Sunday, 31 January 2021

Trumpanzee News - And Still The Fruitloops Come...

Lance Wallnau, False Prophet
Preacher: God Anointed Trump, Therefore Biden is an “Illegal Counterfeit” | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The seemingly endless stream of evangelical Trumpanzee Christians unable to accept that their hero lost the November election and that Joe Biden is now POTUS, shows no signs of abating.

The latest forlorn nutjob is evangelist 'prophet' Lance Wallnau, who appeared on the Jim Bakker show (do people still listen to that serial adulterer and fraud?) to announce that Biden was an 'illegal counterfeit' in office because God had anointed Donald Trump, who was therefore still the real president.

Trumpanzee News - Catholic Priest's False Witnessing for Deranged Donald

Fr John Zuhlsdorf
Priest performed US 'election exorcisms'

Catholic priest and fanatical Trumpanzee, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, who maintains the popular Catholic, "Fr Z" blog, Has no worries about the truth of his claims when it comes to supporting President-reject Trump.

Falsely claiming his bishop had granted him permission to do so, he included the rite of exorcism after his noon Mass the day before the attempted coup d'etat at the Capitol on 6th January.

Having fully signed up to the evidence-free QAnon, pro-Trump conspiracy theory of a stolen election and massive electoral fraud, he claimed his reason for doing so was:

Christian Fundamentalist - Claiming the Right to Deny Rights to Minorities of his Choice

Bob Updegrove, photographer.
"Photographing LGBTQ weddings would violate his faith"
Christian Photographer Challenges Virginia Law That Could Force Him to Photograph Same-Sex Weddings : Society : Christianity Daily

One of the more obnoxious tendencies of fundamentalist Christians is their insistence that their faith entitles them to determine who should and who should not have basic human rights, as though the human rights of others are in their gift.

They feel it's an attack on their civil libertes to deny them the right to deny civil liberties to others, especially minorities of their own choosing and people who don't conform to their dogma.

We have seen this manifest itself in the UK when entitled fundamentalist Christians have even gone to the European Court of Human Rignts, asking the court to rule that to deny them the right to deny basic human rights to others is a denial of their human rights, as Christians.

Invariably, the ECHR has knocked them back, explaining that under the European Convention on Human Rights, no-one has the right to deny rights to others, and a person's religious beliefs dont't entitle them discriminate against and victimise others, hard though that might be for them to accept.

American fundamentalists are, of course, no different in that arrogant assumption that their rights should be paramount in any conflict. One such fundamentalist is wedding photographer Bob Updegrove, who is suing the state of Virginia, claiming the fact that it denies him the right to deny services to same-sex couples is a violation of his right to victimise same-sex couples by refusing to provide wedding photography services to them.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Evolution News - Another Case of Rapid Human Evolution

In the last 500 years, the people of Cabo Verde have evolved at a breakneck pace -- thanks to a genetic variant, inherited from their African ancestors, that protects against the ravages of malaria.

Credit: F. Mira
Malaria Threw Human Evolution Into Overdrive on This African Archipelago | Duke Today

Imagine if you will, you are setting out to prove Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. First off you fix in your mind the definition of evolution - change in allele fequency in a poulation over same - an allele being a variation of a gene.

According to Charles Darwin's theory, this happens when the environment differentially selects the allele in question for 'favour' so more descendants end up with the favoured allele, compared to those with the less favoured allele. The hypothesis you are testing then is that a population will, given enough time, have a greater frequency of the given allele than it started out with and this will be because of something natural in the environment. To check this latter requirement, you need to show that when that something in the environment is missing, there is no change in allele frequency in the population.

So, imagine if you could take large enough number of people, a few with the gene that gives an advantage in the given environment, and a lot with the 'normal' gene and put them on different islands in an archipelago, one with an environement which favours one allele, and the rest with an environment that doesn't favour any of them. Then you leave this setup for nature to take its course and then go back and measure the frequency of the different alleles on the different islands in, say, 500 years, if that were possible.

The hypothesis is that on the island where the favoured allele gave an advantage, there would, after enough time, be a greater frequency of it in the population gene pool than on the islands where there was no advantage to be had.

And this is precisely what the Portuguese colonialist who discovered the then uninhabited islands off the west coast of Africa, unintentionally set up. And 500 years later we have the results of this natural 'experiment'.

Catholic Abuse News - Former Priest Jailed for Sadistic Paedophile Offences

Former Catholic priest and education advisor to Catholic schools, Joseph Quigley,
"Sadistic paedophile and voyeur"
Ex-priest Joseph Quigley jailed for child sex offences - BBC News

Yes, it's yet another tale of a predatory paedophile Catholic priest and an archbishop (now cardinal) who did little to stop his abuses or safeguard his potential victims.

A former Catholic priest and former national education advisor for Roman Catholic schools, Joseph Quigley, has been jailed for 11 years and ordered to sign the Sexual Offenders' Register for life after being convicted at Warwick Crown Court last December of four counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, two counts of sexual assault, one count of child cruelty and two counts of false imprisonment.

Covid-19 Pandemic - More Good News as Science Keeps Delivering - A One-Shot Vaccine

A woman receives an injection during phase 3 testing for the Janssen-Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US.
Photograph: Cheryl Gerber/AP
Johnson & Johnson one-dose Covid vaccine shown to work | World news | The Guardian

A little bit more good news to add to that which I reported earlier - we have yet another vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus!

This is one produced by Johnson & Johnson, using techniques they developed for producing a vaccine against ebola. It differs from the other four so far announced in two ways:
  • It is effective with only a single does (the others all require two for maximum immunity).
  • It is based on a short double strand of DNA, not the single-stranded mRNA that the others contain.
Like the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator so is easier to distribute, especially to poor, third world and developing countries or over long distances.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Religious Fundamentalism - A Threat to Health and Safety

Police outside the wedding at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls High School last week
Government gives final warning over illegal Jewish weddings | Jewish News

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish Charedi community in Stamford Hill, London, have been warned to stop holding mass gatherings at weddings at the Yesodey Hatorah school during the present coronavirus emergency lockdown, or face the consequences, following a wedding at which a reported 150 guests were present.

This warning was given by the Faith Minister, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh at an emergency meeting with the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Charedi charity Interlink and the Jewish Leadership Council. The meeting was attended by the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, the head of the police in the local area and senior Jewish figures.

The family that organised the event have been fined £10,000. Those who helped organise it, including the Yesoday Hatorah Girls School, are currently under police investigation.

According to Jewish News, this was but one of 50+ such ultra-Orthodox Jewish weddings, some with over 300 guests to be held since the lockdown was imposed. According to this report, there have been:
  • 50+ strictly-Orthodox weddings across London during lockdown.
  • Lookouts set to raise the alarm and money set aside to pay fines.
  • Bride at one Stamford Hill wedding was 'Covid positive'.
  • Police 'not doing enough' to prevent acts of lawlessness.
  • Further simchas[weddings with mass attendance] held since last weeks wedding scandal.

THE ALLEGATIONS


A source intimately involved in the Orthodox wedding scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “These illegal weddings have been going on for 10 months. We’re not talking about one or two. We are talking multiple weddings every day. All have 150-200 guests. At one wedding the bride was Covid-positive.”

THE VENUES


There are five venues that are used regularly, several sources confirmed – “anything that has a hall”. One is the taxpayer-funded Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill. “It’s the one that was caught,” said one person.

The school’s long-time principal, Rabbi Avroham Pinter, died from Covid-19 last spring. The new principal is his son, Chaim, who became a director of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in July last year.

Another is Belz Hall at 98 Clapton Common. There, two floors below ground, is a new, purpose-built banqueting space for simchas of up to 350 people.


“There are up to four weddings a week there, Monday to Thursday,” another source said, in a claim later corroborated by three other people.

“There are many entrances to the building, with smaller halls upstairs for Jewish studies, security guards on all the doors. They confiscate your phones as you go in so photos don’t get out. There’s literally a table with a mountain of mobiles.”

Another person familiar with the shifting set-up said: “At one point they were taking over warehouses in the countryside, warehouses in Canvey Island, trying to do it behind closed doors… I think that’s what will happen now.”

Two separate sources said there had been several large weddings at the Lismirrane Industrial Park in Elstree over the spring and summer.

Another venue cited as frequently hosting large weddings during lockdown is Ohel Yaakov Beth Hamedrash (Pshevorsk) Synagogue at 26 Lampard Grove, a synagogue associated with the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

Yet another venue cited as hosting lockdown simchas is Beis Ruchel D’Satmar School in Stamford Hill, an 840-pupil girls’ school that was raided by police in October for breaching number restrictions in place at the time

A Charedi source based in Stamford Hill said: “There are 20-30 venues [for weddings] in Stamford Hill, almost all tied to a community centre with [a] wedding hall, school, synagogue, mikveh, such as [the] Bobov [centre] on Egerton Road.”

THE SUPPORT INDUSTRY


As might be expected in such an insular community, there are a limited number of caterers, florists, photographers, videographers, musicians, organisers and security teams who are trusted to supply and support these large Orthodox weddings.

For instance, the same florist was quoted by five different sources as supplying flowers to big Orthodox weddings during lockdown in London and, in recent months, Bournemouth. One informed source said: “She has 85 percent of the market, at least.” The florist denied all knowledge and involvement.

Several also named a videographer as having filmed many of the weddings during lockdown, while Jewish News understands that there are three Israeli photographers who regularly fly in from Israel to take the snaps – and have done since March. One covered nine big Orthodox weddings in under four weeks.

Another photographer is reported to have contracted Covid-19 at one of the London weddings, subsequently forcing an entire El Al flight into quarantine on its return to Israel.

An Israeli involved in the set-up of weddings later said: “The mother of the chatan [groom] called me to tell me that she also had corona. She came to the wedding on Monday and she also had corona. She feels she got it at the wedding. You understand what happened in Stamford Hill now? Unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Yet the increased risk is not leading to decreased incidence but only increased cost, with several sources telling Jewish News that some organisers of big Orthodox weddings are now asking for a £10,000 payment upfront specifically for the purpose of paying the fines if the wedding is raided by police.

THE PLAYERS


The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) is an umbrella body representing more than 100 strictly-Orthodox synagogues around the country. It gets up to £500,000 per year from Kedassia Supervision Ltd, which approves kosher food for suppliers and caterers. Kedassia pointedly did not deny that it provides kosher supervision for the food at these weddings – a religious requirement if food is being prepared on the premises.

The UOHC also has a close relationship to Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School. At least four board members are also governors of Yesodey. The UOHC vets prospective pupils, and its own Rabbinate is officially listed as the authority by which the school is guided. The relationship stretches beyond that, however. The UOHC says it “provides a range of facilities for the Orthodox Jewish community. These facilities include Simchas Nissuin.”

On marketing material, Simchas Nissuin is described as “a subsidised wedding scheme offered in conjunction with the UOHC”. Two venues are offered for a “total package”. One of them, Yesodey Hatorah, for £7,495. The school earns £750 for each wedding it hosts.
The lengths these ultra-Orthodox Jews have gone to in order to circumvent the coronavirus emergency laws has prompted Jewish barrister Daniel Greenberg, to make this astonishingly frank attack on the Charedi Community, in the Jewish Chronical:
Those who have attended illicit weddings under lockdown represent a self-indulgent sect that should be disowned by the rest of the Jewish world.

I have seen some surprisingly intelligent commentators support the idea that the Charedi world requires special consideration in relation to compliance with Covid-19 regulations in the UK, Israel and elsewhere, because those regulations are so challenging to their core lifestyle practices.

This is ridiculous: and offensive to everybody else whose lives also revolve around meeting people in lots of different contexts and gaining social, professional, spiritual and other support from them, and who have suffered in dignified silence for the benefit of the health of the public.

There is no reason why Charedim should have more need, or be any more entitled, to gather together than any other community. The idea that their day revolves around learning and praying adds nothing: both of those activities can be carried out alone, assisted to some extent by remote communication.

What Covid-19 has actually taught us about many members of Charedi communities is something that many of us have suspected for some time: that they have no connection whatsoever with Judaism in any meaningful sense.

As Chief Rabbi Mirvis powerfully put it in commenting on a large Charedi wedding in Stamford Hill broken up by the police for flouting Covid-19 regulations, this a staggering denial of the fundamental Jewish emphasis on health and safety. That is so much the case that it is difficult or impossible to recognise these people as practising any kind of Judaism that I recognise.

But the reality is that this is just a new emergence of something that many of us have known known or suspected for some time, and which now perhaps needs to be articulated clearly and publicly: much of the lifestyle for many Charedi communities is completely incompatible with the fundamental principles of Judaism.
He then went on to condemn a general culture of lawlessness within the Charedi community and the code of silence which facilitates it, with:
In the UK, benefit fraud appears to be endemic in parts of chareidi communities, with housing benefit in particular being manipulated through bogus shell companies and the like in order to support an otherwise unattainable lifestyle. This is incompatible with the fundamental Jewish principles of truth, yashrus (being straight) and avoiding falsehood of any kind.

And it is also inconsistent with seeking the right to coexist as a community within a decent rule of law society: as the judge said in the case of Kliers v Schmerler in 2018: "to be confronted by a plan of this nature [a purported tenancy agreement in order to obtain housing benefit] which, on the evidence, is common practice amongst esteemed and respected religious and community leaders, is one which must cause very great concern to any court seeking to administer the law and the process of justice and legal remedy in this country if not elsewhere".

Even where benefit is obtained without fraud, the Talmud emphasises the importance of people being trained to earn their own living: bringing people up to be dependent on charity is again contrary to fundamental Jewish principles.

Perhaps most important of all, an ancient talmudic concept of not handing fellow Jews over to the non-Jewish authorities, based on times and places without rule of law and with arbitrary and largely antisemitic criminal and civil authorities, has been increasingly turned into a kind of theological support for refusal to wash dirty linen in public, despite the fact that there are no effective private laundries.

It came sadly as no surprise to many of us when in 2013 the rabbinic leader of a major Charedi organisation in London was "outed" on television in secret film footage telling an alleged victim of abuse that it was forbidden to report the alleged offender to the police.

There is no foundation for this in Jewish law whatsoever, and it is based on nothing but the wish to preserve the reputation of the community at the expense of the pain and suffering of the individual. It is not surprising that there is abuse of various kinds, including child abuse and other domestic abuse, within Charedi communities, which consist of human beings: but it is not just surprising but appalling that any community should institutionally refuse to address abuse through the only effective mechanism, the criminal courts.

I admire many people who count themselves as Charedim. Some of them are deeply inspiring people. There are aspects of some Charedi lifestyles and communities that I find inspiring, although I would not want to share all of them.

And there are other aspects of Charedi life that I do not relish but to which I believe they have a protected legal right in the UK (something that has frequently arisen in my advice to Charedi communities over the years about the place of yeshivahs within the educational regulatory system, for example).
He then called upon the rest of the Jewish world to stand up and condemn a society that tolerates these abuses perpetrated by the Charedi Community (benfit fraud, child and domestic abuse and risking public health and safety):
But when the three things most publicly known about the Charedi world become benefit fraud, covering up abuse and breaking public health law, it is time for the rest of the Jewish world - including those Charedim to whom these things are abhorrent - to stand up and say clearly and loudly that any community that tolerates these three things has no connection with Jewish law or values and has become simply a self-indulgent and dangerous sect.

The biggest problem in all this is that Charedim look so very Jewish. Their obsession with the externals means that to themselves, to the outside world, and even to many other Jews, they appear to be the quintessence of Jewish life. In fact, many of them are the antithesis of fundamental Jewish principles in so many ways.

It is time for the rest of the Jewish community to disown those individuals publicly and allow them to go their own mad and dangerous way, and turn to the task of publicly representing a more balanced approach to Jewish practice as being the real continuation of the Jewish heritage in all meaningful ways.
What we have here is yet another example of religious fundamentalists living out their arrogant belief that they have a special entitlement to pick and choose which laws to obey and to disregard any that inconvenience them or interfere with their assumed right to practice their religion anyway they wish, regardless of any threat they pose to society at large and to the health and welfare of those with whom they come into contact.

In this regard, the Cheredi Jewish community of London are little different to the entitled American evangelical Christian nut-jobs and other religious fundamentalist throughout the world, who insist on holding their Sunday super-spreader events with no regard for the health and safety of their family or their local community. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the selfishness and basically antisocial nature of religious fundamentalists into sharp focus.

Religious groups have been a major obstacle in controlling the spread of this deadly plague, when we should have been able to rely on their support in the name of humanity.

If any good can come out of his terrible tragedy, we should never forget this lesson.








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Covid-19 Pandemic - Another Victory for Medical Science

Covid-19: Novavax vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials - BBC News

We have another little victory for science in our battle against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus!

The Novavax vaccine has successfully completed trials in the UK and South Africa and has proved to be 89.3% effective against the 'Kent' variant which has become the dominant strain in the UK and responsible for the massive increase in cases which have led to another lockdown, and 95.6% effective against the original strain.

Unlike the other three approved so far, the Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZenaca and Moderna vaccines, this one, called NVX-CoV2373, works slightly differently. Those three are based on the virus' mRNA which codes for the 'spike' protein on the virus' coat. This causes the body's own cells to manufacture the spike protein which them provokes the production of antibodies which then recognise that protein on any virus particles that enter the body. The Novax vaccine contains a synthetic version of a viral protein itself, combined with a plant-based ingredient to help produce a stronger response.

Like the Oxford/AstraZenaca vaccine, this one can be stored in an ordinary fridge, so is much earier to distribute and store than the Pfizer vaccine which requires very low temperatures.

The study involved 19,000 people aged between 18 and 84 with 27% aged over 65. In South Africa, the vaccine was 49% effective in immune-compromised HIV patients.

At the start of the pandemic, many people predicted that it would be science that provided a solution and saved humanity from this terrible plague and that religion would play no part in it. Little did we appreciate at the time just how obstructive fundamentalist religions would prove to be with many refusing to cooperate with the social distancing measures and wearing face-masks, presenting these as somehow a Satanic attack on their religion and part of a plot to close churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.

Covid-19 Daily New Cases - UK
Little did we appreciate just what a political issue these measures would become in places like the USA where Christian fundamentalists saw it as their responsibility to help Donald Trump cover his increasing incompetence and paranoia by pretending the pandemic was not a serious threat and probably all a hoax to discredit him.

But, as always, it is science that is delivering the goods whilst religions stand by heckling from the side-lines, no doubt preparing to rush in and claim the credit within seconds of the pandemic finally being declared over, citing their magic spells and their 'loving' god as the reason and calling for services of thanksgiving for our 'deliverance' and salvation - and bigger donations to the churches to say thank you.

And we still await an intelligent [sic] design creationist explaining why evolution by natural selection is the only explanation for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that doesn't leave their putative designer deity looking like a pestilential, genocidal, malevolent, misanthropic sadist.


Covidiot News - Why Trump's Narcissistic Personality Disorder Was So Dangerous

Why May Narcissism Be a Risk Factor for COVID? | Psychology Today

Writing in Psychology Today, Susan Heitler Ph.D explains why people with narcissistic personality disorder may be more prone to catch Covid-19.

This could explain why people such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were both early victims of the pandemic and why Dominic Cummings felt he was entitled to break the rules his government was telling everyone else they should comply with.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are basically too full of their own self-importance to pay any heed to what others are telling them and regard themselves as above the rules which are made for 'little people'. Other people should wear face-masks in public places; other people should maintain safe social distancing from others; other people should stay in their homes, only going outside for essential shopping, to do essential work that can't be done from home or for exercise. Those rules are for the little people who don't know any better or aren't so important.

A Little Bit of Good News About the SARS-CoV-2 Virus!

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Credit: NIAID
T cells can mount attacks against many SARS-CoV-2 targets—even on new virus variant

The good news is that research by scientists at La Jolla Institute of Immunology (LJI), La Jolla, California, USA has shown that our T cells are capable of recognising many targets on the surface of the virus (known as epitopes) and so can mount an attack against the new variants.

The bad news is that this is so for naturally-acquired immunity (in people who have recovered from the infection). It is not clear that this applies to immunity acquired by vaccination. All the vaccines approved for general use so far are based on mRNA technology that produces antibodies to the surface 'spike' proteins only, not to other surface proteins.

The research and its importance is explained in an LJI News release by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt:

Thursday, 28 January 2021

When is a False Prophet not a False Prophet?

Frank Kunneman, false prophet of One Voice Ministries, Nebraska
Hank Kunneman Says God Hates Those Who Call Him a False Prophet for Falsely Prophesying Trump's Reelection | Right Wing Watch

Readers will be familiar with preacher of hate and false prophet, Hank Kunneman and his difficulty with coming to terms with the fact that not only did his idol and personal saviour, Donald J Trump, lose the presidency, but that he falsely prophesied he would win.

Pastor Frank, of One Voice Ministries, Nebraska, has now discovered that both he and his god also hate another group of people in addition to those who never voted for Trump. They both hate people who point out that Frank Kunneman is a false prophet!

Homophobia News - Homophobic Evangelical Says Trump Was Too Gay-Friendly for God!

Dr Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries.
"God removed Trump for being too Gay-friendly"
Scott Lively Says Trump Was Too Pro-Gay, So God Removed Him From Office | Right Wing Watch

Trumpanzees who had convinced themselves that their idol, Donald J Trump, would win a second term are now struggling to come to terms with the fact that he lost and Joe Biden is President of the United States.

Of course, we've all heard the evidence-free whinging about a 'stolen election' and a massive conspiracy to include hundreds of thousands, even millions of fake votes in the count, but perhaps the most original to date is that of Scott Lively, a homophobic Trumpanzee and former gubernatorial candidate for Massachusetts, who believed Trump would destroy the LGBTQ movement by enacting Russian-style anti-gay laws. But, apparently, Trump was too pro-Gay, so God removed him. It seems Lively's god lacked the wisdom and character judgement to know this about Trump when he inserted him into the White House.

In 2016, Lively won a case in a Massachusetts court against a group calling themselves Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), although 'won' scarcely describes it since the judge condemned his actions in the clearest terms. SMUG had brought a case against Lively alleging that his preaching in Uganda had led to that country introducing the death penalty for homosexuality and that this constituted a crime against humanity.

The 1914 Act had increased the sentence for same-sex sexual activity, which had been illegal since colonial times, from 14 years to death or life imprisonment. It was later ruled invalid by the Uganda Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

Following agitation in Uganda by Lively and two other US evangelical Christian fundamentalists, Stephen Langa and Caleb Lee Brundidge, Lively wrote in his blog, which he concludes with the usual appeal for money to help with his efforts:
My week began with a meeting with about fifty members of the Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association on the evening of my arrival, then an address to members of the Parliament on the following morning. There were from fifty to one hundred persons in attendance, including numerous legislators and the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, with whom I enjoyed a personal chat for more than half and hour leading to the event. The centerpiece event was a three-day conference featuring myself, Don Schmierer, author of An Ounce of Prevention and several other books designed to help the families of homosexuals, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of International Healing Foundation, a formerly "gay" African-American man who now leads recovery workshops. It was a paid event, very well attended, mostly by professionals in various fields including education, counseling, government and medicine.

[...]

On the positive side, my host and ministry partner in Kampala, Stephen Langa, was overjoyed with the results of our efforts and predicted confidently that the coming weeks would see significant improvement in the moral climate of the nation, and a massive increase in pro-family activism in every social sphere. He said that a respected observer of society in Kampala had told him that our campaign was like a nuclear bomb against the "gay" agenda in Uganda. I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.
The court dismissed the case on the narrow grounds that it did not have the jurisdiction as a result of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling issued after SMUG’s case was filed. The ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell limited the extraterritorial reach of the Alien Tort Statute, under which SMUG brought its claim. In giving his ruling, Judge Michael Ponsor of the U.S. District Court in Springfield Massachusetts, said:
The question before the court is not whether Defendant’s actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do... The much narrower and more technical question posed by Defendant’s motion is whether the limited actions taken by Defendant on American soil in pursuit of his odious campaign are sufficient to give this court jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims.... Since they are not sufficient, summary judgment is appropriate for this, and only this, reason.
Lively told listeners of the "Swamp Rangers" radio show that Trump had "fully endorsed backed and applauded [Richard] Grenell, [who] was an outspoken advocate for the central doctrine of the progressive movement, which is queer theory", so God had him removed.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Theocracy News - Another Defeat For Christian Talibangelicals

Camp Constitution's Christian flag.
Boston Can Reject Religious Flag at City Hall – Courthouse News Service

Another American Talibangelical Christian, fighting to subvert the US Constitution, overthrow the Establishment Clause and build a Taliban-style Christian theocracy in the USA, has suffered defeat in the courts.

This latest attempt - to get Boston City Hall to endorse Christianity - arose because in City Hall Plaza, outside City Hall, are three 83-foot-tall flagpoles. One normally flies the Stars and Stripes, another, the flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, leaving the third for various flags for various occasions. Bostonians can petition City Hall for permission to have a particular commemorative flag flown on this pole.

Three flagpoles outside Boston City Hall
Howard Shurtleff, founder of 'Camp Constitution' [sic], had petitioned Boston City Hall to fly a Christian flag on September 17 'to commemorate the signing of the US Constitution' (the one that bans the promotion or endorsement of any religion by any government or its agencies!) to celebrate the 'Judeo-Christian heritage of the USA'. (Readers might note the lack of any Jewish imagery on the flag). The city refused the petition on the grounds that the Constitution prohibited the city from endorsing or favouring any religion.

Shurtleff's group sued in the U.S. District Court in Boston, claiming they had been discriminated against and denied their First Amendment right to free speech, arguing disingenuously that their purpose was entirely secular, and lost; District Judge Denise Casper ruling:

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Shock for Conservative Christians as SCOTUS Strikes Down Texas Ban on Abortions

Abortion rights demonstrators
Supreme Court wipes out lower court rulings in Texas abortion battle

It's been a bad day for conservative Christians trying to sneak through a ban on abortions in the USA, despite the constitutional right to abortion services.

In another reversal for the 'pro-life', misogynistic Christian right, the US Supreme Court has struck down a Texas law, introduced on the pretext of conserving hospital resources during the coronavirus pandemic, which effectively banned all abortions in the state.

On Monday, despite the Trump-inflicted right-wing Christian fundamentalist bias in the Supreme Court, they wiped off the books a lower court ruling that had upheld an order by the Republican Texas governor, Greg Abbott, that banned nearly all abortions during the pandemic.

Abbot's ban on all medical procedures that were deemed non-essential or 'elective' was seized on by Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who declared that abortions came under this heading and were thus prohibited by it. This order was blocked by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin. His ruling was appealed by the state and, by a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld enforcement of the Governor's order. This latter ruling has now been struck down by SCOTUS.

Evolution News - How Fish Fins Became Tetrapod Limbs

Perdepes (reconstruction) showing the forelimb skeleton.
Researchers reconstruct changes in forelimb function as vertebrates moved onto land | Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Another bad day for Creationists!

Now an international team of research biologists led by Julia Molnar, Assistant Professor at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine and Stephanie Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University have published details of how fish fins evolved into the tetrapod limb. And they use the dreaded word 'transition'!

To work out how this transition occurred using evidence from the fossil record, the team first spent a long time working out which muscles were present and how and where they were attached to the skeleton. They then fed this information into computer software originally developed to study human locomotion. The Harvard University department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology news article explains:

Monday, 25 January 2021

Covidiot News - The Myths the Fruitloops are Falling For

Not sure about the Pfizer vaccine, now it's been approved in Australia? You can scratch these 4 concerns straight off your list

Writing for an primarily Australian readership, Archa Fox, Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia, exposes the nonsense behind four myths concerning the Pfizer ant-Covid mRNA vaccine about to be rolled out in Australia.

Sadly, Australia has a few pockets of QAnon conspiracists who are promulgating these myths, some of which leave you wondering what it is that could induce these idiots to believe this stuff. But then, Australia also has more than its fair share of fundamentalist Christians, Young Earth Creationists and probably flat-earthers too. Scientific illiteracy and bottomless credulity are not confined to Bible-belt USA.

Firstly, a little bit of information about what the vaccines are and how they work. Bear with me if you already understand this stuff.

Creationist Failure News - Another 'Non-Existent' Missing Link

Cretophengodes azari, a fossil light-producing beetle from Cretaceous Burmese amber (~100 million years old).
Credit: Chenyang Cai
January: bioluminescent beetle | News and features | University of Bristol

Yes folks! It's 'non-existent' missing link time, yet again. These come up with such monotonous regularity that I hope I'm not boring you with them!

This time it's the missing link between ancient beetles and the modern bioluminescent species such as fireflies and glow worms. This exceptionally well-preserved, 'non-existent' specimen was found embedded in 100-million-year-old Burmese amber. It was discovered and identified by biologists from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP) and Peking University in China, led by Dr. Chenyang Cai, research fellow at the University of Bristol and associate professor at NIGPAS.

Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B recently. Sadly, the publishers want money for permission to post even the abstract online but, according to the press release from Bristol University:

Sunday, 24 January 2021

A Victory for Human Rights as Biden Plans to Codify Roe v. Wade Into Federal Law

President Joe Biden - Promise to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law if SCOTUS rules against it.
Biden vows to ‘codify’ Roe v. Wade on anniversary of ruling - The Christian Post

The Biden/Harris administration will codify the SCOTUS ruling known as Roe v. Wade into federal law, if SCOTUS, with its new right-wing majority given it by Trump's appointees, ever reverses it.

Last Friday, on the 48th anniversary of the landmark 1973 SCOTUS ruling, President Biden said:
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe. In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care — including reproductive health care — regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status.

Trumpanzee News - Another One Who Can't Cope With Reality

Hank Kunneman of One Voice Ministries
Trump is still gonna win! Any day now! Real soon!
'Prophet' Hank Kunneman Refuses to Repent for Repeatedly Prophesying Trump's Reelection | Right Wing Watch

Hank Kunneman, an extremist evangelical fundamentalist Christian preacher and self-appointed 'prophet' of One Voice Ministries, Nebraska, repeatedly bore false witness to his followers, assuring them that Donald J. Trump would win the 2020 presidential election - because God says so, and of course, Kunneman hears voices!

Now he has to try to cope with the reality that not only did Trump lose, not only have the votes been counted, recounted and certified, not only has the result been turned into a 'landslide' EC win for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but that they have been duly and legally sworn in as POTUS and VPOTUS respectively, and have already stared on a program of repairing much Of the damage Trump did and reversing his more harmful directives like the withdrawl from the Paris agreement on climate change and withdrawing funding from the WHO because it kept telling him things he didn't want to hear.

Another Newly-Discovered Substance Shows Why Biodiversity is Important

Leaf-cutter ants
New antifungal compound from ant farms - American Chemical Society

Following close on my article a few days ago on the antibiotic found in the skin of an Australian toadlet and how this demonstrates the need to maintain a rich biodiversity if only for the resource of natural medicines yet to be discovered in nature, we have another example of an unlikely compound being found - within the nest of leaf-cutter ants.

This time, it's an antifungal compound, produced by bacteria that live on the attine ants (ants of the Atta genus of what are more commonly known as leaf-cutter ants that farm fungi on a substrate of moist chewed-up leaf matter). The ants use this antifungal compound, called attinimicin, to keep their crop and its substrate free from fungal parasites.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Creationist Fraud News - A Turkish Creationist Cult Leader Gets a 1074-Year Jail Sentence

The 64-year-old cult leader Adnan Oktar, who owned a TV channel, was arrested in 2018 along with 200 collaborators.
Credit: Anadolu Agency
Turkey court gives cult head Adnan Oktar over 1,000 years in jail

Anyone who spends much time debating creationism in online groups will be familiar with the followers of Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya, a Turkish Moslem fundamentalist Creationist and purveyor of scientific disinformation on a par with Christian fundamentalists such as Kent Hovind, Ken Ham and Ray Comfort, only he is much richer and owns a TV channel.

He, unlike his Cristian counterparts (Hovid excepted), has now been sentenced by a Turkish court to over 1000 years in prison, though not, unfortunately for his crimes of lying to school children who are now taught Creationism in school and not the science of evolutionary biology, due it Oktar's political lobbying and influence.

Evolution News - Rhesus Monkeys Have Human-Like Immune Response to Covid-19

In a promising result for the success of vaccines against COVID-19, rhesus macaque monkeys infected with the human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 developed protective immune responses suggesting long-lasting immunity.
Getty Images
Rhesus Macaques Develop Promising Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2 | UC Davis

To an evolutionary biologist, it makes perfect sense that one of our close relatives in the animal world should react to a virus that is pathological to humans in much the same way that humans do.

To a believer in special creation of all the different species by magic, there is no reason at all to expect this to be so. Indeed, what would be the sense in a supposedly intelligent designer designing lots of variations on a basic theme, even down to the details of things like an immune system as a defence against the viruses it also designed to make them sick, and just arranging it so they looked like they all shared a common ancestor?

Evolution News - Convergent Spitting Cobra Evolution May Have Been Caused by Early Humans

Naja nubiae slow motion spitting
Credit: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London and Callum Mair
Spitting Cobra venom reveals how evolution will often find the same answer to a common problem | Bangor University

Researchers at Bangor University School of Natural Sciences, Bangor, Wales believe they have shown that the components of the venom ejected by spitting cobras has evolved on three separate occasions due to the same environmental pressures. The fact that there are components in these cobra's venom that exploit the mammalian pain receptors to give instantaneous pain, suggests that this evolved as a defensive, not an aggressive mechanism, aimed at deterring attacks by mammals.

Contrary to the theory that venoms are adapted primarily to enable snakes to kill prey, in spitting cobras, a venom which causes instant pain, and a delivery system which enables the snake to spray the venom to a distance of up to 2.5 metres towards the eyes of anything which comes too close, suggests a defence mechanism, rather than hunting weaponry.
They have also suggested that early hominins may have played a part in this convergent evolution by attacking the snakes.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Gullible Idiot News - QAnon Dupes in a QAndry

For QAnon Believers Facing Reality, What Happens Now? | Psychology Today

The Trumpazee Dupes who got their 'information' from Trump's disinformation sources such as QAnon - the supposed 'deep state' whistle-blower and Trump confidante, responsible for the more outlandish beliefs of the Trumpanzee cult - have a major psychological task facing them - how to rationalise the demonstrable fact that none of the QAnon predictions and claims proved to be true with their belief in the certainty and reliability of their source?

Their problem is the familiar one of how to cope with the cognitive dissonance that results when reality doesn't conform to your requirements and beliefs, forcing you to either change your precious beliefs or ignore reality by explaining it away.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Catholic Abuse News - Irish Church Ratting on Compensation Promise

Site of the Mother and Baby Home at Tuam (now demolished).
Dáil hears call for church assets to be seized if religious orders refuse to pay for abuse - Independent.ie

20 years ago, the then minister Michael Woods, a Fiana Fáil TD, struck a €120 million deal with the Catholic Church in Ireland to pay compensation and reparations to the survivors of the Mother and Baby homes run by Catholic nuns.

Under their draconian, abusive and judgmental regimes, hundreds of babies, stigmatised as the illegitimate products of 'sin', died from diseases, neglect and malnutrition, their bodies then being disposed of like rubbish by being thrown in disused septic tanks or given to the gardener/handyman to dispose of in unmarked graves in the grounds. Some of the bodies were sold to Dublin medical schools to be used for dissection, for as little at 50 pence per body.

The €120 million was to be the Church's contribution to a government-run 'restorative justice' scheme. Most of the commitment has been reneged on.

Malevolent Designer News - What on Earth is Creationism's Magic Designer Up To?

Alarming COVID variants show vital role of genomic surveillance

This is one for those Creationists who subscribe to the Intelligent [sic] Design Hoax but who still believe their putative designer is one and the same as the supposedly all-loving, caring and compassionate deity described in the Christian Bible.

Does the evidence of an increasing number of variant forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus show us that your god is deliberately trying to find ways to get around the vaccines that human medical science has developed or is it just a result of the operation of the natural process of evolution?

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Covidiot News - Muddled Vatican Promulgates a Lie Then Dismisses it Anyway

Pope Francis. Conversion to 'situational ethics'.
Bishops issue updated statement on COVID-19 and vaccination - Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales

The Catholic Church has succeeded in getting itself into a proper muddle over the Covid-19 vaccination.

On the one hand, it is promulgating a lie - that the vaccine is derived from the cells of aborted foetuses - and on the other hand, having raised that thought in the minds of its followers, it now says that 'fact' doesn't prohibit them from receiving the vaccine, even though previous vaccines have been prohibited on just those grounds.

Meanwhile, in the face of the stunning success of medical science in producing the vaccines in record-breaking time by a fantastic cooperative effort, while many Christian Churches appeared to be obstructing efforts to minimise the deadly effects of the pandemic by opposing social distancing measures and wearing face-masks, and defying the lockdown rules to holding super-spreader events, Pope Francis appears to be setting the scene for claiming the credit for the end of the pandemic, by casting magic spells.

And, Pope Francis has still not offered any explanation for why his god inflicted the pandemic on us in the first place. Perhaps's God is keeping it a secret - one of his famous myterious ways.

The lie that the vaccines are the products of the cells of aborted foetuses had been repeated multiple time in a statement by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, in a remarkably flexible approach to moral absolutes, the statement basically argues that the 'sin' was all a long time ago anyway and there is a greater good being served by ignoring it:
The question of the use of vaccines, in general, is often at the center of controversy in the forum of public opinion. In recent months, this Congregation has received several requests for guidance regarding the use of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, which, in the course of research and production, employed cell lines drawn from tissue obtained from two abortions that occurred in the last century. At the same time, diverse and sometimes conflicting pronouncements in the mass media by bishops, Catholic associations, and experts have raised questions about the morality of the use of these vaccines.

[...]

Since the first vaccines against Covid-19 are already available for distribution and administration in various countries, this Congregation desires to offer some indications for clarification of this matter. We do not intend to judge the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, although ethically relevant and necessary, as this evaluation is the responsibility of biomedical researchers and drug agencies. Here, our objective is only to consider the moral aspects of the use of the vaccines against Covid-19 that have been developed from cell lines derived from tissues obtained from two fetuses that were not spontaneously aborted.
  1. As the Instruction Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted fetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, “there exist differing degrees of responsibility”[1] of cooperation in evil. For example,“in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision”.[2]
  2. In this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.
  3. The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote. The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent[3]--in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. It must therefore be considered that, in such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.
  4. In fact, the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses.[4] Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.
  5. At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.
  6. Finally, there is also a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them. The lack of access to vaccines, otherwise, would become another sign of discrimination and injustice that condemns poor countries to continue living in health, economic and social poverty.[5]
[My emphasis]
In fact, neither the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine nor the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are derived from stem cell cultures derived from aborted foetuses or anywhere else. They are based on synthetic mRNA copies of the section of the SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA that codes for the spike proteins on the outer coat of the virus which are an integral part of its mechanism for gaining entry into the host cells. This synthetic mRNA is read by the cell's own internal protein-production mechanism which them produces these spike proteins. These are then recognised as foreign and the immune system creates antibodies to counter them and destroy them. If infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus then occurs, the immune system is primed to attack and neutralise the viruses by attacking the spike proteins.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine delivers the mRNA in nanodroplets of oil; the Oxford/AstraZenaca vaccine delivers it in the shell of a harmless modified chimpanzee adenovirus which insert it into the muscle cells at the injection site but is unable to reproduce itself.

Presumably, now the Vatican has discovered the value of situational ethics, where a 'sin' can be disregarded if there is a greater good to be served by ignoring it, then they will soon discover they have no objection to effective family planning services where the greater good is in the health and welfare of a woman and her family, increased prosperity, better nutrition and the freedom of a woman to pursue a career without the burden of constant pregnancies and children to look after, if she so wishes, and in society and the environment as a whole from a reduction is population due to smaller family sizes.

Some of the countries being worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic are predominantly Catholic countries such as Brazil, and the Philippines where the conditions of poverty and over-crowding make ideal breeding grounds for the virus.


Covidiot News - Loopy Homophobic Rabbi's Paranoid Vaccine Claims

Rabbi Daniel Asor, "Covid-19 vaccine can make you gay"
Popular rabbi warns followers COVID vaccine 'could make you gay' - www.israelhayom.com

A Jewish Rabbi, Daniel Asor, popular in Israel amongst the Orthodox Haredi community, is talking impressionable followers out of having the Covid-19 vaccine, claiming it is part of a plot to turn them gay. He is also promulgating the ludicrously nutty QAnon conspiracy theory that the vaccine is part of a plot to implant microchips in people. A plot that includes the ultra-right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently!

According to this report in Israel Hayom:
In addition to purporting a false link between vaccines and homosexuality, Assur [sic] also advocates various conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, claiming, among other things, that both the virus and the vaccines are the work of a "global malicious government," comprising the Freemasons, the Illuminati, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and others, who are "trying to establish a new world order."

Monday, 18 January 2021

Christian Credulity News - Megachurch Pastor Sentenced for Fraud

Megachurch Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas. Sentenced to 6 years in prison for fraud.
Megachurch pastor sentenced for fraud

To a dishonest evangelical preacher there is little difference between the routine petty fraud of conning thousands of followers out of a tenth of their income on the promise that it'll earn them big rewards later (if they're faithful enough) and the fraud who cons thousands of people by selling them worthless bonds on the promise that their investment will earn them big rewards later.

Both appeal to the naked greed and avarice of the credulous fools they dupe, to whom the only hope for a better life is the expectation of undreamed of wealth for little effort.

According to this report, megachurch senior pastor, Kirbyjon Caldwell of the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas, has been convicted and sentence in Shreveport, Louisiana to 6 years in prison plus a $125,000 fine and ordered to repay $3,588,500 in restitution to the people to whom he sold worthless Chinese bonds, having pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud last March. He had been trading on the trust his victims believed they could place in a 'Man of God'.

Christians Try the 'No True Scotsmen' Fallacy to Cover Their Embarrassment Over the Failed Coup D'etat

Fundamentalist Christians praying outside the Capitol, prior to their failed coup d'etat.
Michael Brown: Just Because Christians Rioted Doesn’t Make it a Christian Riot | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

In the finest traditions of evangelical Christianity, evangelist author Michael Brown is lying to his supporters again - and of course bearing false witness against others. He claims those who took part in the riot and failed insurrection on 6th January were not real Christians and, by implication that those who did take part were other than real Christians. Brown evidently takes Matthew 7:20, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them", at face value - ironically, since it is in the context of false prophets, not the actions of self-confessed Christians.

In his rush to distance himself and dissociate himself and his faith from the disgraceful events that should have every decent Christian now questioning what it is about their core beliefs that can provoke people to do such things, Brown delivered what can only be described as one of the best examples of the 'No True Scotsmen' fallacy seen for a long time. Only Michael Brown and his friends are real Christians; all the others, no matter how passionate they are in their beliefs, aren't.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

It's Not Just Christian Fundamentalists Who Lie to Children

Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, Amherst Park, London
Government issues notice to Jewish school which taught creationism - National Secular Society

It's not just fundamentalist Christian schools that lie to children whenever they can get away with it; Orthodox Jewish schools do it too. Despite the law forbidding faith schools from teaching creationism as science and/or history, a Jewish faith school in north London, England does just that and has now been issued with a statutory notice by the UK government.

According to the National Secular Society, the Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, Amhurst Park, in North London was found 'inadequate' in all areas in an Ofsted inspection in December 2019 and has failed to meet standards in multiple recent inspections. Ofsted is the Government agency responsible for setting and maintaining standards in education. It's scope includes all schools that receive government funding.

The case of this school flagrantly ignoring the national curriculum it is paid to teach to was brought to the attention of the education minister, Elizabeth Berridge, last June. The school was issued with the notice after inspections resumed. The notice requires the school to sumbit an improveent plan. They are then monitored more closely to ensure compliance.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

A Newly-Discovered Antibiotic Shows Why a Rich Biodiversity is Vital

Australian Western toadlet, Uperoleia mjobergii
Toadlet peptide transforms into a deadly weapon against bacteria | EMBL

Researchers at The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany, together with colleagues from Technion - Israel Institute of Technology - have discovered a potential powerful new form of antibiotic - in the skin of an Australian Amphibian, the Western toadlet, Uperoleia mjobergii.

This discovery highlights the vital importance of maintaining a rich biodiversity on Earth because, if nothing else, we could be losing valuable sources of new medicines and antibiotics.

It consists of a polypeptide (a short chain of amino acids) that, when they come into contact with the cell membrane of a bacterium, change to become powerful bactericides. The researchers found that the peptide self-assembles into a unique fibrous structure, which via a sophisticated structural adaptation mechanism can change its form in the presence of bacteria to protect the toadlet from infections.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Mosquitoes Protected by Bacteria

Mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus
Bacteria carried by mosquitoes may protect them against pesticides

For believers in intelligent [sic] design, it's beginning to look like their putative designer has a special fondness for its chosen vector for infecting humans and other animals with harmful parasites, as it now seems to have come up with a novel way of defending them against human attempts to control their numbers and protect ourselves from them and their parasitic payloads.

These examples of how any designer of these natural horrors would be malevolent in the extreme just keep turning up, as I showed in my illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good.

Now researchers from Reading University, UK and National University of San Juan, Argentina, have found that mosquitoes infected with the common Wolbachia bacteria may be better able to withstand man-made pesticides.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Evangelical Christian Loons Hearing Voices Again - Calling for Trump and Violence

A thin police line confronts pro-Trump insurrectionists outside the Capitol rotunda.
Wednesday 6th January, 2021.

© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
Texas Pastor Tells Followers to Stock Supplies, Keep Guns Loaded Before Biden Inauguration

Brandon Burden, pastor at KingdomLife in Frisco, Texas, a member of the Frisco Conservative Coalition and a realtor, spoke in 'tongues' (i.e babbled incoherently) in front of his followers on Sunday then told them it was a 'executive order from the CEO in Heaven', telling them to stockpile supplies and keep a loaded gun ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration next Wednesday.

In a clear incitement to attack and occupy Washington, he told them:
Take down the walls of Jericho. The Lord says your Jericho is Washington, D.C. That's your fortified city.

Bad News For Creationists - A Rock Painting Older than Earth and From Before 'The Flood'

Sulawesi warty pig. The world's oldest known painting.
Leang Tedongnge cave, Sulawesi, Indonesia
World’s oldest cave art discovered in Indonesia – Griffith News

A team of archaeologists led by Professor Adam Brumm from Griffith’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, have discovered what is believed to be the oldest know paining.

Not only has it been dated to way before YECs believe the Universe was magicked into existence, but way before they believe everything was destroyed by a global flood! It must be getting harder and harder to cling to YECism as the evidence against it continues to pile up. It can only be maintained by ignorance of this evidence or by advanced techniques for coping with the cognitive dissonance of holding beliefs that are at complete variance with reality.

The red painting of a Sulawesi warty pig, which is endemic to the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, with two negative images of hands (signatures?) was probably part of a scene with two other pigs, only fragments of which now remain. It has been dated to at least 45,500 years old.

It is believed to have been painted by Homo sapiens, rather than some archaeic hominin species such as Denisovans or Homo erectus.

The team, which included members of Indonesia’s leading archaeological research centre, Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS), published their finding yesterday in Science Advances.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Catholic Abuse News - Government of Ireland Apologises for Abusive Nuns

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland
"People were frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected"
Irish government to apologise over mother-and-baby homes - BBC News

Taoiseach Mícheál Martin, head of government in the Republic of Ireland, has formally apologised for the state's part in the regimes of terror and casual abuse of mothers and babies in the homes run by Catholic nuns in the 1950s through to the 1990s in Ireland. This abuse led to the premature deaths of some 9000 babies and children and the casual disposal of their bodies in unmarked graves and even in disused septic tanks. Some bodies were even sold to Dublin medical schools for as little as 50 pence!

The Catholic Church's and the Irish states complicity in these systematic and institutionalised abuses of single mothers and their children was acknowledged in the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

These centres of systematic abuse, humiliation and casual neglect for vulnerable women and their children were set up when Ireland, under the malign and all-pervading influence of the Catholic Church, was a deeply conservative, judgemental, misogynistic country in which sex and pregnancy outside wedlock were regarded as amongst the worst of sins, with prgnancy regarded as an ofence and the girls bearing the brunt of the blame. Their babies were regarded as the product of sin and unworthy of love and care, carrying a stigma that would haunt them for life.

A couple of paragraphs from the Report's Executive Summary are particularly telling of the social attitudes and Irish society and of the nuns in particular:
  1. Many of the women did suffer emotional abuse and were often subject to denigration and derogatory remarks. It appears that there was little kindness shown to them and this was particularly the case when they were giving birth. The large institutions were regimented and they were inadequately staffed until the later decades. The atmosphere appears to have been cold and seemingly uncaring. They offered little sympathy or counselling to women who may have been rejected by their family and by the father of their child. There were no qualified social workers, or counsellors attached to these homes until at least the 1970s, and until that time, there is no evidence that women were given opportunities to discuss the circumstances of their pregnancy or future options for their child. Women were dissuaded from sharing their stories with their fellow residents, because of concerns to protect their privacy though such conversations might have offered some comfort at a traumatic time. Conditions improved in all respects in the later decades.
  2. Many of the women found childbirth to be a traumatic experience. The overwhelming majority were first-time mothers and they were probably uninformed about childbirth. First-time childbirth can be frightening for any woman; it was undoubtedly worse for women whose pregnancy had devastated their normal life and resulted in their removal from home, family and friends. The trauma of childbirth must have been especially difficult for the many women who had no prospect of keeping their child. However, the hostile comments were not restricted to mother and baby homes. Letters written in the 1970s to Cherish describe hostile comments made by neighbours to women and their families. Women who were transferred from a mother and baby home to maternity hospitals to give birth, for medical reasons, were subjected to unfriendly comments by fellow-patients and their visitors.
Institutions such as those at Tuam and Bessborough were run by nuns such as those of The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. They were cold and uncaring, where casual abuse was institutionalised and routine. There were 56,000 girls and 57,000 babies in the homes investigated by the Commission. 15% of the babies died! This was a far higher infant mortality rate than in the areas surrounding the homes and, although the deaths were recorded and the information publicly available, this high mortality rate appears to have been accepted as normal by the authorities, as was the lack of records of burials.

This discrepancy only came to light when local historian, Catherine Corless noticed the high number of deaths and the lack of graves and began to research the situation at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home, Tuam. She found that 796 children had been buried there and in 2014 an investigation revealed that a disused septic tank had been used to dispose of many of the bodies which appeared to have been simply thrown in it without ceremony or any recognition that is was the remains of human children that were being disposed of.

Despite inititial denials by the Catholic church, including an astonishingly vitriolic, person attack on Catherine Corless by the odious, self-appointed Pope's pit-bull, Bill Donohue, President of the American Catholic League, the Church eventually admitted that the nuns who ran the home were indeed responsible for these deaths. Donohue had said, in May 2017:
Catherine Corless, Local historian who uncovered the Tuam abuse scandal
Photo: PA Media

Bill Donohue, Catholic League President
The Pope's Pit Bull
The first myth concerns her [Corless'] expertise. Contrary to what virtually all news reports have said, Corless is not a historian: she not only does not have a Ph.D. in history, she doesn’t have an undergraduate degree. She is a typist. Her part-time course on historical research may impress some, but to those who know better, a high school equivalency diploma carries more weight. It was in 2014 when Corless first received media attention about her alleged discovery of a “mass grave.” At that time she was referred to by most media outlets as a “local historian.” That’s a new one on me. I have a Ph.D. in sociology. No one has ever called me a “local sociologist.” For that matter, I have never heard of a “local biologist” or a “local mathematician.” Moreover, I have worked with many historians, and none has ever called himself a “local,” “regional,” or “national” historian. He’s just a historian, by virtue of his credentials. Corless has no credentials, yet that hasn’t stopped the media from recently inflating her status again. To wit: She went from being a “local historian” in 2014 to being a full-blown “historian” in 2017. The following media outlets now call her a “historian”: Daily Mirror, Irish Daily Mail, Irish Independent, Irish Times, Newstalk and The Journal. In the United States, Irish Central and Irish Voice have followed suit.
Sad little shrine to the dead victims of the Bon Secours sisters on the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
Photo: Reuters

The site as it appears today, the grim house of torture and abuse having been demolished,
Photo: Reuters
Dionohue appears not to have known that the term 'local historian' refers to someone who studies the history of a local area, as opposed to a national or international historian, but then he had little else with which to attack and smear Corless.

In October 2018, Donohue renewed his attack on Catherine Corless with:
Catherine Corless is the typist responsible for floating the “mass grave” hoax in Tuam, Ireland. She is back in the news, this time for blasting the Bon Secours sisters for not forking up enough cash to pay for an exhumation of an alleged “mass grave” of children’s remains she says exists on the grounds of the sisters’ Mother and Baby Home. Ireland’s Minister of Children, Katherine Zappone, is behind the effort to see what is buried in the grounds.

[...]

The nuns have offered to pay almost $3 million toward the digging, an amount that Corless predictably says is too “meager.” She says the sisters have “private hospitals all over the place” and should pay much more. In other words, the typist wants to drain money from the sick and dying today to pay for her wild goose chase about an incident that allegedly took place a hundred years ago.

[...]

The nuns should pay nothing. Let the activists like Corless in Ireland, and the Church-bashing activists in the United States like Irish Central, pony up first, then rip the Irish taxpayers for the remainder. For two reasons, this will never happen: the nuns are too humble, and those who hate the Church—they hate its teachings on sexuality—simply want to soak it. These people are not motivated by justice for children—they are motivated by revenge. That is a sin, though in their eyes it is a virtue.
Tuam, of course wasn't the only such home where nuns saw it as their duty to punish and humiliate these 'sinners' and their children. Another notorious home was that at Bessborough. Here, a very high infant mortality rate seems to have been accepted, even expected, even though the authorities were aware that the situation there was unsanitary and conducive to epidemics such as measles and whooping cough in the over-crowded dormitories. The Commission reports says:
18.51 In the year ending March 1934, the DLGPH [Department of Local Government and Public Health] reported that:
  • 92 women were admitted
  • 108 were discharged; eight were placed in employment in one of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts-run institutions in the UK;
  • 34 found employment in Ireland; 29 returned to their family home with their children and 10 women married
  • 30 infants died; marasmus [acute malnourishment; starvation!] and prematurity were the main causes of death.

18.52 The DLGPH commented:

Deaths of infants at these institutions are generally caused by an epidemic of some kind, measles, whopping cough, etc., which spreads quickly among the children and wipes out the weaklings. The nurseries are laid out to accommodate too many children and the provision for isolation is not adequate.

18.53 Bessborough had the highest infant mortality rate of the four mother and baby homes then in existence (Pelletstown, Tuam, Sean Ross and Bessborough). It is very clear from the reports of the DLGPH that it was fully aware of the very high rate of infant mortality in all mother and baby homes at least from 1933 but it seems to have accepted the deaths as inevitable:
Doubtless, the great proportion of deaths in these cases is due to congenital debility, congenital deformations and other ante-natal causes traceable to the conditions associated with the unfortunate lot of the unmarried mother.

18.54 The DLGPH reported that, in the year ending March 1935, 120 infants were born in or admitted to Bessborough and 39 infants had died. In the same period:
  • 131 expectant women were admitted to the maternity hospital and an additional five women were admitted to the home accompanied by a child
  • 64 women were discharged; 21 left with their child
  • 40 infants and children were discharged; 22 were informally ‘adopted’ in the nursed out system, 16 were boarded out and 2 were placed with nurse mothers through a ‘Rescue Society’
Chapter 18: Bessborough [my emphasis]
The authorities ignored the fact that many of the infant deaths were due to 'marasmus', i.e., from acute malnourishment. The nuns were starving them to death!

The Fifth Interim Report of the Commission Of Investigation On Mother And Baby Homes reported that:
Mistreated and malnourished, infant mortality was much higher than in the outside community. In one home the infant mortality rate was 68%! Deaths registered with the HSE by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart total 470 infants and 10 women between 1937 and 1953. However, the sisters lied to State inspectors, admitting to only 353 deaths. Even so, the inspectors ignored the fact that 20% of these deaths were recorded as from 'marasmus' (severe malnutrition). Children were being starved to death by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

The report also detailed how one porter made a bit on the side by selling dead babies and children for ten shillings (65c) a time. The Commission has found that almost 1,000 dead babies and children were sold to Dublin Medical Schools between 1920 and 1977. The report says:
The Combined Anatomical Register of the Dublin Medical Schools records that all but 18 of the children received as anatomical subjects were “illegitimate” children. Children used as anatomical subjects in the Dublin Medical Schools were aged between 10 minutes and 15 years at the time of death.
The report has been criticised by survivors who complain that it does not go far enough on the question of forced adoptions. Although it acknowledged that the mothers had 'little choice in the matter' it distinguishes that from 'forced adoption'. Women who were not consulted and who had no say or choice in the matter will find that distinction difficult to understand.

The inhuman and repugnant attitude of these Catholic Nuns in Ireland was little different to those in Spain who set up a lucrative market in new-born babies for adoption by wealthy childless couples, telling their (usually single) mothers who had just given birth that their baby had died but refusing to let them see the 'dead' baby that was destined to be sold.

Just another example of what can happen when people who display a public facade of piety feel this entitles them to self-licence their exemptions from the moral standards they tell others to live by; people who see their 'calling' as deciding who God wants punnished and meeting it out on his behalf, hoping it pleases him enough to grant them special favours.

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