Global Quickies: 2013.04.02

Hey, Skepchick readers! It’s time once again to catch up on your news from around the world. With help of the links you guys sent our way, we’re hitting almost every continent today, which I guess is kind of depressing, since so many are bad news. But do keep them coming! You can send links through our contact form.

You know that clown on the Italian government? Not Berlusconi, the other clown, the one who actually used to make a living as a clown, Beppe Grillo (which is Italian for Jiminy Cricket, btw). Turns out, he’s as anti-science as they come. HIV denialist? Check. Anti-vaxxer? Check. Anti-GM foods? Check. Wired Magazine’s Italian edition took the time to gather some of his worst anti-science views:

  • AIDS is the worst scam of the century
  • Screening for cancer is dangerous
  • Vaccines are useless (he often quotes an alt-med blogger who also says vaccines turn kids gay and drinks his own urine)
  • GM tomatoes have killed 60 kids

This means that the Italian government has to be formed between a corrupt, misoginist clown, a deeply anti-science, misoginist clown, and that other guy. Good luck, Italy.

Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo

So, the new pope is Argentinian. What does this mean for Argentina? For starters, there can be no gay Argentinians with an Argentinian pope, or so claim the assholes who beat up this guy for dancing and kissing his boyfriend. Then this city wants to be the first “pro-life city” in the country, prohibiting the morning after pill, legal abortions (abortion is not completely legal there), and giving money to women who don’t get abortions after rape. Most worryingly, President Cristina Kirchner, who had a terrible relationship with Archbishop Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and rejected meeting with him 14 times he requested an audience with her, is now eager to get him to agree to visit Argentina before the election later on this year. 93% of Argentinians have a positive view of Bergoglio now that he’s pope, so president Kirchner’s government will try to reach an agreement with the local religious authorities on the proposed changes on the civil code on issues of divorce and adoption by same-sex couples.

President Cristina Kirchner and the new Pope
President Cristina Kirchner and the new Pope

We all know the Chinese government likes to ban and regulate a lot of things, and some of those things are just plain weird. (Note: neither of these is new, but they both came to my attention this week, so I thought you guys might find them interesting.) Back in 2007, China banned Tibetan monks from reincarnating without express government permission. Why would they do such a thing? The answer is much more cunning than what you might think: this way they get to choose who can legally succeed the Dalai Lama, who is in his 70s and has said he won’t reincarnate in Tibet as long as it’s under Chinese rule. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a list of documents or the legal form needed to file for a reincarnation permit.

But this isn’t the only afterlife activity regulated by the Chinese government. Also banned: ghost marriages. According to folklore, a person who dies alone will be lonely in the afterlife and might even come back to take a relative for company. So, fixing up the dead is a thing in rural China. The family of the corpse bride usually gets a betrothal monetary gift and, in the case of mining towns where the male to female ratio is quite high, corpse brides can fetch a pretty high price, which has led to grave robbing and corpse plastic surgeries for sale in the black market.

Ghost marriage rituals
Ghost marriage rituals

This South American country has less than 11 million people (about 10,3 inhabitants per Km2,) and this, according to President Evo Morales, is a problem. A problem that can be solved, as Morales jokingly said, by banning condom use. Isn’t he a hoot?

The controversy caused by Evo Morales’s “joke” led to the vice president of the House of Representatives to say that he thinks there is an ongoing debate within the House, some local leaders and citizens, on the ban of condom sales, on relieving of responsibilities of families with multiple children, and raising taxes to “ladies who don’t have children”. No mention of STD’s, teen pregnancy, or the constitutional right of Bolivian women to choose on maternity issues.

Evo Morales
Evo Morales

INDIA (from Mary, Anna )
There have been a lot of stories of sexual violence coming out of India lately. The 23 year old medical student who died after she was gang-raped on a bus sparked the conversation worldwide and was given an International Women of Courage Award by the US State Department. But sexual violence is not the only type of violence women in India are subjected to. Read this horrifying account of what poor, uneducated women can go through during pregnancy. No wonder the ad agency working for Ford thought these ads with bound and gagged women were not a terrible idea (Ford had to apologize).
india pregnant

A man believing an internet doomsday prediction decided the only way to save his family was to channel the spirit of an Imam through his father by making him cry. After failing to make the man cry by beating him, he cut off his dad’s penis and then his own. He tried to make his brother-in-law do it too, but he was able to get away. Both men were taken to the hospital where doctors were able to reattach the genitals.

You can find a lot of weird religious stuff for sale on eBay, like a Doritos chip shaped like the Pope’s hat, a Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich, and William Shatner’s kidney stone, but I never imagined a church would be on that list. It turns out, the churches in Germany are losing followers so fast and church attendance is so low, they are having to put on sale hundreds of buildings. Between 1990 and 2010, the Evangelical church closed down 340 churches, and they estimate they might have to close down 1000 more in the next 20 years since they are losing between 120,000 and 150,000 followers per year. The Catholic church’s losing numbers are very similar, and they estimate that 700 churches will stop being used for mass in the next 10 years. The Evangelicals have even set up a website just for real estate sales, and yes, some are being sold on eBay. A magazine estimates that about 15,000 out of the 45,000 churches in Germany will soon not be needed.

The sold properties are being turned into restaurants, gyms, storage facilities, or being demolished. The sellers prefer dignified uses, like schools and theaters, but they’re okay with pretty much anything, as long you don’t turn them into mosques.
New indoor climbing facility

EGYPT (from Mary and Critical Dragon1177)
Egyptian TV satirist Bassem Youssef was arrested on Saturday and released on bail after being questioned for three hours. Youssef, who’s show gets 30 million viewers across the region and is known for criticizing clerics and president Morsi, has been sued many times, but it’s the first time the prosecutor general has ordered his arrest. This development is worrying since Morsi seems to be taking more authoritarian steps to silence critics. From inside the court Youssef sent (and later deleted) the following tweet : “Police officers and lawyers at the prosecutor-general’s office want to be photographed with me, maybe this is why they ordered my arrest?”.

Also in hot water is Dooa Eladl, an Egyptian woman who is now one of the best known political cartoonist. She’s using her skills to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood, the religious oppression of women, domestic violence, underage marriage, sexual harassment, and violence against women. As you might expect, fundamentalists have already accused her of blasphemy. Her case hasn’t been heard yet, but she says she’s not scared of fundamentalists and that she’ll continue poke fun at them.

And since we’re talking about Egypt, here is an article about a recent debate held in Cairo on atheism that you guys might find interesting.

A constitution for all Egyptians
A constitution for all Egyptians – Dooa Eladl

Featured image by Dooa Eladl


Born and raised in Mexico City, Daniela has finally decided to abdicate her post as an armchair skeptic and start doing some skeptical activism. She is currently living in Spain after having lived in the US, Brazil and Italy. You can also find her blogging in Spanish at

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  1. I must admit to being somewhat “relieved” when I find out some crank is an AIDS denier. Obviously it’s terrible, but I find that with friends who are of the “lighter” anti-science bent – e.g. anti-GMO, pro-organic, anti-nuclear… the sorts of things that often, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand with run-of-the-mill liberalism these days – pointing out that a given crank is an AIDS denier is usually horrifying enough that they’re willing to stop using them as a news source. If a friend tries to cite Mike Adams to me, for example, pointing out that he’s an AIDS denier has discredited in its entirety in some cases.

    1. Zhankfor,

      I guess that’s because like me, you hope it will make it less likely that other people will take them seriously?

  2. Sad to see Morales pushing something so stupid; he’s a pretty good guy otherwise. Also sad to see Kirchner being so utterly craven.

    (Oh, and, by the way, if something is going missing, you are ‘losing’ it; if you are releasing something, you are ‘loosing’ it.)

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