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Posts tagged "United States"

H/T: Jean Ann Esselink at The New Civil Rights Movement


The news: Teaching students that creationism is an evidence-based theory is now banned in all public schools across the United Kingdom, according to new documents from the British government. Here are the new standards, which institute a:

requirement for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.

According to io9, this means any “academy or free school” in the U.K. which teaches creationism to students would be breaking its funding agreement with the government. Academies are roughly equivalent to charter schools in the U.S., while “free schools” are nonprofit independent schools funded by taxpayer dollars, which can be organized by parents, teachers, charities and businesses. The new language updates a 2012 rule which required all future free schools that teach the theory of natural selection alone to include academies and all existing free schools.

This means that the U.K. is on track to more or less completely end the practice of teaching creationism in publicly funded schools. However, it does permit creationism and other beliefs about the origin of the Earth and life to be taught in classes on religion, so long as they are not presented as valid alternatives to scientific theory. While there are further reforms needed in other educational sectors across the U.K., it looks like the biggest step toward getting religion out of taxpayer-funded science classes has just been accomplished.

Contrast that to the U.S.: In the U.S., some $1 billion in taxpayer funding across 14 states goes to private schools. Earlier this year, Politico reported that those private schools included “hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.”

In the U.S., just the states of Louisiana and Tennessee currently permit creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design, to be taught as alternatives to evolution in public schools. But across much of the South and Midwest, private schools that teach creationism are able to accept millions of dollars in public funding. Slate has a relatively up-to-date, comprehensive map of such schools here. There really are hundreds of them.


Map of schools teaching creationism. Image Credit: Slate

From Politico’s report:

… many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secularworld, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method — teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of “scientific law.”

One set of books popular in Christian schools calls evolution “a wicked and vain philosophy.” Another derides “modern math theorists” who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God. The publisher notes that its textbooks shun “modern” breakthroughs — even those, like set theory, developed back in the 19th century.

In the U.S., the settled science of evolution is still pretty touchy. Missouri, for example, is considering a bill that would "alert" parents to any discussion of natural evolution in schools. And a 2013 Pew poll found that just 6 in 10 Americans believe that life evolved over time (including via the guidance of a supreme being), compared to 87% of scientists.

Why you should care: Pew found that Americans widely disagree with scientists on a variety of issues, including embryonic stem cell research, the use of animals in laboratory testing, nuclear power, childhood vaccinations and the causes and scale of global warming. At a time when the economy increasingly values education in highly technical STEM fields and large-scale scientific projects are more important than ever before, it would be nice if taxpayer dollars funded secular, scientific education instead of religious dogma.

Source: Tom McKay for Policy Mic

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Hooray!!! Houston did it!!! 

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h/t: Carol Morello at Washington Post




Elliot Rodger, Santa Barbara mass shooting suspect, “My Twisted World” manifesto by Matthew Keys


Post image for Look: Map Of Marriage Equality In America

It feels like the map of which states have extended marriage to same-sex couples changes almost daily, but right now, here’s what the map looks like right now.

Blue states have marriage equality, red states have bans on marriage equality, but with at least one active lawsuit filed to bring about the freedom to marry. Gray means the state  – in this case, just North Dakota — has banned same-sex marriage and does not have a lawsuit filed to bring equality. (Puerto Rico has a lawsuit pending.)

Same-sex couples can marry in 19 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (June 1), Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Marriage bans have been ruled unconstitutional in Arkansas, Michigan, and Utah, but those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Hundreds of same-sex couples in each state have already married.

In 31 states and Puerto Rico, it is currently illegal for same-sex couples to marry.

Freedom To Marry has an excellent breakdown of the laws in each state, and of litigation pending in each state.

Marriage Equality USA has a detailed map including LGBT protections by state.


WASHINGTON — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are urging the government to leverage trade talks with Brunei to convince the country to eliminate new laws that the representatives say violate human rights.

The sultan of Brunei recently began phasing in laws that include death sentences for LGBT people and imprisonment for women who have abortions. The United States is currently negotiating a trade deal with Brunei and 10 other nations, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Led by Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan and Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the group is circulating a letter to members of the House that calls on Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to force Brunei to “address these human rights issues” before continuing to negotiate with them. Reuters reported that 20 lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have pledged to sign the letter.

“The United States must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses,” the draft letter reads. “International trade partners have much to gain from an economic relationship with the United States, and our trade agreements should insist that participating countries adhere to internationally recognized civil, political, and human rights standards.”

Other Democrats circulating the letter include Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Louise Slaughter, and Henry Waxman.

The State Department previously told BuzzFeed Brunei’s laws would not be factored into TPP negotiations, but they would be “closely monitoring how new rules” in Brunei will be implemented.

Brunei’s laws were brought into the national spotlight several weeks ago when several Hollywood celebrities publicly supported a boycott of two top Los Angeles hotels owned by the Brunei government.

Here is the text of the draft letter:

Dear Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Froman:

We write to express our concern over the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s recently adopted penal code, which threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition of the United States participating with them in any further Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

As Members of Congress, we believe that protecting fundamental human rights is a cornerstone of American values and must always be a priority in our relations, both diplomatic and economic, with foreign countries. The United States is committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities, LGBT individuals and women across the globe. Moreover, time and again, the United States has spoken out against anti-LGBT activity and discriminatory laws in countries like Nigeria and Uganda and against unequal protection of women, in countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and against the persecution of religious minorities in the Central African Republic, China, and Pakistan.

Brunei’s adoption of the revised penal code legalizes violence against its citizens, constituting torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. The United States must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses. International trade partners have much to gain from an economic relationship with the United States, and our trade agreements should insist that participating countries adhere to internationally recognized civil, political, and human rights standards. Targeting LGBT individuals or religious minorities and opening the door for discrimination and violence against women is a threat we cannot overlook, and should trade agreements like the TPP go into effect with the participation of human rights violators, the United States would lose its leverage to provide economic pressure on countries to reverse unacceptable policies.

As the world’s largest economy, the United States holds a significant place in world affairs and must use this position to address human rights atrocities in countries like Brunei. According with all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition before the United States enter into any trade negotiations.

Source: Jacob Fischler for Buzzfeed


The AP is reporting that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) will not appeal Tuesday’s ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Without an appeal, the fight is over and Pennsylvania has officially become the 19th marriage equality state, following Oregon becoming the 18th on Monday.

According to Corbett’s statement, he asserted that he still personally opposes same-sex marriage because of his Catholic beliefs, but that he believes “the court has spoken” and that the fight need not be dragged out any further.

Corbett found himself in hot water back in October when he compared same-sex couples to a brother and sister marrying, comments he later apologized for. He had also committed taxpayer funding to defend the ban, paying private lawyers $400 an hour for their work on the case. State Treasurer Rob McCord urged Corbett not to appeal because of how much the legal fight was costing the state.

Same-sex couples can now marry across the entire northeast United States. As BuzzFeed notes, however, Pennsylvania has become the first state where same-sex couples can legally marry, but can still be legally fired from their jobs simply for displaying their wedding photos on their desks at work.

Source: Zack Ford for ThinkProgress

H/T: Chris Geinder at BuzzFeed

Ugh. The GOP’s going all out on #Benghazi.


US to send team to Nigeria in response to kidnapping

ReutersThe U.S. State Department says Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has welcomed a U.S. offer to send an American team to Nigeria to support the government’s response to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by an Islamist militant group.

Follow this story on Breaking News

Photo: Women take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok in Lagos, Nigeria, on May 5. (Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters)

h/t: Mark Sherman at TPM