#0064 RRS Newsletter for October 24, 2007

hellfiend666's picture










Please excuse my lack of posts lately, I've just got a lot on my plate right now and the need to prioritize dictates that obtaining, preparing for, and settling in at my new job is at the top of my list. I do not foresee this affecting anything in the long term, but I may be working more hours as well, we will see. So, thank you for understanding, and my apologies, again.

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



Table of Contents

Click on a title to view the article.

Click HERE to find your local affiliate!

Rational Response Squad News

Brian's Blog Things you can do to help us grow, and what I'm doing

RRS Affiliate News

Newest addition to the family, RRS Utah!

Science News

Gene-block birth control 'on way' Ancient reptile tracks unearthed Einstein@Home Research shows Neanderthals may have talked

Religion

Debate between Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath (long) Priest’s ‘trail of tears’ Charges in Religious Lawsuit Against Army Detailed Defrocked Priest, Catholic Church Headed To Federal Trial

Government

Castro claims Bush could spark WWIII Sharp drop seen in US deaths in Iraq Turkey launches diplomatic offensive Blackwater to be phased out of guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq

Community

Atheist Blood Drive Atheists for Autism Research Charity! Religious Victim of the day Ayaan Hirsi Ali at AAI 07 Christopher Hitchens at AAI 07

Entertainment

911 Truthers: The Saddest Sadasses in Sadnessville Rosemary Altea Debunked by Penn and Teller (Bullsh*t) Lewis Black Heaven's Gate Lewis Black: The Iraq War.





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Kelly and I are going to Borders to see our story in Radar Magazine.





Sapient's picture Submitted by Sapient on Mon, 2007-10-15 10:15.

I'm in a rush, but I just wanted to tell you that the November issue of Radar Magazine has a three page story on us. You can head to Borders Books around the country today to pick up the issue, consider calling in advance to double check. Barnes and Noble stocks Radar, but both stores we visited still had last issue, and the computer didn't think they'd get it for another month. We think that was an error due to the fact that Radar was previously bi-monthly. Another user reports that his Barnes and Noble stocks it.

So... head to Borders today if you want the November issue in which our 3 page spread is shown. Hopefully Kelly and I will be able to scan the magazine in here and show it to you (after it's no longer a current issue).

Here's what they say on their site:
Fame
The No-God Squad
How a scrappy band of heathens became a media sensation—and gave godlessness a fresh new face.
By Richard Rys

Radars online story simply links to the Blasphemy Challenge vid... GREAT EXPOSURE FOR THE VIDEO!

Make sure to comment at the Radar Online story page (currently comments seem to be broken, we have a phone call in to them)!! That's another way that Radar will measure the success of the story and show that we can generate some buzz for them. I know, I know, everybody hates to register for anything, but it's free and you're supporting a good cause. You wont have to wait for email confirmation either.

If you forget... there is a split second of the writer who got the story in Radar in our opening video to the WOTM slaughter.


Link to video on Revver where you can download free: http://one.revver.com/watch/261770/flv/affiliate/78047

NEW CONTEST! WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF OUR ARTICLE IN RADAR:

direct link:

You can give your copy of Radar to a friend later. We'll even personalize it. The first 15 people to upload a video attached to ours (coming soon) will be eligible to receive one of the three copies we autographed. We'll award 1 each time we get 5 video responses. Videos can consist of you checking out the magazine at a Borders, maybe include a visit to the atheist section there on film (let's give Borders some credit for making an atheism section at most stores). You could also make a video of you at home reading the mag, or talking about our story in the mag on your video. Try to give some props to Radar for being on the cutting edge, if you can. They've given a fair shake and have talked about Hitchens quite a bit.



Sapient's blog | add new comment | write to author | quote | delicious delicious | digg digg | reddit reddit | magnoliacom magnoliacom | newsvine newsvine | furl furl | google google | yahoo yahoo | technorati technorati | subscribe blog | subscribe post

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Things you can do to help us grow, and what I'm doing





Blog or Digg our post on Digg which mentions our new historic video site project.

Running alongside Margaret Downey on this whole atheist unity thing we've been helping some friends build their recognition. We've got quite a few new sites that will be coming on our network and you'll be able to hop from site to site, leave comments, rsvp for events, and participate in projects that embrace the goals and aims of The Rational Response Squad.

Brought online last week: http://www.MargaretDowney.com

Today we find out that Margaret hits the opening Alexa ranks extremely high, at around 3,000,000... about a million better than Greg Epstein (and dozens of other popular atheist sites) Greg Epstein!

The IE warning will be on all of our sites soon as well, although it will be reduced in size amongst all sites... get firefox with google toolbar now!!

IF YOU EVER DIGG A STORY ON OUR SITE OR POST ONE ON REDDIT, PLEASE POST THE LINK IN MY COMMENTS HERE TO BUMP THIS BLOG POST. How many can you post in a day? 3? 4?

Additionally please pick up the Alexa toolbar for firefox, so that your hits are counted in our page ranking. We have just recently realized with hard data that we are among the top atheist websites in the world, and much of it has come without our hits even counting. We'd easily be able to claim we are one of the top 3 most popular atheist communities in the world with just a little push in a few areas. It's those areas that we are developing a focus on right now. Sites like Stumbleupon (which delivers tons of our traffic) should be utilized by our users. You can click a thumbs up button on every page of our site very easily and submit reviews of pages (submitting reviews of pages is very helpful). Making sure to affix the tags atheist/agnostic/atheism would be nice, since we miss out on some google ranking on those words, with our rank being built more on the word "rational."

Make sure you've said something positive our main stumbleupon review page, and click that you like RationalResponders.com.

Del.icio.us is a site where you can bookmark your favorites and then see them from wherever you log in around the world, no matter where you are. The delicious add on.

We've added Digg buttons as well as a host of others. Please start using these services on our site, and use them often. Especially reddit and digg. Our site generates tons of new and fresh content, so if you use these sites to promote stories you find here, you will help take us to the next level.

We are worthy... we aren't simply out for ourselves. We will be spreading the love and working out arrangements to help, host, and bring on to our network a fleet of new sites in the next year or two.

Sites in development to be on the Rational Response Squad Network (same username and password at each site):

http://www.GreydonSquare.com (on our network in 1-3 months)
http://www.wotmwatchdog.org (on our network in a week)
http://www.comedyjesus.com (on our network in 1-3 months)
http://www.religionisretarded.com (on our network in 1-3 months)

We also have www.MargaretDowney.com up and running fairly well now.

http://www.briansapient.com will soon be a wordpress site. We are considering building 3 word press sites. http://www.RookHawkins.com and Kelly would have a site as well. These sites would be like personal bio sites, that would heavily link to stories on our network sites.

If you want to see my site in development right now check out: http://www.briansapient.com/blog

This blog on RRS will still be the main place to get all the info on my whereabouts. Please place my blog in your rss feeder, or in a feed on your site. (make reviews and click "like it" in my blog with stumbleupon)

Our activist team has been working hard to get our content on to other channels. Here are the highlights, you should get involved!

  • We now have a revenue generating lulu.tv account. Here is our homepage at lulu.tv. We will tinker with a podcast which will be a feed of old material on a sporadic basis. Lulu will be hosting every one of our videos soon, and tons of audio over the long run. We'll also release at least one book on Lulu within the next 18 months, so snoop around.
  • Another Podcast method I'm exploring is Podango. We might use Podango in conjunction with our wordpress sites (non rrs network) to show and subscribe to our podcast. Here is our page on Podango.
  • Kelly created a Last.fm group for The Rational Response Squad. Last.fm allows you to see what types of music your friends are listening to, and join groups with each other.
  • NEW GOOGLE GROUP! Join our new google group.
  • Digg all the stories that RRS website diggs! That'll be the easiest way to make sure you're doing your part on digg.
  • There is an rss feed for the posts on Digg that are important to Digg. It seems to be slow (or down), but here it is.
  • Here's our account on del.icio.us.
  • The team is loading our live video page with much of our material.
  • Here is our account on reddit. You can look at our account and rank up and comment the stories you like.

Please, you tell me. Which of the following do you use? Personally I would've never used any of them, but it seems they are vital to our site receiving more recognition.

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Newest addition to the family, RRS Utah!





We have a new chapter as of Saturday, Rational Response Squad Utah is being run by long time supporter *iVY*. So if any readers out there are in that state, be sure to look her up! You can reach her on Myspace HERE! On behalf of the rest of us local affiliates, we welcome you, and I'm sure your chapter will be a great success in the land of the Mormons.

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Gene-block birth control 'on way'

A contraceptive drug that avoids the side effects of hormonal birth control is on the horizon, say scientists.



An American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference was told a technique called "RNA interference" could stop sperm entering the egg.

Oral contraceptives can cause nausea, headaches, and low sex drive and raise slightly the risk of DVT and strokes.

However, the new "Pill" is at least a decade away - and may have its own side-effects.

RNA interference is a way of "silencing a gene" to stop it working properly, and the researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have identified a gene called ZP3 which is active in eggs just before they are fertilised.

ZP3 produces a protein which allows the sperm to bind to the surface of the egg. If this protein isn't there, the egg can't be fertilised.

The Boston team "silenced" the ZP3 gene in mice, and found they could not get pregnant.

Big seller

Dr Zev Williams, who presented the research to the conference, said: "We simply don't have a contraceptive drug that is non-hormonal and reversible.

"What we are trying to do is to think about contraception in a new way.

"Obviously there are going to be hurdles and it is going to take a lot of time, but the need is there and we think it can be achieved."

Professor Bill Ledger, from the University of Sheffield, said that a lot of women still had side effects, even on the modern hormonal contraceptives. "This is a new concept. If it were available, I am sure a lot of people would want to take it.

"If it isn't hormonal, that's a big selling point."

However, the researchers estimate that it will be at least 10 years before clinical trials of an RNAi contraceptive would be possible.

Off-target

Dr Martin Fabani, a researcher in the technique at Cambridge University, said that obstacles would need to be overcome, and that there was no guarantee that side-effects could be avoided completely.

He said: "RNA interference is fantastic and there was a big hype around it, but people are starting to see what we call 'off-target' effects - where the therapy has an unwanted effect elsewhere in the body.

"Every single application has some degree of off target effects."

The research into ZP3 has one advantage in this respect, as the gene appears to be active only in eggs prior to the moment of fertilisation, and nowhere else in the body.

The researchers say this means it could be "switched off" without necessarily affecting either the prior development of the egg and ovulation, or other parts of the body.





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Ancient reptile tracks unearthed





The earliest evidence for the existence of reptiles has been found in Canada.

The 315 million-year-old fossilised tracks give an insight into a key milestone in the history of life, when animals left water to live on dry land.

The footprints suggest reptiles evolved between one and three million years earlier than previously thought.

They were found by UK scientist Dr Howard Falcon-Lang in fossil-rich sea cliffs at New Brunswick. "The discovery was pure luck," he said.

"As I walked along remote sea-cliffs at the end of a long day in the field, I passed a recent rock fall.

"One large slab of rock was covered with hundreds of fossil footprints! The Sun was low in the sky and I probably wouldn't have seen them if it hadn't been for the shadows," the University of Bristol researcher explained.

Diverse ecology

The ancient trackway gives an insight into a time when vertebrates were evolving through amphibians to reptiles.

The origin of reptiles, in particular the appearance of eggs protected by a shell, allowed four-legged animals to avoid having to go back into water to lay eggs, heralding life on dry land.

"The evolution of reptiles was one of the most important events in the whole history of life," Dr Falcon-Lang told BBC News.

"That paved the way for the diverse ecology that we have on our planet today."

Scientists believe the tracks preserved in sandstone were left by reptiles gathering around a watering hole on river plains that were dry for at least part of the year.

List of suspects

Using a bit of biological detective work, Dr Falcon-Lang and colleagues in the UK and Canada tracked down the likely maker of the footprints.

"There were only a few species capable of making prints like this around at the time so we came up with a shortlist of suspects," said Professor Mike Benton, also of the University of Bristol, who co-authored the study.

"However, the prints showed that the hands had five fingers and scales, sure evidence they were made by reptiles and not amphibians."

The most likely contender was a lizard-like reptile named Hylonomus lyelli after the 19th Century geologist Sir Charles Lyell.

Until now, the oldest evidence for reptiles was thought to be skeletal fossils of the creature found in 1859 by William Dawson.

Dr Falcon-Lang said the new material was found in the same general region of an area of rock formation known as Joggins but at a level almost a kilometre below Dawson's discovery.

"Consequently we can be confident the footprints are older than the skeletons," he said.

"The most likely track-maker was the Hylonomus lyelli reptile we know from the slightly later remains at Joggins," he added.

The results of the study are published in the Journal of the Geological Society of London.




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Einstein@Home





According to Albert Einstein, we live in a universe full of gravitational waves. He suggested that the movements of heavy objects, such as black holes and dense stars, create waves that change space and time. We have a chance to detect these waves, but we need your help to do it!

Einstein@Home uses computer time donated by computer owners all over the world to process data from gravitational wave detectors. Participants in Einstein@Home download software to their computers, which process gravitational wave data when not being used for other computer applications, like word processors or games. Einstein@Home doesn’t affect the performance of computers and greatly speeds up this exciting research.


Learn more about the project.

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Research shows Neanderthals may have talked

By Michael Kahn



LONDON (Reuters) - Neanderthals, often portrayed as grunting, club-carrying brutes, may have been capable of sophisticated speech, researchers said on Thursday.

A DNA analysis shows Neanderthals share with humans two key changes in the FOXP2 gene known to be involved in speech, raising the possibility the species possessed some prerequisites for language, the researchers said.

"From the point of this gene at least the Neanderthals could have had language like we do," said Johannes Krause, a biochemist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, who led the study.

But many as yet unknown genes may also underlie the capacity for language, the researchers added.

FOXP2 produces a protein that turns other genes on and off and people who carry a non-functioning copy of the gene have speech and language problems.

Animals ranging from mice to orangutans have the gene and scientists had thought a relatively small change in FOXP2 emerged just as humans did less than 200,000 years ago.

The findings published in Current Biology suggest the genetic variation occurred long before, potentially as long as 400,000 years ago.

"We were surprised to find the same variant of the FOXP2 gene that humans have," Krause said. "This suggests that the last common ancestor Neanderthal and humans shared had this gene."

Neanderthals were a dead-end offshoot of the human line who inhabited Europe and parts of west and central Asia. Research indicates they were expert tool-makers, used animal skins to keep warm and cared for each other.

Most researchers believe Neanderthals survived in Europe until the arrival of fully modern humans about 30,000 years ago although controversial findings last year suggested they might have survived until as recently as 24,000 years ago.

Nobody knows if Neanderthals could talk but this finding shows they had at least had a key genetic change required for speech -- an evolutionary edge critical for human survival, Krause said.

"Language is a more sophisticated way to pass on knowledge to the next generation," he said. "You live like an infant if you do not learn."

In their study, the researchers extracted DNA from a collection of Neanderthal remains recently excavated from a site in Northern Spain.

Because the bones were so well preserved, the scientists were also able to retrieve nuclear DNA from Neanderthals, opening the way for a more complete understanding of human and Neanderthal evolution, Krause said.

"Nuclear DNA is the DNA in the nucleus of the cell that makes up nearly all the genetic information people carry. We can now study every Neanderthal gene we are interested in."





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Debate between Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath





Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World

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Priest’s ‘trail of tears’

By Susan Hogan/Albach Religion Reporter/shogan@suntimes.com



JESUITS | He’s been convicted twice, jailed twice — but his order lets him wear the collar, won’t say if he’ll be kicked out.

The Rev. Donald McGuire has been convicted of molesting two boys in Wisconsin, faces a new accusation of sexual abuse, and his Jesuit religious order privately settled yet another complaint, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Yet the Jesuits, known as the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, haven't stopped him from dressing as a priest and won't say whether they're seeking to have him laicized -- removed from the priesthood.

"When he wears that collar, he wears the authority of the church, which he used to abuse kids. It's time we took that away," said Kevin McGuire, the priest's nephew and a lawyer for "John Doe 116," who's suing the priest and the Jesuits.

Jesuits take vows of obedience, but the Rev. Edward Schmidt, head of Chicago Province, told the Sun-Times that he "can't find anything in the Jesuits' rules" permitting him to ask Donald McGuire to stop dressing as a priest.

Last year, McGuire was sentenced to seven years in prison, but he remains free pending appeal. He has been jailed twice for violating the terms of his release. And last week, he appeared in a Wisconsin courtroom in priest's clothes, though the Jesuits say he hasn't functioned publicly as a priest since 2003.

Nuns from Mother Teresa's religious order turned out to rally for him. For years, McGuire traveled the world leading retreats for her order and presented himself as Mother Teresa's spiritual adviser.

After her death in 1997, McGuire offered testimony in her cause for sainthood, Schmidt said.

"When Mother Teresa came to San Francisco in the 1990s, he not only led the mass, he got my family front-row seats and a private meeting with her," Kevin McGuire said.

John Doe 116 alleges that McGuire molested him on trips to 12 states and seven countries over a three-year period, beginning in 1993, when the boy was 13.

"We fear this predator priest has left a trail of tears far and wide," said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Despite McGuire's predator past, Schmidt said, the Jesuits "had no reason to suspect" that John Doe 116 was abused in his travels with McGuire.

Since the lawsuit was filed last month, Jesuits say they have hired outside auditors to review their files and reporting process.

The Jesuits say they settled a total of three complaints about McGuire and deny a Wisconsin prosecutor's claim of two others.




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Charges in Religious Lawsuit Against Army Detailed

By Jason Leopold t r u t h o u t | Report



Tuesday 25 September 2007

An Army major who was sued last week for allegedly threatening to retaliate against a soldier, and whom Pentagon officials said could not be located, has been tracked down through his MySpace page.

Freddy J. Welborn was identified in a federal lawsuit filed last week by Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, 22, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog organization. Because his name was mistakenly listed in the complaint as Paul Welborne, the Army said it was unable to locate him.

However, Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said researchers working for his group discovered Welborn's MySpace page on Sunday morning. Weinstein said the complaint his organization and Hall filed against Welborn, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will be amended and refiled in US District Court in Kansas City, Kansas on Tuesday to reflect Welborn's proper identity.

On Saturday, Lt. Col. James Hutton, a spokesman for multinational forces in Iraq, told an Associated Press reporter "several media reports list a person named Maj. Paul Welborne as having been involved in this situation."

"To date, we have not located any soldier by that name," Hutton told The Associated Press, in response to the story first reported by Truthout about the lawsuit filed against Welborn and the Pentagon.

The issue appeared to be an attempt to cast doubt on the validity of Hall's claims of widespread constitutional violations. However, hours after The Associated Press report was published, Weinstein's researchers and Hall were both able to locate Welborn, albeit under a different first name, at Combat Operations Base Speicher, Iraq, where Hall is serving his second tour of duty.

Hutton's statement to The Associated Press came on the heels of another Truthout report in which Weinstein said Hall was being threatened with bodily harm by other soldiers as a result of the lawsuit he had filed against Welborn and Defense Secretary Gates.

The lawsuit alleges Hall's First Amendment rights were violated beginning last Thanksgiving when, because he does not believe in God, he declined to participate in a Christian prayer ceremony commemorating the holiday.

"Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking ... staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist," says the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to Truthout. "The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal."

Moreover, the complaint alleges that on August 7, when Hall received permission by an Army chaplain to organize a meeting of other soldiers who shared his atheist beliefs, his supervisor, Army Major Welborn, broke up the gathering and threatened to retaliate against the soldier by charging him with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The complaint also alleges Welborn vowed to block Hall's reenlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet - a violation of Hall's First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Welborn is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"During the course of the meeting, defendant Welborn confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests," the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint charges that Hall, who is based at Fort Riley, Kansas, has been forced to "submit to a religious test as a qualification to his post as a soldier in the United States Army," a violation of Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.

Welborn, 44, who appears on his MySpace page in his Army uniform, wrote on his MySpace page that he is a devout Christian who received a bachelor's degree in "personal evangelism" and a minor in "Biblical world view" from Temple Tennessee University. He wrote that he is pursuing a second bachelor's degree in Christian studies from Calvary Bible College And Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He lists his occupation as "Bible Study--Operation Iraqi Freedom" and wrote that his interest is evangelism and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Currently serving w/3rd Inf Div [3rd Infantry Division] Civil Military Operations (Governance) in Baghdad Iraq," Welborn wrote on his MySpace page. He describes himself as a ""Warrior for the Lord Jesus Christ." He wrote that he and his wife Carla "place all our Faith & Trust in our Savior the Lord Jesus - who provides eternal life to anyone that believes that he is the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, lived as God in the flesh (as man) was crucified, died, and was buried then rose from the grave the third day, then acended [sic] to the right hand of the Father - True repentance (turning away from Sin to God) Being born again, Forgivness [sic] & Justification occure [sic] to the True Believer in Christ when Baptized w/God's Holy Spirit."

Additionally, Welborn endorses Stephen Mansfield's "The Faith of the American Soldier," a book that defends and praises controversial statements made by retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who characterized the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

Welborn could not be reached for comment. He did not reply to an email sent to him through his MySpace page. A Pentagon spokesman said it is not uncommon for soldiers to maintain their own blogs or web sites and he did not believe Welborn's MySpace page violated military policy.

Weinstein, a former White House attorney under Ronald Reagan, former general counsel to H. Ross Perot, and who spent a decade as an Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG), has been waging a war against the Department of Defense (DOD) for what he says is a blatant disregard of the Constitution and a pattern of forcing soldiers to embrace evangelical Christianity. Weinstein published a book on his fight: "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military." He is also an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the Air Force Academy. Three generations of his family have attended US military academies.

Since he launched his watchdog organization nearly two years ago, Weinstein said he has been contacted by more than 5,000 active duty and retired soldiers, many of whom served or currently serve in Iraq, who told Weinstein they were pressured by their commanding officers to convert to Christianity.

Last month, the Pentagon's inspector general (IG) excoriated high-ranking military officials for engaging in evangelism while on duty and in uniform. The IG responded to a complaint filed last year by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation alleging DOD officials violated military regulations by appearing in a video promoting an evangelical Christian organization.

The IG agreed and issued a 47-page report that was highly critical of senior Army and Air Force personnel for participating in the video while in uniform and on active duty.

The report recommended Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack Catton, Army Brig. Gen. Bob Caslen, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Maj. Gen. Peter Sutton, and a colonel and lieutenant colonel whose names were redacted in the inspector general's report, "improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity while in uniform" and the men should be disciplined for misconduct. Caslen was formerly the deputy director for political-military affairs for the war on terrorism, directorate for strategic plans and policy, joint staff. He now oversees the 4,200 cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point. Caslen told DOD investigators he agreed to appear in the video upon learning other senior Pentagon officials had been interviewed for the promotional video.

The inspector general's report recommended the "Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Army take appropriate corrective action with respect to the military officers concerned."

The Army generals who appeared in the video appeared to be speaking on behalf of the military, but they did not obtain prior permission to appear in the video. They defended their actions, according to the IG's report, saying the "Christian Embassy had become a 'quasi-Federal entity,' since the DOD had endorsed the organization to General Officers for over 25 years."

    Jason Leopold is senior editor and reporter for Truthout. He received a Project Censored award in 2007 for his story on Halliburton's work in Iran.





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Defrocked Priest, Catholic Church Headed To Federal Trial

Reported by: Joe Holden



WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY- Thursday ended a period of more than a year where the many sides of a civil proceeding could file motions in the upcoming federal trial of a defrocked priest and the church administrators who allegedly covered up tracks of abuse.

Former Scranton Diocesan priest Albert Liberatore pleaded guilty several years ago to sexually abusing a minor in Pennsylvania and New York. Federal court papers outline blatantly inappropriate behavior by Liberatore at Sacred Heart parish in Duryea and at the Scranton Diocese' seminary.

Liberatore's anonymous victim of sexual abuse filed a civil lawsuit against him more than a year ago. Also named in the suit, Retired Scranton Bishop, The Most Rev. James Timlin, the Diocese of Scranton, Sacred Heart Parish, Duryea and other members of the clergy.

A pre-trial conference is set for October 25.

Jury selection begins November 5.




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Castro claims Bush could spark WWIII

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer



HAVANA - Fidel Castro wrote Tuesday that President Bush is threatening the world with nuclear war and famine — an attack on Washington a day before the White House was to announce new plans to draw Cuba away from communism.

"The danger of a massive world famine is aggravated by Mr. Bush's recent initiative to transform foods into fuel," Castro wrote in Cuban news media, referring to U.S. support for using corn and other food crops to produce gasoline substitutes.

The brief essay titled "Bush, Hunger and Death" also alleged that Bush "threatens humanity with World War III, this time using atomic weapons."

The White House on Tuesday brushed off Castro's comments — particularly his assertion that Bush was pursuing a forceful conquest of Cuba.

"Dictators say a lot of things, and most of them can be discounted, including that," said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Perino said that Bush on Wednesday would urge other nations to join together in promoting democracy in Cuba.

"It is true that soon the decades-long debate about our policy towards Cuba will come to a time when we're going to have an opportunity here, when Castro is no longer leading Cuba, that the people there should be able to have a chance at freedom and democracy," she said. "That opportunity is coming."

In his essay, Castro predicted that Bush "will adopt new measures to accelerate the 'transition period' in our country, equivalent to a new conquest of Cuba by force."

Cuban officials have long denounced U.S. efforts to produce a "transition" from Castro's government to a Western-style representative democracy.

Ailing and 81, Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery and ceding power to a provisional government headed by his younger brother Raul in July 2006.

While he has looked upbeat and lucid in official videos, he also seems too frail to resume power.

Life on the island has changed little under Raul Castro, the 76-year-old defense minister who was his elder brother's hand-picked successor for decades.

Cuba staged municipal elections on Sunday, the first step in a process that will determine if Fidel Castro is re-elected or replaced next year as Cuban leader.





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Sharp drop seen in US deaths in Iraq

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer



BAGHDAD - October is on course to record the second consecutive decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths and Americans commanders say they know why: the U.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al-Qaida and Shiite militia extremists.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch points to what the military calls "Concerned Citizens" — both Shiites and Sunnis who have joined the American fight. He says he's signed up 20,000 of them in the past four months.

"I've never been more optimistic than I am right now with the progress we've made in Iraq. The only people who are going to win this counterinsurgency project are the people of Iraq. We've said that all along. And now they're coming forward in masses," Lynch said in a recent interview at a U.S. base deep in hostile territory south of Baghdad. Outgoing artillery thundered as he spoke.

Lynch, who commands the 3rd Infantry Division and once served as the military spokesman in Baghdad, is a tireless cheerleader of the American effort in Iraq. But the death toll over the past two months appears to reinforce his optimism. The question, of course: Will it last?

As of Tuesday, the Pentagon reported 28 U.S. military deaths in October. That's an average of about 1.2 deaths a day. The toll on U.S troops hasn't been this low since March 2006, when 31 soldiers died — an average of one death a day.

In September, 65 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.

Part of the trend can be seen in a volatile and violent band of lush agricultural land on Baghdad's southern border.

The commander of the battle zone — Lt. Col. Val Keaveny, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne) — said his unit has lost only one soldier in the past four months despite intensified operations against both Shiite and Sunni extremists, including powerful al-Qaida in Iraq cells.

Keaveny attributes the startling decline to a decrease in attacks by militants who are being rounded up in big numbers on information provided by the citizen force — which has literally doubled the number of eyes and ears available to the military.

The efforts to recruit local partners began taking shape earlier this year in the western province of Anbar, which had become the virtual heartland for Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida bands. The early successes in Anbar — coming alongside a boost of 30,000 U.S. forces into the Baghdad area — led to similar alliances in other parts of Iraq.

"People are fed up with fear, intimidation and being brutalized. Once they hit that tipping point, they're fed up, they come to realized we truly do provide them better hope for the future. What we're seeing now is the beginning of a snowball," said Keaveny, whose forces operate out of Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about 35 miles south of Baghdad.

While U.S. death figures appear to be in sharp decline, the number of Iraqi civilians and security forces show a less dramatic drop. And any significant attack — by insurgents or civilians caught in the crossfire — could quickly wipe out the downward trend.

The current pace of civilian deaths would put October at less than 900. The figure last month was 1,023 and for August, 1,956, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The AP tally is compiled from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths are not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.

While the decline in deaths is notable, it is only one of many measures of potential progress in Iraq, said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon analyst now with the private Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Cordesman said a more balanced picture needs to include factors such as wounded civilians and soldiers and the number of people fleeing their homes. The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqis still leave their homes each day for safer havens in the country or in neighboring nations. "It's just been going up slowly," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort in Geneva.

"The numbers we're dealing with here are only major acts of violence, the number of times people are killed," said Cordesman. "This is certainly progress ... but it has to be put in perspective."

Lynch's mission also shows the slow pace of reclaiming areas from militants. His troops and their new local allies must work town by town, village by village.

Sunni Sheik Emad Ghurtani is among those helping.

"Honestly, I'm not going to hide this from you," Ghurtani told Lynch as the two stood talking at a newly established tribal check point near Haswa, a village just north of the Kalsu base.

"There is some al-Qaida here in this area. But, God willing, we will get rid of them. ... The citizens are coming out. They're not afraid any more," the tall and handsome tribal leader said. Three scruffy young men watched, AK-47s slung over their shoulders, in the sandbag bunker at the check point.

Lynch, hatless on the balmy autumn day, answered in staccato sentences.

"What we really need is information. You know where al-Qaida is. You know who they are. You have to tell us. We can use all our capabilities to take out the enemy. But you have to tell us where they are, because you know. You've got our total support."

The sheik, who made Lynch promise to return for lunch one day, responded with striking eloquence.


"Because of what the American forces have accomplished, instead of us moving step by step we're going to start running toward the enemy ... Instead of walking, we're going to start running now. We just need the weapons and ammunition," Ghurtani said.


The guard force at the checkpoint changed during the conversation. Three young men barely out of their teens, ancient Kalashnikovs in hand, strolled town the dirt road that led back into Ghurtani territory. Their U.S.-provided uniforms are a vest with a reflective orange band akin to what road crews wear in the United States.


Ghurtani complained they hadn't been paid the $100 a month the Americans had promised.


"If I get some of the money they need I can get them shoes, some vests and some ammunition. If they can find me cheap weapons, we can start getting these men ready. God willing in the next few days," the sheik said.


Most heartening, Lynch said, was the checkpoint just across the road and over an irrigation canal. It was run by Shiites.


Lynch said the checkpoints on opposite sides of the road highlighted a kind of reconciliation by necessity: not fighting each other but protecting themselves from a common enemy.


"They have to be convinced that we're not leaving. That's the issue. If they were to think we're leaving we'd have also sorts of trouble," Lynch said, clambering over a makeshift earthen bridge across the canal.


The local Shiite sheik wasn't at the checkpoint.

He was in a hospital recovering from injuries in a car crash. Two ragtag fellows in their 20s stood up from their sandbag bunker and told Lynch they needed money to buy weapons. "Al-Qaida has all kinds of weapons. We just have these old rifles," one of them said pointing to his dilapidated Kalashnikov.

"OK. We just continue to work together to get you the money so you can buy better weapons, better ammunition, uniforms. Improve your check point. We just have to work together," Lynch said, spinning on his heel and marching back to his nine-Humvee convoy.

On to Haswa, down a road known for Iranian-made roadside bombs, a Kiowa gunship clattered above as protection. Back at division headquarters, public affairs officers were hammering out more press statements about how Concerned Citizens were leading soldiers to militant weapons caches and turning in extremists fighters.





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Turkey launches diplomatic offensive

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writers



ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey delivered a tough message to Iraq and Western allies Tuesday: A cross-border attack on Kurd guerrilla bases is coming unless the U.S.-backed government in the Iraqi north cracks down soon.

"We cannot wait forever," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned during a visit to London, saying his government had no choice but to consider "the military dimension."

As Erdogan's government launched the diplomatic offensive in hopes of avoiding a conflict that could damage its ties with the West as well as Arab states, the looming possibility of a Turkish military drive into one of Iraq's few peaceful regions appeared to be having an impact.

Washington issued its most direct demand yet for anti-rebel measures from Iraqi Kurds who hold effective autonomy over territory where the Turkish Kurd rebels have camps, and Iraq's prime minister ordered the closure of all of the guerrilla movement's offices in Iraq.

Turks have grown skeptical of repeated pledges from the U.S. and Iraq to tackle the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, so Erdogan went to London and his Cabinet ministers spread across the Middle East seeking to turn up the heat on the Americans and Iraqis to act.

Still, Turkey seemed willing to pursue diplomacy until at least early next month, when it hosts regional foreign ministers at a meeting on Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proposed a separate meeting among the U.S., Iraq and Turkey during the Nov. 2-3 conference, and Turkey's premier is expected to meet with President Bush in Washington on Nov. 5.

But that patience could be shredded by another spectacular PKK attack. Public anger in Turkey already was high over a surge in rebel attacks in recent weeks, and the uproar rose after a guerrilla ambush Sunday killed 12 soldiers and left eight more missing.

The PKK claimed it captured the eight soldiers, and a Kurdish Web site posted photographs Tuesday of what it said were the hostages.

Erdogan's government, which has not confirmed the troops were captured, ordered Turkish television and radio on Tuesday to tone down its coverage of the ambush story, perhaps hoping to calm the public demands for reprisals against the PKK.

For a second straight day, tens of thousands were in Turkey's streets to urge the government to stop holding back the army.

"Our patience is running out," said Ilhan Keskes, a mourner at a funeral for one of the slain soldiers east of the capital, Ankara. "The government must do something before the nation explodes."

Erdogan also voiced impatience during his stop in Britain, an ally of NATO member Turkey.

"From this point forward, we're also looking at the military dimension," Erdogan said in London, where British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed appreciation for what he called Turkey's restraint in the face of escalating guerrilla attacks.

Erdogan said Turkey had long sought a peaceful solution, but had met with no success.

"To this day, I have met the Iraqi central government four times. We have dwelled upon these issues very carefully," he said. "We waited for 14 months for this mechanism to bear fruit, but it did not, and we cannot wait forever."

The buildup of troops along the border with Iraq continued, with Turkish military helicopters flying commando units into the area. Tens of thousands of soldiers are already deployed in the border region.

Visiting Baghdad, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey expected international support for its fight against terrorism and ruled out the possibility of a truce with the PKK. Turkey has dismissed previous rebel announcements of cease-fires, viewing them as a ruse to make political gains or regroup after setbacks in combat.

Cease-fires are "possible between states and regular forces," Babacan said. "The problem here is that we're dealing with a terrorist organization."

PKK guerrillas, who have been fighting a bloody war for autonomy in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984, have bases in Iraq's Kurdish northern region where they can rest, train and resupply in relative safety before returning to Turkey to conduct attacks.

Despite the pressure from Turks to attack those bases, Turkish leaders know previous cross-border offensives did not eradicate the group and worry a new attack could hurt relations with the West and Arab countries.

Turkey is a NATO member, a candidate for European Union membership, a contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations and an ally of the U.S., which fears an incursion would destabilize one of the few peaceful areas in Iraq. Arab countries worry a Turkish attack could trigger regional conflict.


At the Nov. 5 meeting with Bush in Washington, Erdogan is expected to reiterate demands that Iraq's government close off supply lines to the PKK and take other measures to reduce the group's effectiveness, possibly including military action.


"We have to make decisions, our own decisions, but ... it's important to have to work with friends and to have a common platform to combat this threat," Erdogan said in London.


Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he thought Turkey would hold off on any invasion until Erdogan's trip to the U.S. But "that doesn't mean you're not going to see the Turks flexing their muscles," he added.


He said Turkey's strategy of threatening war worked against Syria in the 1990s when that country was harboring Turkish Kurd rebels.


David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq adviser, did not directly call on the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq to use military force against the PKK, but said Iraqi Kurds must cut off the rebel movement's local means of support.

"They are inactive," he said of Iraqi Kurd leaders. "They must become active."


Until now, Washington had focused public comment on the escalating tensions on Turkey, saying it should not launch a military attack onto Iraqi soil, and on the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, saying that Iraq must act against the rebels.


Iraq's government ordered the closure of PKK offices and promised to curb rebel movements and block funds. The statement, issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office, contradicted repeated assertions by Iraqi officials that the PKK's presence in Iraq was restricted to inaccessible parts of the north that could not be reached by authorities.


While in London, Erdogan raised the prospect of sanctions against Iraq, saying Turkey could cut off some exports, according to Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency.


"I believe that countries that are determined to cooperate in the struggle against terrorism would agree to such a measure," the agency quoted Erdogan as saying during a meeting organized by a Turkish investment agency.


Any economic sanctions would severely hurt northern Iraq's Kurds, who run their own administration and are suspected by Turkey of tacitly accepting Turkish Kurd fighters on their soil. Some 2,500 trucks daily bring goods across the border, and Turkey also provides electricity to northern Iraq.

___


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan in Washington, Raphael G. Satter in London and Hamza Hendawi in Baghdad contributed to this report.






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Blackwater to be phased out of guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq

By Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers



WASHINGTON — Troubled military contractor Blackwater USA is likely to be eased out of its role of guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq in the aftermath of a shooting last month that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, U.S. officials said Friday.

While no decisions have been finalized, Blackwater's role in Baghdad is likely to be taken over by one of two other contractors who provide security for the State Department in Iraq, the officials said. They are Triple Canopy and DynCorp International.

"There will be some sort of disengagement process, but it won't be that they're shown the door," said a State Department official. "As one builds down, another builds up."

He and other U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hadn't received an oral report from a four-person team led by Patrick Kennedy, the department's director of management policy. The team reviewed State Department security operations in Iraq.

Blackwater has denied wrongdoing in the Sept. 16 shooting, the latest deadly incident involving its employees in Iraq, saying the guards were defending themselves. But reports by the U.S. military and the Iraqi government say the Blackwater guards fired without provocation.

Iraq's government has demanded that Blackwater leave Iraq within six months.

A company spokeswoman, Anne Tyrrell, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Blackwater's current work order under a State Department contract worth $834 million reportedly runs out in May 2008.

But replacing the Moyock, N.C., company with another contractor raises several questions.

It's unclear whether Blackwater employees in Iraq could simply switch employers. And, according to congressional officials, the State Department's Diplomatic Security service argues that it cannot operate without the helicopters that Blackwater provides for escort and rescue efforts.

In a related development Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who's been investigating State Department operations in Iraq, said in a letter that Blackwater attempted to transport two Iraqi military aircraft out of Iraq without official permission.

In the letter to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Waxman said that an unnamed military official told his House Oversight Committee that "the Iraqi ministry of defense attempted to reclaim the aircraft, but that Blackwater would not comply."

Waxman also alleged that Prince had misled the committee in testimony earlier this month. Prince had said that the company's early contracts with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the State Department were competitively bid, when in fact they were sole-source contracts.

Waxman demanded that Prince turn over a wealth of company information to the committee, including contract documents, Blackwater's profit data and information about Prince's compensation.

In the letter, and in a separate one to Rice, he asked for details about payments that the company has given to the families of Iraqis Blackwater killed.

For the Waxman letters, go to: http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1558




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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket



Atheist Blood Drive





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

Click HERE to get more info on this important project!

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Atheists for Autism Research Charity!





Check these guys out, and donate if you can!



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Religious Victim of the day





Russian Museum Workers Fined for “Blasphemous” Exhibition

The ’’Beware: Religion!’’ exhibition was opened on Jan. 14 of last year at the Sakharov Museum, and dealt with issues such as religious fundamentalism and church-state relations. The exhibition displayed icons with fretwork in the shape of a hammer and sickle and even Nazi symbols, as well as icons with holes instead of saints’ images. A group of Orthodox citizens burst into the museum and poured paint over several objects claiming the exhibition insulted their religious feelings.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali at AAI 07





Part 1

Part 2

Christopher Hitchens at AAI 07





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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket



911 Truthers: The Saddest Sadasses in Sadnessville





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Rosemary Altea Debunked by Penn and Teller (Bullsh*t)





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Lewis Black Heaven's Gate





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Lewis Black: The Iraq War.





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