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 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:


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.28.10

March 1, 2010

Film not intended for any viewers

1. Grandson of the Mask – A newborn has Jim Carrey for a grandfather. Poor kid doesn’t have a chance. Though hopefully, the kid’s parents are having him properly vaccinated against grandpa’s wishes.

2. 13-year-old escorted out of class by police for not standing for Pledge – It almost makes you want to know what they’d do if she actually committed a crime. And this was after the teacher publicly humiliated the student in class. Fortunately, the Montgomery County, Maryland school backed the student and are forcing the teacher to apologize, which is a far lighter sentence than that teacher deserves. I hope the teacher refuses and gets fired.

3. Fossils of giant plankton-eating fish a hundred million years old – 

An international team describe how new fossils from Asia, Europe and the US reveal a previously unknown dynasty of giant plankton-eating bony fishes that filled the seas of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, between 66-172 million years ago.

So for those keeping track, that’s 65,994,000 to 171,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

4. Stem Cells vs. HIV

UCLA AIDS Institute researchers successfully removed CCR5 — a cell receptor to which HIV-1 binds for infection but which the human body does not need — from human cells. Individuals who naturally lack the CCR5 receptor have been found to be essentially resistant to HIV.

Yay science!

5. Mother waiting for resurrection of baby she starved to death – Ria Ramkissoon can continue to wait in prison for her 1-year-old to rise from the dead. Personally though, I wouldn’t bet on it. I blogged about this story last year and how she pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death on the condition that if her son, Javon, is resurrected, the plea will be vacated. Not only am I fine with that condition but I think we should worship her as a god if that happens.

Why did the child need to be starved?

Javon Thompson was possessed by an evil spirit, Ramkissoon was told, because he didn’t say ”Amen” during a mealtime prayer. Javon didn’t talk much, given his age, but he had said ”Amen” before, Ramkissoon testified.

My nephew just turned 1 years old and he’s never said Amen…or anything. I guess it’s a good thing Ria Ramkissoon isn’t his mother.

6. India’s ‘untouchables’ declare their own religion – So now there’s a religion specifically for the poor. Might I recommend they open it up to the rich and preach a prosperity gospel and demand that their gods need cash.


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 11.1.09

November 2, 2009

Oops! Wrong photo.

1. LAPD dissociates from the Boy Scouts – The Los Angeles Police Dept. no longer wishes to continue their Explorer program for youths because the group responsible, Learning for Life is linked to Boy Scouts of America, which bans gays from becoming members:

A department official told the Police Commission Tuesday that the Boy Scouts policy is “inconsistent” with the city’s policy of non-discrimination. He suggested that the department manages the Explorer program itself.

I have a better idea. Tell the Boy Scouts to stop being such bigoted assholes.

2. Asheville, NC city council candidate Cecil Bothwell attacked for his atheism – I know all’s fair in politics, but at the risk of sounding too much like Bill Donohue, would we tolerate this sort of bigotry for other minority groups? I know atheism isn’t a race, nationality, gender, or a sexual orientation. But anyone who resorts to these sorts of shameless hate-mongering tactics belongs nowhere near government. Fortunately though, Bothwell isn’t complaining as the mailer his opponents created that expose his atheism are accurate and are helping his book sales. One of those books is an unauthorized biography of Rev. Billy Graham titled “The Prince of War.” I think I love you, Cecil Bothwell.

3. Scientists put a leash on HIV?

Researchers have shown how an antiviral protein produced by the immune system, dubbed tetherin, tames HIV and other viruses by literally putting them on a leash, to prevent their escape from infected cells. The insights, reported in the October 30th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, allowed the research team to design a completely artificial protein — one that did not resemble native tetherin in its sequence at all — that could nonetheless put a similar stop to the virus.

4. Billy Corgan is a vampire. . .sent to draaain! – After only a week since Star Trek’s Brent Spiner announced his growing interest in anti-vaccine quackery, now it seems the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins has been turned into an anti-vaxxer vampire too:

“I do not trust those who make the vaccines, or the apparatus behind it all to push it on us thru fear,” Corgan explained in his critique, which can be read in its entirety here. According to him, the virus is not yet an emergency and he believes it’s ridiculous that “our American President Obama” has declared it so.

If that’s not enough, Corgan, struggled with the notion that the government can require people to take the vaccine. He’s also of the opinion that the “virus was created by man” writing that he has “read reports from people who say (as doctors) that there is evidence to suggest this.”

Finally, Corgan stated, “If the virus comes to take me Home, that is between me and the Lord.” But that’s not to say he expects fans to follow his logic.

“I am not a doctor, and I am in no way suggesting that you should follow any medical advice from me,” he wrote early in the essay, adding, “I am willing to question anything: the existence of God, the existence of me or you or Robert Zimmerman [aka Bob Dylan].”

No Billy, you’re clearly not a doctor. And quite frankly, I find it somewhat disingenuous to use your celebrity influence to take such a public anti-scientific stand on this issue and then tack on a little disclaimer at the end saying you’re not necessarily suggesting anyone follow your “medical advice,” of which is based on your ZERO medical training. Seriously, even in 1979, you’d have no excuse to be this bloody ignorant of scientific facts. This whole story is just giving me nothing but melancholy and infinite sadness.


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.