In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Terrorism; war; abduction] Fucking hell: "At least 200 people are reported missing after a suspected attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on a cement factory near Damascus. Workers were reportedly taken from a dormitory where they were staying on the outskirts of the town of Dumeir. A factory administrator said no-one had been able to contact the workers since the assault on Monday. ...Syrian state television, quoting an unnamed industry ministry source, said 300 workers and contractors had been kidnapped from the factory by IS militants. ...A local resident told AFP news agency: 'We haven't been able to reach our family members since noon on Monday after an attack by Daesh [IS] on the factory. We have no information about where they are.' Efforts are under way to secure the workers' release, with indirect contacts said to have been made. Meanwhile, in the north of the country, Syrian rebels have reportedly seized control of IS's main supply route to Turkey."

[CN: Bigotry] Never forget that Cruz is just as horrendous as Donald Trump: "The senator rose to national prominence by orchestrating the 2013 shutdown of the federal government over Barack Obama's healthcare law and has routinely pursued tactics denounced by Republican leaders in Congress. But in the absence of any palatable candidates who could actually defeat Trump, the same 'Washington cartel' Cruz often rails against is now shuffling reluctantly to his cause and coalescing around the first-term senator's candidacy. The differences between Cruz and Trump are largely style over substance, however, and if chosen as the Republican nominee Cruz would be the party's most conservative standard bearer in modern history.

Even Newt Gingrich says: "Cruz a year ago would have been seen as the outsider, extreme, unacceptable, anti-establishment [candidate]. Trump has now normalized Cruz." (Of course, he's not horrified by that like I am.)

A keen reminder of why elections matter: "The uninsured rate has plunged to the lowest rate ever recorded by Gallup, thanks to the Affordable Care Act's effort to expand coverage to additional Americans. Gallup has been tracking the uninsured rate since 2008. Eight years later, the rate of Americans without insurance now stands at 11 percent—down 6.1 points since early 2014, when Obamacare's individual mandate that required Americans to to enroll in health insurance first took effect." This, of course, does not mean Obamacare is perfect. There are still millions of people uninsured, and way more who are underinsured, and running healthcare through for-profit insurance companies is always going to make for substandard care for lots of people, even they're insured. But on the "something is better than nothing" scale, this is a big one. Literally life and death.

[CN: War on agency] Goddammit: "In the more than four decades since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a [person]'s constitutional right to end a pregnancy, states have enacted well over 1,000 abortion restrictions. ...Many of these policies flout established medical standards, disrupt a [pregnant person]'s ability to seek and act on counsel from [their] trusted health-care provider, and make accessing abortion care more expensive. But one bill recently signed into law in Utah, SB 234, managed to encapsulate a number of troubling harms. SB 234 requires [abortion-seeking people], with only very narrow exceptions, to undergo anesthesia if they choose abortion care after the approximate midway point of pregnancy. While only a small number of patients seek such care, at least one physician has noted that the law could also apply to [patients] seeking to induce labor—an undoubtedly unintended consequence. And the [patients] themselves may have to pay out-of-pocket for the anesthesia, which could cost them thousands of dollars."

[CN: Homophobia; transphobia] Rage seethe boil: "The Tennessee state legislature on Wednesday advanced two separate pieces of legislation that target LGBT individuals, eliciting outcries from the business community. The state House on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow counselors to deny services to individuals based on sincerely held beliefs, letting them refuse to help gay individuals. State Rep. Dan Howell (R) has pushed the legislation in response to a change in the American Counseling Association's ethics code that tells counselors not to refer clients 'based solely on the counselor's personally held values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.' The state House education committee also passed a bill on Wednesday that would require students to use the bathroom that aligns with their sex at birth, reviving legislation that the committee tabled a month ago due to concern from some Republicans."

[CN: Police brutality; child abuse] "A viral video showing a school police officer body-slamming a 12-year-old girl to the ground has sparked a San Antonio Independent School District investigation. The district confirmed the officer was put on paid leave Wednesday morning. The incident happened March 29 at Rhodes Middle School on the west side. The video is hard to watch. Sixth-grader Janissa Valdez is thrown to the ground by the officer. ...'You could just hear where she hits the ground. And it's nothing but concrete, cement,' her mother Gloria Valdez says. 'She wasn't moving. She was just knocked out. I wanted answers and nobody could give me answers. I contacted the vice-principal. I talked to the officer. He did what he had to do at the moment—those were his words.' The video is now the driving force behind two SAISD investigations: one by police, the other by administration." Counselors not cops in our schools.

[CN: Sexual violence] "For months, federal authorities have hinted at the motive behind the hush-money payments former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has admitted to making: the sexual abuse of a teenage boy when Hastert was still a suburban high school teacher and wrestling coach. But now, a Tribune investigation has uncovered new details of the case—at least four people have made what law enforcement sources say are credible allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert." Meanwhile, Hastert's attorneys say he's real sorry but wants probation.

RIP Merle Haggard, "one of the most successful singers in the history of country music, a contrarian populist whose songs about his scuffling early life and his time in prison made him the closest thing that the genre had to a real-life outlaw hero, [who] died at his ranch in Northern California on Wednesday, his 79th birthday."

Wow: "A copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, one of the most sought-after books in the world, has been discovered in a stately home on a Scottish island. This copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. ...Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: 'Like hell they have.' But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic. 'We've found a First Folio that we didn't know existed,' said Prof Smith."

And finally! OMGGGGGGGGGG: "Family Leaves Husky for 3 Hours, Dog Redesigns the Apartment." I swear if Zelda did that (because Dudley couldn't be bothered, let's be honest), my house would probably just look that way forever—or at least for the eleventy weeks it would take me to muster the energy to clean such a giant mess!

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