NSA and FBI spied on prominent Muslim American leaders


A newly disclosed Snowden leak reveals that the NSA targeted at least five prominent Muslim American leaders, including a former Republican Congressional nominee who served in GW Bush's Department of Homeland Security.

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890 word Daily Mail immigrant panic story contains 13 vile lies


The Daily Mail is an awful, racist, hard-right UK newspaper, notorious for scare stories (see, for example, this exhaustive index of things that the Fail claims will give you cancer) and generally terrible reporting.

But even in amidst all that notorious history of deceit and hate, the Mail attained something of a new low recently, with its "reporting" on the supposed wave of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants. According to the Mail, these people were poised to invade the UK on January 1, 2014, when those countries' EU membership would entitle their citizens travel throughout the EU and seek work without visas.

Jon Danzig, an investigative BBC journalist, plucked one of the many such stories out of the paper's pages, a mere 890 words' worth, and, with the help of a colleague in Romania, found 13 lies. He pressed the Mail to substantiate its story, and, failing to receive a satisfactory reply, he filed a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission.

The Mail's xenophobic campaign against Bulgarians and Romanians has been instrumental in shifting both Labour and the Tories to adopting inhumane policies, in order to pander to people who've been terrorised into a false belief that somehow migrants are coming to both take away British jobs and collect benefits (that is, to work and not work simultaneously).

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EU to UK: don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out

A poll of voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland finds the UK's position in the EU in a precarious state. It's well understood that there's widespread hostility to EU membership in the UK, with the xenophobic (and racist, and sexist, and unbelievably cruel) UK Independence Party gaining ground and the UK Tories fighting back by espousing eugenics and swearing to renegotiate the UK's position in Europe.

But what's news is the sentiment in Europe, where voters are indifferent-to-hostile to the UK, and seemingly prepared for the country to make an exit from the European Parliament. Only 9% of Germans and 15% of French voters polled think that the UK is a force for good in the EU (Poles were more bullish, but still decidedly lacklustre, at 33%).

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UK Home Secretary secretly charters private jet to (unsuccessfully) deport dying man to Nigeria

The UK Home Secretary Theresa May wasted £95,000- £110,000 in a failed attempt to deport a dying Nigerian asylum seeker named Ifa Muaza. Muaza sought asylum from Nigeria, and believes his family were murdered after his departure; the UK denied his application. He embarked on a 100-day hunger strike, prepared to die in a high-security detention centre rather than go back to Nigeria. Muaza was an embarrassment to Theresa May, whose Conservative party has declared war on migrants and asylum seekers in a bid to appeal to xenophobic voters who defected to the racist UK Independence Party.

May secretly chartered a private jet to deport the frail and failing Muaza, whom government doctors had declared to be too ill to travel and in danger of "imminent death." The plane was refused entry to Nigerian airspace; it later landed in Malta (which objected to use of its airstrip). Finally, the plane returned to the UK, landing at Luton airport with Muaza still aboard, and the British taxpayer out £95,000- £110,000, in addition to the £180,000 already spent on legal bills, thanks to May's vanity and determination to appear "tough on immigration."

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G4S forged documents used to return asylum seeker who claims he was tortured after UK deportation


G4S is a UK-based private security contractor that is wildly profitable and rapidly expanding. They're also terrible. They totally blew security for the London Olympics (but not before illegally harassing photographers). They've been stripped of their contract to run a South African prison after total incompetence and torture. They've had new contracts with the UK government frozen while they're being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for criminal overbilling (and despite this, the Home Office is quietly trying to expand their contract to abuse house migrants facing deportation).

Now, they're facing criminal charges for forging migrants' documents.

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UK government sends 40,000 texts to semi-random foreigners (and some Brits): "You are required to leave the UK!"


Britain continues its slide into official xenophobia: a government contractor sent nearly 40,000 texts reading "Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain." At least 400 of these reportedly went to people who had the right to be in the country, including some UK citizens. But the contractor says it's all OK, because people who received messages in error weren't deported -- all they had to do was convince a sloppy, faceless, mercenary corporation that they had the right to be in the country and the threats of deportation, deprivation of access to their homes, employment and families ceased. Theresa May, the government's Foreignerfinder General, says it wasn't her idea to send the texts -- just like all the ministers who disavowed the vans driving around London's browner neighbourhoods with giant billboards reading "In the UK illegally? GO HOME or face arrest!"

But still: No biggie!

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The benefits of xenophobia

Xenophobia is neither the fear of Xeni, nor of Xena. Rather, it's more about knee-jerk mistrust, dislike, and hatred for people who aren't part of your group. We've come to associate it with not liking people from other countries, but it applies to smaller-scale, less formal tribalism, as well.

Over at the Scientific American blogs, science writer and biologist Rob Dunn talks about some of the theories for why something as seemingly antisocial as xenophobia could have been beneficial to our ancestors—at least under certain circumstances. The key, he says, might be disease. Not cooperating between groups, refusing to share resources, and generally going out of your way to avoid strangers makes sense if those strangers are infected with something that could kill you.

If I'm understanding Dunn correctly, the research and theorizing on this topic isn't saying xenophobia is good. Nor is it saying that all xenophobia grows out of a conscious, reasonable fear of disease. It's more like, the times when xenophobia did turn out to be coincidentally beneficial happened to reward people who were more likely to pass on xenophobic tendencies to their offspring (whether those tendencies were genetic or cultural is hard to say). Thus, the tendency continues, even in situations where it's actively detrimental. And Dunn points to an interesting recent study that showed deadly white-nose syndrome is causing xenophobic-esque changes in the behavior of bat populations.

Although it looked as though the little brown bats and several other species might soon face extinction, at least in some regions and perhaps even in North America, the little brown bats have begun to rebound in some places, albeit modestly. A new paper out this week takes notice of one of the reasons they appear to be rebounding, the bats are avoiding each other. Little brown bats (at least historically) tend to roost in large, groups, one next to the other, bumping fuzzies as it were. But not anymore. More and more, this new study, led by Kate Langwig, a graduate student at Boston University, suggests, the bats are spreading themselves out in their roosting caves, their hibernacula. Once, they clumped, warming themselves around the tiny fires of their bodies. Now, they go it alone.

Langwig’s results are preliminary, as she and her colleagues are the first to admit. She has measured the change in the bat roosting (and abundance) before and after the arrival of the disease, but she has not really studied the behavior of the bats and how it is they come to be spaced apart. Yet, the bats the are important from the perspective of the basic biology and conservation of the bats and so there remains much to do and much that can be done. For example, it would be good to know if the probability of transmission of the disease really goes down when the bats are further apart. It would also be interesting to figure out if the same individuals that were once nuzzling up next to each other, are now hanging out on their own.

Read the rest of Rob Dunn's post on xenophobia and disease

Via Discover's 80 Beats blog