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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

Hastily Scribbled Notes From The Amazing Adventure, 5 (Volume I) PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

This is our second full day at sea. I’m sitting in a corner at the back of the Augustus conference room on Deck 5 of the Costa Fortuna, trying to be inconspicuous. Kitty Mervine is preparing to give a lecture on — what? Who knows? I suspect pirates will be involved. The lectures have been unpredictable so far, and better for it. Today we’ve had talks on parliamentary procedure (which was actually exciting, believe it or not), “political bias in skepticism,” and —

(By the way, Kitty just said this: “How much does a pirate charge for an ear-piercing? A buccaneer!”  Haha! It’s difficult to concentrate with comedy of this caliber being committed within earshot, but I shall persevere.)

 
Amazing Adventurers Set Sail PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by D.J. Grothe   
librarygathering
Randi welcoming the Amazing Adventurers to the Isaac Asimov Library

Last night, we had a reception at the James Randi Educational Foundation for those folks who are joining us on the Amazing Adventure 5: Skeptics of the Caribbean, which sets sail today. We are off for a week of fun and skepticism, with around 100 of Randi's best friends, including JREF staff like Jeff Wagg, Bart Farkas, and Brandon Thorp, noted skeptics such as Tim Farley, Mark Edward, and Brian Dunning, and beloved members of the JREF community like Kitty Mervine and Naomi Baker. I am happy that my partner, Thomas Donnelly, is able to join us, despite his insanely busy law school schedule.

This is a really international group: one man flew in from Singapore, one flew in from Australia, several from the UK, one from Northern Ireland, and a number from Canada. And there are three folks from Greece attending as well. I think this is also a very young crowd, relative to many other skeptics gatherings I have attended. Most people coming on the cruise are in their 30s or 40s, with a few teenagers, and more than a dozen in their twenties. I like seeing how the worldview that prizes reason, science and humanism that has been advanced for decades by Randi is inspiring enough to younger people for them to spend their spring break in the company of their fellow skeptics.

One thing that struck me last night at the reception is that these people are not just organized around the things they don't believe in. Even as skeptics, they seem to believe, at least in each other: there was a palpable sense of community at the party. Everyone knew each others' stories, childrens' names, travails and triumphs of each others' lives. For many at the party it seemed like a family reunion. Even though there were a lot of new faces (one young man is going on the JREF cruise as a birthday present from his parents, and there are new JREF Forum members for whom this is their first in-person skeptical event, etc.), there was a surprising number of people for whom this Amazing Adventure is just one of many they have enjoyed: Don and Nancy Lacey, Adam Levenstein, Gail Knapp, Mel and Gerri Kirschner, and Susan Gerbic-Forsyth, for instance, have been on a number of these JREF vacations. David Craig has been on all of them, in fact. And these folks know how to have fun. As they say, "skeptics do it with their eyes open," and so we may just be opening some eyes on our latest Amazing Adventure into the known universe of Caribbean sunshine and good times.

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Jeff Wagg instructs attendees on what to expect on the Amazing Adventure 5 (answer: swashbuckling)

 
A Brief Report On The Finances of The World-Controlling Atheist Cabal PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Matt Chesser   

I recently had the pleasure of dealing with a very polite young woman who wanted to give me a flyer about a presentation by Eric Hovind, son of the more (in)famous Kent Hovind. A snippet of our conversation went something like this:

Me: Has this been experimentally demonstrated?
Her: Oh, yes.
Me: Can you give me the publication history where I can find this information?
Her: Actually, the atheist organizations don’t want us to publish it.

 
Martin Ssempa Spares Not The Rod PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sean Sturgeon   

Martin Ssempa is a pastor from Uganda and the force behind a bill that would cause a lot of homosexuals to become dead precisely and only because they are homosexuals. This hateful excuse for an argument says that privacy extends no further than god’s right hand — or more accurately, the influence of a pastor with dreams of being parochial and small-minded on a continental scale.

When the story hit the MSM, it caused problems for some American Evangelical Christians and their “Church First” method of nation building. Never known as enthusiastic supporters of the LGBT community, American Evangelicals still abandoned Ssempa — at a leisurely pace, and indignant about being expected to choose between a carried-away pastor and sodomites. Though historically uninterested in extending the right of privacy to same-sex sex, as a group they tend not to want to kill people over it.

With his American backers gone, Ssempa’s fortunes seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. Like so many of us, the Pastor found respite in the arms of pornography.

 
Bidding Farewell to a Colleague PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by D.J. Grothe   
lindaflowers
Linda accepts flowers which were a small sign of gratitude for her help with The Amaz!ng Meeting. Her husband Karl Shallenberger, a longtime JREF volunteer and advisor, stands to the left.

It is with both sadness and a warm heart that I'm announcing a member of the James Randi Educational Foundation's team has left the organization. A few days ago, Linda Shallenberger retired. She had been wanting to retire for many years, and recently felt it was the right time. Although I had only worked with her directly for four short months, I came to see in her what everyone else close to her saw: diligence, duty, and above all, a sense of devotion to what the foundation stands for, and to Randi himself.

Linda had been with the the JREF nearly since its beginning. Over the years, she helped organize the Amazing Meetings, managed our office in Ft. Lauderdale, handled HR and payroll and the accounting and finances, tracked and fulfilled merchandise orders, in addition to serving as our one-woman fundraising and development department. She consistently went "above and beyond," often doing more work than was required merely to get the job done. And for many skeptics at the grassroots, Linda is their point of contact at the JREF.

 
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