December 19, 2018

*Germany Approves Third Gender, ‘Diverse’, for Official Documents:

Germany’s parliament has voted to recognize a third gender for government documents, meaning that citizens can now be recognized in the European country as male, female, or diverse. The change in law came late Thursday night and follows a 2017 court ruling which required theGerman government to either allow a third gender or to scrap gender classification altogether.

Germany is the first country in Europe, therefore, to allow parents to declare their children as ‘divers’ (diverse) from birth. The 2017 court case which brought the change was heard at the Karlsruhe constitutional court and concerned a complainant who had been proven to have no chromosomal sex from birth but was nevertheless registered female.

*Death Penalty Hit Near-Historic
Low in 2018: Report:
Fewer than 30 prisoners were executed in 2018, marking the fourth year that the controversial practice has hit a near-historic low, according to a Friday report from the Death Penalty Information Center. In the past year, only 25 inmates on death row were executed, and only 42 were sentenced. The deaths were concentrated in just eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, andTexas. Texas accounted for 13 of those 25 deaths.

The sentences were concentrated in only 14 states, led by Texas and Florida, which each had seven. The report notes that for the first time in the death penalty’s modern history, no county imposed more than one death sentence. And this October, Washington became the 20th state to abolish the practice entirely.

“America continued its long-term movement away from the death penalty in 2018,” said Robert Dunham, DPIC’s executive director. “Even in the face of inflammatory political rhetoric urging its expanded use, voters showed that the death penalty is no longer a political wedge issue. The reelection of governors who imposed death penalty moratoria, the replacement of hardline pro-death-penalty prosecutors with reformers, and Washington’s court decision striking down its death penalty suggest that we will see even greater erosion of the death penalty in the years ahead.”

*Mexico Cracks Down On Illegal Immigration By Shutting Border With Guatemala:

While Democrats and Republicans battle over what to do about the United States‘ southern border — particularly over whether to fully fund President Donald Trump‘s signature project, a full-scale border wall — the newly elected Mexicangovernment is taking drastic steps to curb illegal immigration in their own country, cutting off passage across their own southern border.

In a move that will likely shock pro-immigration activists,Mexico‘s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and his administration have agreed to close the border between Mexico and Guatemala, largely to prevent more migrant caravans from crossing into Mexico’s southern states. According to The Washington Times, a Mexican Interior Minister told media that border security “is no longer an issue.”

“Do you know why it is no longer an issue? Because in five days this administration solved the issue, five days,” she continued. “The United States was impressed.”

Nearly 1 in 3 US Physicians
Were Born Abroad:

At a time when immigration is a hot-button issue, the Americanhealth care system is highly dependent on professionals born in other countries, an analysis of U.S. census data shows.

In 2016, roughly 17 percent of professionals in 24 medical fields—from optometrists to chiropractors to veterinarians—were foreign-born, and almost 5 percent of them were not U.S. citizens, according to the analysis published this week in theJournal of the American Medical Association. The analysis could not distinguish between professionals trained in their country of origin and those trained in the United States.

The rates were even higher for the most educated providers. About one in five pharmacists, one in four dentists, and 29 percent of physicians—approaching one in three—were foreign-born.

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The two smartphone apps taking meditation mainstream exude a Zen vibe and trumpet nearly identical missions to increase health and happiness around the world. But behind the blissful marketing mantras, Headspace and Calm are locked in a head-to-head fight to dominate the booming $1.2 billion meditation market.
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Pollstar released its year-end report on Monday, and Ed Sheeran’s “Divide” Tour sits definitively at the top. The singer’s global tour is the most money-making jaunt in any single year of Pollstar’s 30-year history, according to the box office research group. Sheeran, who performed mostly solo onstage but had Elton John come on as a guest vocalist at select events, sold 4,860,482 tickets across 53 cities and 94 shows for an all-time record gross of $432 million.

That amount is well ahead of the money made in 2018 byTaylor Swift’s “Reputation” Tour ($345.1 million) and Jay-Zand Beyoncé’s “On the Run II” Tour ($254.1 million). WhileU2’s historic chart-topping “360” tour grossed $736.4 million, it took over two years to reach that mark.

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*EXAMINER–COMMENTARY by Thomas L. Friedman:
I have this feeling that the 2020 presidential election in theUnited States will be unlike any in my lifetime — and not only because it will likely involve Donald Trump running as an incumbent — he alone is a one-man, three-ring circus — but also because the huge issue that should have been the focus of the 2016 election will be unavoidable by 2020. That is: How do we govern the “Next America’’?

“You know William Gibson’s line, ‘The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed’? Well, the future is here, and now it’s starting to really get distributed. This is the Next America. But our institutions and political parties have not adapted to it,’’Gautam Mukunda, a Harvard Kennedy School Research Fellow and the author of “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter,’’ remarked in an interview. By 2020, it will be impossible to ignore the Next America. “The basic premises of how the economy works have shifted under our feet and the government will have to respond.’’

This Next America will raise a whole web of new intertwined policy, legal, moral, ethical and privacy issues because of changes in technology, demographics, the environment and globalization that are reaching critical mass.

*EXAMINER–COMMENTARY by John Kerry:
(John Kerry was the secretary of state from 2013 to 2017)
This week is the third anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. The Trump administration marked it by working with Russia and Gulf oil nations to sideline science and undermine the accord at climate talks underway in Katowice, Poland.

While I was in New Delhi this week, where I met with solar energy advocates, a comment made thousands of miles away by the journalist Bob Woodward almost jumped off my iPad: The president, he said, “makes decisions often without a factual basis.” This isn’t a mere personality quirk of the leader of the free world. It is profoundly dangerous for the entire planet.

Scientists tell us we must act now to avoid the ravages of climate change. The collision of facts and alternative facts has hurt America’s efforts to confront this existential crisis. Ever since Mr. Trump announced that he would pull America out of the Paris accord, those of us in the fight have worked to demonstrate that the American people are still in.

But the test is not whether the nation’s cities and states can make up for Mr. Trump’s rejection of reality. They can. The test is whether the nations of the world will pull out of the mutual suicide pact that we’ve all passively joined through an inadequate response to this crisis.

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