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Planet Envy

May 29, 2019

The Supreme Court punts on Indiana’s law prohibiting abortions sought solely because of the sex or disability of a fetus, which was struck down by an appeals court, and OKs Indiana’s requirement that fetal remains be buried or cremated. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress summarizes:

The court avoided the most contentious issue in Box [v. Planned Parenthood], and it disposed of the other issue on narrow grounds.

For the time being, in other words, the court does not appear eager to weigh into the abortion wars — at least with respect to this trolly law.

A bunch of civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit to block the new HHS “conscience rule” that lets anyone in health care refuse to provide services they say clash with their religious beliefs. The Post reports:

Among the suit’s allegations are that the rule “violates patients’ rights to privacy, liberty, dignity, and autonomy” by imposing conditions that unduly burden patients’ access to medically necessary health care and “chills constitutionally protected First Amendment activity, such as a patient’s ability to disclose or express their sexual orientation.”

Hemant Mehta digs through a Templeton Foundation report on nonbelievers around the world (a report presented to the Vatican, of all things), and finds some interesting stuff, for example:

  • Most atheists don’t call themselves atheists, but largely use other terms.
  • Country by country, atheists tend to share the same general values as non-atheists.
  • Atheists are about as “smug” about their beliefs as everyone else.

Yale put out a poll showing 70 percent of U.S. voters accept the reality of global warming (as opposed to 38 percent of “conservative Republicans”), a little more than half of voters think humans are the reason for it (again, only 21 percent of conservative Republicans), and 61 percent are worried about it (versus 21, etc.). Overall, global warming ranked as the 17th-most-important issue for voters, so, you know, we’re utterly screwed.

Speaking of how screwed we are, sit back and enjoy/despair over this appeal from Franklin Graham:

I am asking followers of Christ across our nation to set aside next Sunday, June 2, as a special day of prayer for the President, Donald J. Trump.

President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency. In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has. I believe the only hope for him, and this nation, is God.

So look, whatever president-destroying plans you have, GET THEM DONE BEFORE JUNE 2!

Letters show that the Vatican had put restrictions on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (you know, the guy who was defrocked for sexual abuse), but did nothing to enforce those restrictions. I know, you’re shocked.

In a Pakistan town, a Hindu veterinarian is accused of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating a book that contained verses from the Quran. Not the Quran itself, just a book with Quran stuff in it. And desecrated how? We aren’t told. It’s almost like people are just looking for any excuse to persecute someone in an out-group and indulge in a lot of property damage. The Express Tribune reports:

Protesters set ablaze a doctor’s clinic, a medical store, and two shops belonging to the members of the Hindu community. They also blocked roads by burning tyres. [sic]

There were reports that the protesters also looted some shops.

They demanded that the police arrest the alleged blasphemer. With the situation spiraling out of control, local authorities called in the paramilitary Rangers to deal with the mob.

I’m torn between images of the Avengers coming to break up the mob and images of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers. Yes, I’m a 41-year-old man.

Peter Andrey Smith at Outside looks at the claims made about alkaline water (or, hilariously, “soda blasting”), and checking with actual experts and evidence rather than frauds, finds that there’s a little bit of something going on relating to short-burst, high-intensity activity that alkalinity might have some effect on, but otherwise, nah, there’s nothing there.

A public charter school in northern New Jersey is in a building owned by the Catholic Church. Students made a mural that included images in support of the LGBTQ community. The Catholic Church ordered them to remove it. The student artist wrote on Twitter:

My art teacher was forced to paint over the rainbow heart. FORCED, by my administration. This school is infringing on my rights just as much as the church now. A public school is complicit in discrimination.

Is there a ghost in your house? Of course not. Was someone murdered in your house? Now we’re talkin’, and according to Anastasia Santoreneos at Yahoo! Finance, we’re talkin’ lower property values:

[Estate appraiser Randall Bell says] ghosts are a big risk, because whether or not the buyer believes in them, they can still affect the public perception of a home and create some very real challenges for the people who live there.

Property valuers in a Hong Kong study agree that a home where a murder or suicide occurred could see its value drop by up to 30 per cent and urge sellers to adjust their price expectations

Over in Japan, properties that have seen suicides, murders or lonely deaths are extremely difficult to shift, and are often given away for free.

If I ever move to Japan, I know what search terms I’m puttin’ into whatever the Japanese version of Zillow is.

Folks in Georgia spot Bigfoot. Gray News reports:

“He said the arms were very long and it walked with the arms extended from its sides,” the [Facebook] post [says]. “He pulled over skidding on the gravel, and waited on the back side of the small patch of woods thinking it would emerge on the other side … it never did.”

Arms out? It either wanted a hug, or it was a zombie. Get with it.

Richard Wiseman, a fellow of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, is set to receive the American Humanist Association’s Humanist Media Award on June 7.

Quote of the Day

Here’s two, both related. Madeleine Aggeler at The Cut is disappointed in humans for not getting more excited about the New York Times‘ report on UFO sightings by U.S. Navy pilots:

What will it take for the aliens to get our attention? Maybe they could go hang out with another planet and try to make us jealous, or post scantily clad pictures of themselves, or send a cute messenger, like Stitch or E.T. Or maybe, they should just try getting a hold of us when we’re not distracted by the activities of a three-day weekend, and we can finally respond appropriately: “lol sorry, just seeing this!”

I know she’s just being funny, but really, there’s nothing to be excited about from that report. I kept looking at it over and over to see if I’d missed something of genuine interest, and, well, no. But EJ Dickson at Rolling Stone also seems to think we’re not sufficiently piqued:

… even if there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for such sightings — which, let’s be clear, is most likely the case — the fact that they are apparently frequent enough to prompt the Navy to update guidelines about how to report them, doesn’t exactly strike confidence in the hearts of even the most skeptical Americans.

I’m fine.

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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.