News From Around The Blogosphere 2.7.11

February 8, 2011

1. FBI investigating Scientology for human trafficking – A recent profile on ex-Scientologist and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in the New Yorker also discussed an ongoing FBI investigation into the allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of  the Sea Org:

The laws regarding trafficking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is defined, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human trafficking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…

And speaking of Scientology…

Tom Cruise

2. Is fictional Unitology in ‘Dead Space 2’ related to Scientology? – The videogame’s creative director says the similarities are just a coincidence, saying the inspiration came from Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, but his dismissal seems less than convincing given the similarities.

3. One flu vaccine to rule them all? – Researchers may have found a universal flu vaccine to end all flu vaccines. Though it’s worth noting that the trial had only 22 subjects, but bigger studies are in progress.

4. That time of year again for another ‘invisibility cloak’ story – Every year there’s another story about an invisibility cloak on the way with the requisite reference to Harry Potter. Here’s the latest one about a cloak that hides objects, rather than people, and without the use of metamaterials.

5. 1 in 8 U.S. biology teachers are creationists– This is a shocking statistic. Roger Ebert had an appropriate response to this on Twitter, analogizing this to the hypothetical statistic of 1 in 8 math teachers believing 2+2=5.

6. Florida court sides against anti-vax mom in custody battle – This is great news to hear a court rule so decisively against a parent specifically because their anti-vaccine beliefs directly endanger that child’s life. Hopefully, this will help set a precedent in all U.S. courts.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 9.22.10

September 23, 2010

1. 5 Worries Parents Should Drop, And 5 They Shouldn’t – Notice how vaccine injuries didn’t make the list, but that car accidents made the number one spot. Maybe the anti-vaxxers should campaign to get rid of cars instead. After all, are cars not filled with toxins? Do they not cause millions of deaths every year?

2. Man charged with pretending to practice witchcraft – No, it wasn’t Christine O’Donnell. An Ontario man charged people money in exchange for allegedly promising to perform magic to solve any and all of his customers’  problems. Yeah, he should have realized that scam had a short expiration date.

3. Teaching robots to lie, cheat, and deceive – OH COME ON! Just the other day I had a little fun by referencing all the classic destructive robots of science fiction from the Cylons to the Terminators to the Replicants, to the machines of The Matrix when news came out about an artificial human skin for future robots that was sensitive to touch. But now comes a story about programmers giving robots the ability to lie. It just makes referencing how science fiction writers have foreseen that scenario going terribly wrong way too fuckin’ easy.

4. Pastor Terry Jones billed $180K for security surrounding protest – Damn it! I hate when I have to defend assholes. But here we go again. The Florida pastor who successfully manufactured the bullshit Koran-burning controversy is being billed for the increased security added to public places in response to fears that he’d single-handedly provoke an Islamic fundamentalist terror attack. That is fuckin’ bullshit. If that survives a court decision, it would set a horrible precedent that would greatly undermine free speech. Terry didn’t shout fire in a crowded theater. Whatever one may think of book burning, he had every legal right to burn any book he wants, so long as he owns it. And in fact, he didn’t burn a single book, merely claimed that he would. And if anyone should be held accountable, it should be the Islamic fundamentalists who are so insane, they provoke people into spending $180K on extra security every time some Islamic critic gets attention for stirring shit up. But if anyone else were to be deserving of blame, it’d be the media who turned this small town pastor’s little stunt into international news. There’s no reason I should have even heard of Pastor Jones, let alone Muslim radicals in the Middle East. Make no mistake. It was the media’s love of sensationalism that drove this story, not the actions of some redneck asshole.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 8.11.10

August 11, 2010

1. ARF is the reason we can’t regrow limbs

A protein called ARF, which acts as a fail-safe mechanism to protect against cancer, also prevents regeneration in mammals, a study published Aug. 6 in Cell Stem Cell suggests. ARF backs up Rb, an important anticancer protein, by limiting the ability of mature cells to divide and replicate. But researchers in California have discovered that blocking ARF and Rb allowed mature muscle cells taken from mice to proliferate, something the cells normally cannot do.The discovery is an important step in learning why mammals, including people, can’t regrow or replace lost limbs and organs the way animals such as salamanders and zebrafish can. Such work may one day lead to new treatments for injuries.

2. Pastor Michael Dowd thanks New Atheists – In a recent sermon, Dowd, who wrote Thank God for Evolution, thanked outspoken atheists for challenging the beliefs of Christians and pushing them to take a critical eye to their own beliefs. You can read the full sermon here (PDF).

3. 25% of Spaniards are without religious affiliation – That’s at least what a new study suggests. And in the U.S., it’s believed that 25% of Millennials are also without religious affiliation, so it seems the U.S. isn’t the only nation showing a rise in godlessness.

"Fuckin' bullshit! I had to wait 8 years for that shit!"

4. A robot to detect and express emotions

A team of programmers at Hertfordshire University have created Nao, a robot that detects and expresses emotions and is capable of forming bonds with people.

Dr Michio Kaku is a leading physicist and futurologist.

24th century technology

21st century technology

4. How Star Trek art directors designed the iPad 23 years ago?

“The initial motivation for that was in fact cost,” Okuda explained. “Doing it purely as a graphic was considerably less expensive than buying electronic components. But very quickly we began to realize—as we figured out how these things would work and how someone would operate them, people would come to me and say, ‘What happens if I need to do this?’ Perhaps it was some action I hadn’t thought of, and we didn’t have a specific control for that. And I realized the proper answer to that was, ‘It’s in the software.’ All the things we needed could be software-definable.”

5. Andrew Morton writes worst book of 21st century – Awhile back, I probably wrote a blurb or two about Andrew Morton’s unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, a book I’d never actually read but felt inclined to support due to its focus on his $cientology life. That was perhaps premature as Morton has just come out with a new biography on Angelina Jolie that is apparently so atrocious in its content and constant citing of unnamed sources that it led one critic to dub it the worst book of the century, so far. Ouch.

6. Freedom from Religion Foundation puts up 20 billboards in Florida -And for once, I actually like them all.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.25.10

May 26, 2010

1. Florida teacher attacked by co-workers with holy water – This caused the atheist teacher to instantly renounce her heathen ways, get down on her knees, and suck Jesus’ cock. Okay, actually it had no effect on her whatsoever other than making her all wet. Praise Jesus!

2. Everybody Draw Mohammed Day cause Muslim radicals to retaliate…against the Jews…and against history – Radical Muslims already hated the Jews and already hated history. But now they’re so outraged about EDMD that they’ve decided to conflate atheism with Judaism and respond by denying the Holocaust:

Much of the injustice that takes place in our world stems from ignorance. We reject being emotionally blackmailed by Hollywood tales and holocaust museums which legitimize the war crimes and crimes against humanity of the extremist Atheist regime of Tel-Aviv.

Good job, guys. That’ll show us.

3. Acupuncturist pricks hole in rape conviction – Okay, this is one of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard. Three men who spent a decade in jail on a rape conviction were freed because an acupuncturist claimed to know they were virgins. How you might ask?

She said examination of a pressure point beneath the convict’s ear showed a small capillary was unbroken, which Vietnamese traditional medicine holds to mean that he was a virgin. Hong then examined the other two men.

“I recognised these three men had never had sex with women,” Hong said.

Ohhhhh! That makes sense [rolling eyes] But this managed to be enough to reopen the case, which in turn led to the discovery that the initial investigators had made some mistakes. Wow, so maybe acupuncture has finally succeeded in doing something after thousands of years of doing absolutely nothing.

4. Now it’s Copernicus’ turn – The Catholic Church has pardoned Galileo. It’s pardoned Darwin. And now, after only 450 years, Nicolaus Copernicus was given a hero’s burial. So I guess it’ll be at least that long before the Catholic Church embraces the iPad and Steve Jobs…unless he goes out and starts raping kids. Then they’re likely to make him a saint or something.

Speaking of which:

Child rape you can believe in

5. Obama Administration supports child rapists. Wish he’d mentioned that in the campaign

In a strongly worded brief for the United States Supreme Court, the Obama administration has sided with the Vatican in an Oregon lawsuit that names the Holy See as a defendant for its role in the sexual abuse crisis.

In effect, the brief asserts that the standards for an exception to the immunity that foreign governments enjoy under American law have not been met in the Oregon case.

This is completely unacceptable and I urge everyone to contact the White House to express outrage over this decision.

6. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on the verge of repeal:


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.28.10

January 29, 2010

1. Scientists determine color of dinosaur’s tail feathers – because of course dinosaurs weren’t in any way related to birds. Right creationists? It’s orange.

2. Russian rabbis hospitalized from holy water – Silly rabbis. Trix are for kids. (Thanks to my friend Michelle for that joke!)

3. Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – This is great news but I fear that the first Pakistani kid who gets sick from anything at all will become a target for anti-vaccinationists to point to, insisting that it was the vaccine. . .even if that particular kid wasn’t vaccinated. Or maybe they’re just emphasize that these kids only got vaccinated against measles instead of getting MMR vaccines, and insist that that’s how we should all get them. Either way, I doubt this news story will escape their rationalizations.

4. Atheist billboard goes up in Tampa Bay

5. The Pope’s a masochist – Remember when the Pope condemned “The Da Vinci Code” for its inaccuracy? Well it wasn’t all inaccurate. The self-flagellation part was true:


Doctor gets court order to hold pregnant woman against her will

January 16, 2010

In one of the most obscene overreaching of government control I’ve ever heard, a pregnant woman showing signs of potential miscarriage was forced to undergo bed rest, denied the right to a second opinion, was admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital against her will and undergo any procedure the doctor felt like prescribing, and denied the right to switch hospitals. Three days later, she miscarried because contrary to this quack’s belief, bed rest can’t stop a miscarriage and is in fact the American College of of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not even think it should be recommended.

The woman, Samantha Burton, sued on the grounds that her constitutional rights were violated and somehow she actually lost because the court ruled the State was merely maintaining “status quo. “So now you know. Holding a woman against her will promotes the status quo.


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.4.09

November 5, 2009

1. Atheists help the homeless – On Sunday, atheists in the Austin, TX area are  giving away free toiletries to homeless people. You can donate the items or money to the cause by going to their homepage. Or if you’re in the area and would like to help, they’ll be under I-35 at 7th Street in Austin at 8:00 a.m.

2. My favorite atheist atheist billboard is going up in Lakeland, FloridaAtheists of Florida is responsible and they’ve gotten some news coverage too.

 

 

 

 

3. Like with California’s Prop 8, we lost Maine’s Prop 1 – Once again, the Religious Right has stolen the civil rights of gays to marry. Fortunately, as Greta Christina explains, there is reason to stay optimistic.

 

“Remember, remember

The fifth of November

The gunpowder treason and plot.

I know of no reason

Why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot”.