Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Ukraine Flu!!!

I just thought this was an odd bit of media scaremongering.

Wow. 189 dead and one million infected. That’s a mortality rate of 0.019% (as compared to the morality rate of normal flu: 0.1%.) Yeah, yeah, I know – mortality trails infection rates.

And just to clear things up:

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says tests on swine flu samples from Ukraine show no significant mutation of the virus.

WHO had sent an expert team to Ukraine last week after reports of an unusual flu outbreak.

AP: WHO says swine flu samples from Ukraine showed no significant mutation

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[Update: As Bourgeois_Rage points out, this seems to be a hoax letter sent to a newspaper.]


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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?

Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a gameshow where spiritual guides from the four faiths will seek to convert a group of non-believers.

The prize for converts will be a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion — Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists.

This just seems like a horrible setup for a gameshow. Theological debates just don’t make very good gameshows, nor do they fit into a 30-minute time slot. It would be interesting if the atheists could raise counterarguments, but based on the format (10 atheists) I doubt that could work.

There’s also something insulting about the idea that a handful of religious people could convert atheists so easily. It’s almost like they’re saying, “just give me 20 minutes to convince an atheist, and he’ll come out a believer”. Could you imagine the outrage if the format were reversed? If the setup was a gameshow where four atheists and agnostics tried to convince 10 religious people to give-up their faith?

But religious authorities in Muslim but secular Turkey are not amused by the twist on the popular reality game show format and the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the show.

I’m not surprised at all. Afterall, the show will be in Turkey — where 99% of the population is Muslim. I can’t imagine that Muslim religious authorities would like the idea of a Muslim cleric being put on an even playing field with Christians, Jews, or Buddhists. Even worse, it would expose a lot of the Turkish population to other religions’ arguments. That can’t be a good thing because maybe Muslims would convert to one of the other three religions, or maybe it would convince Muslims that their religion isn’t self-evidently more true than others, leading to a kind of religious liberalism and tolerance.

In fact, another article says that the program’s creators are aiming to educate people about other religions:

The programme’s makers say they want to promote religious belief while educating Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population about other faiths.

I can certainly see why religious leaders would be opposed to this kind of thing.

“We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God,” Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters.

“We don’t approve of anyone being an atheist. God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in. The important thing is to believe,” Soylu said.

Sounds like the chief executive is very liberal in her religious belief. I can’t say that I quite understand the idea that ‘belief’ is, in itself, a virtue. She seems to believe in a generic god and must think that most of what’s written in religious books is inaccurate.

There’s also something bizarre about the statement that “God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in” alongside the fact that a Buddhist in the the group of four. Buddhists don’t worship God; they’re agnostic about the existence of God. I guess that means that ‘belief in a religion is important, whether or not you believe in God’.

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A recent story from California has been showing up in the news – a couple hold a Bible Study in their home and the police told them they have to apply for a permit. Of course, the story blew up (especially) on conservative websites – as in – the California liberals are controlling whether or not Christians can meet in their own homes.

FOX news, May 28, 2009, “Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit”:

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

“On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county.” David Jones told FOX News.

“We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all,” Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited “unlawful use of land,” ordering them to either “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit,” the couple’s attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones’ thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it’s about more than a question of money.

“The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion,” Broyles told FOX News. “I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home.”

FOX news summary of the story? A few friends + thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a religious assembly in a home.

They actually picked up the story from 10News (which they reference above). 10News has a little more detail:

Every Tuesday night about 15 people drive to Jones’ Bonita home to eat dinner and discuss the Bible. They usually park on Jones’ property, he said, but sometimes that parking spills out into the cul-de-sac.

Last month, someone filed a complaint about the number of cars. (Source)

So, it’s not “a few friends” which sounds like two or three people, but 15 people – which lead to parking problems and a neighbor calling the police. So, here are the things not mentioned in the FOX news story: the actual number of visitors, parking problems, and a neighbor calling the police to file a complaint.

According to Snopes, the neighbor’s complaint was triggered when one of the Bible-Study members dinged their car. (Although, the pastor ended up paying for the damage.)

On Friday, in a written statement, the county’s chief administrative officer Walt Eckard said, “The county has never tried to stifle religious express and never will. This is a land use issue; it is not an issue of religious expression.” (Source)

The Jones are continuing to claim that this is a “religious expression” issue, not a parking issue, or an attempt by police to placate a complaining neighbor. Admittedly, the news reports say that the police did ask whether or not the Jones were holding a religious assembly, but they say that this had to do with the type of permit needed.

And the latest news:

Jones said he does not believe the county is being truthful. He said they have been most interested in the religious practice and not parking issues since the beginning.

10News learned that the American Civil Liberties Union has come out in favor of Jones.

In a late-breaking development, Jones’ attorney Dean Broyles said he received a call from an assistant counsel for the county, who told him the county is withdrawing its citation. (Source)

I’m sure the right-wing media is very unhappy about the ACLU getting involved on behalf of the Christians. It totally blows their whole narrative about evil liberals/non-believers suppressing religious expression. The “Christian persecution at the hands of liberals” stories are great business for FOX and also helps polarize Christians. I’ve searched FOX news for any updates or clarifications on the situation, but haven’t found any.

FOX news video – which plays up the “freedom of religion” angle:

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FOX News Fearmongers

There’s a good article over at Salon about a fearmongering on FOX News. (Click here to read it.) It begins:

Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 gave rise to the American “militia movement”: hordes of overwhelmingly white, middle-aged men from suburban and rural areas who convinced themselves they were defending the American way of life from the “liberals” and “leftists” running the country by dressing up in military costumes on weekends, wobbling around together with guns, and play-acting the role of patriot-warriors…

I won’t bother getting too much into the article, since you can just go read it. It’s basically about FOX News fearmongering – now that Obama’s been in office for a month, I think they finally feel that they can start playing the ‘fear’ card without disparaging George Bush. They’re talking about the collapse of governments, a Mexican “narco state” (ruled by drug-dealers), Muslims overrunning Europe, Iran invading it’s neighbors, gangs and “motorcycle marauders” taking control of US cities, etc. Basically playing up the strong nationalism, strong military, the world around us is evil paranoia that drives conservatives.

At the bottom of his article is a couple of embedded videos from FOX News. Here’s a couple screen-captures. Take a look at this incredible display of fearmongering:

Tagline: “The Year 2014: Survival Skills Become Vital?”

Tagline: “If the US collapses, what nations will fill the vacuum?”

While he says these are all just “hypothetical” scenarios, he then says many people think these are “light scenarios” – that things could get far worse. Apparently, FOX News is trying to capture that highly desirable anti-government/pro-militia/end-is-near viewer. (Get your guns and run for the hills everyone!) Here’s a nice little bit of subliminal suggestion – watch the words appearing on the monitor on the right side of the screen:


Words: “Enemies Within”, “Civil Unrest”, “God” (Wait – “God”??? Maybe they’re just trying to play up their commitment to religion. Maybe they’re suggesting the apocalypse.)



Wow. Just wow. And keep in mind that everything being shown in the background was specifically chosen by someone. Someone was sitting at a computer, trying to figure out what graphics and words needed to appear in the background during this show. They thought, “Hmm, I think I’ll display ‘destruction’ on the screen, and have some police running in the background. And on the other screen will be Muslims burning an American flag.” All so calculated to inspire fear.

These guys have credibility? It’s amazing to think how high FOX’ ratings numbers are.

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I’ve been seeing this story around on some blogs lately:

While I agree with the right of atheists to have their freedom of speech, and that Christians shouldn’t get a monopoly over government buildings, I actually disagree with doing this. The main problem is: what’s the point in putting up the sign, other than to exercise the right to do it and poke a finger in the eye of Christians? Similarly, I would also suggest that Muslims avoid putting up a sign next to the Christmas tree saying that Jesus wasn’t God, people who believe in the trinity are guilty of blasphemy that will be punished severely in the afterlife, that the Koran is the only uncorrupted divine message. Similarly, if Muslims create religious displays, Christians should avoid putting up signs calling Mohammed a pedophile, and telling them they’ll all burn in hell if they don’t convert. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And it’s not like this atheist sign is going to change anyone’s mind on the issue. It’ll just reinforce the feeling (as the radio ad said) that atheists need to “sit down and shut up”.

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I stumbled on this video today. The “reporter” clearly has an axe to grind, and it’s not so much an interview as a series of accusations. Not much to say about it because her attacks say it all. (Not surprisingly, quite a few republicans are describing her attack as “asking the tough questions”.) Skip to 2:15 if you want to jump right into the crazy. [UPDATE: The Video has been removed from YouTube. Watch it on the WFTV website.]

(Side note: why does that woman have no whites in her eyes? Hmm, maybe she’s a minion of this guy.)

Other websites are talking about Palin “going rogue” – essentially bucking the McCain campaign and looking out for herself. (I bet we see her trying to be president in 2012.)

[Update: Now CNN has an article about Palin “going rogue”: “With 10 days until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense, they are spilling out in public, sources say. Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin “going rogue.” … “She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.”]

With polls strongly favoring Obama, and the electoral college map showing that Obama has 95% of the electoral votes he needs to win using just the states where he has double-digit leads, it seems that the Republicans see the end approaching and are just getting more and more shrill. Just this week, I got a flier in the mail about Obama’s connections to terrorists. (I guess Obama is the anti-Christ wasn’t converting enough voters.)

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(Militant Atheists shown below.)

Apparently, in game testing, some people had an issue with the game ‘Spore’ because it includes religion. I think as games mirror the real-world more and more, it’s impossible to avoid taking-sides or editorializing. Even the game ‘Civilization’ included religion. The problem is that you can’t give religion a role without implicitly taking sides on the issue. Some people think religion is like a virus, others see it as false but useful for civilization, and others see their religion as the one true way – humanity’s lifeline to God. You can’t really put all three roles into a game and please everyone. Will Wright comments on the complaints:

Eurogamer: You describe yourself as an atheist; take the so-called militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who see faith uniformly as a bad, negative and dangerous thing. Do you see it more benignly, even if you don’t necessarily believe?

Will Wright: Oh, I definitely see it more benignly. I see a lot of benefit and danger in religion like anything[…] I think our bigger fear was that we didn’t want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players.

Most of the articles ended the quote right there (1, 2, 3, 4) – making atheists and ‘militant atheist’ virtually synonymous. But, he goes on:

And most of the atheists were very tolerant as well. I didn’t expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side. But so far I’ve had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists!

My only issue with Will Wright’s comment was his use of ‘militant atheist’. In any other context, the word ‘militant’ means violent, taking up weapons, and killing people. (In fact, the images above are from the first page of google images when you search on “militant”.) It’s silly to use that to describe atheists who are complaining. These guys didn’t show up at his house with AK-47s and technicals. But that doesn’t stop everyone from jumping on the theme: ‘Militant atheists’ up in arms over Spore’s sim-religion.

Now, “hardline atheist” I guess I’d be okay with that in the sense that it’s more accurate (though it has negative connotations), but at least it doesn’t erroneously hint at violence and killing.

Update: It seems that Spore doesn’t just include religion as a method of managing your civilization. In fact, it would seem odd to complain about that, and many other games have done the same thing. Rather, when you reach the Civilization phase of the game, you can choose a military, economic, or spiritual path. Choosing the spiritual path gives your people access to magical powers (Faith Heal, Black Rain, and Messianic Uprising). I guess atheists had a problem with some realism (simulating a planet’s evolution Intelligent Design over billions of years), coupled with unrealism (gaining magical powers based on religion).

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The Satanic Jews thought up an evil plot [the Holocaust] to be rid of the burden of disabled and handicapped, in twisted criminal ways. While they accuse the Nazis or others, so the Jews would seem persecuted, and try to benefit from international sympathy…

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If you read atheist’s blogs, you probably already know about John Freshwater. From wikipedia:

The local school board voted to dismiss Freshwater in June because “Freshwater preached his Christian beliefs about how the world began, discredited evolution and didn’t teach the required science curriculum, the board says. He was told to stop teaching creationism and intelligent design, but he continued to do so, an investigation found.” In addition, the school board released a report showing that Freshwater branded a Christian cross into one student’s arm and several teachers complained for eleven years about Freshwater’s incorrect teaching of evolution. Two of the parents’ of the children branded filed a lawsuit against Freshwater and the school district. He gave an extra-credit assignment for students to see the pro-intelligent design movie Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed, using Jonathan Wells’ discredited Icons of Evolution and work by convicted felon Kent Hovind. According to CNN, “The report also cites evidence that Mr. Freshwater told his students that ‘science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner’.”


The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White’s letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.

Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA meetings in violation of the district’s legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.

I’ve heard a few things lately that the right-wing/Christian media have focused specifically on one issue: keeping a Bible on his desk (which is not any kind of offense, and certainly not one that would get him fired). They continually harp on this one issue and ignore everything else – creating the perception that Freshwater was fired for one and only one thing: keeping a Bible on his desk. Obviously, this gets the Christian / conservative / pro-free-speech people riled up because it creates the illusion of a heavy-handed liberal establishment firing a guy for having a Bible on his desk – as if the “liberals” are out to ban religion, and having a Bible can get you fired from a job.

Here’s a video clip from Breitbart.tv titled “Hundreds Turn Out to Back Science Teacher Fired for Keeping Bible on His Desk”. See how long you have to watch the video before they even mention anything Freshwater did wrong (other than the allegation that he kept a Bible on his desk).

And now watch the ensuing hysteria:

We know it is almost criminal to carry a Bible and worse to have it in your desk at a public school–if you are a techer.This is the state of things in our nation,where christian science teachers are no longer welcomed at public schools nation wide,just because they believe in the Bible… We are in the days in which christianism is gonna be outlawed in the US,while paganism and atheism is embraced gladly by the masses that have hardened their hearts and hate and fight any mention of God anywhere in the country,especially in the public arena…May God help us!!!!!!!!!!! (Source)

It seems obvious this man is being persectuted because of his faith. I would go so far as to call it a witchhunt..being accused of burning a cross into a student’s arm as if he is some crazed zealot because it is well known that he is Christian. To fire a man with over his faith would be UNHEARD of…

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