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Published: Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2016 23:26:17 -0400


Brickbat: Red Solo Cup

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) France has banned disposable plastic cups and plates, the first country to do so. The government had already banned plastic bags. The law will require "all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. That number will rise to 60% by January of 2025."

Ruling Against Burkini Ban Hinges on the Meaning of 'Decency' and 'Public Order'

Mon, 29 Aug 2016 06:30:00 -0400

Last Friday's decision overturning a local burkini ban in France was a welcome victory for tolerance and religious freedom. But it relied on a narrow reading of public policy goals that supporters of such bans, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, define more broadly. That broader interpretation was accepted by a lower court in this case and by courts hearing challenges to other restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. The Council of State, France's top administrative court, ruled that the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, one of more than 30 seaside towns that have forbidden women to wear full-body swimsuits, exceeded his legal authority as protector of safety, hygiene, decency, and public order on the beach. Limits on freedom "must be justified by proven risks of harm to public order," the court said, and the city has failed to demonstrate any such risk from allowing women to wear burkinis. "In the absence of such risks," the court added, "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks, including those committed in Nice on July 14, will not suffice to justify in law the contested prohibition." Hence "the contested decree has imposed a serious and manifestly illegal restraint on fundamental freedoms such as freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom." Villeneuve-Loubet's ban, like the others, did not mention Islam specifically. Instead it banned swimwear that is not "respectful of morality and the principle of secularism, and in compliance with hygiene and safety rules." Whether such a command is legal depends on how you understand "decency" and "public order," two inherently subjective justifications for municipal beach regulations. In a ruling last Monday, a judge of the Nice Administrative Court deemed the burkini ban a "necessary, appropriate, and proportionate" precaution aimed at preventing public disorder following recent terrorist assaults, especially the truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice on July 14. The Council of State rejected that rationale, viewing "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks" as irrelevant to the ban's legality. Although the burkini ban cited "the principle of secularism" as a justification, Valls argues that such laws have nothing to do with religion per se. "The burkini is not a religious sign," he says on Facebook. "It is the affirmation of political Islam in the public space." Valls has also called the burkini a tool for "the enslavement of women." He insists that last week's ruling "doesn't exhaust the debate that has opened up in our society on the question of the burkini." Defending its ban on full-face veils in public, the French government likewise claimed "the practice was a recent phenomenon which was not required by religion but arose from radicalization and extremism" and maintained that it violated the principle of gender equality. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights rejected the latter rationale but agreed that the law was justified to protect "public safety" and "the rights and freedom of others." The court reasoned that wearing a veil is inconsistent with "respect for the minimum requirements of life in society" because "the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face is perceived…as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which makes living together easier." In other words, the veil causes social disharmony by offending people. Supporters of burkini bans believe the same is true of excessively modest swimwear. Once such considerations are admitted as legitimate rationales for restricting freedom, it is hard to find a principled stopping point.[...]

Burkini Ban Busted! French Court Says No to Criminalizing Muslim Swimwear

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 09:55:00 -0400

(image) On Friday, France's highest administrative court ruled that French leaders may not ban burkinis, the full-coverage swimming garments favored by Muslim women, from public beaches.

The French Council of State ruling related specifically to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but it should also block bans passed by dozens of French towns and cities recently amid alleged concerns about terrorism.

For more on the burkini bans—and the flawed logic backing them—see Reason's previous coverage:

The Loophole That Allows French Bans on Veils, Head Scarves, and (Probably) Burkinis

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:30:00 -0400

A French citizen who sees Muslim women wearing full-body swimwear at the beach and loudly declares the burkini a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny is committing a crime: insulting people based on their religion, which is punishable by a fine as high as €22,500 and up to six months in jail. By contrast, a French politician who imposes a ban on the burkini because he considers it a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny will not be arrested and probably will prevail against any legal challenge, as long as he frames the ban in terms of security, equality, and/or social harmony. As Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, explains in a New York Times op-ed piece, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld bans on burqas, veils, and head scarves based on the premise that women who wear them "are simultaneously victims, in need of a government savior, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public." Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights ostensibly guarantees an individual's "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," including his right "in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." But Article 9 also allows restrictions on religious freedom "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." When French Prime Minister Manuel Valles says the burkini is a tool for "the enslavement of women," or Cannes Mayor David Lisnard says "the burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion," they are implicitly appealing to those Article 9 exceptions. Uddin cites a 2001 case in which the European Court of Human Rights rejected a Swiss public school teacher's challenge to a rule preventing her from wearing a head scarf in the classroom. The court worried that "the wearing of a head scarf might have some kind of proselytizing effect" and that the custom is "hard to square with the principle of gender equality," meaning a teacher so attired would be ill-equipped to impart "the message of tolerance, respect for others and, above all, equality and nondiscrimination that all teachers in a democratic society must convey to their pupils." In 2005 the court upheld an Istanbul University policy that prevented a medical student from wearing a head scarf while taking an exam, concluding that the ban furthered gender equality and aided the government in "fighting extremism." A 2014 ruling said France's ban on face-covering veils promoted harmonious coexistence. The commodious exceptions to Article 9 are reminiscent of the all-purpose limitation on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 of which allows "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." Among other things, that loophole has been used to uphold bans on so-called hate speech, notwithstanding the "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression" that the charter supposedly guarantees. It may seem that Section 1, which also qualifies the "freedom of conscience and religion" promised by the charter, would be a handy excuse for restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. But Canadian courts do not seem to share the French passion for coercive secularism. Last year the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a rule that would have required a Muslim woman to shed her veil while taking a public oath of citizenship. The court resolved the case on statutory grounds and therefore did not reach the constitutional issue. But in 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a Muslim woman's right to wear a veil while testifying in court unless "requiring the witness to remove the niqab is necessary to prevent a serious risk to the fairness of the trial" and "the salutary effects of requiring her to remove the niqab, including t[...]

Non-Religious Fundamentalists

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:47:00 -0400

France's recent crackdown on a garment known as the "burkini," popular among Muslim women who want to remain modest while enjoying a swim, has accrued ample criticism from all over the world this week. But it's just one example of a wave of non-religious fundamentalism, in which the allegedly patriarchal print of Islam and other faiths must be destroyed by the righteous benevolence of public officials. In Germany this week, a Muslim woman was fired from her government internship when she refused to remove her headscarf. In Tajikistan, a country long hostile to Islam, some officials have begun keeping lists of women who sport hijabs, the traditional head-covering worn by Muslim girls and women. "The country's staunchly secular authoritarian government disapproves of attire or grooming that would suggest supposedly radical Islamic beliefs," reports The Washington Post. True, Tajikstan is an extreme example: its government has been known to shut down mosques at random, ban parents from giving their children Arabic names, and otherwise go hard on quashing religious expression. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, "the government of Tajikistan suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control." But France, an allegedly liberal and democratic country, also takes a pretty authoritarian line toward religious expression. Secularity is its own sort of religion there, at least to those in power, who have banned religious symbols such as crosses, yarmulkes, and hijabs in all government buildings and public schools. More recently, some 15 towns voted to ban burkinis on public beaches. This week, the sight of French police publicly forcing a Muslim woman at the beach to remove clothing has (understandably) drawn a lot of outrage, with many rushing to point out why such policies go against the spirit in which they're intended. This takes the state at its word on why Muslim women's garments have been banned: they're a symbol of women's ongoing inequality in some cultures. That is not the culture of France, say leaders, and hence its zero-tolerance policy for such symbols of female oppression. It's a silly scheme for several reasons. For one, it's unlikely to make the lives of actual oppressed women any better; for those whom husbands or families force headscarves and burquas in public, a ban on these items will simply mean many Muslim have to forgo the beach and other public outings entirely. (It's also unlikely to inspire goodwill among Muslim communities already alienated from mainstream French society.) For another, it's contradictory: in the name of women's equality, France is literally forcing women to wear less clothing than they're comfortable in and passing laws that target female attire but not male. And these policies are also hypocritical in how they define symbols of female oppression. As many, many Muslim women have pointed out, hijabs and other traditional Muslim garments don't necessarily signify second-class status, and women may choose to wear them for cultural reasons or personal beliefs about modesty. Some folks counter that the "cultural reasons" are rooted in sexism, so what difference does it make? But surely we could say the same about many women's garments, from the habits worn by Catholic nuns to the wigs worn by Hasidic Jewish ladies to the stiletto-heels and string-bikinis worn by some secular women. Certainly not every woman who dons a skimpy outfits or slaps on bright-red lipstick is doing so to please men, or fulfill cultural norms, but many are, and you don't see France rushing to ban Forever 21 or L'Oréal. But of course this is about more than just women's clothing. France's burkini-beach-party crackdown is rooted in a geopolitical zeitgeist that includes the rise of ISIS, the influx of Syrian immigrants to Europe, and the escalation of "lone-wolf" terrorist attacks in Western cities. The battle over burkinis, hijabs, and other outward sym[...]

France's Burkini Ban is the Ridiculous Yet Totally Predictable Result of Legislating Morality

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:55:00 -0400

Viral images of a Muslim woman being compelled by police to remove her "burkini" on a beach on Nice, France, combined with reports of women being fined for wearing the modest swimwear (which has been banned in a number of French cities), have sparked quite the debate over gender equality, religious liberty, free expression, and government overreach in legislating morality in France. The Guardian reports that Nice's Socialist mayor, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, called his ban on this particular style of ladies' swimwear a vital act to "protect the population." The mayor was backed by a tribunal ruling calling the ban a "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" response in the interest of maintaining public order following several jihadist attacks in France, including one where 84 people were killed by a maniac in a truck last month, just a few hundred feet from the beach in Nice where the woman in those viral images was forced to dress down by armed agents of the state. The tribunal also justified the ban by stating that the burkini — which resembles a looser-fitting version of a standard wetsuit — was "liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach," and "be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by [the community]," according to The Guardian. In a recent Reason column, Steve Chapman noted that for proponents of the ban, it's not just the feelings of non-Muslims in terror-scared France at stake, it is concern for Muslim women compelled by what they describe as "sexist oppression" to hide almost all their skin in public: Their argument goes as follows: France must dictate what Muslim women wear to teach them that no one may dictate what they wear. In the name of promoting the freedom of Muslim women, government should deprive them of the right to make their own apparel choices. It's the logical extension of France's law against full-face coverings, particularly the kind worn by some Muslim women. Supporters of that law, enacted in 2010, said it was needed to keep criminals from concealing their identity. That excuse doesn't work for the burkini, which confirms it was just that: an excuse. CNN reports, "Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist, has stepped up to the plate to pay the penalty for any Muslim woman who is fined in France for wearing the burkini" and according to the BBC, the controversy has led to "booming" burkini sales. But the burkini bans are just an extension of France's nationwide ban on burqas, which is in keeping with country's strict adherence to the separation of religion and public life. One sociologist was quoted by The Local as saying the burqa ban "created a monster," arguing that despite the government's best intentions, "it has both encouraged Islamophobia as well as given Muslim extremists more cause to feel the need to rise up against the French state." France has also banned wearable religious symbols such as Christian crosses, Sikh turbans, and Jewish kippahs (male head skullcaps) in schools and government buildings. But the banning of clothing — which is inherently an expression of identity, particularly religious identity — is also a logical extension of the many bans on other modes of expression meant to rid French society of wrong thinking. In its (literally) centuries-long quest to foster an enlightened, secular, bigotry-free society, the French government has made Holocaust denial a criminal act punishable by prison time. The same goes for making stupid drunken anti-Semitic comments to cell phone-wielding tourists, as well as making jokes "condoning terrorism." Local government bans on meetings of activists in the anti-Israeli Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement continue to be litigated. Even iconic French actress Brigette Bardot was convicted for "hate speech" for her public opposition to the Islamic ritual slaughter of animals without[...]

The Bare Truth About Burkinis

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 00:01:00 -0400

A beach in France is likely to feature some sights that would shock many Americans, such as bare-breasted women and paunchy middle-aged men in tiny Speedos. Lately, it may also feature a sight that would shock many French people: females who cover up. These beachgoers wear a swimsuit called a burkini, favored by some Muslims because it conceals everything but the hands, feet and face. But though Muslims in France are expected to tolerate lavish displays of flesh by others, many non-Muslims feel no reciprocal obligation to let the demure practice modesty. Some French municipalities have banned these suits from public beaches, claiming to uphold hygiene, secularism and even "public morals." Some French think the burkini signifies sexist oppression. The mayor of Cannes labeled it a "symbol of Islamic extremism." "France does not lock away a woman's body," exclaimed right-wing leader Marine Le Pen. "This is the soul of France that is in question." That's right; a Frenchwoman wearing nothing but a thong is really baring her soul. Prime Minister Manuel Valls claims the burkini symbolizes Islam's "enslavement of women." Cabinet member Laurence Rossignol says its function is to "hide women's bodies in order to better control them." Their argument goes as follows: France must dictate what Muslim women wear to teach them that no one may dictate what they wear. In the name of promoting the freedom of Muslim women, government should deprive them of the right to make their own apparel choices. It's the logical extension of France's law against full-face coverings, particularly the kind worn by some Muslim women. Supporters of that law, enacted in 2010, said it was needed to keep criminals from concealing their identity. That excuse doesn't work for the burkini, which confirms it was just that: an excuse. There is nothing inherently oppressive about this swimwear. Presumably, some women don it only because men insist. But there are doubtless other French women who buy skimpy suits in submission to male coercion and social pressures. Other women are capable of deciding they prefer more coverage. A maker of modest swimwear called Sea Secret was founded by two Orthodox Jewish women—who report that they sell not only to Jews and Muslims but even to Christians. When snorkeling, my highly independent wife has found she needs a long-sleeved top and long shorts to keep her fair skin from being torched by the tropical sun. British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, whose voluptuous upper torso is hardly a state secret, has worn a burkini at the beach to preserve her pale complexion. These women can think for themselves. Why assume Muslims can't? French-Tunisian historian Leyla Dakhli told The Associated Press there are as many reasons behind such decisions "as there are women in the world." Reading women's minds through their attire is an unreliable science. If some Muslim men employ violence or threats to control their wives and daughters, the target of government policy should be detecting and ending that sort of abuse. Forbidding burkinis is like trying to combat rape by telling women they can't have sex. A ban on modest clothing will not emancipate tyrannized females but add to their oppression. A woman whose husband allows her to swim only in a burkini probably won't respond to a ban by letting her venture forth in a two-piece. He will probably respond by not letting her swim at all. Instead of freeing the affected Muslim women, a ban will trap them in their homes. Marwan Muhammad, executive director of the Center Against Islamophobia in France, told The New York Times that burkinis are a marker of liberation, not repression. "In conservative Muslim countries," the Times paraphrased, "women would never go to a beach with men, much less go swimming, since even in the burkini, the wet cloth sticks to a woman's body, outlining her curves." Muhammad said that "Muslim women who didn't[...]

Brickbat: Eat It

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Colombes, France, the local housing authority has ordered a halal supermarket to sell alcohol and pork or it will shut the market down. The housing authority, from which the market leases its property, says the store is violating its lease, which calls for it to be a "general food store." Officials say the store also violates the nation's republican principles by prioritizing certain groups. The owner of the store says he is just selling what his customers want.

Stop Government Promotion of Food Waste

Sat, 13 Aug 2016 08:00:00 -0400

Earlier this year, Italy adopted measures to reduce the quantity of food that's wasted in the country. The laws encourage the use of doggy bags, which are uncommon on the continent. More importantly, they eliminate longstanding rules that have made it difficult or impossible farmers and grocers to donate food to those in need. For those readers unfamiliar with the term, food waste means "food that completes the food supply chain up to a final product, of good quality and fit for consumption, but still does not get consumed because it is discarded, whether or not after it is left to spoil." The Italian law fights food waste in several ways. "The new laws seek to make donating food easier by allowing businesses to record donations in a simple form every month," reports The Independent. "Sanctions for giving away food past its sell-by date have been removed, and business owners will pay less waste tax the more they donate." Other countries on the continent have already adopted similar measures. France has taken Italy one step further, with a law that took effect earlier this year requiring restaurants to provide doggie bags to customers who ask for them. As I detail at length in my forthcoming book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, food waste is an enormous problem that poses huge challenges. We waste around forty percent of our food, I note. If the percentage of food we waste is surprising, then the actual waste figures are closer to staggering. For example, Americans wasted 133 billion pounds of food in 2010. Forty-million tons of food waste end up in America's landfills every year. Government efforts to reduce this tide of food waste are increasingly common. They're often the subject of much fanfare. Yet hidden behind many of these government campaigns to reduce food waste is the frequent cause of that food waste: other government regulations. Much of our wasted food isn't due to the excesses or carelessness of individuals and food companies. Rather, it's often caused by idiotic and outrageous rules that force us to waste food. Take the Italian example above. The causes of food waste cited by The Independent were: 1) complex government recordkeeping requirements; 2) rules barring food from being shared; and 3) high taxes. Italy didn't need more rules to reduce food waste. It needed fewer rules so that people could follow their natural inclinations both to reduce food waste and to share food with those in need. The challenges posed by rules are hardly confined to Europe. Just last week, for example, I wrote about USDA rules that forced a farmer to throw out tons of cherries. And it's not just national governments that promote food waste. In Oakland, Calif. last year—in an example that opens the chapter in Biting the Hands that Feed Us that details ways that rules often promote food waste—the city council adopted a series of new composting and recycling services that was billed as "a huge step" forward in the city's goal of eliminating food waste (and other waste). Instead, though, Oakland's rules did just the opposite. Restaurants in Oakland that had been composting food waste found those services were now far more expensive under the city's new mandatory contract. They were thousands of dollars more expensive, in fact, than the costs to simply throw out their food waste, where they'd end up in the city landfill. One restaurateur who owned eateries in Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area said he pays nearly seven times as much for composting for his Oakland restaurant as he does for his San Francisco restaurant. Mandatory rules. Perverse incentives. More food waste. Reducing food waste means we first need to rid ourselves of the rules that promote it in the first place.[...]

Catholic Priest Beheaded in France, President Vows to Win War on Terror

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:43:00 -0400

(image) The president of France called the beheading of an 86-year-old Catholic priest during a Mass at a Normandy church for which the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility a "cowardly assassination," saying ISIS had "declared war" on France. "We must win that war," he told reporters, according to CNN. "We must fight this war by all means, while respecting the rule of law, what makes us a democracy," Hollande continued.

The two attackers were shot and killed by police after exiting the church, and one of the worshippers they attacked is in critical condition. One of the attackers was reportedly being tracked by French authorities after a previous terrorism-related charge, and was required to wear an electronic bracelet and live with his parents.

"When a priest is attacked, it is all of France that has been hurt," France President Francois Hollande said in a statement. The number of self-identified Catholics dropped to 51 percent in a 2007 survey, down from about 80 percent as recently as the early 1990s.

France has been in a terror-induced state of emergency since the Paris attacks in November, with the concomitant crackdown on civil liberties. Hollande says he rejects calls by the opposition for even more terror laws. "Restricting our freedoms will not make the fight against terrorism more effective," Hollande said.

Truck Used in Terror Attack in Nice, France, That Killed Dozens on Bastille Day [UPDATED]

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 19:06:00 -0400

A Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, was attacked by someone in a truck deliberately driving through a crowd, reportedly killing at least 30 people, accelerating as he did so.


The attack happened at "the Promenade des Anglais, a seaside walk in center of the city" according to a Washington Post report relying on French sources. 

An American witness told CNN that the truck was a tractor trailer and reported hearing gunfire as well, though it was uncertain whether that was coming from or at the truck.

UPDATE: CNN now reporting as many as 60 dead in its headlines, though not in body of story yet, and likely 100 injured, and a definite exchange of gunfire between occupants of the truck and police.

UPDATE II: Associated Press reports a singular driver, armed with guns and grenades, killed by police. Does not clarify the apparently still open question of whether there was anyone else in vehicle, which CNN indicated. The earlier eyewitness report indicated occupants plural has been changed by CNN; apparently just the one driver.

UPDATE III As is typical in the early heat of reporting about chaotic situations, the current CNN story post has the contradictory details that "The attack in Nice, France, began when an occupant of the truck shot into the crowd and then drove for 2 kilometers along the pavement..." and that "The individual, a male, was killed by police and it does not appear there was any gunfire from the truck, according to the official" (said official a U.S. official briefed by a French one).

UPDATE IV: Death toll currently at 73. 77. 84.

UPDATE V: That the driver shot first before killing dozens with his truck is being reported as fact according to regional President Christian Estrosi as reported by CNN. French President Francois Hollande has announced a national state of emergency in response to terror, that was scheduled to end later in July, will instead go on for another three months. No one has yet claimed responsibility as of around 7:45 p.m. pacific as this is written, and the I.D. of a 31-year-old French Tunisian resident of Nice was reported found in the truck, though authorities have not yet named the dead driver.

UPDATE VI: The driver has been identified, CNN reports, as Mohamad Lahouaiej Bouhel.

At Least 130 Injured and 31 Dead In Brussels Airport, Metro Explosions

Tue, 22 Mar 2016 08:20:00 -0400

(image) A series of Tuesday morning explosions in Brussels, Belgium, has left more than two dozen dead and many more injured. According to the Associated Press, two explosions ripped through the Brussels airport first, followed by an explosion at a subway station near the E.U. headquarters in Brussels. At least one of the blasts is thought to have been caused by a suicide bomber. 

Belgian authorities are calling all three explosions "terrorist attacks." So far, officials have announced 55 injured and 15 dead in the subway attack and at least one dead in the airport attacks. Update: as of around 10:30 a.m. eastern standard time, the death toll was reported at 31, with at least 187 others wounded. 

The attacks come just a few days after Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels for orchestrating the terrorist attacks in Paris last year. 

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said in a speech: "What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks. ... We know there are many dead, many injured ... This is a dark moment for our nation. We need calm and solidarity." 

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared: "We are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war." 

"This war will be long," added French President Francois Hollande, who said that while the "terrorists struck Brussels... it was Europe that was targeted."

All flights in and out of Brussels have been canceled, all subway stations have been closed, and authorities are telling everyone to remain where they are. 

Update: The New York City Police Department (NYPD) released a statement Tuesday morning saying it is "closely monitoring the situation in Belgium and is in close contact " with the FBI and international law-enforcement agencies. For now, though, the NYPD—which "has deployed additional counterterrorism resources across the city"—is using the Brussels attacks to plead for more federal funding. "These attacks come at a time when the federal government has proposed cutting terrorism funding to New York City by roughly 90 million dollars," the NYPD statement continued. "Any cut in terrorism funding to New York—to what is widely recognized as the nation’s top terror target—would be irresponsible." 

Below is AP footage from the Brussels Airport and metro station attacks:

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French Students Encouraged to Smoke At School Because of Terrorism

Tue, 08 Mar 2016 10:42:00 -0500

France has been curbing civil liberties left and right since the ISIS-inspired atrocities that killed 130 people last November. However, there's one freedom that's been expanded in the name of guarding against terrorism: the right of high school-aged kids to smoke cigarettes on school grounds. In a country where one-third of teenagers are regular smokers, the risk of an attack on a group of students amassed on the street was deemed greater than the well-documented dangers of tobacco usage. The BBC reports that the union of school administrators first suggested a change in the policy banning smoking at schools immediately after the attacks, but was flatly rebuffed by the health ministry.  Regardless, schools have begun allowing smoking on their property even without permission from the national government, which Deputy Secretary General Michel Richard of the administrators union justified by saying, "Students massing on the street constitutes a very high risk, one that is certainly greater than that posed by the consumption of tobacco."  Factually, almost anyone on the planet is far more likely to die from cancer (or a car crash, falling in the bathtub, being crushed by a television set, etc.) than in a terrorist attack, but given the sustained assault on civil liberties in France since last November's attacks (which are overwhelmingly supported by the French public), any expansion of personal liberty can be seen in a somewhat positive light.  France has been under a state of emergency since almost immediately after the attacks, and the mandated 12-day limit on such an order was quickly extended by 100 days. Before that deadline could be reached, France's parliament agreed to let the government's broad expansion of investigative and prosecutorial powers run all the way to the end of May. During the state of emergency, protesters have been locked up before they've even left the house, private computers have been seized, thousands of businesses and homes have been raided without warrants, mosques and websites have been shut down, and only a handful of terrorism-related charges have been filed as a result of such heavy-handed measures. The New York Times wrote that of the 28 terror-related charges filed, 23 were merely "for the crime of 'apologizing for terrorism,' or 'praising terrorism.'" The Times correctly notes that , "In many cases, such an act in the United States would be protected as free speech." There have also been calls to ban the encrypted Tor Browser and free public wifi, and last week a bill passed France's lower house of Parliament which would impose stiff fines and potential jail time on private tech companies who refuse to share encrypted data with the government as part of terrorism-related investigations.  Now France may see significant changes to its constitution, including a provision to "strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality and enshrine the state of emergency powers in the constitution," The Guardian reports. Given the popular support for allowing the governement to grant itself sweeping powers that largely eliminate due process, it will be interesting to see if France allows its state of emergency to finally expire, after half a calendar year, this coming May. France24 explains the police's role in the state of emergency in the video below: frameborder="0" src="" height="340" width="560">[...]

Brickbat: Creating Tension and Division

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 04:00:00 -0500

(image) French police arrested about 10 people in Calais for taking part in a protest against Muslim immigrants. The government has banned all protests in Calais indefinitely. The city is the site of a camp where about 3,700 migrants live, hoping to make their way onto trucks and trains headed across the English Channel.

The Charlie Hebdo Massacre: One Year Later, Still Misunderstood

Wed, 06 Jan 2016 15:11:00 -0500

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, but official remembrances have already begun, as have the condemnations over the fact that the surviving writers, editors and cartoonists continue to savagely mock religion, government, and other perches of power.  Christine Boutin, the head of France's conservative Christian Democrat Party felt "this tragedy deserved better" than to be sullied by Charlie Hebdo's current cover art depicting an old, bearded white guy (supposedly depicting the Euro-centric representation of God) strapped with a Kalashnikov rifle, blood on his hands and clothes, crouching beneath the words "One year on: The assassin is still out there." Boutin wrote that Hebdo's hostility to religion is "becoming an obsession." But Charlie Hebdo's militant secularism is not a bug, it's a feature, stated plainly in its mission statement on its website: CHARLIE DEFENDS Secularism pure and simple, « yes » without « buts », a society free of racism but not segmented into ethnic groups, the environment without political turf wars, universalism without crying peace doves, gender equality without Nadine Morano, animal rights without tofu and cultural diversity without snobs. CHARLIE FIGHTS Religions which inspire swarms of fools, Rednecks who can’t see further than the tip of their nose, the dotcom billionaires googlelising the world, bankers who gamble away our money, manufacturers who would make us live with a gas mask, footballers with more ego than talent, hunters who shoot us while mushroom picking and dictators who force us to agree with Bernard-Henri Levy. CHARLIE IS FOR All men are brothers in the sky with diamonds. CHARLIE IS AGAINST War that destroys cute little flowers. In both the immediate aftermath of the massacre and throughout the year, the slain journalists were both lionized as free speech martyrs and also vilified as racists and Islamophobes because of their usage of crude and ribald imagery, particularly when it came to the Prophet Muhammad. Pope Francis said one should expect violence as a resonable response if a person "insults" or "makes fun of faith." US Secretary of State John Kerry juxtaposed the Charlie Hebdo massacre with the slaughter of 130 people in Paris last November, stating that the former atrocity was endowed with some "legitimacy" because psychopaths felt the need to "avenge" the offense of satirical cartoons suffered by a man who died in the year 632 AD. The murdered journalists were also accused of "baiting" their killers, lacking common sense, being a "white power mag" led by a "racist asshole," and that their cartoons were analogous to "stealing land, and raping women" because they were created exclusively by white men. Former Reasoner Michael Moynihan correctly notes that the last point would "not contested by [Charlie Hebdo] editor Moustapha Ourrad because he had annoyingly just been murdered by religious psychopaths." Some critics took to conflating the quality of Charlie Hebdo's artwork with the legitimacy of its political expression. In the fact-challenged documentary Je ne suis pas Charlie, filmmaker Max Blumenthal wonders in a voiceover, “Is it possible for a Muslim to identify with a publication that demonized the Prophet Muhammad, in almost pornographic fashion?” Such an infantilizing question assumes that Muslims have no mental autonomy and couldn't possibly be offended by a cartoon without being able to "identify" with the right to publish such a cartoon.  In one sentence, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau managed to verbalize possibly the most tone deaf po[...]