12 reasons to be happy

Let’s ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive and take a look at reasons to celebrate.

1. The FCC’s new rules requiring TV commercials to quiet down are now in effect. “This might very well be the only thing Congress did in the entire year of 2011 to improve our lives.”

2. Koran-burning “pastor” Terry Jones vs. The Beatles. No contest. Singing is good in such situations. It works, even if you don’t quite know the words.

3. A follow-up on my favorite pic from marriage equality in Washington State. These guys clean-up pretty good.

4. Frank James owns a pawn shop in Seminole, Fla., where he used to sell a lot of guns. But not anymore.

5. Leah Libresco shares “Three Stories of Forgiveness.”

6. Elizabeth Esther lists “Seven Gifts of Fundamentalism” — things she’s grateful for, despite the “harmful elements” of her religious past. I’ll second No. 2 on her list in particular — an intimate and broad familiarity with the Bible. Esther calls this “biblical literacy.” I think that’s probably overly generous, since literacy entails being able to see the forest and not just the trees, and fundies aren’t even aware that there is a forest. But I am grateful to them for encouraging me to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of the trees.

7. Some much-deserved praise and recognition for Balpreet Khaur and Glenn Stassen. People like them are liable to start giving religion a good name.

8. So are the 260 clergy in Illinois who recently signed a letter calling for marriage equality.

9. Juan Cole shares another encouraging story from the often-discouraging world of religion: “Muslims of Liberated Saraqeb, Syria, put up Christmas Tree for Local Christians.”

10. Some hints of signs of possible indications of good news about a decline in the death penalty in the US, from Amnesty International:

In 2012, death sentences and executions maintained their historically low levels, and only nine states actually carried out an execution. In fact, the majority of U.S. states have not carried out an execution in the last five years.

11. Check out the Mine Kafon, designed by Massoud Hassani based on toys he made as a child in Afghanistan. This wind-powered whatchamacallit can find and safely detonate landmines at a fraction of the usual cost.

12. A researcher has developed a new “cheap, easy and highly accurate paper sensor for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.” Pretty awesome. Oh, and by the way, this researcher, Jack Andraka, is 15 years old.

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