You are not Alone!
25 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for January 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
1-29-16 Our marijuana laws don’t make sense
Our marijuana laws don’t make sense
The Netherlands led the way in legalizing the sale of marijuana 25 years ago with its groundbreaking “coffee shops,” said Gerard Spong and Frits Lauwaars. Now it’s time to go further and legalize production. The idea of letting customers in at the front door while trying to stop suppliers entering at the back was never going to work. Nearly every day, a coffee shop owner is charged with procuring supplies—and though “no self-respecting judge” ever imposes punishment, prosecutors go on charging them just the same, wasting taxpayers’ money on gathering evidence and legal fees. The impetus for change is coming from local authorities, who say the proliferation of illegal attic “marijuana nurseries” is a growing fire hazard. They want to see supply regulated along with demand. Once cultivation is controlled by the state, they argue, it will no longer fuel criminal activity. Polls suggest that the majority of the public support the idea. Alas, the Netherlands’ ruling party won’t budge, claiming a change in the law would defy international treaties. But if Colorado in the U.S. can regulate the cultivation of cannabis along with sales, why can’t we? The government should stop making excuses and introduce a policy that makes sense.
1-29-16 Ancient Babylonians 'first to use geometry'
Ancient Babylonians 'first to use geometry'
Sophisticated geometry - the branch of mathematics that deals with shapes - was being used at least 1,400 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests. Five Babylonian tablets revealed that these ancient people were using sophisticated geometry. Research shows that the Ancient Babylonians were using geometrical calculations to track Jupiter across the night sky. Previously, the origins of this technique had been traced to the 14th Century. (Webmaster's comment: Again the Arabs lead the way in mathematics.)
1-29-16 Birthday gaffe: Book on Washington pulled from stores
Birthday gaffe: Book on Washington pulled from stores
African-American parents know better than anyone else that we need “literature that wrestles with the evils of slavery,” said Michael Twitty in TheGuardian.com. Any help we can get in discussing that history with our children is appreciated. This book, “although well-intentioned,” obscured the truth and was rightfully shouted down by critics who found one another through social media. “Keeping ourselves and others honest about slavery is constant work.” (Webmaster's comment: Slavery is EVIL, but conservatives would love to change that view to happy slaves who loved their masters.)
1-28-16 Ancient maps of Jupiter’s path show Babylonians’ advanced maths
Ancient maps of Jupiter’s path show Babylonians’ advanced maths
A forgotten tablet has cracked a long-standing mystery about strange notations on other tablets - and shown ancient Babylonians used precursors to calculus. Thanks to a clue from a 50-year old photograph, a historian has decoded a mysterious trapezoid described on ancient Babylonian astronomical tablets. That previously unexplained description is a scheme to predict Jupiter’s place in the zodiac – and it shows that ancient Mesopotamian astronomers beat Europeans by at least 1500 years in grasping the ideas that led to integral calculus.
1-28-16 The privileged world of Thailand's supernatural dolls
The privileged world of Thailand's supernatural dolls
A craze for eerily lifelike supernatural dolls has swept Thailand in recent months. Their name, "luk thep", literally translates as "child angels" and people believe they bring good fortune and they are pampered by their owners as if they were children. But the privileges lavished upon them have also drawn a backlash and warnings from Thai authorities.
1-28-16 Arrested after falling for another woman
Arrested after falling for another woman
When Sanjida left home to study, she met the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. The only problem - her partner was another woman, and same-sex marriage is not accepted in Bangladesh. Now, instead of finding happiness, she's facing criminal charges, accused of abduction.
1-26-16 Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'
Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'
It's difficult to keep a conspiracy under wraps, scientists say, because sooner or later, one of the conspirators will blow its cover. A study has examined how long alleged conspiracies could "survive" before being revealed - deliberately or unwittingly - to the public at large. Dr David Grimes, from Oxford University, devised an equation to express this, and then applied it to four famous collusions. The belief that the Moon landing was faked, the belief that climate change is a fraud, the belief that vaccines cause autism, and the belief that pharmaceutical companies have suppressed a cure for cancer.
1-26-16 Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles and low-level offenders
Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles and low-level offenders
US President Barack Obama has said he will ban solitary confinement as a form of punishment for juvenile and low-level offenders in federal prisons. He said solitary confinement has the potential to cause "lasting psychological consequences" for inmates. The reforms would affect about 10,000 inmates who are serving time in isolation in the federal system. Treatments for the mentally ill would also be expanded under the reforms. (Webmaster's comment: But state prisons are still barbaric in their treatment of juveniles and the mentally ill.)
1-26-16 Egyptian village blaming fires on 'evil spirits'
Egyptian village blaming fires on 'evil spirits'
A village in northern Egypt has been gripped by panic after dozens of houses were burnt in a series of mysterious fires. A police investigation is still under way, but villagers believe the cause of the fire is supernatural, started by "djinn", mythological evil spirits. Several families in Mina Safour have abandoned their homes and are staying in the streets over fears that they could be the next victims. (Webmaster's comment: Still living in the dark ages.)
1-22-16 62 Extreme Rich Own As Much As Half The World
62 Extreme Rich Own As Much As Half The World
The wealthiest 62 people now own as much as half the world’s population—or 3.5 billion people—according to a new study by Oxfam. The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen 44 percent since 2010, while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion has fallen 41 percent during that time.
1-22-16 Are You A Virgin?
Are You A Virgin?
A Republican lawmaker in Olympia, Wash., shocked a group of teenage girls lobbying for Planned Parenthood by asking them whether they were virgins. State Rep. Mary Dye, who is opposed to giving teens access to birth control, admitted that her “well--intended” comments about sex may have been too “motherly.” One student called Dye’s questions about the students’ virginity “kind of insane.”
1-22-16 Glass Slipper Church
Glass Slipper Church
A glass church shaped like a massive high-heeled shoe has been built in southern Taiwan in a bid to attract more female worshippers. Regional authorities said the steel-and-glass structure, which stands 55 feet tall and is 36 feet wide, should especially appeal to brides-to-be who want a unique and glamorous wedding venue. “Most brides love to wear high-heeled shoes,” said spokesman Hung Chao-chang, “and I believe this building will match their imagination.”
1-21-16 Journalists: 'Priest abuse cover-up continued for too long'
Journalists: 'Priest abuse cover-up continued for too long'
Two of the real-life journalists who inspired the film Spotlight have spoken about their experiences exposing the scandal of paedophile Catholic priests in the US. Walter Robinson and Mike Rezendes from the Boston Globe both won Pulitzer prizes for their work. They told Evan Davis what is was like to go up against the Catholic Church.
1-20-16 Michael Keaton's new film puts spotlight on Catholic Church
Michael Keaton's new film puts spotlight on Catholic Church
One of the front runners for next months Oscars is Spotlight. It tells the true story of an American newspaper's investigation, into the cover up of child abuse within the Catholic Church. Will Gompertz met the film's star, Michael Keaton, and the real-life character he portrays.
1-20-16 Man 'frozen to death' comes back to life
Man 'frozen to death' comes back to life
26-year-old Justin Smith was walking home from his local bar in Tresckow, Pennsylvania last February when he blacked out and ended up lying unconscious in the snow. His father, Don Smith, found him the next morning and called the emergency services. When paramedics arrived they believed Justin was dead. He was taken to hospital where doctors thought he could still be revived. Using a procedure usually used to save patients whose lungs and heart are damaged by the flu or a heart attack, doctors were able to revive Justin. Justin lost all his toes and his little fingers on both hands from frostbite but he has no lasting neurological damage.
1-20-16 Why opposition to assisted suicide is inextricably tied to religion
Why opposition to assisted suicide is inextricably tied to religion
More than abortion and gay marriage, assisted suicide is the issue in the culture war that most sharply divides those who view the world through a classically theistic (and especially Christian, and above all Roman Catholic) lens from those who do not. The pro-life position can be defended in purely rational terms, given the murkiness around when human beings begin to possess dignity and rights. Opposition to gay marriage is more difficult to justify in non-theistic terms, but you can at least try to point to the meaning and social goods of traditional marriage and then attempt to show how they are inevitably undermined by redefining marriage to permit same-sex couples to wed. But the arguments against permitting assisted suicide are different. They don't merely have a hard time gaining traction outside of a theistic view of the world. Without specifically theistic premises, they make no sense at all.
1-18-16 Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High
Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High
A new high of 60% of Americans say they are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S. - up from 53% in 2014 and 2015. As recently as 10 years ago, satisfaction was as low as 32%.
60% are satisfied, up from 53% in 2015
For first time, majority of Republicans (54%) say they are satisfied
Sixty-seven percent of Democrats are satisfied
1-18-16 George Washington slave book pulled after criticism
George Washington slave book pulled after criticism
A children's picture book about George Washington and his slaves has been pulled by publishers Scholastic. A Birthday Cake for George Washington tells the story of Washington's slave Hercules, a cook, and his daughter. It had been criticized for its images of smiling slaves, and described as being "highly problematic". Scholastic said in a statement that without more historical context, the book "may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves". (Webmaster's comment: George Washington owned 300 of them. He sold their children away from their parents. He never freed them until both he and his wife were dead. He pulled teeth from living slaves to make his dentures. The treatment of slaves by slave owners was by-in-large horrific. They raped the women and young girls - it was important to get there first - to "improve the stock." They cut off their ears and noses and hamstrung them and whipped them to the bone to punish them. They were treated no better than cattle, even worse. The myth of the happy slave is a blatant conservative lie.)
1-17-16 Pope Francis' hand of friendship to Jews
Pope Francis' hand of friendship to Jews
Pope Francis, following in the historic footsteps of his predecessors, will cross the river Tiber to Rome's Synagogue, the Grand Temple, on the opposite bank of the river Tiber to the Vatican on Sunday. The building dates back to 1870, when Italy became a united country for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire and the former Papal States ceased to exist. He will be welcomed by Italy's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and by the head of Italy's Jewish community Ruth Dureghello. His courtesy visit, the third by a reigning pope, has aroused expectations of further rapprochement between Catholics and Jews. A Vatican statement last December said Catholics should not actively seek to convert Jews and must do all they can to repel anti-Semitic tendencies. This document, although it was not signed personally by the Pope, pleased many Jewish leaders.
1-15-16 Anglican Church leaders suspend US Church over gay marriage
Anglican Church leaders suspend US Church over gay marriage
Anglican Church leaders have effectively re-affirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage - by punishing the liberal US Episcopal Church over the issue. The Episcopal Church has been suspended from Anglican committees and decision-making for three years after allowing its clergy to perform same sex marriages. The decision was taken by a majority of church leaders at a meeting of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury.
1-8-16 Do impulsive people have less free will than the rest of us?
Do impulsive people have less free will than the rest of us?
A twist on a classic free will experiment suggests that impulsive people have less time to veto their own actions once the decision to act has been made.Don’t blame impulsive people for their poor decisions. It’s not necessarily their fault. Impulsivity could result from not having enough time to veto our own actions. At least that is the implication of a twist on a classic experiment on free will. In 1983, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet performed an experiment to test whether we have free will. Participants were asked to voluntarily flex a finger while watching a clock-face with a rotating dot. They had to note the position of the dot as soon as they became aware of their intention to act. As they were doing so, Libet recorded their brain activity via EEG electrodes attached to the scalp. He found that a spike in brain activity called the readiness potential, which precedes a voluntary action, occurred about 350-milliseconds before the volunteers became consciously aware of their intention to act. The readiness potential is thought to signal the brain preparing for movement. Libet interpreted his results to mean that free will is an illusion. But we’re not complete slaves to our neurons, he reasoned, as there was a 200-millisecond gap between conscious awareness of our intention and the initiation of movement. Libet argued that this was enough time to consciously veto the action, or exert our “free won’t”.
1-8-16 Kenya crackdown on sex talk and preacher shows
Kenya crackdown on sex talk and preacher shows
Kenya has published new broadcast regulations, which will place strict limits on sexual content and ban preachers from soliciting money on air. Explicit content will only be allowed on the airwaves between 22:00 and 05:00 in order to protect children, Kenya's Communications Authority says. Broadcasters have until June to comply with the new rules. A BBC correspondent says this is the first time a concerted effort has been made to censor Kenyan radio stations. The new rules apply to programmes as well as advertisements, programme listings and promotions.
1-7-16 Meet the young female Arab-American activists
Meet the young female Arab-American activists
Three young female activists are leading the protest against anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US. Jamila Hammami, Aber Kawas and Eman Abdelhadi are all Arab American and Muslim, but they come from different backgrounds and have different relationships with their religion and Arab identity. Tunisian-American Jamila is the founder of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project; Palestinian-American Aber is a youth organiser in Brooklyn; and Egyptian-American Eman is studying for a doctorate focused on gender in American Muslim communities. They tell the BBC what it is like to be a young Arab American woman activist in the United States. (Webmaster's comment: Shows Trump supporters throwing one of the young Arab women down on the floor and kicking her. Just like the Nazi Brown Shirts would have done to the Jewish women in Germany.)
1-6-16 Alabama's top judge urges gay marriage halt
Alabama's top judge urges gay marriage halt
The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has urged judges in his state to deny marriage licences to same-sex couples. Roy Moore's administrative order defies a US Supreme Court ruling from June that legalised gay marriage across the United States. The order claims that the US court had not explicitly lifted an earlier state ban on marriage licences for gays. Rights groups have dismissed the order, saying it should have little effect. The move stops short of commanding the judges to deny licences to same-sex couples. (Webmaster's comment: Another right-wing bigot who can't let go of his hate! How did they let a creature like this become a judge? Imagine the rulings he's passed down based on hate and not on the law.)
1-5-16 Catholic Church linked to Uganda child labour
Catholic Church linked to Uganda child labour
During his November visit to Africa, the continent which now counts nearly 200m Roman Catholics, Pope Francis said that children were some of the greatest victims of Africa's historical exploitation by other powers. He also urged young Africans to resist corruption. But should the Vatican be doing more to put its own house in order? A BBC investigation has uncovered evidence that church land in Uganda is being used for child labour.