THE   FOCUS

December 31, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 52
Published by the Center For Atheism (CFA)
Editor: David Birnkrant
 
The Focus provides links to articles collected from major newspapers and magazines, and is emailed weekly.

This Week in Atheism is a cable show that discusses the articles featured below, every Wednesday at 6:30 PM (EST), Manhattan Cable station 57. 
Live streaming is available at: 
http://www.mnn.org.

Comments, suggestions and subscription:
info@centerforatheism.org.


 
The Center for Atheism (CFA) was established by the New York City Atheists as a separate and independent national organization to propose, develop, and be a catalyst for new national activities supporting the objectives of atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics, secularists and separation-of-church-and-state advocates. 

CFA will accept and review suggestions from individuals and other secular organizations that will foster our goals.
 
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FEATURED ARTICLES

Local Atheists Reach Out to Spanish Speakers
New York Times (blog)
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK New York City Atheists, New York's chapter of American Atheists, wants to pose that question (the answer is ateísmo) in meetings aimed ...
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/local-atheists-expand-outreach-to-spanish-speakers/

Lawsuit threatened over atheist councilman in NC
The Associated Press
Bothwell can't be forced out of office over his atheist views because the North Carolina provision is unenforceable, according to the supremacy clause of ...
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jmS49f5wC7XKFjiS8tDTo3wv67hgD9CHCN2O0

Court: 'Faith-based' substance abuse programs unconstitutional
Tampa Tribune
By CATHERINE WHITTENBURG | The Tampa Tribune TALLAHASSEE - Advocates for the separation of church and state scored a victory today when the 1st District ...
http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/dec/15/152115/court-faith-based-substance-abuse-programs-unconst/

Catholic Church 'scared Hollywood into dumping His Dark Materials'
Telegraph.co.uk
Although Pullman openly described himself as an atheist, he denies His Dark Materials is anti-Catholic. Rather it is a warning about what religion can do ...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/6810556/Catholic-Church-scared-Hollywood-into-dumping-His-Dark-Materials.html

Atheist group plans suit against Brooklyn archdiocese
amNY
“This is a major separation of church and state issue,” said Kenneth Bronstein, president of New York City Atheists. “We don't want religions to endorse ...
http://www.amny.com/urbanite-1.812039/atheist-group-plans-suit-against-brooklyn-archdiocese-1.1655617

ATHEISM

Approaching holidays prompt atheist campaign
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – 12/9/09 4:28 AM
WASHINGTON — An unusual holiday message began appearing last week in the nation's capital on the sides of buses and trains. "No god? ... No problem...
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/religion/story/6DFE8902692E6D018625768300177B5D?OpenDocument

Greg Epstein, atheist superstar
Orlando Weekly – 12/9/09 12:47 AM
Can humanist chaplain save nonbelief from itself...
http://www.orlandoweekly.com/features/story.asp?id=13642

Agnostics / Atheists reflect on Christmas
OnMilwaukee.com – 12/8/09 2:07 PM
Agnostics and Atheists are sometimes confused, but really, these groups have very different spiritual beliefs. Atheists, in the broadest sense , do not...
http://www.orlandoweekly.com/features/story.asp?id=13642

Atheists draw wrath over sticker stunt
ABC Online
By New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie Passionate atheists in New Zealand are copping abuse for their plan to put giant stickers on the sides of buses ...
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/11/2769040.htm?section=justin

Kiwis told to forget God and enjoy life
Herald Sun
An atheist movement plans to erect billboards on buses that tell New Zealanders: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. ...
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/kiwis-told-to-forget-god-and-enjoy-life/story-e6frf7mx-1225809445293

Atheist ads to antagonise religious
TVNZ
A campaign for displaying atheist messages on buses is unlikely to win converts, says a spokeswoman for the Catholic Church. The New Zealand Atheist Bus ...
http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/atheist-ads-antagonise-religious-3284353

Donations pour in for atheist campaign
TVNZ
Donations are pouring in for the controversial atheist bus advertising campaign which is scheduled to start in the new year. ...
http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/donations-pour-in-atheist-campaign-3284878

Patt Morrison Asks: Bobbie Kirkhart, Atheists United's chief nonbeliever
Los Angeles Times
Atheists United, headed by Bobbie Kirkhart, had a different holiday sign for last Christmas. It read, "Reason's Greetings," and it was accompanied by one of ...
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-morrison12-2009dec12,0,564783,full.column

Asheville councilman atheism debate goes viral: Cecil Bothwell gets wide audience
Asheville Citizen-Times
Bothwell, also a builder and someone who has described himself as an atheist, and in recent years, as a “post-theist,” is seeing his face and name on blogs ...
http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20091214/NEWS01/312140021

Atheism makes nonbeliefs known on campuses
Journal and Courier
By BOB SCOTT • bscott@jconline.com • December 14, 2009 In Ames, Iowa, a sign at Iowa State University invites all comers: "Ask an Atheist. ...
http://www.jconline.com/article/20091214/NEWS0501/912140321/Atheism-makes-nonbeliefs-known-on-campuses

Atheists grapple with Christmas
Toronto Star
By Stuart Laidlaw Faith and Ethics Reporter Comedy writer Ariane Sherine had 42 well-known atheists to contribute to her first book, An Atheist's Guide to ...
http://www.thestar.com/living/article/738653--atheists-grapple-with-christmas?bn=1

Newton South officials give in to student's refusal to study Bible as literature
Wicked Local (blog)
Newton South student Jack Summers, 15, objected to reading the Bible for his English class because he is an atheist. By John Hilliard, staff writer Newton ...
http://www.wickedlocal.com/newton/news/x1145288200/Newton-South-officials-cave-in-to-students-refusal-to-study-Bible-as-literature

Johnny Ball booed by athiests over climate change denial
Telegraph.co.uk
Veteran children's TV presenter Johnny Ball was booed off stage last night after denying man-made climate change before an audience of liberal atheists. ...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/6825502/Johnny-Ball-booed-by-atheists-over-climate-change-denial.html

BOOKS, FILM, THEATRE, TV, YOU TUBE

Presents for the godless: the 13 days of atheist Christmas
Telegraph.co.uk
Robin Ince, a comedian, atheist and sceptic, first organised this cheery variety-show celebration of atheist Christmas last year. ...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/christmas-gift-ideas/6780020/Presents-for-the-godless-the-13-days-of-atheist-Christmas.html?utm_source=tmg&utm_medium=TD_13&utm_campaign=christmas1112am

Seeing the poetry in doubt
NorthJersey.com
Although Hecht does not consider the book "aggressively atheist," she does say that her biggest audience is atheists. "Also just religious people who are ...
http://www.northjersey.com/community/at_the_library/Seeing_the_poetry_in_doubt_.html

Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
In Why Darwin Matters, bestselling author Michael Shermer decodes the scientific evidence to show that evolution is not “just a theory” and illustrates how ...
http://books.google.com/books?id=3pUvMKWkutEC&dq=Intelligent+Design&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=IMUV7p5MOJ&sig=n5Ql6xh7K_UQoWSfcGpE3bJLv18&hl=en#v=onepage&q=&f=false

The God delusion
Dawkins has fashioned an impassioned, rigorous rebuttal to religion, to be embraced by anyone who sputters at the inconsistencies and cruelties that riddle the ...
http://books.google.com/books?id=yq1xDpicghkC&dq=Intelligent+Design&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=1ghC-6JiCV&sig=9khKqXoQNhp9sQPYS-QTNjR59X0&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Intelligent%20Design&f=false

Catholics 'forced film chiefs to scrap Dark Materials trilogy'
This is London
The film, based on the books by Philip Pullman and starring Elliott, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, angered Catholics who accused it of promoting atheism. ...
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23783314-catholics-forced-film-chiefs-to-scrap-dark-materials-trilogy.do

Atheist author tells of disgust after America's religious right halts Compass ...
WalesOnline
ATHEIST author Philip Pullman yesterday spoke of his “disgust” at the triumphalism of America's religious right following its successful campaign to ...
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/12/16/atheist-author-tells-of-disgust-after-america-s-religious-right-halts-compass-movie-follow-ups-91466-25400709/

Jesus Christ superfarce
Time Out Chicago
Their “protest” of the atheist billboard is in support of the ad's sponsor, a loose affiliation of nontheistic organizations called the Chicago Coalition of ...
http://chicago.timeout.com/articles/comedy/81327/best-church-of-god

EVOLUTION, CREATIONISM, I.D.

New fossils shed light on evolution of dinosaurs
The Associated Press
"Tawa gives us an unprecedented window into early dinosaur evolution, solidifying the relationships of early dinosaurs, revealing how they spread across the ...
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hzCOuhG8aYUOBx-fQ1wqGfRCg0ZwD9CGLTO80

New insight into horse evolution
Daily News & Analysis
Washington: Scientists studying ancient DNA from extinct horse species have discovered new evidence on the evolution of Equidae over the past 55 million ...
http://www.dnaindia.com/scitech/report_new-insight-into-horse-evolution_1322641

Scientist creates virtual evolution
Canada.com
Evolution in the virtual world created by Robin Gras moves quickly. The university associate professor can go back in the simulation to see how new species ...
http://www.canada.com/Scientist+creates+virtual+evolution/2329585/story.html

Evolution may take giant leaps
PhysOrg.com
... selection may not be the cause of speciation, which Pagel said "really goes against the grain" for scientists who have a Darwinian view of evolution. ...
http://www.physorg.com/news179737267.html

Scientists rejig human evolution, Indians ancestors of East Asians (Lead)
Thaindian.com
“This will give a new meaning to human evolution theory and its spread.” The study, which traces the “genetic origins of Asian population” was conducted by ...
http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/sci-tech/scientists-rejig-human-evolution-indians-ancestors-of-east-asians-lead_100287805.html

Teacher testifies that anti-evolution handouts did not promote religion
Columbus Dispatch
The school board voted in 2008 that it intends to fire John Freshwater for teaching creationism and intelligent design, failing to remove religious ...
http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/12/11/Teacher-testifies-that-anti-evolution-handouts-were-educational.html?sid=101

Handouts: a 'lesson' in faulty analysis?
Columbus Dispatch
The school board, in a 2008 vote, said it intended to fire John Freshwater for teaching creationism and intelligent design, failing to remove religious ...
http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/12/12/fresh12.ART_ART_12-12-09_B4_02FVKDR.html?sid=101

Defense rests in Freshwater hearing
Mount Vernon News
... by HR on Call was not complete and not neutral, and repeated his assertion that he “absolutely never taught creationism or intelligent design. ...
http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/09/12/12/defense-rests-in-freshwater-hearing

T. Rex-like Fossil Forces Dino Evolution Re-Think : Discovery News
Dec 10, 2009 ... The bones of a newly-found theropod reveal that dinosaurs diversified early on in their evolution
http://news.discovery.com/dinosaurs/theropod-dinosaurs-evolution-fossil.html

'Dad dancing' may be the result of evolution, scientists claim
Telegraph.co.uk
Middle-aged men who embarrass their children with flamboyant dance moves now have the perfect excuse – evolution. By Matthew Moore George W. Bush dances ...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6817134/Dad-dancing-may-be-the-result-of-evolution-scientists-claim.html

SCIENCE

First Known Binary Star Is Discovered to Be a Triplet, Quadruplet, Quintuplet, Sextuplet System
ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2009) — In ancient times, people with exceptional vision discovered that one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper was, in fact, two stars so close together that most people cannot distinguish them. The two stars, Alcor and Mizar, were the first binary stars -- a pair of stars that orbit each other -- ever known
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210092005.htm

New Model of Skin Cancer Provides Insights on Second-Most Common Type of Cancer
ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2009) — Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have developed a new model of skin cancer based on the knowledge that a common cancer-related molecule called Src kinase is activated in human skin-cancer samples
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210153651.htm

Brightest-Ever 'Blazar' Flare from Distant Galaxy Spotted by NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope
ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2009) — A galaxy located billions of light-years away is commanding the attention of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and astronomers around the globe. Thanks to a series of flares that began September 15, the galaxy is now the brightest source in the gamma-ray sky -- more than ten times brighter than it was in the summer
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209151440.htm

Elusive 'Hot' Electrons Captured in Ultra-Thin Solar Cells
ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2009) — Boston College researchers have observed the "hot electron" effect in a solar cell for the first time and successfully harvested the elusive charges using ultra-thin solar cells, opening a potential avenue to improved solar power efficiency, the authors report in the current online edition of Applied Physics Letters
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091211074427.htm

Don't I Know You? How Cues and Context Kick-Start Memory Recall
ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2009) — We have all had the embarrassing experience of seeing an acquaintance in an unfamiliar setting. We know we know them but can't recall who they are. But with the correct cues from conversation or context, something seems to click and we can readily access very rich and vivid memories about the individual
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091207151333.htm

Suzaku Catches Retreat of a Black Hole's Disk
ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2009) — Studies of one of the galaxy's most active black-hole binaries reveal a dramatic change that will help scientists better understand how these systems expel fast-moving particle jets
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210101416.htm

Super-Massive Black Holes Observed at the Center of Galaxies
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — An international team of scientists has observed four super-massive black holes at the center of galaxies, which may provide new information on how these central black hole systems operate
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210173609.htm

Astronaut Balancing Act: Training to Help Explorers Adapt to a Return to Gravity
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — Astronauts returning from challenging long-duration missions face one more challenge when they get back to Earth -- standing up and walking
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209134640.htm

Old Math Reveals New Thinking in Children's Cognitive Development
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — Five-year-olds can reason about the world from multiple perspectives simultaneously, according to a new theory by researchers in Japan and Australia. Using an established branch of mathematics called Category Theory, the researchers explain why specific reasoning skills develop in children at certain ages, particularly at age five
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210203423.htm

Earth's Atmosphere Came from Outer Space, Scientists Find
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — The gases which formed the Earth's atmosphere -- and probably its oceans -- did not come from inside the Earth but from outer space, according to a study by University of Manchester and University of Houston scientists
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210153538.htm

Dark Side of a Saturnian Moon: Iapetus Is Coated With Foreign Dust
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2009) — Iapetus is often called Saturn's most bizarre moon, due to its starkly contrasting hemispheres -- one black as coal, the other white as snow
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210173611.htm

SEPARATION CHURCH / STATE

Members of punk ministry You Can Run claiming tax break for clergy housing
Twin Cities Planet
Dean has repeatedly said that the group rejects the constitutional separation of church and state and frequently notes that it evangelizes at public high ...
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2009/12/09/members-punk-ministry-you-can-run-claiming-tax-break-clergy-housing

Poland resists secularization
GlobalPost
... charging that putting religion marks in official school transcripts violates the separation of church and state and limits the right of parents to raise ...
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/poland/091208/polish-church-secularization

Protestors accuse church and state of muffling their message
KMOX.com
... alongside their cars parked at a 45 degree angle in front of the church holding signs that read, "Honk for Equality" or "Separation of Church and Hate. ...
http://www.kmox.com/Protestors-accuse-church-and-state-of-muffling-the/5891837

Morahan's 'no' vote sparks Nanuet vigil
The Journal News | LoHud.com
"There's supposed to be the separation of church and state," DeCicco said. "Where does the church get into this? I don't understand it. ...
http://www.lohud.com/article/2009912140340

Jesus-Themed Census Poster Sparks 'Church and State' Debate
HispanicBusiness.com
The poster, he said, "violates the concept of separation of church and state. ... It is definitely an assault against our Christian faith. ...
http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/politics/2009/12/15/jesusthemed_census_poster_sparks_church_and.htm

DC Circuit Takes Up Presidential Oath Case
The BLT
Atheist lawyer Michael Newdow, who has unsuccessfully challenged religious trappings of presidential inaugurations past, took his latest dispute--this one ...
http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2009/12/dc-circuit-takes-up-presidential-oath-case.html?cid=6a00d83451d94869e20120a755297d970b

Freethinkers begin to put up display
Arkansas Online (subscription)
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers was incorporated in 1996 and claims a membership of about 100 people who are “atheists, agnostics, ...
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/dec/16/freethinkers-begin-put-display/

Creche, menorah removed from Pa. courthouse lawn
The Associated Press
The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the county in a Dec. 11 letter that the displays are an unconstitutional government ...
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gh0-A7VXdEglScaadBAOJmd85SXgD9CLB38G1

MISCELLANEOUS

San Diego judge who ruled against Boy Scouts dies
San Jose Mercury News
Jones found that the leases violated the separation of church and state. Jones was appointed to the federal court in 1994 and was the city's second black ...
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_13994974
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