Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mid-Week Post

For all your middle of the week needs...

ISIS claims to have beheaded American journalist James Foley:

A disturbing video posted online appears to show a militant beheading American journalist James Foley and threatening a second American captive with a similar fate. 

In the video a man who appears to be Foley, dressed in orange, kneels beside an armed man clad in black. Foley delivers a statement condemning U.S. action in Iraq and says that the U.S. government is his “real killers.”
And Obama does... nothing:

Obama met with his economic team Tuesday before leaving the White House at 4:22 pm to return to his vacation home.

He did not react to the news that broke later that evening about an ISIS video that showed the beheading of American journalist James Wright Foley. 

The National Security Council reacted, however, in a statement provided by spokesperson Caitlin Hayden. 

“We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen James Foley by ISIL,” Hayden said. 

“The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.” 

According to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, Obama was briefed by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on the ISIL video while traveling on Air Force One. 

Obama touched down at Martha’s Vineyard on Marine One at approximately 6:10 pm before the presidential motorcade continued to the rental home. 

He is expected to remain at Martha’s Vineyard through Sunday, August 24.
Just like Ambassador Stevens, eh?

Truce? What truce?

Renewed rocket fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip ruptured a shaky cease-fire, triggering Israeli military strikes across the Hamas-controlled territory and the yanking of Israel’s negotiators from truce talks. 

No group in Gaza took responsibility for attacks today, which came just hours before a 24-hour truce extension was to expire. The army said at least six rockets fell near the southern cities of Beersheba, Ashdod and Netivot without causing injuries or damage. Two were intercepted by Israeli anti-missile defenses. At least 14 targets in Gaza were hit in Israeli air raids, according to local media and eyewitnesses. 

The rockets struck as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo were trying to reach a more enduring cease-fire. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue, said the Israeli team was ordered to return home.

I think the hand-wringing over accommodating religious garb and personal safety can stop:

Ontario won't allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, a decision the Canadian Sikh Association called "deeply" disappointing.

Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote to the organization last week, saying she had struggled with striking the right balance between public safety and religious accommodation.

"After careful deliberation, we have determined that we will not grant this type of exemption as it would pose a road safety risk," she wrote in the Aug. 14 letter.

"Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern aside on this issue."

The mandatory helmet law is based on extensive research that shows the high risk of injury and death for motorcyclists who ride without a helmet, she added. Mortality rates have gone down 30 per cent and head injury rates down 75 per cent in jurisdictions with such laws.

Don't worry, Liberals, you'll still get the Sikh vote if toady enough for it.

When militant atheists replace belief in God with Richard Dawkins, the shaking of their faith must be soul-crushing:

Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.

Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: in The God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse. So believers can always find a scripture where he agrees with them, which naturally cancels out the one where he doesn’t.

Whether he means that religious believers are despicable ‘stumbling, droning inarticulate .. yammering fumblewits’ who are ‘likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt’ (that’s from a 2009 blogpost) or ‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for’ (from a 2012 speech) can lead to arguments as interminable as those over the peaceful or otherwise character of the Prophet Mohammed.

Similarly, does he mean that genes are selfish, or that they are co-operative? Both, it seems, and with equal vehemence. As he wrote, ‘The Selfish Gene could equally have been called The Co-operative Gene without a word of the book itself needing to be changed.’ This doesn’t seem to me to be strictly speaking true: it subverts the sense of a famous passage to change it to read: ‘Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own co-operative genes are up to, because we may then have a chance to upset their design, something which no other species has ever aspired to.’

But what has got him in trouble with his own side is not biology of that sort, but the appearance of racism and sexism. Some of the stuff that he has written and retweeted about ‘evil’ Islam is shocking. A recent Dawkins tweet mentioning ‘mild paedophilia’ produced an eruption of outrage across the sceptical movement, not really helped by his claiming that it was all a matter of logic, and his opponents had had their thinking clouded by emotion — and the one thing everyone knows about Dawkins is that his followers are entirely rational.

(Paws up)

And now,  what are the worst songs? Duke it out.

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