Sunday, June 23, 2013

Atheist Denied U.S. Citizenship; Told to Join a Church

Margaret Doughty, an atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, was told by immigration authorities this month that she has until Friday to officially join a church that forbids violence or her application for naturalized citizenship will be rejected.
Doughty received the ultimatum after stating on her application that she objected to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the nation due to her moral opposition to war. According to a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the American Humanist Association on Doughty's behalf, officials responded by telling her that she needed to prove that her status as a conscientious objector was due to religious beliefs. They reportedly told her she'd need to document that she was "a member in good standing" of a nonviolent religious organization or be denied citizenship at her June 21 hearing. A note “on official church stationary [sic]" would suffice, they said.
Here's how Doughty explained her refusal to sign the pledge:
“I am sure the law would never require a 64 year-old woman like myself to bear arms, but if I am required to answer this question, I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up arms ... my beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God ... I want to make clear, however, that I am willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction or to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States if and when required by the law to do so.”
Doughty's reasoning is perfectly valid, atheist groups have argued in response to the rejection threat. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Services, calling the government request "illegal and unconstitutional."
"It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a non-religious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption," Andrew L. Seidel, a staff attorney at Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote after laying out a list of Supreme Court tests that suggest a rejection would be unusual and improper. "This is a longstanding part of our law and every USCIS officer should receive training on this exemption ... Either the officers in Houston are inept, or they are deliberately discriminating against nonreligious applicants for naturalization."
The American Humanist Association later followed suit, urging the agency to back down or face litigation.
Doughty said on her Facebook page, “Over the past two days not only good friends but people I don’t even know have sent notes of support,” she wrote. “They are people with a wide range of beliefs, beliefs that I respect -- Christians, Moslems, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics and others. I think that is part of what has always appealed to me about America -– that people of all beliefs can live together accepting and respecting each other and working together for the common good.”
This issue is not a new one. Conscientious objectors have always had a tough time because they claim the right to refuse to perform military service  on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion.  In the US, the government recognizes the Peace Churches, among them are the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and the Jehovah's Witness. Members of those faiths are exempt from bearing arms in times of threat or war. Their positions rely of Biblical passages, a deep sense of responsibility toward humanity, and the denial that any government possesses the moral authority to command killing and violence from its citizens. But, the government does not recognize an individual's right to be a conscientious objector even if it is based on religious, moral and ethical principles.

In the United States during World War I, conscientious objectors were permitted to serve in non-combatant military roles. About 2000 absolute conscientious objectors refused to cooperate in any way with the military. These men were imprisoned in military facilities. Some were subjected to treatment such as short rations, solitary confinement and physical abuse severe enough as to cause death.

Ben Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector during World War I. The Catholic Church denounced him and The New York Times described him as a "spy suspect." The US military, which never inducted him, charged him with desertion and spreading propaganda, then sentenced him to death, later revised to 25 years hard labor.

During World War II, all registrants were sent a questionnaire covering basic facts about their identification, physical condition, history and also provided a check-off list to indicate opposition to military service because of religious training or belief. The Civilian Public Service (CPS) provided conscientious objectors in the United States an alternative to military service during World War II. From 1941 to 1947 nearly 12,000 draftees, unwilling to do any type of military service, performed "work of national importance" in 152 CPS camps throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The CPS men served without wages and minimal support from the federal government.

Starting in 1965, Canada became a choice haven for American draft resisters and deserters during the Vietnam war (1955-1975). Because they were not formally classified as refugees, they were admitted as immigrants. There is no official estimate of how many draft resisters and deserters were admitted to Canada during the Vietnam War. One informed estimate puts their number between 30,000 and 40,000. Although some of these transplanted Americans returned home after the Vietnam War, most of them put down roots in Canada thus making them the largest migrant group Canada has ever received. Draft resistors were usually college-educated sons of the middle class who could no longer defer induction into the Selective Service System.

President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) once wrote in a letter to a Navy friend which in part said. War will exist until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.

Violence Against Women: A Global Epidemic

According to a World Health Organization report, about one in three women worldwide experience sexual or physical violence at least once during their lives.

Put together by the WHO in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, the report says 35% of women around the world are victims of sexual or physical violence and that assault at the hands of an intimate partner is by far the most common form of such violence. In fact, a whopping 30 percent of women globally were found to be domestic violence victims. These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions, said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, in a statement. We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.

The study found that 38% of all women who were murdered were killed by their intimate partners. Also, more than 40% of domestic violence victims were found to have suffered injuries from those incidents. In addition, the study showed that women who experience violence at the hands of their intimate partners are more likely to suffer from depression, have alcohol use problems, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This is an everyday reality for many, many women, said the author, Charlotte Watts, a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It's not just poor women, or women in a certain country. This really is a global issue.

The report's authors say they hope their findings will help raise awareness about this global problem and will spark the beginnings of change. The first step, they say, will be equipping health care professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to provide the necessary care to victims of violence. There is no magic bullet, no vaccine or pill (for rape or abuse), said Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician with the WHO and a co-author of the report. But what we hear from women is that oftentimes, just having an empathetic listener who can provide some practical support and help her get access to some other services. That in itself is an important intervention.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sex News, No. 3

Sex Survey

Since Alfred C. Kinsey revolutionized the field decades ago, sex research has been an important tool of the medical community. Sex research helps to illuminate what is really going on in people’s bedrooms, and it helps to identify new trends (anal sex is a big one for this generation) as well as recurring issues such as mismatched libidos and sexual dysfunction. However, researchers have long wondered how accurate their information really is. Getting people to open up about their sex lives isn’t easy, even when they are doing so anonymously and even when they are taking a survey as opposed to undergoing an in-person interview. Even with such helpful measures in place, researchers were aware that study participants might not always be 100% honest. This is especially true when tackling tricky subjects or taboo topics such as sexual fantasies and sexual histories.

A new study has shown that researchers are right to take their findings with a grain of salt. The study, which was performed at Ohio State University by Terri Fisher, found that when people are hooked up to a polygraph they give different answers to researchers than when they simply fill out questionnaires on their own. In the study, almost 300 male and female students were asked a series of questions about their sex lives and their number of sex partners. First, the students filled out the questionnaire, and then they were hooked to a fake polygraph and asked the same questions.

Both men and women changed their stories once the polygraph came into play. The men deducted from their already provided number of sexual partners, while women added to the number. In other words, when filling out the questionnaire without the polygraph, the men and women were both more comfortable fudging their answers a little bit. While the men fibbed to increase their sexual experience, the women fibbed for the opposite reason. Once the polygraph was introduced, the men and women appeared to be scared straight and hence adjusted their reported sexual history.

While the polygraph was not real, it helped to illuminate how men and women react to questions about their sexual histories. Even though the questionnaires were anonymous, societal pressures still appeared to play a role in the survey respondents’ answers. The men wanted to appear more sexually experienced (because society often encourages and expects men to be highly sexual), while the women wanted to appear less sexually experiences (because society expects often women to be chaste and virginal).
The findings are important because they help to show researchers what is really going on in study participants’ minds. It’s a good reminder that survey results aren’t always 100% accurate and that many factors come into play when a person knows that they are being observed and their answers are being studied.

Erectile Dysfunction and Vaginal Atrophy

Without a doubt, one of the most brilliant marketing successes of the 20th century was the introduction of the phrase “erectile dysfunction” (ED). The marketing gurus, not medical doctors, coined the term, which is now part of the popular lexicon. Prior to 1998, men who were unable to maintain an erection suffered from impotency. It is bad enough to have a penis that won’t cooperate, but then to have a diagnosis that implies you are also weak, incompetent and powerless is too much to expect any man to deal with. What self-respecting guy is going to say to a woman,” Sorry honey, not tonight, I’m impotent”?  In the popular mind, a man who was impotent didn’t just have a medical problem. He was a personal failure.  Then suddenly in 1998, the impotent man disappeared. Enter the man with ED. The man with ED was handsome, successful and sexy.

Who invented the term erectile dysfunction? The people who had a lot to gain from men admitting they had a problem. It was the inventors of Viagra who also invented the term ED. Pfizer launched Viagra and at the same time launched a marketing campaign that redefined impotency as erectile dysfunction. The condition was not only normalized, but it gave men the language to talk to their doctors about it so they could comfortably ask for a prescription.

But, for every man who suffers from erectile dysfunction, there is a woman who suffers from vaginal atrophy. Over 50 million women have vaginal atrophy and have lost the ability to have pleasurable, slippery sex. Women with vaginal atrophy as a result of hormonal changes that occur during the transition to menopause have vaginal walls that are so thin and dry that intercourse is either excruciating painful, or impossible. The condition is just as common as erectile dysfunction and never goes away. But, no one is talking about it, and most women are not getting treated for it even though there are many excellent options to alleviate the problem.
LGBT Americans and Religious Beliefs

Surveys have repeatedly shown that religious objections are the most popular reason people cite when they say being gay is immoral or that they don't support legalizing same-sex marriage. But what do gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people think about religion? A new poll has shed light on the religious beliefs and practices of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, including their views on which religious groups they see as the least friendly to them.

The survey by the Pew Research Center found that LGBT people are much less religious than the broader American population. About 48 percent said they don't have any religion, more than double the percentage of the general public that says the same. But, slightly more LGBT Americans, 51 percent, do have a religion, and 17 percent of them say religion is "very important" in their lives. Of those who are religious, most are Protestant or Catholic. But, at the same time that it found plenty of religious LGBT people, Pew also found that a third of them said there was a "conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity."  That sentiment is even more prevalent among the general public. About three-quarters (74 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and a majority (55 percent) of all U.S. adults with a religious affiliation say homosexuality conflicts with their religious beliefs," the research organization said in a release. Among all adults in the general public, there is a strong correlation between frequent church attendance and the belief that homosexuality should be discouraged. At the same time that it found plenty of religious LGBT people, Pew also found that a third of them said there was a "conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Nearly all of those surveyed said they saw at least one of six religious institutions as "unfriendly" to LGBT people. Most( about eight-in-ten ) said Islam, Mormonism and the Catholic Church were unfriendly. Nearly three-quarters said evangelical churches were unfriendly to them. Fewer people said they found Judaism and non-evangelical Protestant churches to be unfriendly, but more people still found those groups to be unfriendly compared to those who said they were friendly. About three-in-ten of respondents added that they have "been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization." The survey did not ask about friendliness or unfriendliness among other religious groups aside from Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, Jews and non-evangelical Protestants. (Previous  Pew surveys and others have shown that despite their church's official stance against same-sex marriage, Catholics-Americans are one of the most supportive religious groups when it comes to gay rights).

Responding to the survey, Ross Murray, who focuses on faith initiatives the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he has seen "a real significant shift in the relationship between religious communities and LGBT people in the last decade, but the history before then is a real painful one.  I think that relationship is going to mend, but it will happen slowly ... I hope that inclusive faith communities are able to get their message out even better, so that there can be better trust between LGBT people and religion," he said.

The survey was conducted April 11-29, 2013, among 1,197 self-identified LGBT adults.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Knowledge Quiz, No. 46

              I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.
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1. How many Marx Brothers were there?
2. What is the capital of Paraguay?
3. Who wrote The Last of the Mohicans?
4. Who said, I came, I saw, I conquered?
5. What is a troll?
6. Who wrote the music for West Side Story?
7. What is a cartouche?
8. What was the last name of the Dutch painter, Rembrandt?
9. What is a flying buttress?
10. What is onanism?
11. In what direction does the Nile River flow?
12. In what piece of fiction do the March Hare, the Mock Turtle and the Cheshire Cat appear?
13. Who was the first person in outer space?
14. In what country are the remains of the ancient city of Troy?
15. What is a madrigal?
16. Who was Dorothea Lange?
17. Who wrote the British national anthem, God Save the Queen?
18. Who are the Knights of Pythias?
19. What is a camera obscura?
20. Who was the person who first used the golfing term, caddy?
1. The Marx Brothers were a family comedy act which achieved considerable success in vaudeville, on Broadway and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' films were selected by the American Film Institute to be among the top 100 comedy films.  There were 5 Marx brothers, Groucho (1890-1977), Chico(1877-1961), Harpo (1888-1964), Gummo(1892 or 93-1977) and Zeppo (1901-1979).

2. The capital of Paraguay is Asuncion
3. The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (1826) is a historical novel by the American author, James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851). The story is set in 1757, during the French and Indian War when France and Britain battled for control of North America. During this war, the French depended on Native American to help fight the British colonists. The main character was Uncas, a Mohican chief. The novel was one of the most popular in its time and is still widely read.

4. I came, I saw, I conquered (Latin: Veni, vidi, vici ) was reportedly  was reportedly said by Julius Caesar (100 BC -44 BC) concerning his victorious campaign in Britain (55-54 BC).

5. A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology. They were beings who supposedly dwelled in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and were rarely helpful and often dangerous to humans. Trolls could not stand sunlight and turn to stone when exposed to the light of the Sun.

6. The music for  the 1957 musical West Side Story was composed by Leonard Bernstein.  The book (story) was by Arthur Laurents, the song lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim and the choreography was by Jerome Robbins. The story  was inspired by Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Although the production did not win Broadway's Tony Award, the 1961 film version won ten Academy Awards including Best Picture.

7. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, it is sometimes horizontal if it makes the name fit better, with a vertical line on the left.

8. Rembrandt's last name was van Rijn. The painter lived from 1606 to 1669. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the greatest painter in Dutch history. His iconic painting, The Night Watch, is his most important work a national symbol in The Netherlands.

9. A flying buttress is a specific form of buttressing (an structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall). Flying buttress are most often associated with Gothic church architecture. The purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards by redirecting them to the ground.

10.  Onanaism is either masturbation, sexual self-gratification or coitus interruptus (withdrawing the penis prior to ejaculation to prevent the deposit of sperm into the vagina.) Onan is Biblical character who appears in the book of Genesis (Genesis 38:9). Onan was commanded by his father to impregnate the widow of his slain brother and to raise the offspring of the union. In order to avoid raising descendants for his late brother; however, Onan engaged in coitus interruptus. (Fact: There is a chance that sperm can enter the vagina on the tip of the penis anyway.) The first known use of the word onanism is around 1741.

11. Unlike most rivers, the Nile River flows from south to north. It flows in that direction for 4150 miles- the greatest northward flowing distance of any river in the world.

12. The three characters appear in the 1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). It tells the story of a girl named  Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar anthropomorphic creatures (attributing of human form and characteristics to non-humans).

13. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934 -1968), a Soviet Union pilot and cosmonaut was the first human being to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961. Gagarin was awarded many medals and titles, but his Vostok was his only spaceflight.  He served as part of the backup crew for another space mission but it ended in a fatal crash which claimed his life.

14. In 1868, Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist, began excavating in the northwest region of what is now called Turkey and discovered the remains of the Ancient Greek city of Troy.

15. A madrigal is a vocal music composition of both the Renaissance and the early Baroque periods. Madrigals originated in Italy during the 1520's. In the madrigal, the composer attempted to express the emotion contained in each line and sometimes individual words of a famous poem of the period. Madrigals were most often sung a cappella .

16. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was an Amerrican socially conscious documentarian and photographer of "Dust Bowl" migrants in the 1930s. She took one of the most famous photographs of the Depression Era called Migrant Mother. Lange learned photography at Columbia University in New York. During the Great Depression, she worked for the U. S. Farm Security Administration documenting the plight of the unemployed, homeless and migrant laborers.

17. God Save the Queen (or God Save the King) is the de facto national anthem of the United Kingdom and a number of Commonwealth nations, British territories and  British Crown Dependencies. The composer of the tune is unknown but it may have originated in plainchant or possibly attributed to English composer, John Bull (1562 or 1563-1628). The first published version of what is almost the present tune appeared in 1744 in Thesaurus Musicus.

18. The Knights of Pythias is a secret society and a fraternal organization.  It was founded in Washington, D.C., USA,  in 1864 by Justus H. Rathbone. The founder was inspired by a play about the Ancient Greek mythological tale about Damon and Pythias. The legend illustrates the ideals of loyalty, honor and friendship that are the center of the order. The organization has over two thousand lodges in the United States and around the world, with a total membership of over 50,000.

19. The camera obscura (Latin: camera meaning vaulted chamber or room; obscura, meaning dark) is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to the creation of the photography camera. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside, where it is reproduced, upside-down. The image can be projected onto paper, and using mirrors, to project a right-side-up image. The camera obscura has been known to scholars since around 350 BCE.

20. Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587),  was the first known female golfer. She coined the term “caddy” in 1552. The word "caddy" is rooted in the word, "cadet" which was she officially called her assistant.. During her reign, the famous golf course at St. Andrews was built.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

News You May Have Missed, No. 50

Tiger Acupuncture
In the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, veterinarians are trying acupuncture to cure a Sumatran tiger at an Israeli zoo. The 14-year-old tiger, named Pedang, suffers from a chronic ear infection. On Sunday, a holistic medicine professional tried acupuncture on him, pricking him with several pink needles in his ear and at other points of his body. The tiger was sedated during the treatment. The Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan announced this was the first time it used Chinese medicine on an animal. The zoo said other conventional treatments, like antibiotics, failed to cure the infection, which has lasted more than a year. Mor Mosinzon, who treated Pedang, said the acupuncture was meant to strengthen his immune system and open his ear canals so that his body can better absorb the antibiotics.

Leprosy in Ireland
The first recorded case of leprosy in modern times was reported to the health authorities in the Irish Republic earlier this year (2013). The patient is a Brazilian who has been living in Ireland for several years. He had suffered a recurrence of his leprosy having first contracted it in Brazil, 10 years ago. Dr Connor Gallagher said it was a case that one might have expected to encounter in the Middle Ages  not in a busy surgery in County Meath. The GP registrar who examined the man said he suffered from tuberculous leprosy or sarcoidosis. The risk of contagion in new cases is small. However global eradication in recent years has proven difficult, he wrote in a medical magazine. He cited drug resistance, a poor understanding of the disease and persistent social stigma in developing countries as contributory factors to this. The article was compiled by Dr Gallagher and Katie McFaul, a specialist in infectious diseases for the Irish GPs' magazine, Forum. Leprosy was common in Dublin in medieval times and in the 14th Century.

Leprosy, or Hansen's disease, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. India has the highest number of infections, followed by Brazil. Leprosy is difficult to contract and it is not known exactly how it is transmitted - although prolonged close contact with an infected person is needed. An estimated 95% of the population are naturally immune to the disease. To avoid antibiotic resistance, leprosy is treated with multiple drugs over a period of 6-12 months. In the past two decades, global prevalence of leprosy has been reduced by almost 90%.

U.N.: Eat Insects
A report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reminds us that there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, hundreds of which are already part of the diet in many countries. In fact, some two billion people eat a wide variety of insects regularly, both cooked and raw; only in Western countries does the practice retain an "ick" factor among the masses. However, many insects are packed with protein, fiber, good fats, and vital minerals- as much or more than many other food sources. One example is mealworms, the larval form of a particular species of darkling beetle that lives in temperate regions worldwide. Mealworms provide protein, vitamins, and minerals on par with those found in fish and meat. And, small grasshoppers rank up there with lean ground beef in protein content, with less fat per gram. Furthermore, raising and harvesting insects requires much less land than raising cows, pigs, and sheep. Insects convert food into protein much more efficiently than livestock do—meaning they need less food to produce more product. They also emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases than most livestock. Entomophagy, the consumption of insects as food, is also a safe and healthy way to help reduce pest insects without using insecticides. Plus, gathering and farming insects can offer new forms of employment and income, especially in developing tropical countries where a lot of "edibles" live. That helps to explain why 36 African countries are "entomophagous," as are 23 in the Americas, 29 in Asia, and even 11 in Europe. Among the insects that can be eaten are beetles (long-horned, june, dung, and rhinoceros varieties), butterflies and moths, bees and wasps, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, termites, lice, flies, mosquitoes, and stinkbugs (if you can get past the smell).

Top Nazi Diary Discovered
The U.S. government has recovered 400 pages from the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a confidant of Adolf Hitler who played a central role in the extermination of millions of Jews and others during World War Two. A preliminary U.S. government assessment reviewed by Reuters asserts the diary could offer new insight into meetings Rosenberg had with Hitler and other top Nazi leaders, including Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering. It also includes details about the German occupation of the Soviet Union, including plans for mass killings of Jews and other Eastern Europeans. The documentation is of considerable importance for the study of the Nazi era, including the history of the Holocaust, according to the assessment, prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The diary include details about tensions within the German high-command, in particular, the crisis caused by the flight of Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941, and the looting of art throughout Europe, according to the preliminary analysis. The diary also offers a loose collection of Rosenberg's recollections from spring 1936 to winter 1944, according to the museum's analysis. Most entries are written in Rosenberg's looping cursive, some on paper torn from a ledger book and others on the back of official Nazi stationary. Rosenberg was an early and powerful Nazi ideologue, particularly on racial issues. He directed the Nazi party's foreign affairs department and edited the Nazi newspaper. Several of his memos to Hitler were cited as evidence during the post-war Nuremberg trials. Rosenberg also directed the systematic Nazi looting of Jewish art, cultural and religious property throughout Europe. The Nazi unit created to seize such artifacts was called Task Force Reichsleiter Rosenberg. He was convicted of crimes against humanity and was one of a dozen senior Nazi officials executed in October 1946. His diary, once held by Nuremberg prosecutors as evidence, vanished after the trial.

New Way to Lower High Blood Pressure
Drinking a cup of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure, researchers say. Drinking 8oz.  (250ml) cut high blood pressure readings by 10mm of mercury (mmHg) in a study of 15 patients, bringing some into the normal range, the journal Hypertension reports. Most marked after three to six hours, the effect was detectable a day later. Scientists say the nitrate in beetroot widens blood vessels to aid flow. And many people with angina use a nitrate drug to ease their symptoms. The researchers, from The London School of Medicine and Dentistry who have been studying beetroot's blood pressure lowering effects for years say more work is still needed. And, they warn there could be one unexpected consequence of drinking beetroot juice . It can turn your urine pink. Nitrate is found naturally in soil, where it is taken in by vegetables through the roots to help them grow. Researcher Dr Amrita Ahluwalia said, We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect. Our hope is that increasing one's intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health.
World War II German Bomber Discovered
A British museum has successfully recovered a German bomber that had been shot down over the English Channel during World War II. The aircraft, nicknamed the Luftwaffe's "flying pencil" because of its narrow fuselage, came down off the coast of Kent county in southeastern England more than 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain. The rusty and damaged plane was lifted from depths of the channel with cables and is believed to be the most intact example of the German Dornier Do 17 bomber that has ever been found. It has been lifted and is now safely on the barge and in one piece, said RAF Museum spokesman Ajay Srivastava. The bomber will be towed into port Tuesday, he added. A few fragments of the plane dropped off as it was being lifted, but officials said divers will retrieve them later. The museum had been trying to raise the relic for a few weeks, but the operation was delayed by strong winds and choppy waters. Experts say the bomber is remarkably undamaged despite the passage of time. Museum officials plan to conserve the relic and put it on exhibition next to the wreck of a British Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft that also was shot down during the battle.

Hate Speech in U.S. Media
In the U.S., hate has gone mainstream. That is according the Southern Poverty Law Center,  a civil rights organization which actively fights racism and bigotry. According to the SPLC, increasingly right-wing politicians, pundits and talk-show host routinely utter bigoted and offensive remarks on television and radio with impunity.  Typical of these are the following:
·       "If you compare white populations, We have the same murder rate as Belgium. So perhaps it's not a gun problem; it is a demographic problem." - Ann Coulte, on Fox News Channel  (In addition to being false, Coulter is implying that non-white people are the cause of gun violence.)
·       "Let me remind the gay rights fanatics, North Korea plans to send a nuclear warhead our way. There's a terrible price to pay for outright rebellion against the Holy God of Israel." - Rick Wiles, on Truenews  (He is suggesting that God may soon punish America for homosexuality.)
·       "Being gay is not only a bonus for humans these days, it is definitely a plus for dogs." - Catholic League president Bill Donohue, blog post (The remark was concerning an animal shelter which resisted the owner's request that pet dog be euthanized because the owner thought that the dog was a homosexual.)
·       "I believe they will put together… a black force to go against a white resistance, and then they will claim anyone resisting the black force, they are doing it because they are racists."  - Internet radio host Stan Solomon on the Talk to Solomon Show. (This was part of an exchange with Gun Owners of America's Larry Pratt about an alleged plot by President Obama  and his administration to impose Islamic religious law in the U.S.)
·       "We got some people who think Shariah Law (Islamic religious law) should be the law of the land… Guns are there… to make sure all of the rest of the (Constitutional) amendments are followed." - U. S. Congressman Louis Gohmert, Republican from Texas; on the Voice of Freedom radio show on KTFS-FM. (He was defending gun rights. He said this was in order to resist the imposition of Islamic religious law.)
·       "You have a lot of quote-unquote apostate (heretic) Christian churches that have adopted homosexuality and they will do their best to burn Christians at the stake." - Kevin Swanson, talk show co-host of Generations Radio. He was talking about the supposed  fate of the "real" Christians (Fundamentalists) if the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their liberal churches were to get too powerful in the U.S..

Sunday, June 9, 2013

How to Relieve Stress

The ho'oponoopono sounds like a crazy dance you do when you are in Hawai'i after you have had one too many mai-tais. But, it is actually a Hawai'ian ritual phrase that calms you down. It is also a very simple pray . It is all about forgiveness and/or your relationship to a higher power. It can be address to no one, yourself or to a deity of your choice. It involves simply saying: I love you;  I'm sorry;  Please forgive me; Thank you. It eases your anger and may even ease your blood-pressure in times of stress or anger. Also, those ten words contain the essence of every prayer. Repeat the ten words many times if you like and/or follow them with a more common prayer such as The Lord's Prayer.

Sex News, No.2

The Gay Boy and the Politician
A openly gay 11-year-old boy's campaign against a homophobic Tennessee (USA) state representative has succeeded. Marcel Neergaard is a Tennessee boy who was home-schooled for sixth grade and even contemplated suicide because of severe anti-gay bullying, bullying that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates say could have been fostered in public schools throughout the state if the Don't Say Gay bill had actually passed. The bill, rejected in 2012, aimed at banning any talk or discussion other than "related to natural human reproduction." It was resurrected by Representative John Regan (Republican)  and he called it the Classroom Protection Act. It included an amendment requiring school officials to inform parents if they have reason to believe the child might be gay. The bill also required schools to provide counseling for such students so as to prevent “behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person.” The proposed bill failed to pass in the state legislature in March, 2013.

But, prior to that, back in 2012, Regan was received the educational Reformer of the Year Award by StudentsFirst, a group dedicated to defending the interests of children in public schools and pushing for transformative reform.  But, Neergaard didn't think Ragan deserved such a title. So he started a petition on to get the accolade revoked. And it worked. After getting more than 50,000 signatures, the bullied youngster's campaign caught the attention of StudentsFirst and today the group reneged Ragan's award. I'm very proud, Neergaard said. I want to make sure to thank all the people who signed my petition, because without them, it would not have been possible. I had my petition up for less than a week, and it actually worked. When I pressed the victory button [on] I actually got my brother to put his finger over my finger, because he really wanted to push it, he added.

StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee not only rescinded the award, but also denounced Ragan's bill as ill-conceived and harmful legislation that would have cultivated a culture of bullying.Tim Melton, Vice President for Legislative Affairs at StudentsFirst, made it clear that the group has never supported the Classroom Protection Act. However, the question remains; why didn't StudentsFirst know that Ragan twice introduced harmful and anti-gay legislation beore they gave him the award?


BDSM is Mentally Healthy

People who are into kinky sex may be psychologically healthier than those who are not, says a new study. Researchers found that people who were involved in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) scored better on certain indicators of mental health than those who did not bring kink into the bedroom, reported LiveScience. The study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, surveyed 902 people who practice BDSM and 434 who prefer so-called "vanilla" (non-kinky) sex. Each person filled out questionnaires concerning their personalities, general well-being, sensitivity to rejection and style of attachment in relationships. The participants were not aware of the purpose of the study.

Despite past assumptions that BDSM proclivities might be correlated with previous abuse, rape or mental disorders (research has shown that they're not), this survey found that people who habitually used some type of BDSM actually scored better on many indicators of mental health than those who didn't practice. And, BDSM-friendly participants were found to be less neurotic, more open, more aware of and sensitive to rejection, more secure in their relationships and have better overall well-being. Andreas Wismeijer, a psychologist at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands and the lead author on the study, said that people involved in the BDSM community may have scored better on the surveys because they tend to be more aware of and communicative about their sexual desires, or because they have done some hard psychological work to accept and live with sexual needs that are beyond the scope of what is often considered socially acceptable to discuss in the mainstream.

This research isn't necessarily representative of the general population since participants were selected on a volunteer basis, but it does support the argument for removing BDSM from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In the current DSM, BDSM fetishes are listed as "paraphernalia" which essentially encompasses any "unusual" sexual preferences.

Fetish communities have argued for years that harmless sexual tastes should not be listed next to mental disorders. Maybe this research will help to bolster their case.

Sex News, No. 1

International Homosexuality Survey
The fight for marriage equality continues to dominate global headlines, but a new survey reveals a surprising divide on the acceptance of homosexuality around the world. The study surveyed a total of 37,653 people in 39 countries. As the United States and other countries grapple with the issue of same-sex marriage, a new Pew Research Center survey finds huge variance by region on the broader question of whether homosexuality should be accepted or rejected by society.

Part of the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, the Global Divide on Homosexuality poll found generally broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, Europe and much of Latin America, while Russia, much of Asia and predominately Muslim nations were more inclined to reject it. Researchers found that a staggering 88 percent of participants in Spain felt that homosexuality should be accepted, followed by 87 percent in Germany, 80 percent in Canada and 60 percent in the United States. On the flip side, a mere two percent of Pakistani participants felt homosexuality should be accepted, followed by just one percent in Nigeria. We’ve been polling all over the world and we’ve polled on every issue, from foreign policy issues to other social issues, researcher Juliana Horowitz  told the Toronto Star newspaper. I can’t think of any question that was polled on that we see this level of global polarization, with some countries so firmly on one side and other countries so firmly on the other side.

The survey also finds that acceptance of homosexuality is particularly widespread in countries where religion is less central in people’s lives. These are also among the richest countries in the world. In contrast, in poorer countries with high levels of religiosity, few believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Age is also a factor in several countries, with younger respondents offering far more tolerant views than older ones. And while gender differences are not prevalent, in those countries where they are, women are consistently more accepting of homosexuality than men.

Where Homosexuality Is Most Accepted

The view that homosexuality should be accepted by society is prevalent in most of the European Union countries surveyed. About three-quarters or more in Spain (88%), Germany (87%), the Czech Republic (80%), France (77%), Britain (76%), and Italy (74%) share this view, as do more than half in Greece (53%). Poland is the only EU country surveyed where views are mixed; 42% say homosexuality should be accepted by society and 46% believe it should be rejected.

Canadians, who already expressed tolerant views in 2007, are now even more likely to say homosexuality should be accepted by society; 80% say this, compared with 70% six years ago. Views are not as positive in the U.S., where a smaller majority (60%) believes homosexuality should be accepted. But Americans are far more tolerant today than they were in 2007, when 49% said homosexuality should be accepted by society and 41% said it should be rejected.

Opinions about homosexuality are also positive in parts of Latin America. In Argentina, the first country in the region to legalize gay marriage in 2010, about three-quarters (74%) say homosexuality should be accepted, as do clear majorities in Chile (68%), Mexico (61%) and Brazil (60%); about half of Venezuelans (51%) also express acceptance. In contrast, 62% of Salvadorans say homosexuality should be rejected by society, as do nearly half in Bolivia (49%).

In the Asia/Pacific region, where views of homosexuality are mostly negative, more than seven-in-ten in Australia (79%) and the Philippines (73%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society; 54% in Japan agree.

Where Homosexuality Is Rejected

Publics in Africa and in predominantly Muslim countries remain among the least accepting of homosexuality. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least nine-in-ten in Nigeria (98%), Senegal (96%), Ghana (96%), Uganda (96%) and Kenya (90%) believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Even in South Africa where, unlike in many other African countries, homosexual acts are legal and discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional, 61% say homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 32% say it should be accepted.

Overwhelming majorities in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed also say homosexuality should be rejected, including 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 94% in Tunisia, 93% in the Palestinian territories, 93% in Indonesia, 87% in Pakistan, 86% in Malaysia, 80% in Lebanon and 78% in Turkey.

Elsewhere, majorities in South Korea (59%) and China (57%) also say homosexuality should not be accepted by society; 39% and 21%, respectively, say it should be accepted. South Korean views, while still negative, have shifted considerably since 2007, when 77% said homosexuality should be rejected and 18% said it should be accepted by society.

Religiosity and Views of Homosexuality

There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality. There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people’s lives – measured by whether they consider religion to be very important, whether they believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, and whether they pray at least once a day.

There are some notable exceptions, however. For example, Russia and China receive low scores on the religiosity scale, which would suggest higher levels of tolerance for homosexuality. Yet, just 16% of Russians and 21% of Chinese say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Conversely, Brazilians and Filipinos are considerably more tolerant of homosexuality than their countries’ relatively high levels of religiosity would suggest.

In Israel, where views of homosexuality are mixed, secular Jews are more than twice as likely as those who describe themselves as traditional, religious or ultra-Orthodox to say homosexuality should be accepted (61% vs. 26%); just 2% of Israeli Muslims share this view.

Gender and Age and Views of Homosexuality

In most of the countries surveyed, views of homosexuality do not differ significantly between men and women. But in the countries where there is a gender gap, women are considerably more likely than men to say homosexuality should be accepted by society.

In Japan, Venezuela and Greece, where about six-in-ten women say homosexuality should be accepted (61% in Japan and 59% in Venezuela and Greece), fewer than half of men share this view (47%, 44% and 47%, respectively). About half of women in Israel (48%) express positive views of homosexuality, compared with just 31% of men. And, while majorities of women and men in Britain, Chile, France and the U.S. say homosexuality should be accepted by society, women are more likely than men to offer this view by at least ten percentage points.

In many countries, views of homosexuality also vary across age groups, with younger respondents consistently more likely than older ones to say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Age differences are particularly evident in South Korea, Japan, and Brazil, where those younger than 30 are more accepting than those ages 30-49 who, in turn, are more accepting than those ages 50 and older. For example, in Japan, 83% of those younger than 30 say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with 71% of 30-49 year-olds and just 39% of those 50 and older. Similarly, 71% of South Koreans in the younger age group offer positive views of homosexuality, but just about half of 30-49 year-olds (48%) and 16% of those 50 or older do. In Brazil, about three-quarters of those younger than 30 (74%) say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with 60% of those in the middle category and 46% of those 50 or older.

In the EU, solid majorities across age groups in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic express positive views of homosexuality, although Italians and Czechs ages 50 and older are considerably less likely than younger people in these countries to say homosexuality should be accepted. At least eight-in-ten Italians younger than 30 (86%) and ages 30-49 (80%) share this view, compared with 67% of those ages 50 and older. In the Czech Republic, 84% of those ages 18-29 and 87% of those 30-49 say homosexuality should be accepted, while 72% of those ages 50 and older agree.

In Greece, where acceptance of homosexuality is not as prevalent as in most of the EU countries surveyed, majorities of 18-29 year-olds (66%) and 30-49 year-olds (62%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society; far fewer Greeks ages 50 and older (40%) share this view.

People ages 50 and older in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile are also less likely than those in the two younger age groups to say homosexuality should be accepted by society, although at least half of those 50 and older in all but Bolivia are accepting, including 75% in Canada. In the U.S., 70% of those ages 18-29 and 64% of those ages 30-49 are accepting of homosexuality, compared with about half of Americans ages 50 and older (52%). In Bolivia, however, 53% of 18-29 year-olds and 43% of 30-49 year-olds say homosexuality should be accepted, but just 27% of those in the older group share this view.
Mexicans and Chinese ages 18-29 are more likely than those in each of the other two age groups to offer positive views of homosexuality, but there is no significant difference between the views of 30-49 year-olds and those 50 or older. And in Russia, El Salvador and Venezuela, those younger than 30 are more tolerant of homosexuality than are those ages 50 and older, while the views of those ages 30-49 do not vary considerably from those in the youngest and oldest groups.

Across the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, as well as in the six sub-Saharan countries, solid majorities across age groups share the view that homosexuality should be rejected by society. In Lebanon, however, there is somewhat more acceptance among younger respondents; 27% of Lebanese younger than 30 say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with 17% of 30-49 year-olds and 10% of those 50 or older.
The Bible and Gay Marriage
A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars penned an op-ed in a local paper this week, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The joint editorial was written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson and it was published in the newspaper, the Des Moines Register. The editorial's writer teach at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa. The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible, the authors wrote. Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.

The Bible's definition of marriage can be confusing and contradictory, noted the scholars. They stated in their column that a primary example of this is the book's stance on polygamy, a practice that was embraced by prominent biblical figures Abraham and David. Furthermore, Avalos, Cargill and Atkinson point out that various Bible passages mention not only traditional monogamy, but also self-induced castration, celibacy, and rape.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Professor Cargill said the column was the brain-child of his colleague Hector Avalos, who suggested local scholars put together an "educated response" to the often-touted claim that the Bible defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. That's not the only thing the Bible says, he said.  Cargill explained that it is obvious to scholars some religious leaders that the Bible endorses a wide range of relationships. But he noted, however, that professors are "terrified" of the potential backlash that might result from opening a dialogue about these relationships. Cargill also noted that the initial response to the Register column has included its fair share of vitriol. Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don't want to take the heat. He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities. Most people aren't dumb, they want to make an informed decision on religiously charged questions, Cargill said. If scholars aren't talking to them, they have to rely on talk show hosts and pundits, and that's not the most reliable source of information. Cargill also realizes that there are some people he may never be able to convince.

Many politicians have made a career out of using the Bible to justify opposition to hot-button topics like same-sex marriage or abortion. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Rupublican), for example, told a crowd of evangelicals  that Americans cannot retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage because it is one man, one woman- because God said it is. Cargill said Bachman and her like-minded colleagues use a strategy he calls "cherry picking" to appeal to their base. Politicians who use the Bible aren't necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible, he said. They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe. He added that anyone who argues that the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage... haven't take the time to read all of it.