Saudi woman driver saved from lashing by King Abdullah |

Saudi woman driver saved from lashing by King Abdullah
The reprieve comes, but this is a very interesting discussion about the fight between the powerful religious judiciary and the King.
note: "Although there are no written laws that restrict women from driving, the prohibition is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins".

Not much more I can say about that ....

A Saudi woman sentenced to be lashed 10 times for defying the country's ban on female drivers has had her punishment overturned by the king. The woman, named as Shaima Jastaina and believed to be in her 30s, was found guilty of driving without permission in Jeddah in July. Her case was the first in which a legal punishment was handed down for a violation of the ban in the ultraconservative Muslim nation.

Although there has been no official confirmation of the ruling, Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, tweeted: "Thank God, the lashing of [Shaima] is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved king. I am sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am." She later added that she and her husband had spoken to Shaima, who told them: "The king's orders washed the fears I lived with after this unjust sentence."

Jastaina was sentenced on Monday — a day after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and said women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. He also promised to appoint women to the all-male Shura council advisory body.

The moves underline the challenge facing Abdullah, known as a reformer, as he pushes gently for change while trying not to antagonise the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population.


UK/BHA: ‘If believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly, the law is right to prevent them’

‘If believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly, the law is right to prevent them’

KEY PHRASE: "All reasonable people will agree that there is scope in a secular democracy for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs when that accommodation does not affect the rights and freedoms of others. But if believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly "– denying them a service because they are gay or claiming a right to preach at them in a professional context – the law is right to prevent them.’
British Humanist Association comments on Equality Commission intervention
Domestic courts have been right to uphold human rights and equalities law and principles in dismissing cases of alleged Christian discrimination, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has stated today. The BHA commented following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) publication of its interventions in four cases being taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and a summary of responses to its consultation on the detail of those interventions.
In July the BHA criticised as ‘wholly disproportionate’ ( the EHRC’s announcement to intervene in the cases of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who refused to fulfil her duties because of her ‘orthodox Christian beliefs’ against same-sex partnerships and Gary McFarlane, who refused to treat gay couples equally with straight ones in his job as a counsellor at Relate; and the cases of Nadia Eweida, who has repeatedly lost her claims of religious discrimination against her employer British Airways, and of Shirley Chaplin, who claimed that uniform codes violated her human rights as a Christian.
However, following its initial announcement to intervene and to argue for ‘reasonable accommodation’, the EHRC decided not to make the case for ‘reasonable accommodation’ in any of the four cases, and it consulted on the detail of its proposed interventions. The BHA is a stakeholder with the EHRC and responded to the consultation, giving particular commendation to the EHRC’s new proposals to support the domestic judgments in Ladele and McFarlane cases.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Our domestic courts have been robust in dismissing these cases and the victim narrative that lies behind them has no basis in reality. What they describe as discrimination and marginalisation of Christians is in fact the proper upholding of human rights and equalities law and principles. All reasonable people will agree that there is scope in a secular democracy for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs when that accommodation does not affect the rights and freedoms of others. But if believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly – denying them a service because they are gay or claiming a right to preach at them in a professional context – the law is right to prevent them.’
Read the EHRC's press statement about their interventions
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

Engineers tell Politicians: we have all the science for Carbon reduction

Engineers: We have all the tech we need to cut carbon
Apparently the world's engineers are getting sick of being told that cutting emissions is an engineering problem. Eleven of the biggest engineering organizations have released a joint statement saying, in effect, "You want carbon cuts? We can give you carbon cuts. Just say the word, smart guy."
We already have all the tech necessary to cut emissions 85 percent by 2050, say the engineers.
What we don't have is support from governments -- laws that prioritize carbon reduction, and funding to put the technology into action.
Colin Brown of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (one of the 11 signatory agencies) didn't even try to hide his contempt for all those non-geeks in government:  

While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet. We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale.

The statement calls on world leaders to reach a global commitment to emissions reduction and energy efficiency at December's COP17 climate change talks. Once that committment is in place and adequately backed up, say the engineers, the technology is there to carry it out.

The 11 organizations that made the joint statement represent the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, Japan, Australia, India, and Honduras, but not the U.S.
Future Climate 2: We have the technology to slash global emissions, say engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Johns Hopkins scientists figure out how to ‘disarm’ AIDS virus

Johns Hopkins scientists figure out how to ‘disarm’ AIDS virus
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University said recently that they have learned how to "disarm" the AIDS virus by eliminating the cells' membranes, effectively stopping it from hijacking its victim's immune system.

Research results published last week in the medical journal Blood indicated the treatment method could lead to a vaccine against the virus, which affected about 33.3 million people worldwide at the end of 2009.

Scientists said their new method works by eliminating a membrane of cholesterol used by HIV to disguise itself and disarm the immune system. It steals the cholesterol from the first immune response to its intrusion, then uses it to communicate with the rest of the immune system. By stripping it of that essential cholesterol membrane, the AIDS virus is attacked by the immune system and shut down.


Get Ready to Burn Through Some Books

Danielle Crittenden: Get Ready to Burn Through Some Books
Today kicks off Banned Books Week: the Huffington Post Canada and Indigo have teamed up to bring our readers' attention to books that have been banned or challenged, both in North America and around the world. Starting tomorrow, we will feature one noteworthy book per day that has come under fire, either by a government or a community.

In our free society, attempts at censorship usually arise from offended religious or racial sensibilities. In recent times, the most notorious and explosive of these attempts occurred in 2005, when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad; the cartoons had begun as illustrations for a book, but were rejected by the Danish publisher. Newspapers and magazines in more than 50 countries republished the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish newspaper, and in an effort to protest media self-censorship. Some 200 people were subsequently killed around the world in violent riots and protests by angered Muslims who called the images "blasphemous."

Even by 2009, publishers remained cowed: Yale University Press banned the images from a book about the controversy, entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born professor Jytte Klausen. Despite objections from the author, Yale University Press further refrained from publishing "any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's Inferno that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí."...
Whatever your opinion, remember that in Canada you are free to read a book, judge it on its merits, and discuss it openly. That is not true in many countries around the world. Again and again throughout history, books have served as the inspiration and the engines for revolution against non-free regimes. We will be featuring some of those great works this week as well. Join books discussions on our Facebook page as well as at Indigo. But above all: read!


Ariel Garten | TEDxToronto

Ariel Garten | TEDxToronto
TedX opens on Friday. Here is the 'hipocampal neurogenesis' speaker -

CEO and Co-Founder InteraXon

Ariel is the CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, which creates thought controlled computing products and applications. Ariel has also researched at the Krembil Neuroscience Institute studying hippocampal neurogenesis, displayed work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, been head designer at a fashion label, and opened Toronto Fashion Week. Referred to as the “Brain Guru”, Ariel and her team’s work has been featured in hundreds of articles in over 20 countries.

Study Finds Correlation Between Belief in God and Cognitive Style | Harvard

Study Finds Correlation Between Belief in God and Cognitive Style The Harvard Crimson
There exists a correlation between an individual’s belief in God and his or her cognitive style, suggests a study by Harvard researchers published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology

The researchers determined that those with an intuitive cognitive style tend to have a stronger belief in God than those with a more reflective cognitive style. As defined in the study, intuitive thinkers make judgments quickly, based on automatic processes and instinct. Reflective thinkers prefer to pause and critically examine initial judgments before making a decision.

The study was conducted by three Harvard Psychology Department researchers—doctoral student Amitai Shenhav, Human Biology Lecturer David G. Rand, and Social Sciences Associate Professor Joshua D. Greene.

“Our study shows that although there’s certainly a role for [cultural influence], that’s not the only thing going on,” Rand said. The study found that intuitive thinkers not only tend to believe more strongly in the existence of God, but their faith also grows more certain over time. Alternatively, reflective thinkers become less certain of the existence of God over time.

To confirm their results, the researchers controlled for age, gender, and IQ and still found a positive correlation between cognitive style and belief in God.

Another part of the study demonstrated that cognitive style can be swayed in the short term, resulting in greater or lesser certainty about the existence of God. Researchers asked study participants to write about personal experiences in which they followed “their intuition or first instinct” or carefully reasoned through a situation.

“What we were most surprised by was the strength of the effect of just having someone write [a] paragraph result in a substantial shift in that person’s reported belief in God,” Rand said.

While the study provides insight into how people think about belief, the researchers were careful to point out that cognitive style is not an absolute indicator of people’s beliefs.“Each person strikes their own balance when they apply intuitive or reflective style. The findings don’t mean anything about religious beliefs being rational or irrational,” Shenhav said.

The study’s findings raise further questions about the relationship of cognitive style and politics, the researchers said. “The way that the political landscape in the U.S. is structured, belief in God is very strongly tied to a sort of sweep of other political beliefs,” Rand said.

Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain Gregory M. Epstein said this research is highly relevant for the humanist community, and he has invited Rand to speak at one the group’s meetings later this fall.

“With the incredible expansion in recent years of the size of the secular community in the U.S., I think people are asking a lot of questions about who are the non-religious in America,” Epstein said. “This is sort of a nugget of insight as to what goes on in the mind of a non-believer.”


‘Pipe Dreams’ documentary on Keystone XL/Tar Sands

‘Pipe Dreams’ documentary on Keystone XL
Not sure when/where it will air - keep your eyes peeled (or your GoogleAlert)

Pipe Dreams is a new 40-minute documentary by Leslie Iwerks on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It is narrated by Daryl Hannah, who was recently arrested in Washington, DC at the sit-in protest in front of the White House calling on US President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline.

You may remember Iwerks also directed Dirty Oil. “Narrated by actress Neve Campbell, this feature film follows pipelines from the Alberta oil sands to the American Midwest to witness how U.S. refineries, much like their Canadian counterparts, try to increase toxic dumping into the Great Lakes. These disturbing stories profoundly illustrate the price dirty oil is taking on both sides of the border.”

She also directed its prequel Downstream. “Shortlisted for the 81st Academy Awards, this 30-minute prequel documentary generated a media storm about the Alberta Oil Sands and got the Canadian government hot under the collar. Dirty Oil builds upon Downstream, exploring in full our addiction to oil - and offering hope for the future.” Downstream prominently features Dr. John O’Connor - now a Council of Canadians Board member - the Fort Chipewyan community physician who first raised concerns about cancer rates there.

For more, please go to and
For more on Council of Canadians opposition to Keystone XL, go to


Seminar on 9/11 and cultural theory, Of Swallows, Sept 30

From  an evening with Robert Hullot-Kentor (Friday, Sept. 30).
For the final installment of our series Waste Luxury Knot, distinguished cultural critic (
Things Beyond Resemblance) and editor-translator (Aesthetic Theory, Current of Music) Robert Hullot-Kentor will here offer a talk entitled "Severe Clear: Sacrifice, Ground Zero." Prof. Hullot-Kentor will examine the new memorial site at Ground Zero, with the intention of illuminating the historical dynamic that is now present in Canada, the US, & Europe: the insistence that, if we are to survive what we are in the midst of, "all things must be cut." The talk will be followed by an extended discussion, as we inaugurate our new line of inquiry: into Sacrifice. 
riday September 30, 7:00pm at 283 College.
Tickets will be sold in advance: $20 (or $12 for students/underemployed), includes wine and cheese. Space is limited. For more information: or 416-534-5173.  
Of Swallows, their Deeds, and the Winter Below, Bookstore.
283 College Street, Upper
Toronto, ON M5T1S2


Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences adds its voice for evolution | NCSE

Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences adds its voice for evolution | NCSE
The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement from the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, "the unified voice for earth science in Canada."
"Creationism and ["intelligent design"] do not qualify as science, because the scientific method is not deployed and these ideas are therefore not theories or hypotheses in universally accepted scientific sense," the statement explains (PDF). "Hence, Creationism and ID do not belong in any K-12 science curriculum."
The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

disOrientation 2011 | the past is a battleground

disOrientation 2011 | the past is a battleground
Ten years ago, two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City, inspiring the US-led “War on Terror.” Within months the US invaded Afghanistan with Canadian military support. Two years later the US invaded Iraq under the pretext of eliminating “weapons of mass destruction” that were never found. These military ventures, like so many others, affirmed the simple truth about terrorism: states do it with far greater quantifiable devastation, and always well-disguised as a force of good.
To counter this violence and manipulation, activists around the world persistently research, educate and organize to dig deeper than media sound bytes and to fight those who distort the truth for personal gain. The tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 reminds us that our conception of the past determines how we operate in the present. Join the Ontario Public Interest Research Group and the University of Toronto Students’ Union for a week of events that will help reveal the most accurate version of history. (Schedule at link above)


Alexandre Brassard, Ph.D: Which Ontario Candidate Will Dare Address Separate School Funding?

Alexandre Brassard, Ph.D: Which Ontario Candidate Will Dare Address Separate School Funding?
... But most disappointing, perhaps, is the insensitivity of Catholic schools toward their lesbian and gay students. Back in 2002, the Durham Catholic School Board fought tooth and nail to stop a student from going to the prom with his boyfriend. More recently, the Halton Catholic School Board and St. Joseph's Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga prevented gay and lesbian students from forming support groups. And the Dufferin - Peele board was ridiculed when it censored rainbow images for being "too political".

Worse still, the Toronto Catholic District Board voted to undermine the Ministry of Education's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, by stipulating, "Where there is an apparent conflict between denominational rights and other rights, the board will favour the protection of the denominational rights." We now have a situation where provisions adopted in 1867 to protect one minority are being used to harass another.

The assisted suicide dilemma - Globe

The assisted suicide dilemma - The Globe and Mail
Professor Udo Schuklenk, a philosopher from Queen’s University, talked to Marina Jimenez of the Globe and Mail editorial board. He is chair of the Royal Society’s committee on end-of-life decision-making in Canada. The committee, which will release a lengthy report this fall, spent two years studying this issue, and the experience of other countries which have decriminalized assisted suicide.


ROM: TIFF, Peter Lynch: Future Projections 2011

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto International Film Festival: Future Projections 2011

Toronto International Film Festival: Future Projections 2011
Buffalo Days by Peter Lynch

Institute for Contemporary Culture

September 8 to 18, 2011
Thorsell Spirit House

A multichannel video installation, created by one of Canada’s most celebrated filmmakers, Peter Lynch’s Buffalo Days examines the devastating impact of Europeans on native cultures. In place of an inherently organic system, Europeans substituted one of complete control, driving out or eliminating wildlife—especially buffalo—and people unable to conform.

Conference | TEDxToronto/ viewing party UofT

Conference | TEDxToronto
On Friday, September 23rd 2011, fourteen diverse and passionate speakers will gather to share TEDxTalks on the theme of Redefinition. We are inviting Torontonians to join, listen, and be inspired. See below for ways to be a part of the day. Celebrate the spirit of ideas worth spreading at the official afterparty of TEDxToronto 2011. Tickets are now available on a first-come, first-served basis to the 3rd annual event, after back-to-back sold out years of over 700 attendees.If you’d like to be a part of TEDxToronto, but are not a delegate (registration has closed), please be advised we’ll be hosting Viewing Parties at the following locations: A registration form will be made available here no later than Monday, September 12th.Visit this site on September 23rd at 9:30AM EST to tune in.
  • Sheridan College
  • University of Toronto
  • York University
  • Ryerson University
  • Humber College
  • Centre for Social Innovation
These Viewing Parties will offer the opportunity to watch the TEDxTalks LIVE with others who are just as passionate about ideas worth sharing. A registration form will be made available here no later than Monday, September 12th.
(afterparty at Steamwhistle)


Opponent of Canadian Gold Mine in Colombia killed - Maude Barlow to visit Goldcorp Mine

NEWS: Opponent of Canadian mine in Colombia killed   By Brent Patterson, Tuesday, September 6th,  More info: Grahame Russell, Rights Action, 011 502 4955-3634,

“Father Jose Reinel Restrepo Idairraga was killed by unknown assailants…on Thursday, 1 September…in Colombia. …Father Restrepo was 36 years old…and since 2009 was pastor in Marmato, where he was appreciated and respected by the locals because of his commitment to the poor. The authorities have begun investigating the case to determine whether the reason for the priest’s killing was mugging or if there is any other reason.

This area of Colombia is well-known because about 80 percent of the population of Marmato works in gold mining.” In a video posted to YouTube just days before his murder, Father Restrepo spoke against an open pit gold mine proposed by Toronto-based Medoro Resources (which recently merged with another Canadian company, Gran Colombia Gold Corp). Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reports,

“The priest had spent the past two years in Marmato where he had opposed the moving of the town, a possibility that has been considered if the mining company Gran Colombia Gold mines its open pit project.” The Marmato Project: As noted on their website, “Medoro Resources Ltd. is a gold exploration, development and mining company with a primary emphasis on Colombia. Medoro owns most of the prolific Marmato gold district and the producing Mineros Nacionales underground gold mine located in Zona Baja at Marmato. The Compan (plans) to develop a large open pit gold mine to realize the large potential of the Marmato Project.

” In October 2009, Medoro acquired the Zona Alta license through its share purchase of Colombia Goldfields Ltd.” A March 2008 article in The Dominion by Micheál Ó Tuathail of Edmonton’s La Chiva collective reports, “Five years ago, (Marmato’s) roots were shaken when the Compañía Mineras de Caldas, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Colombia Goldfields Limited, began its project of consolidating ownership of the mountain, leading to what many call the ‘economic forced displacement’ of Marmato and the social eradication of a working community. …(An article in El Colombiano) claims that an open-pit gold mine at Marmato would be ‘one of the largest in South America’, requiring the removal of ‘between 30,000 and 60,000 tonnes of earth daily in order to produce 250,000 ounces of gold annually.’ The operation would exploit in 20 years what small miners could in 200.”

Water: The Dominion article adds, “While small mining practices are notorious for their use of harmful chemicals such as cyanide, open-pit mines are environmental disaster zones, according to critics, who say they bring limited short-term employment and leave behind gigantic holes in the ground where communities once lived.” A Colombia Goldfields media release from February 2007 says, “The first detailed water monitoring ever undertaken at Marmato was completed in December 2006 at 18 locations in three creeks and two locations on the Cauca River. The sampling was a joint effort with Corpocaldas, the State Environmental Agency responsible for the Environment in the Department of Caldas. Due to unregulated discharge from the mills and the lack of any tailings disposal facilities at Marmato, cyanide levels are toxic in all locations and the amount of suspended solids is many times above acceptable levels.”

also - Maude Barlow to visit Goldcorp mine in Guatemala
Tomorrow, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be visiting the controversial Canadian-owned Marlin mine in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, which is located about 300 kilometres north of Guatemala City. “Community activists have risked their lives to protect their water from depletion and the discharge of toxic tailings,” says Maude Barlow.  Among the water-related concerns with the Marlin mine, Tech International, a US-based non-governmental organization, has expressed concern that tailings water from the mine is seeping into a downstream tributary.

In 2009, a research team from the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology confirmed the Marlin mine had contaminated local water supplies. And University of Ghent researchers believe the mine is depleting surface water causing arsenic-rich groundwater to be drawn into surface waters, and that arsenic may be the reason for skin problems being found among local residents. “By allowing Goldcorp to operate this way in Guatemala, the Canadian government is violating the right to water of the local communities in the regional and river basin where the Marlin mine operates,” says Barlow, referring to the legally binding resolutions passed at the United Nations last year recognizing the right to water and sanitation. “To Harper, the right to water in Guatemala, and other countries Canadian mining companies operate in, is simply a barrier to trade,” adds Barlow, noting the federal government is seeking a free trade agreement with Guatemala. “But you can’t trade away human rights.”

NOTE: Given Canadian investments (including through the Canada Pension Plan) and subsidies that have funded the mine's operations, the Canadian government and public have a responsibility here, notes Barlow. The Council of Canadians is calling for legislation in Canada that recognizes the right to water and ends the impunity Canadian mining companies currently enjoy abroad.

“With Guatemala’s federal election less than a week away, mining should be a central issue given its widespread impacts in Guatemalan society and environment,” says Barlow. “With the terrible international record of Canadian mining companies, it should be a central issue here too.” This past May, the Council of Canadians, along with 200+ people, participated in a protest at Goldcorp's annual shareholders meeting in Vancouver. The protest demanded that Goldcorp suspend its operations at the Marlin mine.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is on TVO's BIG IDEAs Sept 4, discussing her book NOMAD

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, TVO's Big Ideas, 5pm Sept 4.
Somali-born author Ayaan Hirsi Ali delivers the 2010 Donner Canadian Foundation Lecture. Her lecture, based on her book Nomad: From Islam to America, is followed by a lengthy Q & A. | Books | Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In her powerful new memoir, the #1 bestselling author of Infidel tells the stirring story of her search for a new life as she tries to reconcile her Islamic past with her passionate adherence to democracy and Western values. A unique blend of personal narrative and reportage, moving,  wryly funny at times, Nomad gives us an inside view of her battle for equality in the face of considerable odds.

Ayaan captured the world's attention with Infidel, the eye-opening memoir of her childhood in Africa and Saudi Arabia, and her escape to Holland en route to a forced marriage in Canada. Nomad is the story of what happened after the Dutch director with whom she made a documentary about the domestic abuse of Muslim women was murdered by a radical Islamist and death threats forced her into hiding; of her bid to start a new life in America; of her renewed contact with her family on her father's death; and of her attempts to live by her adopted principles. With deep understanding, and through vivid anecdotes, and observations of people, cultures, and the political debacles that are engulfing the world, she takes us with her on an illuminating, unforgettable journey.