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A Cosmic Experiment Being Performed On Us

May 20, 2019

Last week the House passed the Equality Act, which did please us:

“An affirmative act of Congress to grant federal protection from discrimination to the LGBTQ community has been a long time coming—too long,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “It would be a tragedy if the Senate now refused to advance this legislation.” … “It’s a real sign of positive change that the House has planted this flag for equal treatment under the law,” said Lemieux. “Now we call on Senators to follow suit and ensure protection for a community that’s so often discriminated against, often on grounds justified by a cynical definition of religious liberty.”

The Guardian announces that it is changing the language it uses concerning climate change and its deniers, much like the Associated Press did back in 2015, which, you might remember, was because of us. You’re welcome. The Guardian‘s environment editor Damian Carrington writes:

Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.” …

… Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”. In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”

The cover story for this month’s The Atlantic is James Carroll (a former Catholic priest) arguing for the Catholic Church to abolish the priesthood. Yowza!

Clericalism, with its cult of secrecy, its theological misogyny, its sexual repressiveness, and its hierarchical power based on threats of a doom-laden afterlife, is at the root of Roman Catholic dysfunction. The clerical system’s obsession with status thwarts even the merits of otherwise good priests and distorts the Gospels’ message of selfless love, which the Church was established to proclaim. Clericalism is both the underlying cause and the ongoing enabler of the present Catholic catastrophe. I left the priesthood 45 years ago, before knowing fully what had soured me, but clericalism was the reason.

Dana Milbank spotlights the junk science within the GOP’s crusade to ban abortion:

[J]unk science has real consequences. The new abortion bans are commonly dubbed “heartbeat” bills because pulsing cells can be detected as early as six weeks — but embryos don’t have hearts at that point. Women may be near or past the six-week abortion window before they know they’re pregnant. And though lawmakers may not intend to ban birth control or to jail women who have abortions, those possibilities are far more realistic than Trump’s claim that Democrats like to “execute” swaddled newborns.

David Masci at Pew Research looks at how Americans perceive discrimination against various religious groups, based on the results of data released back in March. Relatively unchanged from when the question was asked in 2016 is the perception of discrimination against Muslims; 82 percent said they experienced discrimination, with a little more than half saying they experienced “a lot.” But those who said Jews experience discrimination jumped a whopping 20 points from 2016, from 44 to 64 percent. (A lot has happened since 2016, eh?) And unsurprisingly, half of Americans seem to think that evangelicals are discriminated against.

Anyhow, Masci gives us another way to look at the question of discrimination:

When asked whether being part of a certain group hurts or helps someone’s “ability to get ahead in our country,” most Americans again see Muslims as being disadvantaged, according to a different Pew Research Center survey conducted in January and February of this year. Indeed, more than six-in-ten U.S. adults (63%) say that being Muslim hurts someone’s chances for advancement in American society at least a little, including 31% who say it hurts their chances a lot.

Substantially smaller shares of Americans say that being Jewish or evangelical is a disadvantage. One-in-five U.S. adults say being Jewish hurts someone’s chances of getting ahead, while 15% say the same about being evangelical.

Kristin Holmes at the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at why several “insular enclaves” of religious communities oppose vaccinations, and what religious institutions are doing and saying about it.

Does everyone who nods or cheers at a Trump speech agree with everything Trump is saying, particularly when they know Trump is full of it? Benjamin Radford says probably not, and that has to do with simple social conventions. “Social decorum should not be confused with positive affirmation of whatever was just heard.”

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sect leader James Oler is found guilty of trafficking an underage girl to be married to another FLDS member on the orders of Warren Jeffs. The Canadian Press reports:

In delivering her decision, Justice Martha Devlin of the B.C. Supreme Court said Oler saw with substantial certainty that the girl would be expected to consummate the marriage immediately in order to “fulfil her role in bringing forward children in line with the divine mandate.”

“Entering (the girl) into an ordinary marriage would leave no doubt, but as here, entering her into a plural marriage that is imperative to her salvation, leaves even less room,” she said.

Referencing the book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, Andrew Whalen at Newsweek shows how the complicated nature of the disaster and the Soviets’ attempts to keep it quiet made for the perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories:

Most conspiracy theories inevitably expand to include extraterrestrials—those surrounding the Chernobyl disaster were no exception. Several people claimed, after the fact, to have seen flying saucers hovering over the power station in the hours before the explosion. Since UFOs are often paired with government cover-ups, Shimanskiy soon heard rumors of “a cosmic experiment being performed on us.”

“The Chernobylites are giving birth to children who have an unknown yellow fluid instead of blood,” Shimanskiy describes to Alexievich. “Children born in three or four generations will be Einsteins.”

A Trump-appointed federal judge overturns a drug trafficking conviction because the prosecutor cited their apparent belief in “Jesús Malverde,” the “patron saint” of drug traffickers. Andrew Wolfson at the Louisville Courier Journal reports:

“A prosecutor may strike hard blows but is not at liberty to strike foul ones,” said Bush, who was appointed last year by President Donald Trump at the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. “The prosecutor crossed the line in this case.”

If one were to write a parody of the United States in its current political throes, one might come up with the absurd idea of a prophet who sells $45 coins, emblazoned with Donald Trump and the biblical King Cyrus, to be used as magical “point of contact” objects to amplify one’s prayer powers and ensure Trump’s reelection. And then one might realize this is already an actual thing, and then contemplate leaving the planet.

The name of the two-headed, pancake-y Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule turns out to have a somewhat problematic history, reports Marina Koren at The Atlantic, providing us with yet another example of how Nazis ruin everything:

For most of its long history, Ultima Thule, or “Thule alone,” has been used to describe places beyond the limits of the known world, such as hard-to-reach Arctic lands.

But the name picked up more sinister associations in recent history. During the rise of Hitler, members of the Nazi Party in Germany imagined Ultima Thule as a land of Aryan purity. In the late 1990s, white-supremacist inmates in Portland, Oregon, produced a newspaper called Thule that printed racist and anti-Semitic articles. The Swedish rock band Ultima Thule, a group popular with right-wing listeners and once sponsored by a neo-Nazi movement, released its latest album in 2015.

Netanyahu wants to send a Bible to the Moon. What, to be like a stabilizer if the lander gets wobbly?

The merging of two neutron stars eons ago seems to have been responsible for half of all plutonium in the Solar System. Where’d the other half of come from? WHERE DO YOU THINK??? THE LIBYANS!

Quote of the Day

At CNN, David Gergen and James Piltch argue that the rejection of science is the worst thing about Trump’s presidency:

In nearly every presidential administration since [FDR], it has been axiomatic that the country must believe in science and invest generously and wisely in science and technology.

When all the fireworks are over in Donald Trump’s presidency, historians may look back and conclude that even more important than the Mueller Report and the American retreat from global leadership was Washington’s disregard of this history and its consequential neglect of the threat to our planet. …

… Today, the threat the United States faces is not another country … [The] danger of climate change is certainly as grave a danger to American prosperity and global security as World War II.

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