What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

Hey America, read this:

middle-east.jpgMost in the United States don’t know much about the Middle East or the people that live there. This lack of knowledge hurts our ability to understand world events and, consequently, our ability to hold intelligent opinions about those events.

For example, frighteningly few know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and most think the words “Arab” and “Muslim” are pretty much interchangeable. They aren’t. So here’s a very brief primer aimed at raising the level of knowledge about the region to an absolute minimum.

It’s a pretty decent run-down of the major high points, the basic stuff most of us should know – especially considering how involved our country is in the region, and how involved all of us should be in the political process. I don’t know about the “Roman Catholics are to Shia as Protestants are to Sunni” analogy, but otherwise, a quick primer that couldn’t hurt to be learned.

The Great Tantra Challenge

I’d really like to watch this:

 On 3 March 2008, in a popular TV show, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India’s most “powerful” tantrik black magician to demonstrate his powers on him. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. After all his chanting of mantra magic words and ceremonies of tantra failed, the tantrik decided to kill Sanal Edamaruku with the “ultimate destruction ceremony” on live TV. Sanal Edamaruku agreed and sat in the altar of the black magic ritual. India TV observed skyrocketing viewership rates.Everything started, when Uma Bharati former chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh accused her political opponents in a public statement of using tantrik powers to inflict damage upon her. In fact, within a few days, the unlucky lady had lost her favorite uncle, hit the door of her car against her head and found her legs covered with wounds and blisters.

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India TV, one of India’s major Hindi channels with national outreach, invited Sanal Edamaruku for a discussion on “Tantrik power versus Science”. Pandit Surinder Sharma, who claims to be the tantrik of top politicians and is well known from his TV shows, represented the other side. During the discussion, the tantrik showed a small human shape of wheat flour dough, laid a thread around it like a noose and tightened it. He claimed that he was able to kill any person he wanted within three minutes by using black magic. Sanal challenged him to try and kill him.

Looks hilarious!

Baptists fight climate change

Church to step up climate fight

Leaders of the influential Southern Baptist community in the US have declared their churches have a duty to stop climate change.In a statement, senior figures in the movement said evidence of man-made global warming was “substantial”. Southern Baptists are the largest protestant group in the country.

Anti-climate change republican politicians and conservative pundits, start your backpedaling … now!

Hooray for Texas education!

Veteran on state education board holds own against creation backer:

Veteran State Board of Education member Pat Hardy of Fort Worth was defeating a challenger in the GOP primary Tuesday night, holding off an effort by social conservatives to gain a working majority on the politically divided board.

Social conservatives threw their support behind Cleburne urologist Barney Maddox, known for his strong support of creation science and calls to revamp textbooks used in classrooms across Texas.

Take that, Barney! Take that, Cleburne!

Tom Cruise Scientology Indoctrination Video

Exclusive: The Cruise Indoctrination Video Scientology Tried To Suppress

“When youre a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know youre the only one who can really help… We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures.” Theres much much more. Let me put it this way: if Tom Cruise jumping on Oprahs couch was an 8 on the scale of scary, this is a 10.

I think I finally get it – most cults prey on a person’s insecurities. Scientology does the opposite – it recruits narcissists by pandering to their massive egos.

Another battle in the War on Christmas

It’s not looking good for Christmas. Soon Christmas might be just a memory, and Christians will be persecuted even more than they already are! Now the Muslims and Jews are teaming up:

A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying “Happy Hanukkah,” a spokeswoman for the three said Wednesday.

Fridays altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out “Merry Christmas,” to which rider Walter Adler responded, “Happy Hanukkah,” said Toba Hellerstein.

“Almost immediately, you see the look in this guys face like Ive called his mother something,” Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adlers companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, “Oh, Hanukkah. Thats the day that the Jews killed Jesus,” she said.

When Adler tried to intercede, a male member of the group punched him, she said.

Another passenger, Hassan Askari — a Muslim student from Bangladesh — came to Adlers aid, and the group began physically and verbally assaulting him, Hellerstein said.

“A Muslim-American saved us when our own people were on the train and didnt do anything,” Adler said.

Adler pulled the emergency brake and the train stopped at DeKalb Avenue station, where police came on board.

The 10 suspects, ages 19 to 20, were taken into custody, said Brooklyn district attorney spokesman Sandy Silverstein.

Science loses an advocate in Texas

This is not only idiotic, it’s infuriating:

After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer said she did not think she had to remain “neutral” about teaching the theory of evolution.

“It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law,” said Ms. Comer, citing the state’s science curriculum.

But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism — “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,” according to a dismissal letter last month that accused her of various instances of “misconduct and insubordination” and of siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of “intelligent design.”

I honestly can’t believe people are still having this so-called “debate.” On the one hand, you have a theory based on sound science. On the other, you have an unprovable philosophy based on reasoning and faith, having nothing to do with science. One of those belongs in a science classroom, and one doesn’t. No one should have to remain impartial about that.

Update: Appropriately scathing NYT editorial here.

Demonstrations over jailed UK teacher

You may have heard about the teacher from the UK jailed in Sudan for allowing her children to name a teddy bear Mohammad. 15 days in a Sudanese jail is already a disproportionately harsh response to something like this. Apparently not, according to protesters:

Some news agencies reported thousands of people took part in the protest, but a BBC reporter at the scene said up to a thousand marchers turned out.

According to some agencies, some of the protesters chanted: “Shame, shame on the UK”, “No tolerance – execution” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad”.

One demonstrator told reporters that it was unacceptable to take a toy and call it Muhammad.

First of all, reports of the protest are probably exaggerated for dramatic effect. I mean, you can probably pick a few people out of a war protest in Austin and get some truly ludicrous statements out of them. But they did have a protest, and the point I’d like to make is this: don’t they have more important things to worry about in Sudan?

Romney: Muslims need not apply

Well, at least he’s honest:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Joseph Smith Communion

On an unrelated note – isn’t Joseph Smith kinda creepy-looking?