Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

60 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for April 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source

4-29-16 Russia's mixed messages on LGBT
Russia's mixed messages on LGBT
Kira is a young Russian transgender woman waiting for the gender re-assignment operation that is going to allow her to live her life officially as a woman. She is studying in Moscow, where she also works as a fashion model. Back in her home town in northern Russia, the revelations about her sexual identity have thrown her family into turmoil. Her brother Maxim's first reaction was to beat her up. Her sister Alyona will barely talk to her, while her mother is continually dissolving into floods of tears. Kira's troubled but touching progress towards her long-awaited goal is the central thread in TransReality, a 15-part documentary series about the lives of a group of young, transgender and gay Russians.

4-28-16 The absurdity of bathroom anxiety
The absurdity of bathroom anxiety
It’s “a tempest in a toilet,” said Frank Bruni. One of the “more ludicrous political causes” in recent times is the attempt to ban transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Moral guardians such as Ted Cruz are stoking hysteria about this nonexistent problem, claiming transgender women whose birth certificates say they’re male would pose a threat if they went into bathrooms “with little girls” or “your wife.” Clearly, he doesn’t know any transgender people: Laws like the one North Carolina recently passed would require women who’d transitioned to men to use the little girls’ room, even though these transmen now have “beards, muscles, pants.” And transwomen like Caitlyn Jenner would be forced to stroll into the men’s room in dresses and heels. “That’s a greater invitation to potty pandemonium than letting people make their own calls when nature calls.” Look: I understand that many Americans feel disoriented and anxious after the coming out of transgender people like Jenner, a former Olympic hero. But transgender people have been going to the restroom of their choice all along without incident. As even Donald Trump observed, bathroom laws are “a solution in search of a problem.”

4-28-16 Targeting Transgenders
Targeting Transgenders
The head of an evangelical legal organization has pledged to carry a gun into Target’s bathrooms to defend against transgender women. Liberty Counsel President Anita Staver is calling for a boycott of the retail chain after it announced that it will allow patrons to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. “I’m taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room,” Staver tweeted. “It identifies as my bodyguard.”

4-28-16 Schilling: Was ESPN right to fire him?
Schilling: Was ESPN right to fire him?
When ESPN finally fired broadcaster Curt Schilling last week, it was long overdue, said Ian Crouch in In the wake of North Carolina’s so-called bathroom law, Schilling shared a crude photo of an ugly man in a dress on Facebook and suggested that letting transgender women use women’s lavatories poses a threat to public safety. “Men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much,” he wrote. For the conservative former major-league pitcher, it was the final straw after years of incendiary statements about abortion, race, and other hot-button topics. Last year, ESPN suspended Schilling after a tweet equating Muslims with Nazis; he recently remarked that Hillary Clinton should be “buried under a jail somewhere.” Schilling had to know he was risking his baseball job by shooting off his mouth, but he “just couldn’t keep his thoughts to himself.”

4-28-16 Voting: The politics of including ex-felons
Voting: The politics of including ex-felons
When the racists who rewrote Virginia’s constitution in 1902 banned felons from voting, said The Washington Post in an editorial, “they made no bones about their objectives.” The changes, they said, would help “eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State” and “ensure the complete supremacy of the white race.” More than a century later, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has finally scrapped “the last vestige of that project”—using his executive authority to reinstate voting rights to more than 200,000 former convicted felons, the vast majority of whom are African-American. McAuliffe’s executive order, imposed over adamant opposition from Republicans, applies to all felons who have served their prison sentences and finished parole or probation. Let’s hope other states follow suit, said Janai S. Nelson in An estimated 5.85 million Americans who’ve served their time on felony convictions are banned from participating in our democracy because of discriminatory voting laws—when really we should be trying to reintegrate these people back into society. (Webmaster's comment: If you've done your time, paid for your crime, then ALL rights should be fully restored.)

4-27-16 Why are religions so judgemental? Ask evolution
Why are religions so judgemental? Ask evolution
The rise of moralising religions like Christianity can be explained by evolution – and so can their eventual downfall, says evolutionary psychologist Nicolas Baumard. Roman religions were materialistic rather than moralising. What happened to make materialistic religions transform into moralising ones? Before Christianity, most religions did not place a high value on morality. (Webmaster's comment: Baumard makes a excellent argument for his hypothesis. Read it before our party on Atheism Eve!)

4-27-16 The B&B where cannabis is part of your stay
The B&B where cannabis is part of your stay
Colorado's cannabis industry is growing fast, with armoured cars full of cash a common sight on Denver's streets. But businesses are stuck in a legal no-man's land - state laws allow the drug to be sold, but federal laws still prohibit it. It all began in the year 2000, after a state-wide referendum changed the Colorado constitution to legalise the use and supply of marijuana for medical purposes. This was not a move led by politicians; the current governor is still opposed. But the people spoke and the legislators had to turn the decision into fact. Colorado was not the first state to legalise medical cannabis. It's claimed to have many physical and mental effects: easing pain, calming fits, energising or relaxing the body, depending on which particular strain of the drug you use (and which particular dosage). Now, there is something very weird about cannabis in the US. Using it and growing it is still a federal crime. Though individual states have fiercely defended their own legal rights, marijuana is still officially classified as a schedule one drug, as fearsome to the federal authorities as heroin.

4-27-16 Mashrou' Leila: Jordan bans Lebanese rock band with gay singer
Mashrou' Leila: Jordan bans Lebanese rock band with gay singer
A Lebanese rock band says it has been banned in Jordan because its music supports religious and sexual freedom. Mashrou' Leila was to play in the Roman amphitheatre in Amman on Friday, but the concert was cancelled on Tuesday. The band said the official explanation was that its music was at odds with the "authenticity" of the site, despite having performed there three times. Mashrou' Leila's lead singer is openly gay - and the band tackles taboos that few other Arab musicians have explored.

4-26-16 The symbolism and stupidity of America's transgender bathroom debate
The symbolism and stupidity of America's transgender bathroom debate
In case you've been on a news blackout for the last few weeks: Transgender activists and their allies are starting a movement to legally allow transgender people to access the bathrooms (and other sex-segregated facilities, such as locker rooms) of the genders they identify with. The most high-profile example is a transgender rights law passed in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February. Conservatives are up in arms over this, passing their own laws, notably a North Carolina law directly responding to the Charlotte rules, that restrict transgender bathroom use. These laws are only symbolic. They serve no functional purpose. Presumably, post-transition transgender people look like the gender they identify with. Who, exactly, is going to stop someone who looks like a woman from walking into a ladies' room? Or someone who looks like a man from walking into a men's room? The American nanny state may be out of control, but we still don't have bathroom police. As such, post-transition transgender Americans likely already have access to the bathrooms of their choice, even without these new laws.

4-26-16 North Carolina LGBT law fuels demonstrations for and against
North Carolina LGBT law fuels demonstrations for and against
Thousands of activists gathered at the North Carolina legislature on Monday as it reconvened for the first time since enacting a law criticised as anti-gay. Protesters are calling the law Hate Bill 2, referencing the law's official name - HB2 or House Bill 2. Supporters and opponents of the bill held competing rallies outside the statehouse in Raleigh. More than 50 critics of the legislation were arrested after entering and refusing to leave the building. he controversial law invalidates local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people. It also requires people to use public toilets that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. Major companies such as Bank of America and Apple have criticised the law. Other companies including Pay Pal and Deutsche Bank vowed to curtail their businesses in the state because of it.

4-26-16 Gay couple win custody battle against Thai surrogate mother
Gay couple win custody battle against Thai surrogate mother
A same-sex American-Spanish couple have won a high-profile custody battle over a baby born through a Thai surrogate mother who wanted to keep the child after she found out they were gay. Bangkok's Family Court ruled the legal guardian of the child is Gordon Lake, her biological father from the US. The child was born before a Thai ban on commercial surrogacy was imposed. Correspondents say that the case was complicated by the fact that Thai law does not recognise same-sex marriages.

4-25-16 The vicious cycle of criminalized homelessness
The vicious cycle of criminalized homelessness
Russell Bartholow spent 15 years living on the streets of Sacramento. He estimates that he's been arrested or cited by police for one violation or another hundreds of times. Most of the time his crimes were for things like sleeping or camping in public, or for failure to pay a fine — a fine that typically was for sleeping or camping in public. "It starts out as a $125 fine. Ok, well I can't pay that — I have no money. I live on the street," he told Vocativ. "Then it snowballs and snowballs — more tickets, more arrests, more fines. More tickets, more arrests, more fines. It's this cycle you can't get out of. I had nowhere to go. So by simply falling asleep or setting up a tent, I was breaking the law." Startlingly, he says those fines now amount to more than $300,000. Bartholow's story is all too common, according to the Department of Justice and homeless advocacy groups. The criminalization of homelessness — locking people up for crimes as petty as trespassing or sleeping in public — has been a focus of the department for the last year. Recently, the agency announced plans to help local governments reform their policies on fines and court fees that often land people behind bars because they aren't able to pay the bill. (Webmaster's comment: Down and out so let's kick them some more. What A Travesty!)

4-25-16 Viewpoint: How would Trump remove 11 million people from the US?
Viewpoint: How would Trump remove 11 million people from the US?
Lost in the most consistently astonishing US presidential campaign since the 1864 Democrats ran on a platform of conceding the Civil War, is a disturbing question that seems to bring into doubt the very premise of the American experiment. Exactly how would Donald Trump deport 11 million undocumented migrants from the US? A President Trump would take about 3.5% of everybody here and round them up. Move 'em on, head 'em up, cut 'em out, ride 'em in. Sure. For the moment, let's brush past the morality and the ethics and the economic impact, and the resultant $20 tomato and the nationwide repetition of the year Georgia expelled all its "illegals" and had nobody to harvest the crop, and $140m (£98m) of it rotted in the fields, and the sheer Sisyphean nature of the thing (so - you get them all out of here and none of them ever come back because of a wall, even though they might think of coming back because of a tunnel).

4-25-16 US ex-Senator Wofford, 90, to remarry to a man
US ex-Senator Wofford, 90, to remarry to a man
A former US senator will get remarried this week - to someone of a different sex from his first spouse. Harris Wofford, 90, wrote an opinion article in the New York Times voicing strong support for same-sex marriage. He said he felt lucky to live at a time when marriage had been "strengthened" in this way. Mr Wofford said his life was "a story of two great loves" - with his wife Clare, who died of leukaemia in 1996, and with Matthew Charlton, 40.

4-22-16 Atheist Scholarships
Atheist Scholarships
A California school district is facing a lawsuit for not allowing students to compete for scholarships sponsored by atheist groups. Antelope Valley school officials admit they failed to notify students of $20,000 in available tuition money because the required essay about the challenges of being a “nonbeliever” would “upset some parents.”

4-22-16 Marijuana plants destroyed
Marijuana plants destroyed
Some 4.1 million marijuana plants were destroyed by local, state, and federal authorities in 2015. That cannabis eradication program costs $18 million a year.

4-21-16 Canada to push for making sale marijuana legal
Canada to push for making sale marijuana legal
The Canadian government will introduce legislation next year that would make the sale of marijuana legal, its health minister has said. If enacted, the move would make Canada one of the largest Western countries to allow widespread use of the drug. Health Minister Jane Philpott pledged on Wednesday to keep marijuana "out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals".

4-21-16 UK warns gay travellers about US anti-LGBT laws
UK warns gay travellers about US anti-LGBT laws
The UK government has warned gay and transgender travellers to be careful in the US due to legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi. "The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes toward LGBT people differ hugely across the country," a travel advisory from the UK reads. Newly passed laws in both states allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.

4-20-16 The devastating psychological scars of human trafficking
The devastating psychological scars of human trafficking
Even after the horror ends, many human trafficking victims face depression, anxiety, and PTSD. How can we best treat them? Nearly 21 million people around the world are currently victims of human trafficking, a vile crime that forces innocents into sex work, domestic servitude, and hard labor against their will. Now, a new study in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that even rich, developed countries such as the United Kingdom suffer from staggering rates of human trafficking — and that the trauma inflicted by human traffickers often causes lasting psychological damage to victims. Human trafficking is a deceptively tame word for what amounts to modern slavery — a $150 billion a year criminal industry that forces children into prostitution and immigrants into farm labor with threats of violence, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics. Of the 21 million victims of human trafficking around the world, roughly 68 percent are trapped in forced labor and 26 percent are children. There are an estimated hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States.

4-20-16 How one woman's 'bathroom bill' campaign went viral
How one woman's 'bathroom bill' campaign went viral
Across the US there is a complex patchwork of laws governing which public toilets transgender people can use. In some places they can choose whichever they feel they identify with - men's or women's. In others, they are forced to use the one that matches their biological sex. Federal laws clash with state laws, which may themselves overrule local government decisions. The matter is far from settled - in North Carolina an ordinance was recently rolled back, so transgender people who had been able to choose must now use the bathroom that corresponds with their biology.

4-19-16 US judge rules against Virginia transgender toilet ban
US judge rules against Virginia transgender toilet ban
A US appeals courts has ruled that a Virginia school policy that barred a transgender student from using the boys' toilet is discriminatory. Gavin Grimm filed the lawsuit after the school board adopted a policy that required students to use a private toilet or one that corresponds to the sex listed on their birth certificate. Grimm, who identifies as male, said the policy was stigmatizing.

4-19-16 How a 26-year-old white woman died a horrible death in an American jail
How a 26-year-old white woman died a horrible death in an American jail
Even white people can't escape the hellscape that is America's jail system. American jails are a hellscape of abuse, medical neglect, and preventable suicide. And because they house those who have been arrested but not convicted or sentenced, very often it's the legally innocent who suffer. Mass incarceration is slowly fading — but without serious jail reform, abuses will continue to pile up even as fewer people are going through the jail system. Consider the case of Madaline Pitkin, whose grim, days-long slide into death was recently featured in The Oregonian. She was a 26-year-old heroin addict, pulled over for a routine traffic stop in 2014, and then arrested for an outstanding warrant. She quickly became ill, and despite repeatedly begging for medical attention in writing, eventually died from untreated complications of heroin withdrawal. She was never convicted of a crime. For the past couple years, Black Lives Matter activists have been arguing that African-Americans are disproportionately abused by the criminal justice system. They are completely correct about this. The statistics are undeniable. Yet Pitkin's fate provides another window into the system — through the other end of the telescope, as it were.

4-19-16 Pearl Jam cancel North Carolina concert over HB2 law
Pearl Jam cancel North Carolina concert over HB2 law
The US rock band Pearl Jam have cancelled a concert in North Carolina in protest against the state's new law on LGBT rights. The new law, brought in last month, invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people. Other acts, including Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr, have also scrapped their shows in protest. In a statement, Pearl Jam said they "must take a stand against prejudice". The law "is a despicable piece of legislation that encourages discrimination against an entire group of American citizens," the statement on the band's website said. "The practical implications are expansive and its negative impact upon basic human rights is profound."

4-18-16 US student escorted off plane 'for speaking Arabic'
US student escorted off plane 'for speaking Arabic'
An Iraqi university student in California says he was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight for having a conversation in Arabic. Southwest Airlines said that Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from a 9 April flight before it took off. Mr Makhzoomi said he was talking to his uncle on the phone about attending a speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. A Southwest employee then escorted him off of the plane. (Webmaster's comment: You can thank Trump and Cruz for this. Just speaking a foreign language in public can invoke a bigoted, racist reaction by arrogant and ignorant Americans.)

4-18-16 How the FBI's Orwellian anti-terror programs are making you less safe
How the FBI's Orwellian anti-terror programs are making you less safe
Squandering the goodwill of Muslim Americans won't make America more safe — just less free and fair. Protecting civil liberties has never been the FBI's strong suit. But its new Shared Responsibility Committees program, which it is quietly beta testing now, is downright Orwellian. The FBI bills this program as a collaborative effort with Muslim communities to rescue individuals on the road to radicalization. In reality, it is just another questionable informant program that will further alienate Muslim communities and hurt counter-terrorism efforts. America's Muslim communities are already under massive surveillance. There is, for example, the FBI's informant program, which has grown 10-fold, from 1,500 before the 9/11 attacks to 15,000 informants now. And that's only its official, listed informants. The feds also have a network of unofficial and largely unaccountable spies that is three times bigger. (Webmaster's comment: They should direct this program towards angry white Christian males. They do many times more mass shootings than any other group.)

4-16-16 Justin Trudeau meets quantum challenge
Justin Trudeau meets quantum challenge
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confounded a reporter, who questioned his knowledge, by accurately describing the physics behind quantum computing. He had been challenged by the reporter after announcing a $50 million budget for physics at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics Waterloo in Ontario. (Webmaster's comment: Why can't we elect some intelligent and knowledgeable politicians? Is it because they appeal to the lowest common denominator, arrogant and ignorant Americans.)

4-15-16 US Election 2016: Top UN official condemns Trump
US Election 2016: Top UN official condemns Trump
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the policies of US Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, equating them to bigotry. Zeid Raad al-Hussein did not mention Mr Trump by name, but he singled out the businessman's support of torture and his policies towards Muslims. "Bigotry is not proof of strong leadership," Mr Hussein said. The commissioner also criticised a plan by rival candidate Ted Cruz to conduct surveillance on Muslim neighbourhoods.

4-15-16 North Carolina LGBT law sparks protests over discrimination
North Carolina LGBT law sparks protests over discrimination
n America, there has been a fierce debate over a new law affecting gay, lesbian and transgender people in the state of North Carolina. It means transgender people can only use public toilets in accordance with the gender on their birth certificate, and it restricts the protection of some of gay and transgender employees' civil rights. Rock stars including Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr have cancelled their shows in North Carolina in protest.

4-15-16 Viewpoint by Josh Barro
Viewpoint by Josh Barro
“Not long ago, social conservatives wanted to use the power of the law to punish non-normative sexuality. Only since public opinion and the Supreme Court have moved in the direction of gay rights have the goals of social conservatives gotten smaller and supposedly focused around individual rights. Well, if individual rights are the new goal, where’s the ‘I’m sorry I made your sex life illegal’? Where is ‘I’m sorry I tried to deny you equal marriage under the law’? We’re not hearing that because they’re not sorry. The new ‘opt-out’ anti-gay agenda is just about expanding the zone of oppression as far as the current political environment will allow. The underlying principles, the ones that formerly led these same people to feel gay sex should be a crime, remain the same.”

4-15-16 Have you been saved during a traffic stop?
Have you been saved during a traffic stop?
An Indiana state trooper has been fired for preaching Christianity to motorists during traffic stops. Officer Brian Hamilton has twice been sued by drivers after he pulled them over for speeding and asked what church they attended and if they had been “saved.” “If the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do,” Hamilton said. “You can’t change what the Lord tells you to do.”

4-15-16 Cancelled concerts due to religious freedom
Cancelled concerts due to religious freedom
Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams have both canceled concerts in states that adopt­ed “religious freedom” laws authorizing discrimination against gay and transgender people. Springsteen dropped a scheduled performance in Greensboro, N.C., last week, saying, “Some things are more important than a rock show. This fight against prejudice and one of them.” Adams this week canceled a concert in Biloxi, Miss. “Hopefully,” he said, “Mississippi will right itself and I can come back.”

4-14-16 Canada moves to rule out suicide tourism
Canada moves to rule out suicide tourism
An assisted suicide bill has been put before Canada's Parliament that legalises euthanasia but will exclude foreigners from coming to die. People with mental illness and psychiatric disorders are excluded too. Last year, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a law banning doctors from helping someone die.

4-14-16 China rights: Gay people pledge not to enter into sham marriages
China rights: Gay people pledge not to enter into sham marriages
A social media campaign has taken off among China's lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) community which sees members pledging not to enter into sham marriages with straight people. Since last week, a number of users on popular microblogging network Sina Weibo have been posting selfies of themselves with the hashtag #I'm gay and won't marry a straight person#. Several parents of LGBT people have also posted pictures of themselves with signs declaring they would not pressure their children into marriage.

4-14-16 Starr boycotts North Carolina over 'anti-LGBT' law
Starr boycotts North Carolina over 'anti-LGBT' law
Ringo Starr has joined a growing list of artists and businesses boycotting North Carolina to protest its change to transgender laws. The former Beatle had been due to play at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Carey, near Raleigh, in June. "We need to take a stand against this hatred," he said in a statement. Cyndi Lauper, however, has opted to turn her concert into "an entire day to build public support" to repeal the law. She will be donating all profits from the show on 4 June to Equality North Carolina's efforts to have the law, dubbed HB2, reversed.

4-13-16 Saudi Arabia's religious police ordered to be 'gentle'
Saudi Arabia's religious police ordered to be 'gentle'
The Saudi authorities have moved to curb the powers of the notorious religious police, or "mutawa". Members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice will no longer be permitted to chase suspects or arrest them. They must instead report observations to security forces personnel. Religious police officers, who roam the streets enforcing strict standards of social behaviour, are frequently accused of abusing their powers.

4-13-16 Brain implant lets paralysed man move his hand with his thoughts
Brain implant lets paralysed man move his hand with his thoughts
Ian Burkhart is the first paralysed person to regain control of his own hand and fingers using a mind-reading device implanted in his brain. Ian Burkhart was 19 years old when he broke his neck diving into shallow water on holiday. Since then, he has been unable to move either of his legs, or his arms below the elbow (read Ian’s story here). Now, in a world first, he has regained control of one hand and his fingers using a mind-reading device. In the past few years, we have seen paralysed people walk again with the aid of exoskeletons, and by using recorded brain activity to trigger electric stimulations to the leg muscles. Others have trained paralysed people to control computer cursors and robotic limbs by thought alone. (Webmaster's comment: Mind-reading is here. Is it ESP or PSI? It's obviously close.)

4-13-16 Spinal cord work-around reanimates paralyzed hand
Spinal cord work-around reanimates paralyzed hand
Neural prosthesis lets quadriplegic man wiggle fingers, flex wrist, grasp items. With the help of a neural prosthesis, a quadriplegic man used his paralyzed right hand to grab a bottle, swipe a credit card and play a guitar video game. Bypassing his damaged spinal cord, the system restored his ability to use his thoughts to command his hand to move. Other neural prosthetic systems have allowed paralyzed people to use their brain activity to move computer cursors, robotic limbs and wheelchairs. But the new approach, described online April 13 in Nature, is the first to use brain activity to control a person’s own limb. “We literally are reconnecting the brain to the body.”

4-13-16 I’m the first quadriplegic person to regain thought-control of my arm
I’m the first quadriplegic person to regain thought-control of my arm
Ian Burkhart became paralysed when he broke his neck six years ago, but now a device that reads his thoughts enables him to control his arm movements. Story by Ian Burkhart.

4-12-16 Viewpoint: Why bathrooms matter to trans rights
Viewpoint: Why bathrooms matter to trans rights
The ability to use toilets that match with one's gender has become a flashpoint in the fight for transgender rights in the US. Why are toilets so central to this cause? Activist Wayne Maines explains. Last month, Charlotte, North Carolina passed a law to make sure their transgender residents could use the toilets of the gender they identified with - the gender they belong to. But then the state legislators of North Carolina has taken that away by passing a bill that gets rid of those protections state-wide, along with many other protections that made Charlotte a safer, more fair place for all. Now, nowhere in North Carolina can a transgender person be sure they will not be forced into a toilet where they don't belong and in fact, where they may not be safe. I am often asked why toilets are such a big issue. I don't have all of the answers, but I have a good idea of what these questions are about. When my daughter transitioned at ten years old and began using the appropriate toilet for her, adults in our community and across the state were very upset. When I asked them what they were afraid of they said they were "concerned that the girls would see something they should not see." My genuine response was one of confusion. Really? You think kids are exposing themselves in the toilet?

4-12-16 Why we don't sleep around all that much any more
Why we don't sleep around all that much any more
In the distant past humans were much more free with our affections, but once our ancestors had settled down to farming, playing the field fell out of fashion. Sperm is plentiful and does not take long to make, so it would not benefit a male to invest in only one female, who will take a long time to reproduce. A female can also benefit from having a variety of partners. If her children have different fathers, some might be better protected if a disease comes along. So if monogamy is not that useful, why did it become a favoured way of life in so many cultures?

4-12-16 DEA mellowing out on cannabis would make medical research easier
DEA mellowing out on cannabis would make medical research easier
The US Drug Enforcement Agency is mulling its classification of marijuana and reviewing the science - something its tough laws have stymied. You can buy weed gummy bears in Colorado and vape cannabis in Oregon, yet US scientists are struggling to get their hands on the stuff for medical research. This could soon change: the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced that it hopes to reach a decision on the legal status of cannabis by July. Although states have their own classifications and laws governing the possession and sale of marijuana, the federal government classes it as a Schedule 1 drug, a category typically reserved for dangerous drugs that offer no medical benefits. This creates significant hurdles for scientists interested in marijuana research. A letter signed by eight US senators last year urged the government to craft a new policy that would support expanded research on its potential medical benefits. For example, additional research could help pin down how marijuana affects conditions like depression and non-neuropathic pain, and whether it could help people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

4-12-16 Is 'culture' killing America's poor?
Is 'culture' killing America's poor?
For instance, in arguments over poverty and how to fix it, conservatives will often point to "culture" issues like the decline of family values and community. Many liberals argue that such "culture" arguments serve as semi-polite shorthand for "the poor did it to themselves." Regardless, this is a woefully simplistic way to conceive of the problem. Thankfully, a new study on life expectancy for the rich and poor might help tease out a better way. The new study looked at the relationship between income and life expectancy, and reconfirmed that the gap in incomes among Americans comes along with a gap in life expectancy. The richest one percent now live 14.6 years longer than the poorest one percent; and the gap in life expectancy between the poorest and the richest 5 percent actually increased between 2001 and 2014.

4-12-16 Want to live longer in the US? Get rich
Want to live longer in the US? Get rich
For many in America, life expectancy is dependent not only on how you care for yourself, but upon your wealth and where you live. A new study published by the Health Inequality Project has collected data showing that the rich live significantly longer than the poor in the US. The gap between the two is growing, with the wealthy living longer and poor communities seeing no growth in average life spans since 2000.

4-11-16 Bryan Adams cancels Mississippi concert over new religious law
Bryan Adams cancels Mississippi concert over new religious law
Bryan Adams has cancelled a concert in Mississippi over the US state's new controversial religious liberty law. The law, which allows some private businesses and religious groups to refuse service to gay people, was passed last week. The singer issued a statement saying he could not "in good conscience" perform in the state. He added he found it "incomprehensible that LGBT citizens are being discriminated against".

4-11-16 My secret life as a gay ultra-Orthodox Jew
My secret life as a gay ultra-Orthodox Jew
Chaya, not her real name, is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who is gay. Here she describes her struggle to accept her sexuality, and why she has to keep it a secret from those who would make her choose between her identity and her family. I would lose everything if I came out. We are a tightly knit community and I think few people realise just how isolated we are. In the world I live in, being gay is the equivalent of being a bad person. It's seen as an evil desire that is completely unnatural.

4-9-16 Americans are skeptical of God but think heaven is real
Americans are skeptical of God but think heaven is real
Since 1980, the number of Americans who believe in God has decreased by half and the number who pray has declined five-fold. Has America lost its faith? The United States formally separates church and state, but it's hard to deny that America is inundated with religious innuendo, from its controversial pledge of allegiance all the way down to its Judeo-Christian courthouse displays and faith-espousing legal tender. Yet fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before, according to a new study in the journal Sage Open. Researchers found that the percentage of Americans who claim they never pray reached an all-time high in 2014, up five-fold since the 1980s. Over the same time period, belief in God and interest in spirituality appears to have similarly declined, especially among young adults. The findings suggest that, "millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history," says Jean M. Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and coauthor on the study, in a press statement. "Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That's no longer the case, especially in the last few years." (Webmaster's comment: The chances of a great evil United States Christian Religious Dictatorship are coming to an end! Thank the youth of America!)

4-8-16 Springsteen cancels North Carolina concert over 'anti-gay' law
Springsteen cancels North Carolina concert over 'anti-gay' law
Bruce Springsteen has cancelled a concert in North Carolina, joining business groups in condemning a state law that rolls back protection for gay and transgender people. The law invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people. It also requires people to use public toilets that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. Major companies like Apple and Bank of America have criticised the law. "Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them,"

4-8-16 Companies: Backlash grows to N.C. anti-LGBT law
Companies: Backlash grows to N.C. anti-LGBT law
“In the most dramatic corporate response yet” to a North Carolina law targeting gay and transgender people, PayPal abandoned plans this week to open a global operations center in Charlotte, said Rick Rothacker in The Charlotte Observer. The digital-payments company announced in March that it would open a facility employing 400 people. But days after the controversial legislation was signed, PayPal executives scrapped the plans, citing the new law. The CEOs of more than 100 companies, including Apple, Bank of America, and American Airlines, recently signed a letter protesting the law.

4-8-16 Talking Points
Talking Points
About 35 percent of Americans personally know a transgender person—up from 21 percent last year. Among those who know or work with transgender people, 66 percent expressed favorable feelings toward them. Among those who don’t know a transgender person, only 13 percent expressed favorable feelings toward them.

4-8-16 Re-run of controversial study shows how to cut trans prejudice
Re-run of controversial study shows how to cut trans prejudice
Short, in-person conversations make people less transphobic, says a study that revisits work on gay marriage that has been discredited. If you want to change someone’s mind, let them talk about themselves. That’s the implication of a study showing that short conversations about deeply held beliefs can reduce prejudice against transgender people. The study serves as a capstone to a scientific scandal from last summer, and could have far-reaching consequences for how political campaigns of all stripes are conducted.

4-8-16 Gay slur aimed at hairdresser 'not homophobic' - French ruling
Gay slur aimed at hairdresser 'not homophobic' - French ruling
A Paris tribunal has ruled that calling a male hairdresser a "faggot" is not homophobic - "because hair salons regularly employ gay people". The case relates to an employee at a salon who was fired after failing to turn up for work while sick. His boss accidentally sent him a text using the slur, so the hairdresser took him to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

4-7-16 Which US states have passed religious laws?
Which US states have passed religious laws?
More than a dozen states in the US have passed or considered "religious liberty" laws, sparking controversy and protest. Many of the laws directly affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Supporters argue that the bills protect religious beliefs but critics say they are discriminatory. Tennessee is the latest state to consider a bill, involving therapists and counsellors.

4-7-16 Born free, killed by hate - the price of being gay in South Africa
Born free, killed by hate - the price of being gay in South Africa
South Africa's constitution was the first in the world to protect people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The country was also the first in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage. But after a spate of murders, gay people say more needs to be done to stop hate crimes.

4-6-16 Unwed couples in Florida can now legally live together
Unwed couples in Florida can now legally live together
The US state of Florida has repealed a law that barred unmarried couples from living together. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill on Wednesday that overturned the law, which dates back to 1868. If prosecuted, offenders faced 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, but the law was rarely enforced in modern times. Co-habitation laws were common in the US until the mid-20th Century. Two states - Michigan and Mississippi - still have them on the books.

4-6-16 No excuse for doctors who refuse to treat transgender people
No excuse for doctors who refuse to treat transgender people
Society is making strides but doctors are still far behind when it comes to giving trans people the treatment they ask for and the respect they deserve, says Jessica Hamzelou. DOCTORS are failing their transgender patients. In the UK, an estimated 1 in 5 general practitioners are refusing trans people treatments such as hormone therapy, said James Barrett of the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists last week. “Some are remarkably frank, and say: ‘I’m not doing this as it is against my deeply held religious principles’.” The problem isn’t confined to the UK. Surveys carried out in the US describe harassment, physical assault and denial of equal treatment in doctor’s offices or hospitals. What’s more, we know that trans people have a far higher rate of suicide – a 2010 study in the US found that 41 per cent had attempted it; the national average is 1.6 per cent. But we also know that social support, access to hormones or surgery, and reducing transphobia lower the likelihood of a suicide attempt. Doctors are bound to have the same range of prejudices, personal beliefs and religious views as the rest of us, but they have chosen a profession that requires them to put their patients’ health first. So what’s standing in their way?

4-5-16 Mississippi passes controversial 'religious freedom' bill
Mississippi passes controversial 'religious freedom' bill
The governor of Mississippi has signed a controversial bill that allows businesses to refuse service to gay couples based on religious beliefs. Governor Phil Bryant signed HB1523 into law on Tuesday amid opposition from equal rights groups and businesses. He said the bill "protects sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions". Protesters say the bill would allow for lawful discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

4-4-16 Marijuana use starting in youth implicated in financial woes
Marijuana use starting in youth implicated in financial woes
Persistent pot users more likely to experience downward social mobility. Persistent, heavy pot smoking starting in adolescence heralds serious financial troubles by age 38, a long-term study of New Zealanders finds. Financial health takes a hit among people who smoke a lot of marijuana from adolescence into young adulthood, even if they don’t get hooked on the drug, researchers say. The more years that individuals smoke pot four or more days a week, the more likely they are to experience serious money problems, say social epidemiologist Magdalena Cerdá of the University of California, Davis and her colleagues. Cash woes include defaulting on credit card payments, struggling to pay for food and rent and going on welfare. (Webmaster's comment: Like I've said, marijuana use is a two-edged sword. It can help with serious medical problems, but can be just as much a problem as drinking to much alcohol.)

4-1-16 Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death
Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death
Can death be reversible? And what are we learning about the gray zone between here and the other side? After toddler Gardell Martin fell into an icy stream in March 2015, he was dead for more than an hour and a half. Three and a half days later he left a hospital alive and well. His story is one of many prompting scientists to question the very meaning of death. Death is “a process, not a moment,” writes critical-care physician Sam Parnia in his book Erasing Death. It’s a whole-body stroke, in which the heart stops beating but the organs don’t die immediately. In fact, he writes, they might hang on intact for quite a while, which means that “for a significant period of time after death, death is in fact fully reversible.” In Arizona cryonics experts maintain more than 130 dead clients in a frozen state that’s another kind of limbo. Their hope is that sometime in the distant future, maybe centuries from now, these clients will be thawed and revived, technology having advanced to the point where they can be cured of whatever killed them. Linda Chamberlain, co-founder of the Arizona-based cryonics company Alcor, hugs the container where the body of her husband, Fred, is frozen in the hope that someday he can be thawed and revived. She plans to join him in cryo limbo when her time comes. Fred’s last words, she says, were “Gee, I hope this works.” (Webmaster's comment: I'm signed up at Alcor. The only one in the state. Ignorant anti-science twits have attacked me for doing that. But the writing is on the wall. Science will win in the end and beat death. And so will I. Join me anyone?)

4-1-16 Florida’s gay-friendliest city
Florida’s gay-friendliest city
Dunedin, Fla., owes a big thank-you to the LGBT community, said Christopher Muther in The Boston Globe. In the 1980s, gay men and women began moving to this small Gulf Coast city 25 miles west of Tampa and “placed a defibrillator on the ramshackle downtown until they heard a pulse.” Those pioneers left their mark everywhere. You can see it in “the devil-may-care eggplant, acid orange, and bright green buildings that line Main Street.” And you can see it at the town’s annual Mardi Gras parade, which draws 25,000 revelers and always honors a drag queen as its Miss Mardi Gras. Eager to sample the town’s storied party scene, I headed to “Gay Bowling Night” at Dunedin Lanes. A more apt description would have been “everybody bowling.” A cross section of town was there for the sport, the $1 drinks, and a drag show that saw two wildly dressed performers work every inch of the lanes. “I applauded and yelled for more.”

4-1-16 North Carolina: The culture war over bathrooms
North Carolina: The culture war over bathrooms
Several days ago, North Carolina’s general assembly called an extraordinary special session, said David Graham in “The reason wasn’t a pressing budget crisis” or a natural disaster. Instead, Republican legislators rushed back to the statehouse to overturn a local ordinance passed in Charlotte prohibiting discrimination against trans people. After Democrats walked out of the chamber in protest, Republicans unanimously passed a new bill, HB2, that bars local governments from passing any nondiscrimination ordinance covering the LGBT community, and mandates that trans people in state schools use the bathroom aligned with the gender on their birth certificate. In other words, people in North Carolina can now be legally fired from their jobs or turned away at hotel chains for being gay. In the meantime, another 40 transgender bathroom bills are being considered in 16 states, said the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record, making North Carolina the front line in a new culture war against LGBT rights. This was a “bad day for our state.”

60 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for April 2016

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for March 2016