Category: Internet

Feeling connected not only does you good, it makes you good, apparently

Recent research by academics from Britain and Austria has indicated that when people feel connected to others, they’re more likely to act altruistically. The report showed that “Nearly half of the participants who had been reminded of their social connections donated to the Red Cross, whereas fewer than 20 percent of the other participants did.” Click here to read more.

More bad news about African gay men – Cameroon locks them up

Alice N'Kom

In the last two weeks, Cameroon gay men have been thrown in jail just for being gay. The situation is approaching a crisis and Alice N’Kom, an attorney, is ready to confront the President to demand the release of those arrested and an end to laws that make being gay a crime. Please click here to support Alice by signing a letter to the President of Cameroon.

Michael Gove advises Catholic schools to “avoid meddling” by secularists

Further evidence, if any were needed, that Education Secretary Michael Gove is determined to destroy our secular (i.e. comprehensive) education system, a process that began under the last government, and favour faith schools. The Catholic Herald reports that he advises that Catholic schools can avoid “unsympathetic meddling” by secularists if they take up the Government’s offer of academy status.

Read the report by clicking here.

9/11, abortion, cryonics, faith in politics, Hypatia and mobile phones

Here’s some stuff I’ve found on the Internet recently.

Stephen Howe wrote about the “reinvention of Islam” since 9/11 in New Humanist magazine. People have become defined by their religion, rather than their ethnicity, he says. He ends:

The caveat that all collective identities are potentially oppressive and dangerous, not just religious, and not least national, ones, surely requires little reiteration. Even so, personally, I’d quite like to see the past decade’s wave of ethnic cleansing reversed. That is, I have no objection at all to Muslim neighbours, friends, fellow citizens – but given the choice, on the whole I’d prefer to get rid of them, and bring back the Sylhetis and Somalis, Turks and Tunisians I used to live with.

Phones 4U has been banned from using an advertisement by the Advertising Standards Authority because an illustration of Jesus winking and giving a thumbs up was considered “disrespectful” to the Christian faith. The BBC quoted Andrew Copson of the BHA in its report, saying that the ban was “completely ridiculous”.

Click, the BBC’s programme about “the world of technology” (mostly computing, the Internet, and smart phones) had a report on the popularity of religious phone apps in Singapore, where app developers are creating software “to make the most out of religion”. Here next?

The BBC’s Radio 5 Live had an item on a report that almost two thirds of schools in England are ignoring their legal duty to provide a daily act of worship. This isn’t news, as many teachers will tell you. The law on collective worship in schools has been widely flouted for years. One of the speakers was from Accord.

The TES on Steiner “free” schools

The Times Education Supplement has an article about the applications for free school status by Steiner schools. It says:

The Steiner approach emphasises the importance of practical crafts such as woodwork, book-binding and knitting, while students spend less time learning ICT skills.

Such free-school proposals appear to undermine the Government’s stance that schools should be teaching a more traditional “knowledge-based” curriculum.

Steiner schools are based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded “anthroposophy”, which promotes the belief that all humans possess an innate spirit or soul, through which a person can connect to a spirit world via “inner development”.

The British Humanist Association said it had “serious concerns” over what would be taught in the Steiner schools, given that free schools have considerable freedoms over their curriculum.

For more on this, see our previous posts. We’ll be discussing a proposed Steiner school in Suffolk at our next meeting.

The persecution of LGBT people in Africa going “from bad to worse”

Ugandan gays aren’t the only ones facing persecution (see last posts). There’s a climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across Africa. The Pink Triangle Trust released this news briefing in January:

THE SITUATION FOR LGBT PEOPLE IN AFRICA “GOING FROM BAD TO WORSE” SAY GAY HUMANISTS

Following the latest example of virulent homophobia in Ghana, the UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) says that the situation for LGBT people in Africa is going from bad to worse.

A government minister in Ghana has called on the country’s intelligence services to track down and arrest all gays and lesbians. The call has come from Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the Western Region of Ghana. Mr Aidoo, a staunch Roman Catholic, said: “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in society.” He called for the Bureau of National Investigations to round up gays and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexual. “Once they have been arrested, they will be brought before the law.”

The move by Mr Aidoo has drawn support from other politicians, including the general secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC) who declared “Homosexuality is abhorrent. Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals.”

This development follows months of campaigning by the Christian Council of Ghana which last week called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals. Both Christians and Muslims in the region have been protesting since a local media report claimed there were around 8,000 gay men and lesbians in the district. It is the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent, notably in Malawi and Uganda.

Homosexual acts are criminalised in 38 African countries.

Gay Ugandan asylum seeker Robert Segwani spared deportation, for now

Robert SegwaniGay Ugandan Robert Segwani has been spared deportation at the last minute and returned to detention. Thank you if you signed the petition we told you about the other day, but Robert isn’t out of danger yet. Joe Mirabella reports:

Robert was spared from deportation at the very last minute according to his friend and fellow gay Urandan refugee John Bosco, “[Robert] is back in the detention centre waiting to hear what’s next.  He had 5 escorts up to the plane, and as he was about to board the plane the Home Office stopped his deportation.  He is very tired and stressed since he has not been sleeping well.  He is in pain.”

John Bosco told me on the phone that Robert has not been eating well and that he was considering suicide, “Since last Friday, when he was given the deportation notice he stopped eating. He threatened to kill himself, because he has had enough,” said Bosco.

More than 3,500 people signed Paul Canning’s Change.org petition asking the Home Office to grant Robert Segwanyi asylum in the UK.

Update, 8/9/2011: Have received an email from LGBT Asylum News saying, “Last night Robert was released from detention. Although we (and Robert) don’t yet know why he was released, those of us who work with LGBT asylum seekers know that this is a good sign, that it is extremely likely that his case will eventually be accepted.”

URGENT! Gay Ugandan asylum seeker faces removal tomorrow – please sign a petition

Gay Ugandan Robert faces being forced to leave the UK tomorrow (Thursday 18 August). Please sign this petition to try to prevent this.

LGBT Asylum News reports:

Robert was imprisoned and tortured for homosexuality. On escaping prison in June 2010 he fled to the UK and applied for asylum a fortnight later. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) does not accept he is gay and a judge rejected his appeal claiming that there is no risk to gay people in Uganda.

e-petition on evolution

The British Humanist Association is sponsoring a petition on the Government’s new website, calling for the teaching of evolution to be mandatory in all publicy-funded schools, and to stop the teaching of creationism and “Intelligent Design” being taught as scientific theories.

To sign the petition, click here.

Steiner schools “repudiate” their founder’s racist beliefs to get state funding

Francis Gilbert of the Local Schools Network reports that those who want to open Steiner schools at public expense through Gove’s free school system are keen to “repudiate” their racist roots.

They present themselves today as trendy, progressive schools who welcome parents with alternative views. However, what they keep well hidden is their loony mystical beliefs. Steiner founded a philosophy called “Anthroposophy”, a sort of mystical mish-mash of ideas which includes the concept that the human race are “evolving” through the different races, with black people being “of childhood”, Asians “degenerate” and white people, of course, being the apogee of the evolutionary tree. Many Anthroposophists teach at Steiner schools today — and certainly form the bulk of their teacher trainers — and greatly admire Steiner.

Today, the Department for Education and Skills is interviewing the people who want to open such a school in Frome. If they get the go-ahead it will give the green light to others, inclduing the people who want a Steiner school in Suffolk. We’ll be talking about this at our September meeting.