February 15, 2016 Newsletter Roundup

On Sunday, February 14, 2016, Dr Ahmed Hussein, a professor of nuclear physics and a visiting scientist at TRIUMF and Los Alamos National Laboratory, spoke to 38 of us on the next generation of nuclear power plants based on thorium fluid fuel. A lively but short discussion followed Dr Hussein's detailed explanation of how nuclear power is better than coal and how the dual fluid fuel fission reactor his group had designed is the next big step forward in nuclear power. He claims it to be much safer, much cheaper to build and operate, and best of all, it is able to reuse radioactive waste from current generations of nuclear reactors as part of its fuel.

Public funding of religious hospitals

Our analysis shows that in 2015 taxpayers gave just shy of $1 billion to religious healthcare institutions.

Yet church leaders are brazenly demanding that their institutions - paid for by you and me - be allowed to refuse a patients' request to die with dignity.

Watch and share Dying With Dignity Canada's latest video to see why this matters.

And stay tuned for the next steps in how to stand up for choice and dignity.

Upcoming Vancouver Sunday Meetings

On Sunday, February 21, 2016, David Hutchinson will be speaking on Cannabis Science.

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, Craig Farlinger will be to us about the aims and platform of the BC Progressive Party.

On Sunday, March 6, 2016, Gail Miller will be speaking to us about Secular Childhood Education in Guatemala and the world.

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, Dr Samir Gandesha an associate professor of Humanities at SFU will be speaking to us about Nihilism and Terror.

Our Vancouver Sunday meetings take place at the Oakridge Seniors' Centre. The centre is at the west side of Oakridge Mall at 41st and Cambie. The mall has a large parking lot and is accessible by the Canada Line. Doors open at 10:00 am for BYO coffee, tea and socializing. Please help us welcome all attendees by introducing yourself and asking about themselves (if you are comfortable doing that). We want all attendees (and especially first-timers) to feel welcome and part of our Humanist community. At 10:30 am we start our presentation.

BCHA Book Club

The March book club selection is With or Without God by Gretta Vosper. The March meeting will be on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at Goldis' home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the May 3, 2016 book club selection.

The April book club selection is The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. The April meeting will be on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at Goldis' home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the June 7, 2016 book club selection.

See all upcoming events.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up. Also, please RSVP so others have an idea of how many people usually attend these meetings. Please be aware that while we do our best to ensure that the scheduled programs go ahead, there are no guarantees and last minute changes may be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

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To keep our email newsletter digestible, we save extra news tidbits for this roundup. The opinions which appear in this roundup are not necessarily shared by all or even most of the members or board of the BC Humanist Association. Let me know if you have any suggestions to include in future roundups. Email: secretary@bchumanist.ca

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

Other events of interest 


Comic Disbelief

Wednesday February 24, 7:30 pm
La Fontana Cafe, 3701 Hastings at Boundary - no cover!

What do you get when you combine a depressed Jewish/atheist counselor/stand up comic with an agnostic/Ismaili stand up comic? A comedy show that skewers of all the major religions, New Age fads and cultish beliefs. You’ll also hear about the lighter side of mental health and other fun topics like racism, addiction, and dysfunctional relationships. This show is guaranteed to have you laughing your head off!

Starring David Granirer and Al Hassam; with special guests Goldie Hoffman and Cali Haan

You can find more details on Facebook and check out the Atheist Republic Vancouver Consulate for more events like this.

News of note

The Good


Gravity waves have finally been detected in a long-anticipated breakthrough from the scientists at the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravity Wave Observatories) in Washington State and Louisiana. Gravity waves are ripples in the structure of space-time and were predicted by Einstein 100 years ago. They occur when large masses change direction at extremely high speeds. This is a huge deal for cosmology as it opens up an additional way to examine extremely violent events such as the merger of supermassive black holes at distances which are inaccessible to electromagnetic wave based astronomy. Physicist Dr Lawrence Krauss explains the importance of this discovery in this article in The New York Times.


The Government of BC has announced a plan to spend $355 million on affordable housing in the Vancouver area over the next five years, according to this report from the CBC. This is a badly needed step in the right direction.


A rare bit of good news out of Wisconsin where the Department of Motor Vehicles decided it wasn't worth the effort to get into a legal squabble and decided to allow a Pastafarian to renew his driver's license while wearing the traditional headgear of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


From CBS news, a bit of good news on the Trans Pacific Partnership deal. Paul Ryan thinks there are not enough votes in Congress to ratify it in the US. Also, check out this more detailed report from New Zealand's Stuff website on the problems with the TPP.


I don't often applaud another person's death, but it's undeniably good news that US Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia, arguably one of the most influential opponents of human progress on the planet, has died. This opens the possibility of the shifting the balance so that the Supreme Court more frequently comes down on the side of social justice and human progress.

The Bad


The Government of Canada is under considerable pressure to capitulate to Chinese government demands for an oil pipeline to the West Coast as part of a Canada-China free trade deal. Please consider signing this petition to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject this pressure and preserve BC's marine environment, the rights of First Nations to protect their lands and the rights of Canadian workers to fair treatment. 


From The Georgia Straight comes an article on the latest petition to stop arrests for possession and cultivation of cannabis.

This is an excellent explanation of how the various churches of ridiculous claims spread and become "normal" -- from DarkMatter2525.


A methane blowout at Porter Ranch has been temporarily plugged. It began pumped methane into the air last October. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it has polluted an equivalent of 7000 additional cars on California's roads. The leakage of 5 billion cubic feet of  methane contaminated with benzine vapours forced more than 6000 residents to evacuate the area. This is a cautionary tale of how deregulation and lax regulation of energy companies works out for the people living with their operations. The problem was caused by the company's failure to install a valve that was mandated by regulations but never enforced.


From NPR: Further confirmation that waterboarding does not work from the US head of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, Frazier Thompson. Thompson has actually experienced this use of torture. 


Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church and Patriarch Kirill of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church are meeting in Cuba to see if a hybrid of two slightly different but equally antithetical to human well-being dogmas will stem the decline of faith in both their churches. They also issued a global appeal for protection of Christians being murdered in unprecedented numbers in Islamist-terrorism-infested countries in the Middle East and North Africa. That is something we can all get behind.

Regrettably (but not unexpectedly) the pair also demonize a so-called "aggressive secularist society" and worry that "the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."


From Jerry Coyne's blog, an unintentionally honest meme from a Church of Christ billboard. Education is, indeed, strongly correlated with losing faith in God, and instead gaining an appreciation for reason and reality.

The Ugly


A temporary cessation of hostilities (not to be confused with a cease-fire) has been negotiated between Russia and the US in Syria. As this article from Slate points out, this is sadly more likely to be an empty gesture than a path toward an end to the horrific 4-party war which has so far killed over 540,000 Syrians directly or indirectly and made life virtually intolerable for the survivors.


The National Energy Board of Canada has watered down a fine to Enbridge. Its existing rules don't require companies to assist landowners whose land they render unusable.


The US Supreme Court handed climate change denier extremists a victory by bouncing a legal challenge to Obama's latest environmental regulations back to federal courts for further consideration. The move will likely at the very least delay implementation of the rules until Obama leaves office and will probably prevent their implementation altogether.


Please consider signing this petition to support an arms embargo against the Saudi Arabian government, who have been bombing schools, hospitals and wedding parties in Yemen. There is also an option at the link to send an email to Canada's Minister of Defence asking him to stop Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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