Survey finds racism is endemic among gay men.

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Survey finds racism is endemic among gay men.

GMFA, the gay men’s sexual health charity, surveyed gay men of different ethnicities for the findings. The shocking results found that more than seven in 10 black gay men have experience racism in the LGBT community.

All of the Arab men surveyed had experience racism and believe it is a problem.

Among other ethnicities, 86% of South Asian gay men, 81% of South East and East Asian gay men and 78% of gay men of mixed ethnicity said they had experienced racism.

However less than half (49%) of white gay men thought racism was a problem.

One man featured in the survey, Kane, from Birmingham, said non-white people are treated as “second class citizens”.

He told FS magazine: “The mainstream LGBT community spends time telling the world to stop the oppression, homophobia and prejudice, but it neglects the fact that it is prejudiced in treating BAME LGBT people as second class citizens and often ignoring them”

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of GMFA said: “What our new issue of FS shows is that not much has been done to combat the high levels of racism within the gay community.

“Gay men of colour have told us about their experiences of racism on the scene, on apps, by door staff at gay clubs and even by ex-partners. Racism is not acceptable.

“However, now is the time for action.

“We as a community, led by gay men of colour, need to come together and find solutions to combat racism.

“Gay men of colour are living with the passion and desire to fight racism within our community and now is the time for solutions to be made a reality.

“We are better than this. Our community is better than this.

“GMFA will work with gay men of colour to help get the important messages out.”


Chief rabbi says “immodest” secular women are like animals.

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Chief rabbi says “immodest” secular women are like animals.

The chief rabbi of Israel on Saturday night appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals due to their immodest dress.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Itzhak Yosef also lamented that the non-religious community is unaware of how much respect religious Jews supposedly have for women.

In other comments, he advised religious IDF soldiers who find themselves at army events where women are singing to remove their eyeglasses and conspicuously read from a book to demonstrate that they are not participating.

“If the secular knew how much we respect the woman; everything we do is for a woman’s dignity,” Yosef said according to a Sunday report by the Hebrew-language Kikar Hashabat website that serves the religious community. “A woman is not an animal, she has to keep her dignity. To be modest [in her dress] is her dignity.”

Religious demands for modest dress and behavior by women is a cause of friction in the religious-secular divide in Israel with the latter seeing such requirements as sexual discrimination.

A group of women is passed by a group of Orthodox Jewish men near the Jaffa gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, June 13, 2016. (Zack Wajsgras/Flash90)

In advice to soldiers, Yosef noted that due to his position he is sometimes required to attended official ceremonies that include singing performances by women. Recalling an event he was at that was also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, Yosef said that when the women started singing he made an obvious display reading from a book that he held up in front of his face to show that he wasn’t listening.

“That way they could all see that I am not listening, my head is in the book, close to what matters,” he explained and instructed religious soldiers to do the same under similar circumstances.

According to religious tradition, if is forbidden for men to hear a woman sing solo, or at all if it is outside of a religious service.

The exclusion of women from musical performances to satisfy religious sensibilities is a controversial subject in Israel, with religious groups often pushing to have women barred from performing in public.

Yosef’s father, Ovadia Yosef, also a chief rabbi, was also known for making controversial statements at his Saturday night sermons, including derogatory comments about Arabs, Muslims and Holocaust victims.




$100 million effort to listen for aliens has published its first results.

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$100 million effort to listen for aliens has published its first results.

In July of 2015, Breakthrough Initiatives — a non-profit dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, founded by Yuri Milner — announced the creation of Breakthrough Listen.

A 10-year initiative costing $100 million, this program was aimed at using the latest in instrumentation and software to conduct the largest survey to date for extraterrestrial communications, encompassing the 1,000,000 closest stars and 100 closest galaxies.

On Thursday, April. 20th, at the Breakthrough Discuss conference, the organization shared their analysis of the first year of Listen data. Gathered by the Green Bank Radio Telescope, this data included an analysis of 692 stars, as well as 11 events that have been ranked for having the highest significance.

The results have been published on the project’s website, and will soon be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Since 2016, Breakthrough Listen has been gathering data with the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia, the Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder on Mt. Hamilton in California, and the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. This data is analyzed by the Listen science team at the Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC), who rely on a specially-designed data pipeline to scan through billions of radio channels for any sign of unique signals.

green bank radio telescope nrao aui nsfThe Green Bank Telescope (GBT), a radio telescope located at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.NRAO/AUI/NSF

While the results were not exactly definitive, this is just the first step in a program that will span a decade.

As Dr. Andrew Siemion, the Director of the BSRC, explained in a BI press release:

“With the submission of this paper, the first scientific results from Breakthrough Listen are now available for the world to review. Although the search has not yet detected a convincing signal from extraterrestrial intelligence, these are early days. The work that has been completed so far provides a launch pad for deeper and more comprehensive analysis to come.”

The Green Bank Telescope searched for these signals using its “L-band” receiver, which gathers data in frequencies ranging from 1.1 to 1.9 GHz. At these frequencies, artificial signals can be distinguished from natural sources, which includes pulsars, quasars, radio galaxies and even the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB).

Within these parameters, the BSRC team examined 692 stars from its primary target list.

For each star, they conducting three five-minutes observation periods, while also conducting five-minute observations on a set of secondary targets. Combined with a Doppler drift search — a perceived difference in frequency caused by the motion of the source or receiver (i.e. the star and/or Earth) — the Listen science team identified channels where radio emission were seen for each target (aka. “hits”).

CSIROs Parkes radio telescope dishThe Parkes radio telescope, one of the telescopes comprising CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility.CSIRO

This led to a combined 400 hours and 8 petabytes worth of observational data. All together, the team found millions of hits from the sample data as a whole, and 11 events that rose above the threshold for significance.

These events (which are listed here) took place around 11 distant stars and ranged from to 25.4 to 3376.9 SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio). However, the vast majority of the overall hits were determined to be the result of radio frequency interference from local sources.

What’s more, further analysis of the 11 events indicated that it was unlikely that any of the signals were artificial in nature. While these stars all exhibited their own unique radio “fingerprints”, this is not necessarily an indication that they are being broadcast by intelligent species.

But of course, finding localized and unusual radio signals is an excellent way to select targets for follow-up examination. And if there is evidence to be found out there of intelligent species using radio signals to communicate, Breakthrough Listen is likely to be the one that finds them.

Of all the SETI programs mounted to date, Listen is by far the most sophisticated.

Not only do its radio surveys cover 10 times more sky than previous programs, but its instruments are 50 times more sensitive than telescopes that are currently engaged in the search for extra-terrestrial life. They also cover 5 times more of the radio spectrum, and at speeds that are 100 times as fast.

Between now and when it concludes in the coming decade, the BSRC team plans to release updated Listen data once every six months.

lick observatory automated planet finder copyright laurie hatchAerial view of the Automated Planet Finder at the Lick Observatory.UC Berkeley/Lick Observatory/Laurie Hatch

In the meantime, they are actively engaging with signal processing and machine learning experts to develop more sophisticated algorithms to analyze the data they collect. And while they continue to listen for extra-solar sources of life, Breakthrough Starshot continues to develop the first concept for a laser-driven lightsail, which they hope will make the first interstellar voyage in the coming years.

And of course, we here in the Solar System are looking forward to missions in the coming decade that will search for life right here, in our own backyard. These include missions to Europa, Enceladus, Titan, and other “ocean worlds” where life is believed to exist in some exotic form!

Breakthrough Listen‘s data analysis can be found here. Director Andrew Siemion also took to Facebook Live on Thursday, April 20th, to presents the results of Listen’s first year of study.


Bonobos Use the Power of Female Friendship to Overthrow Male Hierarchy.

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Bonobos Use the Power of Female Friendship to Overthrow Male Hierarchy.

Having an “object to be loved and played with,” “someone to take care of the house,” and the “charms of music and female chit-chat.” These are some of the pros of holy matrimony, according to celebrated naturalist and hopeless romantic Charles Darwin.

In 1838, he penned a note-to-self, weighing the aforementioned plusses against the bummers of being “forced to visit relatives and bend to every trifle,” having “less money for books etc,” and “perhaps quarrelling.” Six months after deducing that a wife would be “better than a dog,” Darwin married his cousin, as per the Victorian custom of interbreeding.

“He never wrote a list of reasons why he would or wouldn’t be a good husband,” notes Dr. Amy Parish: biological anthropologist, primatologist, and “Darwinian feminist”.

Darwinian what?

“Being a Darwinian feminist means you’re both a scientist and a feminist,” says Amy, who is based at the University of Southern California. “There are questions we have in common, which we could inform from both perspectives.”

When Amy arrived at the University of Michigan as an undergrad in the 1980s, she noticed “an antagonism” brooding between her science and gender studies departments. Science had been (and remains) a male-dominated discipline, and evolutionary psychologists favouring “essentialism” used science to validate patriarchal norms.

In other words: “They’ll say, ‘All females want an older, resource-laden man, and all males want a young, fertile female,’ Amy explains. “That’s called ‘essentializing’ because you’re saying there’s just one essence to male and female.” She says her past professors would say things like, “‘Look at chimpanzees; they have a pattern of male dominance, and humans do too. [So that shows that] maybe we’ve had male dominance for the last five million years, since our last common ancestor.'” In this way, science has been used to suggest that male dominance is natural.

Female bonobos use their collective power to control food and dominate males.

Dissatisfied with this approach, Amy and her feminist-scientist peers (including “the alpha female of primatology,” Sarah Hrdy) noticed that both fields were actually asking the same questions: Who has power? How do you get it? How do you use it? What is it good for? “So I thought, ‘Why don’t we have conversations where feminists and scientists can inform each other?'”

Thus, Darwinian feminism was born, and continues to evolve. For the past 20 years, Amy has studied captive populations of bonobo apes. Along with chimps, they’re Homo sapiens’ closest living relatives. But unlike their cousins, bonobos have never been known to kill their own kind and, moreover, they live in matriarchal societies.

“[Female bonobos] make really strong friendships with other females. Part of that is sexual. They have a lot of sexual interactions with each other,” Amy says. Female bonobos also back each other up, forming cohorts. They use their collective power to control food and dominate males.

Amy with a Bonobo

How do female bonobos rise through their hierarchy? “By launching seemingly unprovoked attacks on males,” says Amy. “Ripping off fingernails, toenails, biting testicles. One time they bit a penis in half. So you can’t really paint them as the peace-loving alternative to our other closest relative, the chimp. It’s interesting that people would want to. I think it’s because it’s such a foreign concept to us that females would be dominant and aggressive toward males. It makes no sense, so it’s just discounted.

“As I saw over and over in different zoos, females were attacking males,” she says. “I’d bring it up with the zoo staff and everybody just thought it was something wrong with their particular male. They’d have some folkloric story about what was wrong with him: ‘He was ill when he was young. He was taken home and nursed back to health. That made him soft.’ It never occurred to them that this could be the natural pattern – that females were just in charge.”

As female bonobos mature, they stop going through males bonobos to access food.

In contrast to primatology, Amy has also studied human female behavior. Her research on San Diego’s ‘Mile of Men‘ competition, a matchmaking stunt run by local radio stations , gave intriguing insight to mate choice patterns in women. “You get all these men, who are presumably eligible bachelors, to come down to one intersection and line-up with numbers. [Women] developed all these novel strategies, like bring your Starbucks cup over with your telephone number on it. Some even brought little bags of candy with their phone numbers,” says Amy.

Photo by LaggedOnUser via Flickr

“It’s not like you couldn’t do this at a bar or the beach. Even though women should be able to ask men out, and they do, the social norm is that men are the askers and women are the ones waiting around. To be given the cultural permission to pick, women get really excited and motivated. And there’s a free dinner in a nice restaurant, so there are women who are like, I really want the dinner.”

Amy’s seen similar (arguably improved) versions of this behaviour in bonobos. But as female bonobos mature, they stop going through males bonobos to access food. They just take it. If males want food, on the other hand, they must give something in return.

What do they offer? Sex.

“That’s a real twist on people’s thinking,” says Amy. “The standard idea has been that males are more sexual than females. They’re less choosey. They have higher libidos. That goes back to Darwin and earlier. It comes from religion, it comes from Victorian values: the coy, reluctant female who has to be persuaded. Here we have, ‘What, you want this food? Offer me sex and we’ll have this exchange.’

“It shows that gender roles are not set in stone; they’re very fluid, and females can be as sexual as males. That’s moving away from essentialism.”

How different are humans to our primate kin? There are far more similarities than differences, Amy says. “Humans always want to think they’re special or unique, or at the pinnacle. For the most part, we’re not.” Rather, we sit on a spectrum with a lot of other animals, including bonobos: the feminists of the great ape family.

“The goal of feminism is to behave with unrelated females as though they are your sisters. It’s all about the sisterhood. We can talk about how human feminism has succeeded, and the long road in front of us, but I’d say the glass is 60 percent full for humans and 99.9 percent full for bonobos.”


It took a century to create the weekend & only a decade to undo it.

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It took a century to create the weekend & only a decade to undo it.

We made up the weekend the same way we made up the week. The earth actually does rotate around the sun once a year, taking about 365.25 days. The sun truly rises and sets over twenty-four hours. But the week is man-made, arbitrary, a substance not found in nature. That seven-day cycle in which we mark our meetings, mind birthdays, and overstuff our iCals—buffered on both ends by those promise-filled 48 hours of freedom—only holds us in place because we invented it.

We abuse time, make it our enemy. We try to contain and control it, or, at the very least, outrun it. Your new-model, even faster phone; your finger on the “Close” button in the elevator; your same-day delivery. We shave minutes down to nano-seconds, mechanizing and digitizing our hours and days, paring them toward efficiency, that buzzword of corporate America.

But time wasn’t always so rigid. Ancient cultures like those of the Mayans and the pagans saw time as a wheel, their lives repeating in stages, ever turning. The Judeo-Christians decided that time was actually linear, beginning at creation and moving toward end times. This idea stuck—and it’s way more boring than a wheel.

Becoming efficient is a way of saying “I’m going to conquer time before it conquers me.” To slow down, to stop fighting time, to actually feel it—this is an act of giving in, which is weakness. Bragging “I never take a weekend” is a gesture of strength: I corralled time, I beat it down. Actually, taking a weekend means ceasing the fight with time, and letting it be neutral, unoccupied. Why isn’t this a good thing?

 “Time is now currency: It is not passed but spent.” Not long ago, free time was a defining political issue. The first instance of American workers rising up in unity wasn’t about child labor, or working conditions, or salaries—it was about shrinking long work hours. Those who came before us fought—and died—for time.

As the industrial revolution changed the very nature of work, things got worse. The new machines required uninterrupted tending to avoid the costs of starting and stopping. Dickensian misery abounded. Windowless factories locked in darkness. Rats scurrying. The deformities of child laborers with soft, bendable bones and knees pointed inward from standing in the cotton mills. The “mill girls” who populated the factories of Lowell complained of working the looms in the dark at both ends of the day, their eyes strained by the candles that provided their only light.

The clock became the ubiquitous new boss. Previously, workers tended to complete their work organically, in accordance with natural laws: the sherman’s tasks beholden to the tides; the farmer’s to the seasons. But with industrialization, clocks now determined the task, and the measure of productivity was how much labor could be wrung out of a worker over a period of time. Time had a dollar value, and became a commodity, not to be wasted. “Time is now currency: It is not passed but spent,” wrote historian E. P. Thompson.

Clocks in factories would often mysteriously turn forwards and backwards. Bosses were stealing unpaid hours from workers, who feared to carry their own watches for, as one factory worker wrote in his memoirs in 1850, “it was no uncommon event to dismiss any one who presumed to know too much about the science of horology.”

Mondays were the original weekends

Before the weekend became official, many workers took it anyway. Between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries in England, vast numbers of employees didn’t bother to show up on Monday, playing the religious-holiday card by saying they were “keeping Saint Monday” (there is no Saint Monday, it turns out). Benjamin Franklin rather prissily bragged that as a young man he got promoted simply by showing up on Mondays for his job in a London printing house: “My constant attendance (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master.”

Binge work leads to binge play, and many workers were hungover on Mondays, recovering from bar games at alehouses, outdoor dog fights, and boxing matches. They were paid on Saturday, and stuck in church on Sunday, so they stole that Monday to burn through their paychecks and have some fun. (The idea of the weekend as the time to blow the paycheck holds today: Americans spend the most money on Friday and Saturday nights, and the least on Mondays and Tuesdays.)

Low-paid workers were actually willing to lose out on a much-needed day’s salary in exchange for a day of freedom, so deeply felt was the need for two days’ reprieve. It’s a trade-off most of us make all the time: time versus money. Do I pay the parking ticket or challenge it and lose an afternoon to the process? The financial hit of that lost Monday was real, so when the paid half-Saturday was offered, most workers were glad to accept the compromise. Saint Monday faded from tradition, and the half-Saturday holiday became the standard in Britain in the 1870s.

Henry Ford’s capitalist contribution

One of the key agents in normalizing the weekend for the rest of American workers was actually a staunch anti-unionist, auto tycoon Henry Ford (he was also a well-known anti-Semite, which makes his championing of the Sabbath a little delicious).

 A Marxist might point out that the weekend is an act of corporate trickery, a dangling carrot that keeps workers tethered to their jobs. In 1914, Ford raised the daily wage in his factories from $2.34 per day to $5.00. It was a radical move, and a PR sensation. Thousands showed up hoping for work, causing a near riot that was damped down when the police department turned firehoses on men in bitter winter. But the raise wasn’t exactly the Owen-style socialism it superficially resembled; Ford was convinced to go along with an increased wage only when his vice president, James Couzens, pointed out that not only would the move be great publicity, but more money would give the workers an incentive to spend—perhaps on cars. In 1926, Ford echoed this argument when he introduced the five-day workweek. “People who have more leisure must have more clothes,” he argued. “They eat a greater variety of food. They require more transportation in vehicles.”

Ford, probably by accident, articulated a contradiction that sits at the heart of the weekend as we have come to know it: It’s both a time of rest and a time of consumption. A Marxist might point out that the weekend is an act of corporate trickery, a dangling carrot that keeps workers tethered to their jobs.

As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it, the mission of production—and business—is to “create the wants it seeks to satisfy”—and the weekend is the time of satisfying wants.

All of which is probably true, but it’s just as true to say that the yearning for a weekend doesn’t arise solely from a desire to shop. With work quelled, space opens up in which to be with others, or in solitude with the self—or both. The clock that propels us all those other days is silenced (or quieted, at least), and time opens up, awakening our own desires, our thoughts and impulses.

It was less poetry than pragmatism, however, that finally cemented the two-day weekend. During the Depression of 1929, many industries began cutting back to a five-day schedule. In a tumultuous, underemployed economy, fewer hours for some would mean more work for others (an idea that still reverberates in some European countries: In Germany, the response to the 2008 economic crisis was to implement a nationwide work-sharing program called Kurzarbeit, meaning “short work”). Americans experienced what it was to work less, and—shocker—they liked it. Politicians noticed. Guided along by organized labor, with President Roosevelt signing off, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 enshrined the modern weekend: Americans were now promised the eight-hour day, and the forty-hour workweek.

Say hello to the weekend

The weekend skipped across the globe over the next several decades. By 1955 the two-day weekend was standard in Britain, Canada, and the United States, and short Saturdays were common across Europe. By the 1970s, no European country exceeded a 40-hour workweek—many worked less—and all observed the weekend.

 The financial boon to a country that keeps hours in line with the West has altered the shape of the weekend. In the Middle East, Friday-Saturday weekends became the norm over the last half of the 20th century, while some Gulf and North African countries booked off Thursday and Friday. But as economies have reoriented from local to global, the financial boon to a country that keeps hours in line with the West has altered the shape of the weekend. Oman switched from a Thursday-Friday weekend to a Friday-Saturday weekend in 2013. The same year, Saudi Arabia followed suit with a royal decree that looked a lot like an open-for-business sign.

The state of the weekend is an ongoing battle in Israel, where the official weekend is the day and a half that constitutes the Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday. But Israel’s weekend is changing, too—tensely. Some Orthodox Jews, appalled at Sabbath-breakers, have reportedly thrown stones at Israelis taking the bus on Saturdays. With Arabs and Christians to please, there have been calls for a full, two-day Friday-Saturday weekend to accommodate holy days for all groups.

Whether it’s motivated by the push of business or the pull of the soul (or some combination of the two), two days off is what feels normal and human. After hundreds of years of debate, bloodshed, and dogma, a weekend should be an enshrined right—yet that isn’t exactly what happened. It took a century to win the weekend. It’s taken only a few decades to undo it.


Irish police drop Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation due to ‘lack of outraged people’

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Irish police drop Stephen Fry blasphemy investigation due to ‘lack of outraged people’

An Irish police investigation into allegedly blasphemous comments made by Stephen Fry has been dropped after detectives decided there were not enough people who had been outraged by the remarks.

Police launched an investigation into the presenter, author and comedian after he described God as “capricious”, “mean-minded”, “stupid” and an “utter maniac” during an appearance on Irish television show “The Meaning of Life” in February 2015.

The comments were widely reported but did not become a legal matter until a man complained last year, prompting a police enquiry.

Under Irish law, it is illegal to use words that are “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred to any religion,  thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”.

After initial inquiries, officers decided that not enough people had been outraged by Mr Fry’s remarks to warrant further investigation, according to the Irish Independent.

A source told the paper: “This man was simply a witness and not an injured party. Gardaí (Irish police) were unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.

“For this reason the investigation has been concluded.”

Asked in 2015 by the programme’s host, Gay Byrne, what he would say to God if he arrived in heaven, Mr Fry replied: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about?”

“How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil.

“Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?

“We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of god would do that?

“The god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

Under Ireland’s 2009 Defamation Act, anyone “who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence” and liable for a fine of up to €25,000 (£21,200).

The man who made the initial complaint about Mr Fry is said to have been satisfied that Irish police had investigated the matter fully and told detectives he was merely doing his civic duty in reporting it.


If People Talked About Other Things the Way They Talked About Gender Identity.

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If People Talked About Other Things the Way They Talked About Gender Identity.

Fiction: “It’s either a short story or a novel. There’s no such thing as a novella.”

Subatomic particles: “Now they’re saying they discovered ‘tetraquarks’ and ‘pentaquarks’. How many combinations of quarks are there? I can’t even keep up these days. What ever happened to just talking about good old atoms?”

Cats: “A Manx is not a cat. Cats are defined as having tails. Maybe it’s a koala.”

Ice cream: “Avocado is not a valid ice cream flavor because I’ve never heard of it and it does not appeal to me.”

Language: “I don’t care what linguists say, I know a dialect when I see one, and Pennsylvania Dutch English is not a dialect.”

Water: “Water is H20. Ice might parade around pretending to be something different, but we all know that it’s also H20 and therefore also water. It’s chemistry.”

Colors: “The cultural imposition of boundaries on a color gradient has nothing to do with it. A rainbow has seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and another kind of purple.”

Murder: “If you think murder is just the unlawful and premeditated killing of one person by another, then how do you explain the fact that animals murder each other all the time in nature?”

Doctors: “You can’t just put on scrubs, go to medical school for eight years, pass a licensing examination, and gallivant around calling yourself a doctor. You’re either born a doctor or you’re not.”

Heat: “Careful, that compound is rich in phlogiston. Oh, sorry, ‘kinetic energy.’ You have to be politically correct these days.”

Sex: “The missionary position is the natural sexual position. People are genetically predisposed to it.”

Politics: “‘Libertarian’? Stop trying to be a special snowflake. You’re a Republican or a Democrat, end of story.”

Fields of Thought: “I don’t believe in quantum mechanics because some people on the internet say things about it that I find outrageous.”

Theater: “I’m not an actor. I’m really Hamlet. And I don’t care if they kick me off the set, I’m not calling you imposters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!”

Movies: “Sean Connery is really James Bond because I’ve seen him be James Bond a bunch of times. I think Daniel Craig is just dressing up and pretending to be James Bond, though.”


Norway votes to ban ritual circumcision.

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Norway votes to ban ritual circumcision.

A political party in Norway has voted to ban the ritual circumcision of boys under the age of 16 and several other measures which have been blasted as an attack on minorities.

In its national annual conference over the weekend, the anti-immigrant and libertarian Progress Party (FrP) voted to also ban hijabs in public schools, as well as forbidding the religious ritual of circumcision for young men.

Advocates claimed that circumcision resulted in mental and physical harm to children and was a serious violation of human rights.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg heads a coalition between the Conservatives and the Progress Party, which is the third largest party in the country with 29 of the 169 seats in parliament.

The party leader, Siv Jensen, told the Aftenposten newspaper that she was against forbidding circumcision.

The reportedly last-minute and chaotic voting schedule meant that the proposed compromise – banning state funding for circumcision – failed.

Ms Jensen insisted the move was not designed to target minorities and that her party had consistently defended Israel.

The vote in Norway comes a day after Belgium’s Parliament of Wallonia voted in favour of banning ritual slaughter, which would affect Jewish kosher and Muslim halal rituals. It comes into effect in September 2019.

“This is very sad,” Ervin Kohn, a Jewish community leader in Norway, told Aftenposten. 

“They [the Progress Party] must know they won’t get a majority for this in Parliament. It seems like they want to send a signal that we are unwelcome in the country.”

He tweeted encouragement for Norwegian voters to support “any other party” in the election this autumn.

Another opposing voice came from Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association. He wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for collaboration between European Jewish organisations and government to prevent the proliferation of anti-Jewish legislation.

“I have no doubt that the State of Israel – the state of the Jewish people – cannot remain indifferent to it, and I call on you to exert all your political influence in order to prevent the exclusion of Jews from life in various European countries,” the letter read.

At its national conference, the Progress Party also voted against the wearing of hijabs in public schools. The move follows the party’s third deputy, Aina Stenersen, calling last September for the ban of full-body swimsuits worn by some Muslim woman.

FrP’s former leader, Carl Hagen, wants to ban municipal employees in Oslo from wearing the hijab and other religious symbols.

The party also voted in favour of dual citizenship, and is assured of a majority vote in favour of the measure in Parliament. If someone holds dual citizenship and is found to have violated asylum or immigration regulations, the party argued it would be easier to strip that person of Norwegian citizenship and deport them.


Scientology facilities close after police find patients held as prisoners inside.

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Scientology facilities close after police find patients held as prisoners inside.

A series of psychiatric facilities operated by the Church of Scientology in Cannon County, Tennessee were raided this week by police after they were alerted about patients being held against their will.

The Cannon Courier reported that tiny cabins and a double-wide trailer were searched and shut down after police received a call from a patient inside one of the facilities, who Cannon County police later found imprisoned in a locked cabin.

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They were allowed entry into the site by one of the facility’s caretakers. There, the officers say they spotted the caller through a Plexiglas window.

“He [was] locked inside the cabin with no way to remove himself from the building,” the report went on.

The man told officers he had been held captive at the facility for 9 months, where he says he’s been treated with unknown medications to be “cleansed” through Scientology.

“He [stated] that he has been there for nine months and is being mistreated and falsely imprisoned and all he wants is to go home.” the officers said.

Officers said the man lived in “a small room with a single bed in it.” They described his bed as “bare except for one sheet that he covers up with” and said that “his bathroom is the only room with a light.”

The man and a woman, whom police later found while searching the remaining facilities, were rushed to a local hospital.

Marc Vallieres, the operator of the facility, was arrested and charged with two felonious counts of facilitation of kidnapping. The two other men employed at the facility pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

The Cannon County Sheriff’s Department later announced that all of the facilities ran by the Church of Scientology were closed and would no longer operate in the county.


Science has a New Explanation for Homosexuality

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 Science has a New Explanation for Homosexuality

When James O’Keefe’s 18-year-old son Jimmy came out as gay, James felt like he had failed him and regretted that Jimmy wouldn’t have kids of his own. Though he now realizes that Jimmy might one day have kids, as a medical doctor O’Keefe still wondered about the genetic and evolutionary factors that made his son gay.

“Viewed in the light of evolution,” O’Keefe said in a recent TED Talk (video below), “homosexuality seems to be a real self-defeating non-productive strategy. Gays have 80 percent fewer kids than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct in a few generations, yet down through recorded history in every culture and many animal species as well, homosexuality has been a small but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago culled this from the gene pool.”

So what gives?

Most people use the “guncle theory” to explain the evolutionary benefit of homosexuality, the idea that, lacking kids of their own, gay uncles (guncles) contribute to their family’s overall well-being by helping care for their siblings’ offspring. O’Keefe more or less agrees with this, but takes it two steps further.

He points to two studies that suggest that if a mother gives birth to a high number of male offspring or experiences severe prenatal stress, the likelihood of her giving birth to a gay son increases. The underlying reason has something to do with an emerging science known as epigenetics.

Epigenetics basically states that similar genes can express themselves in different ways based on external circumstances. For example, epigenetic studies of ants have shown that if the colony is hungry, the queen will give birth to more worker ants, but if the colony is under attack, she’ll give birth to more warrior ants. In both cases, ants’ genetic makeup are exactly the same, the only difference is how they get expressed. Warrior ants will be bigger and more aggressive whereas worker ants will be smaller and better at finding food.

Thus, O’Keefe says, “If the [human]family is flush with plenty of kids and/or it’s a stressful place in time, nature occasionally flips these epigenetic switches to turn on the gay genes. This alters brain development that changes sexual orientation.”

“You probably have gay genes in your DNA,” he told the audience, “but unless they were activated in your mother’s womb, they remained coiled up and silent.”

To him, homosexuality is nature’s way of ensuring that the family won’t have an unmanageable number of mouths to feed or a son who might fight with his brothers over female mates, two problems that can reduce a family’s overall health and cohesion. Put another way, gay kids help reduce resource competition among family members.

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O’Keefe goes even further by saying that gay members positively contribute to a family’s emotional health as well. As proof, he points to other studies that show lower levels of hostility and higher levels of emotional intelligence, compassion, and cooperation in gay men. He says that these ‘specialized talents and usual qualities of personality’ help increase a family’s ability to relate to one another.

“An ability to love our family and bond with our group determines in many cases whether we survive or perish,” O’Keefe says. “So it’s survival of the fittest family, not the fittest individual.”

And yet, O’Keefe ended his talk by pointing out the many countries around the world that punish homosexuality with death or imprisonment.

“In India,” O’Keefe says, “the law states 14 years to life because homosexuality is ‘against the order of nature’… except that it’s not. Nature prescribes homosexuality at specific times and places. It endows these people with special traits to help the people around them flourish. What is against the order of nature is the ongoing persecution of the sexual minority. These are not confused or defective people that need to be cured or punished or ostracized. They need to be accepted for who they are and embraced. They make us better.”


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