So, um, how did you celebrate Oilfield Prayer Day?

❝ In an announcement we only wish were part of an SNL cold open, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed Oct. 13 Oilfield Prayer Day. All you need to celebrate is rest, relaxation, and a solemn request to the heavens to make fracking great again.

❝ The official statewide initiative is the brainchild of Fallin and Reverend Tom Beddow, who runs the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Oil Path Chaplains ministry. “We’re asking churches all over Oklahoma to open their doors, put on a pot of coffee, and pray for the oil field,” Beddow told The Oklahoman. While originally calling upon only Christians, Fallin revised the proclamation Monday to beseech oil-enthusiasts of all faiths.

❝ Last month, Oklahoma saw a 5.8 magnitude earthquake — the state’s largest in recorded history — in an area regularly injected with wastewater from oil and gas companies. That type of wastewater disposal has been linked to earthquakes. With that in mind, Oilfield Prayer Day seems a distasteful addition to a week filled with real holidays such as Indigenous People’s Day and Yom Kippur.

Given the dedication to 14th Century ideology practiced by both state and citizens in Oklahoma, none of this surprises me. There is little of our Constitutional separation of church and state at offer in that benighted state.

Massive Catholic divestment from fossil fuels

Climate Solidarity Prayer March in ManilaAP/Aaron Favila

❝ If you care deeply about humanity and its role on this planet, climate change represents a significant, existential threat.

The victims of climate change include people who live near the ocean, people who live in forests, people who live in deserts, and people who live in the mountains. Young people. Old people. Poor people and rich people: If they aren’t already feeling the impacts of a changing climate, they will someday.

And human-caused climate change is threatening and destroying many, many species of plants and animals.

❝ It’s with this view that faith groups have become leaders in the climate change movement. Churches were some of the earliest adopters of fossil fuel divestment — the practice of pulling funds from companies for a range of reasons, including mining for coal, selling oil and gas, or financing tar sands development.

A new cadre of Catholic groups joined the movement Tuesday, announcing a coordinated, global divestment push…

Italian, Canadian, Australian, U.S., Brazilian, and international Catholic groups announced a range of measures distancing themselves from fossil fuels. Some goals are relatively modest: For instance, SSM, a U.S. hospital group, will divest from coal companies. But the Brazilian Diocese of Umuarama will become the first diocese and the first Latin American institution to commit to divest from fossil fuels, according to The diocese is also reducing its carbon footprint and has joined an anti-fracking coalition in Latin America…

❝ Laudato Si’ is an encyclical, issued by Pope Francis last year, that emphasizes the need to be responsible guardians of the environment, particularly in the face of climate change and carbon pollution.

“Every community may take from the bounty of the earth that which it needs for its own survival, but it also has the duty to protect it and ensure the continuity of its fertility for future generations,” the encyclical, an official, high-level teaching for Catholics, says.

❝ Divestment is commonly seen as a powerful tool to reduce access to financing for fossil fuel companies. It also allows individuals and groups to take ownership of their role in the fossil fuel industrial complex, which, in turn, helps raise awareness.

Done it before. I’ll do it, again. Owning shares in fossil fuel companies is like owning shares in cigarette manufacturers. Trying to profit from firms whose products destroy our lives, our existence, is not ethical in my view of a principled life.

Always nice to see some of the oldest philosophies of good will joining in to a modern struggle.

Broad range driving growth of atheists, agnostics and religious “nones” in the U.S.

The share of Americans who do not identify with a religious group is surely growing: While nationwide surveys in the 1970s and ’80s found that fewer than one-in-ten U.S. adults said they had no religious affiliation, fully 23% now describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”

…Two, or even three, closely related things seem to be going on. Americans who are not religiously active and who don’t hold strong religious beliefs are more likely now than similar people were in the past to say they have no religion. But that’s not the whole story, because the share of Americans with low levels of religious commitment (on a scale combining four common measures) also has been growing…

Another factor is generational change. If you think of America as a house of many different faiths, then instead of imagining the “nones” as a roomful of middle-aged people who used to call themselves Presbyterians, Catholics or something else but don’t claim those labels anymore, imagine the unaffiliated as a few rooms rapidly filling with nonreligious people of various backgrounds, including young adults who have never had any religious affiliation in their adult lives.

Indeed, our Religious Landscape Study finds a clear generational pattern: Young people who are not particularly religious seem to be much more comfortable identifying as “nones” than are older people who display a similar level of religious observance. Nearly eight-in-ten Millennials with low levels of religious commitment describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.” By contrast, just 54% of Americans in the Silent and Greatest generations who have low levels of religious commitment say they are unaffiliated; 45% claim a religion. A similarly striking gap between Millennials and others is also seen among those with a “medium” level of religious commitment…

…Whether Millennials will become more religious as they age remains to be seen, but there is nothing in our data to suggest that Millennials or members of Generation X have become any more religious in recent years. If anything, they have so far become less religious as they have aged.

Education, evidence-based factors, accumulated knowledge appear to be working as you might expect. Even in the United States.

Cripes! Optimism may yet surpass my cynicism.

Kentucky governor joins the chorus of Republicans forecasting Blood in the Streets if Hillary elected

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin told religious conservatives at the Values Voters Summit Sept. 9 that blood might have to be shed if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

“I want us to be able to fight ideologically, mentally, spiritually, economically, so that we don’t have to do it physically,” Bevin said Saturday. “But that may, in fact, be the case.”

He added, citing Thomas Jefferson’s “blood of patriots and tyrants” quote: “The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood. Of who? The tyrants, to be sure. But who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren.”…

Bevin, a tea party supporter who has been known to make a controversial comment or two, clarified his comments to the Lexington Herald-Leader, saying blah, blah, blah. The usual craptastic clarification ritual required for right-wing nutballs to cover their butts over advocating/foretelling violence, anarchy and insurrection…

Bevin’s comments echo a tea party rallying cry that has cropped up from time to time. Activists and even some lawmakers have cited Jefferson’s quote to reinforce the stakes for their political movement.

As for the 2016 campaign, Bevin’s comments are the latest example of elected officials promising very bad things if the wrong candidate is elected…Former congresswoman Michele Bachmann warned recently that a Clinton win might mean this could be the “last election” in which Americans would be able to elect a president with “godly moral principles…”

Conservative talk show hosts have warned of even worse, up to and including civil war. But Bevin’s comments appear to be the most full-throated warning about a Clinton presidency so far from a high-ranking GOP elected official.

Easy to blame demagogues. Half the responsibility must be laid at the feet of fools who vote thugs like this into office. It doesn’t matter if their excuse is ignorance or stupidity. They lined up in support of fear-mongering.

Never can tell what you might find at a North Carolina yard sale!


❝ A woman has been arrested in North Carolina after her mother’s body was discovered in a freezer she sold at a yard sale.

Marcella Jean Lee, 56, was charged on Thursday with concealing and failure to report a death, more than three months after selling the chest freezer to her neighbour for $30.

❝ Ms Lee had told her neighbour not to open the appliance when she sold it to her in May, saying it was being used as a time capsule and that church members would come by at some point to collect the contents inside.

However, the neighbour opened it up later to find the body of Arma Roush, the 75-year-old mother of Ms Lee, whom police had been looking for since the discovery.

She was detained on Thursday about 100 miles south of the city of Goldsboro, where her mother’s remains were found…

❝ A post mortem examination showed no signs of foul play regarding Ms Roush’s death. The pensioner had been living with her daughter and was last seen alive in August 2015.

In a 911 call, obtained by WNCN at the time of the discovery, the neighbour said: “I have a serious problem. My neighbour sold me a deep freezer. I just opened it and there’s a body in there. I am freaking out.”

Certainly nothing you’d want to bring to Antiques Roadshow.

The God business is worth more than Apple, Amazon and Google combined

Did they count the gold?

❝ Religion in the United States is worth $1.2 trillion a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world…

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University…

❝ The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.
More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

❝ The analysis did not take account of the value of financial or physical assets held by religious groups. Neither did it account for “the negative impacts that occur in some religious communities, including … such things as the abuse of children by some clergy, cases of fraud, and the possibility of being recruitment sites for violent extremism”.

Didn’t notice any mention [in the article] of the dollar value of tax avoidance of religion in America. A nice addition to any profitable business.

Woman sues Catholic hospital that refused to remove her IUD

❝ An Illinois woman is accusing a Catholic hospital of refusing to remove her birth control device because of the hospital system’s religious affiliations, causing her nearly a week of pain and bleeding while she was forced to seek help from a different hospital network.

❝ Melanie Jones, who is being represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said she dislodged her copper intrauterine device (IUD), a form of long-acting birth control, in 2008 when she slipped and fell on a wet bathroom floor. After a night of cramping and bleeding, she went to a hospital controlled by the Chicago-based Mercy Hospital and Medical Center network, where a doctor confirmed that her IUD needed to be removed.

But the doctor refused to remove it, Jones claims in two separate lawsuits, saying the hospital’s “Catholic initiative” barred her from providing any care related to contraception. In fact, the doctor allegedly told her, every single provider in her Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance network followed the same religious restrictions.

❝ Jones left the hospital with her IUD still dislodged, leaving her “at risk for infection, cervical and uterine lacerations, and scarring, and pregnancy”, she claims in her suits. Because she could not pay out-of-pocket for a visit to the emergency room, she did not get her IUD removed for another five days, when Blue Cross Blue Shield moved her coverage to a secular network of hospitals…

❝ Catholic ethicists argue that their rules are consistent with modern standards of care. But public health advocates have warned that the rules are subject to arbitrary interpretations, and that they pose a special threat to women’s reproductive care

❝ One out of every six beds in the country’s acute care hospitals is in a hospital with Catholic affiliations, according to a May report by the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch, a public health watchdog that monitors healthcare institutions with religious affiliations. Today, Catholic hospitals make up 15%, or 548, of the country’s acute care centers. In dozens of communities, the only hospitals that remain are Catholic.

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the number of Catholic Church-controlled hospitals in the US by 22% in the last decade. In many of these communities, staff have left because of archaic regulations required by the church.

RTFA for other cases brought against the so-called Mercy Health Partners in recent years. It’s an important question for insurers, federal and private. Especially in a nation supposedly governed by secular civil law over religious beliefs.

Facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters – faith beats reality every time!

Trump is your daddy

How did Donald Trump win the Republican nomination, despite clear evidence that he had misrepresented or falsified key issues throughout the campaign? Social scientists have some intriguing explanations for why people persist in misjudgments despite strong contrary evidence.

Trump is a vivid and, to his critics, a frightening present-day illustration of this perception problem. But it has been studied carefully by researchers for more than 30 years. Basically, the studies show that attempts to refute false information often backfire and lead people to hold on to their misperceptions even more strongly.

…The reason is that people tend to accept arguments that confirm their views and discount facts that challenge what they believe…

Trying to correct misperceptions can actually reinforce them, according to a 2006 paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, also cited by Graves. They documented what they called a “backfire effect” by showing the persistence of the belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2005 and 2006, after the United States had publicly admitted that they didn’t exist. “The results show that direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual belief,” they wrote.

Next Graves examined how attempts to debunk myths can reinforce them, simply by repeating the untruth…“The more often older adults were told that a given claim was false, the more likely they were to accept it as true after several days have passed.”

When critics challenge false assertions…their refutations can threaten people, rather than convince them. Graves noted that if people feel attacked, they resist the facts all the more. He cited a study by Nyhan and Reifler that examined why people misperceived three demonstrable facts: that violence in Iraq declined after President George W. Bush’s troop surge; that jobs have increased during President Obama’s tenure; and that global temperatures are rising…

Trump’s campaign pushes buttons that social scientists understand. When the GOP nominee paints a dark picture of a violent, frightening America, he triggers the “fight or flight” response that’s hardwired in our brains. For the body politic, it can produce a kind of panic attack.

Stupid still outweighs ignorant. An essential reason why I disagree with activists wasting time on folks who are Trump supporters. Reasons means nothing. He’s pushed all their buttons. They respond like trained rats. Or True Believers.

Folks are liable to accomplish more useful results focusing their efforts on the undecided. That premise already establishes you’re dealing with folks seeking information, facts – rather than a pat on the bum and a reassuring word from the Big Daddy who lives inside the TV screen.

Funding ban on human-animal hybrids ended


Should the U.S. government use tax dollars to fund scientists fusing human stem cells into early animal embryos in order to create “chimeras” that are part human and part pig? Or part mouse?

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the answer is yes. The agency announced Thursday that it plans to lift a moratorium that since last year has blocked taxpayers’ money from flowing to this type of hot-button research.

Carrie Wolinetz, the NIH’s associate director for policy, said experiments to inject human stem cells into early-stage animal embryos “are really important and exciting to understand how disease works” and to explore new medical treatments.

At the same time, the agency is proposing stricter controls on certain experiments most likely to lead to monkey-men or other bad science fiction…

And bad science fiction it would be. Unless requisite technology becomes as cheap as, say, drones from a big-box electronics chain, no for-real scientist is going to waste a chunk of their budget on “thrilling” experiments capable of attracting Sharknado movie producers or the religion police.

Human-animal mixtures aren’t new. Wolinetz noted in a statement that biomedical researchers “have created and used animal models containing human cells for decades” to gain insights into biology and disease. Scientists often grow human tumors inside of mice, for example.

But the new research is different, because potent human stem cells are being injected directly into a very early-stage animal embryo, consisting of just a couple of dozen cells. Theoretically, the human cells could then end up contributing to any part of the animal, and in any amount…

What’s the point of such experiments? One is that it might be possible to create an otherwise normal pig whose entire heart—or whole liver—is made from human cells. That would create a new way to farm human organs for transplant.

The issue was clearly a delicate one for the NIH, which was caught between advancing science and a possible political bombshell that could lead to public backlash. The agency said it would form a special committee to oversee funding of these human-animal mixtures—a move that could raise questions over political interference in science.

Pretty much every other nation capable of such research has already marched forward past the artificial political boundaries constructed by religion in the United States. Even if we avoid the short-term political limits appropriate to clown show politicians like George W or Donald Trump, our world-class scientific institutions and universities have to confront both federal and state limits put in place by legislators in mortal fear of know-nothing voters. Every day, every month, every year.

Dolly’s clone sisters have aged like any other sheep, OK?

Click to enlargePress Association

The four clones from the same cell line as Dolly the Sheep

Dolly the Sheep started her life in a test tube in 1996 and died just six years later. When she was only a year old, there was evidence that she might have been physically older. At five, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. And at six, a CT scan revealed tumors growing in her lungs, likely the result of an incurable infectious disease. Rather than let Dolly suffer, the vets put her to rest.

Poor Dolly never stood a chance. Or did she?

Meet Daisy, Diana, Debbie and Denise. “They’re old ladies. They’re very healthy for their age,” said Kevin Sinclair, a developmental biologist who, with his colleagues at the University of Nottingham in Britain, has answered a longstanding question about whether cloned animals like Dolly age prematurely.

In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, the scientists tested these four sheep, created from the same cell line as Dolly, and nine other cloned sheep, finding that, contrary to popular belief, cloned animals appear to age normally…

Dolly’s birth, 20 years ago this month, blew the world away. Scientists had taken a single adult cell from a sheep’s udder, implanted it into an egg cell that had been stripped of its own DNA, and successfully created a living, breathing animal almost genetically identical to its donor.

Now, based on results of this new study, researchers have confirmed what most scientists believed years ago: Cloning does not lead to premature aging.

Many scientists hope that changes in perception will lead to advances in reproductive technology that will enable us to provide food for a growing global population, save endangered species and develop advanced therapies…Even then, welfare and ethical concerns will remain.

Some of those concerns are legitimate and should be the focus of scientific study. Most are crap grounded thoroughly in ignorance and fear.

In my reading, most of the self-titled scientific ethicists have little to do with science or ethics. They are religious moralists at root and dedicated to raising so-called concerns rooted in superstititon and retribution from their g_d.

Meanwhile, virtually all the laws governing clone research persist – even though they are about as legit as, say, laying on hands to raise the dead.