even crime in iowa city challenges traditional gender stereotypes

Melissa Minarsich of Iowa City was arrested after she assaulted her boyfriend for not having sex with her.

Melissa Minarsich of Iowa City was arrested after she assaulted her boyfriend for not having sex with her.

Here in Iowa City, life is never dull. And by now, everyone knows Iowa City’s reputation as a socially progressive center where common stereotypes, such as traditional gender roles, can be nonexistent or even, on occasion, reversed. In fact, even the rare crime committed in Iowa City can exhibit characteristics that defy traditional stereotypes.

Take for instance a local Iowa City woman, Melissa B. Minarsich, 28, who assaulted her boyfriend because he refused to have sex with her. You read that correctly: She beat him for not having sex with her. It’s like Fresno’s Bizarro World.

At least her explanation to the police following her arrest was refreshingly honest and straightforward:

“All I want is a piece of ass, is that too much to ask for?

Apparently yes, a “piece of ass” is too much to ask for if you assault someone when it is refused.

i think he was looking for the red sox

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I came out of my Gilmore Hall office in Religious Studies today and found this guy screaming at me. I told him, “Actually, Papelbon is in Boston, not Iowa City.” I don’t think he got the joke.

As a huge Red Sox fan, it was a rough night. And it wasn’t Papelbon’s fault. And if I see Mr. Papelbon, I’ll shake his hand, thank him for a great season, and buy him a beer. (And tell him there’s a guy looking for him outside my office in Iowa. ;-)

commentary by ahmed souaiaia on the role of the military in egypt

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

My University of Iowa colleague, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, has an interesting commentary on the role of the military in Egypt entitled, “Military is trickle-feeding democracy to change-hungry Egyptians.”

He fears that “the military is not interested in a swift handing of power to civilians.” In fact, the military may find a way to remain in power:

All the restrictive measures and lack of action on issues important for civil liberties and citizens’ rights are widening the gap between the people and the military generals. Most telling was the loss of trust between the youth and the military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. For example, when Tantawi was seen (over the weekend) shaking hands with people in the streets while wearing civilian clothes, many Egyptians reacted with cynicism arguing that he might be polishing his image before he announces his candidacy for president. Although a military spokesperson denied that Tantawi is interested in running, many Egyptians remained fearful of the military role in the future of Egyptian politics.

Give it a read.

שנה טובה

!!שנה טובה Happy New Year!! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

שנה טובה card courtesy of FARLI - The Foundation for Archaeological Research of the Land of Israel

שנה טובה card courtesy of FARLI - The Foundation for Archaeological Research of the Land of Israel

FARLI (The Foundation for Archaeological Research of the Land of Israel) has also put together a nice שנה טובה card wishing a Happy New Year and fruitful archaeological discoveries. Visit their website.

Also to celebrate, I offer you a take on the classic Muppet ‘manamana’ video:

I wish for you most of the things described in the video, not necessarily all, as some could be hazardous to your health. ;-)

The original video is below:

we were NOT founded as a christian nation: thoughts on article 11 of the u.s. treaty with tripoli

The U.S. Treaty of Tripoli

With Libya continuing to be in the news, I was reminded this morning of one of the earliest treaties the United States ever signed with another nation. (See complete list here.) It is the Treaty of Tripoli, signed with Ottoman Tripolitania in Tripoli on November 4, 1796, unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed into law by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

While the treaty is a typical diplomatic agreement with a Mediterranean state, Article 11 of the treaty has attracted much attention as a corrective to those like Glenn Beck, who believe that the “Founding Fathers” founded the United States as a “Christian nation.”

Article 11 of our first treaty explains rather precisely what the founding fathers intended, how the Senate interpreted it, and by signing it into law, how the President applied it:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The point of the United States was to deliberately found a new nation that was not founded upon a single religion, but one that tolerates all beliefs, including the choice not to believe in any religion. The entire point was not to have a particular religion (the Church of England at first) dictating law in the country. Our founding documents, while acknowledging and appealing to a higher power deity (akin to simple Deism), took great strides to avoid founding this secular nation on a particular religious foundation. Rather, it was intended to be tolerant of all faiths and beliefs. Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli made this crystal clear.

This ought to be the first rule of “Biblical Archaeology” (via Bad Archaeology)

An article on Bad Archaeology makes some good points about some recent archaeological claims:

“Biblical archaeology” is in “scare quotes” because it’s a highly problematical concept, but more of that later. What I want to address first is what ought to be a first principle for anyone reading about claims for discoveries that are supposedly to the Bible (Hebrew or Christian) or any religious text, for that matter. It’s this:

If a discovery confirms your pre-held religious beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud.

As a principle, I think it’s a good one. But it’s one I have rarely, if ever, encountered in so-called “Biblical Archaeology”, which is a sub-discipline that is characterised by a distinct lack of skeptical thinking. Why is that?

Let’s answer that by looking at some recent claims: the “Jesus family tomb”, the “lead codices” from Jordan and the interminable searches for “Noah’s Ark”.

Read detailed discussion of Jacobovici’s “Jesus Tomb,” Elkington’s “Lead Codices,” hunts for Noah’s Ark, and other fake archaeological claims here.

a note on how new discoveries *should* be announced to the public

Given all of the debunking and criticism of pseudoscientific claims and sensationalist headlines I do on this blog, I thought I’d take a moment to mention a recent discovery and the team of real scientists who released their discovery to the public the correct way. In particular, I’d like to highlight two things: 1) the team’s reaction to a potentially earth-shattering discovery, and 2) how they presented it to the media.

A monitor showing the first ultra high-energy collisions is seen at the CMS experiment control room at CERN in 2010. Courtesy CNN.

A team of scientists are reporting that a recent experiment conducted as a part of the so-called “Opera experiment,” based at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, appears to show that neutrinos (electrically neutral sub-atomic particles) potentially traveled at a velocity 20 parts per million above the speed of light – a result that would defy the laws of nature and undermine Einstein’s long accepted Theory of Relativity. The laws of physics state that nothing is supposed to be able to travel faster than the speed of light. The experiment challenges that assumption.

This discovery is potentially HUGE, and would force every physics textbook to be rewritten, as well as force us to rethink our entire universe.

But rather than rush out and leak their tentative results to the media, and write a press release, and sign a book or documentary deal to capitalize on their latest “discovery” as so many pseudoscientists, archaeological hucksters, amateur ark hunters, and relic seeking religious zealots do before scholars can critique and refute their obviously bogus claims, this team did two things that all scholars and real scientists always do.

First, they opened up their peculiar findings to other scholars. Rather than rush to the press with their unexpected discovery to make a quick buck (and potentially soil their names and reputations forevermore), they asked other trained scholars to examine their findings and attempt to explain or refute their conclusions.

And when this scholarly review was offered, other scholars gave their cautious input:

“It is premature to comment on this,” Professor Stephen Hawking, the world’s most well-known physicist, told Reuters. “Further experiments and clarifications are needed.”

Professor Jenny Thomas, who works on neutrinos at CERN’s friendly rival Fermilab near Chicago in the United States, commented: “The impact of this measurement, were it to be correct, would be huge.”

That is, the research team maintained a disposition of skepticismeven toward their own research methods and conclusions – and invited academic peers to review their work. In doing so, they made their potential academic rivals into collaborators, and allowed them some confirmatory participation in the discovery. (Many of them are even named as co-authors on the paper.)  What’s more, they did this before they went public.

Second, when the research team finally did reveal their findings to the public, they reported their findings with an abundance of caution. While the media usually gives potentially game changing stories like these sensational headlines (to attract eyeballs with the hopes of selling papers and attracting advertisers), proper scholarly dissemination of research and findings to the media can do much to prevent journalists from misunderstanding or intentionally twisting the findings into saying something that they do not. By downplaying the discovery, the research appears far more credible, and therefore will be received far more readily if the results are confirmed and the research turns out to be the real deal.

Here is a scientific research team in Switzerland that did it properly: they opened their odd findings to scholars and asked them to refute the findings, researched their findings further and published an academic article on the findings, and only then did they go to the media with an abundance of caution.

This is how real scholars present real evidence to the public. Devoid of academic peer review, openness, transparency, and careful, cautious scholarship, any new claim of “lead codices” or “nails of Jesus’ cross” or “Noah’s Ark” should be viewed with complete skepticism, and those making these so-called “discoveries” should be thoroughly scrutinized with increasingly suspicious eyes.

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