How Russia Hacked America—And Why It Will Happen Again

via The Atlantic:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian hackers attacked the U.S. on two fronts: the psychological and the technical. Hackers used classic propaganda techniques to influence American voters, bought thousands of social media ads to propagate fake news, and broke into Democratic party email servers to steal information.

And it won’t be the last time. Russian-backed psychological cyber warfare will only get better, and its methods more sophisticated.

Republicans Are Copying Sam Brownback’s Disastrous Tax Experiment

Millennial writer Allison Walter writes:

Faced with the prospect that we might imminently see on the national scale the fiscal devastation we saw in Kansas, it seems useful to recap a couple lessons learned from the colossal Kansas tax disaster that began five years ago:

Brownback and the Kansas Republican-majority legislature decided to put into practice the perfidious trickle-down economic theory that suggests if we cut taxes for the wealthy (i.e. businesses and corporations) somehow we’ll all come out better off. Theoretically, those who receive a tax cut will reinvest that money in the economy, and it will trickle down to those lower on the economic ladder.

Kansas waited five years for this magic to materialize, and all we saw was a budget shortfall of $700 million and public schools being forced to close early….

Too long after it became apparent that the tax experiment had been a massive failure, the legislature voted to restore some of the taxes that had been gutted. The governor vetoed, and his own Republican legislature overrode that veto.

You can read the full article here.

Syria: These Names, Written in Blood, Must Not Be Forgotten

via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is starving, torturing, and killing its people. The Syrian government has “disappeared” more than 100,000 civilians into a secret network of prisons. One of the disappeared was Mansour Omari.

Mansour and other detainees mixed rust with their own blood to create ink, and used a chicken bone to write the names of 82 fellow prisoners on five scraps of cloth.

With these cloths, Mansour tells the world about the horrors in Syria, and his quest for justice for the detainees.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for December 2017: For the Elderly

A people that does not take care of grandparents, that does not treat them well has no future! The elderly have wisdom. They are entrusted with a great responsibility: to transmit their life experience, their family history, the history of a community, of a people. Let us keep in mind our elders, so that sustained by families and institutions, may with their wisdom and experience collaborate in the education of new generations.

Guadalupe’s Legacy, Meaning, and Influence Today

Millennial writer Nichole Flores writes:

As I was growing up in a Mexican-American family, Guadalupe was everywhere, but most notably in the face of my grandmother, María Guadalupe García Flores. A humble woman without much formal education, her faith guided her as she raised 12 children amid immense poverty in rural Nebraska. My grandmother embodied a distinctly Guadalupan presence: prayerful, patient, joyful and strong. Whether nurturing a child, a friendship or a garden, she knew how to help things grow. In her habits of magnifying the Lord and lifting up the lowly, she emulated Guadalupe by illuminating God’s pervasive beauty and good news to the poor. It was my grandmother’s witness to beauty and justice that led to my own fascination with Guadalupe. Beginning with the presentation I made in seventh grade about my family’s history and continuing in my academic research in theology and ethics, I have longed to know more about my grandmother’s namesake and what her symbol means for the church and the world.

Indeed, the world has taken notice of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her image can be found everywhere: at gas stations and train stations, at bars and on border fences, on cars and in cathedrals. For Mexican-Americans, especially, life has long been imbued with her presence, and Mexican people inspired by her ethos. Whether one encounters her image at a bus stop, a chapel or a public monument, Guadalupe is inevitably accompanied by disagreements about the meaning of her symbol. Her image has been emblazoned on protest banners for the United Farm Workers and leveraged as a logo for Banamex, the second largest bank in Mexico. Catholic pro-life groups invoke her as a symbol of their cause, her image prominent on rosary beads and protest signs on the National Mall during the annual March for Life.

Latin American and feminist theologians, artists, and writers have reimagined the sedate and obedient Virgin as an ordinary woman experiencing the joys and challenges of sexuality, work and motherhood as exemplified by Yolanda López’s “Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe.” López portrays Guadalupe as a young woman running, a middle-aged woman working at a sewing machine and an elderly woman in a seated position. Each portrait emphasizes the beauty and particularity of ordinary women while using elements of the Guadalupe image to accentuate a particular dimension of Our Lady. The range of values and visions mapped onto her image reveal her contested meaning for Catholicism, culture and the common good.

And what she means matters, as Guadalupe’s symbolism has urgent significance for the future of the church. Latina and Latino Catholics comprise an increasingly large share of Catholics in the United States, representing a majority of millennial generation Catholics (54 percent, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). At the same time, the percentage of Latino and Latina Catholics far exceeds the percentage of Latino deacons, priests and bishops. Culturally competent clergy are needed to serve the U.S. church. These demographic realities raise concerns about the church’s capacity to meet the pastoral needs of the Latino faithful. Understanding the power of Guadalupe can help the larger church understand the Latino Catholic population. And an understanding of Guadalupe must be rooted in an understanding of her history….

Many U.S. parishes have welcomed images of Guadalupe into their sanctuaries. Others have welcomed her to sit in their pews. But is the church in the United States ready to let Guadalupe lead? If so, the church stands to benefit from the presence of her comfort, strength, nurture, empowerment, beauty and love of justice. As Guadalupe’s presence continues to proliferate across the United States, she calls upon the church to respond to the presence of Latinas in a unique way. She comes offering not only spiritual comfort but also ecclesial empowerment. She comes not only for prayerful devotion but also for public action. She comes not to orient women to men but to orient women to Jesus Christ. On her feast day, La Virgen de Guadalupe gestures toward the future of the American church, one where women are not passive objects in the pews but empowered leaders whose full range of gifts is cherished by the church.

You can read the full article here.

Another Display of Trump’s Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Comfort with Fascism

via Washington Post:

President Trump on Wednesday shared three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos on Twitter posted by a far-right British activist, drawing backlash from across Britain, including a sharp rebuke from the British prime minister’s office.

The videos — whose authenticity could not be independently verified — were first shared by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, which bills itself as a political party but has been widely condemned as an extremist group that targets mosques and Muslims.

Britain First has previously posted a number of misleading videos, and the three Trump shared were provocatively titled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!,” “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”

Fransen, 31, who lives in a London suburb, was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment in November 2016 after abusing a woman wearing a hijab.

Fr. James Martin, SJ responded:

I’m not a political person by nature, but I must say this: It is disgraceful that President Trump has retweeted images of Muslims committing violent acts and desecrating Christian statues. You could just as easily find videos of Christians doing equally reprehensible acts. It is a base attempt to make Muslims into the “other,” which is precisely the tactic taken by Nazis towards the Jews, and by all such regimes that seek to increase division and foment hatred. By making a person or group into the “other” and further dehumanizing them, it makes exclusion of these groups, and violence against them, more “acceptable” since they are gradually seen as not truly “like us” or even truly “human.” It is also deeply unchristian. Because for Jesus there was no “us” and “them.” And there was no one who is considered the “other.” Finally, it is manifestly sinful, because it tramples on the dignity of individuals and groups, increases the misery of minorities and stirs up hatred, violence and, ultimately, leads to death.

Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star reminds us that this is not the first display of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry, tweeting:

– Trump has been an open anti-Muslim bigot since the beginning of the campaign. He has uttered or shared at least six separate fake stories about Muslims. 1/

– Trump has: – Made up fake story about Muslims not reporting San Bernardino killers – Made up fake story about Pershing massacre with bullets dipped in pig blood – Made up fake stories about refugees being ISIS – Made up fake story about a terror attack “last night in Sweden” 2/

– Falsely claimed botched Manila robbery was terror attack – Now shared fake video of not-Muslim hurting Dutch kid 3/3

Brendan Cox, whose wife, MP Jo Cox, was murdered by someone who shouted “Britain first,” tweeted:

Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.

Jonathan Chait notes the impact on the GOP:

Since he emerged as a national candidate, Donald Trump has collapsed the political and ideological space between the Republican Party and the fascist right. The latest manifestation of this change is Trump’s retweeting a series of snuff videos by Jayda Fransen, leader of the far right Britain First Party….

It would be inaccurate to suggest that the Republican Party is on the main a fascist party. The bulk of Republicans are, as they have been for a generation, primarily dedicated to reducing regulation of business and taxation on the wealthy. Trump has aligned that long-standing orientation with a new openness to fascist and nakedly racist politics.