Muslim Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than white evangelicals, Pew research says

Published: Thursday, August 03, 2017 @ 10:32 AM

San Francisco, CA, USA - June 24, 2016: People at the Transmarch in San Francisco.
Luca_Boveri/Getty Images
San Francisco, CA, USA - June 24, 2016: People at the Transmarch in San Francisco.(Luca_Boveri/Getty Images)

Ten years ago, only 27 percent of Muslims in the United States said homosexuality should be accepted by society, and 61 percent said same-sex relationships should be discouraged.

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But according to a Pew Research Center report released last week, the majority of Muslim Americans today -- 52 percent -- are now accepting of homosexuality, following a trend found in other American faith groups.

Even the Muslims who said religion is “very important” in their lives have become 28 points more accepting since 2007.

Compared to other American faith groups, Muslim Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than white evangelicals (34 percent) and black Protestants (50 percent), but are not as accepting as white mainline Protestants (76 percent) and Catholics (66 percent).

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers 

Young Muslim Americans (Muslim millennials) also tend to be more accepting of homosexuality. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of Muslim millennials in America that said homosexuality should be accepted by society jumped from 33 percent to 60 percent.

(Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)

The Pew report, which includes data from more than 1,000 adult U.S. Muslims, also found the majority of Muslim Americans continue to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (66 percent) and 39 percent describe themselves as politically moderate.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

Forty-four percent of Muslims eligible to vote cast ballots in last year's presidential election, compared to 37 percent in 2007. Those numbers on Muslim voting are compared to 60 percent of eligible voters overall who cast ballots in 2016.

Muslims overwhelmingly backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who drew 78 percent of their vote, compared to 8 percent for Trump.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

Alarmed by the anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, Muslim American leaders made an unprecedented push to register voters in mosques and at community events, leading to higher overall turnout.

Pew researchers estimate the number of U.S. Muslims has been growing by 100,000 each year, reaching 3.35 million, or 1 percent of the American population.

» RELATED: Georgia did not ‘ban Muslim culture,’ as fake-news websites claimed 

By 2050, they estimate Islam will supplant Judaism as the second-most popular religion in the U.S., with Muslims making up 2.1 percent of the future population.

Just over half of U.S. Muslims identify as Sunni, while 16 percent identify as Shiite. Nearly six in 10 adult American Muslims were born outside the U.S.

The largest share of immigrants come from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, while others have come from Iraq, Iran, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

American-born blacks make up about 13 percent of all Muslims in America, but their share is shrinking. Overall, eight in 10 are U.S. citizens, according to the survey.

Eight in 10 American Muslims also said they were concerned about Islamic extremism, and more than 70 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about Islamic extremism in the U.S.

However, three of 10 said that most of those arrested recently on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack had been tricked by law enforcement authorities and did not represent a real threat.

Read the full Pew Research Center report at Pewforum.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Teen admits to killing Memphis couple, setting apartment on fire

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:42 PM


Joe Raedle/Getty Images
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

An arrest has been made after a Memphis couple was found dead in an apartment that went up in flames Thursday afternoon.

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Aareon Berryman, 18, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated arson, possession of marijuana with the intent to manufacture or sell, and possession of ecstasy with the intent to manufacture or sell. 

On Thursday afternoon, a Memphis Police Department officer said he heard multiple gunshots coming from an apartment complex located in the 3500 block of Tall Oaks Circle. Witnesses began yelling, "It's a robbery happening," he said.

Moments later, the officer said he found Berryman running northbound from an apartment unit engulfed in flames. After a short foot chase, Berryman was caught and taken into custody. Officers said they asked the suspect if anyone was still in the apartment. 

>> Related: Husband, wife found dead in Memphis apartment that went up in flames 

Berryman said there were two other people inside the burning apartment where he "left them," police officials said.

The Memphis Fire Department arrived at the scene after being notified of the apartment fire. MFD found the body of Brandon Allen lying on the kitchen floor and the body Regina Allen in the back bedroom. They were pronounced dead on the scene.

Regina and Brandon Allen were found dead in their burned-out Memphis apartment Thursday. A teen has been arrested and charged with arson, murder and other crimes.(Facebook)

The couple had just celebrated Regina's birthday four days ago.

Police said Berryman admitted to killing both victims, taking their property, and setting their apartment on fire.

The suspect allegedly had an AR-15, loaded handgun, 2 jars of marijuana, 3 plastic bags of marijuana, 3 prescription pill bottles, and a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid in his possession at the time of his arrest, authorities said.

>> Related: Family ID's husband and wife found dead in burning apartment

Officials said 8 to 16 units were completely or partially burned out in the process. The total damage was estimated at $254,000 for the buildings and $76,000 worth of contents, according to MFD.

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Man accused of beating wife, an online exhibitionist, to death with absinthe bottle

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 7:01 PM

William Jeffrey
William Jeffrey "Jeff" West(Shelby County Jail)

An Alabama man charged with killing his wife, whose slaying last month unveiled her double life as an online exhibitionist, is accused of beating her to death with a bottle of absinthe, court records show.

The partially-clothed body of Kathleen Dawn “Kat” West, 42, of Calera, was discovered lying in the road in front of her home just after 5 a.m. on Jan. 18, Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said in a Thursday news conference. She lived there with her husband, William Jeffrey West, and their 12-year-old daughter. 

Jeff West, 44, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder. According to Shelby County Jail records, he was being held Friday in lieu of $500,000 bond. 

The couple’s daughter was not home when her mother was killed.

Lemley said Thursday that Jeff West was the department’s chief suspect from the beginning of the investigation, though Kat West’s “online professional activities” warranted investigators’ attention. 

He declined to specify what evidence pointed them toward her husband. 

“Let me say this. We are still restricted, very restricted, on what information that can be given out,” Lemley said. “The case is still under investigation, even though we have made an arrest. But, the case has to go to trial as well.”

The West murder case has shone a national spotlight on small-town Calera, due mainly to the more salacious details of Kat West’s life. Though she described herself on social media as a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother, she operated a subscription-only adult website where she went by the name “Kitty Kat West.” The public page boasted a suggestive photo and promised users that, for a monthly $15.99 subscription fee, they could get more risqué material beyond the paywall. 

Her Twitter account, also listed under her stage name, directs viewers to the paid adult website, as well. Kat West’s bio on the adult site, which was still live as of Friday, described the site, in part, as “hundreds of pics of ALL me, having some naughty fun.”

In the days immediately following the slaying, Kat West’s mother, Nancy Martin, wrote on Facebook that it seemed “impossible for the extreme sadness and grief we feel (over) the loss of our beautiful daughter, Kat, to ever diminish.” She described her daughter as a “cherished wife to Jeff” and a loving mother to their own young daughter. 

A fundraiser in Kat West’s name was established, but quickly ended as the case became more public. 

On Jan. 24, Martin changed her profile picture to one of her daughter and son-in-law. It remained there as of Friday afternoon. 

See Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley’s news conference, recorded by WBRC in Birmingham, below. 

Lemley said that investigators interviewed many witnesses in the case, as well as collecting a lot of evidence that needed to be processed. Four detectives were assigned to the case, two of them full-time. 

“Evidence takes time to process,” the police chief said. “And we have to wait on that evidence to come in so we can connect all the dots.”

Detectives were awaiting analysis on a final piece of evidence from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That final report was issued on Tuesday and, after a thorough review by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, a warrant was issued for Jeff West’s arrest, the chief said. 

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“We know exactly what happened, for the most part, on this case.” Lemley said. “I mean, we can’t tell you verbatim what was being said one way or the other, but we know what happened that night. We do have evidence to support that.”

The chief credited neighboring Shelby County law enforcement agencies, state agencies and the FBI with assisting in the investigation. 

Lemley again declined to go into detail about the evidence, but Jeff West’s arrest warrant, obtained by AL.com, indicates that Kat West was killed with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe. An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma to the head. 

The court documents state that, when a 19-year-old neighbor left for work Jan. 18, she found Kat West face-down on the ground in nothing but a sports bra, her body half in the roadway and half in the yard of the home across the street. A cellphone was found nearby, along with a green liquor bottle. 

Lucid Absinthe is sold in green bottles. 

TV news magazine Inside Edition on Jan. 25 aired surveillance footage from R&R Wine and Liquor, in Calera, that shows Kat West, just about eight hours before she was killed, walk into the liquor store with a man who appears to be her husband. In the video, the couple looks happy and playful.

“They came in (and) it looked like they were on their date night,” store clerk Stacey Oglesby told Inside Edition.

The couple bought two things that night: Lucid Absinthe and Jameson Irish Whiskey, Oglesby said. 

Lemley said it was not completely clear what could have happened between the couple’s visit to the liquor store, when they appeared happy, and when Kat West was bludgeoned to death. 

“It’s a domestic. Unfortunately, domestics turn bad pretty quickly,” Lemley said. “Anything can trigger it.” 

Jeff West, a military veteran, works as an unsworn police officer at Birmingham Southern College, AL.com reported. Officials at the school said they are in the process of terminating his employment. 

As of Thursday, Jeff West had not admitted involvement in the crime, Lemley said. 

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New tests, including blood check, could help doctors diagnose autism

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:34 PM

A scientist studies slides under a microscope.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A scientist studies slides under a microscope.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A newly developed blood and urine test could potentially detect autism in young children.

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That’s according to new research from scientists in the United Kingdom and Italy who conducted tests in search for damage to proteins previously known to be higher in children with autism spectrum disorders.

The study, published this week in the academic journal Molecular Autism, tested 38 children between 5-12 years old with autism and 31 without, looking for differences in samples of urine and blood between the two groups.

The results revealed that children with autism had greater protein damage when examining plasma in their blood, which causes higher levels of an oxidation marker called ditryosine, as well as sugar-modified compounds known as advanced glycation end-products.

>> Related: Atlanta resources for those on the autism spectrum

"We have found that the power of measuring damaged proteins to the brain may be a cause for a development of autism," Dr. Paul Thornalley, professor of systems biology at the University of Warwick and one of the study’s lead researchers, explained to CNN.

According to Thornalley, previous research has also shown a connection between autism and proteins that were not damaged, the reverse of this study.

"Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention. We hope the tests will also reveal new causative factors," Dr. Naila Rabbani, another lead researcher from the University of Warwick, told The Guardian.

"With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles – or 'fingerprints' – of compounds with damaging modifications. This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD,” she said.

While the new results appear promising, some researchers have expressed caution about the study’s small sample size and the study’s lack of a concrete diagnosis plan.

"This study may give us clues about why autistic people are different but it does not provide a new method for diagnosis. It is far too early for that," Dr. James Cusack, director of science at the UK autism research charity Autistica, told the BBC.

>> Related: 'Sesame Street' welcomes Julia, new character with autism

"We don't know whether this technique can tell the difference between autism, ADHD, anxiety or other similar conditions. The study also only looked at a small group of people," he pointed out. "The best way to diagnose autism is still through clinical interview and observation."

But despite the criticism, the scientists behind the research are calling it a "first step" toward developing a simple test. They aim to move forward with further research, performing the tests on a larger group including younger children.

"We have the method, we have everything. All we need to do is repeat it," Rabbani said. "I would really like to go forward with younger children, maybe two years, or even one year old. Then the next step will be to validate in a larger cohort. Then the tests will be ready for screening."

>> Related: Girls with autism more likely to have younger siblings with autism 

More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. currently live with autism spectrum disorders, according to statistics from the Autism Society. The development disorder, which mainly affects social interaction and leads to behavioral problems, is estimated to have genetic causes in 30 percent of cases. The other 70 percent of autism cases are believed to be caused by mutations of genetics and environmental factors combined.

Although many individuals with autism go on to live normal productive lives, 35 percent of young adults with the disorder are unable to work jobs or pursue higher education after high school.

Doctors currently rely on a series of behavioral tests to diagnose the disorder. These can take a great deal of time and are not always accurate. If a blood or urine test could provide a faster and more definitive diagnosis, it would go a long way to ensure young children received the treatment and resources they need earlier on.

However, although experts see the new research as promising, they are still cautioning that such a test is still a long way from being viable.

>> Related: Possible autism breakthrough using children’s own stem cells 

"This is a promising area; however, this is a very long way indeed from a 'test for autism,' " Dr. Max Davie, spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said. "It is important that it is not adopted with too much enthusiasm."

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Kentucky bill would terminate parental rights of women after birth of drug-addicted babies

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

Law Would Terminate Parental Rights Of Babies To Mothers Who Are Drug Addicts

The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has claimed millions of victims and has spread into even remote corners of American society. 

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While critics have accused states and the federal government of being slow to act in addressing the crisis, there has been a recent spotlight on the pharmaceutical companies’ role in the epidemic, and Kentucky, in particular, is taking steps to try to protect babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

A new bill in the state’s Legislature would terminate the parental rights of mothers of babies born addicted to drugs, classifying the newborns as “addicted and abused at birth,” according to The Associated Press. The new mothers would lose their babies unless they are enrolled in drug treatment programs. The state would be required to begin the process of terminating parental rights within 60 days of the birth of a drug-addicted baby.

>> Related: Pregnant inmates have local jails scrambling to provide care

The Republican Kentucky House Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade introduced House Bill 1 to address extensive problems in the state’s adoption and foster care system, the website KYForward.com reported, but he also included an effort to try to address the opioid crisis, which has hit the Bluegrass state hard.

“Many issues have led to the epidemic of children lingering in the state system, including an oversized bureaucracy, the opioid epidemic, and a lack of attention in the past to these issues. House Bill 1 is the first step in putting Kentucky on a different track for adoption and foster care, and truly putting children and families first,” Meade said, according to KYForward.com.

>> Related: Kentucky teacher arrested after allegedly snorting crushed pill in class

The legislation, which was unanimously approved Thursday and is now headed to the House floor for debate, has bipartisan support among lawmakers. 

Gaylord Lopez, a doctor of pharmacy and director of the Georgia Poison Center, shares a few facts about the opioid epidemic in Georgia and around the nation. An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that opioid-related overdoses in the state of Georgia claimed the lives of 982 people last year. The AJC also found that doctors aren't being held accountable when they behave more like dealers than healers. Video by Ryon Horne, Carrie Teegardin and Curtis Compton

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