Prox B or Bust
August 25, 2016
The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Astronomers discover an Earth-like planet orbiting within the "Goldilocks zone" of the star closest to our own, Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years away. It's a huge, huge deal. "The planet’s proximity to Earth gives hope that robotic probes could someday be zooming past the planet for a close-up look," writes Kenneth Chang at NYT. The planet is for now designated "Proxima Centauri b" or "Proxima b" and I'm seeing it shorthanded sometimes as "Prox b," which begins to sound like a California ballot measure.
Two items from the State Department, maybe related, maybe not. First, John Kerry is going to Bangladesh next week to discuss "development, security and human rights" with government officials.
And boy do we like this: David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, writes a blog post declaring that the time is now to abolish all blasphemy laws. "The task is daunting, but worthwhile because the repeal of blasphemy laws will ultimately, bring about a more free and prosperous world." Damn right.
(As a side note, the State Department's blog is called "DipNote," which I feel fairly certain is the worst name for a blog ever. "DipNote"? Come on, y'all.)
Scott Shane at NYT has a big piece on the problem of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom that both fuels and fights Islamist terrorism:
In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists. Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants.
Now French police are confronting and, I dare say, humiliating Muslim women on beaches because of the new "burkini" ban. More and more folks are saying it's going way overboard, and Justin "Canadian Tuxedo" Trudeau says nothing like the Burkini ban is coming to Canada.
Speaking of Canadians, 79% of them believe there are probably aliens out there in the universe, which is a totally reasonable thing to think. But about half think aliens have already been here, and nearly half think there are people who actually have psychic powers. And there are a lot more wacky things almost-half of Canada seems to believe.
In Turkey, secularists and academics are trying not to get swept up in Ergodan's post-coup-attempt dragnet.
A Baptist children's charity in Oklahoma, the Murrow Indian Children’s Home, refuses donations from atheists.
Quote of the Day
National treasure Rush Limbaugh is under the impression that there is a major effort underway by the Obama administration to recruit scads of lesbians to become farmers. Mary Emily O'Hara at The Daily Dot writes:
This sounds terribly exciting to me.
The Daily Dot was not able to find the sign-up sheet for lesbian farm money, but we plan to keep looking—and as soon as Obama gives the orders, we plan to retire to the blue hills of Kentucky with our lesbian hay-baling militia in tow.
"They’re going after every geographic region that is known to be largely conservative," Limbaugh warned. "They never stop, folks. They are constantly on the march."
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