#0039 RRS Newsletter for August 4, 2007

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Today I'd like to draw your attention to the 2 RRS sections, firstly. Beyond that, not much commentary outa me today. I will, however, appologise in advance for this being an article heavy post, but reading never hurt anyone, lol.

Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or suggestions you can reach me directly HERE. Or on Myspace HERE.
Stay rational,
Jack
and the RRS MI team

Table of Contents

Click HERE to find your local affiliate!

Rational Response Squad News

Rational Response Update (video by Brian Sapient)

RRS Michigan News

THE MURDER OF LARRY HOOPER

Science News

New planet found near giant red star Dark Matter: All Wrong? Jaws, Teeth of Earliest Bony Fish Discovered Odd Skull Boosts Human, Neandertal Interbreeding Theory

Religion

Canada's Crossroads Walkers Prepare to Enter Ottawa: Parliament Hill Only Days Away Zionists Censor Rachel Corrie Play in Toronto but Political Art Prevails in Seattle

Government

The new North American Union Law on religion in school spurs fear British Columbia Government Releases Overview of Controversial Pro-Gay School Curriculum

Community

Atheist Blood Drive Atheist family on Wifeswap Guaranteed to CONVERT ALL HEATHENS! 10 Ways to be an Atheist Activist" Students must remember God in Texas pledge

Entertainment

Masturbating really pisses Jesus off The Unthinking Majority Judith

Rational Response Column

My journey to Disbelief

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Rational Response Update

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THE MURDER OF LARRY HOOPER

Editorial Comment:
I actually never heard of this case, even though I live in Michigan, and a mere 15 minutes driving time from the city of Taylor in which the murder took place. It is disconserting to say the least, especially since I frequently wear my RRS shirt in public, as well as other shirts with anti-religious themes (one in particular could be construde as quite incendiary, featuring on the back in big bold print "END OF GOD, THE WAY IT MUST BE") . Despite all this, I've never been the victim of any sort of taunting or discrimination. I guess I've been lulled into a false sense of complacency on the matter. There are, after all, 9 churches within a mile of my house, so I suppose I shouldn't be all THAT surprised, but reading this article was , none-the-less, a very sobering experience.

THE MURDER OF LARRY HOOPER
By Arlene-Marie
December 20, 2005
(Edited for punctuation and clarity.)

http://digg.com/offbeat_news/Murdered_for_being_an_atheist

On October 18, 2004, Arthur Shelton, a self described Christian and Eagle Scout, murdered his friend and roommate, Larry Hooper, because Hooper didn't believe in God.

On December 18, 2005, after many months of postponements, Arthur Shelton, with his defense attorney, Seymour Swartz, appeared at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit, Michigan, before Judge Gregory D. Bill to face charges of murder in the first degree brought by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Christina Guiruis.

The trial began with the taped phone call Arthur Shelton placed to the Taylor police department in Taylor, Michigan, October 18, 2004, at precisely 12:44 AM. Shelton sounded calm and pridefull when he told the dispatcher he had just shot "the devil himself" with a revolver and a shotgun because "he (Hooper) didn't believe in God." Shelton told the dispatcher he was "still armed and ready to shoot again in case he moves. I want to make sure he's gone." When the dispatcher asked how many times he shot the victim Shelton replied, "hopefully enough."

Throughout the 15 minute phone call Shelton often repeated, "I'm a Christian and an Eagle Scout and I wouldn't lie," and "don't worry about me, I'm fine, but he's the devil." The dispatcher struggled to persuade Shelton to lay down his weapon and go outdoors with his arms raised. Shelton resisted, as he feared Hooper might not be "dead enough", but eventually complied.

Dead enough was an understatement. When the police arrived they were confronted with the grizzly scene of Hooper sitting upright on the couch with his head blown away and his brain laying on his hand. The autopsy report presented by the prosecutor was gruesome to be sure, but, for the record, Larry Hooper tested negative for all narcotics and alcohol.

Testimony by the arresting officer and the officers transporting Shelton to the police station revealed that while the officers were interested in gathering details about the incident, Shelton was obsessed with talking about God, the Eagle Scouts and stating he "would not talk to anyone who didn't believe in God but that he would talk to the police because he felt they believed in God."

On the second day of the trial the court played the videotape of the late night interrogation with Arthur Shelton. He appeared calm, cooperative and enjoyed the cookies and milk he was served. Once again Arthur was obsessed about talking about God and the Eagle Scouts. He stated he "was not sorry for a second that he killed Hooper." He stated, "In the eyes of the law I was wrong and will probably spend the rest of my life in prison, but in the eyes of God I have killed an evil person -- the devil himself." And when Arthur took the witness stand in his own defense he reiterated much of the same ideas.

Day three of the trial we heard summary arguments. The defense had little problem proving that Arthur is obsessed with religion, God and Eagle Scouts and pleaded for a verdict of not guilty due to insanity. The prosecution had little problem proving that Arthur was competent, knew the difference between right and wrong and called for a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. As this was a wavered trial Judge Bill rendered his verdict quickly -- guilty of second-degree murder with mental illness.

On December 19, 2005, we returned to Judge Bill's court to witness sentencing of Arthur Shelton. The prosecution asked for the 'high end' of punishment - 25 to 45 years, while the defense was still pleading for not guilty due to insanity or, at the very most, a soft sentence at the 'low end' of punishment 15 to 22 years. Judge Bill invited Shelton to make a statement and after fumbling for words Shelton stated he was sorry that Larry was dead but he did a job that had to be done. He stated that he actually, "saw fire and smoke coming from Larry's eyes and knew he was the devil himself."

Judge Bill proceeded to tenderly read letters written to him from Shelton's family members pleading for leniency. Shelton sat facing the audience and blew kisses to his tearful and sometimes sobbing family. In the end, the now stern-faced Judge Bill pronounced sentencing -- 25 to 45 years. Shelton was stunned and tried to negotiate the sentence stating, "I'm 50 years old and that is as good as a life sentence." Judge Bill responded, "Mr. Shelton you gave Larry Hooper a life sentence by committing one of the most heinous murders to come before my court." (In a private conversation, the prosecutor, Ms Guirguis, explained that Michigan law requires that Shelton must serve 25 years before being eligible for parole.)

I add now a disgusting chain of events that took place in the courtroom, the hallways, the lobby of the court building, the staircase outside of the courthouse and even the ladies bathroom. George Shiffer and myself attended day one of the trial. Upon arrival we were asked who we were and I gave the court my American Atheist business card. Word that we were Atheists traveled fast in this court room that offered very limited seating and the only others in attendance were 11 members of Shelton's family who immediately began taunting George and me with "the people from hell, evil, and devils." At breaks they waited for us in the hall and continued with more of the same while adding "God loves you" and blowing us kisses and shoving their crosses (worn on chains around their necks) in our faces. Several of the women even followed me into the bathroom and did their best to intimidate me with their crosses. Through it all George and I never flinched, but at the conclusion of the day I reported this taunting to the Officer of the Court who admitted that they were aware of the problem and escorted us to the elevator, past and to the disappointment of the waiting group of 'good Christians'.

On Day two when George and I, together with Joe Milon, entered the court room the taunting began immediately. Within an hour the Judge announced that those making gestures and faces had better cease or they would be removed. For the balance of the day the Christians wore their neck crosses on their backs, as we were seated in the back row, while constantly flopping them about with their hand. When we returned from lunch (without court escort) the Christians were waiting for us on the seventh floor and lunged at us with small signs they had painted -- 'Jesus lives', 'God loves you' -- and, again, thrusted their crosses within 2 or 3 inches from our noses. Tempers flared and a brief shouting match began. Brief because the court officers were there in a flash.

Day three found Atheist Lee Helms in the same taunted position of the previous days though he was not known to the court or the Christians. At the conclusion of the day an officer of the court detained him stating they have been having trouble with 'those people' (Christians) and escorted him to the elevators.

Even with all that behind us, December 19th, the day of sentencing, was still a horrific experience for myself, George Shiffer, Joe Milon, Lee Helms and Marty Maier. When leaving the courtroom the 'Christian' Shelton family lay in wait for us in the hallway. Their tears dried, they surrounded us shouting these comments: "The one good thing of all of this is that another Atheist is dead and the world is better off for it" and "The only good Atheist is a dead Atheist."

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New planet found near giant red star

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A planet was discovered by a team led by U.S. astronomer Alex Wolszczan, who in 1992 discovered the first planets found outside the solar system.

The newly discovered planet is orbiting a giant red star that is 10 times larger than the sun. The planet circles the giant star every 360 days and is about 300 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Perseus.

The planet is the first discovered by Penn State astronomers using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, which is operated by the University of Texas at Austin at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, for several universities, including Pennsylvania State University.

"After astronomers have spent more than 10 years searching for planets around sun-like stars and discovering over 250 planets elsewhere in our galactic neighborhood, we still do not know whether our solar system's properties -- including life-supporting conditions on our planet -- are typical or exceptional among solar systems throughout the galaxy," said Wolszczan.

The discovery is to be reported in a November issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

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Dark Matter: All Wrong?

Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Aug. 3, 2007 — The mysterious dark matter that's been called on to make sense of the ways galaxies twirl through space may not exist, if an alternative theory is right.

The surprising way galaxies rotate — as if they are much larger and heavier than they appear to be — has long implied to astronomers and astrophysicists that there is more matter out there holding things together than we see.

That unseen and unseeable matter has fallen under the catch-all term "dark matter." These days, the most likely candidate for what makes up dark matter is some sort of weakly interacting particle that we've so far failed to detect.

But there is another radically different possibility: What if gravity itself doesn't work quite the way we think? Maybe at the outer edges of galaxies where the gravitational acceleration — the g — of a galaxy is extremely small, gravity tugs just a tad bit more.

If so, that miniscule difference could be enough to cancel the need for dark matter altogether. That's what the Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) theory suggests, astronomer Stacy McGaugh explains in an article in the Aug. 3 issue of the journal Science.

"It's definitely not getting enough attention," said McGaugh of MOND. One reason is that the tiny difference in g which MOND requires is hard to detect. "Even in the inner solar system, the effect is negligible."

To put it into perspective, the g McGaugh is talking about is 1/100 billionth of 1 g. The gravitational acceleration we feel at the surface of the Earth is 1 g, and the Earth feels about 1/10,000th of a g from the sun.

The Hubble telescope spies a new class of planets.

"It's definitely not getting enough attention," said McGaugh of MOND. One reason is that the tiny difference in g which MOND requires is hard to detect. "Even in the inner solar system, the effect is negligible."

To put it into perspective, the g McGaugh is talking about is 1/100 billionth of 1 g. The gravitational acceleration we feel at the surface of the Earth is 1 g, and the Earth feels about 1/10,000th of a g from the sun.

Some scientists think the MOND g has already been detected by NASA monitoring the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecrafts, which are now 40 to 60 times further from the sun than Earth.

"They show an extra acceleration directed towards the sun at about the same order of magnitude," said McGaugh.

But he's skeptical, since even a change in the solar wind or even a tiny fuel leak could create the same effect. Also, it's not at all clear that the Pioneers are far enough away to be under the influence of the altered MOND g.

Nor is MOND the only alternative.

"Another possibility is that the dark matter particle is somewhat different than in the standard theories," said astrophysicist James Bullock of the University of California at Irvine. "Of course, I could be wrong and Stacy could be right. This is exactly why we need to keep obtaining new data and making ever more accurate predictions."

New telescopes now being built or planned could clear up the matter soon, Bullocks said.

"This is an exciting area of research that will prove enlightening — one way or the other — over the next 10 years or so," he added.

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Jaws, Teeth of Earliest Bony Fish Discovered

Fossils of sardine-size fish that swam in ancient oceans are the earliest examples of vertebrates with teeth that grow from their jawbones, according to new a new study.

The fish, which lived 420 million years ago, are a "very modest" beginning for the jaw-and-tooth pattern widespread in nature today, said study co-author Philippe Janvier, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France.

"It's really the first evidence that we have of the earliest bony fishes—the earliest ancestors of all the fishes that have the[ir] bones and teeth implanted in the bones of the jaw," Janvier said.

Modern bony fish such as cod, herring, and coelacanths have this tooth arrangement. So do tetrapods—four-limbed creatures such as frogs, crocodiles, and humans, which are all descendants of bony fishes. (Related: "Fossil Fish With 'Limbs' Is Missing Link, Study Says" [April 5, 2006].)

When a bony fish or a tetrapod loses a tooth, a new one grows from the bone below the void, whereas other jawed vertebrates, such as sharks, have teeth that grow from inside their gums. Sharks have skeletons of cartilage instead of bone.

Shark teeth are lined up in "families." New teeth grow at the inner end of their respective tooth family, and old teeth fall off at the end of an inside-out progression—similar to a conveyor belt.

Though fossil representatives of the earliest members of each of these living groups are well known, the earliest stages of jawed vertebrate evolution presents a fuzzier picture.

The new fossils help clarify these questions, Janvier said.

Transition Fossils

The researchers discovered the telltale bony fish fossils among fragments collected on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Other fragments came from boulders carried to Germany by glaciers a few million years ago.

Some of the fossils belong to the species Andreolepis hedei and others to Lophosteus superbus, fish previously identified by scale and head bone specimens.

Whether they were truly bony fish or more like sharks was an open question, however.

Two of the new fossils suggest a direct link to bony fish: tooth-bearing jawbones.

What's more, the bones show a tooth pattern that is in between the tooth rows of sharks and bony fishes.

Though these ancient bony fish teeth grew from a bone, old teeth remained attached to the bone. New, larger teeth grew at the inner end of each tooth file.

"It shows a sort of transition between the shark condition and the bony fish condition," Janvier said.

Within 20 million years after Andreolepis hedei and Lophosteus superbus lived, the first bony fish with much larger teeth characteristic of modern bony fish and tetrapods appear in the fossil record. This was during the Devonian period, 416 to 359 million years ago. (Related: "Ancient Fish Fossil May Rewrite Story of Animal Evolution" [October 18, 2006].)

"That's very important because it allowed the bony fishes to become predators," Janvier said.

Sharks also existed in the Devonian, but they were "humble compared to the bony fishes," he said.

The first bony fishes probably ruled the seas, rather than sharks, because the bony fishes' teeth lasted a longer time in the jaw.

"Then, later on, the sharks ... became much larger and big predators," Janvier added.

The study appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

Sorting Characteristics

Michael Coates, a biologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois who studies early vertebrate evolution, was not part of the research team.

He said the discovery of rare fossils like the ancient bony fish allows scientists to sort general, primitive characteristics of all jawed vertebrates from the more specialized features that distinguish sharks from bony fishes.

The new study, he noted, clearly shows that Andreolepis and Lophosteus are bony fishes, but their tooth pattern raises a question about what makes a shark a shark.

"Growing teeth in this serial manner around the jaw margin—which once upon a time looked like it was unique to sharks—now looks like it is a general system."

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Odd Skull Boosts Human, Neandertal Interbreeding Theory

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
August 2, 2007

A human skull from a Romanian bear cave is shaking up ideas about ancient sex.

The Homo sapiens skull has a distinctive feature previously found only in Neandertals, providing further evidence of interbreeding between the two species, according to a new study.

The human cranium was found during World War II mining operations in 1942, in a cave littered with Ice Age cave bear remains.

Recently the fossil was radiocarbon dated to 33,000 years ago and thoroughly examined, revealing the controversial anatomical feature.

The otherwise human skull has a groove at the base of the back of the skull, just above the neck muscle, that is ubiquitous in Neandertal specimens but has never been seen in the remains of a modern human, argues study leader Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

"I was frankly quite surprised to see it when I was looking at the specimen," Trinkaus said. "My first reaction was, that shouldn't be there."

Writing in the August issue of Current Anthropology, Trinkaus and his colleagues say that the skull supports interpretations of other remains found in France, Romania, and the Czech Republic that also have "archaic" or unusual features suggesting interbreeding.

Ancient Debate

Archaeological evidence shows that humans and Neandertals (often spelled Neanderthals) both lived in Europe for several thousand years after the arrival of modern humans about 35,000 years ago. (Learn more about human migrations.)

But the relationship between the two species is hotly debated.

Many researchers believe that modern humans killed off or simply outcompeted Neandertals until the latter went extinct.

Trinkaus and others, however, have suggested that Neandertals became absorbed into Homo sapiens. (Related: "Neandertals, Modern Humans Interbred, Bone Study Suggests" [October 30, 2006].)

Recent DNA research has cast doubt on this theory, suggesting that although humans and Neandertals share some 99.5 percent of their genetic blueprint, their last common ancestor lived some 400,000 years ago. (Related: "Neandertal Gene Study Reveals Early Split With Humans" [October 26, 2006].)

According to Trinkaus, however, the fossil record yields a pretty clear picture of the early humans who first moved out of Africa to populate the rest of the world.

Neandertal features like the skull groove were either not present among those populations or were so rare that they've not yet been found, he said.

"So when we find them in early modern humans in places like Europe, it's a probability statement—either they were very rare in ancestral humans but popped up in these humans or they were something acquired through some small level of admixing with Neandertals," he added.

"We have enough of them now that with each trait the probability of it being just something we haven't seen yet in the early Africans becomes less and less."

Some interbreeding shouldn't be surprising, he continued, because of the sparse populations of humans and Neandertals in ancient Europe.

"As for sex in the Pleistocene [Ice Age] ... I expect they had it," he said. "Neither humans nor Neandertals had a lot of mate choice and, well, that's what happens in the real world. People do what people do."

Random Aberrations?

But the story of the skull is not so straightforward.

Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, cautions that the groove feature might not be exactly the same as those found in Neandertals.

It may simply be a type of unusual feature expected in a variable human population like the group that colonized Europe, he said.

"If you look at a thousand modern humans, you can often find one or two that have a bump here, or a groove or depression there," he said.

"That doesn't make them Neandertals or prove that there was a Neandertal in their ancestry some 30,000 years ago."

Delson, however, did not rule out the theory of human-Neandertal interbreeding.

"[Individuals] may cross species boundaries in mating, and [in this case] we are defining the two different species by morphology—these are [all] people. People might see each other, for whatever reason, as potential mates.

"But the genetic evidence is not in favor of hybridization, and this fossil does not convince me, nor do the several from Central Europe. I am still waiting for a 'smoking gun,' or perhaps in this case 'a bleeding hand axe.'"

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A modern human skull recovered from a bear cave in Romania shows a groove at the base, just above the neck muscle, that is ubiquitous in Neandertal specimens but has never been seen in the remains of a modern human.

Some scientists say this is more evidence for Neandertal-human interbreeding. But not everyone agrees with the controversial theory.

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Canada's Crossroads Walkers Prepare to Enter Ottawa: Parliament Hill Only Days Away

Supporters invited to Millenium flame on Parliament Hill at 11:00am on Saturday August 11

By Elizabeth O'Brien

OTTAWA, August 2, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After covering approximately 4,500 kilometers to encourage pro-life awareness and pray for an end to abortion, Canada's Crossroads Walkers are just over a week away from the long-awaited goal of Parliament Hill.

Ever since they started in Vancouver this May, the first Canadian group to perform the Crossroads walk has been taking turns day and night, burning up a set number of kilometers during each shift, in order to reach the capital by August 11. They have crossed the Rocky Mountains, traversed the prairies and made their way through the wilderness of Northern Ontario. Now they are only days away from Parliament Hill.

LifeSiteNews.com interviewed Crossroads participant Cyril Doll as he was walking along Highway 2, overlooking the St. Lawrence River northeast of Brockville. When asked what has been the most challenging aspect of the 3-month long journey, Doll said that it was the physical pain. "I think everyone could attest to that. The physical challenge has definitely been the hardest."

"It would seem as if the further along the easier it would get," he said, but that isn't the case. "Everyone's pretty beat up right now-the blisters, the wear and tear, the shin-splits."

The other most difficult part of the trip, he told LifeSiteNews.com, is the "apathy we've received from Canadians from coast to capital. If we don't have people constantly asking us what we're doing, supporting us, or even detractors, it's a temptation to lose focus. If you don't have someone either fighting you or patting you on the back, you kind of forget what it's all about."

He noted, however, that seeing people's apathetic attitude "strengthens our will to keep going, to say, 'hey this is needed. We have to keep going otherwise we're just a guilty as everyone else.'"

Doll also told LifeSiteNews.com that the greatest blessing, the most rewarding aspect of the journey has been "having faith and just knowing what we're doing is going to make a difference. We may not see the fruits of our work," he said, "but as Catholics we know that our pain, our suffering, our prayers are never going to go to waste. The good Lord is distributing the graces."

"It's rewarding knowing that at the end of the day, as a group of walkers, we can all rest in comfort knowing that we are reaching our goal."

At present there are seven walkers: Cyril Doll (Calgary, AB), Jeremy Fraser (High River, AB), Greg Roth (Saskatoon, SK), Etienne O'Toole (Vancouver, BC), Ben Broussard (Sulpher, LA), Sarah Gallaher (Manassas, VA) and Wendy Macagno (Mojave, CA).

The group is planning to arrive in Ottawa on Friday, August 10 in time to join a group of pro-lifers in prayer before the Morgentaler Abortion Site on Bank Street at noon. The next morning, they will then pray for an end to abortion in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Supporters are encouraged to gather at the Centennial Flame at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to give the walkers a warm welcome as they arrive at Parliament Hill. Pro-life MP Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) will be present and has said, "He is pleased to welcome them on Parliament Hill."

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Zionists Censor Rachel Corrie Play in Toronto but Political Art Prevails in Seattle

It appears that anti-free speech Zionists have chalked up another point for fanaticism against art - at least in Canada, where a new theatre production has been recently censored. The one-woman play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" was conceived by actor/director Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, an editor at the UK news publication The Guardian. The 90 minute play is based on the journals and emails of American anti-imperialist activist Rachel Corrie, who, frustrated with protesting her own government's involvement in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, joined with International Solidarity Movement volunteers in the Gaza Strip to activate change. On March 16th, 2003, she stood between an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer and a Palestinian's dwelling, in order to save it from becoming one of hundreds of piles of rubble that were once called "homes." The driver of the bulldozer proceeded to run over Corrie with the blade of the machine, dragging it over her forward, then -- not lifting it until it had finished the job -- dragging it back over her. Corrie suffered severely broken limbs and a crushed skull and died in hospital shortly after. She was 23 years old.

It is a tragedy that this young activist was brutally murdered by the Israeli government, and it is a sad fact that scores of young people continually die in the illegal occupation of Palestine, both Israeli and Palestinian. And while it is also sad that it often takes an American losing her or his life for others north of Mexico to take a closer look at the occupation it is just downright (predictably) disappointing that when Corrie's life, politics, and murder are turned into art, it is vehemently censored in both Canada and America...

Recently, the cowardly Canada Stage Company in Toronto caved in to "certain members" of their Board who were worried the play would offend and upset certain members of Toronto's Jewish community (as if there is one Jewish community). Let's not beat around the bush here, the "certain members" are bound to be of the conservative/rightwing/Zionist variety who also pressured theatre owners in New York City to back down in the face of political art (where the play was to have its debut, instead of where it was moved to, London). It was also recently cancelled/censored in Florida.

The play has received excellent reviews where it has managed to be performed, and Gina Whitfield reported today on infoshop.org that it has been selling out in Corrie's home town of Seattle. It seems that controversy follows this piece of art wherever it goes however, and as activist handed out pamphlets against the occupation to people in the line-up, Whitfield says that one bystander responded by saying she deserved to die because she blocked the bulldozer. The vitriol continued inside the theatre as well. Again, Whitfield reports:

The program for My Name is Rachel Corrie, incredibly, contains prominent advertisements that attempt to discredit the play. One from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle called “All the Rachels” claims that Corrie “fell in front of an Isreali Army Bulldozer” as she was trying to stop “an Isreali counter-terrorism operation”. The ad then goes on to list Israelis named Rachel who have been killed in suicide bombings. Further on in the program, a full-page ad warns audience members not to be “misled” because the play “does not tell the whole story,” and goes on to claim that Corrie was actually a member of an “extremist group”.

David Esbjornson, the Artistic Director of the theatre, has a letter in the program in which he explains his views on the play and the controversy surrounding it:

You may notice the advertisements that have been placed in the program attempting to discredit this play. Unfortunately, most who are critical of our decision to present My Name is Rachel Corrie have not seen the play…Buying ads in our theatre publication to denounce the work on our stage is unprecedented…Though deeply saddened by these actions, I acknowledge the rights of these groups to their free expression. Similarly, presenting My Name is Rachel Corrie is a form of free expression that we should embrace and protect.

One thing is certain, criticizing Israel and it's illegal occupation of Palestine is akin to criticizing the good 'ole USA these days: if you're critical it means that you're anti-semitic (or pro-terrorist/anti-patriotic, take your pick). Journalist Samer Elatrash puts it this way: "Not that I cared [about being accused of being anti-Semitic], overuse of the charge against pro-Palestinians had made it as banal as the porno money shot." The ultra-ultra right wing mental midgets in Yankee land have even put their own disgusting, hate-filled "art" online with a piece entitled Rachel "Road Kill" Corrie, proving once again that art is the weapon for not just the progressives out there.

And from Whitfield:

The purpose of art is to inspire us to be more than we are, to question our own assumptions or our entrenched ideas. My Name is Rachel Corrie certainly achieves this; it is an impassioned call to action. The depiction of her life forces the audience to question their assumptions about a young radical, who was in fact not dogmatic or hateful, but whose spirit was caring and who was desperately trying to find good and genuine beauty amidst a hideous conflict.

Let's hope that more people feel this way and are brave enough to have the conviction to back it up instead of caving in to pressure groups who would rather censor expression. For more on the play and the Zionist censorship, visit the International Socialist Online, for more on Rachel Corrie visit her tribute site, and for more on the International Solidarity Movement, go here. Finally, read the Guardian's review of the play.

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The new North American Union

A New America?

A Lou Dobbs segment on the North American
super highway and how it will be used with
the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership)
to create a 'North American Union' by default.



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Law on religion in school spurs fear

Jenny Lacoste-Caputo
Express-News Staff Writer Evangelical Christians point to 1963 as the year God was kicked out of school.

That's when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Madalyn Murray O'Hair's argument and abolished the practice of students reciting prayers and Bible passages in public schools.

Since then, there have been scores of legal battles over when, or if, religion can coincide with the school day.

This year, the Texas Legislature added more fuel to the decades-old debate by passing a law that could leave the spiritual conscience of a school up to the captain of the football team.

Lawmakers approved that law and two others that could ease the way for more religion in public schools. The changes will take effect when students return to classrooms in August.
New Rules From the Legislature
The Texas Legislature approved three new laws involving religion in public schools:

Elective Courses: The State Board of Education is given the task of adopting curriculum standards for courses on the Bible. The standards would have to be approved by the state attorney general to ensure constitutionality. The classes will focus on the history and literature of the Bible.

The Texas Pledge of Allegiance: The words 'under God' have been added. The new pledge will be: 'Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.'

The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act: Requires public school districts to adopt policies specifically allowing spontaneous religious expression by students. The provision would create a 'limited open forum' — an opportunity for students to speak about religious issues on the same basis as they're allowed to speak about other topics.

One of the measures adds the phrase "under God" to the Texas pledge, which schoolchildren say each day right after the pledge to the U.S. flag. Another directs the State Board of Education to come up with a curriculum for elective Bible classes to ensure that such classes across the state are being taught in uniform manner. Neither measure sparked much controversy.

The third new law, dubbed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, has superintendents nervous as they figure out how to implement it in the coming weeks.

It requires public school districts to adopt policies specifically allowing spontaneous religious expression by students. A so-called model policy included in the law states that upperclassmen who are student leaders — such as student council officers, class officers or the captain of the football team — should be designated as speakers.

The law does not address concerns that such a selection process could wind up leaving out minority faiths.

"This mandate is going to create a collision of ideas that should really take place outside of the school," Superintendent Richard Middleton of North East Independent School District said. "Our lawyer fees are going to go up because of this."

The new law creates a "limited open forum" that gives students the opportunity to speak about religious issues. It states that if a student speaker at a sports event, a school assembly or a graduation ceremony elects to express a religious viewpoint while addressing an otherwise permissible topic, school officials must treat the religious content the same as they would the secular content.

Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and director of legislative affairs for Free Market Foundation, helped draft the bill. He said it doesn't limit districts to the model policy.

Saenz's Plano-based group serves as the statewide public policy council associated with Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family organization.

"It is up to the discretion of the school district to decide who those people are as long as they're using neutral criteria," Saenz said. "The law says they can choose those in leadership positions or other students holding positions of honor."

But Doug Laycock, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has represented the American Civil Liberties Union on First Amendment issues, said the new law attempts to "create school prayer with plausible deniability."

"This is so irresponsible," Laycock said of the law. "It's going to cause legal problems for districts across the state, and they're going to be stuck with the lawsuits."

The law also requires schools to allow religious expression in artwork, homework or other assignments and allow religious clubs or prayer groups to meet in school facilities on the same basis as other student groups — something that was already taking place in San Antonio school districts.

Brian Woods, assistant superintendent for secondary administration at Northside ISD, said he'll have to figure out what counts as a limited public forum. Is it just graduation ceremonies and school assemblies, or does it include morning announcements, usually delivered by a student over a school's public address system?

In a diverse district such as Northside, where students speak more than 30 languages, ensuring that every view is represented and no one feels marginalized will be a challenge, Woods said. He also worries about the potential for conflict.

"If a kid on the football team expresses a religious message that is not in keeping with everyone in the room, will there be protests? That school principal will have to deal with that," Woods said. "What if someone wants their time to respond then and there? If we allowed a Christian to express a religious viewpoint, and then a Wiccan wants equal time, how could we prevent them from doing the same?"

The bill's author, Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, said the new law is consistent with the Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. He said the law does not give students any new rights or take any away, but makes it clear to school districts that religious discrimination is against the law and guards students against censorship, he said.

Prayer and religion were never taken out of public schools, but teachers and principals have to walk a fine line to ensure that everyone's rights are protected. Many districts across the country — including North East ISD and Austin Independent School District — offer Bible classes as electives in high school. The classes are strictly academic and study the Bible as literature.

Schools also must allow Bible study or prayer meetings on their campuses on the same basis as other student groups, and students can organize so-called "See you at the Pole" prayer groups.

At an April news conference, Gov. Rick Perry championed the legislation.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a religious freedom group, said Texans would have been better served if lawmakers simply required school district personnel to be trained on students' existing rights.

The new law will create more problems and more lawsuits, she said.

"I don't believe it really gives students any more rights to express their faith than they already had. It denies input from community members and parents and supersedes local control," Miller said. "I think Texans should be nervous when the government tries to tell their kids how and when to pray and what to believe about God."

But Saenz of Free Market Foundation said the law clarifies a student's right to religious expression in public schools.

"The beauty of this legislation is to make it clear to schools that they can't discriminate based on belief," he said.

The Texas Association of School Boards' legal department offered guidance to school districts in a newsletter last month. The article pointed out that even offensive speech is protected and made it clear that the new law means hate speech and other discriminatory speech will now have a forum in public schools.

Texas Freedom Network's Miller said that's a problem.

"We could hear the lawyers knocking at the schoolhouse door when this bill passed," she said. "It plays politics with people's faith."

Comment on this forum post HERE!

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British Columbia Government Releases Overview of Controversial Pro-Gay School Curriculum

By Elizabeth O'Brien

VANCOUVER, BC, August 1, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new course that defends homosexuality and teaches students about the evils of discrimination based on sexual orientation is being piloted in BC high schools this fall. The course, a draft overview of which was released today, is part of a comprehensive pro-gay revamp of the entire BC curriculum.

In response to a case filed with the Human Rights Tribunal in 1999 by gay couple Murray and Peter Corren, the BC government decided last year to introduce new curricula from Kindergarten to Grade 12 that would be "inclusive" and homosexual-friendly. The pro-gay courses may become mandatory with provisions for barring parents from opting out or opting for an alternative course (see http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jun/06060101.html).

Today, the BC Ministry of Education released the draft overview for the new Grade 12 Social Justice pilot course, which is the first course to come out of the agreement with Murray and Peter Corren. In Prescribed Learning Outcomes, students are required to recognize and analyze injustice in various areas, including, "sex, age, mental ability, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation." Students will also have to analyze specific examples of injustice that have occurred in Canada relating to protected minorities, including those with differing sexual orientations. This will include "discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, oppressions, and/or hate crimes."

The curriculum also states that as a suggested achievement indicator, students should "examine their own attitudes, behaviors, values, and beliefs," by responding to certain questions. Among the list of questions students should ask themselves, is "How do my personal experiences and circumstances (e.g., age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, family, socioeconomic status) affect my perceptions?"

Students should also give examples of how the Criminal Code of Canada has addressed hate crimes. The course draft then gives only two examples of hate-crime - "holocaust deniers" and "gay bashers".

The course is intended to help students develop a "personal definition of social justice" and analyze how the law "reflects (or fails to reflect) societal values." Among the list of terms that a successful student must understand are "hate crime", "hegemony," "prejudice," "sexism," "stereotyping", "heterosexism" and "homophobia."

Similarly, in another proposed Family Studies course for Grades 10 to 12, also part of the gay-friendly curricula, successful students must be able to describe a variety of family structures-including same-sex families. They will also have to analyze the "the legal and financial implications of ending a committed relationship, including heterosexual and same-sex marriage, common-law, sponsored spouse, engagement, and long-term dating."

Ministry of Education representative Adrienne Gnidec told LifeSiteNews.com that the course is only being introduced as an elective into seven classrooms in seven different BC districts this fall. It will not be finalized until next September.

The BC Ministry of Health did not reply with comments prior to press time.

Read the Draft of the Grade 12 Social Justice Course:

http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/drafts/sj12_draft.pdf

The Social Justice Course response form deadline is December 10, 2007: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/drafts/sj12_response_form.pdf

To contact the BC Ministry of Education and respectfully voice concerns about the course:

Dr. Adrienne Gnidec, Content and Achievement Standards Unit
Ministry of Education
PO Box 9183 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9H9
Fax: (250) 356-2316
Phone: 250-365-2313
Email: adrienne.gnidec@gov.bc.ca or EDUC.Achievement@gov.bc.ca

Read the original story HERE!

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Atheist Blood Drive

In an attempt to show the world that atheists are every bit as charitable as the religious of society, and that we need no "divine warrent" to be so, the RRS has set up a daughter organization called Atheist Volunteers. We hope you will all chip in. The most prominent of it's projects is the Atheist Blood drive.

Click HERE to get more info on this important project!

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Atheist family on Wifeswap (no, not Jinxy this time)

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Guaranteed to CONVERT ALL HEATHENS!

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10 Ways to be an Atheist Activist

by Brian Parra with contributions from Bobbie Kirkhart, Victoria Parra and Ingemar Hulthage

So you’ve come to understand that you are an atheist. Now what? To the uninformed, it might seem that there isn’t much to do as an atheist. You’ve just decided to not be religious, time to get on with your life right? Well, in fact there is quite a bit to do as an atheist that encourages community, support for church/state separation issues and the national understanding of atheism. The following is a partial list of constructive and useful ways to positively demonstrate your atheism and lend your energies to a national movement. By no means is this a complete list and for the most part, they aren’t ranked in any particular order. Read on to find the ways that best suit your interests and above all else, be steadfast to your ideals.

10. Stay current on atheist matters.

9. Respond when people assume you are religious.

8. Broaden religious traditions.

7. Be a watchdog in your local community.

6. Join a membership group.

5. Support political lobbying.

4. Volunteer your time to support an atheist cause or any good cause in the name of atheism.

3. Share your atheism with people you know.

2. Share your atheism with other atheists.

1. Be a living ambassador of your ideals.

Check out my blog to see more info on each point.

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Students must remember God in Texas pledge

Aug. 2, 2007, 1:14PM
Students must remember 'God' in Texas pledge

By MELANIE MARKLEY
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.

Texas students will have four more words to remember when they head back to class this month and begin reciting the state's pledge of allegiance.

This year's Legislature added the phrase "one state under God" to the pledge, which is part of a required morning ritual in Texas public schools along with the pledge to the U.S. flag and a moment of silence.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who sponsored the bill, said it had always bothered her that God was omitted in the state's pledge.

"Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, 'You know what? We need to fix that,' " said Riddle, R-Tomball. "Our Texas pledge is perfectly OK like it is with the exception of acknowledging that just as we are one nation under God, we are one state under God as well."

By law, students who object to saying the pledge or making the reference to God can bring a written note from home excusing them from participating.

But adding that phrase has drawn criticism from some who say it's unneccesary and potentially harmful to children who don't share the same religious beliefs. "Most Texans do not need to say this new version of the pledge in order to be either patriotic or religious," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "This is the kind of politicking of religion that disturbs many Americans, including those who are deeply religious."

The revised wording in the Texas pledge took effect on June 15, and the Texas Education Agency sent an e-mail reminding school districts about the change earlier this week.

Officials with Houston-area districts say they will notify schools and parents about the new requirement.

Rebecca Suarez, spokeswoman for the Houston Independent School District, said a letter about the change will be sent home to parents when their children return to school. And a flier with the pledge's revised wording will be sent to each campus before classes start.

Texas has had a pledge of allegiance since 1933. In 2003, the Legislature required all schools to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags and observe a moment of silence every morning at the beginning of classes.

Texas isn't the only state that has its own pledge of allegiance. Other states include Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky.

Mississippi and Louisiana mention God in their pledges. And Kentucky lays claim to being blessed with "grace from on High."

melanie.markley@chron.com

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Masturbating really pisses Jesus off

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The Unthinking Majority

We don't need your democracy.
Execute them kindly for me.
Take them by their filthy nostrils
Put them up in doggy hostels.

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

I believe that you're wrong
Insinuating that they hold the bomb
Clearing the way for the oil brigade (x2)

I believe that you're wrong
Insinuating that they hold the bomb
Clearing the way for the oil brigade (x2)

Ooooohahh...

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

Anti-depressants
Controlling tools of your system
Making life more tolerable (x2)

I believe that you're wrong
Insinuating that they hold the bomb
Clearing the way for the oil brigade (x2)

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

We don't need your hypocrisy
Execute real democracy.
Post-industrial society
The unthinking majority

I believe that you're wrong
Insinuating that they hold the bomb
Clearing the way for the oil brigade (x2)

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Judith

If i had a god, it would be Maynard...

You're such an inspiration for the ways
That I will never ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How the savior has abandoned you
Fuck your God
Your Lord and your Christ
He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way
Still you pray, you never stray
Never taste of the fruit
You never thought to question why

It's not like you killed someone
It's not like you drove a hateful spear into his side
Praise the one who left you
Broken down and paralyzed
He did it all for you
He did it all for you

Oh so many many ways for me to show you
How your dogma has abandoned you
Pray to your Christ, to your god
Never taste of the fruit
Never stray, never break
Never---choke on a lie
Even though he's the one who did this to you
You never thought to question why

Not like you killed someone
It's Not like you drove a spiteful spear into his side
Talk to Jesus Christ
As if he knows the reasons why
He did it all for you
Did it all for you
He did it all for you

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My journey to Disbelief

by Rebecca

I am writing this more for my self than anything else. I send it out into the world to promote love and understanding between the religious and the un-religious.

We live in a world in which Atheists are hated, despised, and discriminated against by many. One research study found that atheist’s rate less trustworthy than Muslims, homosexuals, immigrants, and others.
http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/03/24/67686
I have had people stop talking to me, berate me with religious material, try to convert me, tell me that I will be going to hell, and others. I have to drive by churches around every corner, be blessed when I sneeze, told that I and my family will be prayed for (regardless of if I want my family prayed for), read under God on all of my money, and keep silent as “under god” is pledged to our country’s flag (a country that has freedom of religion?). People tell me that we live in a Christian Nation and that I should live with it. I wonder what Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. think about us living in a “Christian nation”? I wonder if these people know that Thomas Jefferson questioned religion and even professed to being a disbeliever in letters to his nephew? So I am writing to come “OUT” as an atheist. Not to evangelize to you. Just to be one more person out as an atheist, for the more people who are out as an atheist, the more acceptable it will become to BE an atheist. So here is my journey.

As a child I was raised without church attendance. My mother was raised Baptist and I couldn’t tell you what my father is because he doesn’t talk about it. It was generally taught that different people believe different things and I would come to my own beliefs as I grew up. I believe that this is THE BEST way to teach children about religion, instead of the force it down your throat that is so popular today. I have never understood the indoctrination we call baptism. How do you know your baby is Christian? Your baby doesn’t know if they are Christian or not. How do you know they will grow up to appreciate their baptism? Why not wait until the child is a young adult and old enough to decide if they WANT to be religious? I attended church only when we visited my grandmother and with a few friends after a few Saturday night slumber parties. I felt amazement about the world; however, I don’t ever remember a time that I really believed in God.

My passionate disbelief in God started at a poignant moment in my life. When I was in high school, a classmate was shot on Halloween by gang members over his little brothers Halloween candy. It was highly publicized and I along with most of my high school attended his funeral. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=DP&p_theme=dp&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EB1...
The funeral was extremely religious and the minister yelled and shouted how Jesus would save us. I was shocked and horrified. This man was saying that Jesus was going to save us. Where was Jesus when little children watched their older brother be shot over candy? If Jesus will save us, do we need to do anything to make the world better? Why not just let Jesus take care of everything and we can just sit around and watch? That is the day that I realized that religion had nothing to offer me. I left that funeral an Atheist.

Other minor events shaped my disbelief but none so poignantly as my daughter. She was my second child and as a baby she became extremely ill. I watched her so near death that the doctors would not give me any idea of if she would a make it or not. The only reason she is alive today is due to modern medicines that help her stay strong. 25 years ago, she would have died. Her condition was not even known to exist in children and baby deaths were often attributed to SIDS. No amount of praying would have kept her alive if she had been born any time before 1980. There was a woman who had a child in the same section of the hospital as my daughter. She wore a different Jesus T-shirt everyday. I made me feel sick every time I saw her. Why did this woman feel the need to advertise her god to me?

My daughter’s condition is good, with the thanks of the modern medicines that keep her alive. I still get upset about the religious right using their beliefs to stop research that may help her to a full recovery one day. I still get upset when people say that they will pray for us.

My advice for all the religious people of the world is to NOT assume that everyone is comforted in the same way as you. Being told that you are prayed for may help you get through a hard time; it just makes me feel worse. Tell people that you will be thinking of them unless you know that they share your views. When you find out a friend is an Atheist, DON’T try to convert them and PLEASE don’t end the friendship. Atheists are human beings; they love and hurt the same as everyone else. Atheists are good people. They have a lower crime rate and divorce rate that Christians. http://www.creationtheory.org/Morality/CrimeAndDivorce.shtml
We are good people and it doesn’t help us to tell us that we are going to hell just because we don’t believe in god. We don’t believe in hell anyway! If you assume that atheists are bad people, you are assuming wrong. Making us feel bad about our beliefs is wrong. Just as it would be wrong for me to tell a Christian that they are going to Jewish Hell or Muslim Hell because they are an atheist to those religions.

If you would like to understand Atheists, I recommend “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris. Please note that I don’t think that this will “convert” you to my atheism. More that you may come to understand and respect the atheists around you.

I am 100% for religious freedom. I think that each and every person in the country should have the right to practice whatever religion they see fit. I just want the people of the world to respect my right not to.

Feel free to forward this message out into the world.

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The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.