August 17th newsletter roundup

Through our weekly newsletter, we let our members and supporters know about our upcoming events as well as a number of issues and campaigns that we think might be of interest to them. However it’s recently grown in length and has been difficult to read.

So we’re trying something new. From now on, each week we’ll be posting our news items of interest on our blog and linking to these posts from the newsletter. Then, those who want to explore more can do so while our newsletter is kept to a more manageable level.

Let us know how you think this is working and feel free to email other suggestions for inclusion in future roundups. Email:

And for the latest news items, be sure to like the BC Humanists on Facebook and follow @BCHumanist on Twitter.


Niloy Neel is the latest blogger to be murdered by extremists in Bangladesh. He’s the fourth in recent months, each of whose names were on a list of 84 bloggers released by Islamic fundamentalists. Check this link for the latest news on the progress (or lack thereof) of the campaign to end anti-blasphemy laws around the world.

The Bangladeshi Government has so far been slow to act on this violence and has even further tightened restrictions on free expression. However, the BBC reports that two people have been arrested in connection with Neel’s murder. Let’s hope this is a sign the Government is starting to take the issue seriously.


There are some encouraging new developments in Canada’s Dying With Dignity campaign. The Ontario provincial government is setting up a panel on the topic which is much more fairly balanced than the federal panel.  The Ontario panel aims to put the needs of patients and families first.

John Oliver takes on televangelists and how they exploit US tax laws to defraud the vulnerable in his latest 20 minute segment from Last Week Tonight. Watch the whole thing and check out his new church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.


Shell Oil has obtained permission from Canada’s Environment Minister to drill for oil off Nova Scotia. However, in the case of any disaster Shell has been allowed to let oil blowouts go for 21 days. SumOfUs are petitioning the Government to limit blowouts to 24 hours, the same as the USA. Read more and sign the petition here.


Peaceful Canadian citizens have been spied upon by various Canadian security and law enforcement agencies. Our friends at the BC Civil Liberties Association have initiated legal action about this. The proceedings are being held in secret hearings in Vancouver.  Please go to this link and add your voice in favour of the rights to free expression and free association.


The Dogwood Initiative has been working hard to prevent a coal port from going ahead in the heart of Metro Vancouver, a project with massive environmental costs for the region and planet. Please check out this link for the latest details of this project and register your protest. Also come to the September 20, 2015 Sunday meeting to hear Arie Ross elaborate on this issue.


Slavery is still going on in Mauritania, despite laws against it. Please sign this heart-rending petition to free Biram, former President of Mauritania, who is being held for the “crime” of freeing slaves from their illegal captivity.


Scientific American has an interesting article on an exoplanet which might be a model for the early stages of Jupiter’s evolution.


Here is a poignant article by the neurologist Oliver Sacks who is coming to terms with his impending morality without the benefit of supernatural beliefs. From the article:

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.


Rukimini Callimachi has a thorough piece in The New York Times on the truly horrifying theology of rape promoted by ISIS and other Islamist terrorist organizations. She exposes how ISIS is justifying rape and sexual slavery through their interpretations of scripture.


And now, a hopefully considerably less horrifying post from Dr Jerry Coyne’s blog reporting on a study which suggests that sex evolved to help combat infection.


A woman working absurd hours as a volunteer in Scientology’s infamous Sea Org was compelled to have an abortion against her will. Here’s the latest in her lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and their attempts to bury her in legal wranglings.

Now that we are in the longest and most expensive election campaign in recent history, is calling on Canadians to elect MPs who will support proportional representation in future elections so that every Canadian’s vote counts.


On July 28, 2015, the US debut of the AllTrials campaign was announced. Please consider signing the petition to demand that results from all clinical trials of medicines and medical procedures be made public. As those of you who attended Ian’s excellent presentation on this topic yesterday know, this is a campaign with a lot of public support around the world and with an excellent chance of making a huge positive difference in the lives of most humans.


Please check out Evidence for Democracy who stand up for science and smart-decision making in our government. If you’ve not already done so, please listen to CBC Radio’s excellent Ideas program Science Under Siege.

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