In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, 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

 

Sudanese court orders release of woman sentenced to death for changing faith

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court on Monday ordered the release of a 27-year-old woman who was sentenced to death last month for converting from Islam to Christianity, the state news agency said.

The case of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, who is married to a Christian American, triggered an international outcry. Britain had last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires in protest at the sentencing.

"The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling," Sudan’s SUNA news agency said. A government official had told Reuters on May 31 that Sudanese officials were working to release Ibrahim.

Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said she has already been released and sent “to an unknown house to stay at for her protection and security.”

"Her family had been threatened before and we are worried that someone might try to harm her," Mostafa told Reuters.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for what it deemed her adultery for marrying a Christian. She gave birth in prison to a daughter, her second child by her American husband Daniel Wani.

Saudi Justice Minister: ‘Hands off Islamic law’

Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Eissa has denounced international rights groups for attacking the Kingdom’s judiciary, saying laws in this country are based on divine precepts contained in the Holy Qur’an.

Sorry Francis, no forgiveness until pedophile priests are punished

Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the rape and sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. However, no such forgiveness is possible until pedophile priests face criminal prosecution.

Speaking to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a non-profit international Catholic network of organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of children’s rights, Pope Francis said:

"I feel that I must take responsibility for all the harm that some priests—quite a number, but not in proportion to the total. I must take responsibility and ask forgiveness for the damage they have caused through sexual abuse of children.

The Church is aware of this damage. It is their own personal and moral damage, but they are men of the Church. And we will not take one step backwards in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we must be even stronger. You do not interfere with children.”

Yet despite the promise to impose “sanctions,” the Vatican continues to protect and enable pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children, according to a scathing report recently issued by the United Nations.
If Pope Francis was sincere he would immediately release all records pertaining to the rape and sexual abuse of children by clergy, and immediately turn over for criminal prosecution all those priests suspected of abusing children, and the bishops who protected them.

Talk is cheap Francis: put your money where your mouth is and prosecute the pedophiles.
—————————

How typically Christian that he thinks he can just assume the guilt of his underlings and absolve them of their atrocities. Just a form of shielding the guilty while sounding pious. Sorry frank, doesn’t work that way. All I hear is rationalization and obscurantism. Turn them over or renounce your fantasy of moral authority.

Atheists Are .07% of the Federal Prison Population...destroying the Christian right argument that you need to believe in God to live morally...

confrontingbabble-on:

"It’s worth reminding them that if every atheist left, America would lose 85 percent of its scientists — not that the fundamentalists love science exactly — and a fraction of one percent of its federal prison population.”

But…”according to James Croft, Doctoral Candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and blogger at Temple of the Future:

“I do not believe it is a good indication that atheists are more moral. I think we would love to believe that, but it doesn’t demonstrate that atheists are more moral as much as it reflects the fact that atheists tend to be better educated, more wealthy, and more white than the general population. In that overall climate, and given the factors which drive people to crime and the structural racism within the criminal justice system, it makes perfect sense that you will see less atheists, proportionally, in the justice system.”

Croft’s point about racial injustice is not one that should be overlooked. A  2009 Pew Research poll showed that 87 percent of African Americans identified as religious. When we look at the U.S. population as a whole, African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the overall population, yet the percentage of African Americans incarcerated in the U.S. prison system is nearly 40 percent, according to a  2009 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. “

http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/why-atheists-make-85-percent-americas-scientists-and-07-percent-its-prison

mariavontraphouse:

queennubian:

so-treu:


Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System
Mark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million.The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution.His “kids for cash” program has revealed that corruption is indeed within the prison system, mostly driven by the growth in private prisons seeking profits by any means necessary.

#afterlifeofslavery

Put him under the jail.

Ok but what abovet the company that benefited from these people being locked up?

mariavontraphouse:

queennubian:

so-treu:

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System

Mark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.

Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution.

His “kids for cash” program has revealed that corruption is indeed within the prison system, mostly driven by the growth in private prisons seeking profits by any means necessary.

#afterlifeofslavery

Put him under the jail.

Ok but what abovet the company that benefited from these people being locked up?

(Source: thefreelioness)

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs
In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:
Possessing a crack pipe
Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
Having a single crack rock at home
Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
Selling a single crack rock
Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills
These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.
Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.
Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 
As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.
And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.
How is this possible?
Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.
The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.
The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 
These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.
Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."
How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?
Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.
A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.
While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 
The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.
Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs

In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills

These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.

Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.

Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 

As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.

And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.

How is this possible?

Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.

The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.

The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 

These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.

Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."

How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?

Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.

A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.

While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 

The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.

Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street.

A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (via sarasleepygirl)

They don’t want smart people on the jury.

They want people they can dupe into a guilty verdict, especially for poc

(via sourcedumal)

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)

Cognitive Biases in Evaluating Human Life

wildcat2030:

See on Scoop.it - Philosophy everywhere everywhen

One of the greatest feats of the human brain is its ability to filter a vast amount of information into a manageable stream of relevant information.

-

Aldous Huxley describes this as a ‘reducing valve’ – our brains funnel the enormous amount of information in the environment in whichever way proved to be most adaptive to our ancestors.

This means two things; we have sampled an excruciatingly tiny portion of the buffet of potential experiences our neural hardware is capable of, and we are insensitive to certain environmental information that didn’t confer an adaptive advantage in the ancestral environment. Developing sensitivity to this information is crucial for rational and ethical behaviour in the modern world.

Cognitive biases can lead the most empathic and conscientious people to behave in ways that could appear as sheer callousness.

The source of this seemingly selfish behaviour is not malice or indifference, but more that our brains are not equipped to apprehend reality as it really is. By recognizing our cognitive limitations we can understand why people act in inconsistent and unethical ways and how we can avoid falling into the same trap ourselves.

If people acted in accordance with their espoused egalitarian preferences, they would treat the value of every human life equally. In practice this is not the case. Despite endorsing egalitarian norms studies have shown unconscious cognitive biases can lead to valuation functions that decrease in absolute value as the number of victims increases!


See on ieet.org

It is a profound injustice that the jury at this trial is even allowed to entertain the idea that Zimmerman could have perceived himself to be in imminent danger, when at any point, he could have driven away in his vehicle, as was the recommendation of police, leaving the proximity of the unarmed teenager who he provoked and later killed.

This F@#king Guy (via azspot)

This is what it all comes down to for me. Zimmerman took it upon himself to play sherif and perform a little vigilante stop-and-frisk. When the citizen he tried to shake down wasn’t having it he used disproportionate, lethal force.

bestnamezrtaken:

toplioncub:

liftedandgiftedd:

3 people stealing the same bike [video]

smh…

Social experiment on the reactions people will have over three different people stealing a bike.

One white girl, a white guy and a black guy.

People gave the white guy a few glances and asked him what he was doing and he clearly made it known he was stealing the bike. - People did nothing.

The white girl got no reaction from most people walking past. When asked what she was doing, she clearly stated “I’m stealing this bike”. - People offered to help her.

The black guy, dressed in a similar way to the white guy, gets stopped countless times, people take photos of him, a crowd emerges, everyone is yelling at him, trying to stop him by taking his equipment, the police get called instantly and everyone seems to be hilariously emotional that this guy is taking a bike.

Interesting.

Co-Worker showed us this video a while back…pretty messed up.

(Source: unvitation)