True North Humanist Perspective June 7 2013

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Canada's wall between Church and State

Henry Morgentaler's other legacy

Has Canada entered the European-style, spiritual cool zone, where

religion's voice is just one among many?

By Michael Valpy
CBC News
Photo: Henry Morgentaler has his Order of Canada pinned on his chest by Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2008.
3 June 2013 — Moral issues do not go away. Supreme Court decisions and acts of Parliament aside, Canadians will continue debating the morality of abortion for as long as there are Canadians. Consensus is not possible.
Yet cemented in the legacy of Dr. Henry Morgentaler's life and mission lies one unequivocal victory: Along the path of his campaign to legalize abortion and give women the right to decide what happens to their bodies, the door was firmly shut on institutional religion's engagement in the public life of the nation.
Religion's voice became, no longer the thundering agency of What Must Be Done, but a sentiment relegated to the sidelines of mainstream Canadian culture. (More.)
Me? I'm anti-abortion but pro-choice. Writer Mary J. Gordon reflects on the choices she made during her pregnancies, and how they changed her thinking.
By Mary Gordon
Special to the Toronto Star
Photo detail of Mary Gordon07 June 2013 — Doctor Henry Morgentaler died last week. Canada’s media buzzed with extremes from anti-abortion and pro-choice mouthpieces. While I’m sure his family and friends mourned the loss of a multi-faceted man, the rest of us saw only the public face of the man, and either grieved or celebrated the death of our symbol for the debate on abortion and women’s rights.
Me? I’m anti-abortion, but pro-choice. Pro-life but anti-legislation. It’s always been hard for me to settle on just one label. But before you go all how-dare-you righteous on me, just listen to my credentials: I’ve had three abortions. That means I’m qualified to speak on the subject. Only two were therapeutic, but still . . . three abortions. I’m definitely anti-abortion now — I’ll never have another one, and probably wouldn’t even if I could. Maybe my story explains why. (More)

Student expelled from ultra-Orthodox school for loss of faith

21-year-old asked to stop discussing spirituality with fellow students, meet with school psychologist after classmate reported on her religious doubts

The Times of Israel

04 June 2013 JERUSALEM Israel — A student reportedly was expelled from an ultra-Orthodox nursing school in central Israel for doubting her faith.

The student at the Tessler School of Nursing at Laniado Hospital in Netanya, which is affiliated with the Sanz Hasidic movement, expelled Chavi Loyfer, 21, Ynet reported.

Loyfer has transferred to the Shaare Zedek School of Nursing in Jerusalem. She told Ynet that she was considering suing the Tessler School over its handling of the situation.

Loyfer said she was haredi when she entered the school and signed a modesty code. In recent months, however, she began to abandon the haredi lifestyle, though she continued to obey the rules of the school. (More)


As sectarian conflict deepens in Syria

By Mona Mahmood, and Martin Chulov
04 June 2013 BEIRUT Lebanon — Not long after a friend called from Damascus to tell him one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam had been damaged by Syrian rebels, Baghdad student Ammar Sadiq was on the move.

Raging with a desire for vengeance, the 21-year-old set off for the border, a six-hour drive through Iraq's western deserts. He was one more jihadist on a road to war, a well-trodden path through lands that not long ago were used by jihadists coming the other way. When he got to Syria, however, he did not plan to join the Sunni insurgents now blazing through the north, but the equally vehement Shia groups defending the capital.

"It was like a thunderbolt hit me," said Sadiq. "My friend was telling me that wahhabis from Saudi and Afghanis were trying to destroy the [Shia] shrine of Sayyida Zeinab. I did not wait even to tell my parents. All I was thinking of is to go to Syria and protect the shrine, though I have not used a weapon in my life." (More)


President Obama promises to terminate endless war

meanwhile he practices endless war by other means

What Obama's speech means for the Antiwar Movement

By Ken Butigan
This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

30 May 2013 — A presidential war speech often doubles as a gauge of the antiwar movement’s weakness or strength. This was borne out again last week when President Obama delivered what the administration billed as a major address on the wars over which he is presiding. In his May 23 presentation at the National Defense University, the president proclaimed a fundamental shift in the wars since 9/11. In reality, it was a carefully nuanced message that said as much about the growing opposition to two aspects of his wars — drones and the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay — as the prospect of an eventual end to “endless war.”

For years the Obama administration did not see fit to comment publicly on the growing drone fleet and its targeted killing program, which independent research demonstrates has led to thousands of deaths. But the anti-drones movement has grown over the past year, with more nonviolent action, civil disobedience, networking, and even a 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul. This growing awareness and opposition has increasingly compelled the United States government to shed some light on this policy and to begin a public relations campaign to win hearts and minds for the emerging drones culture. (More)



How the turtles got their shells

Process began more than 260 million years ago

By Staff Writers

04 June 2013 LONDON England — Through careful study of an ancient ancestor of modern turtles, researchers now have a clearer picture of how the turtles' most unusual shell came to be. The findings, reported on May 30 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, help to fill a 30 to 55-million-year gap in the turtle fossil record through study of an extinct South African reptile known as Eunotosaurus.

"The turtle shell is a complex structure whose initial transformations started over 260 million years ago in the Permian period," says Tyler Lyson of Yale University and the Smithsonian. "Like other complex structures, the shell evolved over millions of years and was gradually modified into its present-day shape." (More)

'Hula painted frog' hops back from million-year extinction

Rediscovered species, long considered wiped out, dates back to prehistoric times

By Aaron Kalman
The Times of Israel

04 June 4 2013 — A frog species native to Israel’s north which was declared extinct has been rediscovered and dubbed a “living fossil” — not only of its own species but of an entire genetic group, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University announced Tuesday.

Discovered in the Hula Valley in the 1940s, the “Hula painted frog” was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1996.

The frog — individuals of which were found in the Hula swamp area two years ago — turned out “to be a unique ‘living fossil,’ without close relatives among other living frogs,” the university said in a statement. (More)


Noam Chomsky: Ronald Reagan's secret, Genocidal Wars

Reagan waged a murderous assault on Central America

06 June 2013 — On Mother’s Day, May 12, The Boston Globe featured a photo of a young woman with her toddler son sleeping in her arms.

The woman, of Mayan Indian heritage, had crossed the U.S. border seven times while pregnant, only to be caught and shipped back across the border on six of those attempts. She braved many miles, enduring blisteringly hot days and freezing nights, with no water or shelter, amid roaming gunmen. The last time she crossed, seven months pregnant, she was rescued by immigration solidarity activists who helped her to find her way to Boston.

Most of the border crossers are from Central America. Many say they would rather be home, if the possibility of decent survival hadn’t been destroyed. Mayans such as this young mother are still fleeing from the wreckage of the genocidal assault on the indigenous population of the Guatemalan highlands 30 years ago. (More)

Book Review

Of atheists and apes:

The origins of religion in animal instincts

Frans De Waal's new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of

Humanism Among the Primates hits some hot button issues

By Beatrice Marovich
Cover: The Bonobo and the Atheist31 May 2013 — For centuries, a dominant majority of western philosophers and intellectuals have asserted that humans are the “rational animal.” Our ability to reason, so the logic goes, is the one thing separating us from the plethora of other animals on the planet. Instinct, passion, and emotion, traditionally assigned to the animal side of life, often meant that being “good” — being the sort of human who behaves morally — required a removal of the animal or “beastly” nature that resides somewhere deep within our fleshy bodies.
In recent decades, however, this fragile logic has been falling apart. It’s become increasingly clear that while our digital technologies behave quite rationally, they are often deeply cruel. And on the other side of the ledger, the accumulation of data on animal behavior makes it more and more difficult to support the claim that “goodness” is something that only humans exhibit.
Primatologists, who study our evolutionary kin, have been in the vanguard of researchers and thinkers to upset the territorial boundaries that demarcate a spotlessly pure sort of human life. Jane Goodall’s fieldwork in chimpanzee communities allowed her to witness things like a young male chimp doing a rhythmic dance in front of a waterfall. It appeared, to Goodall, reverent and seemingly purposeless. She’s speculated that this might be evidence of something like ritualistic religion in the lives of other primates. (More.)