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With the availability of the new ASCII Emojis, I am issuing a new style directive on the Diner.

In the titles on the Subject Line of your post, stick to ONE Emoji, either at the beginning or the end of the title.  Let's not overkill here.

RE
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Agelbert Newz / Re: Davy Jones' Locker is REALLY DEEP (animation)
« Last post by RE on Today at 04:22:24 PM »

RE
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🌍 🌎A geography animation that provides proper perspective 

How the World Map Looks Wildly Different Than You Think

9,698,307 views
 
RealLifeLore

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/lPNrtjboISg" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/lPNrtjboISg</a>


Published on Aug 12, 2016

All of us have seen a world map at some point in our lives before, but it is very difficult to imagine how certain countries and parts of the world compare to each other in size that are far apart. In this video, I explore why the world looks very different than how it is portrayed in the Mercator Projection map. I then go on to explore how certain countries are unexpectedly larger or smaller than what they appear to be, and how some places looks wildly different than our perceptions.

PS; Don't totally hate on the Mercator Projection, it's actually a really useful map for navigation and on keeping the correct shape of countries while sacrificing the size that we can all laugh about!

Music is by Ross Bugden. He makes excellent music, please check out his channel!

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Knarfs Knewz / Fracking Lobbyists Plan to Spend Big at Trump Hotel
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:15:30 PM »
Fracking firms have had much to celebrate over the last year, as the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have moved swiftly to approve pipeline projects, roll back environmental regulations, and expand drilling access on public lands.

It may come as no surprise, then, that the fracking lobby is the latest industry to return the favor by spending thousands of dollars at a Trump family property.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America will hold its 2018 “Congressional Call-Up” lobbying event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. from March 5 to 7. The agenda, which is publicly available, includes a meeting with officials in Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as meetings for conference attendees that will take place at the hotel.

The IPAA Call-Up is an annual oil and gas industry lobbying event principally focused on influencing federal officials. As is typical with these types of events, the lobbyists will spend an entire day in meetings on Capitol Hill, starting with a policy breakfast with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and a congressional reception later that day.

The lobbyists’ meeting at the EPA will take place on the morning of March 7. No details have yet been provided on who from the EPA will attend the meeting. The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

The association represents Anadarko, Marathon Oil, Devon Energy, Noble Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources, and PDC Energy, among others.

As of mid-January, booking a hotel room for the days of the event through the IPAA’s website comes with a price tag of $315 per night, almost half the cost of booking a room without the IPAA’s group code. The association will also be using meeting rooms at the hotel during the three-day event. The IPAA did not respond to a request for comment.


IPAA’s convention schedule 2018.

The IPAA has long lobbied aggressively to approve the Dakota Access pipeline, the infrastructure project designed to lower the costs associated with fracking the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. In February 2017, following months of protests by environmental activists, the Trump administration moved to greenlight the pipeline. In its first six months of operation, the pipeline experienced five spills.

The association was a fierce critic of the Obama administration’s Methane and Waste Prevention rule, a regulation to discourage methane waste, a significant greenhouse gas, at fracking sites. Here, again, the Trump administration has sided with industry to suspend the rule, though environmentalists have challenged the decision in court.

The IPAA has also cheered a series of decisions by the Trump administration to open up public lands to expanded drilling.

IPAA public disclosures reveal lobbying on more than two dozen other congressional and agency decisions that could boost the bottom line of frackers, from decisions over oil and gas royalties to an effort to expedite liquified natural gas terminals. Some of the measures, including H.J.Res.41, a congressional resolution to repeal an Obama-era rule from requiring fossil fuel firms to reveal payments to foreign governments, sailed through both chambers and were signed into law.

The Trump International Hotel, which opened in September 2016, is reportedly among the most expensive venues in Washington, D.C. Still, the Trump family property has become a frequent convening point for many industry groups in the year since Donald Trump took office.

As The Intercept previously reported, coal executives and mining lobbyists with the National Mining Association, a group that has particular influence over Trump administration officials, chose the hotel for a lavish convention last October. After our story, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke dropped from the agenda — although other cabinet secretaries still attended the event.

Watchdog groups raised concerns about conflicts of interest after Zinke spoke at an American Petroleum Institute board meeting at the Trump hotel on March 23, 2017. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a good-government group, filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department seeking information about that meeting. (The lawsuit was settled in November.)

The American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-backed group that promotes industry-friendly “model” legislation, plans to hold its 45th anniversary fundraising gala at the Trump International Hotel on September 26, 2018. ALEC is seeking corporate sponsorships of up to $100,000 for the event.

Lobbyists for foreign governments and others seeking to shape administration policy have spent thousands of dollars to book rooms, parties, and special events at the D.C. hotel, according to a new report from Public Citizens. The group found that officials from the governments of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Kuwait have used Trump-owned hotels since his election victory.

Critics with concerns about the president’s potential conflicts of interest are increasingly scrutinizing events at the hotel, since Trump and his family personally maintain ownership of the property.

https://theintercept.com/2018/01/17/fracking-lobbyists-ipaa-trump-hotel/
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Knarfs Knewz / Humans Are Killing The Very Animals That Help Them
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:12:14 PM »
Humans have strained relationships with a lot of animals and that can have many negative consequences — even when it comes to animals that seemingly only hurt humans.

A new paper in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution investigates the role predator and scavenger species play in the human world. The roles are complicated, with lots of give and take. For example, while cougars may attack livestock and cause economic losses, they also prey upon deer and thus could reduce the number of vehicle crashes that involve deer, potentially saving human lives. Scavengers like vultures offer waste disposal services when they feed on the dead bodies of other animals.

“Many native carnivores that live in and around human habitation are declining at an unprecedented rate — spelling bad news for humans who indirectly rely on them for a variety of beneficial services,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

The society worked with the University of Queensland on the research.

In addition to the work of cougars and vultures, there are bats — animals that many people fear. Bats stop insects from destroying certain crops, according to the review, which has benefits for farmers.


Scavengers and predators might seem like a nuisance or a threat to humans, but they also help people.

“Predators and scavengers are frequently persecuted for their negative effects on property, livestock and human life,” the study notes. “Identifying, evaluating and communicating the benefits provided by species that are often considered problem animals is an important step for establishing tolerance in these shared spaces.”

In some places where humans perceive predators or scavengers to be a threat — to themselves, livestock or crops — they might kill the animals. But if those animals were to suffer large population losses or even extinction, it might affect the ecosystem in unforeseen ways.

“There is a lot about of research highlighting the negative impacts of predators and scavengers, and we are only just now beginning to understand the potentially irreplaceable services that these animals can provide human societies,” paper co-author James Watson said in the WCS statement. “We must understand that if we lose these animals, humanity loses. The more we understand the benefits these species provide, the better we can identify those situations that lead to win-wins for both species and societies, an outcome that could enhance the protection of one Earth’s imperiled species.”



http://www.ibtimes.com/humans-are-killing-very-animals-help-them-2642892
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Knarfs Knewz / Swallowed by the Sea
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:07:12 PM »


You doubt climate change? Come to this island — but hurry, before it disappears.

KUTUBDIA, Bangladesh — Anyone who doubts climate change should come to this lovely low-lying island, lapped by gentle waves and home to about 100,000 people.

But come quickly, while it’s still here.

“My house was over there,” said Zainal Abedin, a farmer, pointing to the waves about 100 feet from the shore. “At low tide, we can still see signs of our house.”

Already much of Kutubdia has been swallowed by rising seas, leaving countless families with nothing. Nurul Haque, a farmer who lost all his land to the ocean, told me that he may have to pull his daughter, Munni Akter, 13, out of eighth grade and marry her off to an older man looking for a second or third wife, because he has few financial options left to support her.

“I don’t really want to marry her off, because it’s not good for girls,” he said glumly. “But I’m considering it.” He insisted that if it weren’t for the rising waters and his resulting impoverishment, he wouldn’t think of finding a husband for her.


Nurul Haque, a farmer whose land was consumed by the ocean, is considering marrying off his 13-year-old daughter, Munni Akter, because he’s running out of ways to support her.

One of the paradoxes of climate change is that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people — who contribute almost nothing to warming the planet — end up being most harmed by it.

Bangladesh is expected to be particularly badly hit by rising oceans because much of the country is only a few feet above sea level.

“Climate change is destroying children’s futures,” noted Justin Forsyth, the deputy executive director of Unicef. “In Bangladesh, tens of millions of children and families are at risk of losing their homes, their land and their livelihoods from rising sea levels, flooding and increased cyclone intensity.”

Forsyth said the average Bangladeshi produces just one-tenth of the global average in annual per-capita carbon emissions. In contrast, the United States accounts for more than one-quarter of cumulative carbon emissions since 1850, more than twice as much as any other country.

If Munni is pulled out of school and married off, she’ll have plenty of company. Unicef data suggest that 22 percent of girls in Bangladesh marry by the age of 15, one of the highest rates in the world.

“Climate changes appear to be increasing the numbers of girls who are forced to marry,” a three-year academic study in Bangladesh concluded.


On the mainland, gravel is carried to cement mixers, to be used in concrete blocks that will be placed along the coast to hold back the rising sea.

A year ago in Madagascar I met a family ready to marry off a 10-year-old girl, Fombasoa, because of a drought linked to climate change. And there are increasing reports that poverty linked to climate change is leading to child marriage in Malawi, Mozambique and other countries.

In Kutubdia, climate change is not the only issue. The seas are rising, but in addition, Kutubdia itself seems to be sinking.

The upshot is that the island’s shoreline has retreated by about a kilometer since the 1960s, farmers say. Even when land is mostly dry, occasional high tides or storm surges bring in saltwater that poisons the rice paddies. Thousands of climate refugees have already fled Kutubdia and formed their own neighborhood in the mainland Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazaar.

A similar injustice is apparent in many poor countries. “Climate change contributes to conflict,” noted Neal Keny-Guyer, the C.E.O. of Mercy Corps, the aid group. He observed that a drier climate is widely believed to have caused agricultural failures, tensions and migrations that played a role in the Syrian civil war, the Darfur genocide and the civil war in northeastern Nigeria.


Mokbul Ahmed, standing on a Kutubdia beach fortified by concrete blocks, points to where he had lived and farmed.

Aside from reducing carbon emissions, Keny-Guyer said, Western countries can do much more to build resilience in poor countries. That can include supporting drought-resistant or saltwater-resistant crops, and offering microinsurance to farmers and herdsmen so that a drought does not devastate them. Mercy Corps is now developing such microinsurance.

The evidence of climate change is increasingly sobering, with the last four years also the hottest four years on record since modern record-keeping began in the 1880s.

We’re also coming to understand that climate change may wreak havoc, changing ocean currents, killing coral reefs and nurturing feedback loops that accelerate the warming. It turns out that 99 percent of green sea turtles hatched in the northern Great Barrier Reef are now female because their sex is determined by temperature.

Most of the villagers I spoke to both in Madagascar and in Bangladesh had never heard of President Trump. But the outlook for their descendants may depend on the actions he takes — and his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is an unhelpful surrender of American leadership.

Americans were recently horrified by a viral video of a starving polar bear, whose condition may or may not be linked to climate change. Let’s hope we can be just as indignant about the impact of climate change on children like Munni.


Structures were recently added along the island’s coastline in an attempt to prevent the further encroachment of the ocean.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/opinion/sunday/climate-change-bangladesh.html

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Will someone please give these guys a remedial history course on the Civil Rights Movement?


Seriously?

The Department of Health and Human Services hosted a series of speeches on Thursday praising its decision to open a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within its existing civil rights office. The event was emceed by Roger Severino, a longtime anti-LGBTQ activist who now leads the department’s Office of Civil Rights.

Over the course of the event, Severino managed to compare people who think that the law applies equally to nonbelievers and people of faith to Nazis. And he placed himself and other government officials working to undermine anti-discrimination laws on the same side as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The new division will head up the department’s efforts to ensure “that individuals and entities are free from coercion and can exercise their conscience and religious freedom rights,” for at least as long as Donald Trump is president. This will likely include some benign and even beneficial enforcement of civil rights laws, such as preventing a health provider from denying coverage to someone due to their religious beliefs. But is also likely to include a major focus on reproductive health and on enabling health providers to discriminate against LGBTQ patients.

As Politico reports, the new division is “part of a broader plan to protect health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, treat transgender patients seeking to transition or provide other services for which they have religious or moral objections.”

During the Obama administration, religious conservatives agitated for a special right to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, so long as that discrimination is justified by religious belief. This argument has made it up to the Supreme Court, which is currently considering Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission, a case brought by an anti-gay baker who refused to comply with Colorado’s law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Which brings us back to Mr. Severino’s unusual understanding of civil rights history.

In his speech introducing the event, Severino told a story about how he developed a commitment to “the notion of conscience” after reading about Jews on Nazi Germany who were forced to tread upon Hebrew words that, presumably, those individuals viewed as sacred. “I could see the common humanity of why if somebody’s forced to violate their conscience in every step they take, how it’s an attack, really, on their human dignity,” the anti-LGBTQ activist-turned-government official said.

Then things went even further off the rails. Severino compared his efforts to use religion as a justification for discrimination to the work of Dr. King — a man who devoted his life’s work to abolishing discrimination. “I had a chance to reread Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Severino said, before comparing Dr. King’s decision to go to jail in defense of African Americans’ civil rights to modern day religious conservatives’ appeals to conscience.

Nor was Severino the only speaker at the event to make such a comparison. During her time at the podium, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) also quoted Dr. King, quoting King’s statement that he seeks “a society that can live with its conscience.”

Such efforts to align modern day conservatism with the celebrated civil rights leader are hardly uncommon. As King transformed from a radical, egalitarian, and social democrat in life to a national saint in death, it is understandable that many political movements want to claim his mantle.

But the truth about King — and about the very nature of the human conscience — differs greatly from the message Severino and Hartzler tried to convey at Thursday’s event.

Contrary to Severino and Hartzler’s implication, the fight for civil rights was not a battle of men and women of conscience on one side and cartoonish villains on the other. Bigots and segregationists also typically viewed themselves as people of conscience. And they frequently justified their evil beliefs with professions of faith.

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents,” wrote Virginia Judge Leon Bazile in a 1959 opinion upholding his state’s ban on interracial marriage. “And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Similar views were echoed by prominent elected officials. “Purity of race is a gift of God,” wrote Mississippi U.S. Sen. Theodore Bilbo in a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization. “And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.”

Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended inferior schools for black students on the grounds that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks.” Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett proclaimed that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia cited passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew to justify his opposition to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

These men all believed themselves to be men of conscience. And they believed themselves to be men of faith. And now the Trump administration will honor the claims of people who cite similar beliefs to justify anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-administration-mlk-lgbtq-office-197c9f8a660c/
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Knarfs Knewz / Does Donald Trump Want to Be Dictator of the United States?
« Last post by knarf on Today at 03:55:52 PM »
His behavior over the past 12 months lines up alarmingly well with studies of authoritarianism.



It began the day he was sworn in, with his vow to end “American carnage”—a direct echo of his autocratic pronouncement when accepting the Republican nomination that “I alone can fix it.” Donald Trump has chipped away at the pillars of democracy ever since. According to a new report from Freedom House, an independent watchdog group that has monitored democracy globally for decades, “The past year brought further, faster erosion of America’s own democratic standards than at any other time in memory.” The nation’s core institutions, the report says, have been “attacked by an administration that rejects established norms of ethical conduct across many fields of activity.”

In his first year as president, Trump often appeared driven by his urges for self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment, and revenge against anyone and everyone he perceived to be his political enemies—targets to be punched 10 times harder or screwed 15 times harder than they’ve punched or screwed him. He has used the presidential platform to taunt and threaten, going after federal judges, members of Congress, law enforcement leaders, celebrities, professional athletes, private citizens, and, of course, his greatest bête noire: the “Fake News” media, which he has blasted hundreds of times since taking office.

Trump had already shown America who he was during the 2016 campaign, and at Mother Jones we took Maya Angelou’s advice and believed him. A few weeks into his presidency, as some entertained the illusion of Trump “pivoting” to being more presidential, we began tracking his authoritarian behavior with our “Trumpocracy” project. Sure enough, his demagoguery and lying continued relentlessly.

To what degree that has been by design or chaotic ineptitude is up for debate. But the ominous “firehose” effect it can have on the public is well understood by scholars of modern propaganda-driven dictatorships: a process that includes distraction, confusion, further polarization, and ultimately, complacency.

Another new report assessing Trump’s first year in the White House, “The Republic at Risk,” reaffirms the importance of documenting the daily absurdities: “The turn away from democracy need not be premeditated; an incompetent leader with authoritarian tendencies can pose as much of a threat as one with a systematic plan to dismantle checks and balances.” The bipartisan joint report from Protect Democracy and Stand Up Ideas, two groups comprised of government and legal experts, further warns that if Trump were to follow the path of other emerging authoritarians, “he would first erode the norms and ideals integral to a democratic society, then move into actual institutional changes once the public is sufficiently distracted, exhausted, and cynical.”

The report breaks down the dangers—politicizing independent institutions, spreading disinformation, amassing executive power, quashing dissent, delegitimizing communities, and corrupting elections—in a way that points with alarming accuracy to much that transpired during Trump’s first 365 days in office:
Attacks on national security institutions

Following long-running calls for his 2016 political opponents to be prosecuted and jailed, Trump made a particularly disturbing statement in December, declaring in a New York Times interview that he has an “absolute right” to do whatever he wants with the federal law enforcement system. As special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has accelerated, Trump has openly trashed the reputations of the FBI and Justice Department. Since June, he has repeatedly joined partisan supporters in denouncing an alleged “deep state” conspiracy against him, including his belief that “very bad and evil people” in Washington are trying to sabotage his presidency.

 Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others
6:48 AM - Jan 2, 2018

    37,319 37,319 Replies
    37,969 37,969 Retweets
    131,684

Endless war on the media

Where to begin? Beyond his farcical tweets about “fake news trophies” and “fake news awards,” Trump’s campaign against the free press is quite serious. He and his aides have singled out and threatened multiple journalists personally, including author Michael Wolff (“mentally deranged”), CNN’s Don Lemon (“the dumbest man on television!”), ABC News’ Brian Ross (“fraudster”), CNN’s Jim Acosta (a target of bullying tactics), ESPN’s Jemele Hill and the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel (both fingered to be fired), and others. On more than one occasion Trump has promoted social-media imagery depicting violence against CNN, including the network’s logo amid splattered blood on the sole of his shoe. And Trump’s Stalin-esque declaration just weeks into office that the media is “the enemy of the American people” has resonated with brutal regimes worldwide, which have seized the opportunity to pile on Trump’s weaponization of “fake news.”

Corrupt use of the office

On social media and in public remarks, the president has not hesitated to promote the personal financial interests of his family and partisan supporters. Beneficiaries have included Fox News’ Sean Hannity—Trump twice endorsed a film Hannity produced—and “Fox and Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, Sheriff David Clarke, Dr. Robert Jeffress, and former Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, all of whose new books Trump specifically touted on Twitter. At an August 2017 press conference in the aftermath of neo-Nazi violence in Virginia, Trump plugged his winery in Charlottesville. And we haven’t begun to plumb the full scope of his potential ethical and financial conflicts of interest.

 Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

A great book by a great guy, highly recommended! https://twitter.com/sheriffclarke/status/847190375848710145
5:45 AM - Aug 27, 2017

    23,091 23,091 Replies
    14,265 14,265 Retweets
    55,782

Targeting minorities

Long before his “shithole” comments made his racism the subject of worldwide headlines, Trump established a clear pattern of singling out African American critics. When three UCLA basketball players were detained and then released by the Chinese government over a shoplifting incident, Trump declared he should’ve left them in jail, slamming one young man’s outspoken father as an “ungrateful fool.” Other targets have included the widow of a US soldier killed in Niger, a Florida congresswoman who defended the widow, the ESPN sportscaster Hill, and various NFL and NBA players who have criticized and peacefully protested against the president.

Undermining confidence in elections

Contrary to the unanimous assessment of US intelligence agencies, Trump has called Russian interference in the 2016 elections a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” so often and in such hyperbolic terms that Americans may well have grown used to the idea (which of course is the point). His wildly false claims that three to five million people voted illegally in 2016 began on Day Four of his presidency and continued into this January, when he reiterated that “the system is rigged” and blamed “Democrat States” for the demise of his so-called voter fraud commission.

Trump has displayed other autocratic impulses that have drawn less attention. He and his administration have urged at least five private businesses to fire employees whose politics enraged Trump (apparently with success in the case of Steve Bannon). Not only has Trump praised and sought closer ties with authoritarian leaders from countries around the world, he has joined several of them in specifically mocking and undermining the free press, including the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Poland’s Andrzej Duda, Kuwait’s Emir Sabah bin Ahmed al-Sabah, Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The compilation of transgressions is long, surreal, and chilling. There is no indication that any of it will stop. The authors of “The Republic at Risk” suggest there is ample cause for hope: “Even under threat,” they write, “the United States has strong and durable democratic institutions.” But they also warn that a riven, inwardly focused Congress “has largely recoiled” from the danger, an assessment that clearly rests at the feet of the party controlling both chambers. Unless and until that condition changes, Trump will no doubt continue to push the boundaries of the American presidency in dark and disturbing ways.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/01/donald-trump-wants-to-be-dictator-of-the-united-states/
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Agelbert Newz / Davy Jones' Locker is REALLY DEEP (animation)
« Last post by agelbert on Today at 03:52:26 PM »
The Ocean is REALLY DEEP

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/UwVNkfCov1k" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/UwVNkfCov1k</a>
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The Senate committee overseeing education voted yesterday, on party lines, to confirm President Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. His nomination will now proceed to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. Given the significance of the role in the protection of the rights of young people, senators should take a close look at Kenneth L. Marcus’s record before voting.

While the ACLU does not support or oppose any nomination for any government office, we strongly urge all senators to oppose moving forward on the nomination at least until they have had a meaningful opportunity to review and debate Marcus’s full record on civil rights.

Marcus’s past actions raise serious concerns about whether he will responsibly exercise his authority to protect the civil rights of students. In previous government positions, he has led political attacks on programs designed to ameliorate the historic effects of discrimination. More recently, he has played a central role in advocating for the suppression of student speech — particularly speech critical of Israel.

Marcus previously served as the staff director for the Bush-era U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Under his leadership, the commission appeared to abandon its historic mission of vigorously investigating and reporting on civil rights abuses against vulnerable communities in favor of dismantling programs designed to protect these groups. Marcus, for example, called upon the American Bar Association to remove a requirement that law schools seeking accreditation demonstrate a commitment to diversity. The commission also failed to investigate serious civil rights abuses, such as reports that Black neighborhoods in Ohio did not receive sufficient numbers of voting machines in the 2004 election. Many of the commission’s state advisory committee members — its eyes and ears on the ground — left or were pushed out during Marcus’s tenure, only to be replaced by anti-civil rights activists or individuals with little relevant experience.

As the National Women’s Law Center has observed, Marcus’s recent testimony before the Senate is similarly troubling. He said that he agrees with the Department of Education’s decision to rescind guidance about schools’ Title IX obligation to address sexual assault. He also stated that he does not believe the department’s civil rights office is responsible for ensuring that undocumented students have equal access to education, contradicting a Supreme Court decision holding that “innocent children” may not be denied access to public education based on immigration or citizenship status.

Marcus has also expressed opposition to affirmative action and has stated that disparate impact discrimination — which occurs when a policy that might seem neutral disproportionately affects particular communities — does not amount to a civil rights violation. Instead, he has said that disparate impact should only be taken into account to reveal a “hidden discriminatory intent,” despite the fact that many policies implemented with benign intentions result in massive discrimination.

Marcus also ran the Department of Education’s civil rights office during the Bush administration. In that role, he proposed changes to federal Title IX regulations. His proposals would have paved the way for schools to implement sex-segregated programs that are inconsistent with the anti-discrimination principles enshrined in Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. The regulation ultimately issued by the Department of Education cut back significantly on Marcus’s proposal, but it has still opened the door to widespread sex segregation.

Although Marcus has been laissez-faire about enforcing civil rights laws to protect women, LGBT people, and people of color, he has been a passionate crusader against students and others who criticize the Israeli government. After leaving the Bush administration, he founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which seeks to combat “the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on university campuses.” As the Brandeis Center’s president, Marcus supported the filing of civil rights complaints against several universities, alleging that protests and other First Amendment-protected activities by Palestinian rights groups fostered a hostile educational environment towards Jewish students. None of these complaints were sustained, and the Department of Education dismissed several of them, noting that “the First Amendment protects speech critical of Israel and that such speech does not constitute a civil rights violation.”

Marcus has also expressed strong support for the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, a congressional bill that would require the Department of Education to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism for purposes of enforcing federal civil rights laws on college campuses. The State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism encompasses a wide range of speech and conduct, including blaming Israel for all political tensions, applying standards not demanded of other nations, and focusing only on Israel for human rights investigations.

To be clear, Jewish students must be protected against harassment, discrimination, and attacks, as should individuals of any ethnicity or religion. But, as the ACLU has explained, the bill could be interpreted to prohibit vigorous campus speech, protest, and other forms of advocacy critical of Israel, which would plainly violate the First Amendment.

As head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Marcus could push the government to start taking action against students who speak out against Israel, regardless of whether the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act passes. He could, for example, threaten to cut off federal funding to schools that allow students to engage in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and other protests against Israel. Even if such actions wouldn’t stand up in court, the mere threat could cause many school administrators to silence student speech. Marcus has a history of using these kinds of scare tactics — he once bragged that the Brandeis Center’s failed civil rights complaints serve their purpose because they “expose administrators to bad publicity.”

All students in the United States deserve access to an education free from bias and discrimination and to be secure in the exercise of their constitutional rights. In casting their vote, senators must evaluate Marcus’s ability to enforce civil rights laws and respect the First Amendment.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/executive-branch/trumps-pick-oversee-civil-rights-schools-has-history-attacking-civil-rights
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