Signed, Unsealed, Delivered
August 12, 2022
Some Good News
- A Lyme disease vaccine is in its final clinical trial (NPR)
- Health and environmental concerns reduce meat intake in Australia (Phys.org)
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Søren Kierkegaard
‘Rent Out Of Shape
Monica Brown of Granbury, Texas is a committed evangelical Christian who homeschooled her nine children to protect them from ideas and images she believes could damage the hearts and minds of youngsters. She removed pages containing illustrations of male and female anatomy from her children’s science books, and constantly warned that reading the wrong books or watching the wrong movies could induce sinful temptation.
Eldest child Weston was 20 and still living at home in 2015 when he returned one evening after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron, a PG-13 superhero movie his mother disapproved of. In the kitchen, he found two pans of brownies alongside a stack of articles printed off the internet about the corrosive influence of Marvel comics and films. One pan of brownies had a label warning it had been baked with some dog poop mixed in. It was a ‘purity’ lesson popular among some evangelicals: If you wouldn’t eat brownies that might harm your body, why would you expose yourself to movies, books, or music that could harm your soul?
The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was a seismic cultural development disturbing to many evangelicals. Afterward, Monica frequently posted on social media about the “dangerous” gay agenda she believed was infiltrating mainstream society. She warned Disney was secretly pushing LGBTQ+ lifestyles on children in movies like Toy Story 4, and alleged that pop star Katy Perry conspired with satanic forces to convince teens to embrace homosexuality. Weston was 23 and living on his own in 2018 when he wrote to his parents that he was gay, praying they’d receive the news “with an open mind.” Instead, his mother texted him months later saying he was banished from the family’s house.
Weston has watched while the same foundational disagreements that tore his family apart have been dividing whole communities, fueled by activists like his mother who want to assert conservative Christian values at all levels of government. Recently, Monica demanded the Granbury Independent School District ban from its libraries dozens of books containing descriptions of sex or LGBTQ themes. After a district committee she served on voted to remove only a handful of titles, Brown filed a police report accusing librarians of providing pornography to children, calling for their arrest and triggering a criminal investigation by Hood County. (Heaven’s Family, WFAA, NBC News, Dallas Express)
Wildfire Rages In France
- This summer, numerous European countries have suffered a wave of deadly wildfires triggered by record temperatures and droughts across the continent. So far, Portugal and Spain have reported over 1,000 heat-related deaths, and in July – France’s driest month since 1961 – a wildfire in the Gironde region near the small town of Landiras scorched nearly 35,000 acres.
- This week, an even larger wildfire has been burning in the same area, which is about 19 miles southeast of Bordeaux. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling this “monster” wildfire that’s so big it can be seen from space. The fire has already consumed over 18,000 acres of forest, gutted homes, and forced 10,000 residents to flee. Strong winds and high temperatures have been hampering the firefighting operation. (BBC)
A Questionable Practice
- Virginity is a deeply-rooted value in some conservative societies, and for many Iranian men, marrying a virgin is fundamental. After getting engaged, many Iranian women go to a doctor to get a test that “proves” they’ve never had sex. One new bride whose husband mistakenly accused her of not being a virgin was so devastated she attempted suicide.
- The WHO denounces virginity testing as unethical and lacking scientific merit, but the practice continues in several countries, including Indonesia, Iraq, and Turkey. A gynecologist or midwife will examine the woman and issue a certificate, which includes the woman’s full name, her father’s name, her national ID, and sometimes her photo, along with the status of the person’s hymen and the statement: “This girl appears to be a virgin.”
- Dr. Fariba has been issuing certificates for years. She admits it’s a humiliating practice, but believes she’s actually helping many women. “They’re under such pressure from their families. Sometimes I’ll verbally lie for the couple. If they’ve slept together and want to get married, I’ll say in front of their families that the woman is a virgin.” (BBC)
Additional World News
- Switzerland’s melting glaciers reveal human remains and plane wreckage (Guardian)
- Drought threatens 60% of EU and U.K. as Europe faces “critical situation” (Axios)
- New Langya virus infects dozens in eastern China: Study (Al Jazeera)
- Seven Russian warplanes were destroyed in huge blasts at Crimean air base, new satellite images show (CNN)
- China Fumes Over Somaliland’s Warm Ties With Taiwan (WSJ, $)
- Chinese court rejects appeal in landmark sexual harassment case (WaPo, $)
- Taiwan rejects China’s ‘one country, two systems’ plan for the island (Reuters)
Man Attempts FBI Break-In
- On Thursday morning, an armed Ohio man tried breaking into the FBI’s Cincinnati field office. He then fled with state highway patrol officers in pursuit. Police eventually cornered the man, identified as Ricky Shiffer, 42, in a cornfield.
- After an exchange of gunfire and a lengthy negotiation, Shiffer allegedly raised a gun toward law enforcement officers, who then fatally shot him around 3:40 pm. Officials said Shiffer was wearing body armor and had an AR15-style rifle and a nail gun.
- It’s unclear why Shiffer tried to break into the FBI office, but it comes amid a series of threats following the FBI’s court-authorized search of former President Trump’s Florida residence. (ABC)
Signed, Unsealed, Delivered
- Generally speaking, the DOJ avoids major actions involving political candidates in the months before an election. But Monday’s search of Mar-a-Lago was such a flashpoint for Republicans and Trump supporters – giving rise to a tsunami of wild conspiracy theories and violent threats – that on Thursday, the normally stoic Attorney General Merrick Garland was pressed into making an announcement about the search.
- In his remarks at a press conference from DOJ headquarters in D.C., Garland said the agency had asked a federal court in Florida to unseal the search warrant served at Trump’s estate. The department had opened a grand jury investigation in May after National Archives officials confirmed in a letter to the House Oversight Committee that some documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago in February were marked classified.
- Officials believed more classified materials could still be at Mar-a-Lago. Trump was asked nicely to return them, and when that didn’t happen, the search was conducted. Trump has until 3:00 pm Friday to object to the warrant being unsealed, which will be a tricky argument since so many Republicans have been screaming for the DOJ to justify the search. (NPR, Court Listener, ABC)
Additional USA News
- No new solutions to city’s gun violence crisis (Axios)
- Progressive Ilhan Omar wins closer-than-expected House primary in Minnesota (Guardian)
- New York pushes ahead on congestion pricing. Now comes the hard part. (Politico)
- Minnesota Corrections Officers Barred From Guarding Derek Chauvin Reach Settlement (WSJ, $)
- Poll: 70% of Americans want to vote on abortion in state ballots (Axios)
- Beto O’Rourke confronts heckler laughing during speech on Uvalde shooting (WaPo, $)
- Los Angeles OKs sweeping ban on homeless camps near schools (ABC)
Lifting The Bar
- Four years ago Tamara Walcott was a 400-lb plus Maryland resident who took up powerlifting as a way to lose weight and get into shape for her two children. Along the way, she became so good at it that she lost over 200 lbs and broke some significant records.
- Last month’s was the most notable: Walcott broke the Guinness World Record (GWR) for the heaviest cumulative lift for bench/squat and press in competition (female) after lifting a total of 1,620.4 lb across three compound lifts – the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift.
- Walcott, 37, was honored at the 2022 World Raw Powerlifting Federation American Pro in Manassas, Virginia. GWR compared the weight she lifted with an adult female giraffe, which weighs about 1,500 lbs. (Guinness World Records, The Sun)
- Sneeze by Sneeze, Sponges Fill the Seas With Their Mucus (NYT, $)
- Social media posts warn people not to call 988. Here’s what you need to know (NPR)
- ‘El Jefe’ the jaguar, famed in US, photographed in Mexico (AP)
- Police Unable to Locate Mother and Her 3 Kids Who Were Staying with Ezra Miller in Vermont: Report (People)
- Studios Ignore Specific Demands for Abortion Safety Protocols in Collective Response to Showrunners’ Letters (Variety)
- Astronomers May Have Found the Galaxy’s Youngest Planet (NYT, $)
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