The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has announced that one of its members, Leo Igwe, is facing a lawsuit brought by Helen Ukpabio, head of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries in Nigeria. Ms. Ukpabio claims that Mr. Igwe and other members of humanist groups are interfering with her right to practice her faith. Mr. Igwe counters that Ms. Ikpabio is a witch hunter, and "has repeatedly targeted and persecuted the most vulnerable members of society. She is the one who should face justice and answer for her crimes." Here is more from the CFI's recent press release.
The suit, scheduled for a hearing on Dec.17, is seeking an injunction preventing Igwe and other humanist groups from holding seminars or workshops aimed at raising consciousness about the dangers associated with the religious belief in witchcraft. The suit aims to erect a legal barrier against rationalist or humanist groups who might criticize, denounce or otherwise interfere with their practice of Christianity and their “deliverance” of people supposedly suffering from possession of an “evil or witchcraft spirit.” The suit also seeks to prevent law enforcement from arresting or detaining any member of the Liberty Gospel Church for performing or engaging in what they say are constitutionally protected religious activities. These activities include the burning of three children, ages 3 through 6, with fire and hot water, as reported by James Ibor of the Basic Rights Counsel in Nigeria on August 24, 2009. The parents believed their children were witches.
Ukpabio is seeking damages of 200 billion Nigerian Naira, more than $1.3 billion, for supposedly unlawful and unconstitutional infringement on her rights to belief in “God, Satan, witchcraft, Heaven and Hell fire” and for the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional detention of two members of her church.
Along with the full support of the Center for Inquiry, Igwe has been offered legal representation from Stepping Stones, a charity registered in the UK dedicated to defending alleged witches, primarily in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
CFI’s anti-superstition campaign is continuing strong. The campaign began May 29 of this year with a groundbreaking seminar titled “Witchcraft and its Impact on Development” in Ghana. Campaign organizers say that they hope to educate the public about the dangers of superstitious beliefs while highlighting the abuse of children and exposing the "false prophets" who spread dangerous misinformation.
“The persecution of alleged child witches underscores the importance of our anti-superstition campaign in Africa,” said Norm R. Allen Jr., executive director of African Americans for Humanism and CFI’s Transnational Programs. “Superstition has dire consequences to individuals and societies, and often contributes greatly to gross human rights abuses. Those who continue to view superstition as benign must think again.”
Allen says that plans are underway to lead marches aimed at combating superstition and to work with governments, NGOs, traditional rulers, and women and childrens’ groups to promote rationality and universal human rights.
Igwe remains optimistic and full of resolve. “I am convinced that at the end of the day, reason, justice and human rights will prevail,” he said.
Forthcoming in January 2010 from Carolina Academic Press, The Law and Harry Potter, edited by Jeffrey E. Thomas and Franklin G. Snyder. Here's a description from the website.
This volume considers the depiction of law and legal institutions in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. It contains more than twenty chapters by legal academics from the U.S. and abroad. The chapters are organized in five sections: Legal Traditions and Institutions, Crimes and Punishments, Harry Potter and Identity, the Wizard Economy, and Harry Potter as an Archetype. Some chapters analyze the way law and legal institutions are portrayed, and what these portrayals teach us about concepts such as morality, justice, and difference. Other chapters use examples from the narratives to illustrate or analyze legal issues, such as human rights, actual innocence, and legal pedagogy. The volume is suitable for undergraduate or law school courses, and will be of interest to those Harry Potter fans who also have an interest in law and the legal profession.
Get a ten percent discount by ordering from the website. (Full disclosure: CAP is my publisher as well).
This Article is about some of the schemas and scripts that form and define our lives. It is about the knowledge structures that shape how we view the world and how we understand the limitless information with which we are always confronted.
This Article is also about the "evolution of ideas" underlying corporate law and all of modern policymaking. It is about the ways in which schemas and scripts have influenced how policy theorists, policymakers, lawyers, and many others (particularly in the West) understand and approach policymaking generally and corporate law specifically. It is about both the invisibility and blinding effect of those schemas. It is about the battle over those schemas and the prizes of victory. And, finally, it is about how the now-dominant schemas render us the "unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades."
We begin our discussion in Part II with the dominant knowledge structures underlying modern policymaking, describing the emergence of what we term the "meta script" of policymaking - or the schemas that frame our approach to policy analysis today. Part III turns to the law regulating large commercial interests - specifically, corporate law - and examines the emergence and dominance of the new "macro script" of corporate law. It examines the schemas that identify and legitimate the purpose of the law. Parts IV and V highlight the signs of illusion in those schemas and then begin to unveil the situational magician behind those illusions. Corporate law works, as all illusions work, by relying on a set of schemas that guide our attention and inferences and play into our intuitions and motives. Yet the outcome and response that this Article suggests is neither so benign nor light-hearted as that of a magic show. While its analysis is concentrated on corporate law, the Article's implications reach each of us, from law student to legal scholar, citizen to policymaker, and reveal something unsettling: all of us are susceptible to schematic sleight-of-hand, tricks that render us vulnerable to dangerous illusion. Where many have heretofore tended to see magic, this Article reveals the illusion of law and some of the unseen mechanisms that make it possible.
Season four of Jonathan Creek will soon be available on DVD (January 19, 2010). Here's a list of the season four episodes (Jonathan's knowledge of magic and psychology help him solve all the puzzles; his cluelessness about women continues to be his most endearing quality).
The Coonskin Cap: a classic "locked room" mystery in which Jonathan and his new sidekick Carla solve the case of the Daisy Chain killer.
Angel Hair: Jonathan figures out how a woman grows back her hair in a couple of days.
The Tailor's Dummy: why does someone jump out a window but throw his pet parrot out first?
The Seer of the Sands: why does a skeptic kill himself after receiving news that his girlfriend's husband has finally agreed to divorce her?
The Chequered Box: Jonathan clears a police officer of murder; one of the principles of magic is the key to this one. This is a really good episode.
Gorgon's Wood: Jonathan solves the theft of a piece of porcelain.
The late magician Ali Bongo (born William Oliver Wallace) was the inspiration for Adam Klaus, the magician for whom Jonathan works on Jonathan Creek.
David Renwick wrote the part of the flamboyant Adam Klaus in Jonathan Creek after meeting Bongo on the set of his sitcom One Foot in the Grave, where the magician had been overseeing the filming of a guillotine trick. Bongo continued to advise on the show, and seemed to have enjoyed teaching actors. "They have a sense of drama," he said, "and that is the most important part of magic."
The third season of Night Court is scheduled for release on DVD on February 23, 2010. This season includes the episode "Could This Be Magic?" first broadcast February 27, 1986, with guest star Carl Ballantine as a magician down on his luck.
From the Boston Globe, a summary of John Mulholland's teachings on magic for the Central Intelligence Agency. We've known for a while that Jasper Maskelyne wasn't the only magician who used his unusual abilities in the service of his country. Mr. Mulholland assisted the C.I.A. during the Cold War, but folks thought his manuals were lost (or maybe hidden away, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark?) Anyway, they've turned up, and are now available as The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception, by H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace. The publisher is William Morrow; list price is 25.00.
Here's more commentary from the Boston Globe; here's an article from Wired. Want to know more about John Mulholland? There's an interesting bio by Ben Robinson, published by Lybrary.com. I continue to think those staring at goats guys could learn something from Jasper and John.
P. Michael Conn notes (registration required, free) in the current issue of The Scientist that 73 percent of U.S. law schools now offer either an animals rights course or sponsor a student animal rights group, and suggests that this engagement with animal rights means a clash with medical research may be on on the horizon.
Over half of US law schools now have animal law courses, including many in universities with medical and research programs that utilize animals protected by federal welfare laws. Courses that promote standards for humane animal care and welfare are unlikely to provoke conflict, but programs championing animal rights or “liberation” set up adversarial potential on campuses and pose a serious risk to the future of animal research. The use of the law instead of violence and threats, however, should be acknowledged as a forward step....Under current US law, things are either property or persons. Legal rights for animals require the establishment of personhood; property cannot have rights. US welfare laws view animals as property, but emphasize our responsibility to care for them humanely. The effort to ascribe “personhood” to animals is a central focus of animal rights supporters, since changing public perception of animals is one way to stop their use in food, clothing, entertainment, and research. In some jurisdictions, “pet owner” has been replaced by “animal guardian,” ascribing a different status for the animal. References to animal researchers as “vivisectors” who “exploit” “sentient beings” and practice “torture” and “cruelty” (applied generally to research), also impact the public.
What does the increasing recognition of animal rights mean for magicians? Possibly, "stop pulling on those rabbit ears" and "quit ruffling those dove feathers." Humane treatment of animals in magic acts is not the same thing as not using animals at all. Teller might have to cease and desist (yes, double-barrelled--"cease" from Middle English via the old French and "desist" from the Latin) turning those coins into real goldfish. Abandoning the trick would be too bad. It's an elegant illusion. Maybe he could substitute fake goldfish, battery-powered. Solar might be even more fun.
If you're interested in the animals in magic topic, Law and Magic: A Collection of Essays, due out in January 2010, includes two essays on animal law and stage magic, one by Rebekah Hanley of the University of Oregon and one by Lisa Johnson of the University of Puget Sound. (I know, shameless plug...).