Weekend Coffee: November 12

Here's some miscellany to accompany your morning coffee:


70 major U.S. corporations and civic organizations call for DOMA to be struck down in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a federal legal challenge.

• Help defend the First Amendment! The U.S. Forest Service is considering a request from FFRF to terminate a Catholic group's no-cost lease for a shrine to Jesus on federal parkland. The public comment period is open until December 8, and we need to make our voices heard. The Forest Service is wavering under pressure from a theocratic Republican House member. If public comments are overwhelmingly against the lease, that will give them the political cover they need to act. Here are instructions on how to contact the Forest Service.

• My friend Greta Christina is asking atheists who used to be believers what it was that changed their minds, the better to hone our methods of persuasion. If you fit that description, please take her survey and contribute a data point!

• Prolonged solitary confinement is torture without a doubt, as I think you'll agree after reading this first-hand account from one of the American hikers who was imprisoned in Iran.

• After a heavy piece like that, you may need a laugh, so here it is: The producers of the Atlas Shrugged movie (which I've previously covered) accidentally release a DVD edition whose copy trumpets "Ayn Rand's timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice". For those who may be unfamiliar with Rand's oeuvre, this would be like a Bible being printed with the ad copy, "This timeless book teaches the virtues of rational thought and skepticism."

Tim Minchin comments on Elevatorgate.

• And lastly, who's going to Skepticon IV? It's only one week away now, and I'm getting excited. Are there any DA readers out there who plan to be in attendance?

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
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Should teachers be fired for nude pics from their past?

Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
  • Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
  • She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.
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Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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