#0051 RRS Newsletter for August 31, 2007

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

Table of Contents

Click HERE to find your local affiliate!

Rational Response Squad News

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RRS Affiliate News

Healthy Addict leading the charge... RRS Michigan Meeting highlights

Science News

Supersonic 'Rain' Falls On Newborn Star How To Speed Up Evolution: Switch Goals Amber Specimen Captures Ancient Chemical Battle Rosetta's Target Comet: Lumpy, Bumpy, Fluffy And Layered


Skeptics Bible Study Pastor had sex with daughters to teach how to be wives Crash Course in Islam The Atheist Test


Iraq militants killed by own missile Hillary Jokes Bill Looked Into No. 2 Job White House hopefuls love Iowa ethanol Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals


Atheist Blood Drive Atheists for Autism Research Charity! Religious Victim of the day Foot baths cause controversy at Dearborn campus


Skull fucking Collection of Doug Stanhope videos How to Piss Off an Atheist An oldie but a goodie!

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Healthy Addict leading the charge

Ashley (a.k.a. Healthy Addict) of RRS Ohio is leading a project to debunk the claims put forth by the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Several other local affiliate heads have signed on to help her in scientificaly refuting each and every claim put forth by the "Museum". The cooperative affiliate heads are, Zombie of RRS Ontario, Bumbklaatt of RRS Colorado, Lunar Shadow of RRS Northern California, Voiderest of RRS Texas, Will Power of RRS Alabama, and myself, Jack of RRS Michigan. This project is still in it's infancy, so more news as it developes. If you would like to assist us in our efforts, contact one of us, Voiderest and myself are regulars here on this site, and the others can be found in the affiliate section HERE , or by clicking their names above. The ultimate goal is to have the resulting material presentable and coherent in a format for tours of the "Museum" for children, to point out to them why all the claims put forth by AIG are horribly inaccurate in any kind of scientific context.

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RRS Michigan Meeting highlights

We met at local restaraunt/bar yesterday for the purposes of getting the local members up to speed on what the other affiliates and the parent group are up to. The points we covered were as follows:

  • Creation Museum project
  • Local affiliate stucture
  • The Rally in Austin Texas
  • Texas Board of Education
  • Local issues
  • This was our lowest turnout, so dicussion was pretty intimate. If you have any inquiries, direct them HERE on this site, or HERE on Myspace.

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    Supersonic 'Rain' Falls On Newborn Star

    Science Daily Astronomers at the University of Rochester have discovered five Earth-oceans' worth of water that has recently fallen into the planet-forming region around an extremely young, developing star.

    Dan Watson, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, believes he and his colleagues are the first to see a short-lived stage of protoplanetary disk formation, and the manner in which a planetary system's supply of water arrives from the natal envelope within which its parent star originally formed.

    The findings, published in Nature, are the first-ever glimpse of material directly feeding a protoplanetary disk.

    The embryonic star in question, called IRAS 4B, lies in a picturesque nebula called NGC 1333, about 1000 light years from Earth. It is one of an initial list of 30 of the youngest "protostars" known, which Watson and his team examined with the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared spectrograph for signs of very dense, warm material at their cores. It is also the only one of the thirty to show signs of such material, signaled by the infrared spectrum of water vapor.

    The watery characteristics of IRAS4B's infrared spectrum can best be explained by material falling from the protostar's envelope onto a surrounding, dense disk. This setup, called by astronomers a "disk-accretion shock," is the formative mechanism of the disks within which all planetary systems are thought to originate.

    "Icy material from the envelope is in free-fall, reaching supersonic speeds and crashing into the protoplanetary disk." says Watson. "The ice vaporizes on impact, and the warm water vapor emits a distinctive spectrum of infrared light. That light is what we measured. From the details of the measured spectrum we can tease out the physical details of this brand-new, pre-planetary disk"

    Among the details derived so far are the rate of "rainfall" onto the disk – about 23 Earth masses per year – and the characteristics of the "puddle" on the disk's surface: The surface is 170 degrees Kelvin (153 degrees below zero Fahrenheit), and at that temperature there is about an Earth's mass worth of material, including enough water to fill Earth's oceans about five times. The area of the "puddle" is such that, if circular and centered on the Sun, its perimeter would be just beyond the orbit of Pluto. Results such as this will help astronomers assess the early planet-forming potential of IRAS4B's disk, and by inference learn about the earliest stages of our solar system's life.

    There are astro-chemical implications of the observations as well. "There are lots of primitive icy bodies in our solar system, and the ice they carry is often thought to descend directly from the interstellar medium, so that by studying one we could learn about the other," says Watson. "But in NGC 1333 IRAS 4B's disk, it is clear that the water is received as vapor and will be re-frozen under different conditions, and this means that the oxygen and hydrogen chemistry of its disk is reset from interstellar conditions. It's not getting pristine, interstellar ice."

    Astronomers at the University of Rochester, including Watson and co-author professor William Forrest, helped design the "eyes" of Spitzer specifically to look for objects like IRAS4B and its water because such objects sit in an astronomer's blind spot. Called "Class Zero Protostars" for their extreme youth, these objects radiate substantial light only at long infrared wavelengths, which our atmosphere inconveniently blocks from ground-based telescopes.

    When Watson and his team first planned their Spitzer observations, only 50 class-zero protostars were known, and the team selected the 30 brightest. But Watson says that's just the beginning. Astronomers now know of hundreds of such objects, and Watson expects to have thousands to investigate in the coming years.

    Another characteristic makes the otherwise un-noteworthy IRAS4B a rarity. It is oriented with its axis pointed almost directly at Earth, splaying out its entire disk to our view and simplifying the process of plumbing its secrets. Only a small fraction of the future candidates are expected be similarly oriented, keeping the search for lots more "raining protostars" a challenge.

    This work was supported in part by NASA through the Spitzer-IRS Instrument Team, Origins and Astrobiology programs, and by the National Science and Technology Council of Mexico.

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

    Read the original story HERE!

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    How To Speed Up Evolution: Switch Goals

    Science Daily Is heading straight for a goal the quickest way there? If the name of the game is evolution, suggests new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the pace might speed up if the goals themselves change continuously.

    Nadav Kashtan, Elad Noor and Prof. Uri Alon of the Institute's Molecular Cell Biology and Physics of Complex Systems Departments create computer simulations that mimic natural evolution, allowing them to investigate processes that, in nature, take place over millions of years. In these simulations, a population of digital genomes evolves over time towards a given goal: to maximize fitness under certain conditions.

    Like living organisms, genomes that are better adapted to their environment may survive to the next generation or reproduce more prolifically. But such computer simulations, though sophisticated, don't yet have all the answers. Achieving even simple goals may take thousands of generations, raising the question of whether the three-or-so billion years since life first appeared on the planet is long enough to evolve the diversity and complexity that exist today,

    Evolution takes place under changing environmental conditions, forcing organisms to continually readapt. Intuitively, this would slow things down even further, as successive generations must switch tack again and again in the struggle to survive. But when Kashtan, Noor and Alon created a simulation in which the goals changed repeatedly, they found that its evolution actually speeded up. They even found that the more complex the goal -- i.e., the more generations needed reach it under fixed conditions -- the faster evolution accelerated in response to changes in that goal.

    Computerized evolution ran fastest, the scientists found, when the changes followed a pattern they believe may be pervasive in nature. In previous research, Kashtan and Alon had shown that evolution may often be modular -- involving adjustments to standard parts, rather than wholesale remodeling. They theorized that the forces acting on evolution may be modular as well, and for each goal, they defined subgoals that could each change in relation to the others.

    'In an organism, for example, you might classify these subgoals as the need to eat, the need to keep from being eaten, and the need to reproduce. The same subgoals must be fulfilled in each new environment, but there are differences in nuance and combination,' says Kashtan. 'We saw a large speedup, for instance, when we repeatedly exchanged an 'OR' for an 'AND' in the computer code defining our goals, thus changing the relationship between subgoals.'

    Although the main aim of this research, which appeared recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was to shed light on theoretical questions of evolution, it may have some practical implications, particularly in engineering fields in which evolutionary tools are commonly used for systems design; and in computer science, by providing a possible way to accelerate optimization algorithms.

    Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Weizmann Institute of Science.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Amber Specimen Captures Ancient Chemical Battle

    Science Daily It appears that chemical warfare has been around a lot longer than poison arrows, mustard gas or nerve weapons -- about 100 million years, give or take a little.

    A new study by researchers at Oregon State University has identified a soldier beetle, preserved almost perfectly in amber, which was in the process of using chemical repellents to fight off an attacker when an oozing flow of sap preserved the struggle for eternity.

    The discovery is the earliest fossil record of a chemical defense response, scientists say, and indicates that this type of protective mechanism -- now common in the insect world and among other animal species -- has been around for more than 100 million years. It's a sophisticated form of defense that clearly was in good working order while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

    "The chance of these circumstances all coming together at the exact right second was pretty slim," said George Poinar, Jr., a courtesy professor of zoology at OSU and one of the world's leading experts on distant life forms preserved in amber. "You have a prehistoric insect being attacked, using its defenses to ward off the predator and the whole event becoming captured in action as sap flowed down a tree. It's quite remarkable."

    The beetle was a small insect, about one-quarter inch long, which may have been in the process of becoming lunch for a giant roach or some other larger insect that apparently was 2-3 inches long, judging by the length of an antenna from the other insect also found in the specimen. The other insect either escaped the sap or was preserved in a different piece of amber, in these samples of Burmese amber that came from the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar.

    "This particular insect is now extinct, but the broader family of soldier beetles still exists, and they still use this same type of chemical defense mechanism," Poinar said. "That this type of defense has been preserved through 100 million years of evolution is evidence that it works pretty well."

    At the time of this event in the Early Cretaceous Period, huge animals such as dinosaurs still dominated the Earth, but scurrying beneath them were early mammals and large numbers of terrestrial invertebrates, such as these insects. Soldier beetles, then as now, were omnivores that lived on things like aphids, other tiny insects or plant pollen. Among other things, this finding pushes back the known existence of this type of beetle by about 60 million years. And at that distant time, they had already evolved ways to defend themselves.

    "This beetle was able to exude a sticky chemical substance that was irritating to potential predators, and caused them to go away or leave it alone," Poinar said. "It could even conserve its excretions and control the direction of the defense; in other words, produce the substance only on its left rear side if that was where the attack was coming from."

    Building on these types of early defense mechanisms, Poinar said, modern insects now have a wide range of defensive chemical arsenals -- things that are distasteful, nauseating or caustic, from chemicals such as phenols, aldehydes and ketones. Some contemporary soldier beetles can produce types of carboxylic acid, as well as triglycerides and glyceride esters.

    In insects, these types of defensive mechanisms are often a key to their survival.

    Amber provides a unique mechanism to preserve specimens such as this. Beginning as viscous sap from certain kinds of trees, it can trap small animals or other materials, acts as a natural embalming agent, and eventually can turn into a semi-precious stone that displays these ancient life forms in nearly perfect, three-dimensional form. The phenomena has been invaluable in scientific and other ecological research, allowing experts to help re-create more accurate pictures of ancient ecosystems based on the insect life that lived then.

    "Insects give us a fascinating window to the world, and they are survivors," Poinar said. "This particular species lived right on through the K-T Boundary at 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and many other species disappeared."

    "These insects were here a long time before humans, and we can learn a great deal from their remains," he said. "And they'll probably still be here a long time after our species is gone."

    The findings were just published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

    Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Oregon State University.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Rosetta's Target Comet: Lumpy, Bumpy, Fluffy And Layered

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    The image shows the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko observed in May 2006. The comet is the small, rather faint dot in the centre of the image, marked with a white circle. (Credit: Copyright Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research)

    Science Daily Observational and theoretical studies of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of ESA’s Rosetta mission, are building a detailed portrait of the comet’s nucleus as it travels around the Sun.

    Observations of the comet using the 8.2 m-ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) show an irregularly-shaped object that is about 4.6 kilometres in diameter with a rotational period of 12 hours 49 minutes.  Ms Cecilia Tubiana, who will be presenting results at the second European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Potsdam on Tuesday 21st August, said, “These observations were taken when the comet was approaching the furthest point from the Sun in its orbit. Rosetta will rendezvous with the comet in 2014 at a distance of about 600 million kilometres from the Sun. While a quite detailed portrait of the comet at small heliocentric distance has been drawn, a profound description of Rosetta’s target comet at large heliocentric distance is missing.”

    A team of scientists, led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, observed the comet’s nucleus in June 2004, May and August 2006 and July 2007, when the comet was at least 680 million kilometres from the Sun.  Surprisingly, although the comet was not active, they found that a faint dust trail is visible in the images of the comet, extending more than 500 000 km along the comet’s orbital path. Ms Tubiana said, “We believe that this dust trail is composed of large grains that the comet shed over the many times it has travelled along this path.

    Later on Tuesday 21st at the EPSC, Dr Jérémie Lasue, of the Service d’aéronomie in France, will present results of numerical studies that describe how a comet’s nucleus changes as it travels along its orbital path. Dr Lasue explained, ”Comets constantly evolve by ejecting material as their distance from the Sun changes and their temperature increases or falls. To land on a comet’s nucleus, you need to have a good idea of its structure, density and tensile strength. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko most probably has an irregular comet nucleus with crater-like depressions on its surface.  Our team has developed a three-dimensional model of the internal processes in the nucleus, allowing us to predict the thermal evolution and surface activity as the comet moves along its orbit." 

    Recent mission results suggest that a comet’s structure is highly stratified. Dr Lasue said, “Stardust showed that the dust ejected from the outer layers is composed of fluffy particles that can be relatively large.  These particles are rich in silicates and organics, which are the building blocks of life. Our simulations, for the first time, take into account the relationship between the impact history of the comet and the forces holding the comet’s constituents together.  This technique has enabled us to reproduce and interpret the amazing layered structure and surface features that Deep Impact observed at comet 9P/Tempel 1.  This is a new means to quantify the tensile strength of comet nuclei, which gives us vital information in preparing for Rosetta’s rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko."

    The teams of scientists from France and Italy in which Dr Lasue works, are developing these numerical tools to support two of Rosetta’s instruments: VIRTIS, which will determine the composition of the ices in the comet’s nucleus as well as emitted gases and dust, and CONSERT, which will investigate the deep interior of the nucleus with radio waves.

    Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by European Planetology Network.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Skeptics Bible Study

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    Pastor had sex with daughters to teach how to be wives

    AAP | Friday, 31 August 2007

    A fundamentalist church pastor had sex with two of his teenage daughters to educate them on how to be good wives, a South Australian court has heard.

    The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named, was yesterday sentenced in the SA District Court to eight and a half years jail after pleading guilty to seven counts each of incest and unlawful sexual intercourse.

    The court heard that the man had sex with his daughters for nearly a decade from 1991 when they were aged 13 and 15 at the family property.

    The sex took place at various locations including in a shearer's shed, a paddock, on the back of a ute and, on one occasion, at the girls' grandparents house.

    The man told the court the sex was not about fulfilling his desires but about teaching his daughters how to behave for their husbands when they eventually married, as dictated in scripture.

    In sentencing, Judge David Lovell said the misrepresentation of scripture used to justify the abuse of the girls "defied belief", and that he had "hypocritically betrayed" his religion and principles.

    "You said the acts were about learning about sex rather than engaging in the acts of sex," Judge Lovell said.

    "I do not accept that.

    "You treated your daughters as your property. . . using them to satisfy and gratify your sexual urges."

    Judge Lovell gave full credit for the man's guilty pleas, saying he was genuinely remorseful and had a good chance of rehabilitation as his wife and the church remained supportive.

    The man will be eligible for parole in four years.

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    Crash Course in Islam

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    The Atheist Test

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    Iraq militants killed by own missile

    KIRKUK, Iraq, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Iraqi police in the city of Kirkuk said two militants were killed while trying to move a missile in the city.

    Police said the militants were killed when the missile exploded about 10 p.m. Wednesday, KUNA, the Kuwait News Agency, reported.

    Police also said five militants were arrested Wednesday by an Iraqi multiforce squad along the Kirkuk-Riyadh Expressway.

    Meanwhile, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said troops operating in Karbala arrested 77 people accused of inciting riots while a special force was protecting the city's holy shrines.

    The ministry said the arrests followed two days of violence in the city that killed 35 people and wounded 130 others.

    The Iraqi Islamic Da'wah Party said Thursday that security meant to protect visitors to Karbala had been breached before the city's recent riots.

    The party released a statement calling for citizens to support Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's push to prosecute those responsible for the security breach.

    Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Hillary Jokes Bill Looked Into No. 2 Job

    Friday August 31, 2007 4:16 AM


    Associated Press Writer

    NEW YORK (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton has already had to forgo one potential running mate - her husband.

    Asked by talk-show host David Letterman if Bill Clinton could serve as her vice president should she be elected to the White House, the former first lady acknowledged that he could not.

    ``Believe me,'' she joked, ``he looked into that.''

    She also remarked that if the Constitution didn't forbid a president from a third term, ``he might be running.''

    Such easy banter marked Clinton's seventh appearance on ``The Late Show,'' which was celebrating its 14th anniversary on CBS. She first appeared on Feb. 14, 1994, when Letterman's mother, Dorothy, interviewed her briefly from the Winter Olympics in Norway.

    On Thursday's show, Clinton recounted a summer in Alaska during which she donned boots and an apron to gut salmon with a spoon.

    ``Best preparation for being in Washington that you can possibly imagine,'' she joked.

    Clinton talked shop, too, discussing the need for campaign finance reform, how to pull troops out of Iraq and the importance of caring for wounded veterans. She said that while resistance to a female commander in chief has diminished, it hasn't disappeared.

    ``I think it's not so much that people don't think a woman can do the job, it's just that we've never done it before,'' she said. ``I'm not running because I'm a woman; I'm running because I think I'm the best-qualified and experienced person who can do the job. But I know that it's a big deal that I might be the first woman president.''

    Clinton also read a ``Top Ten List'' of tongue-in-cheek campaign promises, including No. 3: ``We will finally have a president who doesn't mind pulling over and asking for directions.''

    Read the original story HERE!

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    White House hopefuls love Iowa ethanol

    By AMY LORENTZEN, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 30, 11:12 AM ET

    DES MOINES, Iowa - Don't expect to hear much talk about farming from the presidential candidates who regularly tour Iowa, one of the nation's premier agriculture states.

    Instead, prepare for three words: I love ethanol.

    At a time when demand for the corn-based fuel is soaring, support for ethanol among candidates is nearly unanimous and has largely crowded out talk of other agriculture-related issues.

    "They pay lip service (to agriculture), and then they're pro-ethanol, and I think that's enough," said Bruce Babcock, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. He adds that a pro-ethanol stance translates to farm support "because pro-ethanol means high prices for corn and soybeans here."

    Iowa has 28 ethanol refineries and 19 under construction or expanding. There also are a dozen plants that refine soybean-based biodiesel and three under construction, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

    Because of the demand for ethanol and a resulting rise in corn prices, farmers have planted the largest corn crop in U.S. history. And the decision by so many farmers to grow corn has led to a drop in soybean planting and a resulting rise in that commodity's prices.

    In Iowa, it means that agriculture is all about ethanol.

    And to a great extent, it's the only agricultural topic that candidates address, often during stops at one of the state's ethanol plants.

    "It's sort of an obligatory stop to say, 'Hey, I get it. I know the farm economy is important and ethanol is potentially an important part of that economy,'" said David Redlawsk, a University of Iowa political science professor.

    Candidates who have toured ethanol plants include Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Even John McCain, who in the past was skeptical about the use of ethanol, now jokes during his Iowa visits that he enjoys a drink of ethanol every morning.

    The widespread support for ethanol comes despite serious questions about the fuel.

    Critics contend that it takes more energy to grow the corn and process it into ethanol than the fuel produces, although advocates argue that thanks to advancements in farming and production, this is no longer true.

    Others note that it's unclear how much environmental benefit the fuel offers. Pesticides and fertilizers are used in growing corn, and vast amounts of water are required to produce ethanol.

    Although the increase in corn prices is good news for farmers, it's worrisome for food manufacturers and livestock producers who rely on the commodity. Thanks to huge corn harvests, farmers so far have managed to meet the demand with only minor increases in prices passed along to U.S. consumers.

    In Mexico, however, a decision by many farmers to grow corn for ethanol use rather than tortilla production has caused prices of the food staple to soar.

    Despite disagreements over ethanol's value, there's little argument over the importance of the fuel, and other agricultural issues, when it comes time for Iowa's precinct caucuses.

    The caucuses jump-start the presidential nominating process, and estimates show as many as 40 percent of Iowa caucus-goers come from small towns and rural areas, "where farm issues are an everyday matter," Redlawsk said. He added that about a quarter of Iowa's population is involved somehow with the state's farm economy, and that means hundreds of thousands of Iowans have a stake in keeping corn prices high.

    "In the end, the caucuses are about motivating a pretty small number of folks to get out on a cold winter night, so any key issue group — like those concerned about ag — can make a difference," he said.

    Because of the Iowa's leadoff status, some believe presidential candidates are more inclined to support pro-ethanol and other Corn Belt policies.

    "I've long said that the Iowa caucuses are the gift to Midwestern agriculture," said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association.

    Many in Iowa are pushing Congress to raise the amount of renewable fuel that must be used in the nation's fuel supply. And there's interest in what presidential candidates would do in 2010, when a 51-cent-per-gallon of ethanol tax break is up for review.

    "Energy policy is arguably more important to Iowa farmers than commodity policy," Babcock said.

    Candidates acknowledge their support of ethanol, but say it is for environmental, economic and national security reasons rather than political expediency.

    Romney has emphasized the benefit of ethanol for reducing dependence on foreign oil, and a Clinton spokeswoman cited the need to reverse course on global warming. Giuliani has said he supports continuation of the ethanol tax break, and Obama has noted that his home state of Illinois is second only to Iowa in corn and ethanol production.

    Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Washington-based Renewable Fuels Association, said it's ethanol's value as a fuel that has drawn such widespread support.

    "It's not because they have got to come and kiss the ethanol ring in Iowa," he said.

    Regardless, some argue that candidates learned a lesson from McCain's experience in his 2000 presidential bid. McCain wound up passing up the state's caucuses after he said ethanol wasn't a worthy endeavor and that subsidies on the grain-based fuel should end.

    "I think candidates look at experiences like that and say, 'Whoa, I can't afford to do that,'" Redlawsk said.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals

    GAO Draft at Odds With White House

    By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. RicksWashington Post Staff Writers

    Thursday, August 30, 2007; Page A01

    Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

    The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

    The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

    "Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

    A GAO spokesman declined to comment on the report before it is released. The 69-page draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is still undergoing review at the Defense Department, which may ask that parts of it be classified or request changes in its conclusions. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, normally submits its draft reports to relevant agencies for comment but makes its own final judgments. The office has published more than 100 assessments of various aspects of the U.S. effort in Iraq since May 2003.

    The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Congress requested the GAO report, along with an assessment of the Iraqi security forces by an independent commission headed by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, to provide a basis for comparison with the administration's scorecard. The Jones report is also scheduled for delivery next week.

    Asked to comment on the GAO draft, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are there on the ground every day in Iraq, and it's important to wait to hear what they have to say." He disputed any suggestion that the July White House assessment did not consider all internal views, noting that it resulted from "a lengthy and far-reaching process throughout the State and Defense departments and other agencies."

    Johndroe emphasized that "while we've all seen progress in some areas, especially on the security front, it's not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow."

    President Bush signed legislation in May that requires him to submit by Sept. 15 an assessment of whether the government of Iraq is "achieving progress" toward the benchmarks. The interim July report determined that satisfactory progress was being made toward eight of the 18 benchmarks, most of them on the security front. It found unsatisfactory progress toward eight others and presented a mixed picture on the remaining two.

    The May legislation imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring an up-or-down judgment on whether each benchmark has been met. On that basis, the GAO draft says that three of the benchmarks have been met while 13 have not. Despite its strict mandate, the GAO draft concludes that two benchmarks -- the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion for reconstruction -- have been "partially met." Little of the allocated money, it says, has been spent.

    One of eight political benchmarks -- the protection of the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature -- has been achieved, according to the draft. On the others, including legislation on constitutional reform, new oil laws and de-Baathification, it assesses failure.

    "Prospects for additional progress in enacting legislative benchmarks have been complicated by the withdrawal of 15 of 37 members of the Iraqi cabinet," it says. An internal administration assessment this month, the GAO says, concluded that "this boycott ends any claim by the Shi'ite-dominated coalition to be a government of national unity." An administration official involved in Iraq policy said that he did not know what specific interagency document the GAO was citing but noted that it is an accurate reflection of the views of many officials.

    Overall, the draft report, titled "Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq," says that the Iraqi government has met only two security benchmarks. It contradicts the Bush administration's conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result of the U.S. military's stepped-up operations in Baghdad this year. "The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July," the GAO draft states.

    Iraqi security forces are also assessed more severely in the GAO study than in the administration's July report. Although the White House found satisfactory progress toward the goal of deploying three Iraqi army brigades in Baghdad, the GAO disagrees, citing "performance problems" in some units. "Some army units sent to Baghdad have mixed loyalties, and some have had ties to Shiia militias making it difficult to target Shiia extremist networks," it says.

    The GAO draft also says that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March to six last month. The July White House report mentioned a "slight" decline in capable Iraqi units, without providing any numbers. The GAO also says, as did the White House in July, that the Iraqi government has intervened in military activities for political reasons, "resulting in some operations being based on sectarian interests." But its discussion of Iraqi security forces is often veiled, as when it states that the determination that the security forces benchmark was not met "was based largely on classified information."

    The description of the Iraqi military's shortcomings contrasts with comments from many senior U.S. commanders who say that they are pleased with its progress. "Although we still have a ways to go, Iraqi security forces are making significant, tangible improvements," Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said earlier this month.

    But Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who in June became the commander of the U.S. troops training and advising Iraqi army and police units, struck a more somber note yesterday in a news conference in Baghdad. "The problems that the military commanders and the minister of defense have here in generating the Iraqi army are very significant, and they shouldn't be taken lightly," he said.

    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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    Atheists for Autism Research Charity!

    Check these guys out, and donate if you can!

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    Religious Victim of the day

    Woman starves baby to death

    TAUNTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- A jury began deliberating Monday whether a woman accused of starving her baby to death to fulfill a religious prophecy was a willing participant or was victimized by her husband and the sect they belonged to.

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    Foot baths cause controversy at Dearborn campus

    By Sarah Sala, Daily Staff Reporter 7/2/07

    The University of Michigan at Dearborn announced in June its plans to spend $25,000 on the installation of two foot baths in two campus bathrooms this August.

    The University deemed the footbath stations a necessary accommodation for the university's large Muslim population because many Muslims perform cleansing rituals that require them to wash their hands, face and feet before prayer up to five times a day, said Tom Baird, vice chancellor for institutional advancement at the University's Dearborn campus.

    Baird said some Muslim students had resorted to washing their feet in the bathroom sinks, provoking concerns for safety and sanitation.

    The two foot baths will be installed in the University Center and Fairlane Center South buildings, he said.

    He said the money for the project came from fees students pay for campus infrastructure maintenance and renovation. Because this money comes from students, Baird said they should be able to put it toward better accommodating them at the university.

    However, those opposing the foot baths claim the university has no right to install the foot-washing stations because to do so would be to violate the first amendment that calls for a separation of church and state in public institutions.

    Supporters of the foot baths say the University's Dearborn campus is not violating the law because non-Muslim students can also use them.

    But Hal Downs, president of the Michigan chapter of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the foot baths are too religious to be present at a public institution.

    "They're religious in nature and they don't have a real secular use," he said.

    Downs said he would be concerned about how they would be used secularly because "the opportunity for defilement is very, very obvious."

    He said his organization would rather see something like rubber floor mats to protect against slips and falls or stools for students to sit on while cleaning their feet, instead of the foot-washing stations.

    "The foot baths are aggressive accommodations in that they are permanent fixtures," Downs said.

    Majed Afana, Vice President of the Muslim Students Association at the University's Dearborn campus, said his organization fully supports the construction of the foot baths but "it needs to be cleared up that it's not strictly for the Muslim students. It is available for all students."

    Afana said he talked with students on sports teams who said they would use the foot baths to wash their feet.

    Afana said ablution, or ritual washing, is a big part of the prayer process and many Muslim students would welcome the foot baths. But he said not all Muslim students feel compelled to perform the ritual at school.

    Ganj Ahmad, a junior in the College of Arts Sciences & Letters who is Muslim, said he doesn't feel comfortable using the school sinks to wash his feet.

    In the past, Ahmad said he walked to his house near campus to wash his feet before or after he attends class. He said the foot baths would be an improvement.

    "We live in Dearborn where there's a big Muslim population. At least 60 percent of the Muslims I know pray at school and they have to use the sink to wash their feet. It would be better to use a sink that's specifically designed to wash our feet," Ahmad said.

    Baird listed Boston University, the University of Wisconsin¬ at Madison and Eastern Michigan University as other Universities that have already installed public foot baths.

    "This project respects the separation of church and state. We believe this is an issue of respect and tolerance and it's simply the right thing to do," he said.

    Read the original story HERE!

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    Skull fucking

    I don't know how this guy kept his dead-pan, stone-cold, smileless straight face for that long!

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    Collection of Doug Stanhope videos

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    How to Piss Off an Atheist

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    An oldie but a goodie!

    Keep Your Jesus Off My Penis

    ©2004 Eric Schwartz

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    Keep your bible off my balls

    Keep your prayers out of my ears

    And your crosses off my walls

    You can keep the virgin mother

    And the resurrection too

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    I'll keep my penis off of you

    Well I'm frickin' sick and tired

    Of turning on the news

    And seeing the religious right's

    Ungodly fight to take our right to choose

    When to bear our children

    Who to love and how

    Education and protection

    If we're just practicing for now

    So dubya look obey a book

    If that's what works for you

    But I don't tell you how to pray

    So don't tell me how to screw

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    Keep your bible off my balls

    Keep your prayers out of my ears

    And your crosses off my walls

    You can keep the virgin mother

    And the resurrection too

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    I'll keep my penis off of you

    So you’re screaming bloody murder

    'Bout the taliban regime

    For subjugating women

    And being too extreme

    And basing legislation

    On some ancient holy book

    Does that sound a bit familiar?

    Here's a mirror, have a look

    And as for the ten commandments

    They need one more at least

    Thou shall never cover up

    The acts of pervert priests

    How'd they let that happen

    Unless they just abhor us

    Well anyway it adds

    Another layer to the chorus

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    Keep your bible off my balls

    Keep your prayers out of my ears

    And your crosses off my walls

    You can keep the virgin mother

    And the resurrection too

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    I'll keep my penis off of you

    So you'll execute a person

    And protect a single cell

    But mercy-kill the terminally ill

    And you're goin' straight to hell

    I don't know much about

    The word of God

    Far be it from me

    But I can tell you what it ain't


    I am not anti-Christian

    Before you grab a rope

    There is beauty in religion

    And joy and love and hope

    We're all looking for an answer

    Some colossal cosmic cause

    But who the fuck are you

    To turn your views into my laws?

    It's just believers in the bible

    That would have abortion banned

    Anti-choice agnostics?

    I could count’em on one hand

    And as for killing babies

    I have but one retort

    If someone raped your daughter George

    You'd beg her to abort

    And if some young girl from your church

    Shows up with child or some infection

    ‘Cuz you taught her what a horrid sin

    It was to use protection

    One day you'll face the pearly gates

    And whatchu gonna say

    When that long-haired Jewish peacenick

    Sends your ass the other way sayin’

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    Keep your bible off my balls

    Keep your prayers out of my ears

    And your crosses off my walls

    I've had it up to here

    With all the biblibile you spew

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    (at least that's what I would do)

    Keep your Jesus off my penis

    I'll keep my penis off of you

    That's if'n you want me to

    Download the lyrics from my new cd

    "Eric Schwartz: Self-Bootleg"

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    Huge thanks go to everyone that has helped me out on this endeavor. Specifically, Zombie, head of RRS Ontario for multple article submissions, Voiderest of RRS Texas, my coding guru without whom many of the features of this newsletter (like the Table of Contents) would not be in place, Brian Sapient for his guiding hand and for the space in which this is published, and all of you who have contributed articles. Cheers go out to you all!!!