Category Archives: human rights

Tough To Watch; Important to Watch

I saw this video a few minutes ago. It’s a moving, disturbing, anger-provoking piece. I hope you’ll watch it.

The young woman who wrote and narrates the poem, Nessrriinn, is an ex-muslim. You can find her YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/Nessrriinn

I encourage you to pass the video along. I’ve included the words of the poem below the video.

sharia law
she’s buried chest high
her arms can’t stop the stones that fly
or wipe the tears that have already dried
for a crime she so persistently denied
she’s buried chest deep
the moderates asleep
no matter how hard she weeps
worth half of a man, her testimony’s cheap
Allah subhana wa ta3ala has come up with such a fair rule
dictators of history couldn’t be so cruel
told by mohammed sallahu 3alhe wa salam
teaching us allah’s divine referendum
what becomes of those who have a sip of rum
drinks to forget or wants to be numb
or those who play the game of chance
poker buddies escaping the religious trance
allah’s prescribed in his merciful script
their flesh be ripped their blood be dripped
at the tip of a muslims whip
she’s buried chest high
her arms can’t stop the stones that fly
or wipe the tears that have already dried
for a crime she so persistently denied
and this is allah’s eternal reply
1400 years of backwards law
a tragic flaw of the primitive claw
the tribe of homosexuals
koum lot as they say
sharia is clear on how they should pay
the price for their gay display
life doesn’t matter which way
abu baker got them with a tumbling wall
ali muhammad’s cousin and son in law
had people burned for their sexual call
an entire village children and all
she’s buried chest deep
the moderates asleep
no matter how hard she weeps
worth half of a manher testimony’s cheap
apostates remember those who have bled
to speak the word Muslims leave unsaid
killed for the sake of those mislead
submit now or be left dead
allah subhana wa ta3ala has come up with such a fair rule
the devil himself couldn’t be so cruel
she’s buried chest high half way deep
while the moderates are still fast asleep
while the world stands silent
her testimony’s cheap.
stones thrown by religious sheep.
witches were burned long ago
til the flame of freedom began to glow
and we learned to say the word ‘no’
no know that your laws are unjust
not worthy of respect only disgust
beheading those with a knifes thrust
oh but in Allah we blindly trust
she’s buried head high
in a heap of stones.
no more crying no more moans
all that’s left is skin and bones
Allah has come up with such a fair call
the true justice of sharia law
by nessrriinn.

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You’re such a Neanderthal!

It turns out that that statement is probably true of the person whom you so labeled.

And it’s probably true of you too! Awesome.

Here’s the story, as told by National Geographic.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal female.

A Neanderthal-female reconstruction based on both fossil anatomy and DNA (file photo).

Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic

//

Inside of the Vindija cave, Croatia. Image courtesy of Johannes  Krause MPI-EVACroatia’s Vindija cave, where Neanderthal bones used to assemble genome were found. Image courtesy of Johannes Krause MPI-EVA.

Ker Than

Published May 6, 2010

The next time you’re tempted to call some oaf a Neanderthal, you might want to take a look in the mirror.

According to a new DNA study, most humans have a little Neanderthal in them—at least 1 to 4 percent of a person’s genetic makeup.

The study uncovered the first solid genetic evidence that “modern” humans—or Homo sapiens—interbred with their Neanderthal neighbors, who mysteriously died out about 30,000 years ago.

What’s more, the Neanderthal-modern human mating apparently took place in the Middle East, shortly after modern humans had left Africa, not in Europe—as has long been suspected.

“We can now say that, in all probability, there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern humans,” lead study author Ed Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a prepared statement.

That’s no surprise to anthropologist Erik Trinkhaus, whose skeleton-based claims of Neanderthal-modern human interbreeding—previously contradicted with DNA evidence—appear to have been vindicated by the new gene study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

“They’ve finally seen the light … because it’s been obvious to many us that this happened,” said Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who wasn’t part of the new study.

Trinkhaus adds that most living humans probably have much more Neanderthal DNA than the new study suggests.

“One to 4 percent is truly a minimum,” Trinkaus added. “But is it 10 percent? Twenty percent? I have no idea.”

Surprising Spot for Neanderthal-Human Mating

The genetic study team reached their conclusion after comparing the genomes of five living humans—from China, France, Papua New Guinea, southern Africa, and western Africa—against the available “rough draft” of the Neanderthal genome.

The results showed that Neanderthal DNA is 99.7 percent identical to modern human DNA, versus, for example, 98.8 percent for modern humans and chimps, according to the study. (Related: “Neanderthals Had Same ‘Language Gene’ as Modern Humans.”)

In addition, all modern ethnic groups, other than Africans, carry traces of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, the study says—which at first puzzled the scientists. Though no fossil evidence has been found for Neanderthals and modern humans coexisting in Africa, Neanderthals, like modern humans, are thought to have arisen on the continent.

“If you told an archaeologist that you’d found evidence of gene exchange between Neanderthals and modern humans and asked them to guess which [living] population it was found in, most would say Europeans, because there’s well documented archaeological evidence that they lived side by side for several thousand years,” said study team member David Reich.

For another thing, Neanderthals never lived in China or Papua New Guinea, in the Pacific region of Melanesia, according to the archaeological record.

“But the fact is that Chinese and Melanesians are as closely related to Neanderthals” as Europeans, said Reich, a population geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University.

Neanderthal-Human One-Night Stand?

So how did modern humans with Neanderthal DNA end up in Asia and Melanesia?

Neanderthals, the study team says, probably mixed with early Homo sapiens just after they’d left Africa but before Homo sapiens split into different ethnic groups and scattered around the globe.

The first opportunity for interbreeding probably occurred about 60,000 years ago in Middle Eastern regions adjacent to Africa, where archaeological evidence shows the two species overlapped for a time, the team says.

And it wouldn’t have taken much mating to make an impact, according to study co-author Reich. The results could stem from a Neanderthal-modern human one-night stand or from thousands of interspecies assignations, he said.

More DNA Evidence for Neanderthal-Human Mating

The new study isn’t alone in finding genetic hints of Homo sapiens-Homo neanderthalensis interbreeding.

Genetic anthropologist Jeffrey Long, who calls the Science study “very exciting,” co-authored a new, not yet published study that found DNA evidence of interbreeding between early modern humans and an “archaic human” species, though it’s not clear which. He presented his team’s findings at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month.

Long’s team reached its conclusions after searching the genomes of hundreds of modern humans for “signatures of different evolutionary processes in DNA variation.”

Like the new Science paper, Long’s study speculates that interbreeding occurred just after our species had left Africa, but Long’s study didn’t include analysis of the Neanderthal genome.

“At the time we started the project, I never imagined I’d ever see an empirical confirmation of it,” said Long, referring to the Science team’s Neanderthal-DNA evidence, “so I’m pretty happy to see it.”

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Sigh. Religion Fueling Hatred One More Time

Well, here we go again. Some of you have probably heard about the homophobia that is being whipped up in Uganda by Christian leaders — including American evangelicals who have been exporting their vitriol.

ABC’s nightline did an expose of this hate-filled movement and discussed the recent bill that is being considered by Uganda’s government which would make homosexuality a criminal offense involving significant jail time, and in certain cases execution by hanging.

I don’t claim that religion always creates the hatred people express – but it often gives it legitimacy.

Here’s the ABC story:

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This is a F****** Outrage – Dogma at its worst.

One of the biggest problems I have with dogma is that it provides a cover for all of kinds of baser and ignoble human tendencies – racism, tribalism, ultra-nationalism, sadism, and misogyny among them. The latter is the focus of the article I have reprinted below. It gets my blood boiling and makes me feel ill. I warn you this is neither easy reading nor viewing. It begins with a link to a video showing two Taliban men whipping a teenage girl with a group of men standing around watching. You may want to skip the video.

VIDEO OF GIRL’S FLOGGING AS TALIBAN HAND OUT ‘JUSTICE’

Mobile phone movie shows that militant influence is spreading deeper into Pakistan

WARNING: This video contains images some people may find disturbing
Link to this video

A video showing a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, offering a shocking glimpse of militant brutality in the once-peaceful district, and a sign of Taliban influence spreading deeper into the country.

The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.

“Please stop it,” she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. “Either kill me or stop it now.”

A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a voice issues instructions. “Hold her legs tightly,” he says as she squirms and yelps.

After 34 lashes the punishment stops and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a Kalashnikov-carrying militant.

Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.

The Guardian received the video through Samar Minallah, a Pashtun documentary maker and anthropologist who lived in Swat for two years in the late 1990s. It has been passed between Swat residents by mobile phones.

Ms Minallah said the punishment had been inflicted within the last 10 days, following the signing of a controversial peace deal under which the provincial government ceded control of the valley’s judicial system to the militants.

“This video is being widely circulated because the Taliban want people to see it. They want to give the message that this is taking place after the peace deal because this is something they ideologically believe in,” she said.

Local sources including journalists and human rights workers, some of whom declined to be identified, confirmed the video was recent, although estimates of its timing varied between one and three weeks ago. The Taliban spokesman said it predated the peace deal.

Sher Muhammad Khan, an official in Swat with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: “They have committed so many atrocities since the peace deal. They have taken entire control of the district. There is nobody to control them; they decide disputes according to their whims.”

Since the 15 February deal, a hybrid of traditional and Islamic law has been operational in Mingora, the largest city in Swat district. The qazi courts, as they are known, are not operated by the Taliban but by a related political movement. They have a murky legal status because the changes have yet to be signed into law.

Floggings and other physical punishments have not been imposed in Mingora, where some residents have praised the system’s efficiency. However, in outlying districts, where government writ has been entirely crushed, a crude form of gun justice prevails.

The woman in the video, named as Chaand and believed to be aged 17, was punished in Matta, a district further up the Swat Valley.

Minallah and other sources said the girl was punished on suspicion of having had an illicit relationship with a married man. She did not receive a trial. “The whole case is based on the suspicions of one neighbour,” said Minallah.

The woman’s brother is among the men pinning her down, she added. “It’s symbolic that he does it with his own hands. It gives him honour in local society, that he has done it for the sake of religion.”

The Swat Valley is controlled by Maulana Fazlullah, a charismatic preacher who initially gained popularity through radio broadcasts, then seized control through gun battles, suicide attacks and intimidation of the local population.

Since the peace deal, women have been beaten for shopping unaccompanied in Mingora’s main market and dozens of girls’ schools remain closed, many of them bombed.

Fazlullah has sworn loyalty to Baitullah Mehsud, the overall Taliban leader from South Waziristan who claimed responsibility for last Monday’s eight-hour assault on a police centre in Lahore and has vowed to mount attacks in Washington.

On Wednesday a presumed American drone fired rockets at a compound controlled by his network, killing at least 14 people.

The effective surrender of government authority in Swat has caused great alarm across Pakistan and among western allies.Minallah said she feared Talibanisation would spread across Pakistan. “I have distributed this video because I feel people are in denial. They don’t want to believe what is happening.”

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This is one of those pictures that just makes you go, “Aww. How cute is that?”

Netherlands, March 24, 2009--Babies sit in tubs of water after a baby massage class in the Dutch capital.

Netherlands, March 24, 2009--Babies sit in tubs of water after a baby massage class in the Dutch capital.

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Good News! A Victory for Free Speech. But it’s not all good news…

I don’t know how many of you have been following the controversy in the UN concerning the upcoming Durban II conference on Human Rights to be held in Geneva in April.

Media Watch has a nice summary of the issue and the response of several western countries (including Canada – Yea!):

A so-called “racism conference” due to take place in Geneva in April has been boycotted by the USA because the “outcome document” upon which it is based includes a call to ban “defamation of religion” and focuses on human-rights abuses by Israel while ignoring those of other countries.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has been lobbying for years to get an anti-defamation of religion motion passed, largely as a means to outlaw criticism of the human-rights abusing Islamic governments which support it.

Israel and Canada have already announced that they would boycott Durban II.

So, it is very significant that the conference organizers have revised the agenda and quietly dropped the “defamation of religion” component of the proposed declaration. This, for the time being, restores the freedom for those who want to criticize religion to do so without criminal charges being laid.

But all is not well. There are no explicit references to protections for non-believers or those who choose to change or renounce their religion.

In my opinion, religions don’t have rights. Individuals have rights. And although they are protected by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is clear that many signatory countries do not abide by this declaration.

Nonetheless, this is a significant positive advance.

Here’s a nice summary  from the National Secular Society of the issue, the victory, and that which remains still to achieve.

UN DROPS “DEFAMATION OF RELIGION” PROPOSALS – BUT OFFERS NO PROTECTION TO NON-BELIEVERS OR APOSTATES

The proposals by Islamic countries for an international ban on “defamation of religion”, which were to be discussed at an anti-racism conference in Geneva called Durban II organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have been dropped from the meeting’s draft declaration.

UNHRC

The defamation of religion text had been included after Islamic countries lobbied for them following a 2005 furore over Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed. But alarm has spread through Western countries about the implications of the proposals and an increasing number of countries were threatening to boycott the meeting unless they were dropped.

The new draft proposals also dropped criticism of Israel and passages concerning reparation for slavery, which African countries had been seeking. But some issues on which Western liberals were keen were also excluded: a proposal to challenge discrimination against homosexuals and protection for atheists or apostates. The new draft, put together by Russian facilitator Yuri Boychenko with Belgian, Egyptian and Norwegian diplomats, has now to be examined by regional groups at the United Nations.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said: “We now have a good, solid basis for states to consider as we enter the final stretch leading up to the Review Conference. I really hope that this marks the necessary breakthrough needed to achieve consensus on a text that must offer concrete help to hundreds of groups and millions of individuals who are subjected to racism and other forms of intolerance all across the world. No continent, indeed no individual country, is free of these dangerous phenomena, and it would be inexcusable if states failed to reach consensus on such important issues.”

But Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), who has done much to challenge and raise awareness of the draft document, said that although the new draft offers some protection to believers — paragraph 10 mentions only Christians, Muslims and Jews as being victims of “phobias” — it offers nothing to non-believers or apostates who are frequently under attack, especially in Muslim counties.

In a briefing paper for delegates, IHEU says:

We urge delegations to recognise that all are entitled to protection from discrimination, whatever their belief or lack of belief. We therefore respectfully suggest either that the list of specific types of discrimination be deleted from paragraph 10, or the list be expanded to include Atheists, unbelievers and apostates.

We are equally concerned that anti-Arabism is included in the list, while no mention is made of the anti-Westernism endemic in many parts of the world. Again, we would respectfully suggest that either the reference to anti-Arabism be deleted or that the list should be extended to include anti-Westernism.

Last week Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS, had a meeting with top Foreign Office officials discussing IHEU’s concerns about several aspects of the Durban II and wider concerns about the operation of the UNHRC. These are issues on which he has worked with IHEU.
Following the Foreign Office meeting he said: “Defamation of religion laws were top of the agenda and we were delighted to be assured of the determination to stand firm against them by the UK Government and its EU partners. This is great news and the Government generously recognised the contribution we have made in drawing worldwide attention to the growing clamour of Islamic states for defamation proposals since they were first mooted.”

More detail of the meeting will be circulated to members in the next quarterly Bulletin.

Roy Brown told Newsline from the UNHRC in Geneva that the revised document was “close, but not close enough” to being acceptable. “We’ll keep plugging away,” he said.

20 March 2009

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Another Example of Why I Think Dogma is Dangerous: The Pope Condemns Condoms as a Means For Combatting AIDS In Africa

I think dogma in all forms in dangerous. Here’s an example of how two thoroughly dogmatic stances (1. God does thinks using contraception during sex is sinful and deserving of his eternal punishment. 2. God thinks sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful and deserving of his eternal punishment) combine to put adults and children in harms way. They also distort the evidence on the efficacy of the proper use of condoms as a means of preventing contracting HIV.

Here’s a Youtube clip of the pope condemning the use of condoms in Africa as a deterrent to AIDS.

Here’s a write up from U.S. News & World Report: of the same dogmatic and life-destroying blather:

_________________________

POPE’S DANGEROUS AIDS MESSAGE IN AFRICA: NO CONDOMS

March 18, 2009 10:11 AM ET 

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Pope Benedict’s statement upon arriving in Cameroon was,

“AIDS cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms.”

This is one of the most horrifically ignorant statements made by a world leader since former President George W. Bush’s promise to “smoke ’em out” in reference to terrorist leaders including Osama bin Laden. Need I remind you that Bush never did “smoke out” bin Laden?

Back to Africa: Pope Benedict told a tumultuous welcoming crowd in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, that not only do condoms fail to prevent the spread of AIDS, “On the contrary, they increase the problem.” It was his most provocative, delineated anti-condom pronouncement since his election in 2005. Moreover, he made the statement as he began his visit to the most AIDS-ravaged continent. In Africa, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS, and another 22 million plus are living with the disease.

All the pontiff need do to acquire a more educated view of AIDS in Africa is to read the widespread literature about women and how they acquire the disease. The percentage of female AIDS patients who are prostitutes, or drug addicts, is dwarfed by the percentage who are married women living upstanding lives in their communities.

The Pope advised them, according to the Reuters news agency, to exhibit, “correct behavior regarding one’s body.” Very helpful! That advice is completely useless to the typical “woman” in Africa who contracts the disease. Her profile is that of a teenage virgin sold into marriage against her will and “betrothed” to a much older man with many lovers who carries AIDS and refuses to use protection.

The United Nations magazine, Africa Re newal, quotes an expert who participated in a UN survey of AIDS’ impact on young African women. She described the conditions under which most young African women contract AIDS as follows:

“[They] are not in a position to abstain. They are not in a position to demand faithfulness of their partners. In many cases they are in fact faithful, but are being infected by unfaithful partners…A woman who is a victim of violence or the fear of violence is not going to negotiate anything, let alone fidelity or condom use…Her main objective is to get through the day without being beaten up.”

So much for condom-bashing.

The Pope is correct in saying that AIDS cannot be eradicated by condom use alone. Clearly, when young women are raped or otherwise forced into sex against their will, the men abusing them will not commit to use condoms.

But instead of offering these women useless verbiage, the Pope could have offered the vast resources of the Church to distribute anti-viral foam to young married women in AIDS-infested areas. Foam is the only form of AIDS prevention that young wives completely control and can use without their husbands’ permission.

Distributing anti-viral foam to young married women would help prevent the spread of AIDS while still creating the babies the Church so desperately needs to fill its pews. But Pope Benedict made no mention of offering such help to African AIDS victims. He showed no understanding of the terrible lives these women endure, or the damage done to their children, many of whom are born HIV-positive or with AIDS.

Reuters also reported on the Pope’s trip: “The Church teaches that fidelity within heterosexual marriage, chastity and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS. It does not approve condoms but some Church leaders have been calling for allowing their use in rare cases between married heterosexual couples where one partner has the disease.” This is a more principled view and much more charitable to parishioners than that of the Pope.

Pope Benedict has shown no sympathy for wives whose husbands have AIDS. A less compassionate or understanding view of their situation than his is hard to fathom.

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