Open thread

Return of the Leonids: “On Sunday, Nov. 19th, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The result: a shower of Leonid meteors. ‘We expect an outburst of more than 100 Leonids per hour,’ says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, AL. This pales in comparison to the Leonid storms of 2001 and 2002, when sky watchers saw thousands of meteors. Even so, a hundred per hour would make the Leonids one of the best showers of 2006.”

That’s the kind of magic trick I want to learn.  “[Illusionist David] Copperfield, 50, and two female assistants were walking from the Kravis Center to their tour bus when they were approached by the teens April 23. The assistants handed over money and a cellphone [after the teens brandished a weapon and demanded they hand over whatever was in their possession], but the illusionist turned his pockets inside out to reveal nothing, although he was carrying his passport, wallet and cell phone. ‘He said in depositions that he had things on him, but it wasn’t difficult to make it seem like there was nothing there,’ prosecutor Sherri Collins said.”

More bad news on climate change, and the report is damning for the US (no surprises there…).  “Sweden, Britain and Denmark are doing the most to protect against climate change, but their efforts are not nearly enough, according to a report released Monday by environmental groups. The United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — ranked 53rd, with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia doing worse.”  Right.  Out of 56 countries, America ranked at 53—the low end of the scale where the worst polluters are listed.

While on the same topic, global warming is increasing the rate of species extinctions.  “Global warming has already caused extinctions in the most sensitive habitats and will continue to cause more species to go extinct over the next 50 to 100 years, confirms the most comprehensive study since 2003 on the effects of climate change on wild species worldwide by a University of Texas at Austin biologist. Dr. Camille Parmesan’s synthesis also shows that species are not evolving fast enough to prevent extinction.”  We’re doin’ a bang-up job with the planet, aren’t we?  All seafood will be gone by 2050, the climate will change dramatically over the next 100 years (with worsening conditions everywhere), and extinctions are rising at a cataclysmic rate.  These are all facts, not conjecture.  I’ll say it again: This century is the end of life as we know it.  Earth will be a very different place in 100 years, and we’ll all watch it happen and will suffer the consequences.

How outrageous and horrifying.  “When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul.”  They eventually tried to get his help to build one of their churches near his home town, and that’s when he realized why they had agreed to be his foster family while he was in America.  Deception and dishonesty and viciously forcing their faith on a young man.  How Christian.

Kudos to the Marine Reserves.  “A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves’ Toys for Tots program. A suburban Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on Biblical figures. But the charity balked because of the dolls’ religious nature. Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and ‘we don’t know anything about their background, their religious affiliations,’ said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va. As a government entity, Marines ‘don’t profess one religion over another,’ Grein said Tuesday. ‘We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family.'”  Of course, the company is “surprised and disappointed” and believes everyone can learn from the Bible regardless of their personal views and beliefs.  Yawn.  More brainwashing indoctrination by religious zealots, but now they want to deceive children into believing their mythology by forcing it on them with toys.  Assholes.

A very cool photo of a shuttle launch as seen from a high altitude research craft.  Wow!  [via Michael at Gay Orbit]

“Cat hoarding” is such a judgmental term according to The Poor Man.  Check out the photos of his new kittens (one a more recent addition than the other).  Very cute.

Unbelievable!  “A court ruling which ordered a gynecologist to pay child support for up to 18 years as compensation for botching a contraceptive implant was condemned by the German media as scandalous on Wednesday. The Karlsruhe-based federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the doctor must pay his former patient, now a mother of a three-year-old boy, 600 euros ($769) a month because she became pregnant after he implanted her with a contraceptive device. ‘A child as a case for damages — this perverse idea has now been confirmed by one of Germany’s highest courts,’ conservative Die Welt daily newspaper wrote in an editorial on Wednesday.”  That’s right.  The doctor has to pay child support.  “‘In addition to the highly private inkling that he was not wanted by his parents, [the child in question] now has official confirmation that he was born by mistake,’ Die Welt also said.”  And let’s not forget reductio ad absurdum: You should now be able to sue condom manufacturers for child support if a condom breaks and a pregnancy ensues; you should now be able to sue pharmaceutical companies if a woman on birth control pills becomes pregnant (while it’s rare, it does happen); you should now be able to sue any contraceptive maker or responsible party when such contraceptives fail.  And let’s take the absurdity to the next logical place: Does the doctor get partial custody now that he’s paying child support?  It’s a legitimate question, I think.  [via Kevin, M.D.]

Why don’t we see anything about this in the mainstream media?  Where’s the liberal bias that should translate to outrage at this story?  “A gay Iranian man was hanged in public on Tuesday in the western city of Kermanshah on the charge of sodomy. [. . .] Darvishi was hanged in the evening in Kermanshah’s ‘Freedom Square’ in front of hundreds of people, the report said.”  This goes with another hanging a month or two ago of two TEENAGE BOYS for the same thing—being gay.  Why aren’t we hearing about this in the news?  It’s a crime against humanity yet goes unreported.

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