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    Thanks to Right Wing Watch for bringing this to my attention.

    Rena M. Lindevaldsen is the interim dean of the Liberty University School of Law. She is also the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Law, and Associate Director of the Liberty Center for Law and Policy, and she is admitted to practice law in Florida, New York, and Virginia state courts, several United States Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court.

    The university recently posted to YouTube an address that she delivered to students as part of the university’s 2015 Law Speaker Series; the title was Do Government Officials Have Authority to Impose Their Morals on Others? You can watch and listen here:

    I’ve pulled a few of the choicest bits to show how utterly unfit she is for her position; you’ll find them below the orange paraph.

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    This will be short.

    After the Kunduz hospital bombing of 3 October, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) for an independent international investigation. (This is the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law.) The IHFFC has agreed but requires the consent of the Afghan and U.S. governments before it can proceed. MSF have therefore started a petition at calling on President Obama to consent to an independent investigation.

    They’re shooting for 100,000 signers; as I write they’re at about 7500, an increase of about 3000 since I signed a little earlier today.

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    This was posted yesterday to the website of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders):

    At least 35 Syrian patients and medical staff have been killed, and 72 wounded, in a significant increase of air strikes on hospitals in Northern Syria, according to health staff supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) inside Syria.

    The escalation of attacks, which began in late September, have targeted twelve hospitals in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates throughout October, including six hospitals supported by MSF. Overall, six hospitals were forced to close, including three supported by MSF, and four ambulances destroyed. One hospital has since reopened yet access to emergency, maternity, paediatric and primary health care services remains severely disrupted.


    “After more than four years of war, I remain flabbergasted at how International Humanitarian Law can be so easily flouted by all parties to this conflict,” said Sylvain Groulx, Head of MSF for Syria. “We can only wonder whether this concept is dead. So many humanitarians and health actors including MSF have repeatedly called and are calling for an immediate halt to such attacks across the country, but are our voices being heard?”

    Winter is rapidly approaching, temperatures are dropping, and there are already tens of thousands of refugees; the need for health care just keeps rising as the ability to deliver it keeps falling.

    The post does not say who was responsible for the air strikes, but for the last month the region has been subjected to an intense air offensive by Russian and Syrian jets, so there really isn’t much doubt.

    This comes on top of the U.S. destruction of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, – see these diaries by LaFeminista, Meteor Blades, and michelewin– and the destruction of an MSF hospital in Yemen by Saudi-led airstrikes, recently detailed in a diary by Richard Brook.

    It just keeps getting uglier.

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  • 11/23/15--15:06: Dallas 1, Roanoke 0
  • From ThinkProgress:

    Speaking to MSNBC on Saturday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was asked to discuss the growing anxiety over Syrian refugees entering the United States, purportedly over concerns they could be potential agents for militant groups such as ISIS. Rawlings staunchly rejected the assertion that Syrians are somehow uniquely prone to violence, saying he is more concerned with the rise of white supremacy and the recent flurry of mass shootings committed by white men.

    “I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Rawlings said.

    He also said that vilifying refugees only helps ISIS, as doing so falls into their “trap.” He then pushed back on the notion that ISIS is somehow representative of Islam.

    ‘ISIS is no more Islamic than Nazi senior staff was Christian,’ he said, going on to imply that Christians (like himself) have an obligation to welcome the stranger. Unlike Gov. Abbott, he says that he is willing to welcome refugees to his city: this is part of the ‘spirit of Dallas’.

    The contrast with Roanoke Mayor David Bowers could hardly be more striking.

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    Most here will probably remember that some time ago Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders; MSF) started a petition at asking President Obama to consent to an independent investigation of the Kunduz hospital bombing on 3 October by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC). As I write this, it has 546,425 signatures. This morning I received an update:

    Dec 7, 2015 — It’s time for our final push to collect signatures, because this Wednesday, we will be gathering in Washington, DC, to deliver our petition and to speak out about Kunduz, about the colleagues and patients we lost, and about the importance of international humanitarian law. We want to make sure your voices are heard! If you’re in or near Washington, DC, this Wednesday, December 9, at 1pm, please join us as Doctors Without Borders and supporters gather on the south side of Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Doctors Without Borders representatives will speak, local and national NGO's are attending, and the public will raise banners to reiterate the basic point that Even Wars Have Rules. And afterwards, we will deliver the petition and the signatures to the White House. More than 545,000 people worldwide have joined our call for President Obama to consent to an independent investigation into the destruction of the Doctors Without Borders trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on October 3. While the U.S., NATO, and the Afghan government have launched investigations, it is impossible to rely only on the parties involved to carry out independent and impartial investigations of acts in which they are implicated. It is for that reason, and in the name of our deceased and wounded colleagues and patients—and for all of our staff and patients worldwide—Doctors Without Borders continues to call for an independent international investigation. Please keep spreading the word, ask others to sign, and join us on Wednesday in Washington if you can. Sincerely, Doctors Without Borders

    There is still a little time for anyone wishing to do so to sign the petition.

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    Thanks to an e-mail from Equality Ohio, I recently made the acquaintance of Trans Day of Resilience, ‘an art and activism project that recognizes and supports trans women and femmes of color in their lives and leadership, not just in death’. It’s coordinated by Strong Families, which is staffed and led by Forward Together. The participating organizations include Transgender Law Center and Black Lives Matter, to name just the two most familiar.

    Here you can find eight posters produced by the project; each is a link to a page with information about the artist and the organization for which it was produced, a link to its website, and a donation link.  You can see one of these posters at the head of this diary, and I’ve added another below in hopes of further whetting appetites to take a look at the lot.

    Poster by Ethan Parker for BreakOut

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    Fix society. Please.

    That was the close of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note; she was a Southwest Ohio teen who killed herself a year ago after undergoing conversion ‘therapy’. This past Wednesday the Cincinnati City Council took a step in that direction, voting 7-2 to pass a law prohibiting therapy designed to change sexual orientation or gender identity for minors and imposing a $200-a-day fine on violators. Cincinnati is the first city outside of Washington, D.C., to pass such a law, though four states – California, Oregon, Illinois, and New Jersey – have done so.

    The USA Today Network (via the Cincinnati Enquirer) has more. As you might expect:

    Twenty-one people spoke out against the ban during Council's comment period, decrying it as an assault on free speech and freedom of religion.

    "I believe the city should stay out of this," said Dr. Dan Ferrell, a pastor. "It says something about you. Maybe other cities have better sense."

    "This Council will create another another type of bondage for something people themselves have a right to seek liberty from," said Bishop Victor Cousins.

    John Boggess, Board Chairman of Equality Ohio, was the only person to speak in favor of the law; he called it ‘a matter of public safety’. And most of the council evidently agreed.

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    From the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies:

    Results from the 2015 Arab Opinion Index, the largest public opinion poll of its kind in the Arab region, were officially released as part of a press conference in Doha, Qatar today. This year’s findings were based on 18,311 face to face interviews conducted in 12 separate Arab countries. The latest survey affords scholars and policy makers the opportunity to understand how the Arab citizenry views the most pressing issues which face it today, including the Iranian nuclear deal; the growth of radical extremism and, in particular, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); and the Syrian revolution. In addition, respondents’ answers to the survey questions offer a wealth of information on Arab citizens’ attitudes towards democracy, the relationship between religion and civil and political affairs, and the future prospects of their home countries. This year’s Arab Opinion Index marks the fourth consecutive year that The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has conducted its yearly survey of Arab public opinion, allowing comparisons in the Arab public attitudes towards the main issues surveyed in all AOI polls since its launch in 2011.


    The countries included within this year’s Arab Opinion Index are Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Together, they represent 90% of the population of the Arab League. Each of the country-specific samples were conducted using a randomized, self-weighted, multi-stage cluster method, providing margins of error of between 2% and 3%.

    The report Arab Opinion Index 2015: In Brief is a 44-page PDF available at the linked site. The reported highlights are organized under several headings:

    Living Conditions of the Arab Citizenry Arab Citizens’ Views of State Institutions and Governmental Effectiveness Arab Public Attitudes Towards Democracy Civic and Political Participation Religion and Religiosity in the Public Sphere and Political Affairs Arab Public Opinion and Pan-Arab Affairs Arab Public Opinion and the Arab Spring Arab Public Opinion and Current Affairs

    I’ll give a few of the highlights, but the whole report is well worth reading;

    Living Conditions of the Arab Citizenry: 29% are ‘in need’: their household incomes do not cover necessary expenses. Another 48% are ‘in hardship’: their household incomes cover necessary expenses but do not allow them to save anything. Only 20% report that their household incomes allow them to cover necessary expenses and still save.

    Arab Citizens’ Views of State Institutions and Governmental Effectiveness: A majority (58%) have a high level of trust in their countries’ militaries, and another 24% trust them to some extent, but other state institutions don’t fare nearly so well: none is highly trusted by more than 37%. The political parties come off worst at 7%, and the legislatures are highly trusted by only 17%. For the first time, however, only a minority (47%) think that financial and administrative corruption is very widespread.

    Arab Public Attitudes Towards Democracy: 89% of the respondents had clear definitions of democracy. These varied, but most emphasized either safeguarding citizens’ civil and political liberties or guaranteeing equality between and justice for citizens. 72% were in favor democracy, and only 22% were opposed. 79% thought that democracy was very appropriate or appropriate to some extent for their countries; the corresponding figure for Islamic sharia is only 33%, and 32% thought it completely inappropriate. 55% would accept an electoral victory by a political party with which they disagreed; 40% would oppose the ascendancy of such a party.

    Civic and Political Participation: Television is overwhelmingly the main source of news (74%); state broadcasters were the most popular (16.3%), followed by Al Jazeera (12.3%). The internet is a distant second at 11%.

    Religion and Religiosity in the Public Sphere and Political Affairs: 63% consider themselves religious to some extent, and another 24% consider themselves very religious; only 10% define themselves as not religious or a non-believer. However, they defined religiosity mostly in terms of morality and values rather than in terms of religious observances. Moreover, while there is considerable variation from country to country, overall 72% agree (42%) or strongly agree (30%) that ‘No person/group has the right to declare followers of other religions to be infidels’. And 77% agree (44%) or strongly agree (33%) that ‘The government does NOT have the right to use religion as a means of winning public support’. On the other hand, only a bare majority favors separation of religion from politics.

    Arab Public Opinion and Pan-Arab Affairs: 75% feel that the Palestinian cause concerns ‘all of the Arab peoples and not just the Palestinians alone’, and 85% are opposed to diplomatic recognition of Israel by their own countries. The reasons given are quite varied; topping the list at 24.5% is ‘Israel is a colonialist, expansionist state’, followed (at 13.0%) by ‘It is an expansion state which seeks to dominate the Arab world and control its resources’. Majorities have negative or somewhat negative opinions of the foreign policies of the U.S. (65%), Iran (62%), and Russia (54%) towards the Arab world. 63% favor the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Near and Middle East.

    Arab Public Opinion and the Arab Spring: Attitudes here are mixed and quite complex; I’m not even going to try to summarize them.

    Arab Public Opinion and Current Affairs: Virtually everyone is aware of Da‘ish (IS, ISIL, ISIS), and 76% follow related developments closely through the media. 80% have a very negative attitude towards it, and another 9% have a somewhat negative view. There is little difference in attitude towards Da‘ish between the very religious and those who are not religious, or between opponents and supporters of separation of religion from the state. In general it appears that positive views of Da‘ish mostly stem from political considerations or its military success, not from religious considerations. Overall 50% believe that Da‘ish was created by foreign actors, while 38% consider it a product of its own environment. On the other hand, when asked to choose between the view that it’s a product of the existence of religious extremism and fanaticism in Arab societies and the view that it’s a product of the policies of Arab regimes, 48% chose the first alternative and only 35% the second. Finally, a very substantial majority (62%) think that the best solution to the Syrian crisis is a change of regime.

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    This has been the top story in online German news for a couple of days now. The first two sections below are summarized from ZEIT ONLINE; the last is based on a chronology and another article from SPIEGEL ONLINE.

    What Do We Know?

    On New Year’s Eve several women were robbed and sexually harassed at Köln’s central railway station; the police have received 90 complaints so far. Some are for theft of bags, cell phones, and purses, and at least 15 are for sexual assaults. About a thousand people had gathered on the plaza in front of the station. According to the police, most were young men, many were intoxicated and were freely setting off fireworks, and the mood of the crowd became increasingly aggressive. Amidst this crowd women were surrounded, handled, and robbed.

    What Don’t We Know?

    We don’t know who the culprits were. Police say that witnesses have reported groups of anywhere from two or three men up to 20 or so and have described the men as ‘North African’. They say that some dozens of people were taken into custody at the railway station, but as yet they have no real information about them or about the men who harassed and robbed the women. ‘We now have a puzzle and are starting from scratch.’

    The chief of the Köln police said today that even the number of people involved is unknown. Westdeutscher Rundfunk reports that the police are working on the assumption that there were several hundred; according to the Kölner Stadtanzeiger the police have about 40 suspects who were already known to the police and to one another. Over the weekend one investigator said, ‘The preliminary indications clearly point towards multiple offenders known to the police; they have nothing to do with refugees.’ Their nationalities are not known, nor whether they are resident in Köln.

    The head of the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter (more or less a national police union) said that this was nothing new: criminal gangs, which number amongst their membership many from the Balkans and North Africa, have been using such techniques for a long time. Similar events have occurred at the Oktoberfest in München, for example. However, it has been pointed out that the scale of the incident is something new: at this year’s Oktoberfest, for instance, 20 sexual offenses were reported over the entire two-week span.

    Where Were the Police?

    There have been complaints that the police weren’t doing their job, notably from Thomas de Maizière, the Interior Minister, but it’s not clear that they are justified. The crowd was so large and chaotic that the crimes were hard to spot, and apparently neither the police nor railway officials noticed them. Around 23:30 the police, fearing an escalation of the fireworks, began to clear the plaza and the cathedral stairs. With such a large and unruly crowd it took them a while, but by 0:45 they were able to reopen access to the railway station. The got the first reports of theft and sexual harassment around 1:00 and started pointing out the danger to women and accompanying them to the station entrance. They also expelled some especially aggressive individuals after recording their personal data. At this point, however, they apparently had not witnessed any of the actual crimes and had taken no one into custody. The extent of the problem only began to appear on Friday, 1 January, first in social media and, in the evening, in local media, and by Saturday afternoon the police were aware of not quite 30 incidents.

    For the future they plan a stronger police presence at large events, with more mobile video cameras that can observe crowds from above. They also intend to prohibit persons who have previous attracted attention for picking pockets, for instance, from entering certain areas.

    And More of the Same in Hamburg

    According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Hamburg police are also investigating New Year’s Eve attacks on women. Each of the women was surrounded by several men on the Reeperbahn and groped on the breast or genital area while their cell phones, papers, and money were taken. By Tuesday evening 27 complaints had been counted.

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    This is a short update to the diary What Happened in Köln (Cologne) on New Year’s Eve – and in Hamburg that I posted last night; if you’re not familiar with the events, that’s a place to start. This update draws on this article in SPIEGEL ONLINE.

    There are now more than 150 complaints stemming from the events in Köln. According to police, three-quarters of them are for sexual harassment, and there are now two women who say that they were raped.

    The Interior Minister of Nordrhein-Westfalen said this afternoon that three suspects have been identified, but no one has yet been taken into custody. This evening the Köln police issued a press release headed ‘Assaults on the station forecourt -- Four suspects identified’. Two were described as North Africans who were temporarily taken into custody on New Year’s Eve; they are said to have been picking pockets near the station. The other two have been in custody for three days and are said to have hassled women. The police would not say what concrete evidence they had that these men were involved in the assaults on women on New Year’s Eve; they said that doing so might compromise the investigation. Another police spokesman said there were altogether seven suspects.

    The Köln public prosecutor’s office is taking seriously the possibility that organized crime was involved; there are indications pointing in that direction. At the same time, some of the eyewitness reports point to targeted humiliation of women. The fact is that the investigation is just beginning, and we really know almost nothing at this point about the culprits.  Since witnesses have said that the men involved looked North African and/or Arab, many people, both in Germany and elsewhere (including here at Daily Kos, though a diary that was one of the worst examples has now been deleted), are jumping to conclusions that suit their prejudices. The conclusions may even be correct, but at this point they simply are not justified.

    Similar New Year’s Eve events in Hamburg have so far led to 53 complaints, and the Frankfurt police are investigating a group of ten young men who are said to have attacked three women on New Year’s Eve in a manner similar to that used in Köln.

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    This is the first in what I hope will be a (very sporadic) series on the roots of English. It may also be the last; I’ll have to see how it goes. It’s very difficult to write at all accurately on this subject without getting awfully technical, and I’m not sure that I can avoid getting mired in incomprehensible neepery. Caveat lector!

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    I just got an email from the ACLU with this link:

     A coalition of local citizens and national groups filed suit today to ask a federal court to step in and secure access to safe drinking water for the people of Flint, Michigan.

    Alleging violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by the ACLU of Michigan, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays.  

    “Flint is Exhibit A for what happens when a state suspends democracy and installs unaccountable bean counters to run a city,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan.


    The lawsuit asks a federal court to compel the city and state officials to follow federal requirements for testing and treating water to control for lead and to order the prompt replacement of all lead water pipes at no cost to Flint residents. The groups and Ms. Mays also seek appropriate relief to remedy the health and medical harms to Flint residents from the lead contamination. The lawsuit is not seeking monetary damages.

    On that page there are also links to PDFs of the complaint and the Notice of Intent to Sue.

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  • 03/01/16--16:10: Pretty Curious Indeed!
  • From TakePart:

    Boy Takes Home Top Prize in Competition for Girls in STEM

    Pretty Curious, a U.K. program aimed at getting girls interested in STEM careers, asks on its website, “why aren’t more girls pursuing science?” Some critics of the program think the answer may have something to do with Pretty Curious handing a 13-year-old boy the top prize in a STEM competition this week.

    The competition was the Pretty Curious Challenge sponsored by EDF Energy, which describes itself as ‘the UK's largest producer of low-carbon electricity’. The winner gets an iPad® Air and an Experience Day with Fab Lab London; each of the four runners-up, who are all girls, gets a Deluxe LittleBits kit.

    It did not escape notice on social media that this was a pretty curious way to encourage girls to choose careers in science.

    EDF responded to the complaints by saying that the competition was gender neutral, telling the BBC it was opened up to both boys and girls in an attempt to promote fairness.

    By EDF’s own admission, the odds are already stacked against budding female scientists. In the U.K., women make up just 14 percent of the STEM workforce.


    “This is a fail on so many levels,” Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of celebratory women in STEM event Ada Lovelace Day, wrote in a blog post on Saturday. “Extending participation to boys rather undermines [Pretty Curious’] message, and when a boy wins, it says, ‘Girls! You will always come second to boys!’ ”

    I was foolish enough to look at the comments; as I should probably have expected, they’re full of accusations of feminist hypocrisy (as in so exclusion is fine when you approve of it), suggestions that the original limitation to girls was condescending, and assertions that the gender disparity in STEM fields reflects a significant difference in ability. That last one is patently ridiculous: no difference that has even been suggested in any serious study comes anywhere near explaining the 6:1 disparity noted in the article.

    The condescension charge, on the other hand, is not wholly wrong-headed; it just ignores the current state of play. Indeed, one could wish that it were fully justified.

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    Last night johnnygunn published the diary Sobering Election News from Germany about the success of the right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) in this past weekend’s elections in three of the sixteen federal states: Sachsen-Anhalt, where it got 24.2% of the popular vote, the second-best showing in the election; Baden-Württemberg (15.1%, third-best); and Rheinland-Pfalz (12.6%, third-best). Since the AfD is even less familiar to Americans than the Front National in France and the UKIP in the U.K., I thought that an introduction to it might be useful.

    The AfD was founded as a public party in April 2013, when it held its first convention. In the September 2013 federal election the party won 4.7% of the vote, not enough to meet the 5% threshold for entry into the Bundestag (roughly equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives or the British House of Commons). In the 2014 European Parliament it got 7.1% of the German vote, enough for seven seats (out of a total of 751, 96 of which are for Germany). Later in the same year the party won seats in the parliaments of three states, all in the former East Germany: Sachsen, Thüringen, and Brandenburg. In February 2015 the AfD won its first seats in a western German state (Hamburg), and three months later it won representation in Bremen as well. Although still very much a minor party, it was clearly enjoying a rapid growth in popularity, especially in the east.

    It was also experiencing severe growing pains, accompanied by a great deal of infighting. The original impetus for its founding was opposition to the government’s policies concerning the eurozone crisis; the initial supporters included a large number of economists, among them Bernd Lucke, one of the party’s first speakers. They weren’t opposed to the EU as such, but they did want to dissolve the Eurozone and put an end to economic bailouts. The entrepreneur Frauke Petry was also elected speaker at the first party convention, and her concerns were quite different: she was more interested in the refugee crisis and the perils of Islamization, and in strengthening ties with Russia. Both factions were socially conservative; for example, both opposed gay marriage. The two main factions coalesced around Lucke and Petry, respectively, and at a party congress in July 2015 Petry’s faction won a decisive victory. Lucke and several AfD members of the European Parliament promptly resigned from the party.

    Under Frauke Petry’s leadership the party has moved far to the right. For example, in a newspaper interview she said that police were required to prevent illegal border crossings by refugees, ‘even making use of firearms if necessary. That’s the law.’ Beatrix von Storch, a vice president of the AfD who represents the party in the European Parliament, took this a bit further in a Facebook post in late January. She said that ‘if you don’t honor the HALT at the border, the enforcement officers in the border service can employ firearms even against people’. When asked for clarification, she would not exclude women and children, though shortly thereafter she did exempt children.

    It has been noted that the AfD has moved far enough to the right to put the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NPD) in a bit of a bind. The NPD is usually described as a neo-Nazi party and is classified as a ‘threat to the constitutional order’ by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), and supporting it has not generally been considered socially acceptable. Now it is trying to use the growing acceptance of the AfD to argue that ‘concerned citizens’ should not be afraid to vote for extreme right-wing parties and candidates, including the NPD, an argument that collapses if the NPD is a lot more radical than the AfD. However, the NPD can’t really justify its existence if it doesn’t show itself to be significantly more radical than the AfD. My own impression is that at this point there is still a significant difference overall between the two parties, but also a very sizable overlap.

    At the end of April the AfD will hold a party congress and set its official program. The German non-partisan, non-profit investigative journalism newsroom CORRECT!V got its hands on a draft and made it available online as a PDF. It runs to about 70 pages, but I’ve hit some of the high low spots below. Before I get to that, though, it’s worth noting that according to SPIEGEL ONLINE, internal e-mails of the party leadership have come to light that indicate that the draft program, while very much in keeping with the sentiments of party supporters, is designed partly to draw the attention of the press. In one of them Beatrix von Storch writes that ‘Islam is really the program’s most controversial topic’ and the one most suitable for ‘external communication’: ‘Asylum and the euro are old hat and bring nothing new’, but ‘The press will swoop on our rejection of political Islam as on no other topic in the program’. (This sounds rather like Trump’s approach to the press.)

    Here are some of the more distressing points of the draft program.


    They are climate deniers. ‘The climate changes as long as the earth exists. The politics of climate protection rest on useless computer models of the IPCC. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but rather an indispensable component of all life.’ Along with this they want to do away with the German Renewable Energies Act, which has actually been quite successful.


    Although the German crime rate has been sinking since the early 1990s, the AfD claims that internal security is decreasing and wants to give the police and legal system more possibilities for intervention — i.e., more monitoring and surveillance. This is ironic, in view of the party’s call for the people to be ‘free citizens, not subjects’. They want to reduce the age of criminal responsibility to twelve. They also want to make it much easier to hold suspects in investigative custody. ‘Untreatable alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as mentally ill offenders who pose substantial dangers to the public are to be placed in preventive detention, not in psychiatric hospitals.’


    ‘The AfD unconditionally pledges itself to freedom of belief, conscience, and worship. It demands, however, that law, human rights, and our values set limits on the exercise of religion.’ Of course the payoff comes in the next sentence: ‘The AfD emphatically opposes an Islamic religious practice that is directed against the liberal-democratic basic order, our laws, and the Judeo-Christian and humanistic foundations of our culture.’ Elsewhere in the document they demand a general prohibition against wearing the burqa and niqab in public, and against the wearing of the head scarf by students, teachers, and public servants in general. They opposes both the minaret (as a symbol of Islamic power) and the muezzin’s call (because it proclaims that there is no god but the Islamic Allah). ‘Minaret and muezzin’s call are in conflict with a tolerant coexistence of religions that the Christian churches practise in the modern world.’ They want to prohibit male circumcision (except in cases of medical necessity). This is probably aimed primarily at Muslims, but it doesn’t seem to bother them that it also affects Jews.


    They want to minimize governmental interference in the economy. ‘For competition creates the freedom to develop and define oneself, to be able to acquire private ownership of goods and means of production, to make independent contracts for one’s own good and the general benefit, to be able to choose between different vendors, proposals, or employers, to exploit profitable opportunities, but also to be responsible for a possible failure.’  In particular, they want the absolute minimum possible governmental interference with monopolies.


    ‘Our society: tradition, marriage, and family.’ They are very much in favor of the traditional family, with traditional gender roles. ‘It is important to us to protect evolved traditions and established institutions. In particular, marriage and family are nuclei of civil society that ensure the social coherence that has evolved over generations, and as such in our opinion they rightly enjoy special protection by the state.’ Gender research (in scare quotes) is unscientific and should be eliminated. ‘Gender ideology marginalizes natural differences between the sexes thereby works against traditional moral values and specific sex roles in the family.’ ‘We oppose the promotion of homosexuality and transsexuality in the classroom as decidedly as we do the ideological interference through ‘’gender mainstreaming’’. The traditional picture of the family must not be destroyed thereby. In school our children must not be made the plaything of the sexual proclivities of a mere minority.’ They want at the very least to make abortion more difficult by requiring an emphasis on its possible negative consequences. They want to reduce the social safety net. ‘Social insurance is intended for emergencies, must not become overextended, and should not and cannot replace the family as the nucleus of social solidarity.’

    Immigration and Refugees:

    They want to close the borders. They say that ‘the current policies on asylum are leading to a colonization, as inexorable as it is rapid, of Europe and especially Germany by people from other cultures and parts of the world’. Refugee centres under UN or EU mandate should be set up in African and Near Eastern transit nations and outside the eastern border of the EU; all applications for asylum would be required to come from these centres; applicants already in Europe would be required to remove to one of them. They are ‘committed to the German core culture’, which in their view is fed by three sources: its Christian heritage, the scientific-humanistic tradition, and Roman law. They view the ‘ideology of multiculturalism’ as a ‘serious threat to social harmony and to the survival of the nation as a cultural unity’, because it ignores history to ‘put imported cultural currents on an equal footing with the homegrown culture and thereby profoundly relativizes the values’ of the latter. More generally, they are nationalistic. Among the things that ‘strengthen the cohesion of our liberal state’ are patriotism and love of country. They want to strengthen the armed forces and reintroduce compulsory military service (but only for men, of course). 

    It is only fair to note that they do have some good points:

    In view of the increase in resistant strains of bacteria, they want to minimize the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. They want strong protection of privacy, both from business and from the government. In particular ‘Governmental Trojan software is a breach of the law’. They are for consumer protection. They want as much as possible to shift the mass transport of heavy goods from the roads to the rails and waterways. They reject free trade agreements that are arrived at without transparency and a balanced protection of the interests of the parties concerned and encroach unduly on national law.

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    On the eve of the informal Malta summit, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, just released the text of his letter United We Stand, Divided We Fall to the 27 EU heads of state or heads of government on the future of the EU. In it he discusses three threats to the European Union. One paragraph is of especial interest to Americans:

    The first threat, an external one, is related to the new geopolitical situation in the world and around Europe. An increasingly, let us call it, assertive China, especially on the seas, Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa, with radical Islam playing a major role, as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable. For the first time in our history, in an increasingly multipolar external world, so many are becoming openly anti-European, or Eurosceptic at best. Particularly the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.

    That’s a pretty blunt statement for a diplomat, and it unambiguously puts us in pretty bad company.

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    Today Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, posted this photo on Twitter and on her Facebook page:


    Just signed referral of Swedish #climate law, binding all future governments to net zero emissions by 2045. For a safer and better future.

    — Isabella Lövin (@IsabellaLovin) February 3, 2017

     If the picture looks a bit familiar, you might be recalling this one:


    This group just made it more difficult for women to get access to health care worldwide. You tell me what's wrong with this picture.

    — Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 23, 2017

    I first saw the juxtaposition in an article in bento (via SPIEGEL ONLINE) under the headline Here the Swedish cabinet trolls the USA — and incidentally makes important policy (my translation). I have since seen it noted elsewhere, e.g., The Hill, The Guardian, and BuzzFeed.

    Lövin was asked whether the all-female photo was a direct attack on U.S. policy, and BuzzFeed quotes Lövin’s spokesperson:

    “You can interpret it as you want,” Lovin’s spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “It’s more that Sweden is a feminist government and this is a very important law that we just decided on.”

    “We need climate leadership in the world today. And to make the Paris agreement happen we need climate leadership.”

    “I would ask everyone to make their own interpretation.”

    By the way, Sweden has 12 female and 12 male ministers.

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    From SPIEGEL ONLINE today [my translation]:

    More than a hundred arrests and at least three dead: according to a report by the investigative journalist Elena Milashina of the Russian Novaya Gazeta, the Chechen authorities are currently severely cracking down on homosexuals and transpeople. ‘The names of three dead are known to us; our sources assume that there are many more victims,’ it says in the article.

    Milashina cites information from LGBT activists, but also from representatives of various authorities, the ministry of the interior, the Chechen department of public prosecution, and local secret service circles. A notable Muslim cleric as well as two well-known TV moderators are said to be among those arrested.

    Confirmation of the deaths and arrests is yet to come. The Chechen ministry of the interior said that the newspaper report must be an April Fools joke. A speaker for the authoritarian president Ramzan Kadyrov promptly denied the reports: ‘It’s not necessary to arrest or suppress someone who simply does not exist in our republic,’ Alvi Karimov declared. He added that even if there were homosexuals in Chechnya, the security forces would have no problem with them, ‘because their own relatives would send them to a place from which they would never return.’

    Milashina emphasizes that none of those arrested has given any outward indication of homosexuality: ‘in the Caucasus that would amount to a death sentence.’ Indeed, the article quotes Cheda Saratova, a member of the Chechen Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, as having recently said that homosexuality is ‘the evil against which every Chechen will fight.’

    In response, the Board of the Russian LGBT Network has issued a statement that concludes as follows:

    Be aware, that the situation with the human rights in the North Caucasus is truly difficult. Now people’s lives are endangered and the only way to help is the evacuation. The Russian LGBT Network has the necessary resources to evacuate people, there is a team that already makes every effort to safe lives. That is why we ask everyone to share with us the information about people in need and any offers of assistance.

    Of course no official help is to be expected. Dmitriy Peskov, Putin’s speaker, said that the reports would be reviewed. However, he noted smugly that he was ‘no great specialist in the matter of non-traditional orientation’ and said that the topic is not on the Kremlin’s agenda.


    The SPON article includes a link to the original Novaya Gazeta article. Having forgotten virtually all of the Russian that I learned 50 years ago, I’ve run Milashina’s article through Google Translate; some of it comes through pretty clearly, and I’ve extracted some background information.

    Milashina says that her sources in the secret services categorically linked the wave of detentions, which they called a ‘preventive sweep,’ to the following events.

    At the beginning of March Russian LGBT activists, participants in the project, applied for a series of gay pride parades in four cities of the North Caucasus Federal District, Nalchik, Cherkessk, Stavropol, and Maikop. The Nalchik administration predictably turned down the application. (I assume that the other three applications were turned down as well, but the article doesn’t appear actually to say so.) Media coverage of the applications led to massive protests throughout the Caucasus and calls in social media for the murder of people with unconventional sexual orientations.

    The Moscow LGBT activist Nikolay Alekseev told Novaya Gazeta that by applying for parades in various regions of Russia he is fighting for his constitutional rights, for freedom of assembly, and for repealing the law on the prohibition of gay propaganda. When these applications are turned down, he goes to court, and when he loses, he goes to the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, he seems to have trouble seeing the trees for the forest, and the trees are suffering: when asked whether he knew that his announcement of his applications had led to the persecution of local LGBT activists, he said that the Novaya Gazeta reporter was speculating with unverified information, and that he himself knew nothing about such persecutions.

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  • 05/29/17--17:05: More German Trump-Trashing
  • Martin Schulz, the SPD (centre-left) candidate running against Angela Merkel for the German Chancellorship, isn’t the only senior German politician with harsh words for Trump.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE reports that earlier today Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), the German Foreign Minister and former Vice Chancellor, took part in a roundtable on refugees and migration. Afterwards he criticized the U.S. unusually sharply. According to a statement by the Foreign Office, he said that the renunciation of the Western policy consensus by the new U.S. administration only increases the challenges posed by migration. There are, he said, three big factors driving migration: climate change, war, and political and religious persecution, and ‘these problems are only increased by the new American isolationism.’

    He noted that the Trump administration wants to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, pour arms into the crisis regions, and deny entry to people of certain religions. These policies ‘endanger peace in Europe,’ and ‘the shortsighted policies of the American administration stand against the interests of the European Union.’ He added a warning to Europeans: ‘If Europeans do not resolutely oppose this today, the flow of immigrants to Europe will increase further. Anyone who does not oppose this U.S. policy becomes complicit.’

    Europeans must instead fight for more climate protection, fewer weapons, and religious enlightenment or face further destabilization of the Near East and Africa, he said. ‘Not a single problem will be solved by outdated recipes like closing borders and building walls.’

    More generally, Gabriel denied the United States under President Trump a leading rôle in the Western community of shared values, speaking of the ‘loss of the United States as an important nation.’ He said that the weekend wasn’t just a matter of an unsuccessful G7 summit: ‘Unfortunately, that is a sign of the shift in the world’s balance of power. The West is getting somewhat smaller.’

    Katja Kipping (2014). Attribution: Blömke/Kosinsky/Tschöpe via Wikipedia

    Katja Kipping, one of the two co-chairs of Die Linke (The Left), was, unsurprisingly, even blunter. In an interview with Bild she said that Germany must stop displaying ‘moral cowardice towards the USA.’ Of his loutish shoving of Montegro’s Prime Minister Duško Marković at the NATO meeting she said: ‘It shows that Trump has a problem and urgently needs professional help. The kindest thing that I can think concerning Trump is that he is an infantile narcissist.’ And Dietmar Bartsch, parliamentary co-leader of Die Linke (with Sahra Wagenknecht) said that relations with the USA had reached a nadir, and that the G7 summit had resulted in nothing but expenses.

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    I don’t know whether this will get lost amidst the insanity or provide a bit of dry, stodgy relief, but it’s finally ready to go, so I’ll take my chances.

    Far too long ago I wrote a diary, The Prehistory of English: The Case of the Hidden Suffix, about the origin of the ‑th in such nouns as filth, length, and strength that clearly seem to be related to corresponding adjectives, in this case foul, long, and strong. It derives ultimately from a late Proto-Indo-European (PIE) suffix that was added to adjectives to produce abstract nouns in much the same way that we can add ‑ness and ‑ity to adjectives to produce such abstract nouns as boldness and rotundity. This suffix survived into Proto-Germanic (PGmc) as a suffix *‑iþō, (for more details see the previous diary), which was used in much the same way as its ancestor to form nouns from adjectives within PGmc. 

    There are also many nouns ending in ‑t or ‑th that look — at least if we keep the previous suffix in mind — as if they might have been formed by adding ‑th or ‑t to a related verb, perhaps mangling the verb a bit in the process; some of the more readily apparent are gift (to give), weight (to weigh), cleft (to cleave), birth (to bear), and flight (to fly). And indeed this is the case. I should warn you, however, that this story is a bit more complicated, and I can’t avoid going into a little more technical detail. I’ve tried to find a reasonable compromise between gross oversimplification and incomprehensible honesty; I’m not at all sure, however, that I’ve succeeded.

    Our starting point is a pair of PIE suffixes, *‑ti- and *‑tu-, that were used to form abstract nouns from verbs. There were originally both formal and semantic differences in the way they were used, but these distinctions are quite technical and were starting to blur already in PIE, so I’ll ignore them.

    These suffixes survived into PGmc, and *‑ti- at least remained productive in PGmc: its PGmc reflex was used to form abstract nouns from PGmc verbs that have no known non-Germanic cognates. (In fact most of the known examples are of this type.) Of course they were subject to the various sound changes that are part of the history of PGmc; for the benefit of those who are interested in the details I will mention some of these sound changes by name and link to the corresponding Wikipedia articles, but the basic story should be reasonably clear without those details. Thanks to Grimm’s law and the Germanic spirant law, their main PGmc reflexes were *‑þi- and *‑ti-, and *‑þu- and *‑tu-, respectively, which for the most part have come down to us as ‑th and ‑t.

    None of the examples that I can find has a completely straightforward history in English, but the pair to cleave and cleft comes closer than most. Underlying both is the PIE root *glewbh- ‘to split’, whose PGmc reflex is *kleub-. This is clearly visible in the PGmc verb *kleubaną ‘to split’, which by regular sound changes gave rise to Old English (OE) clēofan and then Present-Day English (PDE) cleave. (Note that PGmc *b was actually a voiced bilabial fricative, like the b in Spanish haber.)

    The noun cleft has a more complicated history, one that is easier to present in reverse chronological order. Its immediate ancestor is Middle English (ME) clift ‘a crack, fissure, cleft’. The change to PDE cleft is irregular: ME clift would be expected to produce PDE clift. Apparently the noun was assimilated to the newly formed past participle cleft of the verb, which by the late 14th century is already sometimes found instead of the regular past participle cloven. 

    The most straightforward explanation of ME clift is that it is the regular reflex of an unrecorded OE *clyft regularly derived from PGmc *kluftiz. The extant OE corpus contains only about 35,000 distinct lexical items, so gaps in it are very much to be expected, and reflexes in Old High German and Old Norse (ON) confirm the existence of *kluftiz. And *kluftiz, despite appearances, really is the result of appending the suffix in question to the root of the verb. (The *‑z is a second suffix, an inflectional marker for the nominative case of the noun.)

    So why does it appear that we are adding *‑ti- to *kluf- instead of to *kleub-? This is quite technical, and I’ll not go into very great detail. That we have *‑ft- instead of *‑bt- or *‑bþ- is a consequence of the Germanic spirant law. The change of vowel is an instance of a much more fundamental phenomenon known as Indo-European ablaut. There was a standard set of changes that could be rung on the vocalic nucleus of a PIE root to produce different inflectional forms and even altogether different words with related meanings. For example, the verb sing goes back to the PIE root *sengwh- ‘to chant’, while the noun song goes back to *songwhos ‘a chant’, formed from *songwh-, the so-called o-grade of the same root, which is obtained by changing the vowel e to o.

    The basic form of the ‘split’ root is *glewbh-, the so-called e-grade. This is the form whose PGmc reflex is *kleub-. One of its standard variants, called the zero grade, is *glubh-, obtained by dropping the basic e vowel altogether and vocalizing the semivowel *w to u. Appending the suffix *‑ti- yields *glubhti-, whose regular PGmc reflex is *klufti-.

    To drive and drift form a similar pair. The underlying PIE root is *dhreybh- ‘to push, to drive’; its regular PGmc reflex is *drīb-, which we do indeed see in PGmc *drībaną ‘to drive’. Its zero grade is *dhribh-, obtained by dropping the *e and vocalizing the semivowel *y to *i, and the regular PGmc reflex of *dhribhti- is *drifti-, whence e.g. ON drift ‘snowdrift’, Middle High German trift ‘a floating of timber; something driven; pasturage (place where cattle are driven); a drove’, and Middle Dutch drift ‘pasturage; a drove’. PDE drift can be traced back to ME drift ‘act of driving; snowdrift; floating’, which is either from an unattested OE cognate *drift or a borrowing from Scandinavian or Middle Dutch but in any case goes back to PGmc *driftiz. 

    For an example in which the PIE root does not change grades we may use to weigh and weight. The verb is from PGmc *weganą ‘to move’, and the noun is from PGmc *wihtiz ‘weight’. (Here the h is a conventional notation for a sound like the German ch in Bach and the Scottish ch in loch.) The underlying PIE root is *weǵh- ‘to go, move, transport in a vehicle’; its regular PGmc reflex is *weg-, as in *weganą. Owing to the Germanic spirant law, the PGmc reflex of PIE *‑ǵht- is *‑ht-. The change of vowel from *e to *i is the result of i-umlaut, which I discussed in the previous diary, triggered by the *i of the suffix, and the PGmc output of PIE *weǵhti- is therefore *wihti-. The OE intermediates are wegan ‘to carry, transport; to bear; to support; to weigh’ and wiht ‘weight, a weighing’, both regular reflexes of the PGmc words.

    I’ll give three more examples in comparable detail; the first is to give and gift. The verb is from OE (specifically Old West Saxon) giefan ‘to give’, a regular reflex of PGmc *gebaną with the same meaning. Had this verb developed regularly, it would most likely have become yive: OE initial g was generally pronounced like the y in PDE yet when followed by i or e (cf. PDE yield from OE gieldan). Our give is the result of Scandinavian influence in the Danelaw (cf. Old Swedish giva).

    The noun may be directly from OE gift with similar influence from ON gift ‘a gift’ (since the OE word would regularly have yielded modern yift). However, the OE word is recorded only in the sense ‘payment for a wife’, a sense that does not seem to have survived into Middle English (ME), so it is quite likely that our gift is actually a borrowing from Scandinavian. At any rate, both the OE and the ON words are from PGmc *giftiz ‘that which is given, a gift’, formed by appending the suffix *‑ti- to the root of the verb. (Here again the i in the root is the result of i‑umlaut.)

    The second is one of the relatively few examples deriving from the PIE suffix *‑tu-: to flow and flood. The underlying PIE root is *plew- ‘to flow, fly, run’ in its lengthened o-grade form *plōw-. The PGmc verb was *flōwaną, whence by regular changes OE flōwan and PDE flow. Apparently the PIE noun had the accent on the suffix, so that Verner’s law applied to yield the PGmc reflex *flōðuz, with *ð (the voiced sound of th in this and other) instead of *þ (the unvoiced sound of th in thin and ether). PGmc *ð regularly hardened to d in OE, and the normal loss of final *‑uz left OE flōd, of which PDE flood is the expected outcome.

    Finally, for an example in which the suffix survives as *‑th we may take to die and death. The verb goes back to a PIE root *dhew- ‘to pass away, die’ via PGm *dawjaną. This developed regularly into ON deyja ‘to die’. The Scandinavian word was borrowed into early ME as dēȝen, of which PDE die is the regular reflex. PIE *dhowtus, with the o-grade of the PIE root and the suffix *‑tu-, (and inflectional marker *‑s) developed into PGmc *dauþuz ‘death’, with regular OE reflex dēaþ, whence PDE death.

    Now I need to correct a lie by omission that simplified the presentation a bit: it’s possible that some of the PGmc nouns that I’ve mentioned were not descended from PIE nouns but rather were new creations in PGmc. We know that speakers of PGmc did create new nouns on this pattern by analogy with inherited ones. In fact, this construction remained productive in at least one daughter language of PGmc. PGmc eventually split into Proto-East Germanic and Proto-Northwest Germanic (PNWGmc), the ancestor of English, and we have an example from PNWGmc.

    After borrowing the Latin verb scrībere ‘to write’ as *skrīban, speakers of PNWGmc formed from it the noun *skrifti ‘writing’ on the pattern of PWGmc *drīban and *drifti (from the PGmc verb and noun*drībaną and *driftiz, discussed above). These developed regularly into OE scrīfan ‘to prescribe, ordain, allot, assign; to shrive (hear confession and exact penance)’ and OE scrift ‘confession’, the etymons of PDE shrive and shrift.

    And it continued into the history of English proper. The noun heft ‘weight, heaviness, quality of weight’, for instance, only appears in the mid-15th century, created from the verb to heave by analogy with such pairs as weave ~ weft  and thieve ~ theft. A century later we find growth, formed from the verb to grow.

    It is noteworthy that in this case the suffix was added as ‑th rather than as ‑t, because this is exactly what we would expect had the noun developed normally from a hypothetical PGmc **grōþiz. (The PGmc verb is *grōaną, with root *grō-, and since neither Verner’s law nor the Germanic spirant law would have applied, the PGmc suffix corresponding to PIE *‑ti- would have been *‑þi-.) Even at this very late date the analogy was being applied correctly.

    I can’t resist concluding with the bizarre example of to choose and gusto, two words that have no obvious semantic connection at all.

    The verb is from PGmc *keusaną ‘to test; to choose’ by way of OE cēosan ‘to choose’; the underlying PIE root is *ǵews- ‘to taste, try, test’, and all of these developments are regular. Then things went a bit astray. The regular ME reflex of OE cēosan is chēsen, which does occur; had it developed normally, the PDE verb would be to cheese. At some point, however, it was displaced by later ME chōse, the actual source of PDE choose. Now the OE diphthong ēo was a falling diphthong, meaning that its first element was more prominent acoustically than its second; if it had a rising variant in some dialect(s), this variant would have yielded ME chōse. The native lexicon of PDE is descended from a variety of ME and OE dialects, so some such history is entirely plausible. 

    Such diphthong variants did exist. For example, the OE name of what is now Yafforth in North Yorkshire was Ēaford (‘river ford’), with the OE falling diphthong ēa. By 1283 the name appears in record as Yafford, a spelling that clearly shows that the initial diphthong had been replaced by the corresponding rising diphthong.

    The noun is not native to English, but it does have a straightforward history back to a PIE form containing the noun-forming suffix *‑tu-. In English it’s a borrowing of Italian gusto ‘taste; enjoyment, pleasure, relish’ that appears in the early 17th century. The Italian word, unsurprisingly, is from Latin gustus ‘flavor, taste’, which in turn is from PIE *ǵustus with the zero grade variant of the root.

    It’s not hard to see that the notions of trying, testing, and tasting overlap, and choosing typically entails testing the alternatives, at least mentally; it’s a bit harder to see how the sense ‘keen enjoyment, relish’ fits in, but the related Latin verb gustāre offers a clue. It’s primary sense is ‘to taste’, but it also came to mean ‘to take a light meal’, ‘to partake of’ and ‘to enjoy’, and those senses form a pretty natural progression towards the English meaning.

    And that’s probably more about penguins these suffixes than you cared to know.