November 2015 Newsletter

Discussion Topic for This Month: The Syrian/Iraq Refugee Crisis

Syrian refugee montage
Is it an overwhelming catastrophe, depressing calamity or unsolvable horror?
How should we respond?
Is our (the U.S.) response to the emergency adequate?
Is there a moral imperative for us to do more?
What are the issues driving the problem and what can be done to resolve it?
Bring your reflections, perspectives, observations, and ideas to the discussion!

What is the US response to the refugee crisis?

Is climate change a factor in the refugee crisis?                               YES:                 NO:

Oxfam urges G20 leaders to take action on climate change, refugees and tax reform 

How to help refugees: 6 groups doing important work 

Scorecard (A+ – F) for charities providing emergency services to the people of Syria


Tom the Dancing Bug by Reuben Bolling at the very end of this month’s newsletter!  I know you’re anxious to see the TWO classic full-length Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons this month, but you’ll have to wait until you reach the end of the newsletter. Oh, O.K., here’s a quick taste to hold you over:Tom the Dancing Bug 1052 sfpc90 forrest green


Legacy of the Merchants of Doubt: U.S. Cigarette Smoking on the Rise

Americans are lighting up again! A victory for the Merchants of Doubt!

  “For the first time in more than a decade, Americans appear to be smoking more. A confluence of factors – from a better jobs market to cheaper gasoline to reductions in government anti-smoking programs – are driving a months-long pickup in cigarette sales, analysts say. If current trends hold, 2015 could mark the first year since 2002 that sales volumes increase.” 

If you are reading this after Sunday November 15, you missed the Book Club discussion, but there’s still plenty of time to read this one on your own…and you should!

merchants of doubt

Members commented on Merchants of Doubt:

Mike Berry and Berit Palmer said,It’s a must read to understand how willful ignorance and active science denial have been with us for a long time. Oreskes continues the fight against the anti-science obstructionists and deserves our admiration…an excellent choice”

Clint Kearns adds: “Excellent choice … particularly after the recent climate change presentation.  Here is a link to [Naomi Oreskes] TED talk, June 2014



Upcoming Showtime Special – The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs

bush CIA showtime combo”Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”


It’s astounding (to me, personally, not necessarily reflecting the position of S&AoD) that Jeb! Bush is trying to peddle the notion that his brother ‘kept us safe’.


Existential despair has got white Americans down

depression-mind-cloud  Paul Krugman via The Durango Herald

“…mortality among middle aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause.”


The War on Xmas…I Mean, Christmas


Belen NM

Concord Nativity scene w text

And now, along comes the Starbucks ‘controversy’…a tempest in a paper coffee cup. This year, for any who have been off-planet for the past two weeks, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist solid-red design for their holiday coffee cups….while rival Dunkin’ Donuts went with the word “JOY” surrounded by a wreath.

Dunkin vs Starbuck cupsThe lack of snowflakes, Christmas tree ornaments or other symbols on the Starbucks coffee container has driven the persecution-minded Christians of America into a frothing rage…some, like the man pictured below, are celebrating the birth of the Savior with a grimace and a gun….

starbucks guy with gun

Here is a sampling of the CupGate commentary:

Starbucks and grampa simpson“It’s not just about a cup”, evangelist and radio personality Joshua Feuerstein said to the WaPo, “The cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country”. So, now it’s not a war just on the Christmas holiday, but a war on Christians in the USA”.

Feuerstein’s solution? Tell the barista that your name is “Merry Christmas” and ‘trick’ them into writing that greeting on a cup…then post a selfie on line to show how clever you are!

Donald Trump Starbucks quote

Bill O war on xmas

But if you’re in a hurry, here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

  1. The word ‘holiday’…Bill O was the first to pounce on stores that try to be more inclusive of other traditions.
  2. Banning stuff that no one is actually banning. Bill O again, saying a school district in Texas banned students from wearing the colors red and green because they were ‘Christmas colors’. Bill O called this ‘fascism’. And it might have been, had it actually happened…but it didn’t
  3. Bill O again. (Do you see a developing pattern here?) “If Jews don’t like it, they should move to Israel”, according to the Sage of Fox News.
  4. The ‘secular, progressive agenda which includes “legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion on demand and gay marriage”.
  5. Jon Stuart (see #3)
  6. Fox News. GASP! During Bill O’s show, Fox ran a promo wishing viewers a ‘Happy Holiday’.
  7. Free Speech. Fox’s Gretchen Carlson said on Fox and Friends: “I am tolerant. I’m all for Free Speech and Free Rights… just not on December w25th.
  8. Satanic monuments such as the Festivus Pole (from Seinfeld, a sitcom that is 30 years in our rear-view mirrors)
  9. Non-white Santa Clauses. The horror.

However, not all Christians are upset

happy christians…at least not upset at Starbucks…some Christians have counter-punched against their fellows in faith. One such opinion is from Heather Simpson in an essay titled “The Red Starbucks Cup Is Not Persecution”.

Some choice quotes: “News flash: Jesus died. You can handle a blank red cup.” And “Starbucks is a business. In a fallen world. A world that we live in and that Jesus lived in. So what do you expect? For Starbucks to honor your unpopular Christianity? Is that really why you signed up to be a Christian? So that everyone will honor you and make sure not to offend you?”


‘Young Earth’ Creationists Make $90M Full-Scale Ark to ‘Bring the Bible to Life’

 (contributed by Ray Polidori)  Reserve the date: the entire month of July, 2016. That’s the expected completion date for Ken Ham’s 510’ replica of Noah’s Ark which is being constructed in Kentucky. It will be open for 40 days and 40 nights when it is finally completed next summer. Ken Ham, you may recall, is responsible for the Creation Museum where visitors can gaze on replicas of human children playing in the Garden of Eden with (vegan) Dinosaurs and other unlikely wonders based on The Holy Bible.

ark underconstruction artworkAnd, yes, Ken Ham is furious about the ‘War On Christmas’ and the ‘war’ on Christianity in general. If only our kids were forced to pray to Jesus in public schools, everything would be O.K….right? Damned atheists.


If you happen to be a Sumerian, the whole ‘Noah and the Ark’ thing might bring about a feeling of déjà vu…and for good reason! The Hebrew authors of the story of Noah borrowed heavily from the writers of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh which was written around 2000BCE.

UtnapishtimThe original flood story tells of angry gods determined to wipe out mankind via a world-wide flood, a hero (Noah/Utnapishtim) who is beloved by the god(s) and who is saved via an enormous boat with which to ride out the storm. There are scads of websites which are operated by creationists which minimize the similarities between the two stories … their motives are obvious. But if one searches for ‘Gilgamesh Flood Myth’ you’ll find some which are academic, not proselytizing, in nature. This seems to be a straightforward, side-by-side comparison of the two myths without the pushing of any agenda

Noah cartoon

And from a contributor to there is this:     “You know if you read the Bible as it was intended to be read, as a book of allegories which teach religious lessons, that is fine with me, and I would probably never say anything negative about it or challenge its accuracy.
However many Christians take the Bible as being LITERALLY true, and use it to make decisions about how to view the world around them, how to vote, how to think, and who to trust.
Creationists of today use the story of Noah’s Ark as the linchpin for their argument against Evolution, and use it to explain away everything from the different layers of strataevidence of fossils, and even the extinction of the dinosaurs.
In fact when it comes to arguing against science, Noah’s flood is their “go to” Biblical resource.
Of course as illustrated above the entire premise of the story is too fantastical to ever seriously entertain, much less use as the basis for rejecting scientific evidence.
It is not only Noah’s age that should make reasonable people reject the myth, it is also the ridiculous idea that Noah could have gathered two of EVERY land animal that we see today from all over the world, that the Ark would have been large enough to hold them (About 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Not even close!), that Noah could have brought along enough food to keep them alive for 40 days and 40 nights, and that wild animals would have responded to a human and remained docile for 40 days and 40 nights. I mean please!
It is a tale for children, and as a child we can all enjoy it right along with the 12 Labors of Hercules, and Aesop’s Fables, but as rational thinking adults we should be able to recognize that children’s stories can no longer be used to explain the world around us. 

For that we look for evidence, and let that evidence guide us toward a greater understanding of our universe and our place within it.”


Noah's Ark - After The Flood Hd HD Desktop Background


homeopathy-water-620x350-590x333Medical ‘Study’ Proving Efficacy of Homeopathic Drugs Does No Such Thing

(contributed by Marc Masor)  Homeopathic drugs have been explored in past Skeptics and Atheists of Durango forums. It seems pretty obvious that homeopathy is a ‘quack’ remedy that relies on the bogus premise of using extreme dilutions of herbs, minerals and other substances to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.

homeopathy-cartoon-2small The theory, called the ‘law of infinitesimals’, states that the greater the dilution, the more powerful the effect. This, of course, is the exact opposite of the dose-response relationship that modern pharmacologists live by. A 30C dilution  would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.

However, homeopathic drugs continue to be popular and the study referred to in the above link may be one reason why. A bogus study in a bogus medical journal helps keep the quackery alive and well.

And speaking of bogus medical research studies….  

Dr. Chandra Saga…

Marc Masor gave a Member Talk a few weeks ago about the scandal surrounding a medical researcher and the numerous drug studies that he fabricated. Marc adds this: “The British Medical Journal just retracted one of Chandra’s studies.  Attached is an article written by a BMJ staffer covering the story as well as the investigative report done by Memorial University that became available during the trial.”

Below are some links to Canadian news coverage.

CBC coverage: 

A Globe and Mail article. 




Perspectives on Global Climate Change, Exxon Mobil and the Year 2015 

  • 2015 On Track To Be Hottest Year Since Record Keeping Began in 1880   According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month, September 2015 was the hottest September, by a considerable margin, since we began keeping records in 1880. August was the hottest August, July 2015 was the hottest July…in fact, only January and April of 2015 failed to break any records.

Hottest yearEl Nino (which, this year, has the potential of being one of the strongest in recorded history) is thought to be largely responsible…this link takes you to a good description of El Nino and its historical effects on climate 





Religious Upbringing Linked to Less Altruism, Study of Children Suggests

(contributed by Marc Masor)

kids and religion FFA study conducted by the University of Chicago compared the attitudes and temperaments of children raised in religious vs. non-religious households…the results will surprise many! “Children from religious families are less likely to share with others than were children from non-religious families, a new study suggests. A religious upbringing is also associated with more punitive tendencies in response to anti-social behavior, researchers find. 




Roundup Herbicide Ruled ‘Not Likely’ To Cause Cancer by European Regulators

(contributed by Marc Masor)

Marc says: “Glyphosate is Roundup, the herbicide that is effective against weeds, but Roundup-Ready soy and corn are protected from.  This is notable because the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) is generally extremely conservative, and usually errs on the side of safety”.

Glyphosate-is-unlikely-to-cause-cancer-says-EFSA_strict_xxlRead the details of the EFSA’s findings at the above link. And then let the controversy continue.


Fun With Religion…In Four Parts

  • Part 1: Wait…What? 

The religious crowd outside an Ohio abortion clinic recently weren’t protesting the clinic’s operation…quite the opposite. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights is a pro-abortion rights coalition made up of leaders of a variety of religious faiths and organizations. They gathered to ‘bless’ the Cleveland area clinic to ‘….show the staff and [patients] and the community that there are people of faith who do believe in abortion…and that it should be done in a safe, dignified way without shame”.

abortion anti protest abortion anti protest2In a prepared statement to the crowd, Rev. Harry Knox, the president of the RCRC, declared to the crowd, “I’m here today standing alongside my fellow clergymen and clergywomen to say: Thank God for abortion providers,” the Dispatch reported.


  • Part 2: Pastor: Better to Drown Your Children Than Let Them Read Harry Potter  Apparently the problem is that big, gay wizard Albus Dumbledore. Oh, and How to Train Your Dragon is just as problematic in that it also subtly indoctrinates young viewers into the dark and sinful world of homosexuality. Although, honestly, I’ve watched ‘Dragon’ with my grandsons many times and I can’t, for the life of me, understand what the fuss is about. Here’s a bit of what this pastor had to say:      “Parents, it would be better for them [their children] that a millstone be hanged around their neck and they be drowned at the bottom of the sea”, railed Pastor Kevin Swanson in the same speech in which he called for death to all homosexuals in the presence of three Republican Presidential candidates.

millstone child 02

  • Part 3: Mormon ‘New Rules’ Target Gays and Their Children…Backlash Grows   New rules recently announced by the Mormon Church bar children who are living with gay parents from being baptized until they reach age 18…and even then, they must disavow same-sex relationships before the water pours.

Mormon Gay backlash

More than 1,000 people attended a ‘mass resignation’ in Salt Lake City on Saturday, 11/14 to publically leave the Mormon Church over this issue.

  • Part 4: Anti-Gay Bride Fires Wedding Photographer Because He Supports Same-Sex Marriage…His Response Is Right On The Money!


A wedding photographer from Florida recently found himself out of a job when a bride-to-be fired him upon learning he supported gay marriage. But fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

Clinton Brentwood Lee, owner of Brentwood Photography in Saint Petersburg, FL, received a text message from a client after she went on his went on his website and discovered that he had photographed same-sex wedding ceremonies.

“Greetings Brentwood,” the text began. “We would just like to inform you that we will NOT be using your services for our wedding.

You can only hope that if you were faced with a similar situation, that you would react as brilliantly as Clinton Brentwood!


Even MORE Fun …With Politics

ben carson on Easter Island


From The Onion this week: Socialism vs. Capitalism in one, easy graphic.  “As the democratic presidential race heats up, many people are questioning Bernie Sander’s self-proclaimed socialist leanings, a designation that some are concerned is at odds with America’s capitalist tradition. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two political systems:”

socialism v capitalism

And now, the climax – the denouement, the payoff, the finale, the culmination – of this month’s Newsletter: Your Moments of Bug!

Tom the Dancing Bug 94 asteroid collision
Tom the Dancing Bug 465 kid in gorilla cage
Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.
Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at



Are there any announcements, activities, opinions or other news items you’d like your fellow Skeptics and Atheists to know about? Drop an email to with your information so that it can be included in the next newsletter! 

Thanks to Marc Masor, Rueben Bolling, Carolyn Bollinger, Ray Polidori, Lori Golden and, of course, ‘Uncle Bob’ for contributing to this month’s Newsletter   

– Larryb