The Young Turks get the science wrong on GM food

September 27, 2012

I’m a huge fan of the internet news show The Young Turks (and to only a slightly lesser extent their sister show on the Current network). They release daily clips of their show on YouTube. I make it a point to check most of those clips out on a regular basis, and I’ll go as far as to say The Young Turks is usually among the best sources of news out there today.

All the more reason for me to be disappointed at a recent piece they did on genetically modified (GM) food and the company Monsanto, an agricultural company and major producer of GM food:

Monsanto is a popular target of conspiracy theorists superstitious of GM food and to be fair, like any corporation, there’s an excellent chance they cut corners and misbehave every chance they get to save money.

Now when a recently published study on the effects of genetically modified corn on rats arrived at seemingly frightening conclusions along with scary images of tumorous rats, many news outlets jumped on the story. But The Young Turks went further than simply reporting the story. Co-host Ana Kasparian went on to claim that there is still insufficient evidence that GM foods are even safe. And while mentioning that Monsanto was debating the merits of the study, she failed to mention other critics who don’t work for Monsanto and poisoned the well with a statement about how Monsanto is quick to come down “against anyone who says anything negative about them.” Of course that’s the case with any corporation at all times and it neither validates nor invalidates the specific study being reported on. Kasparian goes on to show a clip from a documentary titled “The World According to Monsanto,” which talks about how Monsanto gets around heavy FDA oversight.

Is Monsanto dirty? Almost certainly. Just like pretty much every corporation. The problem here is that The Young Turks are letting their own cognitive biases influence their judgment in this case instead of performing their usual due diligence. When it comes to issues of corporations using their money to influence politicians, there’s no better source than The Young Turks. And when the oil industry funds bogus “tobacco studies” suggesting that anthrogenic global warming isn’t legitimate science, they’re very good at knocking that down. But when you have a story like this one that only superficially plays into that narrative and where the independent science largely reinforces the point of view that conveniently favors the corporation, The Young Turks seem to fall into the trap of assuming Monsanto’s defense is just another corporation shamelessly defending itself with bogus research despite the fact that the science is on their side.

Now The Young Turks also played a clip from the days of the Reagan administration when then Vice-President George H.W. Bush visited a Monsanto factory and can actually be heard saying essentially that he intends to ensure the government looks the other way with Monsanto, saying, “We’re in the ‘dereg’ business.” There’s no getting around how bad that looks both for Monsanto and the Republican Party. HOWEVER, to be fair, within the context of that quote, there’s nothing about fixing the system so unsafe products make it to market. Rather, Bush seems to be responding to a concern over getting past bureaucratic red tape to simply get some authorization sooner. I’m not saying Monsanto isn’t dirty, but the actual promise there was not nearly as serious as looking the other way on safety policies. And for the record, George H.W. Bush hasn’t been Vice-President in a very, very, very long time. The damming clip we’re being presented with is about 25 years old. It can’t reasonably be used to discredit the Monsanto of today.

Kasparian also shows some inconsistency when she poisons the well by dismissing all the studies Monsanto presents that show the safety of their GM products as being all deeply flawed while simultaneously bolstering a study that, as it turns out, is itself deeply flawed:

Within 24 hours, the study’s credibility was shredded by scores of scientists. The consensus judgment was swift and damning: The study was riddled with errors—serious, blatantly obvious flaws that should have been caught by peer reviewers. Many critics pointed out that the researchers chose a strain of rodents extremely prone to tumors. Other key aspects of the study, such as its sample size and statistical analysis, have also been highly criticized. One University of Florida scientist suggests the study was “designed to frighten” the public.*

How could Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur have been so fooled? Presumably because the study reinforces their biases. That’s not a criticism of them personally though as we are all guilty of doing this from time to time. That’s why Steve Novella encourages people to ratchet up our skepticism when we hear information that reinforces our previously held beliefs.

Now I tried to reach out to both Uygur and Kasparian about this via Twitter. I wrote:

@cenkuygur @AnaKasparian Sorry guys but you got the science wrong in your recent Monsanto piece: …

And I must say I was a bit disappointed at the response I got:

I don’t think Kasparian is accurate in her assessment of the research, but given the limitations of Twitter, I gave one more response:

@AnaKasparian Do u at least agree w/ Slate’s analysis that that specific study isn’t entirely credible? &how further back mustGM rsearch go?

Unfortunately, like a skilled politician, Kasparian dodged both of my direct questions and gave me just a talking point:

I decided to stop there as I didn’t wanted to try and drag her into a lengthy Twitter debate. But while I recognize that at least among non-Republicans, comparisons to climate change deniers can seem like name-calling. In the past, denialists of various stripes have often taken great umbrage with being compared with Holocaust Deniers, due to the stigma attached to that. But I don’t think Keith Kloor, in his Slate article, was out of line with his comparison because he wasn’t necessarily comparing them on a scale of respectability. Rather, the basis of the comparison seems to be that both climate change deniers and the anti-GM crowd distort the science based on their respective political leanings. And based on my, to be fair, limited understanding of the science of genetically modified foods, the study’s lead author, Gilles-Eric Seralini, did just that, and The Young Turks’ position on this issue is less based on the science and more based on their distrust of corporations, a distrust that usually serves them well but which in this particular case has led them to false conclusions. 

Now to be clear, I think Ana Kasparian and the rest of The Young Turks team are excellent journalists. I happily call myself a fan of Kasparian and The Young Turks.  But on this issue, I happen to think she’s dead wrong.

Further reading:

NPR – “Manipulating Science Reporting” – interview with Carl Zimmer about recent study referenced above.

World Health Organization – 20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods

WebMD – Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?

“Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food” By Brendan Borrell

Skeptoid podcast – “Genetically Modified Organisms: Jeopardy or Jackpot?”

Science Daily – “Spontaneous GMOs in Nature: Researchers Show How a Genetically Modified Plant Can Come About”
Science Daily – “Engineered Plants Make Potential Precursor to Raw Material for Plastics”
The Atlantic – “A Golden Opportunity to Rethink Genetically Modified Foods” by James McWilliams
“Cloned Beef” by Steven Novella
Science Daily – “Genetically Modified Chickens That Don’t Transmit Bird Flu Developed; Breakthrough Could Prevent Future Bird Flu Epidemics”
“GMO plants and herd immunity”
“GMO chickens and herd immunity”
“The Conspiracy Meme” by Ted Goertzel

News From Around The Blogosphere 5.20.11

May 20, 2011

1. The Catholic Church figures out who’s really to blame for their child abuse cases – A study commissioned by the completely unbiased the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out suggesting that all that child fucking the Catholic Church is so addicted to is really the fault of 1960’s hippies. It also apparently retroactively explains all that church sex abuse we know about from the 19th and early 20th centuries too. Amazing thing, that free-love 60’s movement!

2. CDC prepares for zombie apocalypse – In conjunction with Zombie Awareness Month, the CDC recommends planning ahead for a zombie invasion much as you would any other disaster. Of course, the point of this is to get people thinking about how to protect themselves from any disaster. The idea is rather brilliant. By framing it around zombies, they’ve gotten massive media attention, which they would not have if they were warning people about, you know, actual real threats people should be prepared for…which is waaaay less interesting to the media than who got kicked off Dancing with the Stars this week or what Lady Gaga is eating for breakfast. Steven Novella also discusses this story here.And don’t forget:  Cardio, beware of bathrooms, seat belts, double tap.

3. 60 Minutes discusses dangerous, anti-government Sovereign Citizens cult – Wasn’t familiar with them before but even a brief Google search turns up enough evidence that these people are nuts. And what’s really sad is that many people are calling the 60 Minutes piece biased and are actually defending these crazies simply because the Sovereign Citizens exploit anti-government, libertarian rhetoric.

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There’s nothing that controversial about water fluoridation

January 14, 2011

Recently, I discovered a friend of mine has gotten sucked into the anti-fluoridation water movement and I debated him and a few of his friends on Facebook, where I felt I clearly won. But of course, as the saying goes, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason their way into in the first place.

But I’ll let my readers be the judge as I lay out the debate (while removing names to protect the innocent).

Person 1’s (my friend) Facebook bulletin:

No one should accept the fact there is fluoride in our drinking water. It is dangerous despite what the government tells you.


I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you on this one. Water fluoridation has significantly decreased tooth decay in the U.S. for the last 65 years. It creates low levels of fluoride in saliva, which reduces the rate at which tooth en…amel demineralizes and increases the rate at which it remineralizes in the early stages of cavities. And while recommended levels of fluoride in tap water range from 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L (milligrams per litre depending on climate, bottled water typically has unknown fluoride levels.

In the legal case “Pure Water Committee of Western Maryland, Inc., et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Cumberland, Maryland, et al.”, an anti-fluoridation group sued the city claiming the defendants deprived them of their Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by introducing fluoride into public water supplies. This line of argument didn’t get them very far as the defendants moved for summary judgment and the case was dismissed. It was a no-brainer decision as the anti-fluoride crew failed to present evidence that any rights were actually violated. And most of all, they failed to demonstrate that fluoridated water was in any way harmful.

The National Academy of Sciences, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the American Dental Association, the British Royal College of Physicians, the Royal Statistical Society, investigators at Oxford University, and every United States Surgeon General for the past 45 years have all endorsed water fluoridation. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control included water fluoridation among its list of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. Further, after 65 years of use, we’ve yet to see any signs that we’re all being poisoned en mass by our tap water, and millions of sudden poison deaths are not the sort of thing that’s likely to go unnoticed.

Also, 22% of New Jersey residents had been getting fluoride-treated waters from their tap. In Feb. 2009, the NJ Assembly Health Committee approved a bill by a 10-0 vote to require all of New Jersey’s public water supplies be treated with fluoride (

And in Dec. 2009, the Senate’s health committee passed the bill by a vote of 6-0.
“Jim Schulz of the New Jersey Dental Association chastised the state for ranking 49th in the nation for fluoridating the public water supply, depriving children of a critical health benefit, and urged the bill’s passage.
” ‘Oral health disease is the number one childhood disease in America. It is five times more prevalent that asthma and seven times more prevalent than hay fever,” Schulz said” (

There seems to be no controversy among health professionals. The main critics of fluoridation tend to be lay environmentalists, and the very water companies who’d presumably be left with some of the bill…and of course pathologically paranoid like the “New Jersey Coalition for Vaccine Choice” (

Person 1

Dental caries are far down the list on concerns of the effects of fluoride. The small amounts add up. Of course it is not talked about by the Surgeon General, etc. The government uses tap water to dump these harmful chemicals because of failed military use. It is nothing new. They’ve been doing this for decades. And they are currently working on approving “Acceptable Radiation Doses” for water and food. They have no place to dispose of these byproducts anymore. It’s disgusting.

Person 2

actually you’re all wrong, fluoride does nothing to actual tooth health… good old baking soda and peroxide does. Dental health is down to keeping the teeth clean and free of bacteria, not to mention less sugary foods and of course, saliva production is very important to dental health, so down with fluoride and up with french kissing!


I think I’m going to have to continue to stick with the The National Academy of Sciences, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the American Dental Association, the British Royal College of Physicians, the Royal Statistical Society, investigators at Oxford University, U.S. Center for Disease Control, and every United States Surgeon General for the past 45 years on this one.

Person 1

These are also organizations that ignore the impact of nutrition, effects of pesticides, hormones, etc. on our bodies. Cancer is all around us in the form of water, food, and the technology we are surrounded by.

Person 2

exactly. My father brushed his teeth every single day with peroxide & baking soda, he never had a single cavity. Fluoride on the actual teeth OK, the dentist does this twice a year when one goes for a tooth cleaning, but fluoride in your …body 8 times a day, 365 days a year, 40+ years…. although its a natural occurring mineral, it’s not located near food sources, so therefore it’s not something that should be entering the body on a daily basis nor is it an essential mineral needed for good health. (funny you mentioned the CDC… but the CDC is the actually ruled that the benefits of fluoride are topical, not systemic… so on the teeth or outside surface, not in the digestive system.) Fluoride causes tooth discoloration & lowers the IQ level in growing children. Avoid all issues and drink fresh spring water from a well or mineral water (most contain no fluoride) or finally, distilled water (water that is boiled down to remove all contaminants as is done in 3rd world countries). If I had to pick all the different organizations to agree with.. I think I’d agree with the Centre for Disease Control.. it’s their job to prevent pandemics where as the other organizations are just as bad as politicians… taking money from companies and lobbyists in order to ‘say what people want to hear.’


I’m pretty sure the American Cancer Society is up on what does & doesn’t cause cancer.

Person 2

well the point is, no one really knows what does and doesn’t cause cancer… aspartame is carcinogenic, yet its just about everything, sacchrine also causes cancer, and it’s in most drinks also, and where is the American Cancer Society? chasing tobacco.

Person 1

The ACS actually fails to acknowledge many nutritional links to cancer. Also, these studies exhibit the effects of trace amounts. And because over a long period of time we are exposed to so many chemicals and toxicity, it makes it easy to say that fluoride was not the cause. Rather than rely on self-serving studies, I’d rather not take my chances putting a known dangerous and potent chemical in my body to prove a point.


Even if I assume that you’re correct that the ACS has missed something, I’m still left with the overwhelming consensus of medical opinion from all the other organizations. I’m unaware of any reputable health organizations that are currently… vocally opposing water fluoridation at the currently accepted safe levels. So if not these organizations, I’m left wondering what sources you’re pulling from. It can’t be that bad because it’s been common practice in the U.S. for the last 65 years and the average life expectancy has only dramatically increased since then. Where’s the peer-reviewed data showing harm and why isn’t the broader medical community, especially experts in the relevant fields, actively discouraging it? The first rule of toxicology is that the dosage makes the poison and 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L (milligrams per litre) is an incredibly low dosage.

Person 1

The medical community is misinformed about many things. And they perpetuate them still. The fluoridation was fought to be made acceptable. And now they are increasing what are acceptable doses of poisonous chemicals. Fluoride was originally used as part of artillery shells. It is what the military used before uranium. To say that there are “acceptable levels” is ridiculous. Acceptable levels of radiation, for example, does that mean that one should regularly expose themselves to those “acceptable levels.”

Person 2

Fluoride in water is banned in Norway, UK, Netherlands and most Western European countries. Their scientists of their national health organisations don’t pose for photo ops, nor do they send out press releases globally. They do their job…… and its as simple as ‘If it’s not essential, then why does it need to be added?’ Fluoride consumption causes premature births, tooth discolouration, thyroid dysfunction and the lowering of IQ levels. If something so ‘healthy and essential’ does this, then why is it still needed? It’s like the USDA turning around tomorrow and telling everyone we must incorporate sand into our diets as it’s rich in minerals and then we all do it because we just trust what they say? The fact of the matter is that numerous pharmaceutical companies lobby to these national health organizations and funnily enough, medicine and medical care for premature births/incubation, tooth whitening, thyroid medicine and ADHD medication are the most expensive out there? coincidence?


But again, if the medical community is not your source, then what more reliable source is this coming from? Sure, medical science makes mistakes but it seems to me that the very people who are most knowledgeable of the subject matter and be…st equipped to address these issues disagree and if the evidence is there, our best means of detecting it is the scientific method, which would demand repeatable controlled tests demonstrating the claim that survive the peer-review process. If this has been done, where can that research be found and why is it being ignored by those with the most applied knowledge on the subject?

Now I’m unfamiliar with this military use you describe, so I can’t comment on it. As I understand it, water fluoridation goes back to the early 20th century dentist, Dr. Frederick McKay, who practiced dentistry in Colorado & spent 30 years investigating why people with brown teeth also had extremely low levels of dental decay. In 1931, it was determined that naturally occurring fluoride in the local drinking water was responsible for both the discoloration & the lack of decay. Texas & Colorado had extremely high levels of natural fluoride, causing the discoloration, a condition now known as dental fluorosis. Years of research and testing in different cities & states, conducted by the National Health Service, determined one part per million was the ideal proportion, giving the same protection from decay, and avoiding the dental fluorosis. Since then, it’s been the standard practice to regulate fluoride levels in municipal water supplies to one part per million. There has been broad scientific and medical consensus for decades that one part per million of fluoride is best for health, and as far as I can tell, no rigorously conducted scientific trials showing signs of danger.

But again, the first rule of toxicology is that dosage makes the poison, and so I’m not just speculating that there are acceptable levels; I’m saying it’s an undesputed scientific fact.

References & Further Reading

Estupiñán-Day, Saskia. Promoting oral health: the use of salt fluoridation to prevent dental caries. Washington DC: Pan American Health Organization, 2005.

Griffin, SO, Jones, K, Tomar, SL. “An Economic Evaluation of Community Water Fluoridation.” Journal of Public Heath Dentistry. 1 Mar. 2001, Volume 61, Number 2: 78-86.

Hem, John D. Study and Interpretation of the Chemical Characteristics of Natural Water. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005. 120-123.

Langford, Cameron. “GOP Hosts County’s Public Health Officer for Fluoride Talk.” Humboldt Advocate. 14 Jul. 2006, Newspaper: Unknown.

McKay, Frederick S. “Mass Control of Dental Caries Through the Use of Domestic Water Supplies Containing Fluorine.” American Journal of Public Heath Nations Health. 1 Jun. 1948, Volume 38, Number 6: 828-832.

National Cancer Institute. “Fluoridated Water: Questions and Answers.” National Cancer Institute – Comprehensive Cancer Information. National Institutes for Health, 29 Jun. 2005. Web. 12 Nov. 2009. <>

Nixon, Janice M., Carpenter, R. G. “Mortality in areas containing natural fluoride in their water supplies, taking account of socioenvironmental factors and water hardness.” The Lancet. 2 Nov. 1974, Volume 304, Issue 78: 1068-1071.


Also, water fluoridation is not banned in any other those nations; public officials have simply opted not to pass bills that would put it into practice. And politicians are not scientists. I’m frightened to imagine what Sarah Palin’s scienc…e policies would be. It’s the scientific consensus and the empirical evidence that matters in the realm of science, not populism nor the actions of public officials. And while most, if not all, of those countries have superior healthcare insurance plans, the U.S. is #1 in medical research. And no other nation in the world hosts more international researchers than the U.S.

You say fluoride consumption causes premature births, tooth discolouration, thyroid dysfunction and the lowering of IQ levels. How do you know this? What is your source for this and was dosage, specifically water fluoridation levels, taken into account? Where are these studies published? And are you aware that IQ levels have been consistently rising 3 points every decade for the whole of the 20th century? This is the Flynn effect.

Person 2

My source is medical studies in all the countries that have banned water fluoridation. Also… living in UK for 7 years and Italy for 6 months, I actually didn’t see more cavities in my own mouth – and I eat loads of sugar. Although I’m proud of being American, I refuse to believe that the US government (or any government for that matter) is 100% right. I worked in politics long enough to know what goes on behind the scenes and let me tell you, it’s not pretty.

Person 1

She is right about the adverse effects of fluoride. Bone fluorosis is a major concern as it is linked to osteoporosis. Also, it is a fundamental problem in civilization that rthere is such a thing as acceptable levels of chemicals to allo…w in the body. Fluoride is the main ingredient in rat poison. I’d rather not put that in my body.

Furthermore, the fluoride in our water system is not pharmaceutical fluoride. It is toxic waste byproducts. It is not FDA approved. There are as many scientists and doctors that are against fluoridation of water.

And, it is unethical to decide that every person should consume fluoride. Especially when cavities are easily preventable. If the government decided to put any “medication” in the water because they said it was okay, I’d be furious.

Person 2

me too! If I know there is something in my food that shouldnt be there (such as the growth hormones in factory chickens and cows) then yah, that’s not going in my body that’s for sure.

Person 3

There is no proof that ingesting fluoride does anything for your teeth. Even studies that the ADA have done backed this up. Topical fluoride does show beneficial results. This is easily seen where they banned or opted out of fluoridation of water. The people without fluoridation do not show any more cavities than people with fluoride in their water.


We can debate the topic forever, so I think this will me my last comment on it before simply saying we’ll have to agree to disagree.

To reiterate, I’ve cited several well-researched articles on the subject and several of the most reputable …health organizations in the world whom endorse water fluoridation as both reasonably safe and reasonably effective. And I forgot to even include on the list the FDA whom, let’s face it, this is directly in their wheelhouse. Pubmed has 2,831 entries on the subject and at least the first dozen I’ve gleaned from the site demonstrate the process as both safe and effective.

For instance:

From the abstract of “Community effectiveness of public water fluoridation in reducing children’s dental disease.” Armfield JM.
Public Health Rep. 2010 Sep-Oct;125(5):655-64.PMID: 20873281

“CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the continued community effectiveness of water fluoridation and provides support for the extension of this important oral health intervention to populations currently without access to fluoridated water.”

Or from the abstract of “Geographic variation in medicaid claims for dental procedures in New York State: role of fluoridation under contemporary conditions.” Kumar JV, Adekugbe O, Melnik TA. Public Health Rep. 2010 Sep-Oct;125(5):647-54. Erratum in: Public Health Rep. 2010 Nov-Dec;125(6):788. PMID: 20873280

“CONCLUSIONS: These findings, when added to the already existing weight of evidence, have implications for promoting policies at the federal and state levels to strengthen the fluoridation program.”

This does not seem to be a controversial area where the scientific consensus is concerned. Rather, for all practical purposes, it is an over-and-done-with issue.

Suffice it to say, I’m not particularly persuaded by references to anonymous studies that seem to have failed to persuade the consensus of experts in the relevant fields, at least as far as the larger claims you seem to be making.

Further, as I said before, fluoridation was not “banned” in the countries you mention; politicians simply voted for whatever reason (which is unknown) not to spend their budgets on such a project. That’s not at all the same thing as banning something. But again, public policy doesn’t always, or rarely, follow scientific recommendations and I think the notion that politicians in other countries have any greater scientific education than those in our own (some of whom deny Evolution, deny AGW, and even believe that the Earth is 6000 years old) is naive.

And again, this isn’t mere opinion of “the government” whoever that is but the consensus of opinion, based on mountains of empirical evidence, of just about every reputable health organization on Earth.

Moving on,there are lots of ingredients in rat poison. Most, on their own, are entirely benign. And of course again dosage is a key factor. Otherwise, one can just as easily say that we need to remove oxygen from our water because oxygen is found in carbon dioxide, which is toxic to the environment. And chemicals get a bad rap these days but without them, we wouldn’t be here. Hell, without chemicals, there’d be no here here. Chemicals surround us, penetrate us, and bind the galaxy together. If you want to stop taking chemicals into your body, you’re going to have to stop eating and breathing. And regarding the ethics of mass water fluoridation, as I referenced before, this argument failed to win any more traction in the court of law and the court of science. And I surmise it’s even less persuasive now that rival commercial bottled waters are ubiquitous in our culture.

That’s it. I case my rest and beyond that, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Person 2

I agree to disagree, I’ll shell out extra money for spring water and San Pellegrino sparkling and know that I’m not poisoning myself 🙂 great factual and intellectual arguments back and forth though, I love it! 🙂

Person 1

Fluoride has already been proven to be more toxic than lead. I don’t want trace amounts of lead in my water either. Doctors and scientists agree that there are no safe amounts of lead for the body, regardless of what the body can be “put …through.” Also, many of the organizations you listed have dropped their affiliation with the ADA on this issue, as they do not approve of fluoride. I’m with Den, I’m not going to put chemicals in my body, no matter how safe someone tells me they are, while “experts” debate back and forth on it. I cherish my physical being too much.

Person 2

experts schmexperts! we know they are experts because they had the money and misplaced motivation to stay in medical school forever, kissing Academic butt along the way and now they do things like murder Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger and Brittney Murphy. Then they wanna poison us, don’t even get me started on Doctors.


Well, that’s how it went down. I thought I made the best case I reasonably could given my lack of expertise in the subject matter.

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.


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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Leaked email exposes Fox News as less than “fair and balanced”

December 10, 2010
Fox News Channel
Image via Wikipedia

During the big health care debate, Fox News’ Washington managing editor came up with an interesting, little idea for his network to maintain their “fair and balance” policy. He decided they should constantly mislead the public by calling it the “government option” and now we have the emails to prove it.

Fox News pundits started sporadically adopting the “government option” slant around March, 2009, when they previously referred to it as the “public option” and Republican pollster Frank Luntz scolded them if they slipped by into using the term “public option”:

Luntz argued that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but that “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” Luntz explained that the program would be “sponsored by the government” and falsely claimed that it would also be “paid for by the government.”

Then on October 26, Fox used “public” and “government” interchangeably and Sammon was not happy. So he wrote an inter-office email, the subject of which was: “friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option.’ “:

From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

1)      Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

2)      When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

3)      Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

4)      When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

Michael Clemente, Fox’s senior vice president, responded:

From: Clemente, Michael
To: Sammon, Bill; 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Sent: Tue Oct 27 08:45:29 2009
Subject: RE: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

Thank you Bill

#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.

Michael Clemente



And after that, the phrase “public option” was hardly ever used on Fox. 

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200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes

December 1, 2010

Medical science vs. viruses

November 4, 2010

Well, the flu vaccine, like every other vaccine, has still not been linked to autism, but one thing it has been linked to is decreased risk of heart attacks.

Middle-aged and older adults who get the flu vaccine may be less likely to suffer a first-time heart attack in the following year than those who skip the shot, according to a study published Monday.

So yes, yet another great reason to get your flu shot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Vaccines save lives. Deal with it.

Of course vaccines aren’t the only weapon against viruses. A new virus-killing technique is hitting the market in a few days, and researchers believe it can even defeat the common cold.

Any immunology textbook will tell you that once a virus enters a cell, the only way to knock that virus out is to kill the entire cell. But a new study from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge has shown a way to kill a virus from within the cell, leaving the virus defeated and the cell victorious and intact. This could be huge–not just a cure for the common cold, but for all kinds of other viruses as well.

Suck it, cold!

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How government agencies & the media REALLY respond to Big Pharma conspiracies

September 23, 2010

So often I hear about alleged Big Pharma conspiracies that involve the highest levels of government and the entire mainstream media, etc. And when I challenge those claims, I’m always always accused to being a shill for Big Pharma.

But when Big Pharma really is involved in a conspiracy, I’m more than happy to report about their misbehavior, as are the appropriate government agencies and media. One such case has arrived once again. This time the FDA has caught Johnson & Johnson contracting people to go to specific stores to buy out specific boxes of defective Motrin rather than make it public and issue a recall. Now it’s not that the defective Mortin was dangerous; it was just ineffective. But the point is that Johnson & Johnson didn’t issue a recall and allowed customers to continue to buy a substandard product while they secretly attempted to buy up as many boxes as they could find.

This is disgraceful. But what I want to emphasize here is that this is an example of when the system works. The FDA did its job and mainstream media covered the story. Neither made any attempt to protect “Big Pharma.”

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Are vaccine deniers shills for Big Cemetary?

July 29, 2010
Measles. This child shows a classic day-4 rash...
Image via Wikipedia

Today brought two deeply disturbing news stories that seem quite related to our psychotic anti-vaccine friends. First, a new report places my home state of New Jersey (also home to massive anti-vaccine campaigns) a disgraceful #45 on the list of vaccine protected states. In the U.S., only five other states and the District of Columbia are less protected by vaccines than New Jersey.

New Jersey’s immunization rate for children under 3, at 68.5 percent, is significantly lower than the national average of 76.1 percent and is woefully behind the 90 percent that public health authorities consider optimum for providing “herd immunity.”

And though I’d almost rather not distract from this horrible news, I think it is worth noting that New Jersey, despite having one of the worst vaccination rates in the country, also has among the highest rates of autism in the country, yet another inconvenient fact anti-vaxxers don’t want you to think about.

The other related news story is this report that hundreds of people in Tarrytown, New York have been exposed to measles, which has been tracked back to its source, a single unvaccinated person infected with the virus:

Exposure to the infected person may have occurred either Friday at a social event attended by 200 high school students from abroad at the EF International Language School on Marymount Avenue or between 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or Eva’s Hair Salon in the Westchester Marriott Hotel on White Plains Road in Greenburgh.

More than 900 people from the East Coast are believed to have been at the hotel during the time period. The infected individual stayed at the Marriott, but did not visit Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or the hair salon. However, airborne transmissions of the measles virus could have reached the restaurant or salon due to shared ventilation systems with the hotel.

And this is only the beginning. If the anti-vaccine movement is not stopped, we’ll see more outbreaks, which will inevitably lead to deaths. And if these viruses are allowed to rise again, there is no telling what level of destruction they will bring upon an unprotected populace. The power of an atomic bomb is insignificant compared to that of a well evolved virus.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.30.10

March 30, 2010

1. Single unvaccinated kid source of 2008 California measles outbreak

The family’s 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Wow, that’s one hell of a path of destruction caused by a single anti-vax family. Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Magnets can almost instantly change a person’s moral judgment – This would seem to pretty definitively debunk the notion of dualism and fairly conclusively show that the mind is, contrary to Deepak Chopra’s claims,  purely a localized phenomenon. It also further illustrates how absurd the evangelical notion of “objective morality” from “God” is.

3. Critical thinking and skepticism begins at childhood – Here’s a great story of a kid scientifically investigating the Tooth Fairy and successfully debunking it

But not all kids are brought up to be such critical thinkers.

4. New Harris poll confirms most Americans are dummies

The poll involved 2,320 adults responding to true or false questions. Among many other disturbing facts, 14% of respondents said they believed Obama could be the Antichrist.

. . .

When broken into partisan results, it seems 24% of all Republican respondents hold this view, while only 6% of Democrats are that batshit crazy. But taken as a whole, the numbers in this poll are depressing. 32% think Obama is a Muslim. 23% think Obama is a racist. And 20% say Obama is “doing many of the things Hitler did.”

But I’m pretty sure Hitler didn’t hold a Passover seder in the White House…or cut out the middleman in student loans…or sleep with Michelle Obama.

5. Bill Donohue continues shameless campaign defending child rapists – Now he’s taken out an ad in the NY Times defending the man most responsible for ensuring the child rapists could continue to prey on more children, The Pope. Oh, and he’s moved on from blaming the families of the victims to blaming the gays. It won’t be long now before he blames everyone on Earth except for The Pope.

And he’s not the only one defending child rapists. . .

6. The Vatican has selflessly thought up 3 reasons why they feel The Vatican is not liable – The first is that the Pope, as head of state, is immune from prosecution (aka Joey Ratz does whatever Joey Ratz wants and if you get in the way, he’ll whack you or have your children horribly raped). The second excuse is that the American priests were not Vatican employees  (This should go over really well with the American Catholics). And the third excuse is that they’ve declared by fiat that the smoking gun evidence that has been confirmed by high ranking church officials is really not smoking gun evidence at all (I call this the Jedi Mind Trick defense – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now move along):

McMurry insisted Tuesday that Crimen is a smoking gun.

“The fact is, this document and its predecessors make it an excommunicable offense to reveal any knowledge of allegations that a priest has sexually abused,” he said in an e-mail.

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

As for that first excuse that a head of state can’t be sued, fine, let’s call it an act of war then. I hope the Vatican has a strong military.