Here is some stuff in the news today...
[Content Note: Drought; food insecurity] "Food shortage fears over a drought in southern Africa have prompted Malawi to declare a state of national disaster and Mozambique to issue a 'red alert.' The President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, warned in a statement some people needed aid for all of this year. Mozambique raised alert levels for southern and central regions. Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Zambia are also suffering food shortages, while South Africa says its drought is the worst in a century. Over 10 million people across the region will need food aid in the coming year, according to the World Food Programme." This is exactly what was feared would happen because of the most powerful El Niño in 100 years, which was strengthened by climate change. Just devastating. Too much rain in many places; too little rain in others.
If you are able and would like to make a donation to the World Food Program (90% of whose donations go directly toward feeding people), you can make a donation here.
[CN: Transphobia; homophobia] Jordan Scruggs on how anti-trans "bathroom bills" are about much more than just access to bathrooms: "Anti-LGBTQ legislation did not start with having access to a bathroom, and it will not end with fighting for bathroom access either. This is about lives, and the discrimination that I still fear will prevent me and others from the pursuit of happiness, outlined in the Constitution, we are told about during our time in school."
[CN: Worker rights] Nearly 40,000 Verizon employees on the East Coast have gone on strike, following almost a year of failed negotiations: "The strike was called by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which complain that Verizon is seeking to move jobs offshore, outsource work to low-wage contractors, close call centers, and force technicians to go on months-long assignments away from home." Verizon, for its part, is sending in nonunion employees to do the unionized workers' jobs. But there will almost certainly be a deterioration in service for its customers in the region. And any ire about that should be directed at Verizon, not at the striking workers.
In presidential news today: "Hillary Clinton is set to announce plans to create a national Office of Immigrant Affairs that would coordinate government policy on the issue if she is elected president, a Clinton aide said. The announcement will be made on Wednesday in conjunction with an endorsement for Mrs. Clinton by the New York State Immigrant Action Fund, an immigrant rights group, the aide said. ...The Clinton aide said that the new federal office would work to coordinate programs and policies across federal, state, and local governments and would work to help integrate immigrants, refugees, and their children into their communities. The aide said the office would help undocumented immigrants as well as those here legally."
[CN: Islamophobia; anti-immigrationism] Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle: "In a lengthy interview with the NY Daily News released this week, Ohio Governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich said he's staying in the 2016 race because 'somebody's got to be the adult.' Yet the GOP candidate repeated to the editorial board a disproved myth floated by his rivals that there are neighborhoods in European cities where non-Muslims cannot enter. 'Europe, they need to get over all their hangups over there, which is all the political correctness,' Kasich said. 'I can't go into a neighborhood, because it's three o'clock in the afternoon, or these things that you read about and hear. And obviously, Europe has a big problem with integration…which they are gonna have to deal with.' When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal—who has since dropped out of the 2016 race—made a similar claim last year, he was widely derided by European officials, who called it 'complete nonsense.' After Fox News made the same assertion, they were forced to admit their 'serious factual error' in multiple on-air apologies."
[CN: Violent white supremacy] Some of Donald Trump's supporters are among the most terrifying white supremacists in the nation. Not all of Trump's supporters are this extreme, of course, but the fact that these folks find his campaign to be largely in ideological alignment with their beliefs is truly chilling.
[CN: Death; exploitation] Meanwhile, Trump's BFF Roger Stone "is writing a book based on his conspiracy theory that the Clintons murdered John F. Kennedy, Jr." Sounds legit. If you imagine this guy is some fringe weirdo: Nope! He is a major conservative political player who appeared on CNN and MSNBC, until he was recently banned.
And in Cruz Nooz, here's a cool tweet from his college roommate: "Ted Cruz thinks people don't have a right to 'stimulate their genitals.' I was his college roommate. This would be a new belief of his." I AM SORRY but if I had to see it, you had to see it! In all seriousness, how much are we going to talk about Republican candidates' junk this election? This is truly a new low in presidential politics.
Well, this is probably the strangest story about Congress that you'll read today: "Bono was speaking in front of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday 12 April, during a wide-ranging discussion on the Middle East and the refugee crisis. He said: 'Don't laugh. I think comedy should be deployed. It's like, you speak violence, you speak their language. But you laugh at them, when they're goose-stepping down the street, and it takes away their power. So, I'm suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock, and Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you.' The 55-year-old had to reassure the crowd at the Dirksen Senate Office Building that he was 'actually being serious' and in response he received a serious reply. 'Actually, that's not the first time I've heard experts on how do we counter violent extremism talk about that,' said senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat for New Hampshire. 'It's one of the things that we're looking at.'" And I haven't even gotten to the strange part! "The U2 singer had been invited to speak by Lindsey Graham, chairman of the subcommittee, Republican senator, and former 2016 presidential candidate." Okay.
I welcome our future alien overlords or whatever: "Yesterday, Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner made the mind-blowing announcement that they want to build a fleet of interstellar spacecraft that can travel at relativistic speeds—up to 20 percent the speed of light. But it's not just about reaching our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, although that is the new Breakthrough project's moonshot. The technology Hawking and Milner are proposing could revolutionize the search for alien life within our solar system. 'This basically opens the door to missions that are much less expensive and cumbersome, that will allow us to get information currently not retrievable,' Avi Loeb, chair of the Harvard astronomy department and a collaborator on Breakthrough Starshot, told Gizmodo. That 'currently unretrievable' information could include the first solid evidence of extraterrestrial life."
And finally! Dogs eating peanut butter. Obviously.