News From Around The Blogosphere 8.4.08

The hidden drugs in supplements and Coca Cola maybe returning to the woo in which it came -Last week a trucker, Michael Berggren, fell asleep at the wheel. Routine blood screening turned up estazolam – a strong and addictive sedative in the benzodiazempine class of drugs (the same class as valium). Estazolam is not commonly sold in the US or Canada so this presented a bit of a mystery. It turns out that Berggren was likely getting the drug, unknowingly, in an herbal supplement he was taking called Eden Herbal Formulations Serenity II Pills.

Scientist and skeptic Jeff Medkeff 1968-2008 -I regret to report that Blue Collar Scientist has lost his struggle with cancer and that he died last night.

Franklin Institute in Philadelphia dumbing down science? -This is the second time recently I’ve heard criticism of the Franklin Institute’s focus on cheap movie tie-ins while divorcing itself from real science. I hope to keep my eye out for follow-up stories.

Saudi religious police officer accused of going 2 over the limit–wives that is -This Saudi officer had 6–that’s right, 6 wives. That’s 2 over the legal limit under sharia law. I don’t see why he’s only accused of having 6 wives. Seems like he either does or he doesn’t. Oddly, I can’t find the man’s name anywhere.

Phil Plait has been named the new James Randi -Phil is the new president of the James Randi Educational Foundation! Randi is now Chairman of the JREF Board of Directors and will have more time to finish his next two books. Phil says he’ll focus on the E in JREF by producing educational materials for kids. He’s got my vote of confidence. Here’s Phil’s response to the historical news.

Fence & garage at Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church caught fire -Couldn’t happen to nicer people [sarcasm overload]. Hopefully, this won’t turn out to be arson…though if it is, that that be a lessen for people: being an ass makes you lots of enemies. These are the infamous “God Hates Fags” guys. But the most hated family in America deserves ridicule, not violence. One good thing I can say about them is that they make my job as an atheist activist and skeptic a lot easier. They’re too extreme to gain many converts and are seen  more as a sideshow act that entertains and amuses than a genuine threat. And while they’ve obscenely picketed funerals, they’ve never used violence. Not surprisingly, other Christian fundamentalists despise them despite the fact that guys like Pat Robertson preach pretty much the same message. The only discernible difference I can see is that the Phelps’ protest funerals to get media attention to come to them while Robertson preaches the same things on his own weekly (or daily?) TV show that reaches a larger audience.

Rod Dreher’s hypocrisy over Crackergate exposed -This is just a beautiful pwning by PZ Myers. Rarely does a non-politician have their own past statements come back to haunt them and reveal their total and complete duplicity so effectively. Thanks PZ!

Picture of PZ’s communion wafer in the trash.

Terrorist Bombing in the name of animal rights? -I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan though I have friends who are. None of them commit violence in the name of animal rights. Stories like this really make me want to include some animal rights groups with other forms of delusional cults. It probably doesn’t completely cross over into total lunacy as people seem to often present fairly rational motives for their life style decision but I’d say it’s on the border. The really activist animal rights people are indistinguishable from the religious wackos when they promote their propaganda in public parks. I don’t know. Domesticated animals wouldn’t even survive in the wild if we did let them go. But maybe I just don’t get it. Here’s another another opinion on this story.

HPV vaccination misinformation and bias in Medscape? -David Gorsky write: “The article could have been a fair assessment of whether the risks of Gardasil are higher than reported. “Could have” is the operative phrase. Unfortunately, in among the real scientists quoted (and quoted rather selectively, I might add), Gandey parroted back a whole lot of antivaccination nonsense and a misunderstanding. I expect far better from Medscape. Unfortunately, this time I did not get it. For example, there was this howler from Gandey’s report.” Here’s Orac’s take on this issue.

‘Jesus Sucks Banner called a Human Rights violation? -I blogged about this story last week. This latest update just strikes me as a totally over the top reaction to a silly, childish stunt. If you’re the type of person who thinks this is a legal matter then you’ve got bigger problems than the degree in which your imaginary friend sucks.

Blow Me Up, Scotty! -The private rocket, Falcon, carrying 3 experimental satellites and the ashes of actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Scotty on Star Trek, unexpectedly exploded. Unfortunately, Doohan’s ashes never made into space where they were to be scattered in the Earth’s orbit in accordance with his wishes. It sucks that those wishes will now never be fulfilled. As Scotty would have said, “We canna do it! We don’t have the power!”

And now for a moment of science:

Little Teeth: Big Jump In Primate Timeline? -”Tiny fossilized teeth excavated from an Indian open-pit coal mine could be the oldest Asian remains ever found of anthropoids, the primate lineage of today’s monkeys, apes and humans, say researchers from Duke University and the Indian Institute of Technology.”

Bird Could Rewrite ‘Ring Theory’ Of Speciation -”New research has uncovered how different populations of the bird crimson rosella are related to each other – a discovery which has important implications for research into how climate change may affect Australia’s biodiversity.”

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