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Adios Nadine Gordimer

Jul 14th, 2014 3:08 pm | By

Bruce Gorton sent me the link to an excellent local tribute, which included this by Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand:

Gordimer epitomised all that Wits University holds dear

Wits University has learnt with deep sadness of the passing of one of its most illustrious alumni, a great South African writer, and one of the world’s most esteemed literary figures, Nadine Gordimer. The University wishes to extend its sincerest condolences to her family, friends and the entire South African literary and academic community.

Gordimer was a dear friend to Wits, maintaining a lifelong connection to the University, and giving generously of her time. She often appeared on campus to participate in colloquia and

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Perhaps listening to them would help you

Jul 14th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

Janet Stemwedel has a brilliant post at the SciAm blog about the perils of idolizing human people.

The coordinated effort to build a reliable body of knowledge about the world depends on a baseline level of trust between scientists. Without that trust, you are left having to take on the entire project yourself, and that seriously diminishe[s] the chances that the knowledge you’re building will be objective.

That also applies to the rest of life. Morality is a product of the benefits of co-operation; if you’re not moral you’re not trustworthy, so unless you’ve very good at dissimulation, you’ll lose the benefits of co-operation if you’re not moral.

What about someone who is scrupulously honest about his scientific contributions

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



HALEA needs help

Jul 14th, 2014 11:17 am | By

The IHEU reports that a humanist group in Uganda that does terrific important work needs help in the wake of a robbery.

The Humanist Association for Leadership, Equality and Accountability (HALEA) runs education and support services for children in some of the poorest parts of Kampala.

They go into schools running workshops centered around human rights and the rights of the child in particular, as well as democracy, confidence-building, and other issues. They run debates on ethical and humanist topics that otherwise may never be discussed. HALEA even publish a regular magazine written and produced by school students; it’s a rare and valuable opportunity for children to see themselves in print and to be heard! Through leadership training at their

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Who will be excluded is obvious

Jul 14th, 2014 10:47 am | By

Southall Black Sisters point out a bad new bit of proposed legislation.

Earlier this week, the House of Commons approved regulations which are intended to implement residence test for most of the 46 forms of civil legal aid.

Civil legal aid was first introduced through the Legal Advice and Assistance Act 1949. Since then, its availability has always depended on three things: the type of case must be prioritized in the legal aid scheme; it must be strong and important enough to justify public money being spent on it; and the financial resources of the person involved must be so limited that it would be impossible for them to pay for a lawyer themselves.

If implemented, the residence test

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Some scholars say the asthma inhaler breaks the fast

Jul 13th, 2014 6:18 pm | By

And now, the NHS’s FAQ page for Ramadan.

Is fasting harmful when a woman is expecting a baby? Must pregnant women fast?
There’s medical evidence to show that fasting in pregnancy is not a good idea. If a pregnant woman feels strong and healthy enough to fast, especially during the early part of the pregnancy, she may do so.

Wtf? It’s not a good idea, but she may do so if she’s strong? Why would they say that?! That’s not medical advice – it’s contrary to medical advice. But it gets worse.

If she doesn’t feel well enough to fast, Islamic law gives her clear permission not to fast, and to make up the missed fasts later. If she

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If you are unable to stand up due to dizziness

Jul 13th, 2014 5:42 pm | By

Another NHS page on how to deal with the health risks of Ramadan; this one is much more forthright, so that’s good.

Some common health complications that can arise from fasting and how to prevent and deal with them.

The following advice has been provided following consultation with medical experts and Islamic scholars.

Um…they’re the Health Service; they shouldn’t be consulting religious “scholars” on health issues.

They start with heartburn. They have some suggestions for how to minimize it,

Then they tackle diabetes. They say people who take insulin regularly shouldn’t fast at all; it’s too risky.

People who have their diabetes under control using tablets should seek careful advice from their GP before starting a fast.

Regular self-monitoring of

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Hello Columbus

Jul 13th, 2014 4:55 pm | By

The Student Secular Alliance had a conference – SSA Con East – this weekend.

Look who met there – three of the best!

Via Facebook

That’s Heina, Leo, and Hiba.… Read the rest

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Starving and dehydration can be good for you!

Jul 13th, 2014 4:20 pm | By

The NHS has advice on Ramadan fasting and health.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan can be good for your health if it’s done correctly.

When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss. However, if you fast for too long your body will eventually start breaking down muscle protein for energy, which is unhealthy.

Dr Razeen Mahroof, an anaesthetist from Oxford, says there’s a strong relationship between diet and health.

“Ramadan isn’t always thought of as being an opportunity to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasised more generally than the health aspect,” he says. “However, it’s a great chance to get

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Smashed to pieces

Jul 13th, 2014 3:48 pm | By

Diana Darke reports for BBC News Magazine on the destruction of Syria’s ancient treasures. There are many photographs.

The Krak des Chevaliers has been bombed and shelled.

The Great Mosque in Damascus took a hit to some gorgeous mosaics.

The Temple of Bel in Palmyra has been battered.

The temple is one of the most important religious buildings of its time in the Middle East – it represents a synthesis of Roman with Greco-Persian-Babylonian architecture.

Many finely carved sculptures and blocks formerly stood inside the sanctuary, including a crowd scene with fully veiled women centuries before Islam. Whether they are still there, and still intact, is unknown.

Aleppo’s Great Mosque has also taken a hit, and its minaret was … Read the rest

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Bent over a pool table

Jul 13th, 2014 11:46 am | By

Kirsten Gillibrand – you know, the wild and crazy “radical feminist” US Senator – tweeted about a must-read article in the New York Times today, so I read it.

It’s an extended look at one investigation of a sexual assault complaint at a college.

She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

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No smoking, no drinking — not even water

Jul 13th, 2014 10:43 am | By

This is a bit weird. I don’t mean in a “help help omigod US soldiers are being told to be polite to Moooslims” way, but in a “wait what about the health and safety of the soldiers themselves” way. US troops have been told to respect Ramadan.

Some 5 million people live in Baghdad but its busy sidewalk restaurants are now empty. No smoking, no drinking — not even water.

And yes, no sex. At least not during daylight hours.

“When I’m fasting and I see someone who is eating or smoking,” said a merchant on Karada Street, “I get very irritated.”

It’s clear that U.S. soldiers, including those with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, are getting the message.

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Forced to fast during Ramadan?

Jul 13th, 2014 9:20 am | By

Kiran Opal is calling on all closeted Ex-Muslims who are forced to fast during Ramadan to send her their stories.

Are you someone who’s been fasting, pretending to fast, or forced to lie about fasting to your Muslim family and friends? Are you under pressure to stay hungry and thirsty for several hours in the hottest part of the year? Are you someone who doesn’t believe in Islam anymore, but has to remain ‘in the closet’ about it?

If so, I want to hear from you.

I am working on an idea for a blog article to be posted soon for Ramadan on ExMuslimBlogs.com.

Similar to the International Women’s Day post from a few months ago, this one requires participation

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



God wants you to keep the plumbing you were born with

Jul 12th, 2014 5:48 pm | By

Meet Meggan Somerville, who actually works for Hobby Lobby.

Customers were coming in after the ruling and high-fiving her, and she was forcing a smile while not letting on that she wasn’t all that pleased.

Sommerville has worked there for 16 years. She loves her job and the store, which she said pays a good wage and carries supplies that she’s used for many of her own crafting projects.

Still, the congratulations from customers were hard to swallow. “I’d smile and nod and say, ‘Yes, it’s a victory for the company,’ and then I’d push my real feelings down and not think about it anymore.”

Sommerville is a transgender woman, and back in 2011, she filed a complaint against

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The law includes a broad exemption

Jul 12th, 2014 5:08 pm | By

More “Not us, not us! We get special rules because we’re special! We get to exclude people because god!” bullshit.

PQ Monthly reports that George Fox University has successfully obtained a religious exemption from the Department of Education (DOE) to deny a transgender student named Jayce a place in the campus’ single-sex residence halls. When Jayce first filed his complaint in April, the university said that it had offered him a single apartment as an accommodation, but that it stood by its refusal to allow him to live with other men on religious grounds.

What religious grounds? What religious grounds are there? But the government can’t ask that, because of the Establishment Clause, but it makes no difference anyway, … Read the rest

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They fought like alley cats

Jul 12th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

 A Québec judge orders a Catholic religious order to pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse.

A Quebec court has ordered a religious group to compensate victims of sexual abuse involving several of the organization’s priests — a total payout that could eventually reach millions of dollars.

The Quebec Superior Court ruled Thursday that the Redemptorist Order will have to pay at least $75,000 in damages to each victim who attended the Saint-Alphonse Seminary between 1960 and 1987.

It’s interesting, as always, that the religious order has to be forced to pay compensation; that it doesn’t simply do everything it can to compensate because it’s the right thing to do and because religion is supposed to make people good.… Read the rest

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The last bound feet

Jul 12th, 2014 12:58 pm | By

At the Washington Post:

Warning!

Though foot-binding was officially banned in 1912, it continued, and women who endured the painful tradition are still alive today. Photographer Jo Farrell has photographed and interviewed some of the last living Chinese women who suffered foot-binding.

There are photos of women, their shoes, a tray of dumpings – interspersed with close-ups of the underside of their feet, showing just what the binding does.… Read the rest

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Nowhere to hide from justice

Jul 12th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

Amnesty has a new report on atrocities in the Central African Republic.

The report, Central African Republic: Time for Accountability, documents crimes under international law perpetrated across the CAR in 2013 and 2014, and calls for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators. It names members and allies of the anti-balaka and Séléka armed groups suspected of involvement in serious human rights abuses, outlining their roles and establishing their possible criminal responsibilities.

“If the Central African Republic is to recover from the killing spree that has taken place since December 2013, it is imperative that those who masterminded, committed or participated in war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious human rights abuses are brought to account,” said

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Would it were otherwise

Jul 12th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

Josh Spokesgay and I share an attachment to the subjunctive. This attachment is, I believe, more than merely aesthetic. There are reasons to use it, and to prefer that its use be available.

See what I did there?

It’s true that the basic meaning is usually clear enough even without it, but it’s also true that a nuance is lost.

The indicative is for talking about things as they are. The subjunctive is for talking about things that are not, but that might have been, or that we wish had been, or were.

This neatly clarifies for me why I’m so attached to the mood. There are so many things I wish were not as they are, but otherwise.

Wraps, … Read the rest

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Weirdo women

Jul 12th, 2014 9:13 am | By

One of those dopy Facebook memes, but this one touched off a heated discussion on my wall after I posted it late yesterday.

My commentary introducing the meme was

Wtf is this stupid shit?

Oooooooh yeah women are so weird and creepy and mysterious. What the hell do they want, anyway?

The guy pretending to read it looks like Penn Jillette. Nice touch.… Read the rest

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Rooted in the cultural attitudes

Jul 11th, 2014 6:15 pm | By

Hiba Krisht, aka Marwa Berro of Between a Veil and a Dark Place and The Ex-hijabi photo fashion journal* made a very interesting point in an online discussion which I’m not going to link to because it’s an essay that she should publish, but she gave me permission to quote from it. (Anything in brackets is my connecting material.)

She was addressing what one might call the Dear Muslima fallacy:

[being] able to see or willing to condemn oppressive Islamic practices only insofar as they are blatant, obvious, and monstrous, insofar as they make the news with the enormity of their crime, and the scope of his condemnation does not transcend the scope of the actions. To him it’s

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(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)