#0061 RRS Newsletter for October 10, 2007
Well, I'm back from my vacation (obviously) and back on track with the newsletters... mostly. There was a lot to get through upon my return, so this may come out a little late. Also I'll be changing jobs soon, so that may take some time away from my research routine for a couple days, but I don't expect it to have any lasting effects on that.
A lot happened in my absence, so there are a lot of interesting things in this eddition, and more to come that I couldn't fit in.
Table of ContentsClick on a title to view the article.
Cassini Is On The Trail Of A Runaway Mystery
Ancient African Megadroughts May Have Driven Human Evolution -- Out Of Africa
Scientists 'Weigh' Tiny Galaxy Halfway Across Universe
Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows
The Price of Freedom (an article by Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali)
Turkey warns US on Armenia genocide bill
US experts leave for NKorea to begin disabling nuclear arsenal
Guards fire on car in Iraq, kill 2 women
New Rules: A Religious Test with Bill Maher
Bush to Iran's Ahmadinejad: MY GOD, or we blow you to bits
Religion - Marcus Brigstocke
Lewis Black on Limbaugh, Media Matters + our idiot congress
RRS sing praises for Margaret Downey
Submitted by God on Fri, 2007-10-05 07:07.
Check out http://www.MargaretDowney.com now!!
The newest project from a special wing of the RRS known as: Downey's Rottweilers.
Your name and password from RRS will work over there!
( categories: Discussion for MargaretDowney.com )
Submitted by nullusdeus on Thu, 2007-10-04 12:56.
Because the AAI Conference was such a booming success due to the relentless efforts of Margaret Downey, post your comments here. We'll make sure she receives reference of this page.
Edited in by Downey's Rottweilers :The best quotes will make her new quote section on the site that RRS leadership has been busy creating for her: http://www.margaretdowney.com/quotes
The best stories will be posted here.
WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO LEAVE A COMMENT
Looking for 50 good men. (atheist activist call out)
Submitted by Sapient on Mon, 2007-10-08 16:43.
Disclaimer: The title of this blog is a parody of "a few good men." It is in no way meant to lessen the effectiveness of female activists.
In the last year I have received hundreds of emails and comments from people asking how they can help. My suggestion was always to use our forums and participate in the projects that you see come up from time to time on our forums. For those who are curious, most issues of importance come up in our alerts section. Here is a feed to our alerts section for your RSS reader
I have a new suggestion for those who want to help, and I've had recent success putting together a crew. Much of the work I do requires having not only knowledge of the issues we are working on but also advanced knowledge of the internet. Before I waste any more of your time, if you don't have at least 5 hours a week to help for a long period of time (like for at least a year) then you don't have the time to make it worth training you. Please don't take offense, I speak from experience, many have tried to keep up with me and they can't. I bust my ass behind closed doors, and feel like I need a total of 75 part time helpers to keep up with my level of activity. I've had past problems with getting helpers on board that took more time to train than the return on the training I received in work. Please keep this in mind, right now. If you aren't dedicated to helping with what may seem like menial tasks on a recurring basis, but are in effect responsible for big growth, please don't waste my time (by doing so, you may actually slow us down).
Because of time that I lost due to "training" people and along with security concerns, it may take a while to build my trust and the trust of our other volunteers. I am looking for dedicated helpers.
The ideal candidate is one who:
- will use skype.
- While not as mandatory as skype, you know how to access our chatroom and have a mic/cam.
- Can work at least 10 hours a week, hopefully more.
- Would be well versed in either video production, graphics editing, audio editing, drupal, and/or html.
- Can work independently
- Has a good idea on how to utilize internet to research issues.
- Writes well
- Dedicated to helping even if tasks seem small. (ie searching google, cutting and pasting info, data entry, etc...)
You need not have all qualities, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what we need. I am willing to work with all of you in a massive private skype area to work on specific projects to enhance our sites, draw in traffic, and work towards the progress we want to see made in the future.
If at any point we are able to develop paid roles for people, we would first pull them from this group of activists who will be putting in their time on a volunteer basis. Volunteers will receive special recognition and gifts when possible.
If you are serious about wanting a change, and you like how the RRS does it, this is your chance to work with me behind the scenes and make yourself feel better about making a big impact.
If you are interested, your first job is to get skype at www.skype.com. Please also feel free to bump this thread with your interest. In fact, if you don't have the time, just bumping this thread alone will be a help. It'll likely take me a year to build this crew, but when I do, it'll be a force to be reckoned with, that is for sure.
For those that have already been helping and don't have skype, please get it. We'll be using it more often to call on people to help, the instant a project comes up.
After you get skype search for "Brian Sapient." Do not call me, no microphone is attached to this computer, I can't answer. If you have never posted on our board and don't have someone we know that can vouch for you, please be prepared to take the slow track, including starting by posting on our message board. Basically we need to be able to be reasonably certain of who you are and your intentions before we ask for too much from you, I hope you understand.
If you even consider helping us in this sort of manner, please accept my thanks already.
Keep in mind that we currently manage multiple sites with the same name and password and hope to be bringing many more on in the future. Because of our support for Margaret Downey, we already have interest from two major atheist groups to merge. We are not opposed to helping to create the largest multi site atheist community in the world. And if we already are the largest multi site atheist community (I think we are), then we're willing to make it larger, and find the money to afford the server. Special thanks to Gizmo for footing the bill and spending tons of hours on our sites in the last few months.
Healthy Addict meets Dawkins at AAI
Her title for this video is "I make Dawkins blush", but it seems to be the other way around to me...
Creation Museum Project Update
Well, the wheels are turning slowly, but the work for the project is underway. We have a good number of people on board, but not as many as we would like. Anyone who would like to lend a hand is more than welcome to raise their voice to the call. The main areas of scientific study we are looking at are astronomy, paleontology, evolutionary biology, geology, archeology, and anything else we may need to expose the fraudulent claims put forth by the AIG Creation Museum.
Our plans are to compile all the necessary information and subit it to a member of the scienific community that's in the relevant field of study for each piece to check our work so accuracy is assured. That is, of course, if there wasn't a degreed person working on the piece to begin with, but even then, mulitple opinions may be required to form a complete and air-tight argument. I will, as always, keep you all up to date on this project.
Cassini Is On The Trail Of A Runaway Mystery
Cassini captures the first high-resolution glimpse of the bright trailing hemisphere of Saturn's moon Iapetus in this false-color mosaic. This false-color mosaic shows the entire hemisphere of Iapetus. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)
Science Daily — NASA scientists are on the trail of Iapetus' mysterious dark side, which seems to be home to a bizarre "runaway" process that is transporting vaporized water ice from the dark areas to the white areas of the Saturnian moon.
This "thermal segregation" model may explain many details of the moon's strange and dramatically two-toned appearance, which have been revealed exquisitely in images collected during a recent close flyby of Iapetus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Infrared observations from the flyby confirm that the dark material is warm enough (approximately minus 230 degrees Fahrenheit or 127 Kelvin) for very slow release of water vapor from water ice, and this process is probably a major factor in determining the distinct brightness boundaries.
"The side of Iapetus that faces forward in its orbit around Saturn is being darkened by some mysterious process," said John Spencer, Cassini scientist with the composite infrared spectrometer team from the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.
Using multiple instruments on Cassini, scientists are piecing together a complex story to explain the bright and dark faces of Iapetus. But yet to be fully understood is where the dark material is coming from. Is it native or from outside the moon? It has long been hypothesized that this material did not originate from within Iapetus, but instead was derived from other moons orbiting at a much greater distance from Saturn in a direction opposite to Iapetus.
Scientists are now converging on the notion that the darkening process in fact began in this manner, and that thermal effects subsequently enhanced the contrast to what we see today.
"It's interesting to ponder that a more than 30-year-old idea might still help explain the brightness difference on Iapetus," said Tilmann Denk, Cassini imaging scientist at the Free University in Berlin, Germany. "Dusty material spiraling in from outer moons hits Iapetus head-on, and causes the forward-facing side of Iapetus to look different than the rest of the moon."
Once the leading side is even slightly dark, thermal segregation can proceed rapidly. A dark surface will absorb more sunlight and warm up, explains Spencer, so the water ice on the surface evaporates. The water vapor then condenses on the nearest cold spot, which could be Iapetus's poles, and possibly bright, icy areas at lower latitudes on the side of the moon facing in the opposite direction of its orbit. So the dark stuff loses its surface ice and gets darker, and the bright stuff accumulates ice and gets brighter, in a runaway process.
Scientists say the result is that there are virtually no shades of gray on Iapetus. There is only white and very dark.
Ultraviolet data also show a non-ice component in the bright, white regions of Iapetus. Spectroscopic analysis will reveal whether the composition of the material on the dark hemisphere is the same as the dark material that is present within the bright terrain.
"The ultraviolet data tell us a lot about where the water ice is and where the non-water ice stuff is. At first glance, the two populations do not appear to be present in the pattern we expected, which is very interesting," said Amanda Hendrix, Cassini scientist on the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Because of the presence of very small craters that excavate the bright ice beneath, scientists also believe that the dark material is thin, a result consistent with previous Cassini radar results. But some local areas may be thicker. The dark material seems to lie on top of the bright region, consistent with the idea that it is a residual left behind by the sublimated water ice.
Some other mysteries are coming together. There are more data on the signature mountain ridge that gives Iapetus its "walnut" appearance. In some places it appears subdued. One big question that remains is why it does not go all the way around.
Was it partially destroyed after it formed, or did it never extend all the way around the moon? Scientists have ruled out that it is a youthful feature because it is pitted with craters, indicating it is old. And the ridge looks too solid and competent to be the result of an equatorial ring around the moon collapsing onto its surface. The ring theory cannot explain features that look like tectonic structures in the new high resolution images.
Over the next few months, scientists hope to learn more about Iapetus' mysteries.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.
Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Ancient African Megadroughts May Have Driven Human Evolution -- Out Of Africa
Science Daily — From 135,000 to 90,000 years ago tropical Africa had megadroughts more extreme and widespread than any previously known for that region, according to new research.
Learning that now-lush tropical Africa was an arid scrubland during the early Late Pleistocene provides new insights into humans' migration out of Africa and the evolution of fishes in Africa's Great Lakes.
"Lake Malawi, one of the deepest lakes in the world, acts as a rain gauge," said lead scientist Andrew S. Cohen of The University of Arizona in Tucson. "The lake level dropped at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) -- an extraordinary amount of water lost from the lake. This tells us that it was much drier at that time."
He added, "Archaeological evidence shows relatively few signs of human occupation in tropical Africa during the megadrought period."
The new finding provides an ecological explanation for the Out-of-Africa theory that suggests all humans descended from just a few people living in Africa sometime between 150,000 and 70,000 years ago.
"We've got an explanation for why that might have occurred -- tropical Africa was extraordinarily dry about 100,000 years ago," said Cohen, a UA professor of geosciences. "Maybe human populations just crashed."
Other researchers have documented droughts in individual regions of Africa at that time, such as the Kalahari desert expanding north and the Sahel expanding south, he said. "But no one had put it together that those droughts were part of a bigger picture."
Tropical Africa's climate became wetter by 70,000 years ago, a time for which there is evidence of more people in the region and of people moving north. As the population rebounded, people left Africa, Cohen said.
The newly discovered drastic drought also suggests the famous cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi evolved four to eight times slower than previously thought, altering scientists' view of fish evolution in the African Great Lakes.
Cohen and his colleagues have been working for years to learn more about ancient Africa's climate and ecology by coring Africa's deepest lakes.
The scientists discovered the ancient megadroughts by studying sediments cored from the bottom of Lake Malawi, an African rift lake that is currently 2,316 feet (706 meters) deep, and comparing those findings with similar records from Lakes Tanganyika and Bosumtwi.
"What's unique about the Malawi, Tanganyika and Bosumtwi cores is that they're continuous records. We can see what happened in one place over a long period of time," Cohen said.
Extracting cores from Lake Malawi required the kind of rig used in ocean-going drilling expeditions. Those expeditions just sail a drill-equipped ship to the desired site.
However, the Lake Malawi Drilling Project's target was land-locked.
The international research team collected the equipment necessary, shipped it overland, rented a barge and outfitted it to become a scientific drilling vessel. They equipped the ship, M/V Viphya, with the type of GPS positioning system needed to hold the large ship steady under windy and wavy conditions. The drilling equipment was lowered 1,942 feet (592 meters) to the lake bottom and bored into the lake's sediment another 1247 feet (380 meters). If the ship didn't hold its position over the drilling site, the expensive drilling equipment might snap.
The work was successful -- the team extracted a series of cores, some as much as 1247 feet (380 meters) long, representing hundreds of thousands of years of African history.
Such lake cores contain a high-resolution record of the things that fell in or died in the lake -- plankton, aquatic invertebrates, charcoal from fires on land, pollen from the surrounding vegetation. Scientists analyze those materials to figure out what the vegetation and the lake conditions were like at a particular point in time.
The researchers used radiocarbon and other dating techniques to establish the age of regions of the Malawi cores. Then researchers took samples at 300-year-intervals.
Samples from the megadrought times had little pollen or charcoal, suggesting sparse vegetation with little to burn.
Cohen said, "The area around Lake Malawi, which today is heavily forested and has rainfall levels comparable to the southeastern U.S., at that time would have looked like Tucson."
One indicator of drought present in the cores were species of invertebrates and plankton that only live in shallow, turbid, algae-rich waters -- a situation very different from the deep, clearwater lake that Malawi is now.
"During the megadrought, Lake Malawi was algae-filled and pea-soup green, much like modern-day Lake Turkana," Cohen said. "Lake Turkana is known as the Jade Sea."
The African Great Lakes are known for the spectacular biological diversity of their cichlid fish species, which number in the hundreds. A dramatic increase in the number of species was thought to happened after a dry spell about 25,000 to 15,000 years ago.
In contrast, Cohen and his colleagues suggest that the rise in species diversity happened after the megadroughts. By 70,000 years ago the lake had risen to more or less its current level and it had become a freshwater lake as it is today.
Although the team has used the lake cores to peer back in time 150,000 years, there's still much more to do: the Lake Malawi core represents as much as 1.5 million years of tropical Africa's past.
The research article by Cohen, UA researchers Jeffery Stone, Peter Reinthal and David Dettman and their colleagues, "Ecological consequences of early Late Pleistocene megadroughts in tropical Africa," is scheduled for early online publication the week of Oct. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Another article by members of the Lake Malawi Drilling Project, "East African megadroughts between 135 and 75 thousand years ago and bearing on early-modern human origins," is online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Christopher Scholz of Syracuse University in N.Y. is first author and Cohen and others are co-authors.
Both articles are scheduled for publication in the Oct. 16, 2007, print edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A full list of authors for each article is at the end of this release. The National Science Foundation, the International Continental Drilling Program and the Smithsonian Institution funded the research.
Cohen's co-authors on "Ecological consequences of early Late Pleistocene megadroughts in tropical Africa" are David Dettman and Peter N. Reinthal of The University of Arizona; Jeffery R. Stone of The University of Arizona and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln; Kristina R. M. Beuning and Sarah J. Ivory of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Lisa E. Park of the University of Akron in Ohio; Christopher A. Scholz of Syracuse University in N.Y.; Thomas C. Johnson and Erik T. Brown of the University of Minnesota, Duluth; John W. King of the University of Rhode Island at Narragansett; and Michael R. Talbot of the University of Bergen in Norway.
Cohen's co-authors on "East African megadroughts between 135 and 75 thousand years ago and bearing on early-modern human origins," are Christopher A. Scholz and Robert P. Lyons of Syracuse University in N.Y.; Thomas C. Johnson, Erik T. Brown and Isla S. Castaneda of the University of Minnesota, Duluth; Jonathan T. Overpeck and Timothy M. Shanahan of The University of Arizona; John W. King and Clifford W. Heil of the University of Rhode Island at Narragansett; John Peck of the University of Akron, Ohio; Michael R. Talbot of the University of Bergen in Norway; Leonard Kalindekafe of the Malawi Geological Survey Department in Zomba; Philip Y. O. Amoako of the Geological Survey Department of Ghana in Accra; Steven L. Forman, Jeanette Gomez and James Pierson of the University of Illinois at Chicago; Lanny R. McHargue of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in East Kilbride; and Kristina R. Beuning of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by University of Arizona.
Scientists 'Weigh' Tiny Galaxy Halfway Across Universe
Color composite image of the gravitational lens system, made from Hubble (blue and green) and Keck (red) data. The blue ring is the tiny background galaxy, stretched by the gravitational pull of the foreground lens galaxy at the center of the image. (Credit: Marshall & Treu (UCSB))
Science Daily — A tiny galaxy, nearly halfway across the universe, the smallest in size and mass known to exist at that distance, has been identified by an international team of scientists led by two from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The scientists used data collected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. This galaxy is about half the size, and approximately one-tenth the "weight" of the smallest distant galaxies typically observed, and it is 100 times lighter than our own Milky Way.
"Even though this galaxy is more than six billion light years away, the reconstructed image is as sharp as the ordinary ground-based images of the nearest structure of galaxies, the Virgo cluster, which is 100 times closer to us," said lead author Phil Marshall, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Barbara.
Second author Tommaso Treu, assistant professor of physics at UCSB, explained that the imaging is made possible by the fact that the newly discovered galaxy is positioned behind a massive galaxy, creating an "Einstein ring." The matter distribution in the foreground bends the light rays in much the same way a magnifying glass does. By focusing the light rays, this gravitational lensing effect increases the apparent brightness and size of the background galaxy by more than a factor of 10.
Treu and his colleagues in the Sloan Lens ACS Survey (SLACS) collaboration are at the forefront of the study of Einstein ring gravitational lenses. With gravitational lensing, light from distant galaxies is deflected on its way to Earth by the gravitational field of any massive object that lies in the way. Because the light bends, the galaxy is distorted into an arc or multiple separate images. When both galaxies are exactly lined up, the light forms a bull's-eye pattern, called an Einstein ring, around the foreground galaxy.
The mass estimate for the galaxy, and the inference that many of its stars have only recently formed, is made possible by the combination of optical and near infrared images from the Hubble Space Telescope with longer wavelength images obtained with the Keck Telescope. "If the galaxy is representative of a larger population, it could be one of the building blocks of today's spiral galaxies, or perhaps a progenitor of modern dwarf galaxies," said Treu. "It does look remarkably similar to the smallest galaxies in the Virgo cluster, but is almost half the way across the universe."
Another key aspect of the research is the use of "laser guide star adaptive optics." Adaptive optics systems use bright stars in the field of view to measure the Earth's atmospheric blurring and correct for it in real time. This technique relies on having a bright star in the image as well, so it is limited to a small fraction of the night sky.
The laser guide star adaptive optics system in place at the Keck Telescope uses a powerful laser to illuminate the layer of sodium atoms that exist in the Earth's atmosphere, explained Jason Melbourne, a team member from the Center for Adaptive Optics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The laser image acts as an artificial star, bright enough to perform adaptive optics correction at an arbitrary position in the sky, thus enabling much sharper imaging over most of the sky.
Marshall's postdoctoral fellowship research is funded by the TABASGO Foundation through UCSB. Treu's research is supported by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation.
Other researchers involved in the project are: Raphael Gavazzi of UC Santa Barbara; Kevin Bundy of the University of Toronto; S. Mark Ammons of Lick Observatory and the Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO) at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Adam S. Bolton of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii; Scott Burles of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Larkin of the University of California, Los Angeles; David Le Mignant of the W. M. Keck Observatory and CfAO at UC Santa Cruz; David C. Koo of the Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz; Leon V.E. Koopmans of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, the Netherlands; Claire E. Max of the Lick Observatory and CfAO at UC Santa Cruz; Leonidas A. Moustakas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology; Eric Steinbring of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council of Canada; and Shelly A. Wright of UCLA.
The findings will be published in the December 20, 2007 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by University of California, Santa Barbara.
Fossil Data Plugs Gaps In Current Knowledge, Study Shows
Science Daily — Researchers have shown for the first time that fossils can be used as effectively as living species in understanding the complex branching in the evolutionary tree of life.
While many scientists feel that fossils can offer insights from the ancient past, others have been reluctant to use extinct species because the data they offer is often less complete.
Most biologists, for example, have traditionally tried to piece together the evolutionary relationships between species using only the animals that are alive today.
But in research published in journal Systematic Biology, scientists from the University of Bath and the Natural History Museum compared the morphological datasets of 45 animal groups, both living (extant) and extinct.
By running a series of analyses they were able to measure how much the family tree of life needed to be altered when data from these extant and extinct species are included or removed.
They found no difference in the impact that the fossil groups made on the family tree compared to extant groups.
“Evolutionary biologists try to reconstruct rapid and deep evolutionary branching events that happened many tens or hundreds of millions of years ago,” said Dr Matthew Wills from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, who worked with Andrea Cobbett (University of Bath) and Dr Mark Wilkinson (Natural History Museum).
“Unlike living species, fossils offer ancient snapshots of life forms that were around at the time those branching events occurred.
“Also, living species have millions of years ‘worth’ of change piled on top of this, which can often bury the important signals we need to understand.
“Despite this, detractors have claimed that because fossil data are often less complete, usually just bones, shells and other hard parts, they are likely to muddy the water and make it difficult to find a robust evolutionary tree.
“What our research has done is demonstrate conclusively, and for the first time, that this is not the case.
“We also show that adding just one fossil to an analysis can result in a radically different picture of that group's evolutionary history. The trees constructed without fossils may be oversimplifications, and far from the truth.”
The research was funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council.
Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by University of Bath.
Scandal mires Oral Roberts UniversityTelevangelist's adult children indulged in wild spending, relationships with underage boys, lawsuit alleges
Oct 05, 2007 04:12 PM
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TULSA, Okla. – Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be ``called home."
Now, his son, Oral Roberts University president Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.
Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodelling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.
She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."
At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 18-metre-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit . . . is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."
Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.
Oral Roberts is 89 and lives in California. He holds the title of chancellor, but the university describes him as semi-retired, and his son presides over day-to-day operations on the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.
The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former professors. They sued ORU and Roberts, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race.
Richard Roberts, according to the suit, asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status. Up to 50 students are alleged to have worked on the campaign.
The professors also said their dismissals came after they turned over to the board of regents a copy of a report documenting moral and ethical lapses on the part of Roberts and his family. The internal document was prepared by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, according to the lawsuit.
An ORU student repairing Cantese's laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the professors.
It details dozens of alleged instances of misconduct. Among them:
– A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.
– Mrs. Roberts – who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's website – frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to ``underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."
– The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."
– Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.
– Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.
– University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.
– The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.
– The Roberts' home has been remodelled 11 times in the past 14 years.
Tim Brooker, one of the professors who sued, said he fears for the university's survival if certain changes aren't made.
"All over that campus, there are signs up that say, `And God said, build me a university, build it on my authority, and build it on the Holy Spirit,"' Brooker said. "Unfortunately, ownership has shifted."
Dirty War case: Argentine priest guiltyBy MAYRA PERTOSSI, Associated Press Writer
LA PLATA, Argentina - A Catholic priest accused in a series of deaths and kidnappings during Argentina's Dirty War was convicted and sentenced to life in prison Tuesday
Former police chaplain Christian von Wernich was found guilty of being a "co-participant" with police in seven homicides, 31 torture cases and 42 kidnappings, ending a trial that has focused attention on the church during the 1976-83 military rule.
Hundreds of people beat drums and set off fireworks outside the federal courthouse after the verdict was announced. Dozens of spectators cheered inside the packed courtroom including headscarved members of rights group the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who for the last 30 years have been seeking to learn the fate of sons and daughters who disappeared during a crackdown on dissent.
"At last, at last! My God, it's a conviction!" said Tati Almeyda, of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. "We never thought we'd see this day. Justice has been served."
Von Wernich earlier in the day professed his innocence: "False testimony is of the devil because he is responsible for malice and is the father of evil and lies."
On Monday a prosecutor recommended a life prison sentence for von Wernich, 69, saying the priest had been linked by survivors to at least five clandestine detention camps in Buenos Aires province.
"Do people really understand what a clandestine torture center was? Do people know all the terror that went on in those places?" prosecutor Carlos Dulau said.
During months of trial, more than 70 witnesses testified and judges toured former torture centers at police stations with survivors. The dirty war officially left some 13,000 dead or missing, although human rights groups have put the toll at nearly 30,000.
Defense lawyer Juan Martin Cerolini argued Tuesday that von Wernich as a priest was obliged to visit police detention centers as part of his duties. But Cerolini insisted that role did not mean von Wernich had any part in a state crackdown.
Cerolini rejected survivor testimony suggesting von Wernich — who has worn a bulletproof vest over his clerical collar during the trial — conspired with police to help extract information from prisoners subject to torture under the guise of giving them spiritual assistance.
"Von Wernich never kidnapped, tortured or killed anyone," Cerolini said. He charged that the trial was unjust and that the government is failing to prosecute "terrorist acts" committed by former leftist rebels against state security forces.
Von Wernich said in his last words to the judges that he never violated the priestly prohibition against revealing information obtained in the Roman Catholic sacrament of confession.
"No priest of the Catholic church ... has ever violated this sacrament," he said.
Argentina's Catholic Church, which withheld comment during the months of trial, said on its Web site that it was "moved by the pain" brought about by the priest's conviction for what constituted "serious crimes."
"We believe the steps taken by the justice system in clarifying events (of the past) should serve us to renew the forces of all citizens on the path to reconciliation," said the statement, which urged Argentines to put away "hate and rancor."
The statement did not address public criticism surrounding the trial that the church failed to vigorously defend human rights during the dictatorship.
However, defenders of the church over the years have rejected such charges, saying several priests and nuns were among those killed during the junta years.
Activists said they hoped von Wernich's conviction would encourage other courts to move forward with pending cases against scores of other former security agents.
Critics say the disappearance of a key witness during last year's trial of former police chief Miguel Etchecolatz has had a chilling effect on efforts to prosecute those cases. Etchecolatz was convicted in September 2006 in the same La Plata courthouse.
The trials came after the Supreme Court in 2005 annulled a pair of 1980s amnesty laws blocking prosecution of scores of former state security agents or their civilian allies.
Thou shalt not steal -- especially the Bible
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singaporean judge sentenced a man to four months in jail for stealing a Bible, admonishing him with Scripture before hauling him off to prison, The Straits Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.
District judge Bala Reddy also gave a new Bible to the 26-year-old thief, who said he had tried to steal the book from a bookshop last month because he wanted to replace his old, tattered copy.
At the Tuesday sentencing, the judge told the defendant -- who has previous convictions for theft -- to open his gift.
"You will see at page 65 that it says "Thou shalt not steal. While you are in prison, sit in prison and read the Bible, and ensure that you don't come before the courts again," Reddy said.
Mexican cardinal complains of threats
MEXICO CITY - Mexico's top Roman Catholic cardinal, who is accused in a U.S. lawsuit of protecting an alleged pedophile priest, said he has received threats and will ask the government additional security.
Norberto Rivera said he feels "always at risk" in an interview broadcast by the Televisa network, after several protesters kicked, pounded and reportedly spat at his car outside Mexico City's cathedral after his weekly Mass.
It was unclear why the protesters attacked the car, and Rivera has not said who is behind death threats against him.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said Tuesday he had instructed his security secretary, Joel Ortega, to help. But Church officials have suggested that Sunday's confrontation may have involved supporters of Ebrard's Democratic Revolution Party, which party officials deny.
"We can't tolerate this kind of chaos at the cathedral," Rivera said, "where today they hit me and tomorrow they shoot at me."
Rivera seemed to suggest he wanted help from federal authorities, and it was unclear if he would accept the offer from the capital's leftist government, which has accused him of interfering in politics by organizing opposition to a new city law legalizing abortion in the first trimester. Mexican law prohibits clerics from taking an active role in politics.
Rivera has been accused in connection with a lawsuit of protecting a priest accused of molesting young boys in the U.S. and Mexico. Rivera says he was unaware of child molestation allegations against accused priest Nicolas Aguilar.
Rivera's spokesman, Hugo Valdemar, was not available Tuesday to respond to questions.
The Price of Freedom (an article by Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali)If the Dutch government abandons Ayaan Hirsi Ali, America should welcome her. By Christopher Hitchens Posted Monday, Oct. 8, 2007, at 11:28 AM ET
If any country has enjoyed a long reputation for peaceful and democratic consensus combined with civic fortitude, that country is the Netherlands. It was one of the special countries of the Enlightenment, providing refuge for the family of Baruch Spinoza and for the heterodox Pierre Bayle and René Descartes. It overcame Catholic-Protestant fratricide with a unique form of coexistence, put up a spirited resistance to Nazi occupation, evolved a constitutional form of monarchy, and managed to make a fairly generous settlement with its former colonies and their inhabitants.
In the last few years, two episodes have hideously sullied this image. The first smirching was the conduct of the Dutch contingent in Bosnia, who in July 1995 abandoned the population of the U.N.-protected "safe haven" at Srebrenica and enabled the worst massacre of civilians on European soil since World War II. Dutch officers were photographed hoisting champagne glasses with the sadistic goons of Ratko Mladic's militia before leaving the helpless Muslim population to a fate that anyone could have predicted.
Those of us who protested at this slaughter of Europe's Muslims are also obliged to register outrage, I think, at the Dutch state's latest betrayal. On Oct. 1, having leaked its intention in advance to the press, the Christian-Democrat administration of Jan Peter Balkenende announced that it would no longer guarantee the protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
To give a brief back story, it will be remembered that Hirsi Ali, a refugee from genital mutilation, forced marriage, and civil war in her native Somalia, was a member of the Dutch parliament. She collaborated with Theo van Gogh on a film—Submission—that highlighted the maltreatment of Muslim immigrant women living in Holland. Van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street in November 2004; a note pinned to his body with a knife proved to be a threat to make Hirsi Ali the next victim. Placed inside a protective bubble by the authorities, she was later evicted from her home after neighbors complained that she was endangering their safety and then subjected to a crude attempt to deprive her of her citizenship. Resolving not to stay where she was not wanted, Hirsi Ali moved to the United States, where she was offered a place by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and where the Dutch government undertook to continue to provide her with security. This promise it no longer finds it convenient to keep. The ostensible reason for the climb-down is the cost, which involves a basic 2 million euros (not very much for a state), which can admittedly sometimes be higher if Hirsi Ali has to travel.
The Dutch parliament debates this question later this week, and I hope that its embassies hear from people who don't regard this as an "internal affair" of the Netherlands. If a prominent elected politician of a Western country can be left undefended against highly credible threats from Islamist death squads, what price all of our easy babble about not "appeasing terrorists"? Especially disgraceful is the Dutch government's irresponsible decision to announce to these death squads, without even notifying Hirsi Ali, that after a given date she would be unprotected and easy game. (Lest I inadvertently strengthen this deplorable impression, let me swiftly add that at present she is under close guard in the United States.)
Suppose the narrow and parochial view prevails in Holland, then I think that we in America should welcome the chance to accept the responsibility ourselves. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become a symbol of the resistance, by many women from the Muslim world, to gender apartheid, "honor" killing, genital mutilation, and other horrors of clerical repression. She has been a very clear and courageous voice against the ongoing attack on our civilization mounted by exactly the same forces. Her recent memoir, Infidel (which I recommend highly, and to which, I ought to say, I am contributing a preface in its paperback edition), is an account of an extremely arduous journey from something very like chattel slavery to a full mental and intellectual emancipation from theocracy. It is a road that we must, and for our own sake as well, be willing to help others to travel.
For a while, her security in America was provided by members of the elite Dutch squad that is responsible for the protection of the Dutch royal family and Dutch politicians. The U.S. government requested that this be discontinued, for the perfectly understandable reason that foreign policemen should not be operating on American soil. The job has now been subcontracted, and was until recently underwritten by The Hague. If The Hague defaults, then does the "war on terror" administration take no interest in protecting the life of one of the finest enemies, and one of the most prominent targets, of the terrorists? Hirsi Ali has been accepted for permanent residence in the United States, and would, I think, like to become a citizen. That's an honor. If she was the CEO of Heineken or the president of Royal Dutch Shell, and was subject to death threats while on U.S. soil, I have the distinct feeling that the forces of law and order would require no prompting to consider her safety a high priority.
A last resort would be to set up a trust or fund by voluntary subscription and continue to pay for her security that way. Perhaps some of the readers of this column would consider kicking in or know someone who was about to make an unwise campaign contribution that could be diverted to a better end? If so, do please watch this space and be prepared to write to your congressional representatives, or to the Dutch ambassador, in the meantime. We keep hearing that not enough sacrifices are demanded of us, and many people wonder what they can do to forward the struggle against barbarism and intimidation. So, now's your chance.
Turkey warns US on Armenia genocide billBy SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer Tue Oct 9, 4:53 PM ET
ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's president warned the U.S. government Tuesday that their longtime ties will be harmed if Congress passes a resolution putting the genocide label on the mass killings of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turk lands during World War I.
President Abdullah Gul said in a letter there would be "serious troubles" if Congress adopted the measure, which is expected to be considered Wednesday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Armenians, backed by many historians, contend hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in an organized genocide. Turks say the killings came amid widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire collapsed in the years before modern Turkey was born in 1923.
In recent years, Armenians have campaigned for international recognition of the killings as genocide, and France is among countries that officially adopted that view. Turkey, a member of NATO along with France, broke military ties with the French government after that.
Gul's complaint to President Bush came as the Turkish governing party decided to ask for parliamentary approval for a military attack into northern Iraq, seeking to wipe out bases used by guerrillas of a Turkish Kurd separatist movement.
U.S. officials fear an incursion into Iraq's Kurdish region could destabilize one of the few areas in the country that have remained relatively peaceful and have urged the Turkish government against sending troops across the border.
The Bush administration is pressing Congress to reject the Armenian resolution, which would have no binding effect on U.S. foreign policy. But its supporters appear to have enough votes to win approval from the full House.
Some analysts said passage could break the last constraints holding the Turkish government back from striking into Iraq, despite the rising anger of Turks over recent attacks by rebels in largely Kurdish southeastern Turkey.
"What was preventing an operation was the fear that Turkey-U.S. relations might reach a new low, and concerns not to harm relations any further," said Ihsan Dagi in the international relations department of Middle East Technical University in Ankara.
"However, if the Armenian genocide resolution passes, that will be the moment when relations between Turkey and the United States collapse."
Polls say the United States already is unpopular in Turkey due to widespread opposition to the war in Iraq.
Many in the U.S. administration worry the Armenian resolution also could lead Turkey to restrict crucial supply routes to Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps to close Incirlik, a strategic Turkish air base used by the United States.
In Ankara, the U.S. Embassy warned that the resolution could spark demonstrations and anti-American anger across Turkey and said that American citizens should be vigilant.
US experts leave for NKorea to begin disabling nuclear arsenalby P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A team of US experts left Tuesday for North Korea to disable the hardline communist state's nuclear weapons arsenal in a crucial phase of a six-nation disarmament pact.
The eight experts would launch the process of "actual disablement" at the key Yongbyon nuclear complex, the source of bomb-grade plutonium for North Korea, which conducted its first atomic weapons test exactly a year ago, officials said.
The experts are expected to reach Pyongyang on Thursday after a stopover in Beijing.
They would stay in North Korea for about a week before another team takes over in a "baton pass," said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman.
North Korea agreed last week to disable by December 31 the main plutonium producing reactor at Yongbyon and two other key nuclear facilities at the complex, which were shut down in July in the first phase of a February six-party agreement.
The United States, a nuclear weapons state, will lead the disablement drive as Pyongyang makes a full declaration of its nuclear network under the deal clinched by China, the United States, Russia, the two Koreas and Japan.
North Korea was promised energy aid as well as diplomatic and security guarantees if it disbands its nuclear weapons drive.
The United States is taking great pains to ensure that North Korea sticks to its plan to declare and disable its nuclear program and eventually dismantle it and surrender all the atomic material.
North Korea previously shut down the Yongbyon reactor under a 1994 agreement clinched during the administration of then president Bill Clinton, but it withdrew from the pact after the Bush administration in 2002 accused it of developing a secret uranium enrichment program.
The North responded by throwing out weapons inspectors, leaving the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resuming its atomic activities.
"We don't want a situation like in 2002 ... (when) they were able to turn the plant back on in two months time," said Christopher Hill, the US pointman for the six-party talks, pointing out that there was no disablement then.
"We need many more months and ideally, I'd like to see, you know, around 12 months," Hill said.
He said the disablement process would "make it difficult" for North Korea to restart its nuclear activities.
"You can take certain components out of the facilities and, for example, take things out of a reactor such that they are not so easy to just put back into the reactor," he said.
"For example, if you took a battery out of a car and just left the battery next to the car, that would not be real disablement because you could just put the battery right back in the car.
"But let's say you put the battery somewhere else or let's say it's the only battery in town and the battery is disabled slightly on its own, then it becomes more difficult to do," he said.
Guards fire on car in Iraq, kill 2 womenBy KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - Guards working for an Australian-owned security company fired on a car as it approached their convoy Tuesday, killing two women civilians before speeding away from the latest bloodshed blamed on the deadly mix of heavily armed protection details on Baghdad's crowded streets.
The deaths of the two Iraqi Christians — including one who used the white sedan as an unofficial taxi to raise money for her family — came a day after the Iraqi government handed U.S. officials a report demanding hefty payments and the ouster from Iraq of embattled Blackwater USA for a chaotic shooting last month that left at least 17 civilians dead.
The deaths Tuesday at a Baghdad intersection may sharpen demands to curb the expanding array of security firms in Iraq watching over diplomats, aid groups and others.
"We deeply regret this incident," said a statement from Michael Priddin, the chief operating officer of Unity Resources Group, a security company owned by Australian partners but with headquarters in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Priddin said the company would disclose more details of the shooting after "the facts have been verified and the necessary people and authorities notified." Priddin would not comment on whether his guards killed the women.
But initial accounts — from company statements, witnesses and others — suggested the guards opened fire as the car failed to heed warnings to stop and drifted closer to the convoy near a Unity facility in central Baghdad's Karrahah district.
It was not immediately clear whether the guards were protecting a client at the time, but a group that uses its security agents said its personnel were not at the scene.
Four armored SUVs — three white and one gray — were about 100 yards from a main intersection in the Shiite-controlled district. As the car, a white Oldsmobile, moved into the crossroads, the Unity guards threw a smoke bomb in an apparent bid to warn the car not to come closer, said Riyadh Majid, an Iraqi policeman who saw the shooting.
Two of the Unity guards then opened fire. The woman driving the car tried to stop, but was killed along with her passenger. Two of three people in the back seat were wounded.
Priddin's statement offers a similar account: "The first information that we have is that our security team was approached at speed by a vehicle which failed to stop despite an escalation of warnings which included hand signals and a signal flare. Finally shots were fired at the vehicle and it stopped."
Iraqi police investigators said they collected 19 spent 5.56mm shell casings, ammunition commonly used by U.S. and NATO forces and most Western security organizations. The pavement was stained with blood and covered with shattered glass from the car windows.
Majid said the convoy raced away after the shooting. Iraqi police came to collect the bodies and tow the car to the local station.
A second policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said the guards were masked and wearing khaki uniforms. He said one of them left the vehicle and started to shoot at the car while another opened fire from the open back door of a separate SUV.
The victims were identified by relatives and police as Marou Awanis, born in 1959, and Geneva Jalal, born in 1977. Awanis' sister-in-law, Anahet Bougous, said the woman had been using her car to drive government employees to work to help raise money for her three daughters. Her husband died during heart surgery last year.
"May God take revenge on those killers," Bougous said, crying outside the police station. "Now, who is going to raise them?"
"These are innocent people killed by people who have no heart or consciousness. The Iraqi people have no value to them," said a man who was part of a group of relatives gathered with a Christian priest at the local police station.
Iraqi anger has grown against the private security companies — nearly all based in the United States, Britian and other Western countries — as symbols of the lawlessness that has ravaged their country for more than four years.
Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraq's government spokesman, said: "Today's incident is part of a series of reckless actions by some security companies."
An Iraqi investigation of the Blackwater shooting on Sept. 16 was ordered by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and called for the company to pay $8 million in compensation to the families of each of the 17 victims. The commission also said Blackwater guards had killed 21 other Iraqis in past incidents since it began protecting American diplomats in Iraq shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Unity also has come under scrutiny before.
In March 2006, the company issued an statement of sympathy after one of its guards was blamed for shooting a 72-year-old Iraqi-born Australian, Kays Juma, at a security checkpoint in Baghdad.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Juma was killed because he was in a car that failed to stop. Unity said multi-national forces and Iraqi police also were present at the checkpoint at the time.
Unity provides armed guards and security training throughout Iraq. Its heavily armed teams are Special Forces veterans from Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Britain — as well as former law enforcement officers from those countries.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the shooting did not involve U.S. diplomats. "It was not an American convoy," he said.
RTI International, a group based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., that promotes governance projects in Iraq, said Unity was providing security for the group but none of its staff members "were involved or present when the incident occurred."
The group said Unity was fully cooperating with Iraqi and U.S. officials investigating the incident.
"We are deeply saddened by this loss of life," RTI spokesman Patrick Gibbons said in a statement. "While we have every reason to believe that proper security protocols were followed, that is a matter to be determined by the investigation."
In other violence across Iraq, at least 57 Iraqis were found dead or killed in bombings and shootings.
In Beiji, an oil hub 155 miles north of Baghdad, two suicide bombers drove a minibus laden with explosives into the house of a local police chief and detonated an explosives-packed Toyota Land Cruiser outside the home of a leading member of the local Awakening Council, a group of Iraqis who have turned against al-Qaida in Iraq extremists in the area.
Police in Beiji said at least 19 died in the attacks, which badly damaged a Sunni mosque about 100 yards away from the police chief's house. Three guards there were among the dead. The men targeted in the attacks were not killed, police said.
In Baghdad, a series of four car bombs killed 16.
Associated Press writers Katarina Kratovac, Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this story.
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
Missionary and two sons burnt to death by Hindu MobAn Australian missionary and his two sons who were burnt to death at the weekend in an attack allegedly led by Hindu extremists. The widow of an Australian missionary murdered by a Hindu mob has vowed to remain in India and continue her husband's work among lepers. Gladys Staines also denied that her husband Graham was involved in attempts to forcibly convert local tribes people in the state of Orissa.
"Suck it Jesus" Challenge
The Atheists Spreading the Word
The Atheists Spreading the Word (Part 1 of 3)
The Atheists Spreading the Word (Part 2 of 3)
The Atheists Spreading the Word (Part 3 of 3)
New Rules: A Religious Test with Bill Maher
Bush to Iran's Ahmadinejad: MY GOD, or we blow you to bits
Religion - Marcus Brigstocke
Lewis Black on Limbaugh, Media Matters + our idiot congress
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.