Category: News Article

Ancient Mystery Creature That Defied Classification Is Earth’s Oldest Animal

By Mindy Weisberger

An enigmatic creature that lived half a billion years ago is as “strange as life on another planet” and has defied classification for nearly a century. But researchers can finally identify the mystery organism as an animal — the oldest known animal on Earth — thanks to traces of ancient fats.

This precious organic evidence emerged from exceptionally well-preserved fossils found in northwest Russia near the White Sea. The remains come from a strange organism known as Dickinsonia. Dating to around 558 million years ago, Dickinsonia had an oval, segmented body that measured about 5 feet (1.4 meters) long, and it lacked physical features typically associated with animals, such as discernable limbs, orifices or organs, or a discernable head.

For decades, the oddball bodies of Dickinsonia and other peculiar creatures from this period — the Ediacaran, about 635 million to 541 million years ago — made it challenging to place these creatures on the tree of life with certainty. But the recent discovery of additional Dickinsonia fossils revealed something that had never been seen in this type of fossil before: organic tissue preserved in the fossilized impression left behind by the creature’s body. From this impression, or biofilm, researchers were able to identify molecules of cholesterol, a fat that is recognized as “a hallmark” of animals, the scientists reported in a new study.

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Denisovan hybrid cave yields four more hominin bones

By Matthew Warren

A tiny bone fragment recovered from Denisova Cave in Siberia caused a big stir last month, after scientists showed that it belonged to an ancient-human hybrid they named Denny, who had a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father1.

Now, the researchers who uncovered Denny’s remains have discovered four more hominin bones from the same cave.

These discoveries are part of an effort to identify early hominins by combing through thousands of unidentified pieces of animal bone, many of which have been left to gather dust in warehouses belonging to museums and research institutes.

“We get very, very excited” when a new hominin bone is discovered, says Samantha Brown, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) in Jena, Germany.

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Forget wedding cakes. ADF now wants to keep transgender women out of homeless shelters.

By Zack Ford

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the hate group challenging LGBTQ protections all over the country, has a new client: the Downtown Soup Kitchen (“Hope Center”) in Anchorage, Alaska. Because the charity wants permission to refuse to shelter transgender women, ADF argues in a federal lawsuit that the city’s entire nondiscrimination law should be declared unconstitutional.

The suit was filed last month but only came to light in the past week, and ADF’s lack of publicity about the case is a relevant part of the case. On its face, it’s a response to a specific complaint of alleged discrimination, similar to the cases ADF has taken defending bakers, florists, and photographers who have been found in violation of nondiscrimination ordinances for not serving same-sex couples. But this particular response is actually a messy overreach mirroring ADF’s other pre-enforcement challenges that seek to override all LGBTQ protections in the name of “religious liberty.”

The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission currently has two complaints open against the Hope Center that it has not yet adjudicated. The first is a complaint filed by a transgender woman earlier this year, after she claimed having been twice refused shelter at the Hope Center. The shelter actually had perfectly plausible reasons for these two refusals. On the first occasion, the woman reportedly was drunk — a violation of the shelter’s admissions policy. On the second occasion the following day, she sought admission at a time when the shelter was closed.

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U.S. Senate Introduces Resolution Calling for Global Repeal of Blasphemy Laws

By Hemant Mehta

There’s not much that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate can agree on these days, but both parties ought to condemn countries that punish people for saying unpopular things. And now a bipartisan resolution has been introduced that does just that.

This week, Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a resolution that calls for the “global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.”

Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) recognizes that blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws inappropriately position governments as arbiters of religious truth and empower officials to impose religious dogma on individuals or minorities through the through the power of the government or through violence sanctioned by the government;

(2) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to make the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws a priority in the bilateral relationships of the United States with all countries that have such laws, through direct interventions in bilateral and multilateral fora;

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Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated at G.O.P. Caution on Kavanaugh Allegation

By Jeremy W. Peters and Elizabeth Dias

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.

Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.

The pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some evangelical leaders are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies.

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Mike Pence To Address Event Hosted By Anti-LGBT Hate Group

By Jared Holt

Vice President Mike Pence will address this year’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, an event put on annually by Religious Right group Family Research Council.

Last year, President Donald Trump was the first sitting president to address the group. Trump was invited to speak at the conference again this year, but at the time of publication, his attendance was unconfirmed.

The Values Voters Summit is hosted annually by the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed in its index of hate groups. FRC president Tony Perkins and his employees have actively lobbied against marriage equality and transgender rights for decades—an agenda that Perkins told radio listeners he once discussed with former White House adviser Steve Bannon. Last year, Bannon and other White House officials recruited FRC in their war against the Republican establishment that they believe to be too moderate.

As made abundantly clear last year, Perkins and his ilk have retooled their “family values” message from years past to include unwavering support of the Trump administration and its allies. Since last year’s conference, FRC has provided cover for failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after he was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while he was in his 30s, announced that evangelicals were giving Trump a “mulligan” for his alleged affair with Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford as long as he continues to fulfill their agenda, and called for prayers to protect Trump from “left-wing news media.” Coincidentally, Perkins has also received an appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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Why Do We Portray Atheists As Broken Believers?

By Mickey Desruisseaux

September means the return of school, football and twangy Green Day singles. It’s also the month when television networks dish out new shows hoping to make a connection with audiences for the long run. One of the fall’s newcomers is CBS’s dramedy “God Friended Me,” the premise of which is exactly what the title suggests. An aggressively atheistic podcaster named Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall) accepts a friend request on Facebook from the big guy upstairs.

‘God’ starts suggesting more friends for doubtful Miles to add, whom he starts running into almost immediately afterward in real life. Each of them has problems that Miles seems uniquely attuned to solving, and each, in turn, seems to possess a quality that can teach Miles something about the world around him. But while the schmaltzy premise is surprisingly well-executed, the pilot episode ends up reinforcing a paradigm in which belief is viewed as the norm, disbelief as an aberration and atheists as errant members of the flock waiting for a shepherd to guide them home.

It turns out that, as the son of a pastor, Miles was a devout child until his mother was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. He prayed endlessly for God to cure her, only for her to die in a car accident after making a miraculous full recovery. The tragedy shattered Miles’ faith and his relationship with his father, pushing him into becoming the oh-so-sour atheist he is today. I nearly chucked my laptop across the room, before remembering that in the real world, exaggerated displays of exasperation are pretty expensive.

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Louisiana Rep. Johnson Claims California Atheists Are Trying to Spy on Students

By Griffin Connolly

Rep. Mike Johnson, who represents a vast swath of Louisiana’s northwestern corner, accused California atheist groups of trying to spy on students at a school in his district by taking covert video.

“WARNING TO OUR FRIENDS IN BOSSIER SCHOOLS (Please share),” Johnson wrote on Facebook Tuesday, referring to Louisiana’s Bossier Parish (the state’s equivalent of a county) that includes parts of Shreveport.

“Last night we received very credible information that atheist litigation groups in CA have contacted private investigators in our area to try to hire them to obtain hidden video of Christian student groups and activities at Benton High School and potentially other Bossier Parish schools,” Johnson wrote.

The Louisiana Republican’s post was first reported by the Shreveport Times. Johnson’s spokeswoman, Ainsley Holyfield, declined the Times’ requests for information about the California litigation groups and the congressman’s sources.

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GOP Senate Candidate Claims 99% Of Rape Allegations ‘Are Just Absolutely Fabricated’

By Michael Stone

Conservative Christian and U.S. Senate candidate for Mississippi Chris McDaniel claims 99 percent of rape allegations “are just absolutely fabricated.”

McDaniel, in an interview with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, discussed the recent allegations of sexual assault being made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Speaking on the conservative Christian program Focal Point, hosted by Bryan Fischer, McDaniel was asked about the alarming allegations being made against Kavanaugh. McDaniel replied:

I’m tired of all these made up scandals frankly. We have a system where Judge Kavanaugh is obviously well suited for, and they’re going to drag something up even theoretically, allegedly from all those years ago that all of a sudden disqualifies this man. All of a sudden, he’s a terrible human being. No not a chance. I don’t fall for it anymore. I hope the American people aren’t falling for it. These allegations 99 percent of the time are just absolutely fabricated.

Note: McDaniel is not only claiming that Kavanaugh’s accuser is a liar, he is also suggesting that 99 percent of all women coming forward to report crimes involving sexual assault and rape are also liars.

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Brooklyn diocese reaches record $27.5M settlement with four victims of abuse by lay educator

By Alex Johnson

The New York Diocese of Brooklyn and a co-defendant have reached a $27.5 million settlement with four men who were sexually abused as boys by a lay church education director, the diocese said Tuesday night.

Each of the young men will receive $6.875 million from the diocese and an affiliated after-school program under terms of the settlement, said Ben Rubinowitz and Peter Saghir, the attorneys for the young men, who have remained anonymous.

In terms of individual payouts, it is the largest settlement on record involving abuse of minors by Roman Catholic Church figures, almost double the amount received by two victims in Rockville Centre, New York, in 2008, according to records maintained by Bishop Accountability, a nonprofit that monitors abuse allegations against Catholic priests and officials.

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