Author Archive | majestic

Atheists Unveil Anti-Christmas TV Specials

“Yes, Virginia, there is a ‘War on Christmas’,” declares the Washington Times, reporting on AtheistTV‘s holiday lineup:

Conservatives have been mocked for insisting there’s an ongoing war on Christmas, but now it looks like they may have simply been ahead of their time.

American Atheists unveiled Wednesday the “War on Christmas” line-up on its television channel, AtheistTV, featuring “original programs proclaiming the truth about Christmas on December 24 and December 25, featuring scholars and celebrities from the atheist community.”

Atheist TV

“Christmas is hard for many atheists, so we will provide programming free from superstition and fairy tales that allows families to watch together and not worry about being preached at,” American Atheists President Dave Silverman said in a statement.

Conservatives like Fox News talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have long warned of a “War on Christmas,” citing moves by retailers, public schools and local governments to remove references to Christmas from displays and celebrations.

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The Truth About Krampus


We know there’s more than a few Krampus fans in the disinfoverse, so no doubt you’ll enjoy reading “the truth” about the German Alt-Santa courtesy of Al Ridenour at Atlas Obscura:

Thanks to the internet, popular American understanding of European Christmas traditions has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decades. There’s also confusion too, some of it swirling around that wily old devil, Krampus.

Accompanying St. Nicholas on his gift-giving rounds to direct a little switch-swinging intimidation toward the naughtier kids, the Krampus has become the most well-known of other Central European characters playing a similar role. Originally appearing under that name in Austria and Southern Germany, his distinctive devilish appearance is not easily confused with Northern Germany’s hooded Knecht Ruprecht or Holland’s “Moorish” Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”).

It was in 2004, that collector Monte Beauchamp launched a series of books that did much to familiarize Americans with Krampus via reprinted collection of turn-of-the-century Krampus postcards.

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The CIA Experimented on Human Beings

Camp x-ray detainees.jpg

“Reframing the CIA’s interrogation techniques as a violation of scientific and medical ethics may be the best way to achieve accountability,” writes Lisa Hajjar at The Nation:

Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

In its response to the Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: “We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.” Mitchell and Jessen’s qualifications did not include interrogation experience, specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic knowledge.

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EU Rules Obesity Can Count As Disability

Just when you thought that the obese were the last large class of people left unprotected by discrimination laws, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that if the obesity of a worker “hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”, then obesity can fall within the concept of “disability.” From BBC News:

Obesity can constitute a disability in certain circumstances, the EU’s highest court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice was asked to consider the case of a male childminder in Denmark who says he was sacked for being too fat.

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Photo Fj.toloza992 (CC)

The court said that if obesity could hinder “full and effective participation” at work then it could count as a disability.

The ruling is binding across the EU…

Clive Coleman, the BBC’s legal correspondent, comments:

Today’s ruling was of great interest to employers across Europe. The judgement makes no direct link between Body Mass Index and obesity, but is a powerful statement that an obese worker whose weight hinders their performance at work is entitled to disability protection.

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Changing Our DNA through Mind Control?

Marguerite Agniel in a Buddha position with her legs crossed Wellcome V0048585.jpg

Marguerite Agniel, photo from Wellcome Library (CC)

A study finds meditating cancer patients are able to affect the makeup of their DNA, reports Scientific American:

“I think, therefore I am” is perhaps the most familiar one-liner in western philosophy. Even if the stoners, philosophers and quantum mechanically-inclined skeptics who believe we’re living an illusion are right, few existential quips hit with such profound, approachable simplicity.  The only catch is that in Descartes’ opinion, “we” – our thoughts, our personalities, our “minds” – are mostly divorced from our bodies.

The polymathic Frenchman and other dualist philosophers proposed that while the mind exerts control over our physical interaction with the world, there is a clear delineation between body and mind; that our material forms are simply temporary housing for our immaterial souls. But centuries of science argue against a corporeal crash pad. The body and mind appear inextricably linked. And findings from a new study published in Cancer by a Canadian group suggest that our mental state has measurable physical influence on us – more specifically on our DNA.

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American Wealth Gap Climbs To New Record

Income inequality in the United States continues to surge, with the wealth of upper-income households rising to nearly seven times that of middle-class ones, reports the Los Angeles Times:

The wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households has widened to the highest level on record, says a new report.

Using the latest Federal Reserve data, the Pew Research Center said Wednesday that the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year — up 7% from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis.

For middle-income families, the median wealth — that is, assets minus debts — stood at $96,500 last year, unchanged from 2010.

The result is that the typical wealth of the nation’s upper-income households last year was nearly seven times that of middle-class ones. By Pew’s calculations, that is the biggest gap in the 30 years that the Fed has been collecting statistics from its Survey of Consumer Finances.

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North Korea, Sony, and America’s First Losing Cyberwar

The Interview 2014 poster.jpg

I’ve been hooked on the various salacious disclosures from the hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Reading what studio executives really think of their star actors and producers is better than TMZ can make up, and the true financial performance of various movies would never, ever be disclosed outside the C-suite if not for the Pastebin uploads. The real-life plot starring North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, his supposed superhackers, Seth Rogen and the heads of Sony also reads like a sequel to The Orphan Master’s Son. But is it too good to be true? Wired pours some cold water on the fire:

Today Sony canceled the premiere of “The Interview” and its entire Christmas-Day release of the movie because of fears that terrorists might attack theaters showing the film.

The actions show just how much power the attackers behind the Sony hack have amassed in a short time. But who exactly are they?

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New York Bans Fracking

Andrew Cuomo by Pat Arnow croppedWhat is this, good news day? Just a dream? Governor Andrew Cuomo follows President Obama’s decision to open up to Cuba with a ban on fracking in New York State, reports the New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the controversial method of natural gas extraction.

State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health.

That conclusion was delivered during a year-end cabinet meeting convened by Mr. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The question of whether to allow fracking has been one of the most divisive public policy debates in New York in years, pitting environmentalists against others who saw it as a critical way to bring jobs to economically stagnant portions of upstate.

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United States Ends Decades of Hostility to Cuba

You have to hand it to President Barack Obama, he’s not buying into the lame-duck presidency forecast for him in the wake of Republicans taking control of Congress. This time he’s re-opening diplomatic ties with Cuba. CNN reports on the breaking news:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation, an historic shift he called the end of an “outdated approach” to U.S.-Cuban relations.

Obama said he’s instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, and that the U.S. will re-open an embassy in Havana. The administration will also allow some travel and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.

“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” Obama said.

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