Monday Links

– U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering 16 Afghan civilians–nine of them children–in Kandahar Province on March 11, 2012.

U.S. Army Private Bradley Chelsea Manning was sentenced last week to 35 years in prison–an absurd sentence on top of an unjust prosecution, particularly since neither Manning nor WikiLeaks has been shown to be responsible for a single U.S. military death.

– The controversy over the Sochi Winter Olympics continues: The Russian government confirmed earlier this month that its ban on “gay propaganda” will be enforced against visiting athletes and spectators at the Winter Olympics. Russia’s Sports Minister, meanwhile, has accused the western media of trying to stir up controversy where none exists. And, in a letter to the International Olympic Committee, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister defended the law, claiming that it “cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation” since it applies equally to everyone–gay or straight (that’s like banning Bibles and then claiming that it’s not discriminatory to Christians because atheists are forbidden from having Bibles as well). And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a decree banning any public protests or demonstrations in Sochi before, during, or after the Olympics.

– Just to keep things in perspective: 76 Countries Where Anti-Gay Laws Are as Bad as or Worse than Russia’s.

– Several members of the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as “Pastafarianism”) were arrested while marching in St. Petersburg, Russia, earlier this month–at the urging of a Russian Orthodox group calling itself “God’s Will”, whose leader accused the Pastafarians of committing “blasphemy” against Christianity.

While overseeing a dispute over a 7-month-old baby’s last name, a Tennessee judge took it upon herself to change the child’s first name from Messiah to Martin because, in her words, “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.” Goddammit.

Indian doctor and anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was gunned down last week in Pune. Dabholkar had in the past received death threats for lecturing against superstition and religious extremism, and its very likely that his murder was related to his activism.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned the felony assault conviction of a gay HIV-positive man who transmitted the disease to his partner. Daniel James Rick was prosecuted under a state law prohibiting the “knowing transfer of a communicable disease” after his sexual partner tested positive for HIV. Seeing as both men knew Rick was HIV-positive and chose to have unprotected sex anyway, the Court made the right call. This prosecution was based on nothing but old-fashioned homophobia guised as concern for public health.

– A federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation can proceed with its lawsuit against the IRS over the agency’s alleged failure to crack down on partisan political statements by clergymen. The FFRF’s Annie Laurie Gaynor warned that “If these churches…are allowed to engage in tax-exempt politicking, it would be the ruination of our democracy” and would make Citizen’s United “look like child’s play.” So…yet another liberal who thinks that free speech is dangerous and must be restricted for the “good” of democracy. (Only entities that surrender part of their income to government robbers–er, tax collectors–will be allowed to express dissatisfaction with the regime.)

No, LSD and other psychedelics do not cause people to go crazy.

Reason‘s Nick Gillespie on the crusade against e-cigarettes: “[A]s the percentage of Americans who smoke has stayed relatively stuck in the high teens and low twenties, the anti-smoking movement has turned to increasingly paternalistic, dictatorial, and infantilizing measures to achieve its goals. From statewide bans on smoking in more and more places to the censoring of marketing terms such as light and mild…there’s no logical stopping point for treating us all as moral defectives incapable of making our own choices.”

The U.S. distributor for the explicit lesbian love drama Blue is the Warmest Colour has announced that they will release the film uncut, with an NC-17 rating. In other words, the film won’t be playing in Utah.

– And finally, a federal judge has refused to block the enforcement of Los Angeles County’s controversial Measure B–which requires male adult film performers to wear condoms during filming–while essentially rendering the law unenforceable. (The measure allows county health officers “to enter and inspect any property where he or she believes adult film production is taking place, levy fines, and seize potential evidence without a warrant.” This provision–among others–was struck down by the judge, who noted that, as written, it would allow officials to enter any building in the county without a warrant!)

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