Hillary Clinton Did Indeed Break the Rules

Hillary Clinton's life in the spotlight

Image: Hillary Clinton | CNN

A report from the State Department Inspector has found that former Secretary of State and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton did break rules by not informing her staff about her use of a private email server. The highly-anticipated report is heavily critical of Clinton’s behavior. The report could be seriously damaging to Clinton’s presidential campaign, as the current front-runner for the Democratic party’s nomination.

The report also found problems with the State Department’s record-keeping before Clinton took office. However, the report states that Clinton would not have been allowed to use the private server in her home if she had actually asked department officials for permission. A staffer who raised concerns about the private server was told to keep the information quiet, and hacking attempts in 2011 were never reported to department information security officials, which decidedly breaches department rules.

“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report states. Clinton has argued that she had permission to use a private email server before now.

“The truth is everything I did was permitted and I went above and beyond what anybody could have expected in making sure that if State Department didn’t capture something, I made a real effort to get it to them,” Clinton told CNN’s Brianna Keilar in July. However, the report say that the Inspector General’s office “found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server.”

However, the report does document how consistent Clinton’s email practices were with other Secretaries. This is not to suggest she is not guilty of any wrongdoing, only that her practices did not deviate too much from her predecessors’.

The report indicates that there were problems with email and records in the department even long before Clinton’s tenure as Secretary, but it does single her behavior out as highly problematic.

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11 States Seek Lawsuit Against Obama Administration Over Bathroom Laws

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access in a restroom at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina, May 3rd 2016 | Reuters/Jonathan Drake

Eleven different states are filing a lawsuit against the Obama Administration over a directive that requires schools to allow students to use the restrooms that accurately correspond to their gender identities. The lawsuit argues that the regulation “has no basis in law” and could cause dramatic, negative changes in schools’ operations. States jointly filing the federal lawsuit include Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia.

Earlier this month, two federal administrations issued a letter in response to some of the controversy that has sprung up around the “bathroom issue.” The federal agencies who released the letter, the Justice Department and the Department of Education, said they were releasing the statement as a response to some of the questions and concerns schools have posed.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.” The two federal agencies are citing Title IX, which disallows sexual discrimination at institutions that receive public funding, in their response.

Texas, however, is not so quick to be soothed. The state’s governor, Greg Abbott, announced this week that Texas’ Attorney General, Ken Paxton, would be challenging the federal mandate for school restroom use. It is unclear what that challenge will look like or if it will make its way up to a higher court as of yet, but Abbott, himself a former attorney general, has made and overseen previous lawsuits against the Obama Administration. Currently, Texas is waiting on a decision from the Supreme Court regarding the administration’s actions on immigration.

Paxton has accused the presidential administration of “bullying Texas schools into allowing men to have open access to girls in bathrooms.”

It does not seem, however, that the administration is willing to budge on the issue. “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”

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It’s Impossible That Alien Civilizations Haven’t Existed

A galaxy of stars.

Image: This colorful deep space image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope was released by NASA in 2014. What’s astonishing about the image is that it depicts a very small portion of the sky but shows approximately 10,000 galaxies, each made up of billions of stars | Nasa/Reuters/Huffington Post

According to Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan, both astronomy professors, there’s no way that Earth is the only planet to have developed intelligent life. Based on new research by NASA, which has certified the existence of thousands of other planets in other solar systems, there are simply too many planets out there for other intelligent species to not have evolved. All those stars you see, and the billions and billions more out there that are too far away to see past all the light pollution, have planets, and many have planets that could hose life as we know it.

Put simply, even if only 1 in 100 billion habitable planets hosted such life there would still have been over a trillion civilizations out there. The universe is 13 billion years old after all, and our solar system is much younger than that.

But those numbers are impotent because, of all the civilizations that must exist out there, most of them would be gone by now. In order for civilizations in older star systems to still exist, they would have to be far older than humanity, on the order of billions of years in some cases. Considering how unlikely it is, currently, for us to survive that long, if they’re anything like humans they aren’t still around. Of course, they don’t have to be just like us, do they? Why would then even be like us?

While it may take a while for us to find life on other planets, considering how big the haystack is, regardless of how many needles there are, it’s safe to say that intelligent life is out there, even if most of it has gone extinct. But just because humans are likely to kill ourselves with pollution or war, doesn’t mean that we’ll eradicate life on this planet. It will find a way, and maybe new intelligent species will evolve, and that is just as likely on other worlds as well.

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Fragment of Oldest Axe Found in Australia

A primitive stone axe.

Image: Shutterstock

Archeologists have determined that a piece of a stone axe found in Australia is from the oldest known sample of such a tool, dating to around 45,000 years ago, not long after humans first came to that continent. The fragment in question might otherwise simply be interesting, but its age makes it a fascinating find, because it’s about 10,000 years older than the next such sample. Similar axes appeared in Japan about 35,000 years ago, but otherwise axes like this didn’t show up until about 10,000 years ago following the development of agriculture.

This discovery marks ancient Australians as innovators, developing technology well before anyone else came up with similar tools. The technology didn’t spread around the entire continent until much later though, and was limited to the tropical north of Australia, and didn’t spread to the subtropics or desert until the last few thousand years.

Interestingly, such axes don’t exist in the islands to the north either, and they didn’t exist in Asia during the Ice Age, so they weren’t simply brought along as humans migrated south. Instead, the technology of the ground-edge axe, wherein the axe head is sharpened by polishing it against another rock, developed as humans adapted to new environments.

The discovery answers some questions, but it poses some others. We’ve long wondered how old this technology was, and now we have a pretty solid idea of just how long ago humans developed ground-edge axes, which were a big part of Neolithic life. But other questions arise as well. How did those axes develop in Japan 10,000 years later, and then elsewhere another 25,000 years after that? Did the Japanese axes develop independently, or did Australian axes make their way there through trade or migration? How did this technology get from either of these places to mainland Asia?

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Pope Francis Thinks the Church Should Consider Female Deacons

Pope Francis addresses an assembly of female religious leaders.

Image: Pope Francis arrived for an assembly of leaders of female Catholic religious congregations on Thursday at the Vatican. Credit L’Osservatore Romano, via Associated Press | The Washington Post

Pope Francis is doing a lot of good things for the Catholic Church. Now, a message from the Vatican suggests that the church may begin to consider allowing women to be ordained as deacons, a first-ever in the thousands of years in the church’s history. Francis said this week that he intends to set up a commission to study whether or not women can indeed become deacons. If the church decides to allow it, it would be the end of the church’s centuries-long insistence on a male-only clergy.

Currently, women are allowed to give “reflections” at Catholic Masses, but only priests (men) are allowed to preach actual homilies. Questions regarding this were put to Francis from the heads of women’s religious orders, who asked why they could not do some things or play a larger role in the church. His response that the church should consider allowing them to do more was a welcome surprise.

“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” Francis asked, according a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

Deacons, specifically, are ordained ministers in the Roman Catholic Church. In many areas, their responsibilities are the same as priests, performing Masses, baptisms, marriages, and funerals.

What remains unclear is that the Pope meant that the Vatican would look into the role of women as deacons historically, or if it means there are likely to be female deacons in the future. Deacons must be men over the age of 35, and the rules currently say.

Of Francis’ remarks, Reverend James Bretzke, a theology professor at Boston College, said, “I can’t underscore enough how groundbreaking this is for the church. If women can be ordained as deacons, then this is going to weaken—not destroy, but weaken significantly—the argument that women absolutely are incapable of being ordained as priests. So this is opening more than a crack in the door.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference agrees. “Opening a commission to study the diaconate for women would be a great step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history,” they said in a statement. Simultaneously, the group acknowledges that “while WOC celebrates this step from the Vatican, until women are included in all decision-making structures and as priests and Bishops of the Church, equality remains painfully denied.”

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