32 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for February 2016
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2-29-16 The sudden intensity of Indonesia's anti-gay onslaught
The sudden intensity of Indonesia's anti-gay onslaught
A Time of Fear. A few short weeks in Indonesia has seen a former communications minister make a call for the public to kill any gay people they find and the leading psychiatric body describe transgenderism as a mental disorder. BBC Indonesian's Rebecca Henschke and Ging Ginanjar went to find out about the insecurity of life on the receiving end of such threats and hostility. The swiftness and intensity of the attacks against Indonesia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has taken its members by surprise. A hair salon run by transgender people in Jakarta is one place to get a sense of what it has been like. For Anggun, 23, who works there, it was enough of a struggle to accept who she really was. She is trying to stay safe by not attracting attention to herself. "We don't know why smart people are suddenly saying things like 'homosexuality is a virus that can spread'. Even uneducated people know that's not true," she says. Not every trans person in Indonesia has the chance to lead a legitimate life and career. As it is, many are forced into sex work and already face violence.
3-1-16 RK Pachauri: Ex-UN climate head charged with sexual harassment
RK Pachauri: Ex-UN climate head charged with sexual harassment
The former head of the UN climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has been formally charged in an Indian court in a case of sexual harassment. A female employee at the environmental think-tank The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) had accused him last year of harassment. Accusations by a second employee last month caused widespread outrage. Mr Pachauri, who has denied the allegations against him, stepped down from the UN panel last year.
2-28-16 California Ku Klux Klan rally ends with stabbings and arrests
California Ku Klux Klan rally ends with stabbings and arrests
DAt least three people have been stabbed in a brawl between Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members and counter-protesters in Anaheim, California, US police said. Thirteen people, both KKK members and rival demonstrators, were arrested. The violence broke out when several Klan members arrived at a local park for a rally and were attacked by counter-protesters, according to police. One of the stabbing victims is said to be in a serious condition. A Klansman who allegedly stabbed one of the demonstrators with a flag pole is among those detained. The flag pole, topped by an American eagle ornament, is believed to have been used to wound three demonstrators. (Webmaster's comment: The KKK is still around, it's still a white Christian terrorist organization, and it's still very dangerous.)
2-26-16 The Christians held in Thailand after fleeing Pakistan
The Christians held in Thailand after fleeing Pakistan
A BBC investigation has found that Thailand, a country known for its hospitality to tourists, routinely arrests and detains asylum seekers. Many are Pakistani Christians who have fled religious persecution in their own country. Some are children. And they are held despite being UN-registered asylum seekers, whom the UN is under a duty to protect. (Webmaster's comment: Imagine what they would do to Atheists!)
2-25-16 Why do so many people get hurt when they interact with the police?
Why do so many people get hurt when they interact with the police?
People are more likely to sustain spine and back injuries after altercations with law enforcement. New research has shown that people injured as a result of physical contact with law enforcement personnel are more likely to suffer from back and spine injuries and require longer lengths of hospitalization than those involved in general assaults. In "Risk factors associated with legal interventions," researchers looked into 836 cases injured after contact with police officers against a comparison group. The cases were identified using ICD-9 external cause of injury codes found in the medical records of patients treated in Illinois’ trauma and hospital units between 2000 and 2009. In addition to identifying the most frequent types of injuries for legal intervention patients — fractures (36.7 percent), open wounds (35.5 percent) and internal injuries (31.3 percent) — the study found that those injured in such circumstances were much more likely to be manhandled by law enforcement, as well as suffer from psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and drug abuse. Furthermore, these persons saw "significantly longer lengths of hospitalization" and were also more likely to perish while in hospital. (Webmaster's comment: Injuries from cops are worse (4.7 days in hospital) than injuries from assaults (3.7 days in hospital). Police brutality is obviously built into the police culture.)
2-25-16 Divided America: Young, gay and afraid in the Bible Belt
Divided America: Young, gay and afraid in the Bible Belt
America is deeply divided over cultural issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and religious freedom. While liberals regard the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, for example, as a sign of progress, many conservatives see it as a challenge to their traditional values. As part of the BBC's Divided America series, Rajini Vaidyanathan (@BBCrajiniv) went to Arkansas to talk to young LGBT Americans who say discrimination is getting worse.
2-24-16 New laws could force marijuana dispensaries to close
New laws could force marijuana dispensaries to close
Off licences, fast food restaurants and abandoned buildings line Gratiot Street in north-east Detroit where the cannabis dispensary 420 Dank stands. But despite the store's success, Ms Gaetano and her nine employees may soon be out of business. New legislation in the city of Detroit prevents medical marijuana dispensaries from being within 1,000ft (305m) of schools, churches, off licences, strip clubs or other dispensaries - and 420 Dank is just 371ft away from an off-licence. But even if the store is allowed to stay open it will still face new restrictions. Drive-through sales have been banned and stores cannot open until 10am, cutting into the hours when it caters for people finishing night shifts. (Webmaster's comment: It may be legal to sell it, but towns, cities, counties, and states have a hundred ordinances and laws to use to shut the stores down.)
2-24-16 Jailed for being homeless
Jailed for being homeless
Legislation to prevent tent cities and homeless encampments is increasingly popular in jurisdictions throughout the country. But what happens when people are jailed and fined for having no place to sleep? Recent years have seen a surge of policing efforts throughout Colorado targeting those without shelter. Numerous communities have banned panhandling, camping, or sleeping in cars on public property. Loitering and trespassing laws prevent homeless individuals from having a safe place to rest — or options for washing up or using a bathroom. Violators face fines of $100 or more, an expense that quickly adds up for repeat offenders, landing many with warrants and, eventually, jail time. (Webmaster's comment: Guilty of being poor. So we can abuse them freely. Treat them like animals. Just how inhumane can Americans get?)
2-23-16 Why does China have women-only mosques?
Why does China have women-only mosques?
The Islamic world is wide and various, its points of view almost as numerous as its people. And Islam in China, with its long tradition of women-only mosques, provides a good illustration, says Michael Wood. (Webmaster's comment: Where are the open minds in the Islamic religion, the women in China. Where else?)
2-23-16 Guantanamo Bay: Obama in bid to close controversial prison
Guantanamo Bay: Obama in bid to close controversial prison
The White House has revealed its plans for closing the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility, one of the president's long-standing goals. The Pentagon has proposed transferring the remaining 91 detainees to their home countries or to US military or civilian prisons. But Congress is deeply opposed and expected to block the move. The prison costs $445m (£316m) to run annually and closing it was an early promise from President Barack Obama. Senior administration officials told reporters on Tuesday that closing the prison is a national security imperative. "Implementing this plan will enhance our national security by denying terrorists a powerful propaganda symbol, strengthening relationships with key allies and counterterrorism partners, and reducing costs," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a statement. (Webmaster's comment: Congress will never approve closing it. Conservatives want their torture-prison camp!)
2-22-16 Hollywood has 'inclusion crisis' suggests study
Hollywood has 'inclusion crisis' suggests study
Hollywood has an "epidemic of invisibility" for women, minorities and LGBT people that runs across the whole industry, a new study has suggested. The report by the University of Southern California stated that Hollywood has an "inclusion crisis" from CEOs to minor characters. "Overall, the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed," the study concluded. It comes days ahead of the Oscars, which has been dubbed OscarsSoWhite. The lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations led Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott the ceremony and Oscars head Cheryl Boone Isaacs to pledge to double the number of female and minority members of the Academy.
2-21-16 How to survive solitary confinement
How to survive solitary confinement
With a sigh, Johnny Perez rises from his plastic chair, unfolds his lanky frame, and extends his wingspan until the tips of his middle fingers graze the walls. "It was from here to here," he says. "I know because I used to do this all the time." Until recently, these measurements — 10 feet by 6 feet — fit his entire life. Two years ago, Perez was released on parole after serving 13 years in prison in New York; he spent three of those years in solitary confinement. Sitting across from Perez, you wonder how he feels in this space, a tiny, harshly lit conference room at the Urban Justice Center on Wall Street in Manhattan. Whether it brings back traumatic memories, or feels like home, or both. While there is no universally agreed upon definition, modern solitary — also called supermax or the box — is commonly understood to involve confinement to a small cell for 22 to 24 hours a day. Prisoners are not allowed to participate in leisure activities, have hobbies, or speak to others. They are often shackled when they leave their cells — if they ever leave. Perez says he eventually stopped even wanting to. (Webmaster's comment: This is torture pure and simple. Psychological studies have shown it can drive a person insane and it often does.)
2-20-16 Albert Woodfox freed after 43 years in US solitary prison
Albert Woodfox freed after 43 years in US solitary prison
The longest-serving prisoner to be held in solitary confinement in US history, Albert Woodfox, has walked free in Louisiana after 43 years. Woodfox was part of the group known as the "Angola Three", after the prison where they spent years in confinement. He had been there since April 1972 for the murder of a prison guard. Maintaining his innocence in the death of Brent Miller, Woodfox, 69, was finally freed after accepting the lesser charge of manslaughter. The plea bargain was negotiated with state prosecutors. Twice in decades of legal battles, his murder conviction was thrown out of court, yet Louisiana state prosecutors were preparing to try him a third time. He finally agreed to plead no contest to lesser charges in exchange for freedom but insisted this was not an admission of guilt.
2-19-16 Americans' shortened life spans
Americans' shortened life spans
The life expectancy of Americans is lower than that of people living in other high-income countries, and a new study explains why: We're inflicting earlier death on ourselves with self-destructive behavior. Car accidents, gun violence, and drug overdoses kill 100,000 people in the U.S. each year, which helps explain why American men and women die about 2.2 years earlier than residents of Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, according to a new study by the National Center for Health Statistics. American men and women have a life expectancy of 76.4 and 81.2 years, respectively, compared to 78.6 and 83.4 years for their peers abroad. "It seems staggering that we get two fewer years just for living here,"study author Andrew Fenelon tells the Associated Press. Gun deaths, car crashes, and overdoses are responsible for half that difference, with the other lost year the result of higher infant mortality, health problems related to diet, and other factors. (Webmaster's comment: That's just the price of Liberty and Freedom according to Libertarians and Conservatives. Well those other countries have lots of Freedom and Liberty too, even more, but it doesn't kill them early. Maybe we could learn something from them by studying their governmental systems and laws.)
2-19-16 The history of socialism
The history of socialism
What is socialism? Broadly, it’s a political and economic system under which the means of production are owned by the community as a whole, with government ensuring the equitable distribution of wealth. But socialism has taken many forms. “‘Socialism’ is an exceedingly fuzzy term used to label an extraordinarily wide array of political and economic beliefs,” says scholar Paul Brians. Socialism has morphed into Soviet-style communism and spawned Latin American dictatorships, while in Europe, many countries combine socialistic principles with capitalism and democracy. (Webmaster's comment: And it works pretty good!) In the U.S., programs that opponents once condemned as socialism, such as Social Security and Medicare, are now deeply embedded in our society. Still, socialism has largely dwelled on the margins of American politics, until it was revived by the campaign of Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders. (Webmaster's comment: Read the whole article and get the full scoop.)
2-19-16 Manny Pacquiao renews criticism of homosexuality
Manny Pacquiao renews criticism of homosexuality
Filipino boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao has repeated his opposition to homosexuality, after earlier apologising for saying that gay people were "worse than animals". "What I am saying is right. I mean I am just stating the truth, what the Bible says," he said at training in his hometown of General Santos. The boxer said his only mistake had been to compare people to animals. Nike ended its deal after his initial comments, calling them "abhorrent".
2-19-16 Surviving solitary confinement
Surviving solitary confinement
Spending years in isolation can have a devastating effect on the mind. Writer Susie Neilson speaks to prisoners who survived, and even thrived, with the help of their imagination. Solitary confinement has been linked to a variety of profoundly negative psychological outcomes, including suicidal tendencies and spatial and cognitive distortions. Confinement-induced stress can shrink parts of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, spatial orientation, and control of emotions. Prisoners often report bizarre and disturbing subjective experiences after they leave supermax. Some say the world regularly collapses in on itself. Others report they are unable to sustain ordinary conversations, or think clearly for any length of time. The psychiatrist Sandra Schank puts it this way: “It’s a standard psychiatric concept, if you put people in isolation, they will go insane.”
2-12-16 The false god of pious politicians
The false god of pious politicians
“Presidential candidates should cut the God talk,” said Cal Thomas. Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio frequently pander to Christian conservative audiences by adopting the tone and terminology of evangelical preachers, while Hillary Clinton often claims that her Methodist faith helped shape her liberalism. “Even Donald Trump has gotten into the act,” waving a Bible and pretending he knows what it says. While I myself “share the traditional beliefs of evangelical Christians,” my faith doesn’t qualify me to be an auto mechanic or NBA center—or president. If candidates truly knew their Bible, they’d know that Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and said of taxes, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Too many conservative Christians have fallen into the trap of believing God is a Republican and of personally demonizing President Obama, rather than praying for him. Obama, not incidentally, “models family” better than many Republicans, particularly the thrice-married Trump. Presidential candidates should tell us what they’d do to address the nation’s problems, and leave the piety to the preachers.
2-12-16 Obama’s mosque visit: Why the controversy?
Obama’s mosque visit: Why the controversy?
“After seven years in office, President Obama has finally visited a mosque in the U.S.,” said Dahleen Glanton in the Chicago Tribune. In a powerful speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Maryland last week, he declared that the acts of a few terrorists shouldn’t define an entire religion, called for tolerance for all faiths, and told Muslims they belonged in the U.S. as much as anyone else. “You’re not Muslim or American,” he said. “You’re Muslim and American.” You might have thought this message would be welcomed by all. But in an election year, “embracing Muslims isn’t on the conservative agenda.” GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump took the opportunity to stoke the misconception that Obama is a Muslim, snidely saying “maybe he feels comfortable” in a mosque, while Marco Rubio accused the president of “pitting people against each other.”
2-12-16 Don’t give up on children in prison
Don’t give up on children in prison
Britain is about to get “a revolution in the criminal justice system,” said Rachel Sylvester. When Michael Gove was education minister, he overhauled public schools, forcing failing schools in poor districts to come up to the standards of wealthier ones. He brushed off criticism from the Left, which, with “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” said that he was demanding too much from the disadvantaged. Now, as justice minister, the Conservative politician is launching a similar overhaul of juvenile detention centers—only this time, he’s facing criticism from the Right. Tough-on-crime types want offenders simply punished: locked away and kept off the streets. But that’s not a long-term solution, since nearly half of all inmates offend again within a year of release. Gove proposes to replace “juvie” with “secure schools,” where there will be “more teachers and fewer prison officers.” This is a government solution, yes, but also a conservative solution, because it will “use the power of government to compensate for the damage caused by social breakdown.” For Gove, this mission is personal. Abandoned by his biological parents, he could have ended up one of society’s “lost boys” had he not been adopted and given an excellent education. Don’t all British children deserve that chance?
2-12-16 Russia’s morality police
Russia’s morality police
Russia’s morality police, after stories about the unexpected close friendship between a male goat and the male tiger that was meant to eat him at a zoo near Vladivostok prompted a prosecutor to investigate whether the media was trying to provoke “interest in nontraditional sexual relations” and turn children gay.
2-11-16 Mammal brain frozen and thawed out perfectly for first time
Mammal brain frozen and thawed out perfectly for first time
A cryogenically preserved rabbit brain has been defrosted in a near-perfect state, with its memory-storing structures still intact. A mammal brain has been defrosted from cryogenic storage in an almost perfect state for the first time. This breakthrough, accomplished using a rabbit brain, brings us one – albeit tiny – step closer to the prospect of reanimating a human brain that has been cryogenically preserved.After death, organs begin to decay, but we can delay this by cooling these tissues, just like freezing food. But in the same way that a frozen strawberry becomes soggy when defrosted, it is difficult to perfectly preserve mammals at cold temperatures. We, and strawberries, contain large amounts of water, which freezes into ice crystals that damage cells. Cryoprotectants can prevent this ice damage, working like medical-grade antifreezes and preventing organs from freezing. This works in small worms and rabbit kidneys, but it needs to be administered quickly, which usually causes brains to dehydrate and shrink.
2-11-16 Thailand's love of the supernatural
Thailand's love of the supernatural
Situated in the nondescript outer western suburbs of Bangkok, Sawang Arom temple is already well known for its collection of kuman - plastic child-dolls in historic costumes, usually clutching a bag of gold, and believed to be inhabited by the ghost of an unborn foetus. People visit the temple throughout the day to pray to the kuman for good fortune, lighting incense sticks and kneeling before the garishly-coloured figures. Thais, like many people in South East Asia, are superstitious. But the monks at the temple have found their doll collection growing recently, as people have quietly left behind child-sized figures, known as luk thep, or 'child angels'. The monks have moved them to a small room in a tower, where, like the kuman, they are served the red fizzy drinks they are believed to prefer.
2-10-16 Belief in punitive gods linked with expansion of human societies
Belief in punitive gods linked with expansion of human societies
People who believe in a moralistic god are more likely to help distant strangers who share their religion, which may explain the evolution of complex societies. Complex modern societies may have grown and prospered thanks to a pervading fear of moralistic, all-knowing and, above all, punitive gods. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, ancestor worshippers, it matters not a jot. Believers widely respond to fear of reprisals from a supernatural being. And this fear can help drive model behaviour.
2-7-16 Why some African governments are clamping down on churches
Why some African governments are clamping down on churches
Some governments and organisations in Africa are starting to think churches should be held accountable to a being other than God. Of concern to many with interests in the Christian faith are the "prophet of God" or "man of God" churches. These are led by self-proclaimed prophets or messengers who are believed by their millions of devoted followers to have the power to perform a range of miracles from healing the sick, curing Aids and even raising the dead. (Webmaster's comment: Sounds a lot like the Evangelists in America to me.)
2-6-16 This gay dance in Georgia in 1972 changed the world
This gay dance in Georgia in 1972 changed the world
Four decades ago at the University of Georgia, some brave students wanted to hold a dance to change the world. And they did. In the early evening of March 10, 1972, while excited undergraduates prepared for a dance in the student union ballroom of the University of Georgia, a longhaired sophomore in tight pants was standing against the building's massive front columns, reviewing his band's set list, when a seedy looking older man laboriously made his way up the steps and startled him. The stranger — with a red face and a comb-over — came bearing a message: The Ku Klux Klan did not approve of the night's scheduled event. Only a year earlier, female students had been forbidden to wear pants or shorts on campus, but in the fall of 1967, the Women's Student Government Association voted out the dress code. In the spring of 1968 the campus's tiny chapter of Students for a Democratic Society had helped plan a demonstration that eventually led to a three-day takeover of the ornate, white-columned Academic Building in protest of restrictive curfews and regulations imposed on female students. Several hundred students participated in what was the most dramatic manifestation of the student movement at UGA to date. By the fall, the student handbook no longer distinguished between women and men. Now girls were wearing flared jeans and boys were growing out their hair. Rock music floated from the windows of the dorms. (Webmaster's comment: Nobody ever wants to say it but it's the Christians in our country that always lead the repression of the human spirit!)
2-5-16 What does it mean to be a progressive in the US?
What does it mean to be a progressive in the US?
A progressive is someone who wants to see more economic and social equality - and hopes to see more gains in feminism and gay rights. They're also supportive of social programmes directed by the state - and they'd like social movements have more power in the US. Within the realm of progressive, however, there are different, warring factions, explains David Greenberg, the author of a book called Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency. One group is dominated by activists from social movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, he says, and the other is led by those who belong to the left wing of the Democratic Party (and aren't part of a social movement or cause). Pretty much all of of these progressives "view politics as a bottom-up progress", says Julian Zelizer, an historian at Princeton, and they support the fight for social change. They also believe that the government can help people, and they look back fondly at Roosevelt's New Deal jobs programs, which relieved suffering in the 1930s.
2-5-16 Opinion of Socialism
Opinion of Socialism
48% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of socialism, while 29% view the political ideology favorably. Among those ages 18 to 29, however, 43% view socialism favorably, while 26% see it unfavorably.
2-5-16 Refusing to back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians
Refusing to back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians
An Indiana lawmaker is refusing to back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians because there are no similar laws protecting “fat white people.” State Rep. Woody Burton called homosexuality “a behavioral thing,” like overeating, and argued, “If I pass a law that says transgenders and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?”
2-4-16 New Hampshire Now Least Religious State in U.S.
New Hampshire Now Least Religious State in U.S.
New Hampshire is the least religious state in the U.S., edging out Vermont in Gallup's 2015 state-by-state analysis. Mississippi has extended its eight-year streak as the most religious state, followed closely by neighboring Alabama.
- 20% in New Hampshire very religious, compared with 63% in Mississippi
- Most religious states continue to be in South, along with Utah
- Least religious states in Northeast and Northwest, plus Hawaii
- In South Dakota 45% are Very religious, 32% are Moderately religious, 23% are Nonreligious
2-4-16 Kenya refuses to register atheist group
Kenya refuses to register atheist group
A group of Kenyan atheists say they have suffered "blatant discrimination" after the authorities refused to register their society. They were told the application was turned down because of concerns that registration could affect the "peace... [and] good order" in the country. The 60-member Atheists In Kenya applied for official recognition last year. More than 97% of Kenyans indentify themselves with a religion, according to Pew Research.
2-3-16 Meet three LGBT Syrian refugees who fled ISIS brutality
Meet three LGBT Syrian refugees who fled ISIS brutality
The men are now building new lives for themselves in Turkey, away from the current Islamic extremism that wishes them dead. Millions of people have fled Syria due to the civil war, the rise of the Islamic State's self-styled caliphate and the brutality of the Assad regime, desperate to escape regime barrel bombs, Islamic State sadism and persecution by other intolerant, hardline groups. And for Syria's LGBT citizens, the threat of violence within ISIS-controlled regions is even greater.
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32 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for February 2016
Atheism & Humanism News Articles for January 2016