News From Around The Blogosphere 1.4.11

January 4, 2011

1. Pakistani governor slain for opposing blasphemy laws – The governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by his own bodyguard because he was an outspoken critic of religious extremists and called for the end of the death penalty for the crime of blasphemy.

2. Jesus infects hundreds with sexually transmitted disease – Hundreds of New Yorkers may have been exposed to hepatitis A when they attended Christmas Day services at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park in Long Island while receiving communion. Individuals exposed to the disease should receive vaccination within two weeks of exposure. Made up authorities are still unsure if this is connected to the non-existent Muslims who got gonorrhea from Mohammed.

3. Vaccine against cocaine high successful in mice -

“Our very dramatic data shows that we can protect against the effects of , and we think this approach could be very promising in fighting addiction in humans,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of at Weill Cornell Medical College.

He says the antibody produced in lab mice by the binds to, and sequesters, cocaine molecules before the drug reached the brains of these animals — and prevents any cocaine-related hyperactivity. The vaccine effect lasted for at least 13 weeks, the longest time point evaluated.

4. Power Balance admit fraud – The manufacturers of PowerBalance were forced to admit to the Australian media that there is no scientific evidence supporting their claims that their bracelets improve strength, balance, and flexibility.

LEO!!!!

5. Romania passes bill requiring witches to pay taxes -

“witches, astrologists, embalmers, valets and driving instructors are now considered by labor law to be working real jobs, making it harder for them to avoid income tax”

Meanwhile, in Ghana…

6. Ghana continues to burn ‘witches’ alive -

Elderly women are used as scapegoats for all ills in large parts of Ghanaian society – leading to exile, and sometimes murder

Six people are currently appearing before a magistrate at Tema, near Accra, for allegedly burning a 72-year-old woman to death, in the belief that she was a witch.

In both cases, anyone with the slightest knowledge of dementia would recognise symptoms of the disease from the accounts given of the behaviour of the women. They were where they were not supposed to be, and when they were asked what they were doing there, they could not explain themselves. This is because dementia sometimes robs its victims of the ability to speak coherently.

It is absolutely insane that this is still going on in the 21st century.

7. Earth-like planet said to have 100% chance of life? – That’s the claim being made about Gliese 581g. But given the lack of fanfare and the number of times we’ve heard this kind of claim before,I think I’ll wait to hear what more experts say before accepting this “100 percent” figure without any actual evidence at all to justify it.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.14.10

May 14, 2010

1. Another kid excluded from Catholic school due to lesbian parents – This is the second time in just the last few months that a Catholic school has decided that children of lesbian parents don’t deserve an education. This time it’s in Massachusetts. It’s just a shame the kid’s parents weren’t child rapists. Cause otherwise he’d get right in.

2. News anchor duped by YouTube video of people running on water - He says it couldn’t be a visual trick because he watched it in slow-mo (cause you can’t trick in slow-mo, right?) and his explanation is centrifugal force (even though that involves rotation). The actual explanation is that this video is a viral ad for Hi-Tec Sports, an athletic shoemaker.

3. Central African Republic courts overwhelmed by witch trials – Many alleged witches are facing criminal punishment for hexing their enemies or assuming the shape of animals. I hate when that happens. About 40% of all cases here are over witchcraft. And the rights of the accused are violated regularly in witchcraft prosecutions, because the charge carries enormous pressure to confess. And the alternative to these prosecutions is mob justice from people convinced witches are hexing people with impunity. I’m so glad we live in the 17th century.

4. Priest tries exorcism on handicapped girl – The girl was both physically and mentally disabled. The priest spoke in gibberish and then started demanding the girl to speak:

“The girl would not have even been able to comprehend, let alone follow instructions. It was very undignified for the young lady and she was just crying, howling at the altar.”

Suffice it to say, it didn’t work. The church’s excuse for this unseemly affair is that the priest was a foreigner. So I guess that means they’d have let him get away with virgin sacrifices too.

5. 13-year-old Somalian rape victim stoned to death – Yeah, that will teach her not to be raped. All in a days work for the religion of peace we call Islam.

6. Polish pop singer faces 2-years in prison for blasphemy – In a television interview last year, 26-year-old Dorota Rabczewska, known as “Doda”, said she found it far easier to believe in dinosaurs than the Bible; “it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes.” And for that, this pop star and Mensa member may go to jail for 2 years because she hurt the feelings of Catholics. Under Poland’s blasphemy law, simply offending someone’s religious sensibilities can earn you hefty fines and even imprisonment. And while I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law, it needs to be said. And to think I thought Poland got rid of the Nazis.

7. How chimps deal with death -

Two studies in the April 27th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, offer rare glimpses into the ways that chimpanzees deal with the deaths of those closest to them. In one case, researchers describe the final hours and moment of death of an older female chimp living in a small group at a UK safari park as captured on video. In the other, researchers observed as two chimpanzee mothers in the wild carried their infants’ mummified remains for a period of weeks after they were lost to a respiratory epidemic.


Woman suspected of witchcraft burned alive

January 8, 2009

Here is another great example of why I fight:

A woman in rural Papua New Guinea was bound and gagged, tied to a log and set ablaze on a pile of tires this week, possibly because villagers suspected her of being a witch, police said Thursday.

This has become far too common an occurance in that region of the world.  Delusion begets a cycle of deeper delusion. Even seemingly benign superstitions like witches that most of us I hope would laugh about can be like a gateway drug to mass hysteria and violence if left unchecked.

In recent years, as AIDS has taken a toll in the nation of 6.7 million people, villagers have blamed suspected witches — and not the virus — for the deaths.

According to the United Nations, Papua New Guinea accounts for 90 percent of the Pacific region’s HIV cases and is one of four Asia-Pacific countries with an epidemic.

“We’ve had a number of cases where people were killed because they were accused of spreading HIV or AIDS,” Kauba said.

And it’s not just something that can only happen in poorer nations. The same type of thing can happen here though witches are no longer likely to be the scapegoat. More likely it seems like the very doctors who are saving lives are the ones being accused of causing illness. That kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster.


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.25.08

November 26, 2008

Witchcraft on India’s school curriculum – It’s part of an effort to dispel superstition and stop deadly witch hunts.

Victims of abuse can sue the Vatican!!!

A great blog article by Phil Plait on The Long Tail of Skepticism – It includes another plug for Stop Jenny McCarthy, so I’m happy. I’ve blogged in the past about how skeptics need to start focusing on strengthening the the “Long Tail” and I’m planning on writing a potentially very long essay on the direction I think the skeptics movement should be heading, which expands upon the popular essay by Daniel Loxton “Where Do We Go From Here,” the blog by Tim Farley of “What’s The Harm” that Phil Plait links to “The Long Tail of Skepticism,” and the Skepticamp essay recited on the most recent Skepticality podcast (episode #90). All of these are must-reads for those interested in getting involved in skeptical activism.

Boy did this psychic go to the wrong site – This is hilarious. It’s remarkable to me that “Sean” didn’t see this one coming. . .you know, with all the psychic powers and all.

No atheist ads in Australia – And probably won’t even be in the film, “Australia.” It’s particularly sad because all 3 slogan options were better than the recent ones used in London and Washington:

  • Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence
  • Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings
  • Atheism: Celebrate reason

If they didn’t even go for the last one, then I guess we can forget my slogan idea: “God Is Imaginary. Get Over It.”

A circuit court judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional – Reason wins out. But there’s still Utah, where no unmarried couples are allowed to adopt, be they gay or straight, and Mississippi, which bans gay couples from adopting, but not single gay people.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyMissing Link’ Galaxies Discovered – “Astronomers in two UK-led international collaborations have separately uncovered a type of galaxy that represents a missing link in our understanding of galaxy evolution.”

Flies May Reveal Evolution Of Live Birth – “A species of fruit fly from the Seychelles Islands often lays larvae instead of eggs, UC San Diego biologists have discovered. Clues to how animals switch from laying eggs to live birth may be found in the well-studied species’ ecology and genes.”

HUMOR:

F.U.T.K. - Okay, so this time Toby Keith is being deliberately funny with this “War on Christmas” song from A Colbert Christmas (and it is very funny), but is there any doubt that Toby Keith take the message of the song seriously?

And of course here’s a little piece of unintentional comic gold. Proof that religion rots your brain:


Columbians riot over pyramid scheme

November 15, 2008

Columbians riot over pyramid scheme – The con artists responsible for the initial scheme disappeared having left behind a note taunting their victims. The note read:

“Now for being stupid and believing in witchcraft you will have to work much harder to recoup the money you gave us.”

The office of another pyramid scheme had a greetings card stuck on the door which read:

“We wish you a sad Christmas and a shameful New Year.”

Though like every pyramid scheme, many more people were involved. And well, the victims are really, really pissed!

In Pereira, in Risaralda, police caught two men hurrying out the back door of a scheme’s office with suitcases of cash.

They offered one of the cases to the police to let them go.

The BBC’s Jeremy McDermott in Medellin says they are now in custody and that is the safest place for them, as conned investors have threatened to lynch them.

This is why skeptics fight. Pyramid schemes and magical thinking like witchcraft can lead to serious harm:

Hundreds gathered outside a company called DRFE in the town of Armenia, among them Luis Alberto Sierra who told Caracol TV he had lost some $17,000.

“I mortgaged my house, invested all my savings,” he said.

Marta Aristizabal in Cali told Caracol TV she had lost around 30m pesos ($13,000).

Vice-President Francisco Santos gave this warning:

“When someone promises to double your money in six months they are trying to trick you,” he said. “Nothing is free in this world and that is not going to change.”


“Child-witches” of Nigeria seek refuge

November 11, 2008

Here’s another classic example that shows what’s the harm in believing in nonsense:

Mary is a pretty five-year-old girl with big brown eyes and a father who kicked her out onto the streets in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. Her crime: the local priest had denounced her as a witch and blamed her “evil powers” for causing her mother’s death.

Believe it or not, Mary is one of the lucky ones. She only got thrown out of the house in a dangerous neighborhood. Worse fates have befallen others like her who have been branded as witches:

Before being pushed out of their homes many were beaten or slashed with knives, thrown onto fires, or had acid poured over them as a punishment or in an attempt to make them “confess” to being possessed. In one horrific case, a young girl called Uma had a three-inch nail driven into her skull. . . Many of those branded “child-witches” are murdered – hacked to death with machetes, poisoned, drowned, or buried alive in an attempt to drive Satan out of their soul.

This has been a growing problem in Africa. Who is largely to blame for this mass hysteria so reminiscent of our own Salem Witch Hunts? Take a guess. What kind of sick profession would introduce such monstrous ideas that lead to child torture and murder to an impoverished, poorly educated, and superstitious community only to profit off of it?

The devil’s children are “identified” by powerful religious leaders at extremist churches where Christianity and traditional beliefs have combined to produce a deep-rooted belief in, and fear of, witchcraft. The priests spread the message that child-witches bring destruction, disease and death to their families. And they say that, once possessed, children can cast spells and contaminate others.

The religious leaders offer help to the families whose children are named as witches, but at a price. The churches run exorcism, or “deliverance”, evenings where the pastors attempt to drive out the evil spirits. Only they have the power to cleanse the child of evil spirits, they say. The exorcism costs the families up to a year’s income.

During the “deliverance” ceremonies, the children are shaken violently, dragged around the room and have potions poured into their eyes. The children look terrified. The parents look on, praying that the child will be cleansed. If the ritual fails, they know their children will have to be sent away, or killed. Many are held in churches, often on chains, and deprived of food until they “confess” to being a witch.

The ceremonies are highly lucrative for the spiritual leaders many of whom enjoy a lifestyle of large homes, expensive cars and designer clothes.

There is an estimated 15,000 children branded “child-witches” in Akwa Ibom state alone. Thank you Christianity. Those Islamic fundamentalists got nothing on you.

Okay, so it’s not Christianity’s fault, right? Crazy people are crazy no matter what. After all, it’s not like The Bible told them to do this or anything:

The preacher says that her work is true to the Bible and is a means of spreading God’s word. “Witchcraft is a problem all over Nigeria and someone with a gift like me can never hurt anybody,” she says.

Son of a bitch!!!

So far, The Pope nor any other major Christian authority has condemned this behavior. Last week, the Mormons effectively banned gay marriage in the state of California because they viewed that as an outrage. I have yet to heard any Mormon authority condemn these child-witch hunts.


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