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 6.18.10

June 18, 2010

1. How Obama can save taxpayer money while improving medical research – This past week, President Obama called on all federal agencies to voluntarily propose budget cuts of 5%. Dr. Steven Salzberg knows how he can the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) budget, and in the process, actually improve medical research:

Here’s my proposal: save over $240 million per year in the NIH budget by cutting all funding for the two centers that fund alternative medicine research–the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Both of them exist primarily to promote pseudoscience. For the current year, NCCAM’s budget is $128.8 million, an amount that has rapidly grown from $2 million in 1992, despite the fact that not a single “alternative” therapy supported by NCCAM has proven beneficial to health. OCCAM’s budget was $121 million in 2008 (the latest I could find) and presumably higher in 2010. That’s over $240M, not counting money these programs got from the stimulus package (and yes, they did get some stimulus funding).

Now that would be change I can believe in!

Me and George Hrab's glasses . . . George Hrab also seen

2. George Hrab unleashes more trebotchery on the world – If you don’t know who George Hrab is, you are missing out. He’s an incredibly talented (and freakishly tall)  atheist and skeptical musician who produces a comedic, variety show-style podcast every week called the Geologic Podcast, where he often discusses atheist/skeptical themes. And now he’s just released his latest album, “Trebuchet.”

The first track on the album is titled “God Is Not Great,” a nod to Christopher Hitchens’ bestselling book. There’s also a track titled “Death From The Skies,” named for the eponymous book by Phil Plait. This song even features vocals by Plait, reciting excerpts from his book. George Hrab’s music spans many genres but I’d most compare it to that of one of his music idols, Frank Zappa. If you like Zappa, you’ll probably like Hrab’s music. And if you don’t like Zappa, well you’ll still probably like Hrab’s music.

And now, if you want to check out his music, you can listen to the entire new Trebuchet album FOR FREE on the latest episode of his podcast. Check it out.

3. Death by soccer or death by religion – 61-year-old David Makoeya was beaten to death by his own family after a fight broke out over his wanting to watch the World Cup instead of religious programming. But it’s not just the Christians. Islam also getting into the act:

4. Blasphemy with sprinkles on top – Lady Gaga isn’t the only one stirring outrage by wearing a habit this week. An Italian ice-cream maker outraged (aren’t they always) Catholics because of a commercial featuring a pregnant nun enjoying a pot of Antonio Fedirici ice-cream and includes the slogan: “Ice-cream is our religion.” Yeah, apparently that constitutes as “mocking the birth of Jesus”…somehow.

5. Vatican’s “values-based” solution to AIDS crisis – I’ll give you a hint. It involves no condoms and a continent full of dead Africans. I think they should call it their “final solution.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 5.7.10

May 7, 2010

1. Congressman Henry Waxman fights to keep out quackery – Waxman introduced a bill proposing a rather novel idea, actually holding vitamin sellers accountable for the health claims that they make. Senator McCain tried to introduce a similar bill not long ago to protect consumers, but it was defeated by Tom Harkin and the supplement industry.

2. Researchers find more evidence that your ancestors fucked Neanderthals – Apparently they weren’t too choosy back then.

3. Research turns up new insights into natural HIV immunity

In the late 1990s, researchers showed that a very high percentage of those naturally HIV-immune people, who represent about one in 200 infected individuals, carry a gene called HLA B57. Now a team of researchers from the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard has revealed a new effect that contributes to this gene’s ability to confer immunity.

4. Mohammed Image Archive – He wasn’t always this camera shy. He used to be a model.

Mohammed from 13th-century Persian manuscript (most likely from al-Biruni's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries)

5. Comedy Central exposes hypocrisy with new Jesus show – So South Park wasn’t allowed to ridicule Mohammed, but Central Central is now considering a half-hour animated show about Jesus called JC. I hate when I’m forced to agree with Fox News:


World AIDS Day

December 1, 2009

I thought about linking to some sites debunking HIV/AIDS Denialist myths today but I decided to just post this great video instead:

Oh, alright. Here are some great HIV/AIDS Denialist debunking materials as well:

Debunking denialist myths | AIDSTruth.org
AIDS Denialism vs. Science
AIDS Denial is Pseudoscience
The Strange World of Conspiracy Theories by Paul S. Boyer
Nature Reviews “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy
HIV Denial in the Internet Era by Tara C. Smith & Steven P. Novella
Pity poor Peter Duesberg; even Medical Hypotheses has dissed him by Orac
HIV/AIDS denialists do it too! by David Gorski
Science Daily – HIV’s Ancestors May Have Plagued First Mammals


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.30.09

December 1, 2009

1. Girl in Sudan lashed 50 times for wearing a skirt – After just blogging about Saudi Arabia’s increased commitment to putting those accused of being witches to death, here comes another example of why the Islamic-dominated world is insane. This girl, Silva Kashif, was 16 years old and was lashed FIFTY TIMES because she wore a skirt! Let that sink in for a moment. Then ask yourself whether your own problems really are really all that bad.

2. Switzerland bans Islamic minarets – While I’m no fan of Islam, this population-driven initiative seems to just be a bigoted attack on free expression and has more to do with hating Muslims as people more than an attack on their demented ideology. If they wanted to ban the burqa, I’d be torn on the issue but at least I could understand it. This just seems to be bigotry, plain and simple. The arguments for this action aren’t even coherent.

3. Rick Warren Won’t Condemn Proposed Ugandan Law To Kill GaysYesterday, I blogged about the proposed law in Uganda that would put HIV+ gays to death and how it was linked directly to the The Family. Well now Rick Warren’s under fire for refusing to condemn this insanity despite having some influence with the guy pushing the agenda in the first place. Warren says it’s his job as a paster to remain impartial on matters of public policy, however, this is the guy who called abortion “a holocaust.” Though I suppose if 6 million gays instead of Jews died in the Holocaust, Warren wouldn’t have minded.


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.29.09

November 30, 2009

1. Michael Egnor & the Discovery Institute expose their anti-science bias – I’ve blogged about Egnor before, linking to the blog debate where Steven Novella refuted his every flawed, ridiculous argument in favor of a “soul.” Now he’s jumping on the so-called “ClimateGate” fiasco, where he insists, like so many other denialists, that a whole lot of private, innocuous emails climate scientists is somehow the smoking gun evidence that global warming is false. Of course he doesn’t pinpoint any statements in any of the emails that would lead any rational person to this conclusion. But who needs facts when you’ve got faith? Egnor proves once again how egnorant he can be.

 

Is that a serious headline?

2. Uganda proposes death penalty to HIV-positive gays – It suddenly becomes very clear why Uganda is known for having the best medical care in the world. Oh wait. No, it doesn’t. The positive news is that this suggests that maybe not all the Neanderthals did die out after all. Though it’s not really fair to blame Uganda. Stupidity this large can only come from one source:  the U.S.’s own THE FAMILY. I’m looking at you Sen. John Ensign, Rep. Bart Stupak and Rep. Joe Pitts. Can we please lock these psychopaths up now?

3. Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort gave a full interview to the Friendly Atheist – You can read the whole thing in all its idiocy in the link above.

4. The first honest homeopathy product? – As you can clearly read on the packaging, homeopaths have developed the first ever non-drowsy sleep aid. May I be the first to congratulate them on this amazing breakthrough. Good job, guys. Good job.

5. The official wine of woo – Age of Autism took some time off from shilling bogus autism treatments for profit to shill some silly wine site called “Wines For Autism.” Now at first the site might seem fine. It’s supporting autism awareness after all. So how bad could it b–oh:

From witnessing my son’s significant progress I have made it my goal to spread awareness of the effectiveness of biomedical interventions while supporting charities that share my beliefs.

In other words, she wishes to promote those who support her particular delusion and no actual scientific organization researching autism will receive a dime. In other words, she’s going to exploit autism pseudoscience to make money.

It’s sort of like my business where I sell used cars and give some of the profits to cancer research (please note:  cancer research means those promoting trepanning as an effective cancer treatment). Actually, now that I think about it, this whole story makes me feel like bludgeoning my skull with a large stick so that all that stupid can seep out of my brain.

6. Iron Jesus!


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.23.09

October 23, 2009

1. 800 Nigerian scam websites shut down

In a statement EFCC, which has previously relied on raiding cyber cafes and complaints from the public to clampdown on the crime, said it has now adopted smart technology working in conjunction with Microsoft, to track down fraudulent emails.

When operating at full capacity, within the next six months, the scheme, dubbed “eagle claw” should be able to forewarn around a quarter of million potential victims.

2. Health insurance companies declare past rape a pre-existing condition – After 2 men slipped her a knockout drug, Christina Turner feared she’d been raped. As a precaution, her doctor prescribed a month’s worth of anti-AIDS medicine, which turns out to have made her virtually uninsurable. Several months later, she lost her health insurance. But although she never developed HIV, when considering whether or not to cover her, health insurance companies decided the HIV medication raised too many health questions and told her to come back in 3 years. Where’s the outrage, Sarah Palin?

creationists3. Happy birthday, Creationist Earth

. . .in 1658, Archbishop Ussher determined that the world was created precisely at 9am, 23 October, 4004 BC, making today the official creation day, and the earth 6012 years old.

4. FDA and FTC go after Andrew Weil – Weil is one of the most notorious “alternative” “medicine” conmen working today. Now the FDA and FTC have sent him a warning demanding he stop selling bogus herbal flu remedies containing astragalus on his website. And of course leading Quack Profiteer Mark Adams is very grumpy about this no doubt because he suspects he might be next.

5. Mumps epidemic in Brooklyn

The outbreak was traced to a child who went to Britain – where the illness is more common because of lower levels of vaccination – and then attended a summer camp upstate, apparently infecting dozens of kids.

Thanks anti-vaccinationists!


Blunder Twins Gary Null & Mike Adams seek to up their death count

October 10, 2009

Mike Adams, Merchant of Death

Gary Null, Raving Psychotic

Gary Null, Raving Psychotic

The last time I looked at the figures, 76 children and 28 pregnant women had been killed by H1N1. Apparently though, “alternative” “medicine” “gurus” Gary Null (who’s also an HIV denialist in addition to being an anti-vaccine quack) and Mike Adams (who’s probably also an HIV denialist) aren’t happy with such low figures, so now they’ve introduced a lawsuit against the FDA to remove the current H1N1 vaccine.

Given the mountains of evidence showing both the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, I doubt this lawsuit will get any real traction, but swift action should be taken to stop these psychopaths before it even gets the chance. Also against them is the sheer amount of money that our government has put into manufacturing these vaccines and getting them out there to the public. Unless there really were some seriously substantial evidence could be presented to prove something was wrong with the vaccine, too much money has been invested to just throw them all out now. And of course if these fools had such evidence, the scientific community would have already known about it.

Now I still can’t confirm this but as far as I know Mr. Null is still a faculty member at my local Fairleigh Dickinson University. Although I’m sure he tons of blood money selling snake oil and books that promote snake oil, I recommend possibly starting a campaign to get his ass fired.


HIV vaccine shows some success

September 24, 2009

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyI think we’ve all been waiting for this for a long, long time. And now finally, we’re seeing serious progress in the fight to eliminate HIV and AIDS from the planet. The NY Times as well as everyone else today has been reporting about a combination of experimental vaccines that seem to be effective in lowering the risk of HIV infection.

It’s covered very succinctly by Phil Plait, who talked to Dr. Steve Novella about it directly here:

In a controlled study, the number of people in a group using the vaccine had 30% fewer HIV cases compared to a group who did not get vaccinated. Specifically, there were 51 HIV cases out of 8200 people vaccinated versus 74 out of 8200 not vaccinated. That’s very heartening! The vaccination course is actually composed of two different vaccines, neither of which on its own was effective, but together appear to boost the immune system enough (in some cases) to help fight off the initial virus infection.A few things to note:

1) The vaccine course was not 100% effective, and does not drop the viral load of someone already infected. This is a prophylaxis, a preventative. It’s not a cure.

2) There is no HIV in the vaccine itself — it has pieces of the protein HIV coats itself with, to help the body recognize the virus — so people using it cannot get HIV from it.

3) The vaccine is not widely available; it’s still experimental. It was also tested on just strains found in Thailand, which may not translate well for other strains found elsewhere.

4) The vaccination was developed by the U.S. Army in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Expect the antivax cranks to go ballistic over that first part.

I think this is a big stride forward, but as always there’s a ways to go yet. Ask anyone in the medical profession what the most important advance in history has been in their field, and vaccines are very high on the list. Vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of lives… and it looks like scientists will continue to find ways to do so.

This is precisely what Carl Sagan meant when he said, “Science delivers the goods,” whereas religion and pseudoscience don’t contribute anything of value to the world, nor can they be relied upon or proven. It’s another great day for science.


Strike 2 for Jake Crosby

September 23, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy response to Age of Autism’s Jake Crosby’s hit piece against Scienceblogs.com. It was apparently the first part in a series, and today he published the second part, Part II Seed Media’s “Science” Blogs: A 180 Degree Shift in Reporting. I don’t plan to spend nearly as much time on this one, since it just builds on the false premises established in the first part,  I wasted way more time on the first part than it deserved, and since PalMD of Science Blogs did such a fantastic job of dismantling the false premises of the first part as well.

Anyway, let’s get started. Once again, Crosby sinks himself with the title, and it just goes downhill from there. He’s still using the scare quotes around “science” in Science Blogs, which he’s overusing with the passion of a true fanatic. I think PalMD said it best:

I like scare quotes;  they are great for making subtle points about “experts” like Jake Crosby, the author of the piece.  But this idiot abuses scare quotes so often as to render them meaningless. Look, if your view of reality requires to place everyone else’s ideas in scare quotes, perhaps you are the problem.

Then the other atrocious part of Captain Scare Quotes’ title is the main premise of this whole section, his warped view that science changing its mind based on new evidence is somehow akin to political flip-flopping.

No Crosby, as I said in my previous response:

It’s called PROGRESS. In 2004, while the anti-vaccinationist claims were already pretty much toast, we didn’t yet have as expansive a library of studies that directly refute every single asinine claim you guys have made. Now we do. By this logic, we should all throw out our telephones because when the invention was first introduced, the NY Times slammed it as an invasion of privacy. Unlike the brainwashed cultists at Age of Autism, the rest of us gain more knowledge as time goes by and change our minds to fit the latest data.

And if I can add to what I wrote yesterday to specifically address Crosby’s 180 Degree Shift in Reporting, if we follow Crosby’s logic to its inevitable conclusion, then the NY Times has also shifted its reporting about telephones 180 degrees since the early days of the telephone, so therefore it must be a conspiracy. I really wish this example could be read as a straw man against Crosby’s argument but no, that’s his actual argument, the main argument of this whole section, that scientists or media can only change their positions on things if it’s a conspiracy.

Sure, he also continues to make false and libelous claims about his alleged “conflict of interest” at Science Blogs because they have ads, again while ads promoting products that benefit from Age of Autism’s specific agenda can be seen plain as day just to the right of Crosby’s piece.

Further, PalMD explained in his response how the Science Blogs ad system REALLY works:

In case you didn’t know, Science Blogs is owned by a company called Seed Media Group. They invite bloggers, host them, give them tech support, and use their blogs to post ad content. And that’s it. Bloggers are offered small compensation based on blog hits, but for most bloggers, this ads up to very little. Blog content is independent in every way but one: blogging is by invitation only. Once you’re here, you can write whatever you want.

But conspiracy theorists are likely to be unimpressed by this. Seed’s ads are everything from major corporate sponsors to google adsense garbage that sometimes turns out ads for fake cancer cures and chelation therapy, but in the eyes of some, anyone who blogs here must be in the thrall some sponsor or other. This is of course impossible, given that the sponsors often offer contradictory services (Merck ads, anti-vaccine ads, etc). I have not infrequently had in depth and sometimes heated discussions with my fellow bloggers about various ads and whether and how they reflect on our images as individual bloggers.

The peace I’ve come to is this: to provide me with a place to blog, Seed needs advertisers. Despite this, they do not pressure me to write favorable pieces. There was a MasterCard ad up earlier today, and if I decided to slam the immoral usurious practices of the credit card companies, no one from Seed would say a word to me.

That utterly destroys Crosby’s whole secondary argument, the classic Big Pharma Shill Gambit. That’s about it. Crosby’s arguments are toast, his lies transparent and easily proven false. There’s no conflict of interest concerning the ad content on Science Blogs like there is over at Age of Autism. There’s no censoring of material that paints advertisers in a negative light. And the mere fact that at one time back in 2004 Science Blogs published a single article that Crosby feels supports his views and since then hasn’t is neither evidence of conspiracy nor a sudden 180 degree shift in viewpoint. It’s merely consistently keeping up with where the science is at the time. This is no less idiotic than insisting historians have taken a radical 180 degree shift because they once recognized East and West Germany as two separate counties and don’t anymore.

Oh, and then of course there’s Crosby’s HIV denialism, which he hinted at yesterday but now fully exposes while ironically trying to argue that not all anti-vaccinationists should be lumped in with pseudo-scientific cranks:

So anyone who shares an opinion even remotely similar to Jenny McCarthy on “Science”Blogs is quickly lumped in with freaks and AIDS deniers (ironic, since AIDS was probably caused by vaccines), despite never mentioning autism and only implicating one adjuvant, not vaccines in general. He would also be on the receiving end of the “anti-vax” gambit.

Yes, and you just refuted your own argument with that silly parentheses. Good job.

Oh, and then he pulls the old Ben Stein Expelled Gambit:

But that is not all. If the person himself posts for “Science”Blogs and voices criticism of a deadly neurotoxin present in vaccines without even mentioning autism, he gets the boot. That is exactly what happened to Bert Ehgartner. According to German “Science”Blogger, Christian Reinboth, the day after Ehgartner’s last post, “Aluminum – Die Evidenz” – “Ehrgartner has been fired from ScienceBlogs already due to the outrage over his aluminum article.”

As I understand it, Ehgartner got “the boot,” as you call it, because he was using his status as a blogger for Science Blogs to actively promote misinformation, not because he voiced criticism that went against some party line. Anyone who spends any time on Science Blogs sees legitimate disagreement among fellow Science Bloggers on a semi-regular basis. Case in point, when Orac criticized Atheist Alliance International for honoring Bill Maher with their Richard Dawkins Award, several Science Bloggers such as PZ Myers and Jason Rosenhouse strongly disagreed. They then proceded to have a civil debate about the subject.  Nobody got fired and all parties are still highly respected members of the Science Blog team. Whereas there was considerable outrage over Ehgartner’s article and it threatened to hurt the credibility of the entire site (something you, my dear Crosby have no chance of doing). So you’re just cherry-picking your examples to create the illusion of censorship where none exists. Besides, Ehgartner was given a huge audience at Science Blogs, so it’s not hard to imagine he took a lot of that audience with him to some other blog. It’s hard to censor someone’s voice on the internet.

But let’s answer Crosby’s original question at the top of his hit piece:   “are there any posts that are actually critical of the drug industry?” And I’ll add AFTER 2004, since according to Captain LiesAlot, they haven’t.

The answer is YES and YES. Those seem pretty frakkin critical of the pharmaceutical companies to me. You’re done Crosby. You’re dishonesty has been exposed. Your anti-scientific agenda has been exposed. Your conflict of interest has been exposed. And you still haven’t once addressed a single scientific fact that disagrees with you because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

UPDATE 9.24.09 – Steve Novella has responded to Crosby here and Orac has now responded to his second part here.