Christian counsellor loses court fight over homophobia

A marriage guidance counsellor’s bid to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals has led to a serious clash between the Christian lobby and the judiciary.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation to protect views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified. He said it was an irrational idea “but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary”…

Lord Justice Laws’s ruling said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself…”

Religious sectarians continue to battle against democracy and reason behind the presumption that their particular invisible entity gives them a specially-ordained right to discriminate against everyone else in society. Not unlike the losers who comprise so much of the American flavor of right-wing reactionaries.

Professional politicians in so many lands rely on grassroots fear and religious froth to prop up their careers. Along with the ever-popular mirror themes of patriotism and war, of course.

Noah’s Ark found in Turkey… yes, again.

If you look very carefully, you can make it out…. It’s
right above the Virgin Mary’s left eyebrow.

A team of evangelical Christian explorers claim they’ve found the remains of Noah’s ark beneath snow and volcanic debris on Turkey’s Mount Ararat.

But some archaeologists and historians are taking the latest claim that Noah’s ark has been found about as seriously as they have past ones—which is to say not very.

“I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it,” said Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist specializing in the Middle East at Stony Brook University in New York State.

Turkish and Chinese explorers from a group called Noah’s Ark Ministries International made the latest discovery claim Monday in Hong Kong, where the group is based.

“It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” [said] Yeung Wing-cheung, a filmmaker accompanying the explorers.

Blasphemer Professor Paul Zimansky

Brown demonstrates barrier between politicians and people

Gillian Duffy talking to whatsis’name
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Labour’s election campaign was in disarray tonight after Gordon Brown was forced to apologise to a pensioner and lifelong party supporter whom he had described as “a bigoted woman” for questioning him over the scale of immigration from eastern Europe.

His contemptuous dismissal of Gillian Duffy, made in private but caught by a live broadcast feed, again raised questions about his volatile character and, more importantly, whether the Labour core vote would be repelled by his apparent indifference to their concerns.

Morale in the Labour campaign slumped as even some of Brown’s closest aides vented their fury at him, with one describing him as “a pathetic blame shifter”. Others voiced concern that it would appear that he was two-faced…

Brown had met Duffy, 65, on the streets of Rochdale when she accosted him over a range of issues including the scale of debt, taxes and tuition fees. At one point during the discussion she referred to eastern Europeans “flocking” to Britain.

After an apparently pleasant conclusion to the conversation and closing his car door, Brown turned to his director of strategic communications, Justin Forsyth, declaring the event a “disaster” and demanding to know who was responsible for him meeting Duffy. He appeared to blame his longstanding aide Sue Nye.

Asked by Forsyth what Duffy had said he replied: “Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”

The separation between professional politicians and the rest of us isn’t limited to any particular creed. It’s the rare individual politician who seeks and maintains contact with the lives of ordinary working people.

I could launch into praise for the few who are capable, the small number of pols who stay in touch with the life most of us lead. The fact is that most of the lawyers, beancounters, others who make politics a lifetime career are climbers. They seek power and position. And questions of leadership on solutions to human questions soon become nothing more than campaign slogans.

I may be a cynic; but, I doubt I am very far from describing the core principles of those representing real power in most nations.

Beginning sailor takes a round trip – sort of

The Isle has an interesting history

A man who thought he was sailing along the coast of southern England had to be rescued by emergency services after his motor boat ran out of fuel while repeatedly circling a small island in the River Thames estuary.

The man, who had no nautical guides and only had a roadmap to navigate by, had been trying to sail from Gillingham, about 35 miles east of London, to Southampton on April 19 by following the southern coast of England.

But he ended simply doing laps of the 36-square mile Isle of Sheppey a short distance away in the mouth of the Thames.

Eventually a lifeboat and coastguard were sent to rescue him after he used up all his fuel and ran aground, officials said on Wednesday. He told them he had been trying to navigate by keeping the coastline to his right.

“He was attempting to travel around the UK from Medway to Southampton and had somehow lost his bearings and ended up traveling around the Isle of Sheppey,” said Robin Castle, a member of the local lifeboat station.

“It seems he didn’t have the usual maritime charts or navigational equipment.”

Someone buy this guy a GPS. A very good, talking GPS.

Doctor fixes heart with remote-controlled robot

Kenneth Crocker, 70 – most important part of the operation

Doctors at a British hospital have carried out the first heart rhythm operation using a remote -controlled robot and say its success means patients could be treated by doctors in other cities, or even other countries.

Andre Ng, who performed the procedure on Wednesday from outside the operating theater, told Reuters it went very well and the patient’s irregular heart rhythm was restored to normal within an hour.

It exceeded our expectations and we achieved what we set out to in very good time,” said Ng, a consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital…

Ng said he was the first doctor in the world to carry out this type of remote-controlled operation on a human patient using a system called a Remote Catheter Manipulation System…

The procedure carried out by Ng involved inserting thin wires called catheters into blood vessels at the top of the groin and then threading them up into the chambers of the heart…

Despite being outside the operating theater during the procedure, Ng said he felt in “complete control” and could see and speak to other medical staff who were beside the patient.

The main advantage is that the doctor doesn’t have to wear heavy radiation shields such as lead aprons, which are normally required in the operating room because X-rays are used to show what is going on inside the patient.

Doctor Ng made the useful point already obvious to geeks in the crowd: “If there is a reliable enough link, then you could do it from any location in the world.”

“I only have several mistresses – I’m not a polygamist!”

A French Muslim threatened with being stripped of his passport for practicing polygamy on Monday denied the accusation, saying he had only one wife and several mistresses.

The case of Lies Hebbadj, an Algerian-born butcher who became a French citizen when he married a French woman in 1999, has flared into a major political row with opposition parties accusing the government of exploiting the situation.

Hebbadj’s story came to light on Friday, when his wife complained she had been fined for driving while wearing an Islamic veil on the grounds that it was dangerous.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux accused Hebbadj of having four wives, who between them were claiming single parent benefits for his 12 children…

Hebbadj said only one was his wife and the others were lovers.

If one can be stripped of one’s French nationality for having mistresses, then many French could lose theirs,” he told reporters in the Western city of Nantes, where he lives…

Local authorities on Monday launched an official investigation into the polygamy and benefit fraud claims.

One of the few situations where a trite phrase like “Damned if you do – Damned if you don’t” – fits.

Interior secretary Salazar approves Cape Wind

In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he had approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod.

“This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick. The decision comes after nine years of battles over the proposal.

America needs offshore wind power and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation,” Patrick said.

The decision had been delayed for almost a year because of two Wampanoag Native American tribes’ complaints that the 130 turbines, which would stand more than 400 feet above the ocean surface, would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed. The ocean floor was once exposed land before the sea level rose thousands of years ago…

“I am convinced there is a path we can take forward that both honors our responsibility to protect historical and cultural resources and at the same time meets the need to repower our economy with clean energy produced from wind power,” he said…

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, hailed the decision, saying it was “a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence. ”

“Those who continue to resist and litigate are simply on the wrong side of history,” he said.

I have a personal past that shares in this decision. I grew up with subsistence fishing on the New England coast.

I understand those who assign primacy to viewscape, nature. But, New England tradition included folks who were daring enough to sail halfway round the world in search of new economies. That tradition accepted the inclusion of new ideas into the commercial and social life of old communities – from steam power to the abolition of slavery.

Those who see only mutually exclusive conflicts in renewable energy and their view of the horizon, those who believe their religion trumps the needs of the greater modern society – are stuck in the wrong century.

North Carolina town bans thongs

Click for Florida alternative – NSFW in North Carolina

If you plan on going to Kure Beach, North Carolina, bring your sunscreen and shades, but please leave your thong behind.

The seaside community has adopted a zero tolerance policy on anyone wearing the barely-there bikini by the shore on their part of North Carolina’s Pleasure Island, just south of Wilmington.

“You can do what you want to in your own space,” said Mayor Dean Lambeth, “but for public decency, keep it off the public beach…”

The decision to forbid thongs was triggered by a couple’s recent inquiry about spending their honeymoon in Kure Beach, Lambeth said. According to the mayor, the couple wanted to know if they could wear thongs. The man thought the town’s policy on the matter was ambiguous, Lambeth said. After consulting with the police chief, he determined the ordinance should be amended to better address the issue.

Section 12-32 of the Code of the Town of Kure Beach, which was adopted on April 22, makes it illegal “for any person being naked or insufficiently clothed … to bathe or swim in the Atlantic Ocean” or any other area within the town’s jurisdiction. Sun-bathing “naked or insufficiently clothed” is also banned.

“Thong bathing suits or similar attire are specifically prohibited,” the code says.

Anyone wearing a thong on the beach will be fined $25…

He also suspected the decision on the thongs could end up in court and blamed liberals for that.

“You can file a suit — the way this country is leaning so far left, it wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. “They want to challenge it? They want to spend the money? Go for it.”

He’s probably right. Sex-obsessed Republicans seem to stick to public restrooms.

Goldman grilled on oversight – by those who ignored oversight

Just about every word – is a lie!

The chief executive of Goldman Sachs has defended his company’s business practices amid accusations of conflict of interests, that it knowingly sold customers products it thought would lose money, and that it helped cause the US financial crisis.

Testifying before the senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in Washington DC on Tuesday, Lloyd Blankfein said customers who bought securities from Goldman were looking for risk “and that’s what they got”.

Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, said there was a “fundamental conflict” in Goldman selling securities and then betting against the same securities, without telling customers…

The senator told Blankfein: “They’re buying something from you, and you are betting against it. And you want people to trust you. I wouldn’t trust you.”

And we should trust our senators? Fat chance!

But Blankfein, the final witness at the day-long hearing, denied such a conflict.

“We do hundreds of thousands, if not millions of transactions a day, as a market maker,” he said, noting that behind every transaction there was a buyer and a seller, creating both winners and losers…

Senior executives said that they were not prescient about the housing market, just diligent about limiting its risk.

“Unfortunately, the housing market went south very quickly,” Blankfein said. “So people lost money in it…”

The housing market went south through illegitimate gambles on mortgages for people who didn’t qualify. Programmatic sleaze endorsed as often by Democrats as Republicans.

Hoping Tuesday’s hearing would build support for financial reform legislation now before the senate, Democrats said Goldman’s actions leading up to the financial crisis clearly demonstrated a need for stronger regulation.

Over the course of the day, members of the committee left to vote on cloture, to allow debate before the Senate on financial oversight. Every single Republican voted against allowing debate.

Hypocrite of the day was the Democrat Claire McCaskill. Yammering at Lloyd Blankfein, she demanded to know why Goldman, Sachs didn’t provide oversight of derivatives?

She and her peers in Congress have the responsibility to legislate and monitor such oversight. Over the last couple of decades they have done exactly zero to provide what they whined about.