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China and its creepy facial recognition technology targets Uighur Muslims

China and its creepy facial recognition technology targets Uighur Muslims

The title of the article seemed to be a joke: “A Summer Vacation in China’s Muslim Gulag.”

Appearing in ForeignPolicy.com, the piece was about a Uighur student, called Iman, who was studying in the United States. He knew his homeland was a dangerous place to visit, but he had a mother he’d not seen in years.

So, he had no sooner stepped off the plane in eastern China than he was thrown into jail for nine days, then -– still shackled -– put on a 50-hour train ride to Xinjiang, his homeland in western China. He got to the city of Turpan.

The stress intensified as he was taken to the detention center, or kanshousuo. “I was terrified as we approached.” (As we talked, for the first time Iman directed his gaze at the ground, avoiding eye contact.) “The compound was surrounded by towering walls. Military guards patrolled the metal gate. Inside, there was little light. It was so dark,” he continued.

He was immediately processed. An officer took his photograph, measured his height and weight, and told him to strip down to his underwear. They also shaved his head. Less than two weeks before, Iman was an aspiring graduate at one of the top research universities in the United States. Now, he was a prisoner in an extrajudicial detention center.

Still in his underwear, Iman was assigned to a room with 19 other Uighur men. Upon entering the quarters, lit by a single light bulb, a guard issued Iman a bright yellow vest. An inmate then offered the young man a pair of shorts. Iman began scanning the cell. The tiled room was equipped with one toilet, a faucet, and one large kang-style platform bed -- supa in Uighur -- where all of the inmates slept. He was provided with simple eating utensils: a thin metal bowl and a spoon.

He endured 17 days of imprisonment for crimes he did not commit and then, unexpectedly, was released and allowed to go home and eventually to return to the United States to finish his studies. Not surprisingly, he’s not planning to return to China any time soon, plus his mother herself is imprisoned in the same kind of “re-education center.”

China’s barbaric treatment of its Muslim minority (represented by the blue flag with a crescent and star with this piece) doesn’t get any protests from the worldwide Muslim community, unlike the anger that’s released toward Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Foreign Policy makes that point in a piece published last week. A sample:

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Too radical for America's tech overlords: liberal Baptist pastor rattles Silicon Valley

Too radical for America's tech overlords: liberal Baptist pastor rattles Silicon Valley

I first saw the story in the Guardian with this headline -- “Elitist den of hate:” Silicon Valley pastor derides hypocrisy of area’s rich liberals.”

There's more. The sub-head proclaimed: “Gregory Stevens resigns after tweets about Palo Alto, slamming tech industry greed and empty social justice promises”

Whoa. I had to read that. Textured stories about the religious left aren’t easy to find. Plus, when “rich liberals” slam someone, it’s usually a conservative, not one of their own. Not only that, here was a person taking on Facebook and other tech companies.

So I dove in:

A Silicon Valley pastor has resigned from his church after calling the city of Palo Alto an “elitist shit den of hate” and criticizing the hypocrisy of “social justice” activism in the region.

Gregory Stevens confirmed on Monday that he had stepped down from the First Baptist church of Palo Alto, an LGBT-inclusive congregation, after his personal tweets calling out the contradictions of wealthy liberals in northern California surfaced at a recent council hearing…

“I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote, lamenting that it was impossible for low-income people to live in the city. “The insane wealth inequality and the ignorance toward actual social justice is absolutely terrifying.”

My first question was to wonder what sort of Baptist we’re talking about: The centrist/liberal American Baptist Church or the vastly more conservative Southern Baptist Convention?

That distinction should have been drawn out -- pronto. It’s an ABC congregation, their web site says.

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Three things to consider about that long BuzzFeed takeout on Christian health-care sharing

Three things to consider about that long BuzzFeed takeout on Christian health-care sharing

Yes, I'm doing a listicle about a BuzzFeed News story. Honestly, would any other approach make sense?

After all, as I type this, you can go to BuzzFeed's home page and click "35 Pictures That Will Make You Love NYC More Than You Thought Possible." Or if you prefer, there's "23 Things You Did In 2007 That You've Probably Completely Forgotten About."

On the other hand, BuzzFeed News does some important, thoughtful journalism — so we at GetReligion can't completely ignore its contributions to the Godbeat.

As regular readers know, we at this journalism-focused website tout a traditional American model of the press — focused on fair, balanced reporting with sources of information clearly named.

So what do we make of an in-depth BuzzFeed News story that blends elements of traditional journalism and advocacy reporting?

That, my friends, is a key question we face in analyzing BuzzFeed News' in-depth — really in-depth — piece headlined "There's A Christian Alternative To Health Insurance, But It's Not For Everyone."

Because it's crucial to understanding where the piece is headed, here's a big chunk of the opening. It's a larger block of text than we usually quote. But there's much more of the story left even after this, so please stick with me:

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As it turns out, hijabs were the most obvious religion issue in Women's March

As it turns out, hijabs were the most obvious religion issue in Women's March

By now we’ve all heard about the Women’s March on Saturday that caused millions of pink-clad people to take to the streets around the world, even in Antarctica. (Even more impressive were the 2,000 people marching in -50º weather in Fairbanks. Now that’s dedication).

But where did faith fit in? Before the event, Religion News Service had a columnist assemble “a Christian packing list” for the march. Jewish Telegraphic Agency did a walk-up describing where two Jewish groups will organize and meet. 

On the day of the March, RNS had two people survey the religious women to be found on the mall, all of them with the religious left. Buzzfeed followed pro-life women and documented the less-than-enthusiastic reception they got. (I wrote about the controversy surrounding them last week.)

The lone mention about religion from the actual speakers at the Washington March was documented by New York Magazine, which broadcast a quote from Janelle Monae (in the above video) who plays mathematician Mary Jackson in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

Janelle Monáe started her speech at the Women’s March on Washington today with a history lesson. “I wanna remind you that it was woman that gave you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” she said. “It was woman that gave you Malcolm X. And according to the Bible, it was a woman that gave you Jesus.”

But the big religion topic that most media missed had to do with how one of the major symbols for the event was a woman swathed in an American flag wrapped to look like a hijab.

This intriguing column in the New York Times dealt with the March disintegrating into “a grab-bag of competing victimhood narratives and individualist identities jostling for most-oppressed status.” The writer wondered why Muslim women were one of the oppressed classes named in the “Guiding Vision and Definition Principles of the March” when Jewish and Latino women weren’t mentioned at all. Her explanation:

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Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Yesterday, the quasi news-entertainment-gossip-vent site Buzzfeed posted a piece about a couple who has put together a very popular HGTV show about home remodeling. Their crime: They attend a megachurch where, the subhead said, "Their pastor considers homosexuality to be a 'sin' caused by abuse -- whether the Fixer Upper couple agrees is unclear." 

Buzzfeed was angling to rally a digital mob after this couple, but that's not quite what happened.

Yes, this click-bait piece did get a lot of traction on social media within a few hours, much of which was furious reaction from liberals and conservatives alike who felt the article was nothing but a hit piece. Responses on Twitter ran quite the gamut from calling Buzzfeed “the new Inquisition” to one poster who wondered, “I thought it was the alt-right folks who were bringing back McCarthyism.”

Here's how Buzzfeed started it all:

Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located.

So far, so good. Then:

They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.

The Buzzfeed folks may not realize this yet, but a lot of evangelical pastors oppose same-sex marriage.

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When will they learn? Media cluelessness about red-state life happened in 2004 and in ...

When will they learn? Media cluelessness about red-state life happened in 2004 and in ...

I well remember the evening in 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI was elected. The news was announced at dusk in a rainy St. Peter’s Square. I was there and I well remember how so many of the Europeans –- particularly the French –- standing close by were swearing a blue streak when the new pope was proclaimed. Many newspapers talked about a climate of fear descending as the world awaited a reign of terror from the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened and Benedict, it turned out, became the first pope in hundreds of years to resign. He willingly give up power. He never did turn out to be the evil genius they accused him of being. And so, when I read all the doom about the coming President Donald Trump, I wonder if the same sort of dire predictions will prove false. (Of course, Cardinal Ratzinger already had tons of Vatican administrative experience.)

I’m also seeing the same wailing and gnashing of teeth that happened in November 2004 when George W. Bush beat John Kerry. The media elites were realizing there was a lot of red-state America out there that they weren’t getting.

Roy Peter Clark’s famous Nov. 4, 2004, “Confessions of an alienated journalist” essay in Poynter.org said it all:

It seems that the Democrats are insensitive to "moral values." This puzzles me because I think that opposing a war, or working for economic justice, or making health care more available in America all derive from a moral vision. Apparently, it is not the moral vision -- the set of faith and family values -- that helped re-elect George W. Bush.
I am now taking seriously the theory that we mainstream journalists are different from mainstream America. "Different" is too pale a word. We are alienated. We may live in the same country, but we treat each other like aliens. Maybe it's worse than that because we usually see and suspect the alien in our midst. The churched people who embrace Bush, in spite of a bumbling war and a stumbling economy, are more than alien to me. They are invisible.

I pitched a piece to Poynter that ran the following month that explained the media’s cluelessness about the other –- and mainly religious -- half of America.

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#WarOnChristmas: RNS, other media jump on (nonexistent) controversy over Starbucks cups

#WarOnChristmas: RNS, other media jump on (nonexistent) controversy over Starbucks cups

Yes, Virginia, Religion News Service wrote a snarky "news" item quoting three anonymous Twitter users.

The subject of the report: The alleged controversy over holiday cups at Starbucks.

The wire service's lede:

(RNS) Yes, Virginia, there are people brandishing pitchforks because the new Starbucks cup is green and doesn’t have a snowflake.
On Tuesday (Nov. 1), the much-loved and much-derided coffee chain rolled out a cup with a white circle on a green background covered with an army of little cartoon faces drawn with a single line by artist Shogo Ota.
For some customers, this was the first salvo in what they see as the company’s annual “War on Christmas.”
“Starbucks is trying to take Jesus out of Christmas with the new cup,” someone named Jazmine H wrote on Twitter.

Wowza! If Jazmine H is upset, this must be a legitimate national news story!

And there are even reports that Starbucks has unveiled new Satanic holiday cups.

Oh, wait. That report is from the Babylon Bee, the fake religion news website. My bad.

Back to the Starbucks cup brouhaha: As the late, great Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again!"

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