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 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.


News From Around The Blogosphere 5.12.10

May 13, 2010

1. Want to give a voice to your severely disabled child? There’s an app for thatMartin Brooks’s 5-year-old daughter is severely impaired by cerebral palsy, making it very difficult to communicate with her. So he created an iPhone app called iComm, which allows his daughter, who cannot walk, talk or control her movements, to point out pictures of food, toys, activities and other day-to-day themes on the iPhone screen using her eyes. Now I don’t know enough about this, so for all I know it’s just another pseudoscience like Facilitated Communication. But it seems reasonably plausible.

2. So that’s what an exorcism sounds like – Someone recorded a video in their hallway outside where their neighbor was having an exorcism. They also left a friendly note to restrict the exorcisms to weekends as to not disturb anyone else.

3. Independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon continues fight against $cientology – I’ve written about the appropriately named senator’s fight to remove the cult’s tax exemption before. Unfortunately, he failed in his attempt to have parliament approve a public benefit test to assess the aims and activities of entities receiving tax exemptions. Given the no-brainer aspect of such a test, I can only imagine it’s because parliament officials don’t want organizations receiving tax exemptions to be tested to verify they’re legit. Kinda makes you wonder what they’re afraid will be discovered. But Xenophon vows to continue the fight.

4. Mohammed’s nation-wide tour takes him to Northwestern U – I’ve written about various universities where secular groups have taken to drawing the reclusive and camera shy Muslim prophet in chalk around their campuses to promote freedom of speech and the humorous responses by Muslim groups to censor these stick figures. And it’s only making drawing Mohammed that much more popular. Now he’s popping up at Northwestern University in Illinois. And of course the Muslim groups are declaring the stick figures offensive. T Minus 7 days till Draw Mohammed Day!!

5. Speaking of which, if you needed a reason why we do this, just look at the Muslim response to a cartoonist, Lars Vilks, who drew Mohammed as a dog. He was attacked at Uppsala University –


What The Exorcist films don’t show you

June 19, 2009

I am a big fan of the website, What’s The Harm, because it shows the deadly consequences of pseudoscience by putting a name and a face to the victims. I too have begun collecting names and faces by creating a category on this site entitled “What’s The Harm.” Now unfortunately, I have to add another blog entry to that category about 6-year-old  Frantzcia Lauradin. Frantzcia’s mother, Marie Lauradin, is accused of burning her in a ritual meant to purify her of demons. Funny how they never seem to show that part of the story in all those Exorcist movies. Fortunately though, Frantzcia survived:

Only after a day of begging by relatives was she eventually taken to the ER, where she was found to have 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 25% of her body, including part of her face.

Ugh!

The mother, Marie Lauradin, is denying the charges, saying she accidentally spilled some boiling rice on her daughter and did not notice the burns until she was in the ER. As reported, that defense is not credible – a mother not noticing severe burns on her daughter’s face?

This is I guess the Haitian equivalent to saying, “she fell down some stairs.” These stories exemplify why I promote skeptical and critical thought as well as why I condemn superstition and pseudoscience.


Demon Waterboarded, Woman Killed

May 7, 2009

Here’s yet another tragic example of the harm caused by those who believe in demons and exorcisms. Maori tribal elders killed a 22-yea-old New Zealand woman because they were convinced she was possessed by a demon a concrete lion was stolen from in front of a hotel. So they decided to cleanse the demon from her body by pouring water into her mouth and eyes, which the Bush Administration assures us is absolutely not torture. Well, apparently these guys did it wrong and the woman drowned.

Three men and six women have been charged with manslaughter in the incident, and some of them were also charged with child cruelty for similarly attacking a 14-year-old girl, who thankfully survived.

Moral of the story:  Say no to religion and DON’T BE SO FUCKIN’ GULLIBLE!


Venice Vampire Exorcism Skull Found

March 13, 2009

A what? A Vampire Exorcism Skull. It was unearthed in Venice.

The partial body and skull of the woman showed her jaw forced open by a brick (above)—an exorcism technique used on suspected vampires.

According to the article:

Belief in vampires was rampant in the Middle Ages, mostly because the process of decomposition was not well understood.

The article goes into a little bit of detail as to how this came to be a popular belief and what other beliefs they had about vampires.