News From Around The Blogosphere 10.27.11

October 27, 2011

1. Skeptical zombies ignored by James Van Praagh – In possibly the best PR stunt the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has ever come up with, their president, DJ Grothe led an army of zombies on a mission to get self-proclaimed “psychic” James Van Praagh to finally take the JREF’s Million Dollar Psychic Challenge. Not surprisingly, Praagh’s goons kept the zombies from meeting with him but of course that doesn’t matter as this story is getting a lot of press.

2. Church’s bogus AIDS cure causes 3 deaths – Though this is an isolated incident, this is precisely the kind of tragedy that can be expected in a culture that demands unquestioned belief and condemns skepticism.

3. 60 Minutes pisses off anti-vaxxers – As part of their Steve Jobs-centered episode this week, 60 Minutes ran a segment on the remarkable benefits that iPads and other tablet devices have demonstrated for people with autism. And somehow by simply highlighting an important, practical tool in helping autistic people communicate, they’ve pissed off Age of Autism. And bravo to Age of Autism’s commenters for declaring war on Temple Grandin of all people. That takes serious balls. Maybe their next target will be blind nuns, adorable puppies, and AIDS-infected orphans. I’m just shocked Age of Autism didn’t rant about the fact that Pfizer is a major sponsor of the show.

4. ‘Sybil’ admits she never really had multiple personalities – The most famous alleged case of multiple personality syndrome, or what’s now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder was based on lies and manipulations.

5. Atheists doing volunteer work – This is something I want to see more of in atheist groups. This is one of the ways we’ll change people’s negative stereotypes about atheists.

 

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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.23.11

May 23, 2011
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1. Actor Paul Giamatti identifies himself as an atheist – Yup, in keeping with centuries of Jewish tradition, Mr. Giamatti doesn’t believe in any gods. He even goes further than many other celebrity atheists in that he’s not afraid to even use the label “atheist.”

2. Australian distributor of Power Balance bracelets goes out of business

The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.

Power Balance Australia owner Tom O’Dowd has exclusively told SmartCompany that while he had been “naive” in thinking that the business would not by [sic] subject to laws surrounding the regulation of health products, the ACCC’s aggressive stance against the products effectively killed off any survival hopes.

3. 60 Minutes reports on Lance Armstrong scandal – Last week, I defended a piece by 60 Minutes about the cult group calling themselves Sovereign Citizens, but this week, I’m taking issue with one of their stories. Now I haven’t been following the investigation into possible use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional bicyclists, nor the particular accusations against Lance Armstrong. But it seems to me, at least as it was presented on 60 Minutes, that the real story here is an abuse of government power. From what I could tell, the entire investigation has turned into a witch hunt based not on any empirical evidence, but on nothing more than hearsay.

Now maybe Armstrong cheated and maybe he didn’t. I have no clue, nor any commitment to either conclusion. Certainly, as with any professional athlete, there is a clear motivation to cheat…at least as long as one  can keep it a secret, as exposure would almost certainly destroy one’s career. But if federal officials couldn’t even nab Al Capone for anything other than tax evasion, why is it that they can potentially bring down Lance Armstrong without anything other than the testimonies and conspiracy theories of people who may have a grudge against him?

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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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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.22.11

March 23, 2011

1. New BBC report shows further decline in religion – In the past few years, a number of polls have shown religion is declining as increasingly more people identify themselves as not belonging to any religion. And now yet another poll shows this trend based on the census data of nine countries.

2. 70-year-old Philadelphia man stoned to death for Jesus – The killer has directly stated that the act was inspired by the Bible:

According to this report, John Thomas, 28, of Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb, told police he killed Murray Seidman of nearby Lansdowne because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.

3. Piggyback virus could thwart HIV

Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself.

Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates.

4. Nine cases of measles in Minneapolis

The likely source is an infant who traveled to Kenya and returned in the beginning of February. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 4 years. Four of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, four were of age but were not vaccinated, and one has unknown vaccine status. There have been five hospitalizations and no deaths.

On a related note, if you happen to run into Andrew Wakefield or Jenny McCarthy, please punch them in the face for me.

5. 60 Minutes turns Catholic child rape scandal into a fluff piece – This week’s 60 Minutes featured an embarrassingly piece on New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose making it his mission to restore the Church’s reputation after that pesky mass child rape conspiracy thing. In the piece, Dolan expressed little interest in helping to bring child rapists and their accomplices to justice or declaring specific changes to ensure it never happens again, and showed that his primary purpose is spin control. And 60 Minutes, like all the mainstream media, found that entirely satisfactory. I wonder if Scott Pelley would still be satisfied if his own child were raped by priests and committed suicide because of the psychological scars while the perpetrators were given full immunity from justice because instead of working for Starbucks, the organization they happen to work for is named the Catholic Church. Though I am happy to see that the commenters on 60 Minutes webpage are really letting them have it. And here’s a great piece on how out of touch with reality the Catholic Church is.

6. Nantucket child killed in exorcism

The woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter earlier this week believed God had instructed her to stick a rose in the young girl’s throat to ward off the devil, according to documents filed in Nantucket District Court.

So next time someone suggests religion is harmless, remind them of 3-year-old Nicole Garcia Pleitez.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.21.10

April 22, 2010

1. Russia bans $cientology material – Perhaps taking a cue from the Germans, Russia is cracking down on beliefs it considers detrimental to society and have now banned books and recordings by L. Ron Hubbard a court determined to be extremist. Russia has already banned some texts by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2. 60 Minutes applies hardcore skepticism to bring down bogus stem cell quack – Lawrence Stowe is a con man with no real medical credentials who has scammed ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease patients out of money with promises of bogus stem cell cures. I am very proud of 60 Minutes for setting up and airing this sting operation in all its uncomfortable glory.What’s really shameful is that every news organization isn’t doing this sort of thing all the time.

3. Oklahoma proposes new insane abortion bill – The bill would allow doctors to withhold test results showing fetal defects and require women to answer intrusive questions.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.23.10

February 24, 2010

1. Protein study shows Evolutionary link between plants and animals

Inserting a human protein important in cancer development was able to revive dying plants, showing an evolutionary link between plants and humans and possibly making it easier to study the protein’s function in cancer development, a Purdue University study has shown.

And yet millions of creationists are still unimpressed. Go figure.

2. Mouse with human liver aids research –

How do you study-and try to cure in the laboratory-an infection that only humans can get? A team led by Salk Institute researchers does it by generating a mouse with an almost completely human liver. This “humanized” mouse is susceptible to human liver infections and responds to human drug treatments, providing a new way to test novel therapies for debilitating human liver diseases and other diseases with liver involvement such as malaria.

Just in case you needed another reason to want to punch anti-animal-testing extremists in the face.

3. Steve Novella gives the 411 on the Bloom Box – After it being featured on this week’s 60 Minutes, I too was interested in finding out more about this Bloom Box and whether it really was as impressive a solution for clean energy as it seemed on the show.

4. $cientology hires reporters to investigate the St. Petersburg Times – For those who don’t know the St. Petersburg Times has over the past several months become one of $cientology’s worst enemies, doing the kind of in depth investigative reporting on the evil cult that every other news outlet should have been doing decades ago. Now the $cientology is out for blood and has gotten three veteran journalists to try and investigate the paper’s conduct:

While the journalists have promised an independent review, the Times has refused to cooperate, saying their work will be used to fuel the church’s ongoing campaign against the Florida paper.

“I ultimately couldn’t take this request very seriously because it’s a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology,” says Executive Editor Neil Brown. “Candidly,” he adds, “I was surprised and disappointed that journalists who I understand to have an extensive background in investigative reporting would think it’s appropriate to ask me or our news organization to talk about that reporting while (a) it’s ongoing, and (b) while they’re being paid to ask these questions by the very subjects of our reporting.”

. . .

Church spokesman Tommy Davis says that he recently received the approximately 20-page study and that it will not necessarily be made public. It was commissioned, he says, because “we wanted to get an outside view” of the situation. Davis, who would not disclose how much the reporters were paid, calls the report highly critical of the Times stories on the church.

Shocker!

The names of those journalists who sold their souls to $cientology are: Russell Carollo, Christopher Szechenyi, and Steve Weinberg.

5. Judge Judy vs. creationism, anti-choicers, anti-stem cell researchers, and “fundie” politicians –


No miracle on the Hudson after all

February 9, 2009

Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed US Airways Flight 1549 safely into the Hudson River was asked by 60 minutes on 60 Minutes tonight if he prayed during the crisis. His answer couldn’t have been better:

Asked if he at any point prayed, he told Couric, “I would imagine somebody in back was taking care of that for me while I was flying the airplane.”

“My focus at that point was so intensely on the landing,” he said. “I thought of nothing else.”

I’m reminded of the old saying, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”

Now I don’t know what Sullenberger’s beliefs are but that’s besides the point. The men and women who survived that crash were saved by a human being, not some mystical god. So I’d appreciate it if they kept this “miracle” rhetoric out in respect for the man who saved these people with nothing but his wits, his training, and his ingenuity.

Slapping on the word miracle reminds me of the ending to Slumdog Millionare.

SPOILER ALERT!

Ultimately, what should have been the story of an underdog overcoming incredible odds and circumstances to achieve success was more or less ruined by the final moment of the film where the writer essentially pulls a Patrick-Duffy-in-the-shower move and writes off the hero of the story as having simply been fated to succeed. And while critics seem impressed by this, I feel it completely undercuts the hero’s journey.

It seems to further illustrate how our culture has completely devalued the meaning of the word “miracle” to simply mean anything serendipidous.