For the wealthy, for people whose earnings derive mostly from investments and dividends, and not grunting work, it is somehow scandalous that we should get a thousand a month after a lifetime of honest labor. They can steal from us to finance their endless war and banking shenanigans, but it’s not OK for us tapped out lumpens to have a minimum income in old age? Instead of gutting Social Security, we should wipe out the superfluous Department of Homeland Security.
Very interesting analysis this week by Juan - for instance:
4. The Egyptian Left has been on a roll since July 8, starting back up the Tahrir protests and forcing the government to move more aggressively in trying former regime figures and out-of-control police, and in switching out about half the cabinet, replacing Establishment figures with persons more sympathetic too or even deriving from the ranks of the protesters. The Muslim fundamentalists were upset by this growing leftist influence, backed by labor activists and youth groups sympathetic to them, and so threatened to stage a big rally on July 29 in favor of implementing Islamic law.
They were afraid in part that the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, the real power behind the civilian cabinet of PM Essam Sharaf, will issue “guiding principles” for the drafting of the constitution, scheduled to begin this winter after elections. These “guiding principles” could forestall any Islamization of the constitution. The Wasat Party mediated a deal to avoid a clash at Tahrir Square, and it was decided that some 30 parties and organizations would hold a joint demonstration for mutually agreed-upon goals. The Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, which represents itself as the modern face of Muslim politics, largely abided by the agreement. But Salafis, who are a recognizable subculture in Egypt, did not. Salafi men tend to wear white, Saudi-style robes, checkered kaffiyas or head scarves, and large beards, often with no moustaches. The Salafis want an Islamic state and a hard line interpretation of shariah, and on Friday they said so loudly. The Salafis are a tiny group in Egypt, and they are widely seen to have behaved badly, even by other Muslim parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the Salafis put a scare into women, middle class people, Coptic Christians, and youth on Friday that almost certainly hurt the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming elections, at least in urban areas. That is, the true significance of Friday’s events is the opposite of that you see in a lot of today’s headlines in the Western press, about Muslim politics coming to the fore.
LEGISLATION TO prevent female genital mutilation “is the first step to ensuring this practice does not take hold in Ireland”, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has told the Dáil. Introducing the Bill, he described the practice of the partial or total removal of external female genitalia as a “gross violation of women’s human rights”.
Dr Reilly said that between 100 million and 140 million girls and women worldwide had been subjected to some form of such mutilation or cutting, and a further three million girls were at risk each year. “We know that there are more than 3,000 women living in Ireland who have undergone FGM [female genital mutilation].”
National and international experts had been consulted for the legislation which “will bring Ireland in line with international best practice as well as providing indisputable legal clarity on the issue”, which is practised in at least 28 African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The Minister said such mutilation was “an expression of gender inequality”. In many cases parents wanted their children to undergo the practice “to avoid stigmatisation or social exclusion by the rest of the community”.
Stressing there were no health benefits to the practice, Dr Reilly highlighted the dangers, including severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, difficulty passing urine, infection, psychological trauma and potentially fatal sepsis. The Minister said one of the biggest risks for young girls living in Ireland was visiting countries where the practice was prevalent. “Parents are coming under pressure to have FGM carried out on their daughters when visiting their country of origin.”
The Bill deals with this by making it an offence to remove a girl or woman from the State for the purpose of such mutilation.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said “many communities may not even question the practice or have long forgotten the reasons for it”. He said it was “often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity”. Mr Kelleher added it was “critically important” that “we accept and acknowledge that individuals with traditions in communities believe” the practice was part of tradition and culture, but “we must ensure all legislative provision is made available” to prevent this.
Sinn Féin spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Bill alone could not address the needs of women affected, “but we hope that it will prevent girls and women resident in Ireland from falling victim to the practice”.
The Bill creates penalties including prison for the practice in the State and for “bringing a girl or woman outside the State for that purpose”. Mr Ó Caoláin said it might be difficult to enforce this aspect but “we have an obligation to have the law in place, as a deterrent and as a means of dealing with the cases that arise”. Independent Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle said the legislation was only “one part of the necessary action”. It should be accompanied by awareness-raising measures among medical personnel, gardaí, social workers and teachers, he said
Inspired by climate denial pundits, right-wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik railed against global warming "enviro-communism" in his manifesto. Breivik -- who confessed to killing 76 people in two attacks in Norway -- published on the web a 1,500-page manifesto describing his Christian conservative conspiracy theories. In one section, "Green is the new Red -- Stop Enviro-Communism!" Breivik argues that global warming is actually an eco-Marxist plot "to create a world government" using the "Anthropogenic Global Warming scam":
"You might know them as environmentalists, enviro-communists, eco-Marxists, neo-Communists or eco-fanatics. They all claim they want to save the world from global warming but their true agenda is to contribute to create a world government lead by the UN or in other ways increase the transfer of resources (redistribute resources) from the developed Western world to the third world. They hope to accomplish this through the distribution of misinformation (propaganda) which they hope will lead to increased taxation of already excessively taxed Europeans and U.S. citizens."
Although Breivik's conspiracy theories are insane, they are in line with mainstream opinion among American conservatives. He cites Christopher Monckton's speech before the Minnesota Free Market Institute in 2009, accusing President Obama of trying to cede United States sovereignty to the United Nations through climate treaties. Monckton -- a rabid conspiracy theorist who claims his opponents are Nazis -- was a Republican witness before Congress on global warming in 2010.
Breivik also believed that the "Climategate" hacking incident "revealed how top scientists conspired to falsify data in the face of declining global temperatures in order to prop up the premise that manmade factors are driving climate change."
Scientists in the US announced they may have detected the elusive and potentially universe-changing Higgs boson particle yesterday, just two days after rivals in Switzerland signaled that they, too, have caught their first sight of it.
The physicists working at the Fermilab facility in Illinois may not be as well known as their more illustrious competitors at the Cern Institute near Geneva, which attracted widespread media attention and predictions of an apocalypse when its Large Hadron Collider was turned on in 2008.
However, Fermilab have their own version of the $10 billion collider, known as the Tevatron, in which they are also accelerating beams of protons and antiprotons around tunnels many miles long at extreme speeds. Both teams are doing this to create high-energy collisions between the particles, which they believe should produce the mysterious Higgs boson.
It was on Friday that the team working on the Cern project said they had finally detected the first "bumps" in data collected from their particle collisions, and that was followed yesterday by similar, though not quite as strong, results released from the Fermilab team.
However, while there was excitement at the announcements at the Europhysics conference in Grenoble, south-eastern France, it could be as long as a month before the results can be verified. For now, the researchers are saying their findings are merely "hints", and what they think are signs of the Higgs boson could yet be eliminated during the filtering of the data.
--UPDATE! Fevered speculation about the discovery of the so-called "God particle" by physicists at Europe's underground atom-smasher experiment is premature, according to the director general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) near Geneva.
Professor Rolf Heuer said yesterday that his scientists had detected "intriguing fluctuations" in the data gathered by Cern's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is searching for the elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle predicted by Professor Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University in the 1960s but so far never detected.
Professor Heuer cautioned that the data fluctuations detected by Cern scientists may turn out to have nothing to do with the Higgs boson and could even be random statistical "noise" generated when beams of protons are crashed together within the LHC at velocities just short of the speed of light.
Could one have foreseen the unforeseeable? Could one have comprehended the incomprehensible? Could one have seen the evil designs of Anders Behring Breivik coming? Today many are quoting Stieg Larsson, the Swedish thriller writer who already back in the 1990s had warned of the violent excesses of Scandinavian far-right groups.
In his magazine Expo the author of the Millennium trilogy proved something of a clairvoyant – and drew down aggression and threats. Yet he too had illusions. Because we all were fascinated by the image of an innocent Norway, with the open-mindedness of a society that seemed immune to the virus of intolerance. It was Stieg Larsson who revealed that Sweden, where the neo-Nazi movement has been growing more and more arrogant, was the first to produce “White Power” music and other racist claptrap.
Yet even Stieg Larsson, that agitator of his countrymen’s consciences, concluded that the Norwegian extremists were crude and disorganised, that they were made up of a confused and incoherent rabble of small groups who were almost always drunk when they arrived at the gatherings at the border. Little wonder, therefore, that such an illusion could survive. Certainly, 15 years have passed since then. The extreme right in Norway today, it is said, has forged strong criminal links with other movements abroad, in Europe, in Russia, and in the United States. Last March the annual report of the Norwegian domestic intelligence service (the PST) reported an “increased level of activism among Islamophobic groups” and an “increased activity among far-right circles” in 2010. The study concluded, however, that neither the groups nor individuals of the extreme right were “a serious danger to society.”
“Nobody saw the tragedy coming,” admits Kari Helene Partapouli of the Norwegian Centre for the Fight against Racism. According to her, many factors backed up the illusion of immunity. The nexus of xenophobia, nationalism and Islamophobia never created real political connections in Norway and, above all, never found charismatic leaders. The most populist movement of the country is the Progress Party of Siv Jensen, who demands a tightening of immigration laws. Anders Behring Breivik was a member of the party from 2004 to 2006. He left it then, apparently dissatisfied with its too moderate line....
ZINTAN, Libya —
The women of Libya -- especially in the Nafusa Mountains -- were among the protesters before the fighting started, and since then they have readied their sons and husbands for battle and nursed the wounded. Meanwhile, they are also fighting for their own emancipation in the new Libya they are helping their men to forge.
Women do not exchange glances on the streets of the conservative Arab city of Zintan at the foot of the Nafusa range in western Libya. Behind walls daubed with graffiti proclaiming a "Free Libya," they move like black phantoms, hidden behind the full veil of the niqab...However, the ladies of Libya have felt the winds of change at their backs.
They were chanting "Down with Kadhafi" at the start of the insurrection, alongside the men, calling for veteran strongman Moamer Kadhafi to go. "I've rallied with plenty of young women, even some pregnant ones. The men were so impressed they fired their Kalashnikovs in our honour! That showed them we were equal, and changed their opinion of us," says Afaf Abusaa, a 20-year-old technology student...
Women in Libya have come to see the revolution as a route towards their own emancipation, a way to break free from the jobs reserved for them: nurse, secretary or teacher, trades that leave time to take care of the family. Not they can see a future in which they are not overlooked for a position because a man, albeit a less qualified one, has applied for the same job. They hope that in the new Libya, their parents will allow them to select their own husbands, that their fathers and brothers will stop bossing them around and forbidding them from actively choosing their own path through life.
"Society is very conservative here," says Najiah Hamza, a 26-year-old medical student. "Women don't really have the chance to control their own destiny. We are always told: 'Don't say this, don't do that.' I hope the revolution helps us."
Forty-year-old Salma Abu Rawi recalls how her parents refused to let her marry her childhood sweetheart because he wasn't from Zintan, while Abusaa would rather not have to wear the veil after she is married. Akra explains how she has to fight to become a surgeon, a profession reserved for men. "A woman must break the glass ceiling," she says.
In the Berber villages of west Libya, women traditionally enjoy more freedom than in other parts of the country. In Yafran, women do not have to wear the veil in public. They can be seen behind the steering wheels of cars or discussing contraception in front of men. And no one at home can order them around.
Berber ladies feel they have been leading the way towards women's liberation in Libya for some time. "Even under Kadhafi, we wanted to show the way," says Twzeen Ali Abud, a 20-year-old student. They want to go further still. Women's rights groups are popping up in Zintan, where there is talk of changing the laws on divorce and allowing women to participate in politics. "The revolution gave us a chance to play a role" in society, says 23-year-old pharmacist Anya Ali Abud.
Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund explains how communities can fight corporate power with a new legal weapon.
July 14, 2011
The following is from Sabrina Artel's Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project. You can listen to the complete program here.
These last few days for gas drilling news in New York as been critical and a new level of urgency has been reached as the country watches how New York defines and decides its fate, the future of its famous unfiltered water supply, and communities in the directly impacted regions, whether for or against drilling are forging ahead to determine their immediate future and that for future generations.
It's coming down to Home Rule and self-determination as a way to protect municipalities from fracking. As the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) releases New Recommendations for Drilling in New York explained in the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) released a few days ago, environmental groups, like Catskill Mountainkeeper are calling for a statewide ban and municipalities organize to decide the fate of their towns.
nders Behring Breivik, detained in the deadly Oslo bombing and shooting that has left 92 dead, has links to Norway's anti-government political group the Progress Party, according to the LA Times:
On social media forums, he claimed to be a disgruntled former member of Norway's anti-tax, small-government Progress Party, according to the Norwegian Nettavisen news service. His postings reflected strong anti-Islamic views and a deep skepticism about the mixing of different international cultures.
As if turns out, Tim Phillips, President of the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, spoke at a Progress Party event in 2010. According to an article published in the Norweigen paper Aftenposten on April 24th, 2010:
Phillips was invited by the Progress Party leadership to talk about grassroots organizing. But he talked mostly about how his organization is fighting for a weaker central government and lower taxes, to health reform and climate change.
by Jodi Jacobson, RH: Reproductive and Sexual Health and Justice Report
Some 215 million women worldwide have an "unmet need" for family planning, meaning that they want to either space or limit births but do not have access or lack consistent access to reliable methods of birth control that fit their personal needs. Women with unmet need make up 82 percent of the estimated 75 million unintended pregnancies that occur each year. The remaining 18 percent are due to inconsistent method use or method failure.
In keeping with this, just weeks after publication of a major report underscoring the benefits of robust U.S. investment in family planning worldwide, the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in the early hours of the morning today to reinstate the Global Gag Rule (GGR) as part of the draft Fiscal Year 2012 State Department Authorizations Act, except this time with broader and more damaging implications than ever before...
Providing all women with basic family planning services, is first and foremost a matter of basic human rights and bodily integrity. But it is a smart investment for many other reasons. As an April 2011 report by the Council on Foreign Relations notes:
Global demographic and health trends affect a wide range of vital U.S. foreign policy interests. These interests include the desire to promote healthy, productive families and communities, more prosperous and stable societies, resource and food security, and environmental sustainability. International family planning is one intervention that can advance all these interests in a cost-effective manner. [In addition such investments] can significantly improve maternal, infant, and child health and avert unintended pregnancies and abortions... [and] saves significant investments in other health and social services.
How best to do this? Dramatically expanding access to quality, voluntary reproductive health services, programs for lack of which women are quite literally dying. And it is these very programs that the House GOP most hates, as evidenced by the endless effort to institute the gag rule.
In brief, the GGR, which has existed in the form of an Executive Order for nearly three decades, denies U.S. family planning assistance to any foreign organization that uses their own non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion services or to advocate for the legalization of abortion in countries where complications of unsafe abortion are often the leading cause of maternal death and women die in droves from illegal and unsafe abortions. Since 1984, the GGR, also known as the "Mexico City Policy," has been a political football, first imposed by the Reagan Administration then lifted (by Presidents Clinton and Obama) and re-imposed (by President Bush) every time the White House has changed hands.
The GGR is not necessary to prevent U.S. funding of abortion care. Another law, the Helms Amendment, already forbids U.S. funding for abortion care abroad except in cases of rape and incest (exceptions rarely if ever realized on the ground in any case). But under the GGR, the United States government has traditionally been prohibited from providing funding for contraceptive supplies and counseling to groups that deliver family planning services if they otherwise engage in the above-mentioned "abortion activities."
That reality underscores the true intention behind the GGR: to undermine family planning programs that could prevent abortion in the first place.
And that has been its effect. Numerous reports (including those from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Population Action International, Ipas, and Human Rights Watch) exist documenting the egregious effects of the GGR on family planning and the lives and health of real women, so I won't detail them all here. Suffice it to say that the GGR in its original form denies funding to those organizations best poised in terms of knowledge, capacity, legitimacy, and effectiveness to deliver reproductive health care to women in developing countries.
The version now included in the current draft FY 2012 State Department Authorization Act goes further than simply denying family planning funds to a much broader agenda. According to Ranking Member Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA):
"The language in the bill not only bars family planning assistance to local health care providers in poor countries, it bars ALL assistance to such organizations – including HIV/AIDS funding, water and sanitation, child survival, and education."
Great post by Dave, pres of AHA.
In my travels as president of the American Humanist Association, I am often asked to explain the difference between atheism and humanism. Since the question gets raised so frequently, I thought it might be a good idea to provide a short explanation here.
To understand the difference between the terms atheism and humanism, realize first that the former refers to a view of only one specific issue (the existence of gods) whereas the latter is a broad philosophical outlook. From that premise, the rest falls into place easily.
When Sally describes herself as an atheist, she is revealing only one fact about herself: she does not believe in any gods. Note that she is saying nothing about other supernatural beliefs, and she is saying nothing about her ethical/moral principles. Although atheists, being without any god-beliefs, usually do not accept other supernatural claims (such as belief in astrology, reincarnation, or life after death), technically Sally could believe in such notions and still wear the "atheist" label. Moreover, while some might be inclined to make certain presumptions about Sally's ethical principles upon learning that she identifies as an atheist, such presumptions, based on her atheist identity alone, are unwarranted. Because the atheist identity refers only to the singular issue of god-belief, it says nothing about her moral stature, good or bad.
When Patty describes herself as a humanist, on the other hand, she tells us numerous things about herself. For one, she tells us that she approaches the world from a natural standpoint, meaning she rejects all supernatural beliefs, not just the singular issue of divinities. In seeking truth and knowledge, she accepts empiricism, science, and reason as her guides. Identifying as a humanist, Patty is declaring that she holds certain values, including a support for human rights, peace, democracy, and personal liberty with a sense of social responsibility. These principles are subject to some interpretation, of course, and humanism rejects outright the notion of dogma, but the general thrust of humanism is a progressive, forward-looking life-stance that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and personal fulfillment within the context of social well-being. The AHA sets forth a vision of humanism in its document Humanism and its Aspirations, which has been signed by 21 Nobel Laureates. The International Humanist and Ethical Union also has a short statement of humanist principles called The Amsterdam Declaration.
The atheism/humanism comparison shouldn't be seen as an either/or situation where one must choose sides. Many humanists, but not all, also identify as atheists; many atheists, but not all, also identify as humanists. For many years I identified as a humanist but not an atheist, much preferring the broad philosophical label of humanism to the more narrow definition of atheism. In recent years, however, I've come to the opinion that the "atheist" label is wrongly stigmatized in American society, so nowadays I'll also identify as an atheist mainly to push back against the unfair prejudice. My humanism is more important to me than my atheism, but I realize that the Religious Right draws much strength from marginalizing atheists, so we're doing a service if we can help the public to realize that atheists should not be feared.
This brings me to my gentle criticism of Nigel Barbers's various posts on "Why Atheism Will Replace Religion." As an activist in the secular movement, I'm hopeful that Barber's general vision, of a more humane world where dogma and superstition dwindle in importance, is correct. I would simply point out that, if this comes to be, the important element will be the broad, affirmative values of humanism, not a singular notion of nonbelief.
AIDS groups at the International AIDS Society conference in Rome this week “expressed outrage at ongoing free trade agreement negotiations by the United States and the European Union with multiple developing countries that threaten access to medicines for HIV, TB, hepatitis-C as well as other diseases in these countries,” according to a release.
The groups are angry because despite renewing their commitment to flexibilities in the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which allow maximum space for trade in generic medications for AIDS and other serious illnesses, the US and EU are pushing TRIPS-plus protections for brand name drug firms in their respective bilateral trade negotiations.
The release from the groups lists the EU-India FTA and Trans-Pacific Partnership (in the US case) as examples of agreements where stricter intellectual property chapters are being pushed on developing countries. India has been fighting back against EU demands. Indian generic drug companies supply AIDS medication cheaply to 80 per cent of people in developing countries. The cost of using brand name drugs is $15,000 per person versus $70 if generics are used, according to the statement from AIDS groups.
“The EU has been demanding longer patent terms, new monopolies on clinical trial data that prevent the registration of generic medicines, patent enforcement measures and investment rules that allow multinational companies to sue the Indian government over policies promoting affordable medicines,” said Alessandra Cerioli, Chair of LILA - Italian League for the Fight against AIDS.
Though not mentioned in the release, Canada is facing pressure from the US and EU to extend data protection and patent term limits on Big Pharma products. It has become a major sticking point in the ongoing Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations, with most provinces likely opposed to unreasonable new protections for the brand industry. By stalling the introduction of cheaper generics in the Canadian market, these IP reforms would add $2.8 billion annually to public and private health insurance plans, according to the most credible study.
There is also a strong campaign in Canada from AIDS campaigners to remove regulatory red tape to more generic drug exports which could help developing countries. A bill that would have reformed Canada’s access to medicine legislation died on the order paper before the last election. Those supporting the bill (C-393) were distressed to say the least by Harper’s last-minute politicking in the Senate, which he claims to want to abolish.
Belgian Humanists create first chair for the ‘Dignified End-of-life’
DeMens.nu, the umbrella organisation of Humanist member associations in Flanders and Brussels, has created the world’s first University Chair for the ‘Dignified End-of-life’. The new chair is part of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). It will address all the issues surrounding the end of life, without prejudice against options such as euthanasia.
Respect for self-determination is a central value for deMens.nu (formerly known as the Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen). This respect for individuals’ life choices extends to their decisions at the end of their lives. Yet, before now, there has never been a university chair devoted to studying and respecting the rights of terminally ill people throughout the course of their illness.
Research by VUB reveals that almost half of the deaths in Flanders are preceded by a decision which may influence the moment of death, including choices about treatment, palliative sedation or euthanasia. Unfortunately, these decisions are often taken unilaterally by the attending doctors.
Wim Distelmans, professor of palliative medicine at the VUB and first holder of the chair for ‘Dignified End-of-life’, stresses the importance of coordination in care and decision-making about the end-of-life: “With this chair we wish to ensure the population and caregivers are fully informed about all possible options. At the same time we will invest in further research.” Together with deMens.nu, Wim Distelmans also works with networks dedicated to a dignified end-of-life.
For deMens.nu, financing the chair is a logical complement to its core business: the development and extension of Humanist service. At their Humanist centres (huizenvandeMens or homeofthePeople) anybody with a problem can find a sympathetic ear. In addition, people with questions about a dignified end-of-life can consult with Humanist counselors. Services available in the Humanist centres include advice and assistance for people drawing up euthanasia directives for themselves.
Belgium is the only country in the world with a detailed law on the end-of-life. In fact it has a rights-of-patients law, a palliative care law and a euthanasia law. With this new Chair for the Dignified End-of-life Belgium remains true to its pioneering role.
Humanists welcome Queen’s praise for persecuted gay atheist
Humanists have warmly welcomed the Queen of England’s praise for the gay atheist Alan Turing, whose work breaking German codes played a crucial role in World War II. The creator of the modern computer, Turing received little recognition for his work during his life, which ended when he committed suicide after he was convicted of a homosexual act and forced to undergo chemical castration.
On July 15, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a monument to commemorate the contribution made by code breakers, based at Bletchley Park in the British midlands, to the victory over Nazi Germany. In her speech the Queen said it was "impossible to overstate" the sense of gratitude to people who worked at Bletchley Park. “[It] became the centre of a world-wide web of intelligence communications, spanning the Commonwealth and further afield. This was the place of geniuses such as Alan Turing.”
George Broadhead, secretary of IHEU member organization the Pink Triangle Trust, welcomed the Queen’s comments and the new monument, saying: “It is great that these people who played such a vital part in ensuring allied victory in the last world war should be honoured in this way. For we gay Humanists, most of whom identify as atheist, it is especially welcome that the gay mathematical genius Alan Turing, who was himself a committed atheist, was given special recognition. Turing was treated abominably by the authorities when he was prosecuted for having a gay sexual relationship in 1952.”
Following his conviction for “indecency”, Turing was obliged to undergo chemical castration to “cure” his homosexuality. In 1954, at the age of 41, he killed himself by eating an apple laced with cyanide.
In recent years, Turing's reputation has been rehabilitated. His pivotal work in breaking German codes has been made public. And Turing has been widely celebrated as the founder of computer science and artificial intelligence. Following a campaign led by Humanists Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell, then prime minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the government.
Why the Biggest Energy Suck in Your House May Have to do With Your TV
That little cable box sitting atop your television set is likely the largest single source of electrical waste in your entire household.
Note to TV-loving couch potatoes: That little box sitting atop your television set that transforms a signal into your favorite show is likely the largest single source of electrical waste in your entire household. These so-called set-top boxes are bigger electrical suckers than new refrigerators. Who knew such a small box could be such a huge power drain?
In the United States alone there are over 160 million set-top boxes perched inside entertainment centers and on television sets. That's one for every two people in the country or 80 percent of U.S. households. The problem is largely due to the fact that modern set-top boxes operate at near full power even when nobody is even watching or recording a program. A new study reports that consumers in this country alone spend over $2 billion in electricity per year to run these little machines.
"The average new cable high-definition digital video recorder (HD-DVR) consumes more than half the energy of an average new refrigerator and more than an average new flat-panel television," reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ecos in a new report called Better Viewing, Lower Energy Bills, and Less Pollution. "Even more troubling, when not displaying or recording video content, U.S. boxes draw nearly as much power as they do when in use
WHO KNEW? the cable box is a bigger vampire than a refrigerator...
The first legal gay wedding in New York State will be between...two gay grannies. Buffalo residents Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd, who have been fighting vocally for marriage equality in New York for some time, are aiming to get hitched on Luna Island by Niagara Falls at 12:00:01 on July 24, the first possible moment they can legally do so. And what a wedding it should be!
“Prince William and Kate didn’t have as many people at their wedding as we will,” Lambert recently joked to the Buffalo News. “It’s going to be amazing. We’ve joked that we’re inviting 1,800 of our closest friends.” The celebration will start with a reception on Goat Island before moving to Luna for the civil marriage ceremony at midnight. Niagara Fallas Mayor Paul A. Dyster will officiate the wedding in front of the couple's friends and family—including their five children and twelve grandchildren!
And as if that weren't enough. According to New Yorkers United for Marriage, "For the first time, to commemorate the wedding, monumental Niagara Falls will be lit in hues of the rainbow equality flag." Nice.
Abd al-Rahman Shalqam, former foreign minister of Libya, has revealed in an interview with al-Hayat in Arabic that Muammar Qaddafi was central to propping up the corrupt and dictatorial regimes of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Many analysts of authoritarianism in the Arab world have pointed to French, British and American support for dictatorial regimes, but the way in which Qaddafi deployed his oil billions in the Middle East and Africa to undermine democracy and reinforce dictatorship and corruption is a key part of the puzzle.
Shalqam said that the security cooperation (i.e. help with domestic surveillance of the STASI sort) was so complete between Libya and Tunisia that Qaddafi had actually given Ben Ali a monthly stipend.
Likewise, he said that Umar Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian military intelligence, was “Libya’s man in Egypt.” Under Suleiman, the secret police in Egypt developed extensive surveillance and used unsavory techniques of interrogation redolent of those deployed by Qaddafi himself. Shalqam confirmed that in 1993 Egyptian secret police abducted Libyan dissident and former foreign minister Mansour al-Kikhia, then sent him to Libya where he was executed by Qaddafi.
Qaddafi, finding himself blocked in attempts to dominate the Arab world (in part by the wealthier and more prestigious Saudis), at one point declared that he was “an unparalleled man” and would become “the king of kings of Africa.” His son Saif al-Islam is said to have teared up in joy at the announcement.
This video refutes the claim some people make that atheists cannot possibly be moral since god and morality are intertwined in their minds. Some people claim that morality is dependent upon religion, that atheists cannot possibly be moral since god and morality are intertwined (well, in their minds). Unfortunately, this is one way that religious people dehumanise atheists who have a logical way of thinking about what constitutes moral social behaviour. More than simply being a (incorrect) definition in the Oxford dictionary, morality is actually the main subject of many philosophers' intellectual lives. This video, the first of a multi-part series, begins this discussion by defining morality and then moving on to look at six hypothetical cultures and their beliefs.
by Tom Bergin and Yereth Rosen
LONDON/ANCHORAGE - BP reported yet another pipeline leak at its Alaskan oilfields, frustrating the oil giant's attempts to rebuild its reputation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP said on Monday that a pipeline at its 30,000 barrel per day Lisburne field, which is currently closed for maintenance, ruptured during testing and spilled a mixture of methanol and oily water onto the tundra. The London-based company has a long history of oil spills at its Alaskan pipelines - accidents which have hurt its public image in the U.S., where around 40 percent of its assets are based.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said the spill occurred on Saturday and amounted to 2,100 to 4,200 gallons. A BP spokesman said the cleanup was under way and the company would determine the cause "in due course."
Lisburne, which is managed as part of the Greater Prudhoe Bay Unit, has produced no oil since June 18, according to Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records, suggesting maintenance work requiring a prolonged shutdown.
Professor AC Grayling's plans for a new private college faced new hurdles today after student' organised to deluge the institution with fake submissions. A Facebook page set up by Oxford students Rachel Elizabeth Fraser and Eloise Stonborough urges activists to send in fake applications to the private college, which plans to charge students £18,000 in tuition fees a year.
Professor Grayling's plans have seen him come in for enormous criticism, as students, lecturers and educational experts accuse him of helping create an separate education system for the rich. A talk featuring Professor Grayling on Tuesday has to be called off after a smoke bomb was let off in the lecture hall while an appearance outside St Andrew's College tomorrow is expected to be disrupted by students.
Revolution in higher education: Celebrity academics set up Oxford challenger
Other lecturers involved in the project, including well-respected evolutionary expert Richard Dawkins, have also been targeted in what is becoming an increasingly bitter campaign. It is a brutal fall-from-grace for Professor Grayling, who liked to describe himself as a humanities 'pinko' and whose reputation for humanism had earned him a place as one of the most celebrated thinkers in Britain.
But his attempt to justify a college with fees twice the level of that of public universities with reference to spending cuts was met with disdain by student activists. Over the last 48 hours, 1,500 students have signed up to a direct action campaign against the college.
"It's incredibly easy to apply for a place because it's outside UCAS, so it's a separate pool of applications," Nicki Kindersley, a PhD student at Durham University who submitted a fake for, said. "The idea is just to bombard them," she said. "The staff are going to get deluged with applications."
The Facebook page urges people to "apply to the New College of Humanities as if you were a rich idiot. "The application form asks how you plan on paying them £54k - tell them you plan on laying golden eggs, extorting leprechaun gold, selling the organs of small children."
On 12th July the UK Tar Sands Network organized an event at the European Parliament: ‘Trading Tar Sands: How the Canada-EU free trade agreement will affect social and environmental policy in the EU and Canada’.
… M.E.P. Keith Taylor (Green, member of the Trade Committee) pointed to the need for the Fuel Quality Directive to accurately reflect tar sands’ high greenhouse gas emissions. “It is vital that within the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), tar sands should be allocated a value that accurately reflects the greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted during production and use,” he said.
… Jess Worth from the UK Tar Sands Network put the tar sands in context, explaining that they are essentially a carbon bomb that humanity cannot afford to detonate… Canada does not want the EU to assign a greenhouse gas value to tar sands that recognizes its significantly higher emissions, because this would strongly discourage its future use in Europe and set a precedent for similar legislation being passed around the world.
… Dr John O’Connor, the physician from Alberta who was Fort Chipewyan’s doctor and first raised the alarm over the high incidence of rare forms of cancer hitherto unseen in the largely indigenous population living downstream from the tar sands. He said: ‘The Canadian government has been purposefully misleading the world about the harmful health impacts of the tar sands for years,’ … ‘There is now no doubt that it is,’ he revealed, and this has been backed up by several independent scientific studies into pollutants in the water and local environment. ‘Canada has no moral credibility any more,’ he concluded. ‘Canada is a health hazard.’
… Jasmine Thomas, from Saik’uz First Nation, which is a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia … argued that the legal basis for Canada’s tar sands developments rest on shaky legal foundations, given the unique legal rights that Indigenous communities have to be consulted about what happens on their traditional territories. These rights are currently not being upheld by the companies operating in the industry and the provincial and federal governments, and the industry is therefore currently subject to several lawsuits from First Nations. She ended with a quote from her grandmother, an elder and traditional healer: ‘If we look after the Earth, it will look after us. If we destroy it, we’ll destroy ourselves.’
… Scott Sinclair, a trade expert from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He detailed the ways in which CETA could undermine attempts to regulate the tar sands, either by the Alberta and federal government, or by pressure from outside investors and markets such as the EU. The main concern is the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which would allow investors and corporations to take governments to unaccountable closed tribunals if they felt a piece of regulation interfered with their ability to make profits..
Niko Alm, who is an atheist, started his campaign three years ago after learning that headgear was only allowed to be worn in official photographs for religious reasons.
As a member of the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which campaigns against the teaching of intelligent design alongside science by promoting an alternative theory of creation based on 'pastafarian' teachings, Alm intended to make a serious point about the place of religion in government.
His plan backfired slightly, however, when the Austrian authorities made him take a psychological test to prove that he was fit to drive.Alm succeeded, and was issued his license.
Following his victory Alm told the Austrian news agency APA that he will apply to the Austrian authorities for pastafarianism to become an official religion.
Our parents had to build everything from scratch to make a united Hindu community in this country,” said Tejas N. Dave, 17, a high school junior who volunteers with a project bringing yoga to unprivileged Americans.
“Now we’re trying to reintegrate it back into society,” he said, “to make people realize that Hinduism is a religion and a way of life and a philosophy that’s not too different from what a lot of others believe. We’re all trying to make a better society.”
Some young Hindus are envious of the attention that American Muslims and Mormons have received in recent years – even if not all of the attention has been positive – and are trying to raise Hinduism’s national profile."...
And it's why one area temple has begun placing copies of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, in thousands of Texas hotel rooms, right next to the Gideon Bible.
In New Hampshire, a group of "executive councilors," elected officials who approve contracts and gubernatorial appointments as a check on the governor's power, voted two weeks ago against renewing a contract that would have provided Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire with $1.8 million in state and federal money for the next two years starting this month.This was a routine contract in place for about 30 years. Some pointed to abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides as the reason for their 'no' votes, though evidence suggests a much deeper agenda. As a result, six Planned Parenthood centers in New Hampshire have now stopped dispensing contraception last week.
According to the Concord Monitor, Planned Parenthood had operated under a limited retail pharmacy license that was contingent on having a state contract. That contract accounts for approximately 20 percent of PP New Hampshire's annual budget, and would have paid for sexual health education and counseling, distribution of contraceptive supplies, and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. While Planned Parenthood New Hampshire provides abortions, no public funding can be or is used for these, which are covered by individuals seeking abortion and through private donations. To ensure a firewall, PPNH conducts regular audits to ensure no money is used.
Last year, according to Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New Englan, Planned Parenthood provided contraception for 13,242 patients in New Hampshire, while also providing 6,112 breast exams, 5,548 screenings for cervical cancer and 18,858 tests for sexually transmitted infections. If the contract is not renewed, Planned Parenthood will drastically reduce its services, Trombley told the Monitor. The organization employs 80 people in New Hampshire.
"It’s official. As of July 10, after a 15-year struggle, qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can be ordained as clergy and officers in the Presbyterian Church (USA). After 24 presbyteries flipped from previous “no” votes, a total of 97 approved amendment 10A; well over the 87 required for the change.
This victory finally removed exclusionary language from the Book of Order, which required “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The old language also required prospective ministers and officers to repent of “any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin”— a list that includes transgressions as varied as usury, “undue delay of marriage,” and “immoderate use of meat.”
Of course, the struggle for full acceptance of LGBT people began way before efforts to repeal the so-called “fidelity and chastity” rule. Many folks mark the 1974 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church as the beginning of the movement for LGBT equality in the denomination, when David Bailey Sindt held up a sign asking, “Is anyone else out there gay?”
Part of the reason for 10A’s success this year is the answer to that question: Yes, there are gay people out there. As Rev. Tricia Dykers-Koenig, national organizer for Covenant Network of Presbyterians, said, “People are changing their minds about the morality of same-sex relationships. It comes from knowing more LGBT people.”
Others point to shifts in the broader culture. “The conversation over LGBT equality in the church was not an isolated question,” says Michael Adee, executive director and field organizer for More Light Presbyterians. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the military, marriage equality [legislation and litigation] and the epidemic of anti-gay bullying all had an impact upon the consideration of 10A across the country.”
Very moving, and interesting story about the media and politics at present (having just watched Chris Hedges, too..). Kai is slightly conservative, fiscally, but he is watching carefully what the Harper government is about...
... Jon Stewart talks about a “right-wing narrative of victimization,” and what it has accomplished in Canada is the near-paralysis of progressive voices in broadcasting. In the States, even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace admitted there is an adversarial struggle afoot – that, in his view, networks like NBC have a “liberal” bias and Fox is there to tell “the other side of the story.” Well, Canada now has its Fox News. Krista Erickson, Brian Lilley, and Ezra Levant each do a wonderful send-up of the TV anchor character. The stodgy, neutral, unbiased broadcaster trope is played for jokes before the Sun News team gleefully rips into its targets. But Canada has no Jon Stewart to unravel their ideology and act as a counterweight. Our satirists are toothless and boring, with the notable exception of Jean-René Dufort. And on the more serious side, we have no Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. So I don’t see any true debate within the media world itself, in the sense of a national, public clash of ideas. The Canadian right wing, if you want to call it that, has had five years to get the gloves off. With a majority Conservative government in power, they’re putting on brass knuckles. Meanwhile the left is grasping about in a pair of potholders. The only explanation I can think of is they’re too polite, or too scared. If it’s the latter, I think it’s clear enough why.
....Right now, there’s a war going on against science in Canada. In order to satisfy a small but powerful political base, the PMO is engaged in a not-so-clandestine operation to dismantle and silence the many credible opponents to the Harper doctrine. Why kill the census? Literally in order to make decisions in the dark, without the relevant data. Hence the prisons. Why de-fund scientific research? Because whole branches of the natural sciences are premised on things like evolution, a theory the minister responsible made it clear he doesn’t understand – and likely doesn’t believe in. Why settle for weak platitudes on climate change? Because despite global scientific consensus, elements of the Conservative base don’t believe human activity could warm the planet. Centuries of rational thought and academic tradition, dating back to the Renaissance, is being thrown out the window in favour of an ideology that doesn’t reflect reality.
Meanwhile, we’re wrapping up a real war, one that invites us to take stock of where we stand in the world ten years after it began. When I joined the infantry reserve, I asked about the possibility of volunteering for a peacekeeping mission (a practice this country invented). I was told by the warrant officer I spoke to that with all available resources tied up in Afghanistan, indefinitely, I could forget about wearing a blue beret. One Conservative campaign ad told us Canada is a “courageous warrior,” and yet we lost our seat at the UN Security Council. The Canada whose values I thought I was signing up to promote and defend is increasingly unrecognizable from an international vantage point.
We have withdrawn from humanitarian projects because aspects might offend Evangelists back home. We have clung so tightly to our US allies overseas that we figure on lists of terrorism targets where we didn’t before. We are deporting people to be tortured and closing our borders to the family members of foreign professionals. We have become, in Mr. Harper’s characterization, an island. A sea of troubles lapping at our shores. In other words, we are closing the harbours when we most need to be building bridges...
(there's more. Read it carefully)
well well -- Rebecca Watson - or Skepchick (who you can see on youtube actually sharing the podium with Richard Dawkins and talking about feminism and misogyny in the atheist world) was propositioned in an elevator at an atheist conference, and she responded with expected verve.
Richard Dawkins took her to task, however, implying that being propositioned was far less significant that being genitally mutilated (really, he did). She responds in "The Privilege Delusion"
You may recall that I related an incident in which I was propositioned, and I said, “Guys, don’t do that.” Really, that’s what I said. I didn’t call for an end to sex. I didn’t accuse the man in my story of rape. I didn’t say all men are monsters. I said, “Guys, don’t do that.” Cue Richard Dawkins‘ response:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
"Well, PZ Myers, Jen McCreight, Phil Plait, Amanda Marcotte, Greg Laden, Melissa McEwan and others have all already said it, but I figured I should post this for the record: yes, Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!
And since -- all hell broke loose. Here is just ONE example of the atheist skeptic boys frothing up at 'misandric feminists'.
"I love women and have the utmost respect for them, but I hate feminists, and people like Rebecca Watson (but even more the hags on the bandwagon who have made a big deal out of Richard's comments) illustrate why.
Feminists --primarily misandric ones, and most of them are-- are like muslim jihadi's, every bit as militant, self-righteous and basically obnoxious as any religious fanatic. It is not equal rights or gender awareness they're worried about, they're driven by outright hate of men.
If the elevator dude had not hit upon Rebecca and she would have commented on her blog that should have been, because now she feels rejected, ugly and oppressed because of that, the same feminists would be on the case.
Please women, just be women. Let yourself be wooed end seduced (however awkward the situation may be) and just say no if you don't want anything. Most men are not rapists, most men are actually quite nice, some men even really mean coffee when they say coffee (but you're also right, most men mean coitus). Let's face it: you're not going to get raped on a skeptics conference by some geek. Not even if that geek is called Wolowitz. ..."
Rebecca called for a boycott of Dawkins Books.
"There were many, many more blogs written along the same lines, and by the time the kerfluffle made it to The New Statesman, the fix was in. "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach?" asked famed attorney David Allen Green. "In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."
so - gender imbalance strikes again in the atheist community. And geeky guys don't seem to get out much, I guess. But the cluelessness of the male bloggers is pretty astounding, nonetheless... M
According to India’s 2011 Census, in Uttar Pradesh, there are just 899 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six. The ratio is even worse in other states like Rajasthan (883), Punjab (846) and Haryana (830).
(PLAN) The organisation, through its partner Vatsalya, based in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow, has been running programmes focused on promoting girls rights. The organisation’s latest initiative - ‘Let Girls Be Born’ has been launched in six states to galvanise action to campaign against female foeticide and address nation’s disturbing sex ratio.
The Indian family system values boys as assets with social and economic benefits whereas girls are treated as economic liabilities with huge costs of marriage and dowry,” says Vatsalya chief Dr Neelam Singh. With village after village running short of girls, ‘buying brides’ from other states is now established as a common practice in parts of the country, she adds.
Good article, if a bit thin, by Joe Stiglitz. (But notice - it had to be published by.....AL Jazeerah...)
On the contrary, a resurgence of right-wing economics, driven, as always, by ideology and special interests, once again threatens the global economy - or at least the economies of Europe and America, where these ideas continue to flourish.
In the US, this right-wing resurgence, whose adherents evidently seek to repeal the basic laws of mathematics and economics, is threatening to force a default on the national debt. If Congress mandates expenditures that exceed revenues, there will be a deficit, and that deficit has to be financed.
Rather than carefully balancing the benefits of each government expenditure program with the costs of raising taxes to finance those benefits, the right seeks to use a sledgehammer - not allowing the national debt to increase forces expenditures to be limited to taxes.
This leaves open the question of which expenditures get priority - and if expenditures to pay interest on the national debt do not, a default is inevitable. Moreover, to cut back expenditures now, in the midst of an ongoing crisis brought on by free-market ideology, would inevitably simply prolong the downturn.
A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. So what happened? Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health-care costs - fueled in part by the commitment of George W Bush's administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake - quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.
The remedies to the US deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich.
But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the US economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the US financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.
But matters are little better in Europe. As Greece and others face crises, the medicine du jour is simply timeworn austerity packages and privatization, which will merely leave the countries that embrace them poorer and more vulnerable. This medicine failed in East Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, and it will fail in Europe this time around, too. Indeed, it has already failed in Ireland, Latvia, and Greece....
Equity in Aboriginal education is the only way forward, By Malinda S. Smith, vice-president, Equity Issues, at the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Canada is celebrated for its contributions to human rights: a beacon of hope for immigrants, a safe haven for refugees, a country of high quality of life. Yet when it comes to the experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, we are hard pressed to deal with a blind spot that has been with us throughout our history.
Canada was a leading force in the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights, but denied status Indians the right to vote in federal elections until 1960. Today, Canada is in the top 10 countries on the UN Human Development Index, but First Nations communities ranked 68th, reflecting structural inequities in access to education, housing and clean water.
We laud ourselves for supporting education to children in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, yet education for First Nations, Inuit and Métis is chronically underfunded. Aboriginal children receive 60 to 80 per cent of that which non-Aboriginal counterparts receive. According to the 2006 Census, 60 per cent of First Nations and 75 per cent of Inuit students do not complete high school. While off-reserve status and Métis fare better, there is a growing education gap.
These statistics are just part of current social realities. Aboriginal people have shorter life expectancy, have more chronic health problems, and are over-represented in the criminal justice system, making up 20 per cent of the federal inmate population. Given these challenges, why do Aboriginal communities, particularly Aboriginal children remain largely invisible in Canadian public life and policy priorities?
In a Big Thinking lecture at the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and the Social Sciences in Fredericton, Aboriginal author and former lieutenant governor James Bartleman explored the troubling and troublesome invisibility of Aboriginal children and the devastating implications for us all. And in his book, As Long as the Rivers Flow, dedicated to those who committed suicide as a result of their residential school experiences, Bartleman conveys an ethical, emotional and intellectual urgency to make visible society's blind spot towards the plight of Aboriginal youth and communities.
What are we to make of the fact that a distinctively Canadian human tragedy unfolded in plain sight of one generation after another? However well-intentioned, it was, federal legislation sent more than 150,000 Aboriginal children to residential schools. There, they often were abused, neglected, denied seeing their families, or experiencing their communities, cultures and languages.
In June 2008, the Canadian government acknowledged the error and intergenerational trauma of the policy through an apology in the House of Commons. And, headed by Justice Murray Sinclair, the world's first Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dedicated to the experiences of children has been tasked with developing a historical record of the stories of residential school survivors.
Coming to terms with the past includes recognizing that the suffering experienced by residential school survivors is not simply a collection of individualized or isolated symptoms; it manifests itself in the destruction of individual and collective identities and in the loss of language, cultural mooring and traditional ways of life. While the TRC hopes for healing through truth-telling, this will be no easy feat, for it requires big thinking, bold policies and socially innovative solutions.
We are in an historic moment characterized by remarkable social policy consensus. Aboriginal education is recognized as the priority to help level the playing field and to lifting children out of disparities and Aboriginal people out of the conditions of systemic inequities.
Among the most eloquent advocates of Aboriginal education is Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who has made a passionate plea to all governments, education institutions, and private and public sector organizations to support his vision of Aboriginal education initiatives as the foundation for growth for First Nations communities. For Atleo, this is an urgent moment in which we all needed to understand the context and the choices in which Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal peoples can move forward, together.
When Chief Atleo recently addressed scholars, citizens and leaders in Fredericton, he recounted complaining bitterly about Grade 11 algebra, which he doubted he could ever pass. His father responded, "You have what you say," adding, "There is no easy way. There is the hard way or the harder way." Achieving equity in Aboriginal education will be hard to be sure, but consistently ignoring it as we have done is definitely the harder way.
n May, in a closed meeting of many of Israel’s business leaders, Idan Ofer, a holding-company magnate, warned, “We are quickly turning into South Africa. The economic blow of sanctions will be felt by every family in Israel.” The business leaders’ particular concern was the U.N. General Assembly session this September, where the Palestinian Authority is planning to call for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, warned participants that “the morning after the anticipated announcement of recognition of a Palestinian state, a painful and dramatic process of Southafricanization will begin”—meaning that Israel would become a pariah state, subject to international sanctions.
In this and subsequent meetings, the oligarchs urged the government to initiate efforts modeled on the Saudi (Arab League) proposals and the unofficial Geneva Accord of 2003, in which high-level Palestinian and Israeli negotiators detailed a two-state settlement that was welcomed by most of the world, dismissed by Israel and ignored by Washington.
In March, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of the prospective U.N. action as a “tsunami.” The fear is that the world will condemn Israel not only for violating international law but also for carrying out its criminal acts in an occupied state recognized by the U.N. The U.S. and Israel are waging intensive diplomatic campaigns to head off the tsunami. If they fail, recognition of a Palestinian state is likely.
More than 100 states already recognize Palestine. The United Kingdom, France and other European nations have upgraded the Palestine General Delegation to “diplomatic missions and embassies—a status normally reserved only for states,” Victor Kattan observes in the American Journal of International Law.
Palestine has also been admitted to U.N. organizations apart from UNESCO and the World Health Organization, which have avoided the issue for fear of U.S. defunding—no idle threat. In June the U.S. Senate passed a resolution threatening to suspend aid for the Palestine Authority if it persists with its U.N. initiative. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., warned that there was “no greater threat” to U.S. funding of the U.N. “than the prospect of Palestinian statehood being endorsed by member states,” The (London) Daily Telegraph reports. Israel’s new U.N. Ambassador, Ron Prosor, informed the Israeli press that U.N. recognition “would lead to violence and war.”
The U.N. would presumably recognize Palestine in the internationally accepted borders, including the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza. The heights were annexed by Israel in December 1981, in violation of U.N. Security Council orders. In the West Bank, the settlements and acts to support them are clearly in violation of international law, as affirmed by the World Court and the Security Council. (read more above)
Paul Crutzen, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, finds it hard to believe. "It's incredible to see what a single word changes," he says. Crutzen coined the word "Anthropocene," Greek for the "recent age of man," 12 years ago at a scientific conference in Mexico. He used the term as a way of describing radical change in nature, saying that man's influence on the environment was now so overwhelming that a new epoch -- the "Anthropocene" -- had begun.
For some geologists, the proposal has been nothing less than revolutionary, and an unwelcome challenge. Indeed, it has unleashed a heated debate that has now spilled over from the scientific world into the public realm. Newspapers and magazines are proclaiming the advent of the "age of man" on their cover pages, artists are invoking the Anthropocene and even German governmental advisers have adopted the term.
Indeed, there are many who are enthusiastic about the defining of a human epoch. As an editorial from late February in the New York Times put it, the "true meaning of the Anthropocene is that we have affected nearly every aspect of our environment -- from a warming atmosphere to the bottom of an acidifying ocean." According to the British news magazine The Economist, humans "have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale." Indeed, a recent edition of the magazine bore the title "Welcome to the Anthropocene" on its cover page above a picture of a globe being constructed by humans from within. Still, there is strong opposition to the proposal among the geologists who have final say over whether a new geological epoch is officially proclaimed, and the issue has ignited a heated debate in their ranks.
The earth's official calendar is kept by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the world's principal authority on stratigraphy, the study of Earth's history through the analysis of rock layers and layering. The ICS uses sediment data to determine whether a new epoch has begun. Since the boundaries between geological epochs mark radical turning points in the planet's history, each period must be clearly discernable on the basis of a stratum -- or "boundary layer" -- that remains uniform across the globe.
It is precisely this piece of evidence pointing to the existence of the Anthropocene that geologists are trying to locate. "We are searching for the 'golden spike,' so to speak, " says geologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester -- in other words, a stratum that clearly demonstrates man's global influence on the pl
(note: Herb goes where angels fear to tread, and writes in the 'faith' column for the Wash Post. Bravo for him for entering the den)
On Faith question: The Dalai Lama, who is in Washington, D.C., for a ten day event, has written: “I have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.”. . . “That is why I sometimes say that religion is something we can perhaps do without. ”It seems many in the West agree with the spiritual leader, as millions report that they incorporate Buddhist practices such as meditation or mindfulness into their own spiritual activities without necessarily adopting Buddhism as their religion. Does religion aid or hinder the spiritual journey? Can you practice Buddhism without becoming Buddhist?
As a secular humanist, I believe we can gain knowledge of the world through observation, experimentation, reading, and critical thinking. I believe that ethical values are derived from human needs and interests, and are tested and refined by experience. I believe that our deeds are more important than our creeds, and that dogmas should never override compassion for others. I don’t think we should give credit to a deity for our accomplishments or blame satanic forces when we behave badly. I believe we should take responsibility for our actions.
I think the Dalai Lama would agree with everything I just said. I applaud him for saying we can do without religion, and that whether a person is a religious believer is not as important as whether the person is a good human being. I also agree with the Dalai Lama when he says, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”...
The Dalai Lama and I differ significantly on a central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism, that he (born Lhamo Dondrub) was reincarnated to become the 14th Dalai Lama. I believe that neither he nor I have past lives or that we will have future lives. Nevertheless, if all religious believers showed as much compassion as the Dalai Lama does to those of different faiths and none, we would have a far more peaceful world.
excellent article from the Guardian - here is the first part.
Human rights treaties commit nations to freedom of religion or belief (including freedom of nonbelief and nonreligious beliefs). Any constraints on freedom of religion or belief should be the minimum compatible with the survival of a liberal, tolerant, democratic open society. In addition the European convention on human rights includes a commitment to the principle of nondiscrimination.
From this it appears to follow necessarily that the state, the law and the public institutions we all share must be neutral towards different religions and beliefs. On questions of profound disagreement and deep sensitivity where there is no agreed way to establish the truth or falsehood of the claims made variously by Christians, Muslims, humanists and everyone else, it is quite wrong for the state to throw its weight behind any one particular religion or belief. This neutrality is what is meant by secularism. It is a political principle applicable to states: a secular state may be supported by religious believers and be the home of widespread religious belief. Indeed, secularism is the best guarantee of freedom of religion or belief – but the enemy of religious privilege. It must be distinguished from a secular society, a term that suggests a society that has distanced itself from religion.
Now there is a common riposte to this: that neutrality is impossible, that a secular state in fact imposes liberal, secular values on everyone. In the Italian crucifix case, partisan law professors went so far as to claim: "An empty wall in an Italian classroom is no more neutral – indeed, it is far less so – than is a wall with a crucifix upon it." But this is playing with words. Laws, government and institutions that do not impose or assume any religion or belief on the part of any individual citizen leave the individual free to hold any religion or belief, or none. Is it dictatorial to remove chains from contented prisoners? They need not leave their cells if they prefer to stay. By contrast, those who reject secularism seek to fit everyone with their own style of shackles. This is not an enhancement of the freedom of the dominant religious group but a curtailment of that of all the minorities. By contrast, secularism is the best possible guarantor of freedom of religion or belief for everyone.
Objectors often allege that humanists and other secularists wish to drive the religious from the public square. Not so. How could we, when atheism or humanism are in law no less "religions or beliefs" than Islam or Christianity? If Christians were banned from the public square, so would be humanists and atheists. (Moreover, the phrase "the public square" needs further analysis: there are different types of public space for which different conventions are appropriate.)
What secularists do say is that in debates on public policy purely religious arguments should carry no weight. In a Voltaire-like defence of freedom of expression, we absolutely do not wish to suppress or forbid such arguments being voiced – but we do say that by convention they should count for nothing in the minds of politicians and decision-makers. By all means let the religious argue, say, against assisted dying with warnings of a slippery slope – an argument we can all understand and assess – but if they argue that life is the gift of God and that it is not for us to take it away, then in the process of public decision-making their words should be ignored. Such arguments cannot be legitimately admitted in a society where there are so many competing beliefs that reject its very premises....
Local atheists say they're considering suing the city over a new street sign in Red Hook that honors firefighters who died on 9/11. The change was made after winning approval from Community Board 6 and the City Council, and at a ceremony last month, part of Richards Street was renamed "Seven in Heaven Way"—atheists be damned. At the time, a spokesperson for City Councilmember Sara González told us, "There are any number of streets named after religious figures, like Sister Mary Franciscus Way [in Sunset Park]? Should we not honor these people because the community chooses to call them the Seven in Heaven?" But it looks like the city is messing with the wrong atheists, and may have to fend off a lawsuit from these heathens!
Ken Bronstein, head of NYC Atheists, tells the Daily News, "We are not against honoring anyone who died or served on 9/11. What we're against is the use of the word 'heaven,' which is a religious concept. The Founding Fathers set up separation of church and state. We need to draw a line in the sand. This is not a Christian nation. This is a republic." And if the atheists let the government cross this line, who knows what's next? Forcing our children to pledge their allegiance to the flag "under God" every morning?
Bronstein says the groups' attorneys are "mulling" a lawsuit to force the sign's removal, and families of the fallen firefighters are revolted. "We weren't even able to recover my brother's remains. These little things like a sign is all we have left," Ralph Gullickson tells the News. "How dare these people try to take it away from us. He didn't go in there that day and ask people what their religion [was] or whether they believed in God. He just went to save people."
NATASHA FATAH ...herein lies a common misconception amongst “mainstream” Canadians: They’re convinced that, in the average Muslim household, it’s the parent who represents conservatism and tradition, and the Canadian-born children who are modern and fighting against this oppression. This is a falsehood.
Many of our parents, who immigrated here from Muslim countries in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, did so specifically out of their respect for Western values. Elder Muslims may be modest and socially conservative in their personal lives. But, by and large, the parents in Muslim-Canadian households believe in the core values of this society. Their values systems were not based on religion but on political freedom and the desire to separate religion and state.
It’s their children – in desperate need for identity – who have turned to conservative, hard-line and politicized Islam for the answers. This trend to embrace a politicized Islam has led to bloodshed in many parts of the world and is growing rapidly – and going unchecked – in Canada.
Women’s Groups Call on Judge to Step Down Pending Investigation into Choking Incident | Common Dreams
by Mary Bottari
In the wake of allegations that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser placed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold in her office, women’s rights organizations and elected officials across the state are calling for him to step down until investigations are complete.
On June 13, the day before the state’s highest court issued their politicized contentious split decision upholding Governor Scott Walker’s controversial collective bargaining law, members of the court were debating whether to issue an opinion. At that point it was uncertain if the court would get involved since no hearings had been held and no facts had been presented to the court. Prosser and the conservative justices tracked Justice Bradley and Chief Justice Abrahamson down in Bradley’s chamber. According to new reports, Bradley demanded Prosser leave her chamber after he made disparaging remarks about Abrahamson. That was when Prosser is alleged to have put his hands around her throat and placed her in a chokehold. “It was in no way playful,” said one source who was present...
Blaming the victim is apparently back in style in Wisconsin. The incident when Prosser called the Chief Justice a “bitch” was disturbing enough, the latest incident is rightly being categorized by the women as unacceptable workplace violence. “Violence against women takes many forms – from domestic violence to sexual assault to workplace violence,” said Dane County Board Supervisor Dianne Hesselbein. “All women should have the right to a workplace free of violence and abuse, and no woman should be disempowered by the abusive words or actions of a colleague.”
As a member of the highest court in Wisconsin, Justice Prosser sits in a position where he will be called upon to decide many issues affecting women in the workplace. His out-of-control behavior, undermines trust in his judgement and in the notion of a fair and impartial judiciary.
Women around the world enjoy more rights than ever before but still face discrimination in the workplace and far too often fall victim to violence at home, a UN report said Wednesday.
The document issued by UN Women, the new agency headed by Chile's former president Michelle Bachelet, hailed the progress women have made at the ballot box, noting that "virtually universal" suffrage now is the rule around the world, compared to a century ago when just two countries allowed women to vote. But even as women enjoy greater influence and political rights, restrictions in the personal realm have slowed their progress."Too often women are denied control over their bodies, denied a voice in decision-making and denied protection from violence," the report said.
"Some 600 million women, more than half the world's working women, are in vulnerable employment, trapped in insecure jobs, often outside the purview of labor legislation," it said. "Millions of women report experiencing violence in their lifetimes, usually at the hands of an intimate partner," the UN study said.
"Meanwhile, the systemic targeting of women for brutal sexual violence is a hallmark of modern conflicts," said the report by the group, whose official name is the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (CEDAW) The report decried "the systemic targeting of women for brutal sexual violence" and called for greater efforts "to make courts more accessible to women, police less hostile to their complaints and other necessary reforms to the administration of justice."
The document said there are some 186 countries worldwide that have ratified an international convention endorsing the eradication of discrimination against women and advocating gender equality. The UN study said there are some 127 countries that fail to punish conjugal rape and 61 that limit access to abortion. The report also found women's wages are as much as 30 percent less than those received by men for comparable work.