#0043 RRS Newsletter for August 13, 2007

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Good day to you all! I have decided to introduce yet another new feature, in the Community section I will be posting a new "Victim of Religion" story in each new edition highlighting a different case of the atrocities that religious fervor can bring about. These will be stories about individuals, people who may not get much press otherwise.

I would also like to plug a new site that was brought to my attention recently by one of the regulars in the stickam chat room, Atheist Rescources is an awesome site!

I would also like to remind you all about the Content Submission contest being held here on the RRS site. You could win some great prizes for your essays, articles, or other atheist inspired writings. I am also still looking for your de-conversion stories to post in this newsletter, if you wish to share it.

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

Rooks Intro to History class, Powerpoint presentations now available! Essay contest! Win Prizes!

RRS Michigan News

A reminder

Science News

Early Modern Human Skull Includes Surprising Neanderthal Feature Coelacanth Fossil Sheds Light On Fin-to-limb Evolution Perseid Meteor Shower to Peak This Weekend New, "Luminous" Galaxies Are a Wild Bunch

Religion

What the World Thinks of God Part 1-9 Pastor's prostitute takes on new role At least three killed in church shooting Pastor charged with assault at boot camp The Origins of Christmas (video)

Government

The Army Knew Iraq … About 60 Years Ago Iraq's Arms Bazaar Cohen joins House impeachment process 50 arrested at Washington sit-in

Community

Atheist Blood Drive Atheists for Autism Research Charity! Religious Victim of the day Unreasonably superstitious

Entertainment

Maher on American pride Bullshit episode on Icons Christopher Hitchens on the Daily Show "Passive" by: a perfect circle







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Rooks Intro to History class, Powerpoint presentations now available!





The Powerpoint Presentations for the RRS Academy Intro to Classical and Modern History, presented by Rook, are now available for download for anyone who wishes to do so. Special thanks go to Jason Hoblin on this.



Check it out HERE!





Essay contest





****UPDATE 7-22-07 CONTEST EXTENDED. GREYDON SQUARE CATEGORY ADDED. OTHER CHANGES AND PRIZES AWARDED. PLEASE REVIEW AGAIN AND SUBMIT SOMETHING!!!****

NOTE: DUE TO ERROR IN LINKS AND LOW SUBMISSIONS, THIS CONTEST HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MARCH 15TH, 2008.

IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION READ EVERYTHING FIRST, CLICK LINKS! COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS SHOULD BE POSTED PUBLICLY IN THIS THREAD FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL PARTICIPANTS! PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THE INFORMATION OF THIS SUBMISSION DRIVE FREELY.

The Rational Response Squad is proud to announce a call to action for content submissisions. We have been blown away by the positive feedback we've received from the freethinking community. Thanks to everyone who has placed a banner, or our player on your website and helped spread the word in some manner. We've received many great written submissions of thoughts and views, but had no place to put them, so we've created a guideline to help you, help us. The categories in which we need submissions are listed below, send us your best material. Your writings will be added to our library of articles, essays, and debunkings. We're hoping to build one of the largest and diverse free libraries of rational thoughts on the internet. Please post everything publicly on our forum so it's there for all RRS members to access who are working on this project. In addition to hosting everything in a free web archive, we may also compile views into a free e-book or a book for sale to generate money for activist projects. Not that you need a reward to share your views with others, but as a thank you we'll be awarding prizes to as many of the top participants as we can. Prizes will be awarded based on effort put in and quality of writing.

We've put the categories in order of need and may alter the order later as submissions come in.
Prizes will be awarded MARCH 15TH, 2008, but you can continue to submit content well after MARCH 15TH, 2008.

Read the whole list of rules, prizes and submission categories HERE!





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A reminder





The next RRS MI meeting will be held on Thursday, August 30th, topic still to be determined. I would like to get some people together for an outing to the Detroit Science Center for the "Universe Within" exhibit as well. It will be on a Friday, just not sure when yet. Admission is $20. I will keep you posted.

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Early Modern Human Skull Includes Surprising Neanderthal Feature





Science Daily — In 1942, a human braincase was found in Romania during phosphate mining. The skull’s geological age has remained uncertain. Now, new radiocarbon analysis appearing in the August issue of Current Anthropology directly dates the skull to approximately 33,000 years ago, placing it in the Upper Paleolithic.

Though this braincase is in many ways similar to other known specimens from the period, the fossil also presents a distinctly Neanderthal feature, ubiquitous among Neanderthals, extremely rare among archaic humans, and unknown among prior modern humans.

“The mosaic is most parsimoniously explained as the result of a modest level of admixture with [Neanderthals] as modern humans dispersed across Europe,” write Andrei Soficaru (Institutul de Anthropologie, Romania), Catalin Petrea (Institutul de Speologie, Romania), Adiran Dobos (Institutl de Arheologie, Romania), and Erik Trinkaus (Washington University, St. Louis). “Given the reproductive compatibility of many closely related species and the culturally mediated nature of mate choice in humans, such admixture should neither be rare nor unexpected.”

Known as the Cioclovina 1 neurocranium, the skull is one of a very small number of European early modern humans securely dated prior to ca. 28,000 before present. It is unusual in its preservation, showing little signs of external abrasion and no carnivore damage to the bone. The person’s age-at-death was probably somewhere in the 40’s, “best considered mature, but not geriatric,” the authors write.

The skull has been described from the outset as that of an early modern human, due to ear anatomy, details of the neck muscle attachments, and the presence of a high, rounded braincase. The lateral bones resemble those of recent human males. However, the area above the neck muscles contains a distinctly Neanderthal feature, a suprainiac fossa – a groove above the inion, or, the place on the bone at the lower back of a human skull that juts out the farthest.

“This feature implies some level of Neanderthal ancestry in this otherwise modern human fossil,” the authors explain. “It joins other early modern European fossils, from the sites of Oase and Muierii in Romania, Mlasdec in the Czech Republic, and Les Rois in France in indicating some degree of Neanderthal admixture occurred when modern humans spread across Europe starting around 40,000 years ago.”

Reference: Andrei Soficaru, Catalin Petrea, Adiran Dobos, and Erik Trinkaus. “The Human Cranium from the Pestera Cioclovina Uscata, Romania.” Current Anthropology 48:4.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Chicago Press Journals.





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Coelacanth Fossil Sheds Light On Fin-to-limb Evolution





Science Daily — A 400 million-year-old fossil of a coelacanth fin, the first finding of its kind, fills a shrinking evolutionary gap between fins and limbs. University of Chicago scientists describe the finding in the July/August 2007 issue of Evolution & Development.

The fossil shows that the ancestral pattern of lobed fins closely resembles the pattern in the fins of primitive living ray-finned fishes, according to the scientists.

“This ends intense debate about the primitive pattern for lobed fins, which involves the ancestry of all limbs, including our own,” said author Michael Coates, Ph.D., associate professor of organismal biology and anatomy at Chicago.

According to the researchers, the fossil’s pattern is similar to the branching arrangement still embedded in the fins of paddlefishes, sturgeons and sharks.“To understand the developmental evolution of the limbs of tetrapods [four-limbed vertebrates], we shouldn’t be looking at the fins of our nearest living fish relatives—lungfishes and coelacanths—because they’re far too specialized,” Coates said.

“Part of the reason why this is an interesting discovery is that people think of coelacanths animals as archetypal living fossils,” said Matt Friedman, evolutionary biology graduate student at Chicago and lead author of the paper. “But it’s a common misconception.  If you look deep in the fossil record to the first members of that group, they are really different and very diverse.”

Until now, many biologists have looked at lungfish as a primitive model of the evolution of tetrapods. “Our fossil shows that what we’ve been using to define a primitive state is actually very specialized,” Friedman said, “which means it might give a deceptive view of what evolution was like for these fins skeletons.”

“If you’re going to figure out how limbs evolved, you need to have a good idea about pre-conditions,” Friedman said. “You need to know what the ancestral morphology was. With things like this [fossil], we’re beginning to hone in on the primitive conditions of fins that gave rise to limbs later on."

Named Shoshonia arctopteryx after the Shoshoni people and the Shoshone National Forest, the fossil was excavated from Paleozoic sediments at Beartooth Butte in northern Wyoming.

Even though they both have been called living fossils, the discovery suggests that the two living groups of close fish relatives of tetrapods (lungfish and coelacanth) are both highly specialized, according to Friedman. Both groups acquired many of the same specializations, but independently of one another.

“They give this perception that maybe those are general characters, but we can show with fossils like this one that they’ve actually developed specializations in tandem,” Friedman said.

Shoshonia also supports recent work by the University of Chicago’s Neil Shubin, Marcus Davis and Randall Dahn that showed genetic expression of developmental patterns in fish fins and tetrapod limbs are conserved (Nature, May 24, 2007). “With this fossil, we have a conservative pattern in a close relative of tetrapods that is actually conserved in other fish groups outside of this immediate group,” Friedman said.

Not only does this fossil bridge the gap between primitive ray-finned fish and limbed animals like Tiktaalik roseae, the new data forces scientists to reassess the characteristics of the coelacanths, Friedman said.“

‘Living fossils’ are a problematic concept,” he said. “Often times the fossils look like living animals because the fossils are so poorly studied. Once you start to go in depth with the fossils, you start highlighting differences.”

Coelacanths were dubbed “Old Fourlegs,” because of their husky, limb-like fins. “When they first discovered them in the 1930s, people made all sorts of inferences about them,” Friedman said. “They assumed that it would use its fins to walk around on the bottom of the sea floor.

”Rather, these distinctive blue fish swim with their heads down, hovering just above the sea floor using an organ in their nose to detect living things in the mud.

“It was astonishing luck that we found it,” Friedman said, adding that the fossil had fallen off a cliff a couple of hundred feet high and landed in a different set of rocks. The four-inch long specimen details the fin of the animal, which the scientists approximate would have been about 18” to 24” long.

The scientists will return to the Wyoming site next summer to collect more samples.Postdoctoral researcher Philip Anderson also contributed to the paper. The dig was funded by a faculty research grant from the University of Chicago, and by the National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency.


Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Chicago.





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Perseid Meteor Shower to Peak This Weekend





Victoria Jaggard
National Geographic News

August 10, 2007




This year's Perseid meteor shower—which got underway this week—will light up the night for about two weeks, with the event's peak happening late on Sunday, astronomers announced.

"It's going to be a great show," Bill Cooke, of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a news release.

"The moon is new on August 12—which means no moonlight, dark skies, and plenty of meteors." But even with the lack of moonlight, experts recommend getting out of light-filled cities for the best view.

Skywatchers should already be able to see dozens of "shooting stars" an hour, with as many as one or two a minute during the shower's peak on Sunday.

As an added bonus, this year's moonless sky will offer a clear view of Mars just below the constellation Perseus, and several meteors will likely flit past the shining red "star" on August 12 and 13.

(Related: See red planet images from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.)

Each meteor is actually a pebble-size particle left behind in the wake of the large comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun about every 130 years.

Although the comet last passed by Earth in 1992, our planet sweeps through the orbiter's trail of debris every August.

(Related: "Comet Wiped Out Early North American Culture, Animals, Study Says" [May 23, 2007].)

The tiny pieces of debris hit Earth's atmosphere at a blinding 132,000 miles (212,000 kilometers) an hour, burning up and creating bright white streaks that are visible with the naked eye.

Named because they appear to originate from Perseus, the Perseid shower is mostly visible from the Northern Hemisphere.

Southern countries such as Australia rarely see any Perseid meteors.





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New, "Luminous" Galaxies Are a Wild Bunch





Anne Minard
for National Geographic News

August 10, 2007




Astronomers just got new glasses—and they're helping reveal the universe at its wildest.

A new study has found unusually large, prolific galaxies dating back to just two billion years after the universe formed around 13.7 billion years ago.(Explore a virtual solar system.)

Using new telescope technologies, a global team of 25 researchers are chronicling the galaxies' early lives, when they churned out stars a thousand times faster than the Milky Way, astronomers say.

"It's a real surprise to find galaxies that massive and luminous existing so early in the universe," said astronomer and lead study author Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Astronomers had believed smaller, dimmer galaxies were much more common in the early universe, because it takes time for galaxies to form and grow. (Related: "Eight New Neighboring Galaxies Found, Scientists Announce" [January 10, 2007].)

The findings were published this week in the Astrophysical Journal.

Sharper Focus

Astronomers believe the galaxies are so violent, with new stars constantly colliding and merging, that they also churn out massive amounts of dust. (Related: "Colossal Four-Galaxy Collision Discovered" [August 7, 2007].)

Grant Wilson, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Massachusetts and a co-author on the new paper, said astronomers once underestimated the rate of early star formation in bright, active galaxies because their dust hid the starlight.

But because the new galaxies are so massive and hot, their stars heat the surrounding dust to about -387 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 degrees Celsius)—about twice as warm as dust in the Milky Way.

Those are perfect conditions for astronomy's newest tools—telescopes that are built to capture nonvisible light—to detect the galaxies, experts say.

Old News?




Not all astronomers agree the results are such a surprise.

The new paper is one of several in the past two years that have "discovered" the wild galaxies.

Scott Chapman at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy in the United Kingdom published his own sightings of such galaxies in 2005.

He said the current paper "really does not offer anything new to the speculation."

George Rieke, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, led NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope team for 15 years. He declined to comment on the paper.

"I think praising the new work would get me in trouble with those who did the older effort," he said.

Nevertheless, the new galaxies further open a stunning new window into the skies, many experts agree. (Learn about galaxy hunters.)

You Can't Believe Your Eyes

Wilson said it took so long to see these galaxies partly because of human bias.

"Our eyes are adapted to optical light and that's how we built our telescopes," he said.

But dust hides most of the starlight in the bright galaxies, and optical telescopes aimed straight toward them—even the Hubble Space Telescope—see only darkness.

The Spitzer Space Telescope can see the galaxies because it uses infrared wavelengths, though it gets interference from other galaxies.

A newer breed of telescope, called submillimeter telescopes, uses wavelengths between the infrared and radio wavelengths.

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which originally spotted the new galaxies, will soon be fitted with a new submillimeter camera.

The device will allow it to detect hundreds to thousands of hot, distant galaxies every year.

And the Large Millimeter Telescope, under construction now in Mexico, will open the door to discovering hundreds of such galaxies per hour, rather than hundreds per decade, Wilson of the University of Massachusetts said.

The galaxies provide countless opportunities to study new stars.

Scientists still don't really know how stars form or how starbursts happen, Wilson said, but now all those processes may come into focus.





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What the World Thinks of God Part 1-9





What the World Thinks of God 1






What the World Thinks of God 2






What the World Thinks of God 3






What the World Thinks of God 4






What the World Thinks of God 5







What the World Thinks of God 6






What the World Thinks of God 7






What the World Thinks of God 8






What the World Thinks of God 9








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Pastor's prostitute takes on new role

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The male prostitute who exposed a sex and drug scandal involving Colorado preacher Ted Haggard is set to make his stage debut in Boulder.



Mike Jones, 50, revealed last October that he had used methamphetamine and conducted had a sexual relationship with Haggard, who at the time was pastor of the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jones is set to debut Thursday at the Boulder International Fringe Festival in "Porridge," a play about three Gulf War Marines who "go AWOL after being exposed to friendly-fire nerve gas in an all-base orgy," playwright Brian Bauman told The Denver Post.

Bauman said he was moved to add Jones' role -- Private Ed -- to the play after reading his book "I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall," in which Jones describes encounters with military men who felt they had to hide their homosexuality.

The playwright said he felt sorry for the way Jones was treated by many members of Colorado's gay community -- who blame him for the defeat of a ballot measure allowing basic rights for same-sex couples.

Jones went public about his relationship with Haggard just six days before the election.

He is not sure what his next undertaking will be, he said.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.


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At least three killed in church shooting

NEOSHO, Mo., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- At least three people were killed and several others were wounded Sunday when a gunman opened fire inside a church in Neosho, Mo.



Desiree Bridges, a spokeswoman for the city, told the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader the gunman held about 25 to 50 people hostage briefly following the shooting in the sanctuary at the First Congregational Church.

Authorities said they received a call about the shooting at 1:54 p.m. local time. Police said they secured the scene and began negotiations with a suspect.

The gunman surrendered and was being held at the Newton County Jail. His identity was not disclosed, but Bridges said he was related to someone in the church

Police said they recovered three guns from the suspect.

As many as six people were reported wounded in the shooting.

The shooting occurred during a service for a group of people from the Marshall Islands who use the church, the News-Leader said.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt offered condolences to the victims' relatives and the Neosho community. He ordered state officials to assist local law enforcement in investigating the shooting, the newspaper said.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.



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Pastor charged with assault at boot camp

SAN ANTONIO, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- A retired Air Force instructor has been charged with assaulting a girl at a Christian boot camp he runs in Texas by tying her and dragging her behind a van.



The girl said Charles Flowers dragged behind a van when she failed at a running exercise.

Nueces County Sheriff's Department deputies arrested Flowers Friday at the Faith Outreach Center in San Antonio, The San Antonio Express-News reported. A trainer at the camp, Stephanie Bassitt, was arrested at her home.

Flowers, who is also a Christian pastor, is the commandant of the Love Demonstrated Ministries boot camp in Banquete, outside Corpus Christi.

The 15-year-old girl's mother became concerned after the girl was taken to a hospital for treatment of abrasions on her limbs and abdomen. The girl said she was tied to the van and then dragged on her stomach.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.






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The Origins of Christmas (video)





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The Army Knew Iraq … About 60 Years Ago

A War Department handbook published in 1943 stressed that respect for a people and their culture was a key to victory.

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Aug. 9, 2007 - In 1943, U.S. servicemen stationed in Iraq were issued a pocket-size 41-page book entitled “A Short Guide to Iraq.” In straightforward prose, the book gave American soldiers a primer to help them through the cultural snarls and byways of the country in which they were stationed. They learned a little history, a little geography and a smattering of vocabulary and grammar.

In light of what we know about Iraq and the Middle East today, the book’s contents look a little slight. But when you reflect on what Americans knew about a then-obscure corner of the world in 1943, it looks like a godsend. Back then there was no television to beam a country’s culture into living rooms around the world. You couldn’t Google “Iraq” and learn basic history and culture on the fly. “A Short Guide to Iraq”—recently republished by the University of Chicago Press as “Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq During World War II”—filled a big gap in the knowledge of American troops in Iraq, and its overall message was certainly admirable: “You aren’t going to Iraq to change the Iraqis. Just the opposite. We are fighting this war to preserve the principle of ‘live and let live.’ Maybe that sounded like a lot of words to you at home. Now you have a chance to prove it to yourself and others. If you can, it’s going to be a better world to live in for all of us.”

Over and over, the book offers advice built upon the twin notions of tolerance and respect:

“Bread to the Moslems is holy. Don’t throw scraps of it about or let it fall on the ground.”

“In a house or a tent, follow the rule of your host. If he takes off his shoes on entering, do the same.”

Some of the advice is embarrassingly dated, not so much in what it says as how it says it: “If you should see grown men walking hand in hand, ignore it. They are not ‘queer'.” Some of it is, in light of contemporary conditions, laughably understated: “The Iraqis have some religious and tribal differences among themselves.” But to their credit, the anonymous authors of this book never try to oversimplify or make something out to be less complex than it is: “It is a good idea in any foreign country to avoid any religious or political discussions. This is even truer in Iraq than most countries, because it happens that here the Moslems themselves are divided into two factions something like our division into Catholic and Protestant denominations—so don’t put in your two cents worth when Iraqis argue about religion. There are also political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen.”





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Iraq's Arms Bazaar

How firearms intended for Iraqi security forces are winding up in the hands of extremists across the region.



By Christopher DickeyNewsweek

Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue - On the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2006, at a small church in the Turkish Black Sea city of Trabzon, Father Andrea Santoro was kneeling in prayer when a bullet from an Austrian-made Glock 9mm pistol hit him in the back and pierced his heart. The soft-spoken 60-year-old Italian priest, who lived in poverty ministering to the city's tiny Christian community, slumped to the floor, and the killer squeezed off another round. "Allahu akbar!"—"God is great"—said the shooter, a 15-year-old boy with a grudge against the West.

In May of last year, another Muslim fanatic, guns blazing, attacked Turkey's supreme court in Ankara. Four justices were wounded and one was killed. The assassin's weapons of choice were a pair of Glock pistols.

The attacks were no mystery. What puzzled Turkish police was the weapons' origin. Glocks are high-quality sidearms, but by last year they had practically become common street weapons in Turkey. More than 1,000 had been taken from criminals, guerrillas, terrorists and assassins all over the country, and authorities believed tens of thousands more had found their way onto the black market—but from where? The Austrian government repeatedly checked the serial numbers of the murder weapons. The manufacturer informed Ankara that the pistols were consigned originally to " 'US Mission Iraq' [formerly the Coalition Provisional Authority], address: Republican Presidential Compound, Ministry of the Interior, Baghdad, Iraq."

There are many more where those came from. At least three U.S. government agencies are now investigating the massive "disappearance" and diversion of weapons Washington intended for Iraqi government forces that instead have spread to militants and organized gangs across the region. The potential size of the traffic is stunning. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office last month showed that since 2004, some 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, bought with U.S. money for Iraqi security forces, have gone missing.

At retail prices in the United States, a Glock 19 costs about $500. On the black market in Turkey, it can fetch up to $3,500, according to the national police. A senior Turkish security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, said his government estimates some 20,000 U.S.-bought Glock 9mm pistols have been brought from Iraq into his country over the last three years. "The problem on our side is that this corruption is so big they [the Iraqi and U.S. governments] cannot stop it," said the official.

The U.S. military has investigated the problem repeatedly—and the losses look more appalling every time. Major U.S. arms transfers began when Gen. David Petraeus was commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command—Iraq (MNSTC-I), better known as Minsticky. Its mission was to train, arm and organize Iraq's military and police forces, but the Iraqis' weapons came via the State Department, and the supply line was actually run by private contractors. A certain sense of drama militated against good bookkeeping, too. In a recent radio interview, Petraeus—now the commander of all Coalition forces in Iraq—reminisced about helicopters ferrying weapons to Iraqi troops under fire at night in Najaf. Men were "kicking two battalions' worth of equipment off the ramp and getting out of there while we could," he said.

But there were also signs of problems more serious than bad record-keeping. One of Petraeus's subordinates, Col. Theodore Westhusing, had taken leave from his position as a professor of ethics at West Point to serve a six-month tour as commander of the unit training counterterrorism and Special Operations Forces. By the spring of 2005, Westhusing had grown increasingly concerned about the corruption he thought he saw in the program. He was especially upset after receiving an anonymous letter on May 19, 2005, which claimed there was outright fraud by government contractors. Among the alleged problems: failure to account for almost 200 guns.

Westhusing passed the letter up the chain of command. A few days later he wrote a formal memo saying he thought the charges were off-base. But at the same time his conversations and e-mails with his family members became cryptic and he seemed concerned for his safety. Colleagues said he looked exhausted and preoccupied. On June 5, 2005, Westhusing was found dead in his temporary quarters at Camp Dublin near Baghdad airport, apparently having shot himself with his own pistol. "I cannot support a [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars," he wrote in a note found near his body. "Death before being dishonored any more. Trust is essential—I don't know who to trust anymore."

Military investigators concluded that Westhusing's death was a suicide and that the various complaints he leveled against commanders and contractors were "unfounded." Westhusing had had trouble fitting in with other officers, became increasingly withdrawn and seemed depressed when he thought his tour might be extended. But his older brother doesn't believe he killed himself, especially not, as it happened, on his mother's birthday. "Everything he talked about and reported up his chain of command is coming out now: contract fraud, stolen guns and equipment, issues with killings," says Tim Westhusing, who works for IBM in Oklahoma.

General Petraeus declined to comment for the record on the death of Westhusing or the diversion of arms. A senior Pentagon official, talking on background because of the issue's sensitivity, said that a few weeks ago Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent the department's general counsel, Jim Haynes, to "meet with the Turks, hear their concerns and convey that we take them very seriously." The senior official added that in December 2005 the Pentagon launched a "wide-ranging" investigation—which he said was still ongoing—into corruption among contractors in Iraq.

But the first detailed investigation of the missing weapons was conducted last summer by Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. His team found there was a special problem with Glocks: 13,180 were missing, worth as much as $46 million on the black market. The more recent GAO study puts the total figure for missing pistols closer to 80,000.

Neither report comes to any conclusion about where those guns went—at least not publicly. A classified version of the GAO report will be submitted to Congress next month, and the Pentagon's investigation has been handed over to its criminal division and the FBI. But the Turks know what happened to hundreds of those guns, and the congregation of a little church in Trabzon knows only too well how one of them was used.





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Cohen joins House impeachment process

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Bills in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney were supported last week by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.



Cohen officially became a co-sponsor of the measures before leaving Washington last weekend, becoming the most recent Democrat to join the impeachment movement started by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the Memphis Commercial Appeal said Tuesday.

Kucinich introduced a resolution, that would also censure Cheney and President George W. Bush, in April and it has since garnered the support of 18 Democratic co-sponsors.

The impeachment process is oriented around Cheney's alleged involvement in several secret detentions and for his support of a U.S. wiretapping program.

Cohen said Monday that he has also begun an impeachment process against U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for his part in such activities.

"I just think that with what I've seen in these first seven months is that there's been so much disregard for the Constitution by the administration," Cohen said. "I've seen it firsthand on the Judiciary Committee with General Gonzales."

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.



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50 arrested at Washington sit-in

WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Cindy Sheehan and other anti-war activists were arrested Tuesday in a Washington sit-in demanding President George Bush's impeachment.



The group of about 50 people took their protest to the halls of the Rayburn Building, which houses congressional offices, after a meeting with Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., ImpeachBush.org said. Earlier, hundreds of people marched to the Capitol from Arlington National Cemetery to call for action against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for ImpeachBush.org, said Congress should act immediately to introduce articles of impeachment.

"Impeachment is not an option, it is a constitutional requirement," she said. "Representatives are mandated by their oath of office to carry out their constitutional duties."

Sheehan became one of the leading members of the anti-war movement after her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq.

While a number of Democrats in Congress also call for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid oppose it.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.



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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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Atheists for Autism Research Charity!





Check these guys out, and donate if you can!



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Religious Victim of the day





Girl tortured in the UK because of Christian belief in the devil





The girl, an orphan from Angola, received more than 40 injuries, including being cut with a knife, beaten with a belt and shoe, and having chilli peppers rubbed into her eyes in an attempt to "rid her of the devil". All were members of a church in east London, a "breakaway" faith practising a mixture of evangelical Christianity and traditional African spiritual beliefs. Detectives believe that dozens of children of African origin have been beaten and abused in Britain after being accused of witchcraft by family and friends in a "hidden crime" that is hard to detect and investigate.




Check out this and other stories at the Atheist Rescource website HERE!





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Unreasonably superstitious

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 11/08/2007



Michael Deacon talks to Richard Dawkins

This should be an enjoyable week for Richard Dawkins. Sunday, for example, represents an ideal time for him to launch a fitness programme. Next weekend, he could find love in the shape of a foreign-born person.

At least, that’s according to the horoscope for his star sign, Aries, on the website of the astrologer Russell Grant. But the website of another, Jonathan Cainer, cautions that ‘all will be fine for August – as long as you don’t think too hard about what things really mean.’

Looks as if Dawkins is in for hard times after all, then. Because this Monday, in the first of a two-part series for Channel 4 called The Enemies of Reason, he’ll be thinking hard about what a number of things ‘really mean’ – horoscopes among them. He’s examining the faith many people place in the superstitious and paranormal (such as fortune-telling and seances), and in practices that don’t stand up to rigorous scientific testing (such as dowsing and ‘alternative’ therapies).

‘I’ve long had a sceptical interest in such things,’ says Professor Dawkins, who’s an evolutionary biologist at Oxford. ‘It was a natural follow-up to the programme I did about religion the previous year.’

This was The Root of All Evil?, also for Channel 4, which – like his bestselling book The God Delusion – argued that religious belief is irrational and spreads conflict and ignorance. He believes only in things supported by hard evidence.

His thoughts about superstition are just as remorselessly rational. All very well to get worked up about religion, some might say, but surely reading horoscopes, for instance, is harmless fun?

‘I don’t think it’s harmless in an educational sense,’ says Dawkins. ‘The world is a wonderful place, and one of the most wonderful things is that we’re able to understand many aspects of it. So to be gulled into thinking that idiotic ideas are true… It’s educationally pernicious.’

Particularly since a decreasing number of school pupils are studying science subjects. ‘That’s very sad. I think it’s partly laziness. It’s not just scientific facts that matter, it’s the scientific way of thinking. I think that’s one of the things people are going to lose, the sceptical habit of mind: “Let’s see what the evidence for this is.”’

Some of the superstition-mongers Dawkins met while filming seemed merely dotty (one faith healer told him she had the power to add extra strands to his DNA, to match the quota of the ancient residents of Atlantis). Others, Dawkins felt, were cynical frauds.

He is disappointed that, because of ‘lawyers’ caution’, he was unable to include footage of an encounter he had with a tarot reader who claimed to communicate with the dead.

‘She said, “I can see your father on the other side. He’s sad because he didn’t get to say goodbye properly. He feels that you don’t think about him as often as he’d like.” I said, “That’s strange, because I saw my father only last week. He’s alive and well and living in Oxfordshire.” Immediately, she said, “Right, the interview’s over, stop the camera.”’

Dawkins also questions the way that tax-payers’ money is used to fund the work of homeopaths, who need no qualifications to set up a practice, whose work is unregulated by government, and who offer medicines that are effectively water. He says the popularity of such unproven remedies – Britons spent £1.6bn on alternative medicine last year – is worrying and ‘implicitly casts doubt on scientific medicine’. Meanwhile, properly tested medicines face lengthy delays before being granted approval for use.

The Enemies of Reason doesn’t touch on religion, but, thanks to the success of The God Delusion (in the UK it’s sold 180,000 copies to date in paperback), it remains the subject with which many people most closely associate Dawkins. They won’t be surprised to learn that he was unimpressed by the recent declaration by the Bishop of Carlisle that the floods across England were a ‘judgment’ by God in response to pro-gay legislation.

‘After The Root of All Evil?, I was accused of going after nutcases rather than serious theologians, such as bishops,’ says Dawkins. ‘If the Bishop of Carlisle said what he’s reported to have said, that is a beautiful example of the way people who are thought to be moderate theologians are actually just about as nutty as any of those I interviewed. And what he said is not just nutty, it’s also very nasty.’





Read the original story HERE!





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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket



Maher on American pride





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Bullshit episode on Icons






II.


III.




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Christopher Hitchens on the Daily Show









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"Passive" by: a perfect circle









Dead as dead can be
My doctor tells me
But I just can't believe him
Ever the optimistic one
I'm sure of your ability
To become my perfect enemy

Wake up and face me
Don't play dead 'cause maybe
Someday I will walk away and say
You disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way

Leaning over you here
Cold and catatonic
I catch a brief reflection
Of what you could and might have been
It's your RIGHT and your ability
To become my perfect enemy

Wake up
(Why can’t you?)
And face me
(Come on now)
Don't play dead
(Don’t play dead)
'Cause maybe
(Because maybe)
Someday
(Someday)
I’ll walk away and say
You disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way

Maybe you're better off this way (×4)
You're better off this (×2)
Maybe you're better off...

Wake up
(Why can't you?)
And face me
(Come on now)
Don't play dead
(Don’t play dead)
'Cause maybe
(Because maybe)
Someday
(Someday)
I’ll walk away and say
You fucking disappoint me
Maybe you're better off this way!

Go ahead and play dead
(GO!)
I know that you can hear this
(GO!)
Go ahead and play dead
(GO!)

Why can't you turn and face me?
(WAKE UP!)
Why can't you turn against me?
(WAKE UP!)
Why can't you turn against me?
(WAKE UP!)
Why can't you turn against me?
(GO!)
You fucking disappoint me

Passive-aggressive bullshit... (×12)



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The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.