehran, the capital.
They were among a group of 50 people who gathered in a city square, Tehran's deputy governor-general for security affairs told the Iranian Labour News Agency.
The US State Department condemned the arrests and urged "all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption".

How did the protests start?

The demonstrations began in the north-eastern city of Mashhad - the country's second most-populous - on Thursday.
People there took to the streets to express anger at the government over high prices, and vented their fury against President Hassan Rouhani. Fifty-two people were arrested for chanting "harsh slogans".
The protests spread to other cities in the north-east, and and some developed into broader anti-government demonstrations, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to police beatings. 
On Friday, despite warnings from authorities, the demonstrations spread further to some of the biggest cities in the country.
They represent the most serious and widespread expression of public discontent in Iran since mass protests in 2009 that followed a disputed election, correspondents say.

What are people complaining about?

What began as a protest against economic conditions and corruption has turned political.
Slogans have been chanted against not just Mr Rouhani but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and clerical rule in general.
Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like "The people are begging, the clerics act like God". Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics.
There is also anger at Iran's interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues. 
Other demonstrators chanted "leave Syria, think about us" in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
It is also accused of providing arms to Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which it denies, and is an ally of Lebanon's powerful Shia movement Hezbollah. Iran's Fars news agency, which is close to the elite and powerful Revolutionary Guards security force, reported that many protesters who turned out over economic grievances decided to leave rallies after others yelled political slogans.
President Rouhani promised the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers would boost the economy. However despite the lifting of international sanctions, the unemployment rate is 12.4%.

How big are the protests?

There have been calls on social media for protests up and down the country, despite warnings from the government against illegal gatherings.
Demonstrations of varying sizes are reported to have occurred in at least seven cities. 
Overall, the numbers said to be taking part range from a less than 100 in some places to thousands in others - but demonstrations do not appear to be taking place on a massive scale.
Map showing cities in Iran where protests have occurred

How have the authorities reacted?

Videos posted on social media appear to show clashes between security forces and some demonstrators in Kermanshah. 
Fars news agency reported that protesters there destroyed some public property and were dispersed.
The governor-general of Tehran said that any such gatherings would be firmly dealt with by the police, who are out in force on main intersections.
Officials in Mashhad said the protest was organised by "counter-revolutionary elements", and video online showed police using water cannon.
BBC

'Seething discontent'

Analysis by Kasra Naji, BBC Persian
The demonstrations have taken the Iranian authorities by surprise. Impromptu anti-government demonstrations are rare in a country where the Revolutionary Guard and numerous intelligence agencies have a strong grip on the population.
Predictably they are blaming anti-revolutionary elements and foreign agents. But the protests clearly stem from seething discontent in Iran, mainly because of the worsening economic conditions faced by ordinary Iranians. 
A BBC Persian investigation has found that Iranians, on average, have become 15% poorer in the past 10 years alone. 
Many believe that money that should be used to improve their lives is being spent by Iran's leaders on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Billions are also being spent on spreading religious propaganda and Shia Islam around the world. 
But it seems that the hardliners opposed to President Rouhani may have triggered the unrest by holding a demonstration that quickly grew out of control and spread to cities and towns across the country.

101 Days for 1.5 Million Americans To be in Darkness in Puerto Rico-No longer The Fault of 'Maria But Donald'



One hundred One days ago, powerful Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico leaving the island severely crippled and the more than 3 million U.S. citizens desperate for help. 
Now, Puerto Ricans on the island and U.S. mainland are feeling angry and the lack of progress and they are organizing to demand help for Puerto Rico.
Though life has improved for some Puerto Ricans on the island more than three months since Maria hit, the Caribbean island is still in recovery mode. 
Before Hurricane Maria hit, the island was already crippled by an economic crisis with more than $74 billion in debt. But the hurricane obliterated Puerto Rico's infrastructure and today more than a million people are still without power, hundreds are still living in shelters and lack reliable drinking water and the health care system is in dire condition. The crisis has triggered an exodus to the mainland. 
"It's hard, it's not easy," says Chaylin Palma even though she's now living in an apartment in Ciales with her husband and four kids ages 6 to 9. The family spent more than two months at the Josefa del Rio Guerrero High School in nearby Morovis, located in the central region of the island. The school was being used as a shelter. She's grateful to be out of the shelter and into public housing, she says, but there is no electricity in her new apartment, "I wasn't prepared for this."




She's says she knows she's lucky. "My kids have their own bed now and they are going to school," she says, but "I didn't think we would be in recovery this long." She says she struggles to have positive thoughts when the family is ending the year in the dark.
In spite of promises made by Gov. Ricardo Roselló in October to expedite recovery including restoring at least 95 percent of power to the island, normalcy on the island is still elusive. 

Isamar holds her 9-month-old baby Saniel at their makeshift home
 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
"We had to cancel our Christmas Eve dinner" says Irma Rivera Aviles, "we lost power and water early on December 24." Though power was restored to her home in Cataño on December 1, she says, "black-outs are part of life" in the aftermath of Maria. 
Hundreds of thousands have arrived in Florida since the hurricane according to statusPR.com, a website tracking progress since Maria, and many more people are expected to abandon the small Caribbean island in the months to come. 
Since Maria, the humming of generators is ubiquitous throughout the island – Puerto Ricans are depending on them to power lifesaving hospital equipment like dialysis and ventilators, but also to charge cell phones and keep electric stoves, fans and refrigerators running at home. 
Those like Irma Rivera who have power and running water restored at home feel lucky, but the system continues to be fragile and unstable. "We have lost a few appliances to the power surges and the water initially came overnight with so much pressure that busted the kitchen sink valves" says Grizelle González. "So in the morning we woke up with a flooded house." 
González says she now has bigger appreciation for showers. Up until the first week of December when her home got power and water back, she and her family took bucket baths – filling a bucket of water and using a mug to wash themselves. She did laundry at work. She's an ecologist at El Yunque National Forest where Maria's fury left a swath of destruction and though "trees continue to leaf up, many areas of the forest are still brown" says González. The forest remains closed to the public. 

Jose Luis Gonzalez of Morovis illuminates his path with a lantern 
on a street of the Barrio Patrón.
Carlos Giusti/AP
Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans on the mainland are angry that it's taking too long to rebuild the island after Hurricane Maria. Many say that the lack of progress is exposing people to a growing environmental catastrophe.


"People are breathing toxic air because of the diesel generators, the water is polluted and they don't have rooftops, highways haven't been fixed," says Elizabeth Yeampierre. She's an attorney and the executive director of UPROSE, a Latino community organization in Brooklyn. 
"Communities are completely isolated and they don't have access to health care" says Yeampierre, "100 days is an indictment of the U.S. and its lack of commitment to Puerto Rico," she says.
On a chilly evening this month, members of the Puerto Rican diaspora will gather at Union Square Park in New York City to demand a just recovery for an island still reeling in crisis. 
"We hope for a better future for Puerto Ricans on the island," says Yeampierre — one that brings in sovereignty all around to allow Puerto Ricans to create the systems that work for them.


UK Bishop Criticizes Conservative Evangelicals For Uncritical Support of Trump Vs. Poor


Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, accuses some religious leaders of ‘colluding with a system that marginalizes the poor’



 Church of England, York

 

A senior Church of England bishop has lambasted conservative evangelical Christians in the US for their “uncritical support” of Donald Trump, urging them to reflect on how their endorsement of the president relates to their faith.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, said “self-styled evangelicals” risked bringing the word evangelical into disrepute, and added there was no justification for Christians contradicting God’s teaching to protect the poor and the weak.

Bayes told the Guardian: “Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalises the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country. 

 Paul Bayes: ‘If people want to support rightwing populism … how are they going to relate that to their Christian faith?’ Photograph: Rebecca Lupton for the Guardian
“Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”

He said he regretted that “people who call themselves evangelical in the US seem to be uncritically accepting” positions taken by Trump and his allies.

“Some quite significant so-called evangelical leaders are uncritically supporting people in ways that imply they are colluding or playing down the seriousness of things which in other parts of their lives [they] would see as really important,” Bayes added.

He stressed that not all evangelicals were Trump supporters, saying there were “many, many Christians who are trying to proclaim the gospel as we’ve received it, even if that means political leaders have to be challenged”.

Last month, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said he could not comprehend the strength of support for Trump among conservative evangelicals in the US. “I really genuinely do not understand where that is coming from,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme.

In his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Welby criticised “populist leaders that deceive” their people, in comments interpreted as being aimed at Trump. 

According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, 80% of self-identified white evangelical Christians said they voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and three-quarters have since said they approve of his presidency.

Bayes, who has been bishop of Liverpool since 2014, said: “If people want to support rightwing populism anywhere in the world, they are free to do so. The question is, how are they going to relate that to their Christian faith?

“And if what I believe are the clear teachings of the gospel about love for all, the desire for justice and for making sure marginalized and defenseless people are protected, if it looks as though those teachings are being contradicted, then I think there is a need to say so.”

Bayes was speaking to mark the launch of a new Christian charity, which he is chairing, aimed at eliminating discrimination based on sexuality or gender.

The Ozanne Foundation will work with religious organizations around the world on LGBTI, gender and sexuality issues, as well as conflict resolution and education. It will be led by Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the C of E. Along with Bayes, the charity’s trustees and advisers include David Ison, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, and Martyn Percy, the dean of Christ Church, Oxford. 

Bayes has previously called for the far-reaching change in C of E attitudes to LGBTI people, saying he had been “profoundly changed” by encounters with lesbian and gay Christians, including within his own family. “I have come to believe that we need to change the church,” he said last year.

The Ozanne Foundation would provide “strong and clear advocacy, not only for LGBTI inclusion but against other forms of discrimination and hurt in the church”, he said. “There is room in the church for people who strongly and clearly advocate for change, and I want to support them.”

The church’s “institutional inertia” needed to be countered, Bayes added. “There is no doubt that the church at the moment is on a journey, and that journey needs to arrive at a place of inclusion further on than we are at the moment.

“What matters to me in terms of my own responsibility and my own advocacy is that we don’t settle for second best, that we keep trying to move the organization forward.”

Religion correspondent

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