Thursday, December 23, 2010

Carbon dioxide could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution

A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning
December 21, 2010

MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii — Two gray machines sit inside a pair of utilitarian buildings here, sniffing the fresh breezes that blow across thousands of miles of ocean.

They make no noise. But once an hour, they spit out a number, and for decades, it has been rising relentlessly.

The first machine of this type was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950s at the behest of Charles David Keeling, a scientist from San Diego. His resulting discovery, of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, transformed the scientific understanding of humanity’s relationship with the earth. A graph of his findings is inscribed on a wall in Washington as one of the great achievements of modern science.

Yet, five years after Dr. Keeling’s death, his discovery is a focus not of celebration but of conflict. It has become the touchstone of a worldwide political debate over global warming.

When Dr. Keeling, as a young researcher, became the first person in the world to develop an accurate technique for measuring carbon dioxide in the air, the amount he discovered was 310 parts per million. That means every million pints of air, for example, contained 310 pints of carbon dioxide.

By 2005, the year he died, the number had risen to 380 parts per million. Sometime in the next few years it is expected to pass 400. Without stronger action to limit emissions, the number could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution.

The greatest question in climate science is: What will that do to the temperature of the earth?...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Southerners believe the Old South was "a society far and above anything else on Earth."

Let's say you start a war that costs more American lives than either WW I or WW II. What do you get? Apparently, the undying admiration of your descendants. What exactly was great about Southern society? The fancy balls, obviously: the height of human achievement.

At Charleston's Secession Ball, divided opinions on the spirit of S.C.
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post
December 22, 2010

...John B. Hines, a wealthy Texas oilman and cattle rancher, helped, too. He sent a $5,000 sponsorship for the affair because he loves the Old South: "They created a society far and above anything else on Earth."...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gary Chapman, Internet Ethicist, Dies at 58

Gary Chapman, Internet Ethicist, Dies at 58
December 17, 2010

Gary Chapman, an educator, writer and widely recognized expert on the impact of high technology on society and public policy, died Tuesday while on a kayaking trip in Guatemala. He was 58.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said...

For seven years Mr. Chapman was the executive director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit group concerned with the impact of technology on society. Under his guidance, it grew into an influential organization with international reach.

In the 1980s, the group cast a particularly skeptical eye on the application of computers to decision-making in military systems and took a public stand against the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars.

Mr. Chapman was on the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He also founded and directed the school’s 21st Century Project, which studies the social implications of information technology and telecommunications.

Although not a computer scientist himself, and neither a champion nor a foe of technology per se, Mr. Chapman gave voice to many leaders in the field who struggled with the ethical implications of new technology.

“He helped many distinguished computer scientists articulate their concerns,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington and a longtime colleague of Mr. Chapman’s. “He promoted an important dialogue between leaders in computer science and the broader public. It’s part of a very important tradition, and he played a key role.”

Closer to home, Mr. Chapman also worked to bridge the so-called digital divide, the gulf between those with access to technology and those without. In 1995, his 21st Century Project helped bring computers and the Internet to low-income areas of Austin.

“He made many people stop and ask hard questions about technology,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “Not just ‘Is it cool?’ but ‘Does it make our lives better, or more just? And does it make our world more secure?’ ”

Gary Brent Chapman was born on Aug. 8, 1952, in Los Angeles. In the mid-1970s he was a medic with the Army Special Forces.

After his military service Mr. Chapman attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, graduating in 1979 with a degree in political science. He was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University’s political science program in 1984, when he left to take the job at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

“When word went around in the community of peace activists that we had hired a former Green Beret, eyebrows were raised everywhere,” said Severo Ornstein, a computer scientist and a founder of the organization. But through Mr. Chapman’s careful and original thinking on a variety of issues, Mr. Ornstein said, “the raised eyebrows were quickly defused.”

With David Bellin, Mr. Chapman edited “Computers in Battle: Will They Work?” (Houghton Mifflin, 1987).

As a senior lecturer at the University of Texas, Mr. Chapman taught graduate courses in technology policy. “Over the years, Gary mentored dozens of students, who went on to work in key policy areas,” said Sherri Greenberg, a fellow faculty member.

Mr. Chapman’s survivors include his wife, Carol Flake Chapman; his father, Arthur S. Chapman, and stepmother, Pierrette Chapman, of Solvang, Calif.; and a half-brother, Duane Chapman, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Although Mr. Chapman was known to colleagues as soft-spoken, he could be passionate when arguing a point. Eric Roberts, a computer science professor at Stanford, recalled that at a C.P.S.R. board meeting on the Stanford campus in 1988, Mr. Chapman banged his fist on the table to make his case. “Just at that moment we had an earthquake...”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Abortion Common Ground: A Pro-Life Agenda

Abortion Common Ground: A Pro-Life Agenda
What pro-lifers can learn from the Princeton abortion conference.
By William Saletan
Nov. 16, 2010

1. Reduce the abortion rate through voluntary means. In the conference's opening session (videos of all but one session are available here), David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, warned fellow pro-lifers that overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't address the underlying cultural dynamics that cause abortions. The next day, Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology at Notre Dame, voiced a similar concern: "... I'm very concerned with the study in 2007 that indicated that societies which criminalized abortion did not succeed in reducing the rate of abortion."

Rather than focus on passing laws, Gushee conveyed an alternative approach:...Help women avoid pregnancies they don't want, and you'll wipe out the vast majority of abortions without having to enact a single restriction.

I don't expect pro-lifers to stop fighting for restrictions. But I did notice some of them—notably, Helen Alvare, the former spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—using the term "pro-life" to describe the broad spectrum of Americans who are morally but often not legally opposed to abortion...

2. Subsidize maternity. Money can't buy everything. But it can make it easier to carry a pregnancy to term and raise the child...

3. Embrace contraception... Speaking of the evangelical Protestants to whom he ministers and belongs, Gushee said:

...I think it's fair to say that conservative religion is one contributing factor to the remarkably high rate of unintended pregnancies in our culture. … In my world, I sense currently a weakening of opposition to the provision of birth control and birth control information, including in the South... you could win the argument that even if one would wish that our young people were not having sex, we should tell them about birth control anyhow...

The morality of contraception is not the intrinsic problem in Protestant thought that it is in traditional Catholic moral thought...Even Christopher Kaczor, a Catholic philosopher at Loyola Marymount University, noted the vast moral difference between abortion, which in his view kills an innocent human being, and contraception, which doesn't. Honor that difference. Trade abortion for contraception.

4. Early abortions are better than late ones... From a pro-life standpoint, trading late abortions for early ones is hardly ideal. But it's better than nothing, and if you pursue it, nobody will stand in your way.

5. Choose your friends by your mission, not your mission by your friends. Camosy and Jennifer Miller, the pro-lifers who co-organized the conference, have been derided and accused of treachery by colleagues who regard any cooperation with pro-choicers as stupid or evil. Gushee has endured similar treatment. After the conference, Austin Ruse, the President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which opposes contraception as well as abortion, mocked Camosy and Miller for being young and poorly funded and for "validating" their pro-choice collaborators...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized

Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized
By Dan Vergano
Nov. 22, 2010

An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.

Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases.

..."It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others' integrity when you don't conform to the basic rules of scholarship," Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner says.

U.N. CONFERENCE:Negotiators give talks another try

Led by George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, the 2006 report criticized the statistics and scholarship of scientists who found the last century the warmest in 1,000 years.

"The report was integral to congressional hearings about climate scientists," says Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. "And it preceded a lot of conspiratorial thinking polluting the public debate today about climate scientists."

But in March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate "clear plagiarism" of one of his textbooks.

Bradley says he learned of the copying on the Deep Climate website and through a now year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey's analysis concludes that 35 of the report's 91 pages "are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning." Copying others' text or ideas without crediting them violates universities' standards, according to Liz Wager of the London-based Committee on Publication Ethics.

Allegations under review

"The matter is under investigation," says GMU spokesman Dan Walsch by e-mail. In a phone interview, Wegman said he could not comment at the university's request. In an earlier e-mail Wegman sent to Joseph Kunc of the University of Southern California, however, he called the plagiarism charges "wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality."

The plagiarism experts queried by USA TODAY disagree after viewing the Wegman report:

• "Actually fairly shocking," says Cornell physicist Paul Ginsparg by e-mail. "My own preliminary appraisal would be 'guilty as charged.' "

•"If I was a peer reviewer of this report and I was to observe the paragraphs they have taken, then I would be obligated to report them," says Garner of Virginia Tech, who heads a copying detection effort. "There are a lot of things in the report that rise to the level of inappropriate."

•"The plagiarism is fairly obvious when you compare things side-by-side," says Ohio State's Robert Coleman, who chairs OSU's misconduct committee.

The report was requested in 2005 by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, then the head of the House energy committee. Barton cited the report in an October letter to The Washington Post when he wrote that Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann's work was "rooted in fundamental errors of methodology that had been cemented in place as 'consensus' by a closed network of friends." ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pastor who said Facebook was 'portal to infidelity' had four-way relationship

Pastor who said Facebook was 'portal to infidelity' had four-way relationship

By Jon Swaine, New York 5:28PM GMT 21 Nov 2010

Rev Cedric Miller, of Neptune, New Jersey, last week told 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign.

Rev Miller, 48, claimed that 20 couples from his 1,100-member church had experienced marital problems in recent months after contacting ex-partners through the site.

But over the weekend Rev Miller's local newspaper disclosed that he "didn't need Facebook to be part of an extramarital affair".

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It found transcripts from a criminal trial against the church assistant in 2003, in which details emerged of what Rev Miller has since called "a very painful part of my past".

In the case, which was eventually dismissed, he testified that his wife, Kim, had an affair with the assistant, and that he and the man's wife were often present at their meetings.

"I mean between the four of us," Rev Miller said. "It was just, I mean there was touching ... it was crazy, it was as wrong as wrong could get."

Asked by a lawyer whether he was talking about "sex", Rev Miller replied: "Yes". He described their behaviour as "beyond what was appropriate".

Rev Miller told the court that the meetings between the couples often took place after Thursday Bible study sessions and after church services on Sundays.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope approves use of condoms in fight against Aids

Pope Benedict XVI was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927.

Pope approves use of condoms in fight against Aids
After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the pontiff will end the Catholic Church's absolute ban on the use of condoms.
Pope Benedict XV will accept that in some circumstances it is better for a condom to be used if it protects human life
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
The Telegraph
20 Nov 2010

He will say that it is acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention is to "reduce the risk of infection" from Aids.

While he will restate the Catholic Church's staunch objections to contraception because it believes it interferes with the creation of life, he will argue that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death can be a responsible act – even outside marriage.

Asked whether "the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms," he replies: "It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution.

"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality."

He will stress that abstinence is the best policy in fighting the disease, but accept that in some circumstances it is better for a condom to be used if it protects human life.

"There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be ... a first bit of responsibility, to redevelop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fox News' Roger Ailes Calls Obama Socialist, Jon Stewart 'Crazy' and NPR 'Nazis'

Lee Atwater (see bottom of this post) apologized for political dirty tricks he pulled with Roger Ailes, but it looks like Ailes isn't about to apologize.

Fox News' Roger Ailes Calls Obama Socialist, Jon Stewart 'Crazy' and NPR 'Nazis'
David Knowles Writer
AOL News Surge Desk
Nov. 18, 2010

How does one define "fair and balanced"?

In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was not shy about voicing his opinions on a variety of subjects, including President Barack Obama, Jon Stewart and NPR. The interview, which ran in two parts at Tina Brown's site, offered insights into how the man charged with running Fox News views some of the topics most discussed on his network.

On President Obama:

"The president has not been very successful. He just got kicked from Mumbai to South Korea, and he came home and attacked Republicans for it. He had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with."

On Jon Stewart:

"He loves polarization. He depends on it. If liberals and conservatives are all getting along, how good would that show be? It'd be a bomb. He hates conservative views. He hates conservative thoughts. He hates conservative verbiage. He hates conservatives."


"They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view. They don't even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive."

What's striking about Ailes' commentary is not that it mirrors the perspective that often seems to be offered by the hosts and anchors at Fox News, but that it is being offered so freely by the head of a news organization whose motto would seem to dictate withholding it.

"If you watch most of the programming on the channel, I don't think you would find many of those comments surprising," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in response to the interview.

For his part, Ailes contends that his network, which donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in the 2010 elections, is still focused on maintaining objectivity. "We're interested in two points of view; most networks aren't," Ailes told Kurtz while drinking from a mug adorned with the network's famous logo, "Fair & Balanced."

Ailes and Atwater (from Wikipedia)

Ailes served as a political consultant for many Republican candidates during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. His first such job was as media advisor for the Nixon campaign in 1968. He returned to presidential campaigning as a consultant to Ronald Reagan in the latter stages of the 1984 campaign. He is widely credited with having helped coach Reagan to victory in the second presidential debate with Walter Mondale, after aides Richard Darman and David Stockman bungled preparations for the disastrous first debate.

In 1987 and 1988, Ailes was credited (along with Lee Atwater) with guiding George H. W. Bush to victory in the Republican primaries, and the later come-from-behind[8] victory over Michael Dukakis. Ailes scripted and (with Sig Rogich) produced the "Revolving Door" ad, as well as all of Bush's broadcast spots in the primary and general-election campaigns.

Ailes denies producing the so-called Willie Horton ad, which showed the face of the convicted rapist furloughed by Michael Dukakis. The ad was sponsored and funded by the independent-expenditure group National Security Political Action Committee (NSPAC), but the Democrats later charged the Bush campaign with illegally coordinating the ad with the NSPAC. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigated the charge, but deadlocked on a 3-3 vote, essentially clearing Ailes and the campaign of any legal wrong-doing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Efforts to Improve Evolution Teaching Bearing Fruit

November 16, 2010
Efforts to Improve Evolution Teaching Bearing Fruit
Education Week
By Sarah D. Sparks

When a federal court in 2005 rejected an attempt by the Dover, Pa., school board to introduce intelligent design as an alternative to evolution to explain the development of life on Earth, it sparked a renaissance in involvement among scientists in K-12 science instruction.

Now, some of those teaching programs, studies, and research centers are starting to bear fruit.

The National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and other groups have increased research investment on identifying essential concepts for teaching evolution, including creating the Evolution Education Research Centre, a partnership of Harvard, McGill, and Chapman universities, and launching the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the subject, Journal of Evolution: Education and Outreach.

Though only one of a long series of skirmishes in a conflict that goes back almost as far as public education in America, the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, which took place five years ago this month, engaged the professional science community because it put on trial for the first time the scientific validity of intelligent design. The concept posits that the development of humans and other living things was designed by an unnamed guiding force, rather than being the result of natural selection based on random variations.

The school board in Dover argued that there were weaknesses in the theory of evolution, and that students should be exposed to the idea of intelligent design. Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania flatly rejected that argument, noting that evolution is one of the most strongly supported theories in all of science, backed by broad evidence from across the field. By contrast, he concluded that “the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID [intelligent design] is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory,” in his 139-page findingRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader of fact.
See Also
From the Archives: View an interactive timeline of historical highlights in the debate over teaching evolution.

The district chose not to appeal the ruling, limiting its legal jurisdiction. But, along with the rejection of efforts in Arkansas and Georgia to undermine evolution’s validity through disclaimer labels on textbooks and fights over state science standards in Kansas around the same time, the ruling ignited an unprecedented push by scientists and education researchers to become more directly involved in integrating evolution concepts in science classes.

“What it has done is made it clearer to the scientific community that they have to come out and make a stand; they can’t wait in the wings and hope it all blows over,” said E. Margaret Evans, an assistant research scientist in education at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Classroom Model

One of the instructional-improvement projects is Evolution Readiness, a program devised by a team of researchers from the Concord, Mass.-based Concord Consortium and Boston College. It pairs computer modeling of natural selection with classroom activities and readings on evolution concepts. In the process of developing the program, the researchers have crafted the first evolution-content assessment for elementary students, based on 11 standards-based learning goals for Massachusetts, according to Camelia Rosca, a senior research associate at the Center for the Study of Testing Evaluation and Education Policy at Boston College.

At Elizabeth G. Lyons Elementary School in Randolph, Mass., one of a handful of states where the program is being tested, 4th graders have finished a unit on plant adaptation, in which they watched the changes to a water-sensitive-plant population as the amount of water available was altered. The class is now extending the computer model to include rabbits and will soon add hawks to illustrate a basic food chain, said lead researcher Paul Horwitz, a senior scientist at Concord.

“We thought deeply about how to teach concepts to kids this young,” Mr. Horwitz said. “I didn’t want children to ‘believe’ in science; I wanted them to understand it as an explanation for the natural world.”
Brandon Ho, a 4th grader at Elizabeth G. Lyons Elementary School in Randolph, Mass., responds to a computer-based teaching program on evolution that was created by the Concord Consortium. The program is among several projects scientists have launched in recent years that are aimed at improving students' understanding of that topic.

In addition to using the computer program, the children study a 25-foot-long timeline of species development, play games about food webs, and experiment with Fast Plants®, which germinate and flower within a month.

Now in the last year of a three-year study sponsored by the NSF, the project’s initial results with 200 students and 10 teachers in Massachusetts; San Juan, Texas; and North Kansas City, Mo., suggest that students who participate in the program show significantly better understanding than those in a control group of evolution concepts, such as the idea that changes in the environment will prompt changes in a population over time...

Monday, November 15, 2010

As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas

As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas
New York Times
November 13, 2010

TASIILAQ, Greenland — With a tense pilot gripping the stick, the helicopter hovered above the water, a red speck of machinery lost in a wilderness of rock and ice.

To the right, a great fjord stretched toward the sea, choked with icebergs. To the left loomed one of the immense glaciers that bring ice from the top of the Greenland ice sheet and dump it into the ocean.

Hanging out the sides of the craft, two scientists sent a measuring device plunging into the water, between ice floes. Near the bottom, it reported a temperature of 40 degrees. It was the latest in a string of troubling measurements showing that the water was warm enough to melt glaciers rapidly from below.

“That’s the highest we’ve seen this far up the fjord,” said one of the scientists, Fiammetta Straneo.

The temperature reading was a new scrap of information in the effort to answer one of the most urgent — and most widely debated — questions facing humanity: How fast is the world’s ice going to melt?

Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.

But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.

As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.

And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia...

Oklahoma Surprise: Islam as an Election Issue

Oklahoma Surprise: Islam as an Election Issue
New York Times
November 14, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cory Williams, a Democratic state representative from Stillwater, expected his opponent in the recent election to label him a free-spending liberal allied with President Obama.

Residents at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City last week. A lawsuit has stalled the ballot initiative.

He did not foresee that he would be accused of trying to subject Oklahomans to Islamic law.

Mr. Williams was one of 10 Democrats who voted against putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would forbid state judges from considering international or Islamic law in deciding cases. He considered the idea unnecessary, since the First Amendment already bans state-imposed religion.

His Republican challenger sent out mailers showing him next to a shadowy figure in an Arab headdress. On the other side, the flier said Mr. Williams wanted to allow “Islamic ‘Shariah’ law to be used by Oklahoma courts” and suggested that he was part of “an international movement, supported by militant Muslims and liberals,” to establish Islamic law throughout the world.

“At the end of the day, it was just fearmongering,” Mr. Williams said.

He won by 280 votes, but many of his fellow Democrats failed to hold their seats...

“It was inflammatory, and it got people to turn out,” said State Representative Wallace Collins, a Democrat from Norman who lost a close race. “It worked for them.”

The day after the election, Muneer Awad, executive director of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a lawsuit. Mr. Awad argued that the amendment violated the freedom of religion clause of the United States Constitution, because it singled out Shariah law and Islam for special treatment rather than banning consideration of all religious codes. That amounts to state disapproval of Islam, he argued.

Last Monday, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of Federal District Court agreed that Mr. Awad’s complaint had merit, finding that the amendment’s “primary purpose inhibits religion.” She temporarily halted the certification of the election results and scheduled a hearing for next week.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Duncan said the restraining order “thwarts the will of the people.” He said the amendment was never intended as an attack on Muslims, but as an effort to prevent what he called “activist judges” from using Islamic law in deciding cases.

Law professors have begun to raise questions about the unintended consequences of the amendment. Because it also “forbids courts from using or considering international law,” it could complicate contractual arrangements between Oklahoma companies and those with headquarters abroad. The amendment might also prevent judges from referring to the Ten Commandments or exploring English common law in their decisions.

“You throw a series of ambiguous ill-conceived words into the State Constitution and you don’t know what will happen,” said Harry F. Tepker Jr., a law professor at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s a mess.”

Ms. Fallin, who has strong support from business, has begun to back away from the amendment, even though she supported it. “It’s something that she will have to meet with the attorney general on and look at the legal specifics,” said Alex Weintz, a spokesman.

Muslim leaders in Oklahoma said the amendment felt like a slap in the face. They worry that marriages, wills, divorces and contracts — often drawn up between parties under Islamic principles then submitted to a court for approval — will no longer be valid. Jews and Roman Catholics often follow the same procedure in civil matters.

But many Muslims said they were more worried about the anti-Muslim mood that fueled the amendment’s passage. The vote here follows the controversy over a Christian pastor’s aborted plan to burn Korans in Florida and the opposition to an Islamic community center near ground zero in Manhattan...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why is Glenn Beck attacking a man who dedicated his life to promoting democracy in Communist nations?

Glenn Beck apparently approves of anti-Semitism as long as the target is a progressive.

Nov 13, 2010
This week in crazy: Glenn Beck
The king of conspiracy shamelessly attacks George Soros -- and finally nabs the award he was born to win
By Alex Pareene

Shocking but true: Glenn Beck has not yet been the subject of "This Week in Crazy," the feature that was essentially created to honor 2009's Craziest Man. This week, though, as if he knew that his usual conspiracy-mongering, fake tears and suffocating paranoia just weren't cutting it anymore, Beck aired a series of shameless attacks on George Soros that seemed ripped from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The message? Financier and philanthropist George Soros is a "puppet master" secretly at the center of a vast conspiracy that aims to destroy our economy and take over the nation through deceit. The proof? A lot of selectively edited quotes, wild innuendo and the fact that Soros "collapsed regimes" in "four other countries."

Beck knows full well that Soros dedicated his life to promoting democracy in Communist nations, which an avowed anti-socialist like Beck should theoretically be championing him for. But Soros is a progressive, and in the Beck world, progressives are socialists are Maoists are Communists are totalitarians, so any enemy of Soros is a friend of Glenn Beck's. Insanity makes strange bedfellows. Look who Beck quotes to support his argument that Soros is one of the secret rulers of the world:

He's known as the man who broke the bank of England. The Prime Minister of Malaysia called Soros an unscrupulous profiteer. In Thailand, he was branded the "economic war criminal." They also said that he "sucks the blood from people."

The prime minister of Malaysia went on to say: "We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew." (The other quote, about how Soros is a bloodsucking something-or-other, speaks for itself.)

I don't think people who read secondhand accounts of the specials -- or even those who read the transcripts -- can grasp how weird and shameless the entire spectacle was. There were puppets strewn about the set. The camera always watches Beck watching whatever we're supposed to be watching. Beck blatantly flirted with classic anti-Semitic tropes, knowing he'd be called on it but confident his friends would have his back. His taunting response to criticism: If he's a lying anti-Semite, why would Rupert Murdoch allow him on the air?

But the craziest bit of the entire thing came when Glenn Beck accused Soros -- a 14-year-old Jew in Budapest attempting, during the war, to survive the Holocaust -- of collaborating with the Nazis and "helping send the Jews to the death camps." Yes, that happened. Repeatedly.

Even Beck's allies in the Anti-Defamation League seemed taken aback by this -- though they affirmed that they still supported Beck the following day.

The fact that, for reasons of partisan convenience, half the media and the Anti-Defamation League ignore or pretend to not see fairly blatant repurposing of ancient anti-Semitic propaganda on a major cable news network by a prominent pundit? That makes me feel like this week's craziest person.

Eric Cantor's Pledge of Allegiance

Nov 13, 2010
Eric Cantor's Pledge of Allegiance
By Glenn Greenwald

Soon-to-be GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the same day when the actual U.S. Secretary of State met with Netanyahu -- and vowed that he and his GOP colleagues would protect and defend Israeli interests against his own Government. According to a statement proudly issued by Cantor's own office:

Regarding the midterms, Cantor may have given Netanyahu some reason to stand firm against the American administration.

"Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," the readout continued. "He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."

Leave aside the absurdity of believing that Israel needs to be protected from the extremely deferential and devoted Obama administration. So extraordinary is Cantor's pledge that even the Jewish Telegraph Agency's Ron Kampeas -- himself a reflexive American defender of most things Israel -- was astonished, and wrote:

I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president. Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another -- building in Jerusalem, or somesuch -- lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations. But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House -- that sounds to me extraordinary.

As Kampeas notes, Cantor's office quickly disputed his understanding, but this is hardly the first time Cantor has violated supposedly sacred political conventions in order to side with Israel over his own country. Last August, Cantor led a GOP delegation to Israel and while in Jerusalem -- which happens to be "foreign soil" -- he condemned his own President and American policy for opposing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Criticizing America while on Dreaded Foreign Soil is supposed to be one of the most extreme taboos in American politics: Al Gore was bitterly denounced as a borderline-traitor for a 2006 speech in Saudi Arabia criticizing American foreign policy, and Gore at the time was merely a private citizen, not a leading political official. But American political figures like Cantor feel free to do exactly that -- criticize America on foreign soil -- when it comes to Israel; recall the same thing being done by by Mike Huckabee.

That's because, in general, all the rules change -- are completely reversed -- when it comes to Israel. As Cantor's behavior demonstrates, the rules that apply to "foreign countries" are inapplicable to Israel because in mainstream American politics, Israel is not considered and therefore is not treated as a "foreign country" at all. Many Israel devotees actually tried to expand the "no-criticizing-the U.S.-on-foreign-soil" rule by suggesting there was something wrong with Obama's criticism of Israel while in Indonesia; apparently, it's fine for American officials to criticize the U.S. while in Israel, but not for the U.S. President to criticize Israel while on foreign soil...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Outspoken Chinese Risk Confinement in Mental Wards

Outspoken Chinese Risk Confinement in Mental Wards
Du Bin for The New York Times
November 11, 2010

LOUHE, China — Xu Lindong, a poor village farmer with close-cropped hair and a fourth-grade education, knew nothing but decades of backbreaking labor. Even at age 50, the rope of muscles on his arms bespoke a lifetime of hard plowing and harvesting in the fields of his native Henan Province.

But after four years locked up in Zhumadian Psychiatric Hospital, he was barely recognizable to his siblings. Emaciated, barefoot, clad in tattered striped pajamas, Mr. Xu spoke haltingly. His face was etched with exhaustion.

“I was so heartbroken when I saw him I cannot describe it,” said his elder brother, Xu Linfu, recalling his first visit there, in 2007. “My brother was a strong as a bull. Now he looked like a hospital patient.”

Xu Lindong’s confinement in a locked mental ward was all the more notable, his brother says, for one extraordinary fact: he was not the least bit deranged. Angered by a dispute over land, he had merely filed a series of complaints against the local government. The government’s response was to draw up an order to commit him to a mental hospital — and then to forge his brother’s name on the signature line.

He was finally released in April, after six and a half years in Zhumadian and a second mental institution. In an interview, he said he had endured 54 electric-shock treatments, was repeatedly roped to his bed and was routinely injected with drugs powerful enough to make him swoon...

Hometown paper blasts McConnell over Iraq revelation

Nov 11, 2010
Hometown paper blasts McConnell over Iraq revelation
By Justin Elliott

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is taking some serious heat from his hometown newspaper for the revelation in George W. Bush's memoir that McConnell asked the president to pull some troops out of Iraq to boost the GOP's chances in the 2006 election. As we reported yesterday, McConnell at the exact same time was publicly accusing Democrats of endangering America because of their calls to withdraw troops from Iraq...

Spacing Out Half the Day Makes People Unhappy in Harvard Study

Spacing Out Half the Day Makes People Unhappy in Harvard Study
November 11, 2010
Bloomberg Business Week
By Elizabeth Lopatto

People spend almost half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and their daydreaming usually doesn’t take them to a happy place, a study reports.

People’s minds wandered about 46.9 percent of the time, and no less than 30 percent of the time during every activity except sex, according to a study in the journal Science. Straying attention occurred most often at work.

Some religions suggest happiness is to be found by focusing on what’s happening at the moment, or “be here now,” the authors wrote, using a title of a 1971 book by spirituality and meditation guru Ram Dass. By analyzing the data over time, the researchers discovered that people didn’t merely fantasize when they were unhappy; instead, wandering minds led to unhappiness, said study author Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“People spend a lot of time with their minds wandering and that seems to be damaging for their happiness,” Killingsworth said in a telephone interview. The ability to think about things other than the present is a uniquely human trait, and seems to come with an emotional trade-off, he said...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists, Jews, Mormons top U.S. religious knowledge poll, Christians trail

Atheists, Jews top religious knowledge survey
Atheists, Jews, Mormons top U.S. religious knowledge poll, Christians trail
By Ed Stoddard
Sep 28, 2010

DALLAS (Reuters) - They may not believe in God or gods but they know a thing or two about them.

Atheists and agnostics topped a survey of religious knowledge among Americans released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 ... Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers," Pew said.

It found Protestants answered 16 correctly and Catholics on average 14.7.

On questions about the Bible and Christianity, Mormons and white evangelical Protestants scored the highest, while Jews, atheists and agnostics trumped the other faiths on their knowledge of Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism.

"While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions -- including their own," said Pew, which is based in Washington.

To see the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey" go to: here

Highlights of the survey include:

_ More than four-in-10 Catholics do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ.

- About half of Protestants cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person who sparked the Protestant Reformation.

- Less than half identified Buddhism as the Dalai Lama's religion, 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon and 54 percent correctly said the Koran is the Islamic holy book. More than 80 percent knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic.

- Nine-in-10 Americans know U.S. Supreme Court rulings do not allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. But two-thirds incorrectly said Supreme Court rulings prevent them from using the Bible as an example of literature.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Glenn Beck cranks up the culture wars

Glenn Beck cranks up the culture wars
By Rich Benjamin
August 31, 2010

Editor's note: Rich Benjamin wrote the book "Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America," winner of a 2009 Editor's Choice award from Booklist and the American Library Association. He is also senior fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan think tank.

Glenn Beck, consummate showman and talk hound, would have been more honest calling his rally to "Restore Honor" a rally to restore the culture wars.

Despite his splashy show to celebrate the troops, Beck's rally was not about "honor" any more than the controversy over the Islamic center near ground zero is about a building -- or the immigration debate is about fixing the system. Instead, Beck's rally upped the ante on America's social divides, all the while appearing to champion unity. It was a clever head-fake disguising backward conservative zealotry as feel-good inclusion.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Religious leaders should be held accountable when their irrational ideas turn harmful

Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous
Religious leaders should be held accountable when their irrational ideas turn harmful
August 2010
Scientific American Magazine
By Lawrence M. Krauss

Every two years the National Science Foundation produces a report, Science and Engineering Indicators, designed to probe the public’s understanding of science concepts. And every two years we relearn the sad fact that U.S. adults are less willing to accept evolution and the big bang as factual than adults in other industrial countries.

Except for this time. Was there suddenly a quantum leap in U.S. science literacy? Sadly, no. Rather the National Science Board, which oversees the foundation, chose to leave the section that discussed these issues out of the 2010 edition, claiming the questions were “flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because responses conflated knowledge and beliefs.” In short, if their religious beliefs require respondents to discard scientific facts, the board doesn’t think it appropriate to expose that truth.

The section does exist, however, and Science magazine obtained it. When presented with the statement “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” just 45 percent of respondents indicated “true.” Compare this figure with the affirmative percentages in Japan (78), Europe (70), China (69) and South Korea (64). Only 33 percent of Americans agreed that “the universe began with a big explosion.”

Consider the results of a 2009 Pew Survey: 31 percent of U.S. adults believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” (So much for dogs, horses or H1N1 flu.) The survey’s most enlightening aspect was its categorization of responses by levels of religious activity, which suggests that the most devout are on average least willing to accept the evidence of reality. White evangelical Protestants have the highest denial rate (55 percent), closely followed by the group across all religions who attend services on average at least once a week (49 percent).

I don’t know which is more dangerous, that religious beliefs force some people to choose between knowledge and myth or that pointing out how religion can purvey ignorance is taboo. To do so risks being branded as intolerant of religion. The kindly Dalai Lama, in a recent New York Times editorial, juxtaposed the statement that “radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold religious beliefs” with his censure of the extremist intolerance, murderous actions and religious hatred in the Middle East. Aside from the distinction between questioning beliefs and beheading or bombing people, the “radical atheists” in question rarely condemn individuals but rather actions and ideas that deserve to be challenged.

Surprisingly, the strongest reticence to speak out often comes from those who should be most worried about silence. Last May I attended a conference on science and public policy at which a representative of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences gave a keynote address. When I questioned how he reconciled his own reasonable views about science with the sometimes absurd and unjust activities of the Church—from false claims about condoms and AIDS in Africa to pedophilia among the clergy—I was denounced by one speaker after another for my intolerance.

Religious leaders need to be held accountable for their ideas. In my state of Arizona, Sister Margaret McBride, a senior administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, recently authorized a legal abortion to save the life of a 27-year-old mother of four who was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from severe complications of pulmonary hypertension; she made that decision after consultation with the mother’s family, her doctors and the local ethics committee. Yet the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olm­sted, immediately excommunicated Sister Margaret, saying, “The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s.” Ordinarily, a man who would callously let a woman die and orphan her children would be called a monster; this should not change just because he is a cleric.

In the race for Alabama governor, an advertisement bankrolled by the state teachers’ union attacked candidate Bradley Byrne because he supposedly supported teaching evolution. Byrne, worried about his political future, felt it necessary to deny the charge.

Keeping religion immune from criticism is both unwarranted and dangerous. Unless we are willing to expose religious irrationality whenever it arises, we will encourage irrational public policy and promote ignorance over education for our children.

Is Glenn Beck's rise good for Mormonism?

Is Glenn Beck's rise good for Mormonism?
By Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 11:22 AM

Like conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Stephen Owens is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His in-laws traveled from Utah to Washington last weekend to join Beck's rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Owens himself, however, said he has always "kind of rolled my eyes" at Beck's outspoken views.

And when the 42-year-old Salt Lake City lawyer read that Beck publicly questioned President Obama's "version of Christianity" the day after the Washington rally, he was so angry he penned a letter to the local newspaper.

"I think it's arrogant of anyone to say whether someone is a Christian or not," said Owens, 42. "My view of that is, if someone says, 'I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ,' then they're Christian, and who am I to say, 'No, you're not,' let alone [to] the president of our country? I was offended at that." ...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Illegal immigration to U.S. down almost 67% since 2000, report says

Illegal immigration to U.S. down almost 67% since 2000, report says
By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 1, 2010

The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has plunged by almost two-thirds in the past decade, a dramatic shift after years of growth in the population, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Between 2000 and 2005, an average of 850,000 people a year entered the United States without authorization, according to the report released Wednesday. As the economy plunged into recession between 2007 and 2009, that number fell to 300,000.

The sharp drop-off has contributed to an 8 percent decrease in the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in the United States, from a peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009, the report said. Of the 11.1 million, 8.9 million came from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Virginia, Florida and Nevada were among the states with steepest declines in their populations of illegal immigrants.

The new figures come amid a heated national debate over efforts by Arizona and other jurisdictions to identify people who are here illegally and push to have them deported...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage

Aug 30, 2010
Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage?
A pastor who hates Muslims, Mormons and gays will start preaching Sunday. Will mosque opponents speak out?
By Justin Elliott

A bigoted pastor who has assailed gays and Muslims is launching the "9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero" a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site this Sunday, but so far the project hasn't drawn a peep of protest from those who are outraged by the "ground zero mosque."

Pastor Bill Keller of Florida said today he will begin preaching Sunday at the Marriott at 85 West Street (see proximity to ground zero here). A weekly service is planned at the hotel until the $8 million 9/11 Christian Center finds a permanent space. (Fundraising is going well, Keller told Salon today.)

To get a sense of where Keller is coming from, consider his project's website, which calls Islam a religion of "hate and death" whose adherents will go to hell. It also says: "Islam is a wonderful religion... for PEDOPHILES!"

Keller is the same pastor who hosted a birther infomercial that encouraged viewers to send him and a partner donations to advance the birther cause. His Internet ministry explicitly calls President Obama the new Hitler. He calls homosexuality a perversion. And in 2008, he targeted presidential contender Mitt Romney for being Mormon with a campaign called "voting for Satan."...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christians must reject "Burn a Quran Day"

Christians must reject "Burn a Quran Day"
By Jennifer S. Bryson
Washington Post
August 2010

"Burn a Quran Day" is how a church in Florida is preparing to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11. So far the Christian response to this in America has been nearly dead silence.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has issued a press release opposing Burn a Quran Day. This is good, but it is basically just a statement to assure non-Evangelical Christians that Terry Jones does not represent authentic Evangelical Christianity.

More direct are efforts by John Rankin, an Evangelical and President of the Theological Education Institute, to reach out Pastor Terry Jones in person. In addition, Rankin has initiated the "Yes to the Bible, No to the Burning of the Qur'an" collective affirmation. So far, however, John Rankin seems to be a voice in the wilderness on this.

Since 9/11 many American Christians have been asking why Muslims who oppose Islamist radicalism don't do more to counter it. Today I suspect more than a few Muslims are looking at Christians in America wondering why Christians don't try to dissuade the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, led by Pastor Terry Jones, from hosting Burn a Quran Day.

What is the responsibility of religious believers in a given faith to engage fanatics advocating ideologies of hate while claiming to act in the name of this faith?

Quran burning does not equate with murdering thousands in terrorism. However, these are similar in being ideological expressions of hatred which identify themselves with Abrahamic faiths better known for their emphasis on God's mercy toward all humans.

Both are independent movements evoking the name of far larger, broader religions. The Dove World Outreach Center is an independent church. Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda is an independent movement. Just as millions of Christians peacefully attend churches with no affiliation with the Dove World Outreach Center, millions of peaceful Muslims have no affiliation with al-Qaeda and associated movements.

Among Muslims there are emerging efforts beyond press releases to engage Islamist fanatics and Muslims, especially young Muslims, at risk of radicalization. Examples include the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim counter-radicalization think-tank in the U.K., and the video Believers Beware: Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice, released this summer by the Muslim Public Affairs Council based in Washington, DC, featuring Muslim leaders speaking Muslim-to-Muslim against religious fanaticism.

This video is not a press release to assure non-Muslims that al-Qaeda does not represent authentic Islam. Rather, the video targets fellow Muslims.

The target audiences for countering Burn a Quran Day and Islamist fanaticism need to be, precisely, co-religionists, and in particular the enthusiasts of hatred and violence.

We need to reach inside our faiths across the lines of specific religious movements and denominations to engage those who promote and even act on hatred in the name of faith.

In the Believers Beware video, Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute in California observes, with a passion emphasized in his repetition, that as for the "advocates of extremism...advocates of indiscriminate violence...advocates of killing civilians, where are they successful? Where are they successful? You just see one mess after another, one mess after another. And it is time for us to start cleaning up those messes..."

There is a mess brewing inside Christendom. Some American Christians might be thinking, "Terry Jones and his church - ahem, his "church" - have nothing to do with me because I am Catholic/Methodist/fill-in-the-blank." And yet the only thing a flood victim in Pakistan, likely Muslim, is probably going to hear about this story is, 'American Christians put their energy and resources into Quran burning, not into helping us in our hour of dire need.'

Moreover, if American Christians don't try to reach out to Terry Jones, then who will? Press releases will not be enough...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Message to anyone who will listen: You're a victim. Be very afraid.

The right-wing, blinded by its own hysteria
By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
August 24, 2010

When did the loudmouths of the American right become such a bunch of fraidy-cats and professional victims? Or is it all just an act?

The hysteria over plans for an innocuous Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan -- two blocks from Ground Zero, amid an urban hodgepodge of office buildings, eateries and strip clubs -- is wildly out of proportion. It would be laughable if it didn't threaten to do great harm to the global campaign against Islamic terrorism.

It is by now firmly established that the project, dubbed Park51, is promoted by a peacenik Muslim cleric whose sermons often sound a bit like the musings of new-age guru Deepak Chopra. It is also undisputed fact that the imam in question, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is such a moderate that the U.S. government regularly sends him as an emissary to Muslim countries to preach peace, coexistence and dialogue.

Yet right-wing commentators and politicians have twisted themselves in knots to portray the Park51 project as a grievous assault -- and "the American people" as victims. Victims of what? Rauf's sinister plot to despoil the city with a fitness center, a swimming pool and -- shudder -- a space for the performing arts?

The whole "controversy" is ridiculous. Yet conservatives who should know better are doing their best to exploit widespread ignorance about Islam by transforming it into fear and anger. They imply, but don't come right out and say, that it was Islam itself that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than an extremist fringe that espouses what the vast majority of the world's Muslims consider a perversion of the faith. They paint Park51 as a "victory dance" over the hallowed ground where thousands of Americans died -- never mind that there wouldn't even be a sight line between the building and Ground Zero -- and suggest that the project, even though it would be run by an imam who's practically a flower child, could somehow serve as a recruiting center for terrorists.

Message to anyone who will listen: You're a victim. Be very afraid.

In the process, this anti-mosque pitchfork brigade is surely recruiting terrorists left and right. As Ahmad Moussalli, a professor at the American University of Beirut, told the Los Angeles Times: "Rejecting this has become like rejecting Islam itself." All the Islamophobic rhetoric tends to reinforce the jihadists' main argument, which is that the United States and the West seek to destroy the faith held dear by more than 1 billion souls.

The thing is, though, that the manufactured brouhaha over the Park51 project is part of a larger pattern in which the far right embraces victimhood and stokes fear. The faction that likes to portray itself as a bunch of John Waynes and "mama grizzlies," it turns out, spends an awful lot of time cowering in the corner and complaining about how beastly everyone else is being...

Monday, August 23, 2010

After Complaints about Abuse of Apes, Dodge Removes Ape From Ad

Dodge Removes Ape From Ad After Controversy
PETA Complains Over Great Ape In Sale Ad
Aug 23, 2010

..."Most top ad agencies in the country won't even consider producing an ad featuring a great ape these days given the well-documented abuse that young chimpanzees and orangutans suffer in the entertainment industry. This abuse starts when they are prematurely removed from their mothers and continues when they are trained to perform through savage beatings, denied even the most basic necessities, transported and housed in barren steel cages, and then discarded at seedy roadside zoos around the age of 8, even though they can live into their 60s. You won't find a great-ape trainer without a history of Animal Welfare Act violations and a reputation for dumping animals when they're no longer profitable. After watching a video narrated by Anjelica Huston about the use of great apes in entertainment, savvy ad agencies such as BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Grey Group, Draftfcb, and Saatchi & Saatchi made the compassionate decision not to exploit great apes in future ads. Dodge isn't going to dodge a bullet on this one. It needs to pull the ad - and we've contacted the company asking it to do just that."

So, Dodge, in its righteous glory, edited the ape out of the ad. No, they didn't change the ad and remove the part of the ad featuring the chimp as one might expect, instead, they made the chimp invisible. For those of you that have been put through the pain of watching that ad over and over again, you may not have even noticed because you have started to tune it out. But take a look here and see the invisible ape at work.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Americans can worship freely except near Ground Zero, say Rabbi Klein and Jihad Turk

Clergy Support Protested Mosque; Scientists Find Oil Plume in Gulf of Mexico
Aired August 20, 2010

...It's an article in faith in this country that Americans can worship freely or not according to our beliefs or lack of belief, and we can voice our opinion about religion or politics or anything else. These fundamental, monumental freedoms come from the very same sentence in the Bill of Rights, and thus comes the passionate and sometimes painful exercise that's come to be known as the Ground Zero mosque debate.

If you haven't been keeping up, it centers on plans to build a $100 million Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Opponents have argued that it dishonors the memory of 9/11 victims, and many take issue with Islam itself, the religion.

That view is not confined to Manhattan. In a southern California town of Temecula, protesters confronted Muslim worshippers over plans to build a mosque next to a church. One of the protestors' signs read "Muslims danced with joy on 9/11." A broad array of Southern California religious leaders don't want that to be the final word. Last hour, they gathered in Los Angeles in defense of religious liberty in general, and in defense of the Ground Zero mosque in particular.

I'm joined now by two of those interfaith leaders, Rabbi Jonathan Klein f the group called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

Rabbi Klein, let me start with you. What caused you and the others to get together to -- to take a position on this? Because it seems every time someone has taken a position in defense of allowing this mosque to be built there, they become targets from all around them.

RABBI JONATHAN KLEIN, CLERGY AND LAITY UNITED FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Well, there's no question, but that this is a moment when we need the interfaith community or really the multifaith community to come together.

We have as Jews, my community, has benefited from having a community welcome for us. Over the years, we've had our hard times. But Americans have prospered in our society. There's no reason that Muslims should have any less of a fair treatment in our society. It's very frustrating.

VELSHI: Jihad Turk, we have had this discussion daily on this channel, on other channels and newspapers, and there is a growing feeling that Muslims in America are becoming more militant, or we're finding more militant people amongst Muslims of America, in some cases, American-born. What's the effect on your congregation, and the responses you've been getting from people as this discussion has been going on?

JIHAD TURK, DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, ISLAMIC CENTER OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Well, first let me say, Ali, that the Islamic community in the United States is really on the front lines of trying to protect our country from extremist rhetoric and extremist individuals who want to do harm to our country.

We work closely with law enforcement at the local level, at the federal level, to ensure that mosques across the country are insulated and protected from extremist rhetoric, and also can identify individuals who would want to do this country harm. So American Muslims are really the greatest ally, locally and internationally, on this war on terror. So let me just say that first.

With regards to this particular issue, you know, still I think the case is most Americans, according to a recent Pew study, don't know anything about Islam or very little. I think it was something like 60 some percent know little or nothing about Islam. And it's not surprising that a similar number have a negative impression now of Islam, given the ratcheted up rhetoric concerning the Ground Zero mosque. And the conflation -- the unfortunate conflation between Islam and terrorists. Muslims have extremists in -- we have extremists in our ranks, and we want to try and root them out, just as other religions...

VELSHI: Why is that...

TURK: Others also have extremists, where they're talking about abortion and doctor killers, et cetera.

VELSHI: Why is that not obvious? Why is it that polling shows otherwise?

TURK: Well, you know, I have to say that Muslims are kind of the new kids on the block. I mean, I'm an American Muslim. I was born and raised here. My mom is American Christian. My dad is an Arab immigrant from Jerusalem. And I just think most people don't know a Muslim personally. Muslims are relatively recent on the stage in terms of immigration and establishing themselves as, you know -- ourselves as a community here.

But I would say that what we have in our favor is that American Muslims are very integrated in society. If, you know -- if you poll the people, the American people about Islam, their impression or their information about Islam isn't from directly from Muslims or interaction with the Muslim community. It's from the news media. And so there's not really anything to counter that negative impression.

So I can't blame the average American for having a negative impression about Islam. Growing up within the tradition, the American tradition, as well as the Muslim tradition, there's no conflict there. And in fact, I feel empowered as an American Muslim to really, you know, try and take an educational role and try to take this as a teaching moment.

VELSHI: Guys, I apologize. We have a bit of a delay in our signal, which is why it sounds like we're talking over each other a little bit, and I apologize for that.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, I want to ask you. Jews have gone through this. I talked to Bobby Gauche (ph) yesterday, who wrote the article, the cover story on "TIME" magazine, is America Islamophobic?

And this is a story the Jews have gone through for different reasons by different associations. But he said that, if we had listened to the polls, Jews still wouldn't have proper rights, blacks wouldn't be able to vote, women wouldn't have the vote in this country. Sometimes you just need leadership to get ahead of this.

But as somebody from the Jewish community befriending the Muslim community, what advice can you give in the face of a society that seems to be increasing its phobia, its fears and its prejudices against Muslims?

KLEIN: Yes. Well, it's -- really, it's amazing to watch where the Muslim community is today and compare it to where the Jewish community was 75 years ago or so. It is an uphill struggle to be given the -- the support of our tradition as Americans to support life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, and equal and -- equality and justice. All these values that are at the core of our tradition as Americans are sometimes pushed in different communities in different ways. And the end result is that some people are left out.

And so it's really important, I think, for the Muslim community to continue to do what it has done, which is to build bridges. Jihad is a personal friend of mine. Jihad is a personal friend of a number of the rabbis in this city, and I am close to the Muslim community in my own way. It's about building bridges so that we can move past this paradigm of hatred, which tends to move the scapegoating tendencies of human beings toward the most egregious examples of hatred.

We have a tendency in America sometimes to scapegoat those for our problems that we feel are either easy targets or in the margins of our society. We have the same issue with immigrants in general.

I think that the struggle of the Muslim community is, in part, because there is a tendency for people to just want to treat the other as other, and to not love those that they don't understand.

So I think that it's important for those bridges to continue to build, which Jihad just mentioned about the deep relationship between Muslims and other parts of our society, that they are not insular entirely, as I think a good thing, for forging a path forward. It's about those bonds in American society.

VELSHI: I want to put this comment to you that Franklin Graham made on "JK USA" the other night. I'm going to -- I'm going to read you this and then I need to just take a quick break, and I'm going to ask you for your commentary on the other side.

Franklin Graham said on John King's show, quote, "The teaching of Islam is to hate Jews." You know what, I think we -- can we just play it? Let's play it.


FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: The teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew, to hate the Christian, to kill them. Their goal is world domination. And for the Muslim, peace means when all the other nations are subject to Islam. Then we are at peace. The world will be at peace when the entire world is under Islam. Well, I don't agree with the teachings of Islam.


VELSHI: I want to get your comment from that -- about that after a break. Let's just think about that all for a second, because it is definitely the kind of language that I see on my Facebook page, definitely the belief that some Americans have about Islam. So I want to address that to both of you.

Let's take a quick break. We'll continue this conversation about faiths coming together to try and make sense of this dispute that's going on. We'll be right back.


VELSHI: So much noise in this conversation about this mosque at Ground Zero it's hard to get down to brass tacks. So I'm putting it to two gentlemen, Rabbi Jonathan Klein of the group Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles. Standing next to him on his left, Jihad Turk. He's the religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, also in Los Angeles.

Gentlemen, just before the break, I read you something that sounded very inflammatory from Franklin Graham, or you heard Franklin Graham's comments from when he was on John King's show the other day. It starts by saying the teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew.

Rabbi, you probably heard that. You probably heard it from Jews. You probably heard it from Christians. Tell me what you think of that.

KLEIN: I think that what's happened, if you look at the history of Jews and Islam, in fact, Jews have fared quite well in the context of Muslim society. And so what's happened is, in the last past century in particular, since the creation of the state of Israel and even a little before that, you see an increase in tensions between the communities.

But that's to really distort the record of the relationship. It is completely wrong to say that Islam is out to destroy Jews or Christians or anyone. People are trying to live with their values on -- in their lives, and live fairly and faithfully to their traditions in an American context.

We're blessed with a beautiful system that allows people to live with the freedom of religion. This is not about Islam being evil. And I can't believe that -- I mean, if we look at any religious tradition, you can find all sorts of perspectives that are contrary to the world view that Jihad and I bring to the table, one which is about love and about community-building.

VELSHI: Jihad, isn't there...

TURK: And if I could add, Ali, that...

VELSHI: Go ahead.

TURK: No, go ahead. I was just going to add that, you know, I would suggest it's not just the view that I hold here at the -- you know, West Coast of the United States, the idea that Jews and Christians and people of other faith are free to practice their own religion.

In fact, the Koran describes Christians and Jews as people of the book, i.e. people of the faith. And the Koran describes Jews as the chosen people. So Muslims respect and honor and give dignity to people of various faiths. And it's -- and it's our goal to really try and counter the extremist rhetoric that you'll hear out of parts of the Muslim world with the perspective that most -- most American Muslims and Muslims internationally hold about pluralism and tolerance of other faith traditions.

VELSHI: Well, I think we both -- we've gone some distance at countering extremist rhetoric and giving a real story by having this discussion with the two of you today. I appreciate the work that you're doing in trying to foster a better understanding of what this issue is. Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Jihad Turk.

And by the way, these two gentlemen are representative of a larger group of people who have come together to try and get this dialogue back on track...

Sessions and Hatch say Thurgood Marshall was right, RNC was wrong

Sessions, Hatch Distance Themselves From RNC Attack On Kagan
The Huffington Post

Two high-ranking Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have sought to distance themselves from the RNC in the wake of yesterday's bizarre decision on the part of the committee to attack Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan for supporting former SCOTUS Justice Thurgood Marshall's view that the U.S. Constitution was "defective" for not according proper rights to women and blacks.

This is understandable, seeing as how that particular line from the RNC was surely one of the worst attempts to score political points ever undertaken by ostensible grown-ups in the history of America.

Via The Hill, here's Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):

"I would say that the original Constitution was a document that needed amending, and after the Civil War it was amended and removed those offending parts," he told reporters.

And while Senator Orrin Hatch professed to not liking it when anyone "downgrade[s] the Constitution, he nevertheless allowed that the whole "three-fifths" compromise, while necessary to getting the Constitution passed, "wasn't right."

It's a pretty lonely place right now, to be criticizing Thurgood Marshall for making one of the most obvious points in the universe...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish

Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish
Interests of consumers versus giant corporations
The Register
By Rik Myslewski
10th August 2010

If Google and Verizon thought that their "free except when it isn't" internet plan would have smooth sailing through the US Federal Communications Commission, a response by one FCC commissioner should snap them back to reality.

"Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward," said Michael Copps in a statement (PDF) referencing the Google/Verizon proposal. "That's one of its many problems."

Copps didn't detail the "many problems," but the remainer of his statement made it clear that he's firmly on the side of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's third way plan, which claws back some of the regulatory mojo that the FCC lost when their ability to regulate internet traffic was dope-slapped into near irrelevancy by a federal judge in the Comcast decision.

"It is time to move a decision forward — a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations," Copps wrote.

From Copps' point of view, the battle lines in this tug of war are as clear as the stakes are great. Genachowski, a network neutrality proponent, has two "interests of consumers" allies on the commission: Copps and Mignon Clyburn, both Democrats. And then there are the "interests of giant corporations" commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, both Republicans.

While that characterization may seem simplistic, it's far from insupportable.

Genachowski's "third way" plan would grant to the FCC limited "Title II" powers, meaning that some aspects of broadband traffic and carriage would be subject to a subset of the regulatory strictures over which the FCC has control in the telephone marketplace.

When he announced that plan this June, McDowell and Baker pounced on it, characterizing it as a disincentive to investment in infrastructure and — brandishing the anti net-neuts' most powerful talismanic incantation in this time of high unemployment — a "job killer".

Commissioner Clyburn shot back: "I can understand why powerful companies balk at government oversight. They view any government authority as a threat to their unbridled freedom. Indeed, if it were up to them, we would not enact rules; but rather, rely on 'voluntary organizations and forums' made up solely of industry personnel to give us advice on how to serve as a backstop for consumers."...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fareed Zakaria returns ADL prize over ADL opposition to mosque near ground zero

The irony here seems to be that the ADL itself seems to be engaging in a bit of anti-Semitism. Arabs and Palestinians are Semites, too! In fact, Palestinians are descendants of the farmers and herders of Judea who were, of course, Jews.

CNN host returns ADL award over stance on Islamic center
By the CNN Wire Staff
August 7, 2010

New York (CNN) -- Fareed Zakaria, the CNN host and Newsweek columnist, has returned a prestigious prize to the Anti-Defamation League, another rebuke for the esteemed civil rights group's opposition to an Islamic center near ground zero.

Zakaria, who received the ADL's Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize five years ago, gave back the honor to ADL for publicly siding "with those urging the relocation" of the center, which would be located near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both," he said.

It is the latest in a wave of stinging criticism toward the Jewish organization's position from a range of people and groups, including those in the Jewish community, and the ADL said it was "saddened and stunned" by Zakaria's decision.

The ADL, which exists to fight discrimination, especially anti-Semitism,... said "that building the center at the site will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right."...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ex-lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti charged with campaign-finance fraud

Ex-lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti charged with campaign-finance fraud
By Dan Eggen and Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 6, 2010

Paul J. Magliocchetti was one of the most powerful and influential lobbyists in Washington not too long ago, known for steering campaign contributions to favored lawmakers while securing millions of dollars in projects for his clients.

On Thursday, the former defense lobbyist stood accused by federal prosecutors of orchestrating one of the largest campaign-finance frauds in U.S. history. He faces devastating testimony from his son and has checked himself into a Baltimore clinic for anxiety.

Magliocchetti, 64, the founder and owner of the now-closed PMA Group, was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with eight counts of illegal campaign contributions and three counts of making false statements. He is accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers to enhance his firm's stature and business prospects.

His 34-year-old son, Mark, pleaded guilty in the same Alexandria courthouse Thursday to one charge of making illegal campaign contributions at the behest of his father, whom he portrays in a sworn statement as the mastermind of the scheme...

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too
New York Times
December 21, 2009

...When plant biologists speak of their subjects, they use active verbs and vivid images. Plants “forage” for resources like light and soil nutrients and “anticipate” rough spots and opportunities. By analyzing the ratio of red light and far red light falling on their leaves, for example, they can sense the presence of other chlorophyllated competitors nearby and try to grow the other way. Their roots ride the underground “rhizosphere” and engage in cross-cultural and microbial trade.

“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said.

Plants can’t run away from a threat but they can stand their ground. “They are very good at avoiding getting eaten,” said Linda Walling of the University of California, Riverside. “It’s an unusual situation where insects can overcome those defenses.” At the smallest nip to its leaves, specialized cells on the plant’s surface release chemicals to irritate the predator or sticky goo to entrap it. Genes in the plant’s DNA are activated to wage systemwide chemical warfare, the plant’s version of an immune response. We need terpenes, alkaloids, phenolics — let’s move.

“I’m amazed at how fast some of these things happen,” said Consuelo M. De Moraes of Pennsylvania State University. Dr. De Moraes and her colleagues did labeling experiments to clock a plant’s systemic response time and found that, in less than 20 minutes from the moment the caterpillar had begun feeding on its leaves, the plant had plucked carbon from the air and forged defensive compounds from scratch.

Just because we humans can’t hear them doesn’t mean plants don’t howl. Some of the compounds that plants generate in response to insect mastication — their feedback, you might say — are volatile chemicals that serve as cries for help. Such airborne alarm calls have been shown to attract both large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat, and tiny parasitic insects, which can infect a caterpillar and destroy it from within.

Enemies of the plant’s enemies are not the only ones to tune into the emergency broadcast. “Some of these cues, some of these volatiles that are released when a focal plant is damaged,” said Richard Karban of the University of California, Davis, “cause other plants of the same species, or even of another species, to likewise become more resistant to herbivores.”

Yes, it’s best to nip trouble in the bud.

Dr. Hilker and her colleagues, as well as other research teams, have found that certain plants can sense when insect eggs have been deposited on their leaves and will act immediately to rid themselves of the incubating menace. They may sprout carpets of tumorlike neoplasms to knock the eggs off, or secrete ovicides to kill them, or sound the S O S. Reporting in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Hilker and her coworkers determined that when a female cabbage butterfly lays her eggs on a brussels sprout plant and attaches her treasures to the leaves with tiny dabs of glue, the vigilant vegetable detects the presence of a simple additive in the glue, benzyl cyanide. Cued by the additive, the plant swiftly alters the chemistry of its leaf surface to beckon female parasitic wasps. Spying the anchored bounty, the female wasps in turn inject their eggs inside, the gestating wasps feed on the gestating butterflies, and the plant’s problem is solved.

Here’s the lurid Edgar Allan Poetry of it: that benzyl cyanide tip-off had been donated to the female butterfly by the male during mating. “It’s an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone, so that the female wouldn’t mate anymore,” Dr. Hilker said. “The male is trying to ensure his paternity, but he ends up endangering his own offspring.”

Plants eavesdrop on one another benignly and malignly. As they described in Science and other journals, Dr. De Moraes and her colleagues have discovered that seedlings of the dodder plant, a parasitic weed related to morning glory, can detect volatile chemicals released by potential host plants like the tomato. The young dodder then grows inexorably toward the host, until it can encircle the victim’s stem and begin sucking the life phloem right out of it. The parasite can even distinguish between the scents of healthier and weaker tomato plants and then head for the hale one...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Proposition 8 overturned; same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

California's Proposition 8 has been overturned. It was ruled unconstitutional.

San Jose Mercury News
By Howard Mintz

A San Francisco federal judge today struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, concluding that it tramples on the equal rights of gay and lesbian couples and that they are entitled to be married throughout the state.

Within minutes of his historic decision, however, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed to put his ruling on hold for at least a few days to consider arguments on whether California should be barred immediately from enforcing Proposition 8, a move that would allow county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Six Teens' Drowning A Reminder Of Swimming Disparity

Six Teens' Drowning A Reminder Of Swimming Disparity
August 3, 2010

If there's sadder news than the story of six teens — three children from one family and three from another — drowning in the Red River in Shreveport, La., it's hard to imagine what it could be.

The youngsters, none of whom could swim, were at a river side picnic at a local park and apparently went wading in the water when some got into trouble as the river bottom dropped away.

Other youngsters who attempted to help them, couldn't swim either, adding immensely to the tragedy.

The story is a reminder of one of the safety related disparities that exist in the U.S.; young blacks are victims of unintentional drowning at significantly higher rates than white of like age.

In 2008, USA Swimming commissioned a study to examine the issue and found that the ability to swim correlated strongly with household income and whether parents themselves could swim.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of black children couldn't swim safely compared with 31 percent of white children...

Monday, August 02, 2010

29 Unitarian Universalists arrested in protest against Arizona's SB 1070

Photo: Mar Cardenas of San Diego, granddaughter of Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas

See all blog posts re Arizona SB 1070.

29 UUs arrested in Phoenix protest
Unitarian Universalists demonstrate against Arizona's SB 1070
By Donald E. Skinner

Twenty-nine Unitarian Universalists, including eight ministers, were arrested in Phoenix, Ariz., for acts of civil disobedience protesting Arizona's strict anti-illegal immigration law.

Among those arrested were Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix. They were among 150 UUs, many from out of state, who came to Phoenix for actions in support of immigrant families on Thursday, July 29, the day Senate Bill 1070 went into effect. Opponents of SB1070 say it encourages racial profiling by police, although a federal judge issued an injunction July 28 that blocked several controversial provisions of the law.

UUs were among hundreds of people who swarmed into downtown streets, blocking traffic at midday in the vicinity of the Fourth Avenue Jail and the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” is a strong supporter of anti-immigrant legislation, launching workplace raids and authorizing the arrest and deportation of thousands of undocumented people...

UUs were acting in support of local immigrant groups, including Puente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. In all, more than 80 people were arrested Thursday...

Phoenix police and sheriff’s deputies allowed the blockades to go on for one to two hours before arresting those who refused to move. Arrests began around noon on Thursday; prisoners were released overnight or Friday morning. Court appearances were set for some in mid-August. Most were charged with obstructing a public roadway and with failure to obey police, both misdemeanors...

The nearly two-hour service at the cathedral included Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and nondenominational faith group representatives.

...Taudte was indeed arrested Thursday when she sat down in the street and refused to move. After her release Friday afternoon she called her experience “life changing.” She said she plans to go back to Florida and challenge her congregation to get even more active than it has been on immigration issues.

The Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister of the UU Church of Marblehead, Mass., and president of UU Allies for Racial Equity, was arrested at the county jail with Morales and Frederick-Gray. The experience was “physically frightening,” she said. “The experience validated much of what I understand about white privilege and racism.” She said that while she experienced some roughness during the arrest and the jail experience was harsh, fellow inmates of color were treated far worse.

Held overnight in a cell with as many as 30 other women, von Zirpolo said the group bonded, even those people who had been arrested for other issues. “It was an unintended consequence of their strategy to disrupt our sleep by moving us around. Each time, we would share names and origins. We sang together, held those who needed to cry, demanded medical attention for our sisters in need, and most importantly, listened to each others stories. We made community.”

The Rev. Gregory Scott Ward, minister of the UU Church of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, Calif., said being in jail changed him. “I no longer think I’m different from other people. I was surprised by how quickly one’s humanity can be taken away when wearing prison stripes and the pink socks and pink underwear they make you wear. And how that humanity is restored when you find out that people are waiting for you when you come out.”

UUs who had not been arrested held a late evening candlelight vigil outside the jail Thursday night, bringing a guitar and flute and singing songs in Spanish and English. A few people remained all night, to be there when fellow UUs were released from jail.

Unitarian Universalists were the most visible religious group in Phoenix. Many wore the yellow T-shirts of the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign. UUA Moderator Gini Courter said, “On the street we were clearly identifiable as religious people. We lived our faith in a very public way. People were coming up to us and thanking us for being there.” ...

14 different countries have reported all-time record high temperatures this year

US, Other Nations Bake in Record Summer Heat
Paul Yeager
AOL News
Aug. 1, 2010

Summer 2010 is far from over, but extremely hot weather has been a major weather story to date, not only in the United States but also in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. All-time record high temperatures have been tied or broken in more than a dozen nations.

Across the United States, the heat has been particularly persistent in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. A July heat wave produced 100-plus-degree heat along the Eastern Seaboard from southern New England to the Virginias, including temperatures in excess of 105° F in parts of Maryland (including Baltimore) and Virginia. Hartford, Conn., tied its all-time record high temperature of 102° F on July 6.

Globally, at least 14 different countries have reported all-time record high temperatures this year (not all have been during the Northern Hemisphere summer), according meteorologist to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground...