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.

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 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.

Pope blames condoms for AIDS

March 17, 2009

christian-condomDr. Pope explains that doctors have it all wrong and that really condoms make AIDS worse. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh! Of course! It all makes sense now. Thanks Joey Ratz!

This was after he demanding a 9-year-old should die trying to give birth to twins.

Pope presenting Final Solution to African problem.

Pope presenting "Final Solution" to African problem.

Getting closer to an AIDS vaccine

March 13, 2009

Researchers have published a new paper that suggests we are getting closer to preventing AIDS:

With the support of the National Institutes of Health, the Arnolds and their team have been able to take a piece of HIV that is involved with helping the virus enter cells, put it on the surface of a common cold virus, and then immunize animals with it. They found that the animals made antibodies that can stop an unusually diverse set of HIV isolates or varieties.

. . .

With the support of the National Institutes of Health, the Arnolds and their team have been able to take a piece of HIV that is involved with helping the virus enter cells, put it on the surface of a common cold virus, and then immunize animals with it. They found that the animals made antibodies that can stop an unusually diverse set of HIV isolates or varieties.

It will indeed be interesting to see how HIV Deniers spin this. Though I’m sure those who believe “Big Pharma” has had the cure all along will no doubt just write this story off as merely waving the hope of an eventual vaccine in front of people so they don’t ask any questions with still no intent of releasing the cure they allegedly already have. And I’m sure the really fanatical anti-vaccine crowd who argue that vaccines are not effective for anything and are just placebos will similarly reject the very premise.