Coffee & Conversation

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Weekly Coffee & Conversation

Every week at Panera Bread in Hillcrest (1270 Cleveland Ave, 92103; please park in the lot under Trader Joe’s) we discuss current events from an Ethical & Secular Humanist Perspective: The topics + Articles will be posted on here each week by Saturday morning for your consideration.

C&C Topics


SPI Newsletter 9.1.16

  1. Introduction:,,,
  2. States
    1. Muslims can wear headscarves in DL, christian woman sues for it:,,
    2. Woman seeks RFRA defense in child-abuse case:,
    3. Georgia town mosque moratorium lifted:,
    4. KS Judge Tosses out inmate religious insult case:,
  3. International
    1. Saudi
      1. Pro-Saudi Op-Ed:
      2. Sentences twitterer to 2k lashes & 10 years in jail:,
      3. John Doe:,
    2. Egyptian Parliament approves church-building law:,
    3. Merkel Rejects Muslim Migrant Ban:,
  4. Science
    1. 3.7B year old life:,


  1. International
    1. Burkini Ban:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  2. States:
    1. RFRA: Funeral Home:
    2. American Nones:,
    3. Nebraska Courthouse:,,,,,,
    4. Latest Religious Liberty Battle: Church-Affiliated Schools and LGBT students:,
  3. Science:
    1. Very Close Planet:,,
  4. Human Rights
    1. Orthodox Rabbis Ban Women From Going to University:‘dangerous’-secular-knowledge/ar-BBvUR1r?li=BBr8Hnu,
  5. Separation of Church & State
      1. Berkeley School Board given final ok for prayer:,,
  6. Pernicious Piety
    1. Islam:
      1. Terrorism:,


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals
    1. First New Harry Potter in 9 years:,
    2. His name is Michael Caine:,
    3. VHS is dead:,
    4. “Humans don’t have a religious instinct:”,
    5. 2k year old Silk Road Shit Sticks:,
  3. Separation of Church & State:,,,,,,,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    2. Christianity:,,
  5. Politics
    1. International:,
    2. Brexit:,,
    3. 2016:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    4. War:,
    5. Congress:,
    6. Punditry:,,,,,,,,
  6. Human Rights
    1. Race/Immigration:,
    2. LGBTI:,,,,,,,,,,
    3. Women:,
  7. Science
    1. Biology:,
    2. Climate:,,
    3. Space:,,,,,,
    4. Fit, Fat, Food:,,



  1. Who/how are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals:,,,,,
  3. Separation of Church & State:,,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Judaism
    2. Islam:
      1. Terror:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
      2. Good
      3. Bad:,,,,,,
      4. Indeterminate:–or-drive-it-off-a-cliff/2016/06/28/ce669a3e-3c69-11e6-a66f-aa6c1883b6b1_story.html,,
    3. Christianity:,,,,
  5. Politics
    1. Independence:,
    2. 2016:,,,,,
    3. Right Wing Movements:,
    4. Guns:,,,
    5. War:,,
    6. SCOTUS:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    7. Economics
  6. Human Rights
    1. Water:,,
    2. Race:,,
    3. LGBT:, ,,,, ,,,  ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    4. Women,,,,,,,
  7. Science:,,,,,



  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Upcoming
  3. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Atheism:,,
  4. Separation of Church & State:,,,,,,
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Judaism:,
    2. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    3. Christianity:,,,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,
    2. GOP Health Care Plan:,
    3. Refugees:,,,
    4. #NoBillNoBreak:,,,,,,,
    5. Brexit:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    6. Supreme Court:,,,,,,,,,
  7. Human Rights
    1. LGBT:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  8. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food:,,,
    2. Biology:,
    3. HIV:,
    4. Ethics for self-driving cars:,
    5. Other Ethics:,


  1. Who/How are you
  2. Interesting Incidentals:,
  3. Separation of Church & State:,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Judaism:,
    2. Islam:
      1. Bangladesh arrests 11,000 related to the Islamist murders of bloggers:,
      2. london’s Mayor:,,,
      3. General:,,,,,,,,,
    3. Christianity:,,
  5. Politics
    1. Motor Voter Law:,
    2. 2016:,,
    3. BREXIT:,,,,
    4. Supreme Court:,
  6. Human Rights
    1. General:,,,
    2. LGBT
      1. Forced Anal Probes (Kenya):,,,
      2. Orlando:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    3. Women:,,,
  7. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, Food:,,
    2. Memory and Attention:,,
    3. Sleep:,
    4. Zika:,
    5. Space:,
    6. Light Polution:,,


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Mike Honda pushes for official “National Day of Reason”
  3. Separation of Church & State
    1. TN Gov signs counselor RFRA:,,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. General:
    2. German Court: Circumcision is ‘bodily harm’:,
    3. Scientology
      1. MIscavage threatens to sue father:,
    4. Islam
      1. Hungarian PM: “Islamization banned by constitution.”
      2. “Islamic Radicals are a threat but do you need to attack their religion?”,
      3. Islamists slaughter Bangladeshi LGBT Blogger:,,,,,
      4. Calling on Obama to demand Saudi Arabia release Ashraf Fayadh:,
      5. Iranians growing to hate the hijab:,
    5. Christianity
      1. An Exorcist tells how to rid Cruz of Lucifer:,
  5. Politics
    1. Judge on Hastert: “Serial Child Molester:,
    2. Free Speech:
      1. Turkish journalists sentenced to 2 years for reprint:,
  6. Human Rights
    1. LGBT
      1. Egypt Jails 11:,
      2. Former Senator marries man:,
      3. Bathrooms:,,
  7. Science
    1. Health
      1. Working after an all-nighter, same cognitively as drunk:,
      2. Sugar causes brain damage, but salmon reverses it:,
    2. Space


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Palin: “Nye not a real scientist,”,
    2. Porn as Public Health Crisis:,,
  3. Separation of Church & State
    1. District Court: Flying Spaghetti Monster, “Not a God:”,
    2. RFRA and RFRA-Type:
      1. General:,
      2. Louisiana:,,,,,
      3. North Carolina:!blank-20/p8mh0,,,,
      4. Tennessee:,,,
    3. Head Scarf Bans:,,
    4. National Coalition Against DC Vouchers:,
    5. Uruguay:,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. General:,,
    2. Hinduism:
    3. Islam
      1. The Good:,,,
      2. The Bad:,,
      3. The Ugly:,,,
    4. Christianity
      1. The Good:,
      2. The Ugly:,
  5. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,
    2. Democracy Spring:,,
  6. Science
    1. Space
      1. Aliens:,,


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals:,,,
    1. Another Blogger Murdered:,,
  3. Separation of Church & State:,,,,,,,,,,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. General:,
    2. Judaism:,
    3. Islam:,,,,,
    4. Christianity:,,,,,,
  5. Politics:
    1. 2016:,,
    2. Panama Papers:,,,,,,,,,,,,
    3. Economics:,
    4. SCOTUS:,
  6. Human Rights
    1. Free Speech:,
    2. Race
    3. LGBT:,,
    4. Women:,
  7. Science
    1. Health:,,
    2. Space:,


  1. Who/How Are you?
  2. Upcoming
  3. interesting incidentals:,,,,
  4. Separation of Church & State:,“god’s-army”-legislation-worst-state-bill-nation,,,,,,,
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. General:,,,
    2. Judaism:,,,
    3. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    4. Christianity:,,,,,,
  6. Politics
    1. General:,,,
    2. 2016:,,,, Arizona,,,
    3. International:,
    4. US Supreme Court:,,,,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Privacy:,
    2. Free Thought/Speech:,
    3. Race:,,
    4. LGBT:,, Georgia Veto,,,,,,,,
    5. Women:,,,
  8. Science
    1. Health:,,,,,;_ylt=AwrXoCClzf1WD3EAJIPQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByMXM3OWtoBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwM4BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–,,,,,,,,,
    2. Climate:,
    3. Bio:,
    4. Space:,,,,
    5. Brain:,,


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Next Sunday: Secular Government and Society Discussion. Joyce Beers at 6 p.m.
  3. Interesting Incidentals
  4. Separation of Church & State
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Feds Step in on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints controlled towns:,
    2. Hinduism:,
    3. Judaism:,
    4. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    5. Christianity:,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,,,,,,,,,
    2. Cuba:,
    3. China’s war against corruption:,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Police Violence:
    2. Labor:,
    3. Water:,,,
    4. LGBT:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  8. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food:,
    2. Climate:,
    3. God-made-hand:,

Humanist Association C&C Saturday 3/12/16

Discussion Topics:

I apologize, but I have too many immovable deadlines coming up at work and for my thesis so I will be unable to join or facilitate this weekend. I will give some potential topics to discuss.

As always, I always relish opportunities to hold get togethers. I am going to celebrate the equinox and my birthday next Saturday night after C&C at my house. I hope that you can join me and several of us after C&C. The next evening (Sunday the 20th) we will be discussing Secular Government, Society, and the Challenges thereof. This will be that the Joyce Beers Center. I encourage you all to show up and bring at least two church-state separation topics to discuss.

For tomorrow night, here are the topics:

  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Next Sunday: Secular Government and Society Discussion. Joyce Beers at 6 p.m.
  3. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Nancy Reagan Dead at 94:,
    2. Email Inventor Ray Tomlinson dead:,
  4. Separation of Church & State
    1. China decides on who can be Llama next time:
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Feds Step in on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints controlled towns:,
    2. Islam:,,,,
    3. Christianity:,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,,,,,
    2. China’s war against corruption:,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Water:,
    2. LGBT:,,
  8. Science
    1. Climate:,
    2. God-made-hand:,

Hope you can make C&C tomorrow, and see you next weekend,



  1. Who/How Are You?
  2. Interesting incidentals
    1. Atheism:,
  3. Separation of Church & State:,,
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Islam:,,,,,,
    2. Christianity:,,,,,
  5. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,,
    2. Religion & Politics:,,,,
    3. Supreme Court:,,,,
  6. Human Rights
    1. Poverty:,
    2. Free Speech:,,
    3. LGBT:,,,
  7. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food:,,,
    2. Climate:,,
    3. Space:,,



  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Johnny Depp to appear at Reason Rally:(
  3. Separation of Church & State
    1. AHA Ten Commandments Letter:(
    2. Taiwanese Declaration of Religious Freedom: Taiwan Declaration(
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Islam:
      1. Egypt Sentences Christians to Jail for Contempt of Islam: (;_ylt=AwrC0CaqCc9W0VUAUEHQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–) .
      2. Nearly half of Texas Voters want to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: (
    2. Catholicism:
      1. Philippine Bishop tells Catholics to avoid Madonna concert: (
    3. Southern Baptist Missionaries Drop by nearly 1,000: (
  5. Politics
    1. GOP Debate
  6. Human Rights
    1. Poverty:
      1. CT Becomes second state to end veteran homelessness. A (
      2. One in 10 adolescents living in households with food insecurity have poorer parent-
    2. LGBT: Italian Senate passes down civil unions bill (



**My notes, I was uber busy this week-here are my notes for the week and article links.

  1. Who/How are you
  2. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Death Valley Superbloom:,
    2. Smiling is Contagious: When you beam at someone, a lot happens during that interaction without you knowing it. It turns out that not just our grins, but all of our facial expressions are contagious, according to a paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences on Thursday.  We tend to mimic the smiles or frowns of others because it helps us better understand what other people are feeling, allowing us to respond appropriately. Adrienne Wood, a Ph.D. student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the paper, told The Huffington Post that “sensorimotor simulation” in our brains is what causes this bizarre mimicry to occur without us even realizing it. “When you see a facial expression and you want to know what it means, you recreate that expression in your brain,” Wood said. “In daily life, you rarely observe facial expressions in a vacuum, and we believe that you combine information from sensorimotor simulation with your understanding of the situation in order to fully comprehend other people’s feelings.” For the paper, more than 120 previous studies were reviewed to help describe how exactly we simulate the facial expressions of others in social situations. Based on their review, the researchers concluded that when we mimic someone else’s facial expression, we trigger that same emotional state in ourselves, which then allows us to formulate an appropriate social response. k”Our own lab has shown that making eye contact is one of the easiest ways to elicit facial mimicry,” Wood said. “It probably sounds obvious, but if you want someone to really understand how you feel, or you want to understand how someone else feels, look them in the eyes.”Social psychologist Dr. Paula Niedenthal, Wood’s adviser and a co-author of the paper, said that the key aspect of this mimicry is that it helps us make appropriate decisions in our interactions with others.”You reflect on your emotional feelings and then you generate some sort of recognition judgment, and the most important thing that results is that you take the appropriate action — you approach the person or you avoid the person,” she said in a statement. “Your own emotional reaction to the face changes your perception of how you see the face, in such a way that provides you more information about what it means.” Other scientists, however, warn that facial expressions are complex, and there’s still much left to learn about how we display and perceive them in different contexts. “Facial mimicry certainly plays some role, and perhaps a key role, in understanding other people’s emotional states,” Dr. Kevin Ochsner, director of the social cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Columbia University, told the Christian Science Monitor. But Ochsner, who was not part of the paper, also noted that “it may not be sufficient by itself to carry a full understanding of what other people are feeling in every context.” Niedenthal noted in the statement that a person’s ability to recognize emotions can be inhibited when they can’t mimic expressions, such as due to facial paralysis or other disorders, like autism. The researchers hope that their new paper and future studies can help lead to interventions. “Emotion recognition is one of our fundamental social tasks. But it’s not easy for everyone — people with certain developmental or neurological disorders show reduced social functioning and emotion recognition abilities,” Wood told HuffPost. “We are trying to better understand how it is that healthy humans are so good at quickly detecting the subtle and complicated signals they send each other with their facial expressions.”,
  3. Separation of Church & State: (Denver, CO, Feb. 16, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will appeal the district court’s decision to dismiss its lawsuit against the Douglas County School District in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The complaint was brought in 2014 on behalf of local families who objected to the school district’s persistent endorsement of Christianity. The lawsuit stated that the district violated the First Amendment through its participation in the evangelical program Operation Christmas Child, run by the organization Samaritan’s Purse and headed by evangelical minister Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. The district also took part in the Adventures in Missions™ and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes programs’ proselytizing mission trips to Guatemala, as well as mission trips to Belize. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed the lawsuit on Wednesday, January 20, and stated that the local families on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed do not have standing to bring the claims. “As parents of students in the school district and as taxpayers, these families had their First Amendment right to religious neutrality violated,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. “We will continue to seek justice for them and to ensure that the public school district abides by the Establishment Clause in the future.” “We’re shocked by the court’s disregard of non-Christian students and families,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The school district blatantly and repeatedly misused taxpayer dollars to unconstitutionally promote religion in public schools.” The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will file an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals within two weeks. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the school district from participating in these religious programs., w
  4. Pernicious Piety
    1. Judaism: Images of women were obscured or altered in reading books given to pupils at two orthodox Jewish schools in north London and children in one of them held “very narrow views about the role of women in society,” according to Ofsted inspectors. Yetev Lev, which is one of the largest Jewish schools in Stamford Hill with 794 boys from three to 13, was criticised by inspectors for providing reading books in which “images of females had either been erased or radically changed”. Leaders at the school “refused to allow pupils to talk to the female inspectors on a formal basis” and pupils had insufficient opportunities to interact with others “outside of their close community”. The school’s leadership told inspectors they had “no intention of providing pupils with experiences to enable them to acquire an appreciation of and respect for differences between people, based on culture, religion, sex and sexual orientation”. Most lessons were taught in Yiddish. “This continues to impede pupils’ progress in basic literacy skills and their ability to speak, read and write in English,” said Ofsted. Another boys’ primary in Stamford Hill, Beis Aharon, with 374 pupils aged three to 13, was also criticised by inspectors, who found that images of women and girls in short-sleeved clothing and children swimming had been obscured in reading books. “The majority of pupils still express views about the roles of women and men that indicate that the school does not prepare them for the reality of life in modern British society. Pupils universally consider that the role of women is to ‘look after children, clean the house and cook’, while men go to work,” said Ofsted. Only one hour a day was allocated to the secular curriculum, inspectors found. “The social and cultural development of pupils still does not promote fundamental British values. While pupils are polite to visitors, they are still unable to show mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs because their knowledge of how people are different and of other faiths is very limited.” The word “Christmas” was crossed out whenever it appeared in a reading book being used in a Year 4 lesson. There was no one available to comment at either school. Rabbi Charley Baginsky of Liberal Judaism said: “This is not about Judaism, this is about being stuck in the 19th century. The trouble with promoting attitudes like this is that they risk making religion irrelevant to how we live today and bringing Judaism into disrepute.” The best Jewish schools were “open, inclusive and modern”, she said.,
    2. Hinduism: A court has served a Hindu god with a summons for illegally encroaching on government land in eastern India after a roadside temple was built in his honour, officials have said. Photos in local media showed the summons, addressed to Hanuman, pasted on an idol of the monkey god who is worshipped for his courage and strength, at the temple in Bihar state. “The summons was issued after the public works department filed a case against the temple for encroaching on the road,” a court official in Rohtas district, who asked not to be named, said on Thursday. The department petitioned the local magistrates court to have the temple removed for obstructing traffic, but local Hindu groups have protested against the legal action. An official in Rohtas said the summons had been erroneously addressed to the Hindu god and would be corrected. “The summons was meant for the temple management and not the god,” Hashim Khan, Rohtas deputy development commissioner, said. Encroachment on public land is widespread in India, including by religious groups who construct temples, shrines and other places of worship on public walkways, roads and vacant land.,
    3. Islam:
      1. X-Files backlash: Terrorism plot: (RNS) Critics are calling Scully and Mulder’s latest adventures with magic mushrooms and tired Muslim terrorist tropes a serious misstep for “The X-Files” reboot. “In this universe, the world’s vastly diverse population of Muslims is reduced to a monolithic symbol,” Ismat Sarah Mangla wrote in the International Business Times. “(T)he only time we see Muslims on television or film, whether they’re performing the ordinary daily prayers practiced by 1.6 billion Muslims around the world or just behaving in otherwise ‘Muslim-y’ ways, is when they’re about to blow people up.”
      2. Ben Carson on “Muslims who Embrace American Values:” “Only if they’re schizophrenic. I don’t see how they can do it otherwise, because you have two different philosophies” in conflict with each other, he explained to Breitbart News Daily host Stephen Bannon, who had posed the question to the retired neurosurgeon. At another point in the interview, Stephen Bannon (Breitbart) asked Carson to respond to Donald Trump’s comments during last Saturday’s debate and in the days following in which he alleged that the Bush administration misled the American public into war following 9/11. “I think that’s garbage. I’ve known George W. Bush for a very long time, he is a patriot, he loves America,” Carson said. During the interview, he also said that Trump’s candidacy could “easily collapse” once “people could start looking very closely at, you know, his beliefs and, you know, people may start looking seriously at the policies that I’ve put out and other people have put out and actually make a serious decision.” Bannon then tried to get Carson to reconcile his praise of the 43rd president with his own rhetoric, referring to Bush’s visit to a mosque in the days after the attacks in which he proclaimed Islam “a religion of peace.” “Bear in mind there are a lot of people in this country who will say that same thing … because they bought into it,” Carson replied, remarking that he always tells audiences to read about the Prophet Muhammad and “why people didn’t like” him, “somebody who lives a life who is in no way comparable to Jesus Christ.”
      3. In response to Cologne group assaults and rape: A Polish magazine has published a highly inflammatory front cover showing a white woman being assaulted by three pairs of dark-skinned male hands under the headline “The Islamic rape of Europe” The magazine cover depicts a blonde woman draped in a European Union flag. Male hands are grabbing at her hair and arms and apparently about to tear off the flag. The magazine blurb promises “a report about what the media and Brussels elite are hiding from the citizens of the European Union”. “The people of old Europe after the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne painfully realised the problems arising from the massive influx of immigrants,” wrote the report’s author, Aleksandra Rybińska.
    4. Christianity:
      1. Anglican Bishop: “It’s a Christian Duty to Donate Blood and Organs:” CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Christians should regard blood and organ donations as their Christian duty, says a motion before the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England.The synod is set to consider a proposal to define organ donation as central to Christian giving. The motion cites the bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, who told delegates to the three-day meeting: “We believe that everything we have, including our bodies, and our possessions, comes from God, and following in the footsteps of Jesus we are called to make a sacrificial offering of what already belongs to him for the benefit of others.” That sacrificial offering, he added, may include time and treasure. But it applies “just as much to the blood that flows in our veins and the organs that are such an intrinsic part of our bodies.” Newcome explained that Christians and their families need reassurance that there are no theological problems with giving blood or tissue before or after death. Some religious groups, particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe it is wrong to give blood or organs. In 2014-15, there was a 3 percent drop in the number of organ donors across Britain for the first time in 11 years. A report from England’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant warned that people waiting for transplants would continue to die unless there was a revolution in people’s attitudes. The NHS estimates that 1,200 people missed out on potentially lifesaving transplants in 2010 because families did not accept their loved one’s wishes.
      2. The Pope and Trump got into it on social media.
        1. Pope: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel,” the pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.”
        2. Trump: “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians. The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story — he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation. For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.
  5. Politics: Global
    1. Democratic Decline:
      1. Freedom House put out its annual Freedom in the World Report, global democracy has experienced a decade of decline. This represents far and away the most protracted period of reversal since the report was launched in 1972. In all, 105 countries suffered at least some reversal during the period. Almost every region suffered setbacks, as did practically every institution of free societies. These trends are troubling, though not necessarily cause for alarm. Over 80 percent of country declines were either small or modest in nature. At the same time, 21 countries registered substantial reversals, including a number of global or regional powers: Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Bahrain. One particularly noteworthy trend was the substantial number of declines in countries that Freedom House places in its Not Free category. Indeed, a major theme of the decade of decline might be summed up as dictatorships growing even more repressive. Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Azerbaijan—all shared common themes of worsening censorship, marginalized civil societies, and captive judiciaries. Democracies suffered as well: 22 European countries experienced declines, plus the United States. The degree of decline was usually modest, but in a period when the most powerful authoritarian regimes were ridiculing liberal values and giving inspiration to illiberal forces everywhere, the failure to set a resolute example raised further questions about the democracies’ firmness in their professed values. These are the facts and figures. Among the factors behind democracy’s troubles, a few stand out:
      2. Authoritarian Impunity: The rise of China and Russia (plus a few others) is a well-known story. But it is worth zeroing in on their success in creating a domestic zone of impunity where censorship, arrests, acts of persecution, plus the occasional murder or kidnapping have become routine, and where the reaction of the outside world is limited to ritual and weary-sounding boilerplate. Since Xi Jinping assumed power, the Chinese have become especially brazen. They have handed out life sentences to reform-minded Uyghurs, stepped up their campaign to crush Tibetan culture, prosecuted human rights lawyers en masse, intimidated neighboring states into handing over political dissidents, and expanded the list of enemies to include women’s rights advocates and labor activists. Russia, meanwhile, has become something approaching a propaganda state where the dominant themes slip seamlessly from fascist Ukraine to militaristic America to the war to save Bashar al-Assad. Only when authoritarians stray outside their borders—to annex Crimea or seize disputed atolls in the South China Sea—does the world seem to take notice. When dictators limit persecution to their own people, the rest of the world responds with a shrug. We thus seem perilously close to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s realm of sovereign democracy, where leaders who have triumphed at the ballot box in patently rigged elections are deemed invulnerable to criticism.
      3. The Rise of Illiberalism: Some of the steepest setbacks in the decade of decline have occurred in illiberal democracies: Hungary, Turkey, and Ecuador. These are countries where elections are conducted in which an opposition victory remains possible, albeit highly unlikely, but where the institutions that provide checks and balances have been hollowed out and taken over by the government. Press freedom and judicial independence are special targets of illiberal leaders, who have shown themselves adept at bolstering their own positions through the exploitation of crises, created by—take your pick—Muslim refugees, Kurdish nationalists, or “police riots.” Ideally, the abuse of democratic standards should be dealt with by regional alliances like the European Union and the Organization of American States. However, leaders like Viktor Orbán and Rafael Correa have used intimidation, table thumping, and phony promises of cooperative behavior to good effect, and their regional critics have backed away. Success breeds success, and leaders elsewhere are no doubt taking note.
      4. New Forms of Censorship: Under totalitarian rule, censorship was an all-encompassing system that dictated how every subject was to be treated by the press. Censorship lives on in today’s authoritarian environments, though it is called different names and is applied strategically. There are two basic models: China and Russia. The China model focuses on preventing people from reading or hearing information about an ever-expanding list of sensitive subjects. The China system is elaborate and costly, requiring a sophisticated grasp of the most refined information technology. Under Putin, Russia focuses on overwhelming the dissident interpretations of the news through a nonstop barrage of propaganda delivered on national television and increasingly through the internet. The China model comes closer to traditional censorship in that authorities often jail dissident writers on spurious charges, whereas Russia and other regimes tend to silence critics through the use of lawsuits in which the plaintiff, usually a political leader or a crony, can count on winning a crushing money award.
      5. Color Revolution Backlash: Do Russia and China genuinely believe that they are vulnerable to a Western-fomented civil society movement akin to Ukraine’s Orange or Maidan revolutions? Or did they find these and other color revolutions a useful rationale for measures to crush an independent, reform-minded civil society? Whatever the case, the anti–color revolution drumbeat has been widely listened to by members of an emerging global authoritarian alliance. The result has been a series of copycat laws meant to restrict funding, limit contacts with Western donors, and prevent involvement in projects that touch on political life.
      6. Dictatorship of Law: Among the institutions of democracy that have suffered the most severe reversals during the decade of decline, the rule of law ranks near the top. Shortly after he was elected president, Putin declared that in Russia a “dictatorship of law” would prevail, and some experts predicted that, given his legal background, Putin planned serious legal reforms. In practice, Putin’s concept amounts to law in the service of dictatorship. It’s not just high-profile dissidents like Mikhail Khodorkovsky who have run afoul of the Russian justice system. Legal entities of one kind or another decide which NGOs qualify as foreign agents, whether an academic who passed along research findings to a Western colleague is guilty of betraying state secrets, or whether a gay high school biology teacher should be dismissed for his sexual orientation. In addition to the nuanced and by-and-large nonviolent techniques of political control developed by modern authoritarians, the past decade also experienced its share of traditional crises: wars, terrorist assaults, coups, territorial annexations, plus gangland violence on a massive scale. All told, a period which many optimistically predicted would be defined by an energized global civil society armed with the internet and moving from strength to strength has brought something much different, and more unsettling.
  6. Human Rights
    1. Privacy: In “A Message to Our Customers” posted on Apple’s website, CEO Tim Cook declared the company’s intention to fight the federal government’s request to hack users in response to the recent mass-killing in San Bernardino, California. The order was issued by federal Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, and requires Apple to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation in breaking the encryption of the iPhone belonging to one of the shooters, Syed Farook. The problem with doing so, according to Cook, is that it require creating for the federal government software “which does not exist today — [and which] would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.” “The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake,” he wrote, “[b]uilding a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a back door. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.” Cook noted that “[w]hen the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.” He claimed to have “great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good,” but that building a “backdoor to the iPhone” at the behest of the United States government would not simply “circumvent important security features,” but would violate the tacit agreement Apple has with its users not to exploit their personal data. “The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone,” he continued, “[b]ut that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.” “We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.
    2. Race:
      1. “Faces of black children as young as 5 evoke negative biases.” A new study suggests that people are more likely to misidentify a toy as a weapon after seeing a Black face than a White face, even when the face in question is that of a five-year-old child. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. “Our findings suggest that, although young children are typically viewed as harmless and innocent, seeing faces of five-year-old Black boys appears to trigger thoughts of guns and violence,” said lead study author Andrew Todd, an assistant professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa. The inspiration for the series of studies, conducted by Todd and University of Iowa colleagues, Kelsey Thiem and Rebecca Neel, began with a real-life observation: “In this case, it was the alarming rate at which young African Americans — particularly young Black males — are shot and killed by police in the U.S.,” explains Todd. “Although such incidents have multiple causes, one potential contributor is that young Black males are stereotypically associated with violence and criminality.” Previous research has shown that people are quicker at categorizing threatening stimuli after seeing Black faces than after seeing White faces, which can result in the misidentification of harmless objects as weapons. Todd and colleagues wanted to find out whether the negative implicit associations often observed in relation to Black men would also extend to Black children. The researchers presented 64 White college students with two images that flashed on a monitor in quick succession. The students saw the first image — a photograph of a child’s face — which they were told to ignore because it purportedly just signaled that the second image was about to appear. When the second image popped up, participants were supposed to indicate whether it showed a gun or a toy, such as a rattle. The photographs of children’s faces included six images of Black five-year-old boys and six images of White five-year-old boys. The data revealed that the student participants tended to be quicker at categorizing guns after seeing a Black child’s face than after seeing a White child’s face. Participants also mistakenly categorized toys as weapons more often after seeing images of Black boys than after seeing images of White boys. However, they mistakenly categorized guns as toys more often after seeing a White child’s face than after seeing a Black child’s face. The researchers’ analyses showed that the negative bias linking Black faces with threatening objects was driven entirely by automatic associations, which can unintentionally influence behavior. In a second set of experiments, 131 White college students were shown faces of both children and adults before categorizing the second image as either a tool or a gun. Again, Todd and colleagues found that seeing a Black face, regardless of whether it belonged to an adult or a child, elicited a bias whereby the participants categorized objects as weapons. Participants classified guns more quickly after seeing a Black face than after seeing a White face, and were more likely to mistakenly classify the non-threatening objects as guns after seeing a Black face. A final experiment revealed that even threat-related words — including “violent,” “dangerous,” “hostile,” and “aggressive,” — were more strongly associated with images of young Black boys than with images of young White boys. “One of the most pernicious stereotypes of Black Americans, particularly Black men, is that they are hostile and violent,” Todd and colleagues write. “So pervasive are these threat-related associations that they can shape even low-level aspects of social cognition.” The researchers were surprised to find that images of harmless-looking five-year-olds could elicit threat-related associations that were on par with those elicited by images of adults. Todd and his colleagues hope to conduct further research into the extent of this implicit bias, investigating, for example, whether it also applies to Black women and girls.,
    3. Women:, Abortion: Microcephaly and GBS
        1. Zika Virus, Obama seeks $1.8b from Congress. Highlighting the need for Pandemic preparedness.
        2. Federal Judge grants injunction against Planned Parenthood vidoes: A U.S. judge on Friday granted a preliminary injunction stopping the distribution of surreptitious videos taken by anti-abortion activists who alleged Planned Parenthood staff discussed the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue. The National Abortion Federation (NAF), a nonprofit representing abortion providers, accused the Center for Medical Progress and its founder, David Daleiden, in a lawsuit last year of illegally infiltrating and recording its private meetings. San Francisco federal judge William Orrick last year issued a temporary order prohibiting the distribution of the videos, which he extended on Friday until the litigation is over. Orrick said he reviewed the videos and found no evidence of criminal activity by NAF members. Catherine Short, an attorney for the Center for Medical Progress, said they had expected the ruling. Derek Foran, an attorney for the National Abortion Federation, said they are pleased. “NAF’s members can sleep a little easier tonight,” Foran said. The videos released last summer purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue. Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited. Daleiden was indicted last month by a Houston-area grand jury on a charge of tampering with a governmental record. He was offered a probation deal, but Daleiden’s lawyers said he planned to reject it.,
    4. LGBT:
      1. Civil Unions in Italy
      2. UN Issues LGBT Stamps: 4 February 2016 – The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) today unveiled a set of six commemorative stamps to promote UN Free & Equal – a global UN campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality launched and led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The new stamps, which celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community, mark the first time the United Nations has issued stamps with this theme. The set, which features two in English, two in French, and two in German, will be available as of tomorrow at UN Headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna. They can also be purchased online. In an interview, the artist who designed them said he was very influenced by art from the first quarter of the 20th Century. Sergio Baradat, who is of Cuban background, explained that his style stems from his appreciation for French Art Deco and growing up in Miami. “One of the stamps represents someone who is transgender,” Mr. Baradat told UN Radio, referring to the stamp that depicts a person with butterfly wings, an image he says represents a person “becoming who they really are, blossoming,” he said. “We live in a world where even though [developed] nations have embraced marriage equality [and] LBGT equality, we still have a far, far, far way to go, but we are making some strides,” he added. “There are some countries in the world right now where not only are we not celebrated or respected, but we are beaten and killed. And I thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity using art, to use postage stamps as a vehicle – using art to change hearts and minds.” He also stressed that LGBT rights are human rights and that all individuals deserve to be treated equally and fairly under the law. The series is co-sponsored by the permanent missions of Argentina, Australia, Chile, El Salvador, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay, the delegation of the European Union, in addition to OHCHR and UNPA. United Nations stamps in United States denominations are valid for postage only if mailed at UN Headquarters in New York. Stamps in Swiss franc denominations are valid for postage only if mailed at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. Stamps in euro denominations are valid for postage only if mailed at the Vienna International Centre, Austria.
        1. Nigeria Responds: Nigerian Ambassador Usman Sarki told a meeting of national representatives, “We wish to remind the UN to limit itself strictly to activities mandated by member states and especially to promote issues that are beneficial to mankind rather than lend itself as tool to promote aberrant behaviour under the guise of promoting human rights.” Sarki said the UN secretariat should not be promoting causes when many and even a majority of states oppose it. “What is clear to many is that the UN has now decided without any reservation or hesitation to side with a minority of member states and practitioners of this lifestyle, in complete disregard of the wishes and concerns of the majority of its member States and the populations that they represent,” he declared.
      3. Indonesia bans gay and lesbian emojis from messaging apps. Indonesia’s instant messaging providers must remove gay emoji and stickers from their apps, the government has ordered, prompting a human rights outcry. The government move comes after a social media backlash against Line, a popular smartphone messaging app, for having stickers – an elaborate type of emoji – with homosexual themes in its online store. Homosexuality and is not illegal in Indonesia but LGBT matters are a sensitive issue. At the same time most of Indonesian society, which follows a moderate form of Islam, is tolerant, with gay and transsexual entertainers often appearing on television shows. But Twitter and Facebook recently exploded with criticism of Line and its competitor WhatsApp for containing gay content. Line on Tuesday said it had removed all LGBT-related stickers from its local store after complaints from Indonesian users. Ismail Cawidu, a spokesman for the government’s communication ministry, said the government would tell WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, to do the same as Line. “Social media must respect the culture and local wisdom of the country where they have large numbers of users,” he said.
      4. Michigan Senate Passes Bill Making Sodomy a Felony (Obfuscation Maybe?): The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that effectively reaffirms the state’s unconstitutional law making sodomy a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  Michigan is one of more than a dozen states that still have sodomy bans on the books, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas declaring them unconstitutional. Some states’ sodomy laws specifically target gay relations, but Michigan’s is among those that make oral and anal sex crimes illegal regardless of whether they’re same-sex or different-sex. Michigan is also one of several states with a sodomy ban that’s intertwined with a prohibition on bestiality – effectively equating the two. The law makes it a felony for anyone to commit “the abominable and detestable crime against nature with mankind or with any animal.” If the person is already a sex offender, violations are punishable by life in prison.  For the last several years, Michigan legislators have been trying to pass an important package of bills referred to as Logan’s Law, designed to keep pets out of the hands of animal abusers, according to The Detroit Free Press. Among the bills in the Logan’s Law package — named for a Siberian husky who died tragically after acid was intentionally poured on him — is Senate Bill 219, by GOP Sen. Rick Jones. In addition to barring convicted animal abusers from owning pets for five years, SB 219 would update language in the state’s ban on bestiality and sodomy as follows:


      1. SB 219 passed the Senate Thursday, with the above language intact, and is expected to be considered by the House as early as next week.  This might seem like a great opportunity to finally remove the unconstitutional sodomy ban from the books, by simply striking the words “either with mankind or” from SB 219. However, Sen. Jones told The New Civil Rights Movement that such an amendment would jeopardize the whole bill.  “The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done,” Jones (photo, above) said. “Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional.” Jones added that he believes the only way to repeal the sodomy ban would be a bill striking all unconstitutional laws from the state’s books.  “But if you focus on it, people just go ballistic,” he said. “If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No.”
      2. NY and Conversion Theraphy: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced regulations to prevent “conversion therapy,” a practice aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, in the Empire State.\ Conversion therapy aims to transform gays and lesbians into heterosexuals. It has been denounced by several leading medical groups, including the American Psychological Association, which says efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have “serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder.” “Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades — and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example.” “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are,” he added. Saturday’s announcement bans public and private health care insurers from covering the practice in New York State. It also prohibits New York mental health facilities from conducting the practice on minors. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s LGBT civil rights organization, praised the decision by Cuomo, calling him the first governor to use his executive authority to block conversion therapy. “No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy, which has been linked to youth substance abuse, depression, homelessness, and even suicide,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “With leaders like Governor Cuomo, we’re on on our way to putting an end to this horrible practice.” Similar laws already exist in Oregon, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Responding to a petition that began after a transgender teenager committed suicide after being subjected to conversion therapy, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett urged individual states to ban the therapy given studies showing its potential harm to those subjected to it. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” Jarrett wrote last summer.
      3. Other:,,,
  1. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food:
      1. People frekaing out over “wood pulp” in parmesan (cellulose). “Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 percent. Kraft had 3.8 percent.”
      2. One in 10 adolescents living in households with food insecurity have poorer parent-reported mental health than peers, according to a study. Adolescents who experienced household food insecurity — a limited or uncertain availability of nutritional food — were twice as likely, according to their caregivers, to have emotional problems, conduct problems (a range of destructive behaviors that could include bullying, stealing, destroying other people’s property, truancy and initiating physical fights), have hyperactivity and struggle with peer relationships. One in 10 adolescents living in households with food insecurity have poorer parent-reported mental health than peers, according to a study published by researchers at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), in the current issue of Academic Pediatrics. Investigators at CHAM analyzed data from a nationally representative sample — the 2007 wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten — which included 8,600 students aged 12 — 16 years-old. Caregivers of the adolescents responded by phone to a series of questions that assessed the household’s food situation (The U.S. Household Food Security Scale) and questions that are typically used as a screening tool to identify likely cases of mental health disorders (the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire). Adolescents who experienced household food insecurity — a limited or uncertain availability of nutritional food — were twice as likely, according to their caregivers, to have emotional problems, conduct problems (a range of destructive behaviors that could include bullying, stealing, destroying other people’s property, truancy and initiating physical fights), have hyperactivity and struggle with peer relationships. “Food insecurity is not a risk factor for mental health that pediatricians typically address, but given our findings it is a topic we should consider discussing during our interactions with families,” said Ruth E. K. Stein, M.D., co-author, attending physician, CHAM and professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “We recommend keeping food insecurity in mind so we can better connect patients with the resources required to improve their home lives and overall health.” The researchers suggest exploring public health interventions aimed at reducing household food insecurity, for example government-assisted supplemental nutrition programs, and assessing their implications for adolescent mental health. “Our study adds to the growing understanding of the adverse health risks experienced by children and adolescents living with food insecurity,” said co-author Elizabeth Poole-Di Salvo, M.D., M.P.H., assistant attending pediatrician, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College. “As more than 15 million children in the U.S. under the age of 18 years-old live in households with food insecurity, this is a public health issue of utmost importance.”
    2. Climate:
      1. Parched Earth is socking up seawater,,,,,
    3. Biology:,,,,,,,,
    4. Space-Time:
      1. Gravitational Waves Discoverd: For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos. Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed. The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors. Based on the observed signals, LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second — with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible universe. By looking at the time of arrival of the signals — the detector in Livingston recorded the event 7 milliseconds before the detector in Hanford — scientists can say that the source was located in the Southern Hemisphere. According to general relativity, a pair of black holes orbiting around each other lose energy through the emission of gravitational waves, causing them to gradually approach each other over billions of years, and then much more quickly in the final minutes. During the final fraction of a second, the two black holes collide into each other at nearly one-half the speed of light and form a single more massive black hole, converting a portion of the combined black holes’ mass to energy, according to Einstein’s formula E=mc2. This energy is emitted as a final strong burst of gravitational waves. It is these gravitational waves that LIGO has observed. The existence of gravitational waves was first demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s by Joseph Taylor, Jr., and colleagues. Taylor and Russell Hulse discovered in 1974 a binary system composed of a pulsar in orbit around a neutron star. Taylor and Joel M. Weisberg in 1982 found that the orbit of the pulsar was slowly shrinking over time because of the release of energy in the form of gravitational waves. For discovering the pulsar and showing that it would make possible this particular gravitational wave measurement, Hulse and Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993. The new LIGO discovery is the first observation of gravitational waves themselves, made by measuring the tiny disturbances the waves make to space and time as they pass through Earth.”Our observation of gravitational waves accomplishes an ambitious goal set out over 5 decades ago to directly detect this elusive phenomenon and better understand the universe, and, fittingly, fulfills Einstein’s legacy on the 100th anniversary of his general theory of relativity,” says Caltech’s David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory. The discovery was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed — and the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run. The US National Science Foundation leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project. Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University, and the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Several universities designed, built, and tested key components for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University of the City of New York, and Louisiana State University. “In 1992, when LIGO’s initial funding was approved, it represented the biggest investment the NSF had ever made,” says France Córdova, NSF director. “It was a big risk. But the National Science Foundation is the agency that takes these kinds of risks. We support fundamental science and engineering at a point in the road to discovery where that path is anything but clear. We fund trailblazers. It’s why the U.S. continues to be a global leader in advancing knowledge.” LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration. The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom, and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain. “This detection is the beginning of a new era: The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality,” says Gabriela González, LSC spokesperson and professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University. LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, from MIT; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, also from Caltech. “The description of this observation is beautifully described in the Einstein theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago and comprises the first test of the theory in strong gravitation. It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein’s face had we been able to tell him,” says Weiss.”With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe — objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples,” says Thorne. Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: 6 from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; 8 from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; 2 in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy. Fulvio Ricci, Virgo Spokesperson, notes that, “This is a significant milestone for physics, but more importantly merely the start of many new and exciting astrophysical discoveries to come with LIGO and Virgo.” Bruce Allen, managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), adds, “Einstein thought gravitational waves were too weak to detect, and didn’t believe in black holes. But I don’t think he’d have minded being wrong!” “The Advanced LIGO detectors are a tour de force of science and technology, made possible by a truly exceptional international team of technicians, engineers, and scientists,” says David Shoemaker of MIT, the project leader for Advanced LIGO. “We are very proud that we finished this NSF-funded project on time and on budget.” At each observatory, the two-and-a-half-mile (4-km) long L-shaped LIGO interferometer uses laser light split into two beams that travel back and forth down the arms (four-foot diameter tubes kept under a near-perfect vacuum). The beams are used to monitor the distance between mirrors precisely positioned at the ends of the arms. According to Einstein’s theory, the distance between the mirrors will change by an infinitesimal amount when a gravitational wave passes by the detector. A change in the lengths of the arms smaller than one-ten-thousandth the diameter of a proton (10-19 meter) can be detected. “To make this fantastic milestone possible took a global collaboration of scientists — laser and suspension technology developed for our GEO600 detector was used to help make Advanced LIGO the most sophisticated gravitational wave detector ever created,” says Sheila Rowan, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Glasgow. Independent and widely separated observatories are necessary to determine the direction of the event causing the gravitational waves, and also to verify that the signals come from space and are not from some other local phenomenon. Toward this end, the LIGO Laboratory is working closely with scientists in India at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, and the Institute for Plasma to establish a third Advanced LIGO detector on the Indian subcontinent. Awaiting approval by the government of India, it could be operational early in the next decade. The additional detector will greatly improve the ability of the global detector network to localize gravitational-wave sources. “Hopefully this first observation will accelerate the construction of a global network of detectors to enable accurate source location in the era of multi-messenger astronomy,” says David McClelland, professor of physics and director of the Centre for Gravitational Physics at the Australian National University.



  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Upcoming
  3. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Richard Dawkins suffers stroke:,
    2. Darwin Day:,,
    3. Future Sex:,
    4. Chemistry of Love:,
  4. Separation of Church & State:,,,,
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Religion in General:,,,,,,,,
    2. Native American Church:,
    3. Sikhism:,,
    4. Islam:,,,,,,
    5. Christianity:,,,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,,
    2. Global Democratic Decline:,,,,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Race:,
    2. Education:,
    3. Poverty:,
    4. Interrogation:,
    5. women:,,,,,,,,,,
    6. LGBT:,,,,,,,,,;_ylt=AwrC1C4b4KhWdH4AXgnQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByMHZ0NG9yBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM3BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–,
  8. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food:,,,,,,,,,,
    2. Climate:,,,
    3. Biology:,,,,,,,,
    4. Space-Time:,,,,,,,,



  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Upcoming
    1. Darwin Party (2/12)
    2. Roy Speckhardt (2/14)
    3. Darwin Day Party/Inherit the Wind (2/21)
  3. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Dawkins Disinvited:,,
    2. Darwin Day:,
    3. Atheist Capital of America:,
    4. Porter Ranch Gas Leak:,
    5. Goofing Off Good For you:,
    6. Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Rap Battle:,
    7. Groundhog Day:,,
  4. Separation of Church & State:,,,,,,
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Santeria:,
    2. Judaism:,,,
    3. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    4. Christianity:,,,,,,,,,,,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Zika Virus & Abortion:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;-ny-offers-tests-to-pregnant-travelers/1185767/,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,–Barré_syndrome,,,,,,,
    2. Poverty:,,
    3. Solitary Confinement:,,,
    4. LGBT:,,;_ylt=AwrC1C4b4KhWdH4AXgnQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByMHZ0NG9yBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM3BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    5. Women:,,,,,
  8. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food;,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    2. Biology:,,,,,,
    3. Climate:
    4. Space:,,,,,,


  1. Who/How are you?
  2. Upcoming
    1. Roy Speckhardt (2/14)
    2. Darwin Day Party/Inherit the Wind (2/21)
  3. Interesting Incidentals
    1. Dawkins Disinvited:,
    2. Abe Vigoda dead:,
    3. Porter Ranch Gas Leak:,
    4. Zika:,
    5. Bundy Busted:,,,
    6. Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Rap Battle:,
  4. Separation of Church & State:,
  5. Pernicious Piety
    1. Santeria:,
    2. Islam:,,,,,,,
    3. Christianity:,,,,,,,
  6. Politics
    1. 2016:,,,,,,,,,
  7. Human Rights
    1. Poverty:,
    2. Solitary Confinement:,,,
    3. LGBT:,,;_ylt=AwrC1C4b4KhWdH4AXgnQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByMHZ0NG9yBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM3BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–,,,,,,,,
    4. Women:,,,
  8. Science
    1. Fit, Fat, & Food;,,,,,,,,,
    2. Biology:,,
    3. Space:,,,,


    1. Who/How are you?
    2. Upcoming
    3. Interesting Incidentals:,,,,
    4. Separation of Church & State:,,
    5. Pernicious Piety
      1. Religion in General:,
      2. Buddhism:,,
      3. Islam:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
      4. Christianity:,,,,,,
    6. Politics
      1. Lanatics:,,,,
      2. General:,
      3. 2016:,,,,,,,
      4. US Supreme Court:,,,
      5. Economics:,,,,
    7. Human Rights
      1. Free Speech:,,,
      2. Water:,,,,,,
      3. Race:,
      4. LGBT:,;_ylt=AwrXgiJewm5WqkgAlHbQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBya2cwZmh2BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwM1BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–,,
      5. Women:,
    8. Science
      1. Climate:,,
      2. Technology:,,
      3. Biology:,,,,,,
      4. Space:,,

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