In less than a week, well over 1,500 people will convene for TAM Las Vegas 2011. Before we gather for these fun four days in the desert, here are a few quick updates, and some words on a recent controversy in our skeptics movement.

First, the bad news. We recently learned that Adam Savage, a great friend to the JREF and a member of our advisory board, will be unable to appear at TAM as originally scheduled. This is because of an unavoidable television obligation. Adam feels horrible about this, since he says TAM is a highlight of his year. We all look forward to seeing him again at our next TAM Vegas in 2012.

Second, some good news: Due to the generosity of Penn and Teller, and as a fundraiser for the JREF, if you are a TAM registrant, you can receive a great discount on their show while you are in Vegas. This is a 2 for 1 discount, and this offer is good for any seat in the house except for the VIP section! The coupon is good from Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 - Sunday, July 17, 2011. To receive the 2 for 1 coupon, you can either call the P&T box office (888-746-7784) and give the code PNTTAM, and order your tickets now, or you can purchase the tickets directly at their box office during the TAM.  When purchasing the tickets over the phone, you will receive the discount, but you must provide a PNTTAM coupon and a TAM badge when picking up your ticket(s).  If you purchase the tickets in person, you will need to provide the coupon and your TAM badge. These discount coupons will be available at TAM.

More good news: As another instance of JREF's foray into smart phone apps, I am happy to announce that TAM Vegas 2011 has its very own app! Robust, it allows for notes, ratings of speakers, twitter functionality through the app, and holds the full conference program on your phone, among other bells and whistles. Our TAM app is available for Apple iOS devices such as iPhones, and Android devices and Blackberry devices / Mobile Web.   

Lastly, I want to address the recent online debates regarding sexism in the skeptics movement in general, and the divide surfacing around statements involving Rebecca Watson, Richard Dawkins and others in particular. I believe that this controversy gives us the opportunity to make this issue about more than online conflicts and blog wars, about more than "Team Rebecca" versus "Team Richard." I hope we can use this conflict to improve and strengthen our community, to reaffirm our intention to take diversity seriously, and to make the skeptics movement a welcoming place for all people, regardless of gender or sex or race or sexual orientation or where they stand on any given issue. We are all subject to confirmation bias, to taking a position and not budging; we all have more to learn about applying skepticism to our own views. But being unwilling to discuss these topics without recourse to personal attack or threats is counter to our goals as a skeptical movement.

The JREF takes sexual harassment seriously and we take women’s voices seriously, because we know that we are more effective as a movement when half of humanity's talent, knowledge, and experience is not ignored. That’s why we have worked to make sure that at The Amazing Meeting this year, more than half of our main program talks are by women.

We’ve printed a statement in the front of this year’s conference program that makes it clear that sexual harassment and other forms of harassment are not acceptable at TAM. When we drafted the statement back in May, we did so because we want everyone to have a fun and welcoming experience at TAM, including the more than half of attendees who are coming for the first time.

All of our speakers this year at TAM have made important contributions to science or skepticism, and we appreciate the knowledge they will bring to TAM. We’re discouraged to see the depth of division in our movement that has been brought to the surface by recent statements by various leaders, but we are optimistic that the conversation and debate will generate more light than heat. We believe that an open discussion of sexism and harassment will ultimately strengthen the skeptical movement. 

Here is the TAM Code of Conduct that has been printed in the front of this year's conference program:

We want TAM Las Vegas 2011 to be a welcoming experience for everyone who attends . . .

Please respect your fellow attendees by not disparaging them based on unfair grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; and by not making uninvited sexual comments toward others.

If someone asks you to leave them alone or to otherwise stop a behavior that is directed toward them, please do so. Continued unwanted behavior directed toward another person is harassment. People who harass others or cause multiple complaints of disrespectful behavior may be required to leave without a refund. 

Problems can be reported to TAM staff or volunteers who will bring it to the attention of JREF management. A warning will be given when appropriate, but there will be zero tolerance for violence, physical intimidation, and unwanted intentional physical contact. 

Let’s make TAM fun for everyone!