Monday, September 26, 2005

US evolution court battle opens

BBC NEWS | Americas | US evolution court battle opens: "US evolution court battle opens
Eleven parents in the US have gone to court to protect the teaching of evolution at their local schools.

The Dover Area School Board in the state of Pennsylvania requires science teachers to tell pupils that evolution is merely one, unproven theory.

Teachers have to state that Intelligent Design - whose adherents believe life on earth was created by an intelligent being - is a possible alternative.

The parents say it is a religious belief that should not be taught.

They argue that its inclusion violaties the constitutional separation of church and state."

'Dead women' elected in Pakistan

BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Dead women' elected in Pakistan: "'Dead women' elected in Pakistan
Police in Pakistan have launched an inquiry into complaints that two dead women were elected in last month's local elections.

The women were elected in two separate constituencies of Upper Dir district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), reports say.

A quota system for women at the elections was intended to boost their representation at a provincial level.

But the elections were marred by violence and claims of vote-rigging.

Fresh voting?

Reports suggest that one of the women has been dead for 13 years and the other for three years."

Friday, September 23, 2005

| Blog censorship handbook released

BBC NEWS | Technology | Blog censorship handbook released: "Blog censorship handbook released
A handbook that offers advice to bloggers who want to protect themselves from recrimination and censors has been released by Reporters Without Borders.

The media watchdog said it gives people who want to set up a blog tips on how to do so, how to publicise it, as well as how to establish credibility.

It also offers advice about writing blogs from countries with tough media restrictions, such as Iran and China."

Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back - New York Times

Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back - New York Times: "Dr. Allmon, who directs the Paleontological Research Institution, an affiliate of Cornell University, began the training session here in September with statistics from Gallup Polls: 54 percent of Americans do not believe that human beings evolved from earlier species, and although almost half believe that Darwin has been proved right, slightly more disagree.

'Just telling them they are wrong is not going to be effective,' he said.

Instead, he told the volunteers that when they encounter religious fundamentalists they should emphasize that science museums live by the rules of science. They seek answers in nature to questions about nature, they look for explanations that can be tested by experiment and observation in the material world, and they understand that all scientific knowledge is provisional - capable of being overturned when better answers are discovered.

'Is it against all religion?' he asked. 'No. But it is against some religions.'

There is more than one type of creationist, he said: 'thinking creationists who want to know answers, and they are willing to listen, even if they go away unconvinced' and 'people who for whatever reason are here to bother you, to trap you, to bludgeon you.'

Those were the type of people who confronted Dr. Durkee, a former biology professor at Grinnell College in Iowa. The encounter left her discouraged.

'It is no wonder that many biologists will simply refuse to debate creationists or I.D.ers,' she said, using the abbreviation for intelligent design, a cousin of creationism. 'It is as if they aren't listening.'"

Info for event usdiaw

Info for event usdiaw: "Magnitude 5.8 - OFFSHORE HONDURAS
2005 September 23 13:48:29 UTC
Preliminary Earthquake Report
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center
World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Force-fed women fight the fat

Force-fed women fight the fat - Yahoo! News: "NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mariem Sow was a little girl when her sister Zeinabou choked to death in front of her while being force-fed camel's milk by a family slave.

Beaten if she refused to swallow the rich diet of sweetened milk and millet porridge, Zeinabou was one of many Mauritanian girls fattened up because of an ancient belief that corpulent women make more desirable wives."

Free school for one-girl families

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Free school for one-girl families: "Free school for one-girl families
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

The Indian government says it will reward girls from single child families with free education and other benefits.

The move is intended to bolster India's dwindling female population and help promote population control.

Under the plan, education for such girls will be made free at secondary level. They will also be given scholarships for postgraduate study."

BBC NEWS | UK | Shoppers 'threat to orang-utans'

BBC NEWS | UK | Shoppers 'threat to orang-utans': "Shoppers 'threat to orang-utans'
Demand for crisps, bread, lipstick and soap could drive orang-utans to extinction, research suggests.

The UK alone imports nearly a million tonnes of palm oil a year for use in such products, but campaigners say plantations for it destroy rainforests.

Friends of the Earth and international ape conservation groups warn in a report that 90% of the animals' habitat in South East Asia has been wiped out.

Their research claims the apes could become extinct within 12 years.

Legal duty

The groups claim British supermarkets do not know where their palm oil is produced.

It is we who will have to explain to our children that the orang-utan became extinct because of corporate greed
Ian Redmond
Ape Alliance

They are calling on the government to give company directors a legal duty to minimise their environmental impacts.

Friends of the Earth palm oil campaigner Ed Matthew accused the government of 'failing to clean up its own backyard'.

He said: 'Over 100 UK companies and every single British supermarket is helping fuel the obliteration of orang-utan habitat.'

'Corporate greed'

The report, the Oil for Ape Scandal, said palm oil plantations have now become the primary cause of the orang-utans' decline in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Some experts estimated 5,000 orang-utans perished as a result every year.

The research claimed at least 84% of UK companies failed to take effective action to ensure they do not buy palm oil from destructive sources.

Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance, said if the government failed to act, 'it is we who will have to explain to our children that the orang-utan became extinct because of corporate greed and a lack of political will'.
Story from BBC NEWS:"

Sunday, September 18, 2005 - Gov. Bush's son arrested - Sep 16, 2005

The apples do not fall far from the trees. Except that the bigger trees have more people to rake up after them. - Gov. Bush's son arrested - Sep 16, 2005: "Gov. Bush's son arrested

Friday, September 16, 2005; Posted: 8:08 p.m. EDT (00:08 GMT)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was arrested early Friday and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, law enforcement officials said.

John Ellis Bush, 21, was arrested by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 2:30 a.m. on a corner of Austin's Sixth Street bar district, said commission spokesman Roger Wade.

The nephew of President Bush was released on $2,500 bond for the resisting arrest charge, and on a personal recognizance bond for the public intoxication charge, officials said."

Musharraf's remarks on rapes in Pakistan decried

Every time I hear that phrase, "You must understand the culture of our country" as a defence for inexcusable actions, it makes me sick. Cultural relativism is no excuse for such horrendous actions. And that also incudes hiding behind religion or 'holy books' be they Islamic, Jewish, Christian or any other.

Musharraf's remarks on rapes in Pakistan decried - Yahoo! News: "ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Outrage mounted in Pakistan and abroad on Friday over President Pervez Musharraf's comment that many Pakistanis felt that crying rape was an easy way to make money and move to Canada.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has already condemned the remarks made by Musharraf, who is in the United States having addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said Musharraf should apologize, and newspapers back home decried their leader's attitude.

Musharraf told the Washington Post in an interview published on Tuesday that Pakistan should not be singled out on rape issues as other countries had the same problems.

'You must understand the environment in Pakistan ... This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped,' the Post quoted Musharraf as saying."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Spain gets first married priest

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Spain gets first married priest: "Spain gets first married priest
By Danny Wood
BBC News, Madrid

A Roman Catholic bishop on the Spanish island of Tenerife has ordained a man as a Catholic priest despite the fact that he is married with two children.

The 64-year-old former Anglican pastor, David Gliwitzki, was ordained in La Laguna on the Canary Island.

The Bishop of Tenerife said the move was a unique exception within the Spanish Church.

According to Church rules, priests are supposed to be celibate. But the ordination was approved by the Pope."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

MSN Encarta - Top 10 Schools Where Students (Almost) Never Study

MSN Encarta - Top 10 Schools Where Students (Almost) Never Study: "Top 10 Schools Where Students (Almost) Never Study
Article provided by The Princeton Review
Image credit: Jacobs Stock Photography/Getty Images
Don't go advertising this fact to your parents, but the college years aren't only about keeping your nose to the grindstone. The Princeton Review's annual survey of college students shows that the students at these ten schools perennially have more on their mind than just studying.
2006 Rankings

This year's rankings are in! The Princeton Review lists student favorites in The Best 361 Colleges.

See how they stack up!

1. University of Mississippi (Oxford, Mississippi)
For many, University of Mississippi--'Ole Miss' to friends--is as much a lifestyle choice as an academic one. 'The best aspect of Ole Miss is the southern pride and the beauty that you experience,' explains one undergrad. While a demanding education can certainly be had at Ole Miss, it's also possible to glide through. 'A lot of students don't come here to get an education. That's a major problem, but probably not the university's fault,' writes one undergrad.

Students who considered Ole Miss also looked at Florida State, Mississippi State, Southern Methodist University, and Tulane University."

The Daily Dirt Chess Blog: Chess Takes It Up the Sistani

The Daily Dirt Chess Blog: Chess Takes It Up the Sistani: "Chess Takes It Up the Sistani

Whether or not chess is permissable under Islam has gone around many times, including in the mainstream press. The Taliban said no, but then they said no to everything. Iran used to say no, but lately have said yes, even hosting the FIDE world championship final in 2000. Now that the Bush administration looks set to succeed where Bin Laden failed in turning Iraq into a Sharia state, this is again a hot topic, or at least a hot symbol of repression.

But I hadn't seen the Q&A section of Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq's website myself until now. The items on chess are quite categorical. It is 'absolutely forbidden,' coming in worse than anal sex on the sin chart and at the same level as abortion. Chess even gets this charming exposition:
It is not permissible, because it is a means for Lahv (debauchery) and gambling. Many traditions have been reported from the Holy Prophet and the Imams (a.s.) that prohibit playing chess. Moreover, when we do not know the reason behind the forbiddenness of an act, we are bound to obey in absolute obedience. There is a reason for it, but we do not know it and when we do not know it, it does not mean that we should not abide by it.

Well that settles that. Obviously this is all debatable, at least if you are far enough away not to be stoned to death for debating it. The Shiites in Iran and most other Muslims don't seem to agree. Some old-tyme Christian and Puritan sects also banne" - Custom-made fit for school - Aug 12, 2005 - Custom-made fit for school - Aug 12, 2005: "Some schools' move to a more stringent dress code can spark national attention and threats of lawsuits.

In 2004, Timothy Gies, a senior at Bay City Central High School in Michigan, was suspended several times for wearing shirts and sweat shirts with anarchy symbols, peace signs, upside-down American flags and an anti-war quote from Albert Einstein.

He took his case to the the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and his school discipline was overturned after the ACLU intervened.

'My view and the ACLU view on suppression of political speech in school is that the public schools have a pointed responsibility to prepare students to think critically and participate in our democracy,' says Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan ACLU.

'ACLU opposes dress codes -- we believe students have a right of free expression, a part of which is expressing their individuality through the clothes that they wear,' Steinberg says. 'And parents can control the clothes their children wear, but it should not be a matter that the state dictates.'

But Essex says there has to be a balance.

'We understand school officials are very concerned with school safety, but that has to be balanced with reasonableness, and that's what the courts expect from us -- to be reasonable in terms of what we expect in students,' he says."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Soul Freedom

Intelligent comments from a Christian who is not on the 'right'. Finally.

AlterNet: Soul Freedom: "AlterNet
Soul Freedom
By Bill Moyers, AlterNet
Posted on September 10, 2005, Printed on September 12, 2005

Ed. Note: This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers received the seminary's highest award, the Union Medal, for their contributions to faith and reason in America.

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do. My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others.

'Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils,' thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience.

Baptists there were a 'pitiful negligible minority' but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as 'incendiaries of the commonwealth' for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith -- the priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the state religion they were fined, flogged and exiled.

In 1651, the Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the love of liberty, he said, 'that must free the soul.'

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights 'a haven for the cause of conscience.' No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would 'the loathsome combination of church and state' -- as Thomas Jefferson described it -- be the settl"

Friday, September 09, 2005

CENTRAL AMERICA: Gang Violence and Anti-Gang Death Squads

CENTRAL AMERICA: Gang Violence and Anti-Gang Death Squads: "Although the civil wars are over in Central America, violence remains a serious problem in this impoverished region. An average of six people a day are murdered in Honduras (a country of six million), eight a day in El Salvador (population 6.2 million) and 14 a day in Guatemala (population 12 million).

Authorities blame most of the murders on the maras, but human rights groups say many of the killings are the work of off-duty police officers operating in death squads carrying out a sort of 'social purge'. "

Friday, September 02, 2005

Canada readies three ships to send to Katrina zone - Yahoo! News

Canada readies three ships to send to Katrina zone - Yahoo! News: "OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is loading three naval ships with disaster relief supplies to send to areas of the southern United States which have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Defense Minister Bill Graham said on Friday.

'They should be in a position to leave in the next three or four days,'"...

And arrive in the next three to four months.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Anti-rape condom aims to stop attacks

It has not yet been tested "on a live man." My guess is they will not get any volunteers. But good luck with their product.

Anti-rape condom aims to stop attacks - Yahoo! News: "Ehlers said the 'rapex' hooks onto the rapist's skin, allowing the victim time to escape and helping to identify perpetrators.

'He will obviously be too pre-occupied at this stage,' she told reporters in Kleinmond, a small holiday village about 100km (60 miles) east of Cape Town. 'I promise you he is going to be too sore. He will go straight to hospital.'

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man through surgery which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.

It also reduces the chances of a woman falling pregnant or contracting
AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases from the attacker by acting in the same way as a female condom.

South Africa has more people with
HIV/AIDS than any other country, with one in nine of its 45 million population infected.

Ehlers, who showed off a prototype on Wednesday, said women had tried it for comfort and it had been tested on a plastic male model but not yet on a live man. Production was planned to start next year."