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March 25, 2019

Mississippi officially bans abortion after a the time a fetal heartbeat could theoretically be detected during an ultrasound, around six weeks, which is before many women are even aware that they’re pregnant. These laws tend to get blocked by the courts, but things being how they are, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. To make things uglier, here’s Mississippi’s governor Phil Bryant on why he signed the bill into law:

We will all answer to the good Lord one day. I will say in this instance, “I fought for the lives of innocent babies, even under threat of legal action.”

Women in Mississippi are robbed of autonomy over their bodies, but at least Phil will win his golden ticket to the magic paradise in the sky when he’s dead. So it’s all worth it.

Apparently the documentary by YouTubeBro Logan Paul about “coming out” as a flat-Earther is satirical, which is a relief I guess. Julia Alexander at The Verge sees it as a 50-minute allegory for what actually happens to people seeking out flat-Earth information on YouTube and being sucked into the platform’s algorithmic vortex of conspiracy theories.

Casey Newton, also at The Verge, shakes his head at Instagram as it flails over what to do about anti-vaccine content:

A single-minded focus on initiatives to boost engagement and revenue, at the expense of focusing on systemic rot within the platform, is precisely what landed Facebook in its state of perma-crisis to begin with. And for all the times after 2016 that the company told us it learned its lesson, Instagram’s simmering problems offer fresh reason for doubt.

Joe Lawlor at the Portland Press-Herald looks at the problem of pertussis, aka whooping cough, in Maine, which has the highest rates in the country, and how the anti-vaxxers are making the problem much worse.

Writing at the Sacramento Bee, vaccine advocate Leah Russin says the legislature needs to go after doctors who sell medical exemptions to those who don’t need them.

At Skeptical Inquirer online, Kenny Biddle looks at historical locations and landmarks that get sucked into paranormal silliness with “celebrity ghost hunts,” saying these locations “sacrifice a bit of their credibility.”

The Freethought Trail marks the milestone of its 125th site: Corning Hall, the likely site of an influential lecture by Frances Wright, the first woman to speak in public before mixed-sex audiences: “On the Nature of Knowledge.”

The embassies of the U.S. and U.K. are funding a program in Ukraine that teach students to spot propaganda, misinformation, and hate speech. It’s called “Learn to Discern,” which I assume does not rhyme in translation (it doesn’t, I checked).

An Iranian man seeking asylum in the U.K. says he had converted from Islam to Christianity because the latter is, he says, a “peaceful religion.” Quite unexpectedly, his application was denied by the Home Office who took issue with his theological claim. Anna Schaverien at the Times reports:

…the Home Office used extensive quotes from the Bible, such as “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you,” from Leviticus, as evidence against the asylum seeker’s claim about Christianity.

“These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge,” read a rejection letter…

At The Atlantic, Douglas Quenqua peers deeply into the dark world of child abuse, sexual and otherwise, among the secretive Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The National Council of Churches urges Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to commission a U.N. report on racism in the U.S., writing in a letter with more than 80 signatories:

We are deeply concerned by credible reports indicating a frightening resurgence in white supremacy, which has led to a rise in racism and hate crimes against racial, ethnic, and religious minority communities both in the US and abroad as evidenced by the recent horrific and unspeakable mass murder in New Zealand.

Michigan will no longer allow state-funded faith-based adoption service providers to discriminate against LGBTQ couples or individuals. The state’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, says what you’d think wouldn’t have to be said:

Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale. Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state.

Tara Isabella Burton at RNS explores how fan fiction is, for millennials, a sort of religion, wherein people with a deep devotion to a sacred text (or film, franchise, etc.) build communities around it and reshape it to suit their narrative needs. “They believe in the validity of the book. They just think they can rewrite it better.”

Emily Pothast, writing at Medium, has a fascinating piece on Jordan Peterson’s use of myth and religious stories to bolster his arguments is, well, wrong, even according to the very scholars Peterson cites. So what? Pothast writes:

Peterson uses myths to suggest that his own personal worldview is indicative of a natural, evolutionarily determined process, and he does this by assuming that myths, too, are generally formed according to some similarly natural, evolutionarily determined process. But even ancient narratives have their own origin stories … and failing to understand a text in context is often a recipe for profound misunderstanding.

Did…did y’all know that singer Richard Marx’s Twitter feed was, like, on fire? The dude likes to get all atheistic up in that social medium.

Quote of the Day

Uri Geller, fake-psychic and bender of spoons, to Prime Minister Theresa May:

I feel psychically and very strongly that most British people do not want Brexit. I love you very much but I will not allow you to lead Britain into Brexit. As much as I admire you, I will stop you telepathically from doing this – and believe me I am capable of executing it. Before I take this drastic course of action, I appeal to you to stop the process immediately while you still have a chance.

Does it count as a threat if it involves using powers the issuer of the threat does not actually possess? Like, if someone wrote to Trump and said, “I’m going to turn everything you try to eat into Brussels sprouts using my sorcery,” would they be taken down by the Secret Service?

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.