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Obama’s Third Term, Britain’s War on the Press, Atheist Muslims: Five Reads Thursday

| November 29, 2012

A reminder from the ever-imaginative Filippo Minelli.

Atheists and Islam: No God, not even Allah: “In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count. Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences. In reality such punishments are rarely meted out. Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for inciting hatred. (Atheists born to non-Muslim families are not considered apostates, but they can still be prosecuted for other crimes against religion.) Even in places where laws are lenient, religious authorities and social attitudes can be harsh, with vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings. […] The rise to power of Islamist parties after the Arab revolutions is likely to make life more miserable still for those who leave Islam. New rulers in Tunisia and Egypt have jailed several young people who have been outspoken about their lack of belief. Such cases occurred before the revolutions, but seem to have become more common. […] Young activists, albeit often exiled, such as Mr Ghazzali, have become more vociferous about their right not to believe in a God. Organisations abroad for former Muslims are increasingly active, too. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, set up by a group of non-believers five years ago, provides refuge for those who have renounced Islam and tries to “break the taboo” about apostasy.” From the Economist.

How People Change: David Brooks writes: “Over the years, [Nick] Crews has watched his children (the oldest is now 40) make a series of terrible decisions. “I bought into the fashionable philosophy of not interfering; letting the children find themselves,” he told Cristina Odone of The Telegraph of London. Finally, in February, Crews decided he’d had enough. He sent his offspring an e-mail message, which is now known in Britain as the Crews Missile. […] He signed the e-mail, “I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Dad.” […] The problem, of course, is that no matter how emotionally satisfying these tirades may be, they don’t really work. You can tell people that they are fat and that they shouldn’t eat more French fries, but that doesn’t mean they will stop. You can make all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, earnestly deciding to behave better, but that doesn’t mean you will. People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape. […] It’s foolhardy to try to persuade people to see the profound errors of their ways in the hope that mental change will lead to behavioral change. Instead, try to change superficial behavior first and hope that, if they act differently, they’ll eventually think differently. Lure people toward success with the promise of admiration instead of trying to punish failure with criticism. Positive rewards are more powerful.” From the Times.

Britain’s proposed war on the press: the key points of the Leveson report: “Lord Justice Leveson published his report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press today. Here are the main finders.
Regulation of the press
– An independent regulator with the power to fine newspapers up to £1m or 1 per cent of turnover for breaching a new code of conduct
– Regulator to be underpinned by statute, to ‘protect the freedom of the press, to reassure the public and validate the new body’
– Arbitration system to enable wronged parties to seek swift redress by way of a prominent apology and fines, if appropriate
– New body will not have power to prevent publication of any material
– Whistleblowing hotline for journalists who believe they are being put under pressure to breach the new code of conduct, and legal protection to prevent them being victimised for doing so
– Information Commissioner to be given greater powers to prosecute newspapers for breaches of data protection
– Board of new body must comprise a majority of people independent of the press, with some former journalists but no serving editors and no MPs.” From the Daily telegraph.

The Latest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory: Obama’s Third Term: “Our Kenyan-born, secret Muslim president has apparently cooked up a sneaky plot to subvert the 22nd Amendment. At least that’s the narrative being spun by right-wing conspiracy theorists, who seem to believe Obama is modeling his presidency after fictional Nixon in Watchmen. Among the main proponents of this theory—which comes in several different flavors—is Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, a publishing firm that hawks financial advice—and has a history of promoting dubious claims. Even before the president won reelection, the company began blasting out emails to subscribers of various conservative newsletters, warning of the coming third term of Obama. The emails went out as paid advertisements through the right-leaning, Newsmax, Human Events, and Gingrich Marketplace (a spokesman for Newt Gingrich and the vice president of Human Events both claimed this email blast was a mistake). The emails alerted readers to a vague—and somewhat counterintuitive—theory: Some unspecified but major event will lead to an epoch of American economic prosperity. Because it will happen under Obama’s watch, he’ll claim full credit and receive an unprecedented boost in approval ratings, giving him a mandate to demand and subsequently obtain a third term. […] Other conspiracy-mongers who have recently jumped on the Obama-third-term-prophecy bandwagon are radio host Alex Jones—who has featured Stansberry on his show—and birtherism promoter and WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah. Over at the conservative forum Free Republic commenters have ruminated on a related theory. In this scenario, Michelle Obama runs for president in 2016 and wins, thus allowing Barack to run the government as a shadow president. Among the first to prognosticate an Obama power grab was Rush Limbaugh, who was way ahead of the curve: He predicted a third Obama term in the summer of 2009, when the 44th president had just barely moved into the White House:

Technically, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for an American politician to launch an effort to lengthen a term, or seek an extra four years. Early in President Reagan’s second term, congressional allies attempted to find support for amending the Constitution to give him a chance to potentially serve a third term. And when Nixon was in office, there was a proposal to expand presidential terms to six years. Both initiatives were quickly abandoned. As Von Spakovsky said, “This is not a realistic fear that anyone should have.”” From Mother Jones.

Do Women Want To Be Objectified? “In a recent interview, actress Cameron Diaz controversially said “I think every woman does want to be objectified.” Decades of research has documented the many ways that objectification can be harmful. So why would anyone voluntarily choose to objectify themselves? The kind of objectification that Diaz is talking about is often referred to as sexual objectification. It involves viewing and treating another person’s body as an object valued based on its sexual appeal, usually to the neglect of other aspects of the person, such as their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Objectifying images and messages are widespread in American society, and they communicate not only that women’s value lies in their appearance, but they also present an ideal of attractiveness that is unattainable for most women. These unrealistic standards can lead to feelings of body shame and disgust, and to unhealthy eating and exercise behaviors. Over time, exposure to objectifying images can lead to self-objectification, which involves taking an observer’s perspective on one’s own body and chronically monitoring one’s physical appearance. In a famous set of studies, female participants were randomly assigned to try on either a swimsuit or a sweater and complete a series of tasks. Women in the swimsuit condition felt more body shame, which in turn led them to engage in more restrained eating (i.e., leaving part of a cookie behind rather than finishing it off, suggesting that they liked the cookie but felt guilty eating all of it). They also performed worse on a math test, suggesting that their attentional resources may have been drained by the experience of trying on the swimsuit. Presumably these women were not feeling good about their appearance during the study — they were not expecting or choosing to wear the swimsuit, and the lighting was most likely harsh and unflattering. No one loves swimsuit shopping, even if they’re doing it voluntarily. But what about those times when you are feeling good about your appearance?” From Psychology Today.

Powerball Execs Find Missing Powerballs:

Flagler County Jail Bookings

Not yet available: the Flagler Sheriff’s Office’s email system has been down for 48 hours.

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