60 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for September 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
9-30-16 America's prison system is inhumane. Here's why.
America's prison system is inhumane. Here's why.
The United States has 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its prisoners. Right now, 2.2 million people are locked up across the country, and while crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, rates of imprisonment are at historic highs. Americans across the political spectrum are deeply dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and agree that mass incarceration costs too much and achieves too little. But there's also much disagreement — about the role of systemic racism, about the causes of police violence, about the importance of personal responsibility and retribution. Nevertheless, people can find common ground on three fundamental moral norms that should govern the use of imprisonment as punishment. First, punishments should be proportional to crimes. Second, like cases should be treated alike. Third, criminal punishment should not do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the U.S. system violates each of these principles.
9-30-16 Feeling the Holy Spirit
Feeling the Holy Spirit
Feeling the Holy Spirit, after Duke University scientists found that men are more likely to report believing in God after having sex. The act causes a surge of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes social bonding, altruism, and spirituality. “Oxytocin’s effects on women’s spirituality,” said a scientist, “still need to be investigated.”
9-30-16 Australian sports stars urged to boycott anthem in AFL and NRL finals
Australian sports stars urged to boycott anthem in AFL and NRL finals
Australian sports stars are being urged not to stand for the national anthem during this weekend's major rugby league and Aussie Rules finals, as a protest against racism. The campaign was started by pop culture website Junkee, which called it a show of support for Indigenous Australians. It has been inspired by American football player Colin Kaepernick. The player has been refusing to stand for the US anthem before games as a protest against racial inequality. Paul Gorrie, an Indigenous Australian activist involved in the Junkee campaign, said Kaepernick's protest made him think "why shouldn't we do that here?" He said the Australian anthem, Advance Australia Fair, "was written in 1878 when land was still being stolen and black people were still being massacred". It and the recent deaths of Indigenous Australians in police custody were "the impacts of our colonial history and the racism that continues to this day", he said. "This is a call to action for ALL players to show solidarity by not singing and taking a kneel during the national anthem this weekend at the NRL and AFL grand finals."
9-30-16 Imprisoned but never convicted
Imprisoned but never convicted
Tens of thousands of South Africans have been languishing for years in pretrial detention, said Marché Arends. These people may well be innocent, but they are in remand, held before trial because they either can’t make bail or were denied bail. Some of them are held in tiny cells in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, while others are crammed into teeming, overcrowded facilities. None gets access “to any of the services available to sentenced inmates.” That means no library books, no visits with social workers, not even access to basic recreational items like a soccer ball for their one hour of solitary outdoor recreation. That’s because in theory, remand is just for a short period. But South Africa’s court system has massive backlogs, so many remandees wait in prison for four, five, or more years for their trial. The government tried to fix the problem in 2013, when it passed an amendment requiring that the case of any remandee detained longer than two years must be reviewed by a judge. Unfortunately, the measure amended the law that governs prisons, not the courts, so it doesn’t compel the judge to do anything to help the detainee. The result? “No one is held to account” when innocent people are deprived of their liberty.
9-29-16 Singapore jails teen blogger Amos Yee for anti-religion posts
Singapore jails teen blogger Amos Yee for anti-religion posts
A teenage blogger has been handed a prison sentence after he was found guilty by a Singapore court of "wounding religious feelings". Amos Yee, 17, will spend six weeks in jail for deliberately posting videos and comments critical of Christianity and Islam. Judge Ong Hian Sun told the court that Yee's actions could "generate social unrest". It is the teenager's second prison sentence in two years. Yee was jailed for four weeks in 2015 for criticising Christians, and was accused of insulting Lee Kuan Yew after he posted a video online in which he likened the late Singaporean leader to Jesus Christ. Such actions are considered a serious crime in a country which takes a zero-tolerance approach towards insults of race and religion.
9-29-16 Gay pride flag launched into space 'to spread peace'
Gay pride flag launched into space 'to spread peace'
The rainbow flag that symbolises gay pride has been sent into space for the first time via a high-altitude balloon. Planting Peace, a US-based non-profit group that seeks to "spread peace in a hurting world", launched the flag near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 17 August. The balloon captured video with a GoPro camera as it floated 21.1 miles (34.1km) above earth for three hours. Organisers said they wanted to declare space gay friendly, "in a peaceful, beautiful way".
9-28-16 Serena Williams vows: 'I won't be silent' on police violence
Serena Williams vows: 'I won't be silent' on police violence
Serena Williams has voiced her fears about police violence, writing on Facebook: "I won't be silent." The US tennis star posted that she found herself feeling wary of law enforcement during a recent journey with her teenage nephew. Williams said that when they drove by a patrol car she remembered a woman whose boyfriend was fatally shot by police. She is the latest athlete to speak out about friction between law enforcement and the black community in the US.(Webmaster's comment: Just the sight of a police officer now strikes fear in the our black citizens. Cops are likely to do just about anything without apparent reason and get away with it. How did we get to this point in 2016? This escalation of fears has got to be deliberately caused.)
9-28-16 The transgender Republican trying to change her party
The transgender Republican trying to change her party
When lifelong Republican Jennifer Williams arrived at the party's National Convention in Cleveland this summer, she felt nervous. Although she was excited to be an honorary delegate for New Jersey, she was worried about how others would respond to her. She had attended many political events before this, including both of President George W Bush's inaugurations, but this was to be her first party convention - and one of the first political gatherings she would attend as Jennifer. As the sole transgender delegate at the event, so far as she could tell, she knew there was a possibility some would not welcome her with open arms. "I was wary of my surroundings" she says. "But I did allow myself extra time to find a less crowded bathroom whenever I could and always made sure to confidently smile and chat."
9-28-16 Pepe the Frog meme branded a 'hate symbol'
Pepe the Frog meme branded a 'hate symbol'
Online cartoon Pepe the Frog has been added to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)'s database of hate symbols. Other logos cited as offensive by the ADL include the Swastika and the "Blood Drop Cross" of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The anti-bigotry group said "racists and haters" had "taken a popular internet meme and twisted it". Pepe has recently been depicted as Adolf Hitler and a member of the white supremacist KKK. Pepe made his debut in 2005 in artist Matt Furie's "Boy's Club" cartoons. Since then, pictures of the creature have spread through the online communities 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, where users can post an image for others to comment on. These are mostly used to express emotions or experiences, but some racist and anti-Semitic versions have spread virally on Facebook and Twitter.
9-28-16 Thailand's military allows 'culture of torture', says Amnesty
Thailand's military allows 'culture of torture', says Amnesty
Thailand's military government has allowed a "culture of torture" to flourish since assuming power, says a new report by rights group Amnesty International. The report lists 74 alleged cases of torture and other ill-treatment, including methods such as beatings and waterboarding, by soldiers and police. The military seized power in 2014 after months of political unrest, saying it wanted to restore stability. It has denied allegations of torture. (Webmaster's comment: They are just copying what the United States did to many innocent people "suspected" of "terrorism" ie. defending their countries from our invasions.)
9-28-16 Russia city backtracks on approval for gay rights march
Russia city backtracks on approval for gay rights march
A prominent Russian gay rights campaigner was delighted to announce that the city of Ivanovo had approved a march in favour of same-sex marriage, only to have the permission withdrawn the same day. Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of Moscow Pride, posted a letter from the deputy mayor on his VKontakte page on Tuesday, which said the parade and two other public meetings could go ahead, as long as they were moved to different locations in the city - to which Mr Alexeyev immediately agreed. He had asked to hold marches in several other cities, including St Petersburg, but was turned down by all of them except Ivanovo. Russian websites quickly picked up on the story, as permission for gay rights parades is rarely granted - especially since a 2013 law banned the "propagation of non-traditional sexual relationships" in the presence of children.
9-27-16 Modern Family will feature a transgender child actor in a forthcoming episode
Modern Family will feature a transgender child actor in a forthcoming episode
Modern Family has cast its first transgender child actor. The director of the comedy show, Ryan Case, has tweeted to say that she is "super proud" of the episode, which is part of the eighth series of the show. It's called A Stereotypical Day and will air in the US on 28 September on ABC. Parents of transgender children have posted messages on social media thanking the sitcom for "giving a voice" to their community.
9-26-16 Ancient Maya codex not fake, new analysis claims
Ancient Maya codex not fake, new analysis claims
If authentic, Grolier text could claim spot as oldest book in Americas. A book called the Grolier Codex — long regarded as a fake by some scientists — may be the oldest known manuscript of ancient America. Deities depicted on the book’s 10 surviving pages include a death god with a decapitated captive and a bird/serpent god. A bark-paper document with a weird backstory and a reputation as a possible forgery is the real deal, researchers say. If true, that increases the likelihood that the plaster-coated book covered with painted images and writing is the earliest known manuscript from ancient America, dating back to the 13th century. No forger could have known how to reproduce all the bookmaking techniques, colored inks and deities pictured in what’s known as the Grolier Codex, concludes a team of researchers who specialize in the Maya and other ancient American societies. For instance, an illustration of a mountain god includes a flaring, cleft head or headdress. Other images of this god were first discovered at Maya sites several decades after the Grolier Codex turned up in the 1960s.
9-25-16 Mexico: Thousands protest against same-sex marriage proposal
Mexico: Thousands protest against same-sex marriage proposal
Thousands of people in Mexico City have protested against a government proposal to legalise same-sex marriage, which they say would undermine traditional families. Organisers said they were not opposed to gay or lesbian rights, but wanted to defend family values and the institution of marriage. The demonstrators called for a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto. Gay and lesbian activists staged rival protests. Public opinion in Mexico, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, has been split since Mr Pena Nieto announced in May plans to change the constitution. Same-sex marriages are legal in some Mexican states, but Mr Pena Nieto wants it to be allowed across the country. Last year the Supreme Court declared that a ban on such unions imposed in many of Mexico's states was unconstitutional. (Webmaster's comment: As everywhere religious intolerance leads the opposition. Where is the love that religion professes to have?)
9-24-16 Ugandan police block gay pride parade
Ugandan police block gay pride parade
Ugandan police have blocked gay pride celebrations from happening in two resorts outside the capital, Kampala. Gay rights activist Frank Mugisha said more than 100 LGBTI people tried to participate in the celebrations in Entebbe near Lake Victoria. But many were escorted by police back to Kampala in minibuses. The minister for ethics and integrity had threatened to mobilise mobs to attack participants. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda.
9-23-16 Why protest is an act of faith
Why protest is an act of faith
“Colin Kaepernick has struck a nerve,” said Leonard Pitts. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback ignited a firestorm of controversy several weeks ago, when he refused to stand for the national anthem, a silent protest against racial discrimination and police violence. His protest “has caught fire,” spreading to other NFL teams and to high school and college teams as well. Meanwhile, people who subscribe to a mindless form of patriotism are calling for Kaepernick to leave the country, and “the internet is awash in videos of his burning jersey.” Blowhards like Rush Limbaugh are saying that Kaepernick has no right to protest because he’s wealthy, as if successful black men enjoy some magic protection against “driving while black.” We don’t. For Kaepernick and other African-Americans, protest is not unpatriotic. It’s “an act of faith”—an expression of belief in the nation’s founding premise that all men are created equal and can expect the same rights and freedoms. It’s that faith that “has allowed us to support a country that would not support us, defend a country that would not defend us, love a country that did not love us.” But until true equality is achieved, we will not be silenced.
9-23-16 Muslims get out
Muslims get out
A Minnesota restaurant owner, upset over the multiple stabbings by a Somali immigrant at a nearby mall, has put a “Muslims get out” sign outside his shop. Dan Ruedinger said that it’s time to stop “worrying about the PC crowd and do what is right.” He said business is up so much, he’s had to add extra workers.
9-22-16 Digital technology reveals secret of ancient biblical scroll
Digital technology reveals secret of ancient biblical scroll
The oldest hand-written passages from the Hebrew Bible identical to versions in use today have been identified by researchers using digital technology to read an ancient scroll. The relic, which had been too fragile to unwrap, was deciphered by Israeli and US experts using an X-ray scan. It contains passages from the Book of Leviticus dating back to at least the 3rd or 4th Century AD. The charred scroll was found in 1970 amid the remains of an ancient synagogue. Archaeologists found it buried in the ark of the synagogue near the Dead Sea, where it would have been used for prayers.
9-21-16 Digital rehab exposes Biblical roots of ancient Israeli scroll
Digital rehab exposes Biblical roots of ancient Israeli scroll
Virtual unwrapping reveals Hebrew text inside fragile artifact. A digital analysis enabled scientists to virtually unwrap a fragile, more than 1,700-year-old scroll and determine that it contains the oldest known Biblical text, other than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have digitally unwrapped and read an ancient Hebrew scroll that’s so charred it can’t be touched without falling apart. It turns out the document contains the oldest known Biblical text outside of the roughly 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, the investigators say. Archaeologists discovered the scroll’s remnants in a synagogue’s holy ark during a 1970 excavation in Israel of En-Gedi, a Jewish community destroyed by fire around 600.
9-21-16 Kaepernick anthem protest: Player had 'death threats'
Kaepernick anthem protest: Player had 'death threats'
American football player Colin Kaepernick says he has received death threats over his refusal to stand for the national anthem, in protest against the plight of black people in the US. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has silently boycotted The Star-Spangled Banner in games, sitting or kneeling. The threats came from different avenues, he added. He said the killing of Terence Crutcher by police in Tulsa was a "perfect example of what this is about". Video showed the 40-year-old had his hands in the air when he was shot next to his car during a police operation on Friday.
9-21-16 How to become an expert at anything
How to become an expert at anything
ing an expert at something really pays off. Just how good are top performers compared to everybody else? Research shows in high complexity jobs like professional and sales roles, the top 10 percent produce 80 percent more than average and 700 percent more than the bottom 10 percent. But as I'm sure you're aware, becoming the best ain't easy. As Bobby Knight once said, "Everybody has the will to win; few people have the will to prepare to win." And one of the reasons why it's hard to become great is because a lot of what you've been told about how to learn, study, or train is wrong, wrong, and dead wrong. So it's time to learn how to get better at gettin' better. Whether you want to be a great public speaker, study for exams, or improve your free throws, we're going to learn what methods research and experts recommend for becoming an expert at anything.
- Be in it for the long haul. Find me something else that creates a 400 percent boost in results. Please.
- Find a mentor. Wax on, wax off, Daniel-san.
- Start with what's important. Bedside manner is great but I'll take the surgeon who focused on where to cut, thanks.
- "Train like you fight." Don't practice drunk. But if you do…
- Use "desirable difficulty." Easy in, easy out. Your brain encodes info better when you struggle.
- Get fast, negative feedback. Listen to SEALs. If they're not experts, the result is much worse than when you screw up.
- Study less. Test more. Test before the test and the test will go better.
- Naps are steroids for your brain. You're not "sleeping on the job," you're "passively synthesizing skills."
9-20-16 US President Barack Obama urges China to tackle excess capacity
US President Barack Obama urges China to tackle excess capacity
US President Barack Obama has urged China to accelerate measures to tackle overproduction of industrial goods. China has been accused of unfair practices by firms overseas for dumping products at low prices in their home markets. In April, China promised to reduce its steel output, following a crisis meeting attended by 30 nations. The President met Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In a statement from The White House, President Obama also urged China to establish a level playing field, so that all firms can compete fairly in the country. (Webmaster's comment: This is insane! They make more goods which reduce the prices for everyone, but America cannot complete. Why should we pay more just to support inefficient industry in America? We also charge a big tariff on solar cells because China makes them cheaper than American industry can. Again we pay more for vital green energy because of inefficent American industry!)
9-20-16 Botswana to deport anti-gay US pastor Steven Anderson
Botswana to deport anti-gay US pastor Steven Anderson
Botswana is to deport controversial US pastor Steven Anderson after he said on a local radio that homosexuals should be "stoned to death". President Ian Khama told the Reuters news agency that he had personally ordered his arrest. "We don't want hate speech in this country. Let him do it in his own country," he said. Last week, South Africa barred Mr Anderson from visiting because of his critical remarks about homosexuality. Webmaster's comment: America is exporting hate! And this man is a Christian by any Christian standard! Christians need to clean up their house!)
9-20-16 Teenage cannabis use rises in Europe - EU Espad survey
Teenage cannabis use rises in Europe - EU Espad survey
Cigarette and alcohol use among 15- and 16-year-olds is declining across Europe but the numbers using cannabis are growing, an EU survey shows. The Espad report for 2015 includes most EU countries, but not Germany or the UK, and data for Spain is incomplete. In 2015 "current smokers" accounted for 21% of those surveyed, and the highest total was in Italy (37%). In 1995-2015 those using alcohol in the past 30 days fell from 56% to 47%. Top in cannabis use were the Czechs (37%). That figure for Czech teenagers reporting a lifetime experience of cannabis was higher than the level in the US - 31% in comparable surveys. The average for cannabis use in the European countries surveyed was 16%. That was lower than the comparable figure for Spain - 27%.
9-20-16 The science of finding happiness
The science of finding happiness
all want to know how to find happiness. And the internet is chock full of advice on how to get there — but most of it is based on studies done on a bunch of college sophomores. Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't trust our 19-year-old selves when it comes to the most important thing in life. So what produces happiness all around the world, among people young and old, across the most varied backgrounds imaginable? I figured I'd call an expert who knows the answer. Robert Biswas-Diener is known as the "Indiana Jones" of psychology. He's spent time studying happiness in India, Greenland, Spain, and Israel. He's hung out with the Amish and the Masai of Kenya to see what produces smiles everywhere. He's an instructor at Portland State University and co-author of the book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Robert is going to explain how to find meaning in your work, what the biggest happiness mistake you make is, and the three words that are most likely to brighten your day (and they're not "winning the lottery.")
- AIM for happiness: Attention to the good, Interpret things positively, and enjoy happy Memories.
- Use your strengths: Whatever you're doing, try to engage your unique skills.
- Have a calling: How does your work contribute to the world? That's how you find meaning.
- Happiness is a process, not a place: No one thing will make you happy forever. But lots of little smiles will
- Balance pleasure now with meaning later: Have fun on the weekend. And work hard on Monday.
- Focus on relationships, but don't compare: If you remember nothing else: Invest in others.
9-19-16 Minnesota stabbings: Somali Americans warn of alienation
Minnesota stabbings: Somali Americans warn of alienation
As part of the BBC's US election coverage, we'?ve sent a team across the northern US by train to listen to voters' concerns. They start in Minnesota where, just this Saturday, a Somali-American man stabbed and injured nine people in what police say may be a possible terror attack. Much has been said about Muslims this election, and the apparent threat some people feel they pose, but how are Muslim Americans feeling ahead of the vote?
9-19-16 Canada: The different voice
Canada: The different voice
The anti-establishment caravan rolls on. Donald Trump surges in the polls - he's ahead in the key battleground states of Ohio and Florida. In Germany, the anti-immigration party the AFD hurts Angela Merkel once again - this time in Berlin. In France, the far right party of Marine Le Pen tops some polls, while support for the socialist President Francois Hollande scarcely reaches double figures, while the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, despite its dubious roots, is enjoying record popularity. In the West, liberal democracy is facing a grave challenge. At a time of anger with the elites, the centre-left is struggling to define its purpose or find a narrative. It lacks confidence with its voice stilled - except in Canada.
9-19-16 France burkini ban: Australian woman forced off Riviera beach
France burkini ban: Australian woman forced off Riviera beach
A Muslim woman from Australia has told how she was forced to leave a beach in France for wearing a burkini. Zeynab Alshelh, a 23-year-old medical student, told Australian media she had travelled to Europe to show solidarity with local Muslim women. Footage broadcast on Channel 7 showed local people saying they would call the police if she didn't leave. The ban on burkinis in several French Riviera towns was overruled in August by the top administrative court.
9-17-16 Belgium minor first to be granted euthanasia
Belgium minor first to be granted euthanasia
Belgium is the only country that permits euthanasia without age restrictions. A terminally-ill 17-year-old has become the first minor to be helped to die in Belgium since age restrictions on euthanasia requests were removed two years ago, officials say. The head of the federal euthanasia commission said the teenager was "suffering unbearable physical pain". Belgium is the only country that allows minors of any age to choose euthanasia. They must have rational decision-making capacity and be in the final stages of a terminal illness. The parents of the under-18 year olds must also give their consent. Euthanasia commission head Wim Distelmans said the teenager was "nearly 18". He said doctors used "palliative sedation", which involves bringing patients into an induced coma, as part of the process.
9-16-16 Shoot Them
A Baptist pastor who serves as a high school football announcer in Alabama resigned after reportedly telling fans who didn’t stand for the national anthem to “line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you.” Pastor Allen Joyner claims he was misquoted, but said he “overstepped my authority as announcer to express my patriotic views.”
9-16-16 Openly Lesbian
This year’s Miss America contest included its first openly lesbian contestant: Erin O’Flaherty as Miss Missouri. O’Flaherty, 23, is working to promote the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to preventing suicide in LGBT youth. She said it is “awesome” to represent the LGBT community, but that she hopes people will “remember me for how I did the job, and not for one quality.”
9-16-16 The moment hijabs dazzled the New York Fashion Week catwalk
The moment hijabs dazzled the New York Fashion Week catwalk
A collection presented at New York Fashion Week is the first time every model walked the event's runway wearing a hijab. Muslim designer Anniesa Hasibuan's show was also one of the first by an Indonesian at the prestigious annual event. At a time when what Muslim women choose to wear is causing intense debate, many are calling Hasibuan's move a historic moment in bringing the hijab into the mainstream.
9-16-16 Marijuana Growth
The legal marijuana industry in the U.S. could grow to be worth $50 billion over the next decade, eight times its current size, according to a recent market analysis. Nine states have pot-related initiatives on the ballot this November, five to legalize the drug for all adults and four to allow it for medical use.
9-15-16 Hollywood trans roles under fire - again
Hollywood trans roles under fire - again
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have long lobbied for Hollywood to not only include, but portray, characters that identify as LGBT+ in a realistic way. Two films recently attracted criticism for casting cisgender actors - non-trans but whose gender matches their "assigned" sex at birth - in transgender roles. Matt Bomer, of Magic Mike fame, will star as a transgender sex worker in Anything, a film produced by fellow actor Mark Ruffalo. Meanwhile, Michelle Rodriguez, who has starred in blockbusters like Avatar and the Fast and Furious franchise, has been cast as a transgender assassin in Reassignment - a film that also uses a trans term for its title.
9-13-16 South Africa bars anti-gay US pastor Steven Anderson
South Africa bars anti-gay US pastor Steven Anderson
South Africa has barred controversial US pastor Steven Anderson from visiting the county because of his critical remarks about homosexuality. The home affairs minister said he was refused a visa as the constitution prohibits hate speech. Mr Anderson runs the Faithful Word Baptist Church, which says that homosexuality is an abomination punishable by the death penalty. He said that religious freedom no longer existed in South Africa. "I feel sorry for people who live in South Africa, but thank God we still have a wide open door in Botswana," Mr Anderson posted on his Facebook page after the decision to refuse him a visa. South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world which protects gay rights.
9-13-16 Colin Kaepernick: San Francisco 49ers player continues NFL race protest
Colin Kaepernick: San Francisco 49ers player continues NFL race protest
San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick continued his protest about racial inequality by kneeling as the national anthem was played before a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Team-mate Eric Reid knelt with Kaepernick, while two others - Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold - raised fists during the Star Spangled Banner. The game was broadcast nationally to a Monday Night Football audience. The Rams' Kenny Britt and Robert Quinn also held their fists in the air. Back-up quarterback Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem to highlight what he says is oppression of black people in the United States.
9-13-16 Orlando nightclub shooting: Fire set at gunman's mosque
Orlando nightclub shooting: Fire set at gunman's mosque
Police are investigating a fire at the mosque that was attended by the Orlando nightclub gunman who killed 49 people. Surveillance cameras show a suspect approaching the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce moments before Monday morning's blaze, fire officials said. The fire may have been timed to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and the anniversary of 9/11.
9-12-16 American football: NFL players join Colin Kaepernick protests
American football: NFL players join Colin Kaepernick protests
Fellow players joined San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick in protesting about racial inequality on the NFL's opening weekend, which also marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem at the start of each game in pre-season has divided opinion. While many have backed him, others say he is disrespecting the American flag. But several players raised fists or knelt to support Kaepernick's aim to highlight oppression of black people.
9-9-16 The immorality of animal research
The immorality of animal research
As a scientist who spent decades conducting research on monkeys, said John Gluck, I once believed that “intentionally harming animals” was justified by what we learned. But after witnessing the terrible suffering we inflicted, I now believe animal research is immoral. In fact, we need to examine whether we should stop the research that scientists are still conducting on 70,000 laboratory primates in the U.S. In my own work, we separated young monkeys from their families and others of their kind, putting them in isolated, soundproof cages that were lit 24 hours a day. We then measured “how their potential complex and intellectual lives unraveled” under these awful conditions—in effect, driving them insane. As we observed these intelligent primates suffer, I began to see them as individuals with personalities and feelings, not just objects yielding data, and “it became harder and harder for me to argue that the importance of my work always outweighed the pain I caused.” Besides, what we learned about animals in cages had limited relevance to mental illness in people. In recent decades, we have banned research that causes harm to humans—even if it produces useful information. “There is no ethical argument that justifies not doing the same for animals.”
9-9-16 NFL: Brandon Marshall protests against US anthem as Broncos beat Panthers
NFL: Brandon Marshall protests against US anthem as Broncos beat Panthers
Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeled in protest during the American national anthem prior to the Broncos' victory over the Carolina Panthers in the opening game of the new NFL season. Marshall is the third player to refuse to stand for the anthem since Colin Kaepernick did so last month in protest at what he sees as racial injustice. "I feel like this was the right thing to do," said Marshall.
9-9-16 Newspaper fury over Facebook 'Napalm girl' censorship
Newspaper fury over Facebook 'Napalm girl' censorship
Facebook has controversially removed the iconic image of a girl fleeing a Napalm attack during the Vietnam war from a post, on the grounds of nudity. The editor of Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten said the entire post, which was about iconic war imagery, was later deleted and the account of the reporter behind it suspended. Espen Egil Hansen has accused Mark Zuckerberg of "an abuse of power". Facebook said it has to restrict nudity for cultural reasons. Mr Hansen said the image of Kim Phuc, then aged nine, was removed less than 24 hours after the newspaper received a request from the firm to either take down the image or pixelate it and before it had responded. "While we recognise that this photo is iconic, it's difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others," Facebook said in a statement. (Webmaster's comment: This photo exposed America war crimes for the evil they really are! It should never be taken down!)
9-9-16 Coded messages,
Coded messages, after Brazilian researchers revealed that Renaissance painter Michelangelo secretly included dozens of hidden images of female reproductive organs and pagan fertility symbols in painting the Sistine Chapel, to show his irritation with the Catholic Church’s male-dominated culture.
9-9-16 Reform damaging prisons, or risk losing the fight against crime
Reform damaging prisons, or risk losing the fight against crime
Penal reform in the UK and beyond will only work if rehabilitation – not harmful retribution – is at the heart of prison systems, says Arne Nilsen. Lock them up and throw away the key. When it comes to prison, that’s the view in much of Europe, including the UK, and the US. Politicians have for years focused on “being tough on crime” – with the result of ensuring that those who are imprisoned are not just locked up in a place they cannot escape from, but one in which they “feel” the punishment. It seems hard to change this mindset. But if we want prisoners to rehabilitate, the evidence says this does not work. Such punishment usually fails to deter offending on release. On the contrary, a large amount of crime is committed by those who “go in and out” of prisons. In some UK jails, for example, three-quarters of inmates go on to reoffend. There is another way. At Norway’s Bastøy prison on an island south of the capital Oslo, it is different. Reoffending rates there are a fraction of those in the UK: 16 per cent at Bastøy, and less than 30 per cent in the country overall. This is despite some 65-70 per cent of all inmates in Norway having serious problems with drug and alcohol addiction. Personality disorders and antisocial behaviour are also common, and in that sense the prison population is like that in the UK – so why such different outcomes? I am proud to say that a prison sentence in my country means loss of freedom, not a regime that harms offenders mentally or physically.
9-9-16 They use more marijuana
They use more marijuana
Over the past 12 years, the number of Americans who say they use marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis has jumped from 3.9 million to 8.4 million, or from 1.9 percent of the U.S. population to 3.5 percent, according to a new study in Lancet Psychiatry.
9-8-16 US anthem protest: Megan Rapinoe denied by Washington Spirit
US anthem protest: Megan Rapinoe denied by Washington Spirit
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties," Ms Rapinoe said. A US soccer team has played the national anthem without players being present to prevent a protest. Washington Spirit played the anthem before the National Women's League team game with Seattle Reign before the players were allowed onto the pitch. Megan Rapinoe of Seattle Reign had knelt during the Star Spangled Banner at a game the previous Sunday. Rapinoe said her protest was in solidarity with American football player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback for San Francisco 49ers, has been heavily criticised since refusing to stand during the anthem in a protest about race relations in the US. He said he would not stand for the anthem until he saw an improvement.
9-7-16 God, child abuse, and the limits of religious freedom in America
God, child abuse, and the limits of religious freedom in America
The ocean of religious liberty stops at the shore of child welfare. A woman in Indiana who was charged with child abuse claims that she was merely disciplining her 7-year-old son according to her evangelical Christian beliefs, and is therefore protected under Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kihn Par Thaing allegedly beat her child with a coat hanger, leaving more than 30 bruises. As justification for her behavior, court documents cite a passage from the Old Testament book of Proverbs claiming that a parent who "spares the rod, spoils the child." Thaing's case has gained widespread attention in a moment when the limits of religious liberty are being adjudicated nationwide. In 2014, Hobby Lobby successfully argued before the Supreme Court that privately held companies should be exempt from providing contraception to their employees if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious convictions. And last year, SCOTUS ruled that a prisoner could grow a beard in accordance with his Muslim beliefs even though it conflicts with the Arkansas Department of Corrections' regulations. Meanwhile, other appeals to "religious liberty" — such as Christian cake bakers, florists, and photographers who wish to refuse wedding services to LGBT couples — have failed.
9-7-16 Inside the Dutch prisons that migrants are calling home
Inside the Dutch prisons that migrants are calling home
The Netherlands is welcoming refugees with a novel housing arrangement: prison. After a record-breaking 59,100 migrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa sought safety and asylum in the small European country in 2015, the Dutch government was forced to turn to its empty correctional facilities, a product of the country's declining crime rates, for temporary housing. But as the asylum process grows increasingly lengthy, these dozen or so former prisons seem more and more like permanent homes. (Webmaster's comment: Whereas in America we are putting more and more "criminals" in prisons for longer and longer times. Why don't we have declining crime rates such that we are closing prisons like they are doing in Europe?)
9-6-16 Obama backs NFL player Colin Kaepernick's right to snub anthem
Obama backs NFL player Colin Kaepernick's right to snub anthem
US President Barack Obama has said NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the US national anthem, was exercising his constitutional right to make a point. Speaking in China, Mr Obama said the player had raised legitimate issues. Mr Kaepernick stirred controversy when he sat during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice. Some players have followed his example and sat or kneeled through the anthem.
9-6-16 France Islam: Valls slams New York Times report on burkini ban
France Islam: Valls slams New York Times report on burkini ban
Muslim women in France have insisted on their right to wear the burkini. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has accused the New York Times of painting an "unacceptable" picture of his country with an article about discrimination against Muslim women. The report was prompted by the debate over controversial bans on Islamic swimsuits in many French Riviera towns. Mr Valls said such bans were part of a "fight for the freedom of women". The paper said it stood by the article. Some Muslims say they are being targeted unfairly over burkinis. An increasing number of court rulings have rejected bans on the full-body swimsuit, including in Nice, where an attack on 14 July killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations.
9-6-16 Inside a 'neo-Nazi village'
Inside a 'neo-Nazi village'
Nazi salutes, 1930s murals and directions to Hitler's birthplace - Jamel in north-eastern Germany has become home to a group of far-right supporters. Police say they are dangerous, but the village's original inhabitants are fighting back.
9-5-16 The bloody history of Labor Day
The bloody history of Labor Day
Most people probably don't think of Labor Day as a holiday commemorating struggle and death. Railroad baron George Pullman created his eponymous town in 1880 just outside Chicago. It was a model of capitalist feudalism, with workers offered housing in line with their position in the company. Residents worked for Pullman's company and their rent was automatically docked from their paychecks. They even banked at Pullman's bank. But Pullman's business plummeted when the recession hit. Hundreds were laid off and wages were deeply cut — yet rents in the town did not decline. But that's what it used to be. On June 26, the American Railroad Union — led by Eugene V. Debs — called for a supporting boycott. One hundred and fifty thousand railway workers in 27 states joined the strike, refusing to operate Pullman rail cars. The massive halt to the rail industry and the interruption of U.S. mail cars set off a national crisis. Congress and President Grover Cleveland, looking to save face, rushed through a bill declaring Labor Day a national holiday. Cleveland signed it on June 28, 1894. He was backed by the AFL — the more conservative portion of the labor movement — which threw the first official Labor Day parade that year. Six days later, under pressure from the furious leaders of the rail industry, and facing the virtual shutdown of U.S. mail trains, Cleveland invoked the Sherman Antitrust Act to declare the stoppage a federal crime. He sent in 12,000 federal troops to break the strike. Days of fighting and riots ensued, as strikers overturned and burned railcars, and the troops responded with violent crackdowns. Anywhere from a dozen to over 30 workers were killed before the strikers were dispersed and the trains restarted.
9-3-16 Kaepernick anthem protest: Police threaten boycott
Kaepernick anthem protest: Police threaten boycott
Police officers have threatened to boycott the home games of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers if the organisation fails to take action to halt protests by its quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem in a protest against the plight of black people in the US. A letter from Santa Clara police says Kaepernick's actions and statements are "false and insulting". It accused the 49ers of failing to take any action to stop them. Kaepernick's protest has stemmed from the racial tensions that increased across the nation this year amid a string of police killings and subsequent revenge attacks. The player stayed seated during The Star-Spangled Banner at a game a week ago and on Thursday chose to kneel during the anthem. The 28-year-old has said he will continue until he sees improvements in US race relations. (Webmaster's comment: So much for free speech and freedom of expression in America! The police will refuse to protect you if you exercise your rights!)
9-3-16 Healing hasidic adulterers — with psychiatric drugs
Healing hasidic adulterers — with psychiatric drugs
These ultra-Orthodox Jews admitted to religious taboos. The treatment they received was alarmingly severe. But two Hasidim married to other people don't just get a divorce and start a new life together. The community got involved. A rabbi and what's known as an askan, a person of influence in the Hasidic community, were given Joseph's "case." The role of an askan — collectively called askanim — is part politician, part good Samaritan, and part busybody. Together, Joseph's rabbi and the askan appointed by the community to his case staged an intervention. Joseph says they got involved in every level of his life, in order to prevent him from leaving his family and starting a new one. They took away Joseph's BlackBerry. The askan started monitoring Joseph's computer, a mirror image of Joseph's screen under surveillance at all times. Joseph's brother-in-law started tracking Joseph's car, where he went and whom he saw. Joseph was faced with a choice: surrender to the will of his community's leaders, or risk public shaming, and worse — losing his children and friends. He capitulated, and promised never to see Dini again. But that was not enough. The askan chose a psychologist to provide Joseph with talk therapy, and then a psychiatrist for medication, who started Joseph on a course of chemical treatment for sex addiction.
Getaways, after the lawyer for fugitive Lyle Jeffs suggested in court filings that the Utah polygamist leader is unavailable to stand trial in a food-stamp fraud case because he may have “experienced the miracle of Rapture.”
9-2-16 Free speech areas
Free speech areas
A Clemson University official stopped a man from praying on campus because he was not in one of the school’s “free speech areas.” Student Kyra Palange saw the man sitting next to a sign that said “Prayer” and joined him, only to be told by a college administrator to stop. Palange said she was appalled that Clemson limits public prayer and opinions to “a designated area.”
9-2-16 The 105-year-old who was Goebbels’ secretary
The 105-year-old who was Goebbels’ secretary
Brunhilde Pomsel is the last surviving member of the Nazis’ inner circle, said Kate Connolly in The Guardian (U.K.). As Joseph Goebbels’ secretary during World War II, she was at the heart of his propaganda machine. Yet Pomsel, 105, insists she had no idea about Nazi atrocities. “I know no one ever believes us nowadays,” she says. “We knew nothing. It was all kept well secret.” Goebbels, she says, had a “gentlemanly countenance.” He wore “suits of the best cloth, and always had a light tan. He had well-groomed hands—he probably had a manicure every day. There was really nothing to criticize about him.” Only once did Pomsel glimpse something frightening behind Goebbels’ affable fac¸ade: when she saw him on stage in 1943, calling on the German people to wage “total war” on Europe. “No actor could have been any better at the transformation from a civilized, serious person into a ranting, rowdy man,” she says. “In the office he had a kind of noble elegance, and then to see him there like a raging midget—you just can’t imagine a greater contrast.” Still, Pomsel insists her own conscience is clear. “Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis—I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have. The idealism of youth might easily have led to you having your neck broken.”
9-1-16 Miss Fa'afafine: Behind Samoa's 'third gender' beauty pageant
Miss Fa'afafine: Behind Samoa's 'third gender' beauty pageant
Bright lights, glittering dresses and dazzling smiles are a feature of every beauty pageant, but Samoa's Miss Fa'afafine is a pageant with a difference - an annual celebration of the island nation's third gender tradition. "I believe I was born a fa'afafine. Though originally I was born male, my feminine side is much stronger", says Velda Collins. "A woman trapped in a man's body", is how she describes herself. "We are unique from the lesbian and gay community around the world, we have our own identity." Despite the fa'afafine being an accepted part of Samoan culture for generations, she says life was hard growing up, as her parents never quite accepted her. They were afraid her identity would close doors for her in life. So taking part in Miss Fa'afafine 2007 was one of the "most liberating experiences" of her life. She went on to win that pageant, and is now one of the contest organisers.
9-1-16 French resorts lift burkini bans after court ruling
French resorts lift burkini bans after court ruling
The city of Nice has lifted a controversial ban on burkinis - the latest French seaside resort to do so, in line with a national court ruling. Bans on the women's full-body swimsuits have also been lifted in Villeneuve-Loubet, Cannes, Frejus and Roquebrune. French Riviera mayors imposed the bans, but they were overruled on Friday by France's top administrative court. Critics see burkinis as a symbol of Islam and potentially provocative after the July terror atrocity in Nice. But on Friday, France's Council of State ruled that the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms".
9-1-16 How lead poisoning wreaks havoc on American education
How lead poisoning wreaks havoc on American education
This might be the most underreported issue in school reform. Lead was thought to be a solved problem for quite some time, since leaded gasoline and paint were both phased out in the 1990s. It has come back in view due to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan (which isn't remotely resolved, by the way) — but still in a limited way. That ongoing disaster rather makes it appear as though lead poisoning is mainly an issue for crumbling Rust Belt cities with severe economic problems. This is not the case. As Julia Lurie points out, data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that lead contamination is a serious issue all over the country. Only about half of states even report lead data from children's blood samples, but those that do show many counties with serious lead contamination — naturally those with high poverty and/or high minority populations. And as a new NBER working paper demonstrates, even very small amounts of lead appear to have negative effects on children's education. The study looked at data from Rhode Island, where very thorough lead testing data allowed them to control for many confounding factors.
9-1-16 Cluster bombs killed over 400 people in 2015, campaigners say
Cluster bombs killed over 400 people in 2015, campaigners say
Children are especially vulnerable to cluster bombs, attracted by their toy-like appearance. More than 400 people were killed by cluster bombs in 2015, with most in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, according to a Cluster Munition Coalition report. All three are countries where the weapon is not banned. Civilians made up 97% of the death toll. More than a third of the casualties recorded from 2010-2015 were children, who are at particular risk. Cluster bombs scatter explosives across a wide area and often fail to detonate on impact. The report found that 248 deaths were recorded in Syria, followed by 104 in Yemen and 19 in Ukraine. None of these countries are signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of the weapons. (Webmaster's comment: The United States has not banned them. There is too much money to be made. And terrorizing civilian populations is an American military objective.)
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