We have lots of catching up to do! I spent my Christmas break drinking margaritas and making up for my lack of vitamin T intake the rest of the year, so I couldn’t get to these earlier. To make up for it, this time I’ve doubled the amount of quickies (don’t worry, I’ve kept them short so you don’t spend three days reading this post).
It’s bus full of science! A new project has just launched in Chile, where a mobile lab goes to schools in rural and impoverished communities to get kids excited about science. The experiments are tailored to complement the school curriculum of each grade, and done with cheap and recycled materials, so the experiments can be done through out the school year. The Bus ConCiencia project also includes summer workshops for teachers, and “Science at the Movies” lectures for the community.
MALAYSIA (via Robert)
The Malaysian Education Ministry denied endorsing guidelines to help parents identify gay and lesbian “symptoms” in school kids. The guidelines were instead presented by “concerned NGOs” in a seminar attended by the Deputy Minister of Education. The guidelines include very helpful hints to spot LGBT kids, such as these to identify lesbian girls: attracted to women, enjoying the company of women, and no affection for men. BTW, sodomy is still illegal in Malaysia.
KUWAIT (via Critical Dragon1177)
Egyptian atheist Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz (Ben Baz) has been arrested for blasphemy in Kuwait, where he was working and blogging about secularism and atheism. According to Kuwait’s blasphemy law (amended just last year), Muslims who “insult Almighty God, prophets and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife Aisha and those who commit grave religious crimes” can be executed if found guilty, unless they repent in front of a judge, in which case they get a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. Non-Muslims get a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. You can help/learn more on these links: Change.org petition, Facebook group, and Micheal Nugent’s blog.
A 47 year old man has been arrested for sexually abusing two women. The man was their “emotional intelligence” teacher, and the incident happened when he had the two women meet him apart from the rest of the class to “find their chakras” and “release tension”. The women decided to press charges when they realized the chakra searching session with their male friends hadn’t been quite so thorough.
The president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, announced his intention of building a hospital to treat people with HIV/AIDS with a herbal remedy he invented in 2007. In this hospital, “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor President” plans to “treat” 10.000 people every six months, with the patients having to stop taking anti-retroviral drugs. The WHO has said that this proposal is alarming. Around 2% of the Gambian population is HIV positive, which is relatively low for the region.
TURKEY (via Critical Dragon1177)
I’ve talked before about some scary things the conservative government of Turkey has been up to lately. And remember that time they fined a TV station for showing a Simpson’s episode where the make a joke about God? They are not done trampling over secularism: the Scientific and Technical Research Council has stopped the publication and sale of books on evolution.
A bill that would have allowed Colombian kids to opt out of the obligatory “Religion and morality class” failed to pass in the House of Representatives last month. Since 2006, schools are supposed to offer an alternative class for students who do not want to take religion class, but no school in the country has made those classes available.
The Italian skeptical organization CICAP has been doing an outstanding job of promoting critical thinking for 24 years. They regularly appear on TV, do workshops, conferences, publish a magazine, last year they broadcasted a talk with James Randi to movie theaters all over Italy. But the harsh economic situation might mean they won’t make it to their 25 year anniversary. So, if you are in Italy (or just for your love of pizza), consider becoming a member or donating. Check out all the ways you can help here. And since we’re talking about Italy, check out the trailer to Massimo Polidoro‘s TV series, Big Bang! A Journey to Mysteries.
The Dutch parliament has voted in favor of abandoning the blasphemy law that had been introduced in the 1930s. The debate reopened in 2011 when a conservative politician criticized Islam and the courts determined that, douchey as he may be, he had the right to insult whoever he wanted. Except for the police and Queen Beatrix, it’s still illegal to insult them.