In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Iran unveils finger amputating machine for use on thieves


Photographs appearing to show a blindfolded man having his fingers severed by the mechanical amputation device have been published by an official Iranian press agency.

According to the INSA news service, the prisoner used to demonstrate the brutal contraption had been convicted of theft and adultery by a court in Shiraz last Wednesday.

A series of pictures show three masked officials, clad entirely in black, holding the man’s right hand in a vice while one turns a wheel operating the guillotine in the manner of a rotary saw.

In none of the four closely cropped images does the bearded prisoner’s expression register pain, suggesting that he may have been drugged.

Following the public amputation, Ali Alghasi, the Shiraz district’s public prosecutor, announced sentences against criminals are to become increasingly severe.

This warning, issued without explanation, may be an attempt by authorities to deter public protest ahead of June’s general elections.

The Iranian government’s deplorable human rights record has been well documented.

Public execution, including death by stoning, and torture, including flogging and amputation, are routine.

Amnesty International led international outcry over the execution of 21 year-old Ali Naderi earlier this month for the alleged murder of an elderly woman killed during the course of a burglary – a crime he committed when he was 17.

It is illegal under international law to execute anyone for a crime committed as a minor.

Ironically, they still have plenty of crime, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of severe punishment in deterring crime.

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Iran moves to legalize marriage for girls under 10 years old


When Saudi Arabia announced three months ago that girls as young as 10-years old would now be allowed to marry, Iran decided to drop the age limit even further.

Iranian Christian news service Mohabat News reports a member of the Iranian Parliament (Majiles) Mohammad Ali Isfenani, “we must regard 9 as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law.”

He argues,”Before the revolution girls under 16 were not allowed to marry. Parents determined to get around the law would often tamper with their daughter’s birth certificate. Under the previous constitution, people were legally regarded as adults when they were 18. After the revolution the age at which children were regarded as going through puberty was lowered to 9 for girls and 15 for boys.

Mohabat News reports statistics that show over the past few weeks, over 75 female children under 10 were forced to marry much older men. And in nearly 4000 cases, both the bride and groom were under 14.

The Examiner says according to a news release from the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, the current civil law, drafted before the revolution in the late 1970’s regarding the legal age of marriage for girls under the age of ten, is considered “un-Islamic and illegal.”

Majiles (Iranian Parliament) is now expected to vote on the proposal to bring civil law more in line with Sharia Law.

The Women’s News Network reports that there are more than 10-million girls under the age of 18 married each year around the world, usually without their consent and to much older men.
Baroness Jenny Tonge, chair of a British parliamentary inquiry looking at the issue of child brides, tells the Women’s News Network, “We decided to look into child marriage because some two, three years ago we did an investigation into maternal mortality.” “We realised that one of the major causes of maternal death is early marriage, and (that) the girls are married so young that their bodies are simply not ready for child birth.” She tells the story of one young girl, “she was an eight-year-old who was married to a 45 to 50-year-old in Yemen, arranged by his family – died three days later after the first intercourse from bleeding. When you hear the stories, it just makes you feel quite sick.”

A report from the British inquiry is expected early this fall.

(Source: digitaljournal.com)

The goal of business is to increase demand for its product. What happens when that product is prison? Bad news for society.

The goal of business is to increase demand for its product. What happens when that product is prison? Bad news for society.

If the Ahmadinejad presidency had taught Khamenei anything, it was the extent to which a president, even one as “Principlist” and “close” to the leader as Ahmadinejad himself, could prove to be an inconvenience. The seventy-two-year-old had come to learn the hard way about the nuisance posed by the office of president, one that required a final solution. This might help us understand why he hinted, in October 2011, that he might favour a revision of the constitution in order to allow for the parliament to choose the country’s head of government without the need for the population to vote him into office. With the parliament on his side, Khamenei would finally be able to appoint or dismiss a head of state of his choosing at will.

Iran expected to permanently cut off Internet by August

infoneer-pulse:

Millions of Internet users in Iran could soon be permanently cut off from the Web, social networks, and e-mail.

In a statement released last week, Reza Taghipour, the Iranian minister for Information and Communications Technology, announced it plans to establish a national intranet within five months in an effort to create a “clean Internet,” according to an International Business Times report. “All Internet Service Providers (ISP) should only present National Internet by August,” Taghipour said in the statement.

» via CNET

Basically, the parameters for debate in the United States about Israel range all the way from ‘I unequivocally support them and might bomb Iran’ to ‘I unequivocally support them and will definitely bomb Iran!’

Although, to be fair, there are some prominent politicians willing to criticize the Israeli government, even willing to say stuff like ‘Israel is not about to be destroyed… With his crazy analogies, the Prime Minister is diverting attention from Iran to his fearmongering’; or ‘Netanyahu’s words on Iran sound like a calculated preparation for a reckless adventure’; or ‘Israel is making a mistake in its unwillingness to recognize a Palestinian state.’

Oh man, I’d love to play soundbites of those quotes for you… but they’re in Hebrew. ‘Cause they were said by members of the Israeli Knesset. Because apparently, in Israel, you are allowed to criticize Israel — and still hold public office.

JON STEWART, The Daily Show (via inothernews)

Why is it routine to talk about Iranian religious fanatics who are leading us toward war and so rare to acknowledge the role that religious tribalism in America—among both conservative Jews and conservative Christians—is playing in leading us to war? And why is it that when Muslim radicals use religious scripture in a way that foments belligerence we consider it primitive and vile, whereas when Bibi Netanyahu does the same thing (more subtly, I grant you) we nod politely and smile?

Pre-emptive war, under post-Nuremberg law, is defined as a criminal act of aggression. George W. Bush, whose disregard for the rule of law was legend, went to the U.N. for a resolution to attack Iraq, although his interpretation of the U.N. resolution as justifying the invasion of Iraq had dubious legal merit. But in this current debate over war with Iran, that pretense of legality is ignored. Where is Israel’s U.N. resolution authorizing it to strike Iran? Why isn’t anyone demanding that Israel seek one? Why does the only discussion in the media and among political elites center around the questions of “Will Israel attack Iran?” “Can it successfully carry out an attack?” “What will happen if there is an attack?” The essential question is left unasked. Does Israel have the right to attack Iran? And here the answer is very, very clear. It does not.

The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.

If you pronounce it ‘EYE-ran’ your opinions about whether or not it should be bombed ought to be EYE-gnored.

Laila Lalami (via pax-caelestis)

PREACH IT SISTA/BROTHA!

(via evakova)

(Source: shadibasiri)


Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon
TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. “Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that’s proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat.” Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel

Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon

TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. “Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that’s proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat.” Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel