Abu Hamza trial: Injured hostage gives evidence

The trial of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has heard evidence from a woman who was among 16 westerners taken hostage in Yemen in 1998.

Margaret Thompson told the court in New York that she was used as a human shield during an attempt by the Yemeni army to rescue those kidnapped.

Ms Thompson was shot and three British tourists and an Australian died in the December 1998 attack.

Abu Hamza is accused of assisting the kidnappers, but he denies all charges.

US prosecutors allege that the Muslim cleric provided a satellite phone and £500 worth of call time to help the kidnappers.

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The Phobia of Being Called Islamophobic

By: Ali A. Rizvi  Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician

As of this writing, the National September 11 Memorial Museum still hasn't caved in. But the pressure is building, and it feels very familiar.

The problem is a seven-minute film being shown at the soon-to-open museum calledThe Rise of Al Qaeda. Narrated by NBC's Brian Williams, it uses words like "Islamist," "Islamic," and "jihad" in reference to the 9/11 hijackers and their motives.

Some Muslim groups, and others like the Interfaith Center of New York, want the film edited to remove those terms. They don't want the public to think that Islamism or jihad had anything to do with Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, because that could foster "Islamophobia." We've so been down this road before.

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Beverly Hills Hotel’s Sultan of Brunei Imposing Drastic Rules

The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) announced it is pulling its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, from the Beverly Hills Hotel because the hotel’s owner, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is imposing a Taliban-like Brunei penal code, set to go into effect in three stages beginning on May 1, that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions.

Instead of holding its annual event at the hotel on May 5, FMF has joined with gay and lesbian groups in protesting this gross violation of human rights and will hold a rally at noon on May 5 across from the hotel, in the park on Sunset Boulevard, urging the Sultan to rescind the new penal code which has been condemned by human rights groups and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. FMF will hold the Global Awards event on the evening of May 5 at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, Los Angeles.

“We cannot hold a human rights and women’s rights event at a hotel whose owner would institute a penal code that fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal.

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Supreme Court Disaster: In a 5-4 Ruling, Justices Approve of Christian Prayers in Greece, New York

The conservatives on the court, along with Justice Anthony Kennedy voted to keep the prayers while the reliably liberal justices offered a dissent.

One silver lining in all of this is that the conservatives did not say that this means Christian prayers are okay everywhere. Their ruling appears to be limited in scope only to the town of Greece:

The conservative majority offered varying interpretations of when such “ceremonial” prayers would be permissible. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the Greece case and did not offer a broad expansion of legislative prayer.

It’s still early and organizations involved with the case will be chiming in soon, but here are some key excerpts from the decision.

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Religion declines in well-run, trusting societies

John Lennon was a dreamer. But he was not the only one.

In his famous song, Imagine, Lennon was not alone in being convinced institutional religions – and nations – are the key causes of war and impediments to universal peace.

But was Lennon’s refrain accurate? Evolutionary psychologists, including at the University of B.C., have probed just these questions through innovative experiments with subjects from Canada to Africa, Europe to South Asia.

They are concluding Lennon may have been half right – that humans can build fair and peaceful societies in which there is “no religion,” or at least in which spirituality shifts to a more private realm.

But UBC’s Ara Norenzayan and a team of researchers are finding the path to peace and cooperation definitely does not lie in imagining “there’s no countries.” Instead, they place high value on stable national governments that citizens can actually trust.

In his new book, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict (Princeton University Press), Norenzayan describes how Western Europe and Scandinavia have created strong and fair societies – in which the vast majority are not actively involved in religion.

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Man In Bloody Jesus Crucifixion Display Ordered Down By Florida Police, Citing Threat To Public Safety

Drivers passing a busy intersection in Lehigh Acres, Fla., were surprised to see a gruesome Good Friday crucifixion display on public property, featuring a live Jesus with bloody wounds, reports Fox News 4.

"When Jesus was crucified, he was done so right on edge of down where everyone would come by," explained an organizer of the display, which featured Lathan Gareiss as Jesus, according to Wink News.

Not everyone wanted to see the bloody exhibition. Deputies arrived on the scene afterreceiving complaints about the realistic tableau, which caused traffic and "near accidents," according to one of the organizers.

video: http://videos.rawstory.com/video/Florida-cops-order-bloody-Jesus-

A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff's office told Fox 4 that "the display was creating a public safety hazard because of traffic danger." Deputies for the sheriff ordered the man playing Jesus to come down off the cross, a decision which angered some supporters.

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A Sikh don’t give up his ceremonial dagger to join jury in California courtroom

'I'd rather be arrested than compromise my beliefs': Sikh called for jury service refuses to take off ceremonial dagger to comply with courtroom rules on weapons

 

A Sikh says he is being prevented from carrying out jury service because a California court has refused to allow him to carry a 6in dagger. 

Gursant Singh is due to appear for jury duty on April 29 but because Sutter County Court bans weapons he will not be allowed to bring his 'kirpan' - a small knife that Sikhs must carry at all times. 

The rule means Singh must choose between going against his religion or breaking the law, which could lead to him being fined or imprisoned.

In previous cases when Sikhs have attended the court house, they have left their kirpan with security guards, but Singh said he would rather be arrested than compromise his beliefs. 

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Atheists win prayer battle against California city council

Atheists who complained about pre-meeting prayers conducted by members of the Pismo Beach City Council in California can now claim a win.

Council members say they’re going to stop saying prayers at public meetings and that the volunteer chaplain will no longer be invited to give the opening invocations, The Blaze reported. They’ve also agreed to pay a symbolic settlement of $1 to each of the the two plaintiffs — and another $47,500 to cover the two plaintiffs’ legal fees.

The council members announced their decision on the heels of complaints filed by the out-of-state Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is headquartered in Wisconsin, and by the more local Atheists United San Luis Obispo. Their allegations: Both prayer and chaplain — who was an unpaid volunteer — violate the California Constitution and the state’s civil rights laws, The Blaze reported.

So now the Rev. Paul Jones has been given the boot, along with the prayer practice.

“We’re getting everything we asked for,” said Atheists United board member David Leidner to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “I think what it means first and foremost is we have a government that is welcoming to all of its citizens. And it also means that we have protected the separation between church and state in our county.”

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OR couple whose daughter died untreated wants faith-healing beliefs kept from jury

Attorneys for an Oregon couple accused of allowing their daughter to die of untreated diabetes complications don’t want jurors to hear about their faith-healing beliefs at trial.

Defense attorneys argue that evidence regarding the religious beliefs and practices of Travis and Wenona Rossiter would be prejudicial, reported the Albany Democrat-Herald.

The Rossiters, who are from Albany, are members of the fundamentalist Church of the First Born, which teaches that medical treatment is sinful and instructs followers to trust in God to heal them through faith.

Since 1976, at least 82 children linked to the church have died from lack of medical treatment, according to Children’s Health Care Is A Legal Duty.

Prosecutors plan to show 12-year-old Syble Rossiter was deprived of life-saving medical care by her parents, who instead relied on faith-healing rites.

“They knew she was in great peril,” said Prosecutor Keith Stein. “They didn’t seek out medical care, and the reason they didn’t do it was their religious beliefs. This is what the case is about, and in truth, this is what happened.”

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Religion cuts trust in science - survey

Scientists in the US are shaking their heads following the release of a survey showing half the population there don't believe in the Big Bang.

The AP-GfK survey also shows 40 percent of US adults don't believe in man-made climate change, 15 percent don't think vaccines work and 8 percent deny the existence of the human genome.

"Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts," 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California told the Associated Press.

Forty percent also expressed doubt about the age of the Earth and evolution and the survey shows confidence in the existence of evolution, the Big Bang and climate change closely corresponds with faith in religion.

"When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can't argue against faith," says 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University.

"It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable."

More Democrats believe the scientific view of the world than Republicans.

Prof Lefkowitz said the lack of belief in scientific realities is the result of "concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact" from political, religious and business groups.

Source: 3 News

Archbishop Slings Bigotry at Atheists

In a recent radio interview, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila compared Colorado's "godlessness" to Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia and said it portends a government that will "eventually fall."

Citing the growing number of atheists and agnostics here, Aquila also said godlessness in Colorado engenders a "lack of respect for the goodness of the human person."

Soon after making this bigoted comment against atheists like me, Aquila became the face of opposition to a bill, killed last week, that would have barred state and local governments from interfering with reproductive healthcare decisions.

An April 15 rally, led by Aquila, galvanized opposition to the bill and got saturation local media coverage.

Reporters cited a letter, signed by Aquila, which called on Catholics to "pray for the conversion of the heart and mind of those who support such irrational, unscientific, and a denial of conscience legislation."

Fair enough. His opinion. But if Aquila is going to jump up and down about science, journalists should cover Aquila's unscientific views, including his anger at the media for failing to cover Satan, who is "real."

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