#0056 RRS Newsletter for September 12, 2007
Lots of interesting things are happening in the RRS ranks this week. Check out the RRS News and Affiliate sections!
For the rest of the month I will be posting on a regular three a week schedule, I may continue this trend next month, we'll see how it goes. So on every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday the newest editions will be up. Some of you may have noticed the counters at the bottom recently, with that I've been keeping track of how many and what days readers have been loging in to read the newsletter, and the aforementioned days seem to be the most popular, counts on Friday and Sunday being especially high. However, the reason for the newly placed regularity is two-fold. The other reason is to better manage my time, since I will be going on vacation from the 19th to the 28th, and there is much to do in the interum in preparation. In the time I will be gone, there will be no newsletter posts (I'm sure you can all manage, lol) so I encourage you all to browse through the previous editions, as I'm sure there are many of you who haven't seen them all. While I'm gone, any questions, contributions, or comments you have will be fielded by my good friend and helper Adrian (a.k.a. Skeptictank, a.k.a. Freudian slip n' slide). Regulars to the chat room are probably familiar with him already.
Table of Contents
Extra Gene Copies Were Enough To Make Early Humans' Mouths Water
Primates Expect Others To Act Rationally
Prehistoric Reptiles From Russia Possessed The First Modern Ears
Dinosaur To Birds: Height Or Flight?
OUR HOME PAGE IS NEW BASE FOR FUCK KENT HOVIND
Creation Science Evangelism has submitted many copyright violations on youtube in the past few days. The owner of the ministries is Kent Hovind who over the last 20 years has been seen as a public liar. He has held many lectures where he spends hours making people more ignorant as to how evolution works. He now sits in a jail cell for having refused to pay $840,000 in taxes. His defense the whole time was that his money belonged to God and nobody else.
He has stated that none of his material is copyrighted, and so far all of the instances of videos that have been pulled would have fallen within the boundaries of fair use.
Here is why this is important Earlier this year the famous "psychic" Uri Geller submitted a false DMCA request takedown notice to have a video of mine removed which included about 8 seconds of material (that ironically painted URI in a positive light). When he submitted this notice, he had to sign off stating that he did in fact own the rights to the video, which he did not. What did I do? The same thing I am going to help many others do.
IF YOU HAD A VIDEO PULLED FROM YOUTUBE BECAUSE OF CREATION SCIENCE EVANGELISM MINISTRIES, PLEASE MAKE SURE TO POST INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS THREAD ON OUR SITE. I WILL HAVE THE MOST POWERFUL COPYRIGHT LAWYERS IN THIS COUNTRY FIGHT THE CASE.
Kent Hovinds people didn't learn enough from his jail sentence. Is Eric Hovind (his disgrace to the human race son) the next to spend time behind bars?
The music video was banned for false copyright by the dishonest fucks at Creation Science Evangelism (see you in court - again- assfucks)... here is Eddy performing it live....
PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW, PASS IT ON NOW!
Oh... and fuck you Kent Hovind, and the dumb fucks you've raised!
Rational Response Squad @ MSCD POLICY ISSUE UPDATE-2
We have had a talk with Mr. Harris, student trustee to the board of directors today, and there are some positive developments of which are notable of mention. Mr. Harris talked with President Jordan (President of Metropolitan State College of Denver), President Jordan said that our concerns with the policy are legitimate and is taking the concern seriously. Furthermore, Mr. Harris will be trying to get this issue on the agenda of the sub-committee which deals with policy issues for their meeting on Oct. 25th. If this happens we will be asked to formally lay out our case for the committee. Mr. Harris is also going to push for a campus-wide committee to be put together for the sole purpose of re-writing the policy. He wants a representative from our group, Rational Response Squad at MSCD, to be on the committee to help in the process in order that we are not only represented but so our concerns can be address in the writing and language of the policy.
Policy Update 2
RRS MI, No meeting this month...
Due to the fact that two of the leading members of the Michigan chapter will be on vacation on the day that we usually hold our monthly meeting, we will not be conducting it this month. Next month we will resume the schedule as normal, and hopefully by then we can have more to report on the Creation Museum project. In the meantime, I encourage you all to go to the Meetup.com website and register for the Atheist meetup group in your area. The group listed for my area, Detroit area Atheists, meets on a day that I usually work, so I am hoping to make our presence know through my friend and helper (minion) Adrian, at least once in a while.
Creation Museum Project
The massive project being headed by Ashley (a.k.a. Healthy Addict) of RRS Ohio and project leaders 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 to scientifically refute and debunk all of the claims put forth by Ken Ham and the AIG camp in the Creation Museum has started rolling along, slowly but surely. We have secured 2 evolutionary biologists to assist, and are working on getting an astronomer, a paleontologist, and Father Matthew Moretz, a prominent preist and Youtuber who may be supporting us by writing bits for pamphlets on why the "Museum" is a bad idea for any person of any faith to take seriously. His participation, of course, hinges on us not attacking religion as a whole in this project, but I think this is important enough to embrace the assistance of theists who see the value of what we are trying to accomplish. This projects main goal is to attack an affront to not only atheism, not only freethinkers, but everyone who values real science and the unhindered persuit of true knowledge, because the repercussions of this (dare I say) blasphemy to progress and education will be felt by all, atheists and theists alike.
Here is a video from Father Matthew.
Here's a quick video from Ashley on the project as a whole.
Report on the Rally in Austin last weekend
I plan to do an article soon on what exactly went on at the rally in Austin Texas last Saturday. Keep your eyes open for it in the Rational Response Column, video and interviews of RRS representatives to be included.
Extra Gene Copies Were Enough To Make Early Humans' Mouths Water
Science Daily — To think that world domination could have begun in the cheeks. That's one interpretation of a discovery, published online September 9 in Nature Genetics, which indicates that humans carry extra copies of the salivary amylase gene.
Humans have many more copies of this gene than any of their ape relatives, the study found, and they use the copies to flood their mouths with amylase, an enzyme that digests starch. The finding bolsters the idea that starch was a crucial addition to the diet of early humans, and that natural selection favored individuals who could make more starch-digesting protein.
"Extra gene copies are an easy way for evolution to ramp up expression of a protein," said Nathaniel Dominy, assistant professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz, and one of the paper's authors. "Why wait for chance mutations to improve gene function? Natural selection can favor duplicate copies of a gene that already works well, and enzyme production will increase."
Other primates eat mainly ripe fruits containing very little starch. A new ability to supplement the diet with calorie-rich starches could have fed our large brains and opened up new food supplies that fueled our unrivaled colonization of the planet, Dominy said.
The researchers sampled saliva from 50 European-American undergraduates and found as many as 15 copies of the amylase gene per person. By comparison, all 15 chimpanzees they sampled had exactly two copies each. Students with more copies of the gene also had higher concentrations of the enzyme in their spit.
Next, the team studied groups of humans with differing diets. They found a similar correspondence between the amount of starch in a group's diet and the average number of amylase gene copies its individuals possessed. For example, the Yakut of the Arctic, whose traditional diet centers around fish, had fewer copies than the related Japanese, whose diet includes starchy foods like rice, Dominy said. The same pattern existed for two Tanzanian tribes--the Datog, who raise livestock, and the Hadza, who primarily gather tubers and roots.
"Even though they're closely related genetically and live close to each other geographically, still there are big differences in the average number of copies in these populations," Dominy said. "So we felt like geography and relatedness are not driving these differences. It's got to be diet."
For Dominy and his coauthors, the finding goes beyond the mouth. In pondering human origins, Dominy said, anthropologists have long been stumped by the sudden, nearly simultaneous increases in our brain size, body size, and geographic range, while other apes changed little. Early humans simply must have found some source of better nutrition to make it all possible, they reasoned.
"That's the big mystery of paleoanthropology," Dominy said. "What changed? Why did our earliest human ancestors deviate from the pattern we see in living apes to evolve this incredibly large brain, which is very energetically expensive to maintain, and to become a much more efficient bipedal organism?"
For years, the answer was thought to be the growing importance of meat in the diet, as early humans learned to hunt. But, Dominy pointed out, "Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet. They cooperate with language, use nets; they have poisoned arrows, even, and still it's not that easy to hunt meat. To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Some anthropologists have begun to suspect the new source of food consisted of starches, stored by plants in the form of underground tubers and bulbs--wild versions of modern-day foods like carrots, potatoes, and onions. Once early humans learned to recognize tuber-forming plants, they opened up a food source unknown to other apes.
"It's kind of a goldmine," Dominy said. "All you have to do is dig it up."
Tubers may have been especially critical for the first widely successful humans, known as Homo erectus, who may have learned to cook with fire. Since this idea was proposed, about a decade ago, researchers have been looking for evidence to support or refute it--no easy task for a theory that concerns highly perishable food consumed two million years ago. But in work earlier this year, Dominy and his colleagues found that animals eating tubers and bulbs produce body tissues with an isotopic signature that matches what has been measured in early fossilized humans.
The new discovery is a separate line of evidence pointing to the importance of starch in human beginnings, Dominy said. When early humans mastered fire, cooking starchy vegetables would have made them even easier to eat, he added. At the same time it would have made extra amylase gene copies an even more valuable trait.
"We roast tubers, and we eat French fries and baked potatoes," Dominy said. "When you cook, you can afford to eat less overall, because the food is easier to digest. Some marginal food resource that you might only eat in times of famine, now you can cook it and eat it. Now you can have population growth and expand into new territories."
Dominy's coauthors include George Perry, Katrina Claw, John Werner, Rajeev Misra, and Anne Stone of Arizona State University; Arthur Lee and Charles Lee of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass.; Heike Fiegler, Richard Redon, and Nigel Carter of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK; Fernando Villanea, a former graduate fellow at UCSC who is now at the University of Costa Rica; and Joanna Mountain of Stanford University.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of California - Santa Cruz.
Primates Expect Others To Act Rationally
Science Daily — When trying to understand someone's intentions, non-human primates expect others to act rationally by performing the most appropriate action allowed by the environment, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard University.
The work was led by Justin Wood, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, with David Glynn, a research assistant, and Marc Hauser, professor of psychology at Harvard, along with Brenda Phillips of Boston University.
"A dominant view has been that non-human primates attend only to what actions 'look like' when trying to understand what others are thinking," says Wood. "In contrast, our research shows that non-human primates infer others' intentions in a much more sophisticated way. They expect other individuals to perform the most rational action that they can, given the environmental obstacles that they face."
The scientists studied the behavioral response of over 120 primates, including cotton-top tamarins, rhesus macaques and chimpanzees. These species represent each of the three major groups of primates: New World monkeys, Old World monkeys and apes. All three species were tested in the same way, and the results showed the same responses among the different types.
In the first experiment, the primates were presented with two potential food containers, and the experimenter either purposefully grasped one of the containers, or flopped their hand onto one of the containers in an accidental manner. For all three species, the primates sought the food container that was purposefully grasped a greater number of times than the container upon which the hand was flopped. This indicates that the primate inferred goal-oriented action on the part of the experimenter when he grasped the container, and was able to understand the difference between the goal-oriented and accidental behavior.
In the second experiment, the researchers asked if the primates infer others' goals under the expectation that other individuals will perform the most rational action allowed by the environmental obstacles. Again, the primates were presented with two potential food containers. In one scenario, an experimenter touched a container with his elbow when his hands were full, and in another scenario, touched a container with his elbow when his hands were empty.
The primates looked for the food in the container indicated with the elbow more often when the experimenter's hands were full. The primates considered, just as a human being would, that if someone's hands are full then it is rational for them to use their elbow to indicate the container with food, whereas if their hands are empty it is not rational for them to use their elbow, because they could have used their unoccupied hand.
Developmental psychologists have long understood that young children are able to engage in this type of rational action perception, but scientists have not understood if this ability is unique to human beings, or shared with other animals. This study suggests that this ability evolved as long as 40 million years ago, with non-human primates.
"This study represents one of the broadest comparative studies of primate cognition, and the significance of the findings is reinforced by the fact that these results were consistent across three different species of primates," says Wood. "The results have significant implications for understanding the evolution of the processes that allow us to make sense of other people's behavior."
The findings appear in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal of Science.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Guggenheim, and the National Science Federation.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Harvard University.
Prehistoric Reptiles From Russia Possessed The First Modern Ears
The 260 million-year-old fossil of the small reptile Bashkyroleter mesensis, from central Russia, owner of the first known 'modern' ear. Reconstruction (in pink, below) of the extremely large eardrum structure. Entire skull approximately 6.5 cm in length. (Credit: Linda Tsuji and Johannes Müller)
Science Daily — The discovery of the first anatomically modern ear in a group of 260 million-year-old fossil reptiles significantly pushes back the date of the origin of an advanced sense of hearing, and suggests the first known adaptations to living in the dark.
In a new study published in PLoS One, Johannes Müller and Linda Tsuji, paleobiologists at the Natural History Museum of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany report that these fossil animals, found in deposits of Permian age near the Mezen River in central Russia, possessed all the anatomical features typical of a vertebrate with a surprisingly modern ear.
When vertebrates had conquered land and the ancestors of modern day mammals, reptiles, and birds first began to diversify, hearing was not of high importance. The first fully terrestrial land vertebrates were, in fact, largely deaf, and lacked any of the anatomical features that would indicate the possession of what is termed impedance-matching hearing - the mechanism by which modern land vertebrates are able to transmit airborne sounds into the inner ear by means of small bony connections.
The ability of modern animals to hear a wide range of frequencies, highly important for prey capture, escape, and communication, was long assumed to have only evolved shortly before the origin of dinosaurs, not much longer than 200 million years ago, and therefore comparatively late in vertebrate history.
But these fossils demonstrate that this advanced ear was in existence much earlier than previously suggested. In these small reptiles the outside of the cheek was covered with a large eardrum, and a bone comparable to our own hearing ossicles connected this structure with the inner ear and the brain. Müller and Tsuji also examined the functional performance of this unique and unexpected auditory arrangement, and discovered that these little reptiles were able to hear at least as well as a modern lizard.
But why would these animals have possessed such an ear" "Of course this question cannot be answered with certainty", explains Müller, "but when we compared these fossils with modern land vertebrates, we recognized that animals with an excellent sense of hearing such as cats, owls, or geckos, are all active at night or under low-light conditions.
And maybe this is what these Permian reptiles did too." Because the fossils from the Mezen River also possess comparatively large eyes, another typical feature of vertebrates living in the dark, these reptiles indeed might have been among the first land vertebrates to pursue a specifically nocturnal lifestyle. An adaptation of this kind would have been a significant step at this early stage of terrestrial evolution, as endothermic (cold-blooded) animals require the heat of the sun to maintain their body temperature.
The discovery of an ear comparable to modern-day standards in such ancient land vertebrates provides an entirely new piece of information about the earliest terrestrial ecosystems, which no longer seem to be as primitive as once assumed. Already by this time, there must have been intense pressure to exploit new ecological niches and to evolve new structures to gain an advantage over other species in an increasingly crowded world. At last, it was those pressures and evolutionary inventions that paved the way for our modern day environments.
Citation: Müller J, Tsuji LA (2007) Impedance-Matching Hearing in Paleozoic Reptiles: Evidence of Advanced Sensory Perception at an Early Stage of Amniote Evolution. PLoS ONE 2(9): e889. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000889
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Public Library of Science.
Dinosaur To Birds: Height Or Flight?
Science Daily — Paleontologists have long theorized that miniaturization was one of the last stages in the long series of changes required in order for dinosaurs to make the evolutionary "leap" to take flight and so become what we call birds. New evidence from a tiny Mongolian dinosaur, however, may leave some current theories about the evolution of flight up in the air.
A team of researchers including Dr. Julia Clarke, assistant professor of paleontology at North Carolina State University with a joint appointment at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, studied the new dinosaur species Mahakala omnogovae and its relationships to other small meat-eating dinosaurs including birds. They found that small size was held in common among early species within the two dinosaurian lineages most closely related to birds and was evolved well before the ability to fly. Further, the dinosaurs within each lineage did not get uniformly smaller as time went on; in fact, in some lineages dinosaurs' size increased by a factor of three.
What we know as extant or modern-day birds trace their lineage back to membership in a clade, or group of dinosaurian species that share many similar physical traits, known as Paraves.
Within Paraves are two other branches besides that leading to birds. The new study indicates that while the species on the bird branch stayed small, the two other branches showed pronounced trends toward increases in size over time. One of these secondarily large groups includes Velociraptor, familiar to fans of the Jurassic Park movies.
The Mahakala specimen measures approximately 70 centimeters (28 inches) long and the researchers believe the fossil is from a young adult of the species, not a juvenile. Other characteristics identify Mahakala as a member of Dromaeosauridae, a group that also contains larger species such as Velociraptor.
"This specimen shows that dinosaurs evolved small size earlier than we previously thought," Clarke says. "And even more interesting is the fact that in a couple of these lineages closely most related to birds, dinosaurs didn't stay small -- they got much larger. So we now see some competing trends within very closely related groups over the same time interval in the Cretaceous period."
If miniaturization of dinosaurs occurred well before the origin of flight, then this raises other questions about the ways that paleontologists have traditionally explained trends in the early history of birds.
"We had closely linked smaller size in dinosaurs including birds to flight, changes in growth strategy and metabolism: They got progressively smaller, grew faster, and flew," Clarke adds. "Now we see that small size occurs well before many other innovations in locomotion and growth strategy. It forces us to look at the ways we were explaining trends within this part of Dinosauria, and to question our previous assumptions about causal factors in, and timing of, the acquisition of attributes seen in living birds."
Results are published in the Sept. 7 edition of the journal Science.
Article: "A Basal Dromaeosaurid and Size Evolution Preceding Avian Flight", Alan Turner, American Museum of Natural History, Diego Pol, Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio in Argentina; Julia Clarke, North Carolina State University; Gregory Erickson, Florida State University; Mark Norell, American Museum of Natural History, Sept. 7, 2007, edition of Science
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by North Carolina State University.
The Scientology Freezone expands! press release
The International Freezone (IFA) of independent scientologists is continuing to expand and provide more resources and facilities for the independent freezone scientologist.
An independent scientologist is a person not associated with the Church of Scientology™ but claims the constitutional right to call themselves a Scientologist in just the same way a Christian may call themselves a Christian or a Muslim may call themselves a Muslim. i.e. they are not bound by law to belong to a specific church in order to practice a religion and call themselves by that name.
The International Freezone Association (IFA) is a group of individuals and groups who believe they should be free to practice the original philosophy of Lafayette Ron Hubbard and not the altered version as practiced by the Church of Scientology™ since Ron Hubbard’s demise. Liberal specific examples of such alterations may be found at scientologistsfreezone.com
Considered very important are the three prime purposes of the International Freezone Association.
These three prime purposes are:
Preserve the exact technology and original workable philosophy of Lafayette Ron Hubbard for future use so it is available for all mankind.
Protect the exact technology and original workable philosophy of Lafayette Ron Hubbard so it is not altered, diluted or changed in anyway but remains exactly as Lafayette Ron Hubbard issued it.
Promote the exact technology and original workable philosophy of Lafayette Ron Hubbard so it may be known by all mankind
The revitalization that is occurring as a result of following these three purposes is an expanding association with more people coming on board each week.
Other purposes which the IFA supporting include:
Foster, promote and develop fellowship and mutual aid among the IFA members within the framework of the constitution.
Establish communication and understanding among the members of the IFA and members of other communities.
Promote and sponsor educational activities that alert and teach the general public about the exact technology and original workable philosophy of Lafayette Ron Hubbard.
All these purposes are being successfully achieved on a day to day basis. There are facilities for books, technical assistance for practitioners of the original philosophy as well as other facilities.
The April issue of the quarterly journal is now out and freely available on site from the downloads area.
“We are also working on assisting isolated training groups become established and expanding with the original philosophy being learnt and understood.” Michael, the association president stated“. He went on, “The future is ours now. It is up to us! Lets pursue our spiritual freedom!”
“Ron Hubbard once stated "I know no man who has any monopoly upon the wisdom of this universe. It belongs to those who can use it to help themselves and others.". Well we are using it to help ourselves and others. And we are succeeding too!”
Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Librariesby Laurie Goodstein ("NY Times," September 10, 2007)
New York, USA - Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.
The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.
Some inmates are outraged. Two of them, a Christian and an Orthodox Jew, in a federal prison camp in upstate New York, filed a class-action lawsuit last month claiming the bureau’s actions violate their rights to the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”
Ms. Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”
But prison chaplains, and groups that minister to prisoners, say that an administration that put stock in religion-based approaches to social problems has effectively blocked prisoners’ access to religious and spiritual materials — all in the name of preventing terrorism.
“It’s swatting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, a Christian group. “There’s no need to get rid of literally hundreds of thousands of books that are fine simply because you have a problem with an isolated book or piece of literature that presents extremism.”
The Bureau of Prisons said it relied on experts to produce lists of up to 150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources for each of 20 religions or religious categories — everything from Bahaism to Yoruba. The lists will be expanded in October, and there will be occasional updates, Ms. Billingsley said. Prayer books and other worship materials are not affected by this process.
The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller.
The identities of the bureau’s experts have not been made public, Ms. Billingsley said, but they include chaplains and scholars in seminaries and at the American Academy of Religion. Academy staff members said their organization had met with prison chaplains in the past but was not consulted on this effort, though it is possible that scholars who are academy members were involved.
The bureau has not provided additional money to prisons to buy the books on the lists, so in some prisons, after the shelves were cleared of books not on the lists, few remained.
A chaplain who has worked more than 15 years in the prison system, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is a bureau employee, said: “At some of the penitentiaries, guys have been studying and reading for 20 years, and now they are told that this material doesn’t meet some kind of criteria. It doesn’t make sense to them. They’re asking, ‘Why are our tapes being taken, why our books being taken?’ ”
Of the lists, he said, “Many of the chaplains I’ve spoken to say these are not the things they would have picked.”
The effort is unnecessary, the chaplain said, because chaplains routinely reject any materials that incite violence or disparage, and donated materials already had to be approved by prison officials. Prisoners can buy religious books, he added, but few have much money to spend.
Religious groups that work with prisoners have privately been writing letters about their concerns to bureau officials. Would it not be simpler, they asked the bureau, to produce a list of forbidden titles? But the bureau did that last year, when it instructed the prisons to remove all materials by nine publishers — some Muslim, some Christian.
The plan to standardize the libraries first became public in May when several inmates, including a Muslim convert, at the Federal Prison Camp in Otisville, N.Y., about 75 miles northwest of Manhattan, filed a lawsuit acting as their own lawyers. Later, lawyers at the New York firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison took on the case pro bono. They refiled it on Aug. 21 in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“Otisville had a very extensive library of Jewish religious books, many of them donated,” said David Zwiebel, executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group. “It was decimated. Three-quarters of the Jewish books were taken off the shelves.”
Mr. Zwiebel asked, “Since when does the government, even with the assistance of chaplains, decide which are the most basic books in terms of religious study and practice?”
The lawsuit raises serious First Amendment concerns, said Douglas Laycock, a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, but he added that it was not a slam-dunk case.
“Government does have a legitimate interest to screen out things that tend to incite violence in prisons,” Mr. Laycock said. “But once they say, ‘We’re going to pick 150 good books for your religion, and that’s all you get,’ the criteria has become more than just inciting violence. They’re picking out what is accessible religious teaching for prisoners, and the government can’t do that without a compelling justification. Here the justification is, the government is too busy to look at all the books, so they’re going to make their own preferred list to save a little time, a little money.”
The lists have not been made public by the bureau, but were made available to The Times by a critic of the bureau’s project. In some cases, the lists belie their authors’ preferences. For example, more than 80 of the 120 titles on the list for Judaism are from the same Orthodox publishing house. A Catholic scholar and an evangelical Christian scholar who looked over some of the lists were baffled at the selections.
Timothy Larsen, who holds the Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, an evangelical school, looked over lists for “Other Christian” and “General Spirituality.”
“There are some well-chosen things in here,” Professor Larsen said. “I’m particularly glad that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is there. If I was in prison I would want to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” But he continued, “There’s a lot about it that’s weird.” The lists “show a bias toward evangelical popularism and Calvinism,” he said, and lacked materials from early church fathers, liberal theologians and major Protestant denominations.
The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame (who edited “The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism,” which did make the list), said the Catholic list had some glaring omissions, few spiritual classics and many authors he had never heard of.
“I would be completely sympathetic with Catholic chaplains in federal prisons if they’re complaining that this list is inhibiting,” he said, “because I know they have useful books that are not on this list.”
SEPTEMBER DAWN FORCES LDS CHURCH TO ADMIT GUILT
Guantanamo detainees tell of abusesBy ANDREW O. SELSKY, Associated Press Writer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Detainees flinging body waste at guards. Guards interrupting detainees at prayer. Interrogators withholding medicine. Hostility and tension between inmates and their keepers at the Guantanamo Bay prison are evident in transcripts obtained by The Associated Press.
These rare detainee accounts of life inside the razor wire at the remote U.S. military base in Cuba emerged during Administrative Review Board hearings aimed at deciding whether prisoners suspected of links with the Taliban or al-Qaida should continue to be held or be sent away from Guantanamo.
The Pentagon gave the AP transcripts of hearings held last year in a trailer at Guantanamo after the news agency sought the material under the Freedom of Information Act.
Amid the tensions, the transcripts also show a few relaxed encounters between detainees and their guards and interrogators.
The military has said Guantanamo is relatively calm compared to last year. But a report released by the detention center last month shows mass disturbances are up sharply over 2006 and forced removal of prisoners from cells and assaults with bodily fluids are on pace to match or exceed last year's total.
The transcripts, obtained by the AP on Friday, illustrate the friction.
A Yemeni detainee, Mohammed Ali Em al-Zarnuki, warned his panel of three U.S. military officers that inmates would attempt suicide unless guards stop interrupting prayers, moving detainees during prayer time and whistling and creating other distractions.
Four detainees have committed suicide at Guantanamo — three last year and one on May 30. Several other detainees have tried to kill themselves, including by overdosing on hoarded medicine.
"I want you to be aware of it because I don't want you to face a big problem," al-Zarnuki said. "The problem happened before. The detainees took medication before because of this. So if you do not put a stop to this, it is going to be worse than before."
The hearing's presiding officer assured the detainee he would pass the complaint on, but added: "We do not make the camp rules and we have nothing to do with the camp rules."
Commanders at Guantanamo had no comment Tuesday on the allegations. Guards have been trained to be sensitive about religious matters at Guantanamo, where wailing calls to prayer blare from loudspeakers while traffic cones are placed next to cells during prayer time, reminding guards not to interrupt.
In determining whether a detainee should remain at Guantanamo, the Administrative Review Boards consider whether he poses a security threat or has intelligence value. But detainees told the panels that lying to interrogators is common, calling into question the validity of the intelligence interrogators extract.
Some prisoners said their enemies inside the prison have lied to gain favor with interrogators or settle old scores.
One detainee bluntly informed his panel that he lies to interrogators and that others do as well.
"Why do you feel you have the right to lie to the interrogators?" a surprised panel member asked the detainee, Abdennour Sameur, an Algerian who was a resident of Britain.
"I was lying so that I can get my medical (treatment)," Sameur said. "Every interrogation that I have gone to I had to lie, because that was the only way I could get medical attention. ... They were giving me some kind of medical pills, but the interrogators stopped it. Every time they get a new interrogator the interrogator stops it."
Responding to questions from AP, military officers denied that detainees were deprived of medicine.
A Guantanamo spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Edward Bush, said no officials at Guantanamo had ever heard of a detainee being prevented from taking medicine.
Navy Capt. Bruce Menele, commander of the Joint Medical Group at Guantanamo, said that "interrogators have no authority over medical personnel administering medicine, or over any other aspect of detainee medical care."
"I would be highly disturbed and feel obligated to take significant actions if I discovered that this had ever occurred," Menele added.
Asked whether prayers are being interrupted and whether interrogators have withheld medicine, Bush said he was checking with appropriate commands at the base.
A letter signed by physicians and published Friday in the British medical journal Lancet compared the role of doctors at Guantanamo to the South African doctors involved in the case of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who was beaten and tortured to death in 1977 in police custody.
The letter, signed by some 260 people from 16 countries — most of them doctors — accused the U.S. medical establishment of turning a blind eye to the role of military doctors at Guantanamo.
It did not allege doctors were involved in withholding any medicine from detainees, but took serious issue with the involvement of medical personnel in force-feeding hunger strikers at Guantanamo.
The detainees' accounts also described a few lighter moments in the prison, set on an arid bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
"There was a time when the guards opened my cell by mistake and I joked with them by asking 'Can I help you?'" said Abdul Aziz Alsuwedy. "They laughed and apologized. The same guard thanked me later for not causing any problems."
Alsuwedy, whose account was contained in a statement sent to his Administrative Review Board, did not say whether the guards belonged to the Immediate Reaction Force that carries out forced cell extractions and suppresses disturbances.
Another detainee described how interrogators said he resembled Cuba Gooding Jr., and later brought him photos of the star because the detainee had never heard of the actor.
Several detainees said some guards and interrogators treat them with respect, while others do not.
"Who treats me good, I treat them good," said Sameur, the Algerian detainee. "Who treats me like a dog, I give them the same treatment."
Sameur then described what he did to guards he doesn't get along with: "I threw feces and I have spit on them."
New video raises questions on bin LadenBy LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - Two messages from Osama bin Laden in a matter of days have revived the game of questions over his health and whereabouts, but they also made clear he is al-Qaida's propaganda "top gun," able to draw attention in the West and strike a chord among sympathizers.
In a new video released Tuesday, bin Laden's voice was heard commemorating one of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers and calling on young Muslims to follow his example in martyring themselves in attacks.
It came on the heels of a video released Saturday containing the first new images of the terror movement's leader in nearly three years. It showed him urging Americans to convert to Islam and railing against capitalism, globalization and democracy as failed philosophies.
Both releases on Web sites used by Islamic extremists may in part be an attempt to use bin Laden's charisma to win over supporters in an audience of growing importance for al-Qaida — Muslim converts and immigrants from Muslim countries living in the West, particularly Europe.
Militants from both groups have been implicated in several plots inside Europe in recent years, and the anti-globalization rhetoric could be aimed at giving disenchanted Muslims there further reason to join his cause, along with his traditional condemnation of U.S. policy in the Mideast.
The two videos, timed to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, also made a splash in the U.S. at a time when the presidential campaign and falling support for the war in Iraq have prompted a debate on how America should be fighting terrorism.
Presidential candidates weighed in on the question of whether the man President Bush once vowed to take "dead or alive" remains a threat. Republican Fred Thompson called bin Laden a "symbolic" figure, while Rudolph Giuliani insisted the al-Qaida leader needed to be taken down.
U.S. intelligence agencies, meanwhile, are poring over bin Laden's messages, looking for clues to the 50-year-old's health and location.
Little was immediately evident, except for bin Laden's new beard — dyed a dark black from the mostly gray of previous videos.
The images in Saturday's video were clearly recent — made at least since June, because bin Laden mentioned British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took office that month, and perhaps done as recently as early August.
Because bin Laden's image moves for only a few minutes in the first tape and not at all in the second, questions are being raised about his health.
Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College, said trying to guess at bin Laden's physical condition from the images is pure speculation. But it is clear that the al-Qaida leader is plugged in, he said.
"He's very much up on current events, but it is more than that. Bin Laden has learned to skillfully package and tap into issues that have political currency and a wide resonance outside his normal constituency," Ranstorp said.
The messages end a long dry spell for bin Laden — his last video had been released in October 2004, while his last audiotape came out in July 2006.
During that lull, numerous videos and audiotapes were issued by his deputy, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, who many analysts believe has a more direct hand in al-Qaida and has led the rebuilding of the network's command since the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan.
Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University, said the evidence indicates al-Zawahri likely holds al-Qaida's operational reins, heading meetings of the network's top leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But Bin Laden is "still the marquee name ... wheeled out in dramatic fashion," Hoffman said.
"He's a brand name, probably one of the most recognizable brand names in the world. So he has tremendous value in that respect. He's the headliner."
Tuesday's video was the latest in an al-Qaida tradition: Every year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack it has commemorated one or two of the 19 suicide hijackers by releasing their videotaped "last will and testament."
This year, the video included the testament of Waleed al-Shehri, one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11 that hit the World Trade Center. An audiotape of bin Laden introduced the testament, played over a still photo of the terror leader taken from Saturday's video.
Bin Laden praised al-Shehri, saying he "recognized the truth" that Arab rulers are "vassals" of the West and have "abandoned the balance of (Islamic) revelation."
"It remains for us to do our part. So I tell every young man among the youth of Islam: It is your duty to join the caravan (of martyrs) until the sufficiency is complete and the march to aid the High and Omnipotent continues," Bin Laden said.
One thing the messages may show is that bin Laden feels secure enough to emerge.
"It means he is freer to move and to talk and he is in (a) safer place. Now he is more confident to communicate to the media," said Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi and author of "The Secret History of al-Qaida."
By issuing two tapes in just four days, "he is saying, 'I'm back,'" Atwan said.
Iraq insurgents attack U.S. headquartersBy BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - Insurgents fired rockets or mortars Tuesday at the sprawling garrison that houses the headquarters of American forces in Iraq, killing one person and wounding 11 coalition soldiers, the U.S. command said.
The command said the person killed was a "third country national," meaning someone who is not an American or Iraqi. Most troops stationed at Camp Victory are American but other coalition soldiers are based at the complex near Baghdad International Airport. No further details on the attack were immediately released.
The attack occurred as U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the top commander Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress for a second day on the situation in Iraq since President Bush's decision to send 30,000 reinforcements to stem sectarian violence.
Petraeus recommended keeping the bulk of U.S. forces in Iraq through next summer. The Associated Press has learned that Bush will tell the American people this week he plans to reduce the U.S. troop presence by next summer to pre-buildup levels.
The Iraqi government welcomed Petraeus' recommendation to keep additional forces in Iraq into this coming year, giving assurances that the need for U.S. military support here would decrease over time.
National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, reading from a government statement, said the Iraqis believed that "in the near future" the need for U.S. and other coalition forces "will decrease."
"The aim of the Iraqi government is to achieve self-reliance in security as soon as possible, but we still need the support of coalition forces to reach this point," cautioned al-Rubaie, who in the past has often given rosy pictures of Iraq's capabilities.
Al-Rubaie said the Iraqis "understand ... the impatience and disappointment of our coalition supporters who expected more (progress) sooner."
Some Iraqis said the testimony in Washington meant little for their daily struggles in Baghdad.
"I was listening to the report last night, and I think it's a forgery lacking credibility. They (the Americans) care for their interests only," said a Baghdad resident who gave only his nickname, Abu Ali, out of fear of reprisals. "It might be propaganda ahead of U.S. elections."
Much of the American criticism has centered on the failure of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to enact power-sharing agreements among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, which the U.S. sees as essential to lasting peace.
However, there were some signs of progress on the political front.
The Iraqi Cabinet sent to parliament a draft bill that would allow many former Saddam Hussein supporters to get back their government jobs — a major Sunni demand. The bill would also bring the screening commission under tighter legislative control, according to a copy obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Sunni discontent over government policies prompted the six Cabinet members from the main Sunni bloc to walk off the job last month, triggering a major political crisis.
On Tuesday, however, Planning Minister Ali Baban announced he was returning to work "temporarily." His Iraqi Accordance Front demanded he reverse the decision, and one faction leader branded the move "treason."
Violence continued with U.S. troops killing nine suspects in a pre-dawn raid on the Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City Tuesday, the military said. Iraqi police and witnesses said only three people were killed, all civilians.
Iraqi officials said eight others were injured in the operation in Sadr City — home to 2.5 million of Baghdad's poorest residents as well the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The U.S. raid was conducted to "detain criminals involved in murder, kidnapping, IED and mortar attacks and weapons smuggling," the military said in a statement. Nine "armed terrorists" were killed and eight were captured, it said.
Officials: Bush to announce troop cut
WASHINGTON - President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.
In a 15-minute address from the White House at 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush's speech is not yet final. Bush was rehearsing and polishing his remarks even as the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker were presenting their arguments for a second day on Capitol Hill.
In the speech, the president will say he understands Americans' deep concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home, they said. Bush will say that, after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the U.S. military presence but not abandon Iraq to chaos, according to the officials.
The address will stake out a conciliatory tone toward Congress. But while mirroring Petraeus' strategy, Bush will place more conditions on reductions than his general did, insisting that conditions on the ground must warrant cuts and that now-unforeseen events could change the plan.
Petraeus recommended that a 2,000-member Marine unit return home this month without replacement. That would be followed in mid-December with the departure of an Army brigade numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. Under the general's plan, another four combat brigades would be withdrawn by July 2008.
That could leave the U.S. with as few as 130,000-135,000 troops in Iraq, down from about 168,000 now, although Petraeus was not precise about whether all the about 8,000 support troops sent with those extra combat forces would be withdrawn by July.
Petraeus said he foresaw even deeper troop cuts beyond July, but he recommended that Bush wait until at least March to decide when to go below 130,000 — and at what pace.
At the White House, Bush met with House and Senate lawmakers of both parties and he publicly pledged to consider their views. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president didn't talk about the nationwide address.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush appears poised merely to bring the country back to where it was before the election that put Democrats in control of Congress — with 130,000 troops in Iraq.
"Please. It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people that that is a new direction in Iraq," she said. "We're as disappointed as the public is that the president has a tin ear to their opinion on this war."
In his speech, Bush will adopt Petraeus' call for more time to determine the pace and scale of future withdrawals and offer to report to Congress in March, one official said.
As Petraeus and Crocker have, Bush will acknowledge difficulties, and the fact that few of the benchmarks set by Congress to measure progress of the buildup have been met, the official said. Yet, he will stress that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would be a catastrophe for Iraq and U.S. interests.
The president will discuss "bottom up" security improvements, notably in Anbar Province, which he visited on Labor Day and where Sunni leaders have allied themselves with U.S. forces to fight insurgents. And, he will note incremental progress on the political front despite unhelpful roles played by Iran and Syria, the official said.
Crocker was particularly keen on detailing diplomatic developments, including Saudi Arabia's move to open an embassy in Baghdad and a third conference of Iraqi neighbors to be hosted by Turkey in Istanbul at the end of October.
In Congress, cracks in Republican support for the Iraq war remained, as epitomized by heated questioning Tuesday of Petraeus.
"Is this a mission shift?" asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "Are we continuing down the same path that we have laid out before, entirely reliant on the ability of the Iraqis to come together to achieve that political reconciliation?"
Sen. Norm Coleman said he wants a longer-term vision other than suggestions that Petraeus and Crocker return to Capitol Hill in mid-March to give another assessment. "Americans want to see light at the end of the tunnel," said Coleman, R-Minn.
Many rank-and-file Republicans say they are deeply uneasy about keeping troops in Iraq through next summer, but they also remain reluctant to embrace legislation ordering troops home by next spring. Democrats, under substantial pressure by voters and politically influential anti-war groups, had anticipated that a larger number of Republicans by now would have turned against Bush on the war because of grim poll numbers and the upcoming 2008 elections.
Indeed, Petraeus' testimony helped to solidify support elsewhere in the GOP, keeping Democrats far from the 60 votes they needed to pass legislation ordering troops home.
"Americans should be happy that we can begin to reduce troop levels months ahead of schedule," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
"I'm optimistic that when the votes are counted, they'll be roughly the same as they have been all year," said McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. "As you know, we've lost some, but not a lot and I think that's a likely outcome again."
Echoing testimony given to the House on Monday, Petraeus and Crocker acknowledged that Iraq remains largely dysfunctional but said violence had decreased since the influx of added U.S. troops.
Crocker said he fears that announcing troop withdrawals, as Democrats want, would focus Iraqi attention on "building the walls, stocking ammunition and getting ready for a big nasty street fight" rather than working toward reconciliation. "It will take longer than we initially anticipated" for Iraq's leaders to address the country's problems, he said.
The two days of testimony seemed to turn the debate away from the list of 18 benchmarks by which the White House and Iraq's government had said earlier this year that they preferred to measure progress. The administration has protested more recently that the benchmarks offer an unrealistic or incomplete look at the situation.
The hearing fell on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In an unusual admission, Petraeus said he was not sure whether his proposal on Iraq would make America safer.
A visibly heated Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked the question to which Petraeus said: "Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted that out in my mind. What I have focused on and riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multinational force Iraq."
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.
Atheists for Autism Research Charity!
Check these guys out, and donate if you can!
Religious Victim of the day
Girl to be stoned to death for being raped by brother
The fundamentalist regime of Iran is planning to stone a 13-year-old girl, Jila [also spelled Zhila], in the city of Marivan in coming days. Jila was raped and impregnated by her brother and Iran’s clerical judge has sentenced her to death by stoning.
Protestors rally for separation of church and state at CapitolBy Tracy Lim of The Daily Texan
Atheist groups and private citizens rallied for complete separation of church and state Saturday afternoon at the south steps of the Capitol.
A group of roughly 100 people, led by the American Atheists Texas State Director Joe Zamecki, called for the removal of the newly included phrase "under God" in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance. The State Legislature passed HB 1034 this spring. The bill, authored by State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, added the phrase "under God" to the Texas pledge - effective Sept. 1, 2007.
A previous state law passed in 2003 made it so students in Texas public schools recite the pledge daily.
The protestors on Saturday also objected to the state-sponsored moment of silence, a voluntary teacher-led quiet reflection time which was also included in the 2003 law, which Zemecki described as a "waste of precious learning time."
Zamecki said the state's actions are what churches want, not what students need.
The rally was also meant as a show of support to the Croft family of Carrollton who filed a suit against Gov. Rick Perry over the moment of silence. A federal court ruled against the Crofts on Aug. 28, 2007.
Over a dozen speakers took the podium on the Capitol steps to speak about separation of church and state. The participants, from atheist leaders to regular citizens, said they saw the state Senate as biased in favor of religion.
Patrick Greene of San Antonio called the pro-religion stance of the state legislature an infringement of his liberty.
"Freedom based on the Bible would be a dictatorship," Greene said.
Terry McDonald, chairman of Metroplace Atheists, criticized the state legislature as being dominated by religion.
"This senate stands for Judeo-Christian values," McDonald said.
Nick Lee of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas told the crowd in his speech that atheists should stop accepting the negative image associated with them since they only want fairness.
"We come here not as an anti-religion rally but to protect civil liberties," Lee said.
McDonald said he wanted to make atheists more accessible as members of communities.
"We want to show that we live normal lives as patriotic citizens," he added.
September Dawn Trailer
Comedy Jesus does STANDUP
The Comedy Roast of Jesus Christ
WARNING DISCLAIMER for the BIBLE
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!!!
The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.