News From Around The Blogosphere 11.5.11

November 5, 2011

1. Anti-vax parents engaging in bioterrorism – If so-called “pox parties” weren’t enough, some parents have begun literally mailing chicken pox infected items for the purpose of infecting other people’s kids. And even worse, some have started mailing items infected with the far more dangerous measles. This would have made a perfect setup for the virus at the end of the recent Planet of the Apes film or for a zombie apocalypse story.

2. More anti-vaxxer propaganda – Just when I thought it was bad enough that the anti-vax propaganda film “The Greater Good” was coming to NYC’s IFC Center for a week beginning November 18, now I learn Barbara Loe Fisher and her band of cranks at the misnamed “National Vaccine Information Center” has a month-long “PSA” spot playing on Delta Airlines flights that suggests washing hands alone is an adequate substitute for a flu vaccine…cause that’s who you most want to go unvaccinated…people traveling from country to country. Argh! Fortunately, the wonderful Elyse Anders over at Skepchick is on the case and has begun a massive petition campaign to persuade Delta to cease this plot to kill us all. Also, she’s provided a handy-dandy list of contacts at Delta Airlines and its video provider.

3. Zombie worms found in fossil

Traces of bizarre, bone-eating ‘zombie’ worms have been found on a 3-million-year-old fossil whale bone from Tuscany in Italy. It is the first time the genus Osedax has been found in the Mediterranean, and suggests Osedax were widespread throughout the world’s oceans 6 million years ago.


4. Simon Singh vs. fraudulent psychic Sally Morgan’s lawyers:  part 1 and part 2 – You might remember Singh as the UK science journalist who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for libel over his calling their chiropractic “bogus” and his subsequent victory in the appeals process. I also recently wrote about Sally Morgan’s being caught wearing an earpiece during her performance. Well, Singh’s suggested she prove her powers are real, so now she’s trying to intimidate the man who beat the BCA in court with lawyers. Boy, did she fuck with the wrong journalist.

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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 1.23.11

January 23, 2011
Polio vaccination started 1957 in Sweden. The ...
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1. Flu deaths in UK rise dramatically – Anti-vaxxers love to mock health concerns about flu, which they seem to think is no more dangerous than an hang nail. But I’d love to hear them tell the families of the 254 UK flu victims this flu season alone. The number came after the number of UK flu deaths more than doubled in just a one-week period. 195 of those deaths were confirmed to have been from the H1N1 strain and seven of the deaths were of children under the age of five.

We have incomplete information on vaccination status, but based on what is known so far, among 71 cases in which vaccination status was known, 83 percent had not received a flu shot this season.

Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Should anti-vaxxers pay higher premiums? – I thought this was a particularly good idea from one physician. While it certainly won’t change the minds of the hardcore anti-vax fanatics who will likely just view it as part of the evil conspiracy, I do suspect that some people would be more inclined to get the vaccines to avoid paying more insurance premiums:

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It’s precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

It makes sense. Insurance, after all, is just a pool of money into which we all pay. In determining how much we or our employers pay, risk is taken into account.

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke — and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you’ll get — then you may have to pay more.

Why shouldn’t we impose the same logic on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

3. Georgia homeless shelter refuses service to gays – The horribly misnamed “House of Mercy” actually states flat-out that they will not provide services to gays because it goes against what the Bible says.

… Elder Bobby Harris, who directs House of Mercy… says that his organization simply cannot tolerate homosexuality in any capacity.

“That act is not tolerated here at all. Let me tell you one reason why: because of the bible, of course. And then we have little children,” Harris says. He then added that if a gay person wants to change their sexual orientation and turn their life over to religion, he would consider serving them.

… Harris told the local press that he would welcome “non-practicing gay people,” but even if the residents were to engage in sexual behavior on their own time off the premises, they would be rejected.

No word on whether they also deny service to the divorced, shellfish-eaters, those who work on Saturdays, or those who refuse to stone their own disobedient children  to death. This is why you don’t rely on religious organizations for charity work. They often tend to care more about Jesus than about actually providing the services they promise. This is just disgraceful.

4. Westboro Baptist Church to picket Kevin Smith’s latest film – According to Silent Bob himself, the WBC is coming to Sundance:

Those movie-crazy cine-nerds at the Westboro Baptist Church are coming to the Sundance Film Festival to protest Red State… presumably for being gay…

I wonder if they realize this will give the film much more attention and will dramatically increase people’s interest in seeing it.

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Vaccine deniers take another life in Westchester, NY

December 8, 2010

A 4-year-old boy who wasn’t vaccinated against the flu died of influenza-related pneumonia.

Now because I’ve already had at least one crazy anti-vaxxer insist that the article wasn’t clear and:  “The article directly dodged saying that the child had influenza. In fact it said at the end that they were going to check to see if he had had H1N1”, I decided to literally go through the entire article to explain it to the denialists.

The article doesn’t dodge a damned thing. It’s quite clear, in fact. The investigation only concerns which specific strain he had.
The article begins:

A 4-year-old boy from New Rochelle, N.Y., has died from an influenza-related illness, according t…o the Westchester County Health Department.

Here the author is saying the pneumonia the kid died from was in fact “influenza-related.” However, because the author did not introduce the pneumonia angle yet and because most people don’t realize they can get pneumonia from influenza, the author then explains th in the next paragraph:

He became ill in November and died of bacterial pneumonia, which can be a complication of flu, the health department said.

This is then followed by a quote from an expert that explains the best method of preventing dying from influenza-related pneumonia, the flu vaccine.

The article continues:

The health department would not name the boy for privacy reasons, but reported that he was previously healthy and had not received the flu vaccine.

It notes that the boy was healthy but hadn’t had a flu vaccine. The blatant implication here is that had he been vaccinated against the flu, he’d almost certainly still be alive.

The health department will be testing the boy for the H1N1 virus, Fox 5’s Dan Bowens reported.

Here’s where they remind the public of the infamous H1N1 strain, saying health officials are trying to determine if that’s the strain that killed him.

It’s really not complicated.

[UPDATE: 12/9/10 – Here is an article that claims several sources have confirmed that the strain was indeed H1N1 and quotes the message the school district has posted on their website warning parents about influenza. The district’s website can be found here.

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Medical science vs. viruses

November 4, 2010

Well, the flu vaccine, like every other vaccine, has still not been linked to autism, but one thing it has been linked to is decreased risk of heart attacks.

Middle-aged and older adults who get the flu vaccine may be less likely to suffer a first-time heart attack in the following year than those who skip the shot, according to a study published Monday.

So yes, yet another great reason to get your flu shot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Vaccines save lives. Deal with it.

Of course vaccines aren’t the only weapon against viruses. A new virus-killing technique is hitting the market in a few days, and researchers believe it can even defeat the common cold.

Any immunology textbook will tell you that once a virus enters a cell, the only way to knock that virus out is to kill the entire cell. But a new study from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge has shown a way to kill a virus from within the cell, leaving the virus defeated and the cell victorious and intact. This could be huge–not just a cure for the common cold, but for all kinds of other viruses as well.

Suck it, cold!

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More bad news for anti-vaxxers

May 25, 2010

Anti-vaxxers beware! A universal flu vaccine is coming.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have developed a new influenza vaccine that brings science one step closer to a universal influenza vaccine that would eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots. The new findings can be found in the inaugural issue of mBio®, the first online, open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology.

I imagine the anti-vaxxers will have to pull an all-nighter to find a reason to oppose this. It’ll mean less vaccines for people and therefore Big Pharma producing a product that would mean people buying fewer vaccines–two things that squarely violate their narrative. Then again, they’ll probably insist that this is the vaccine that will ultimately kill us all.

And in other vaccine news, a new vaccine-scheduling study puts yet another nail in the coffin of the “too much too soon” claim anti-vaxxers are so fond of. Of course, they’ll deny this study just like they deny every other study.

News From Around The Blogosphere 10.30.09

October 30, 2009

Fuck you!

1. Samali officials arrest and publicly whip woman for wearing a bra

They announced clearly that wearing these bras was unIslamic because it is a form of fraud and deception.

2. The Fourth Kind:  based on a true story? – At least that’s what filmmakers would have us believe. It seems as though the “true story” the film is allegedly based on is probably not even based on a real account but more likely was just extra content created for an internet viral marketing campaign.

3. Maine voters, on Tuesday Vote NO on 1 – This is Maine’s version of Prop 8 to stop marriage equality.

4. Antioxidants may be the key to defeating all strains of flu – Suck it, Mercola!

5. Iraqi man who ran down daugher is caught – I blogged about this story last week. Glad to hear this douchebag, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, was caught.

6. Pat Robertson’s warning us about the demons in our Holloween candy – No, seriously. He really is and he’s not kidding.

News From Around The Blogosphere 9.17.09

September 18, 2009

1. Flu season’s here. Get vaccinatedMassachusetts is considering mandating them, which will absolutely drive the anti-vaccinationists nuts. And though I usually come down on the side of individual rights, when it comes to vaccines, I have no serious objection to mandating them when deemed medically necessary. That’s because, like with drinking and driving, the decision affects more than just you but everyone around you.

2. Finland deems atheist ads not inappropriate & Idaho gets 3rd atheist ad – After first getting complaints for offensiveness, Finland’s Council of Ethics in Advertising said the ad with the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” was not inappropriate. Meanwhile Idaho’s putting up its third atheist ad, which will contain the slogan,  “Millions are good without God.”

3. Abstinence proves ineffective again – A new study found that the more religious a state is, the higher the rate of teen pregnancy. Shocker. Of course this study only shows correlation, and not necessarily causation, given everything we know about faith-based, abstinence-only sex education, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find that religiosity does cause greater teen pregnancy.

4. Recently, I blogged about an alleged magic broom in Alabama that turned out not to be magic at all. Apparently, no one told these newscasters:

This is why I get so frustrated with the news media. When there isn’t a story, they just make one up. There’s no mystery here at all. Even the local paranormal investigators, after investigating for many, many hours ultimately concluded that the broom is just weighted funny as to stand up on its own. And aside from the store owners, the paranormal investigators have the most to gain from claiming a supernatural explanation.

Science versus The Flu

February 28, 2009

I’m putting my money on Science:

The discovery of the molecule, an antibody known as CR6261, is good news for researchers who hope to design a flu vaccine that would give humans lifelong protection against a majority of influenza viruses. The antibody also has the potential to treat those who are unvaccinated and become infected with the flu.

Of course we can expect the conspiracy nuts to insist this is part of an evil plot by the New World Order to wipe out 90% of all life on earth or some crap like that.

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.19.08

December 20, 2008

Larry King:  Conman’s Best Friend – Larry King is notorious for helping to perpetuate pseudoscience on his show, from psychics like Sylvia Browne to UFO nuts like Stanton Friedman to antivaccinationists like Jenny McCarthy. And on the rare occasion that he brings on skeptics like James Randi or Michael Shermer to debate the frauds or deluded, the show is slanted more against the skeptic.

Well I heard that tomorrow (12/20) Jenny McCarthy will be back along with her Generation Rescue goons, including the ever popular J.B. Hardley, whose recent libelous rant against the “clueless” New York Times was much riduculed by science bloggers everywhere for its total idiocy. I doubt that King invited a critic to debate them but even if he did, I surmise the skeptic will only be made to look foolish because Larry King is every pseudo-scientist’s best friend.

influenza-virus-vaccineOf course they’re likely to vilify flu vaccines among other vaccine-related scapegoats. For the record, 36,000 people die each year from the flu. Find out how we know this.

Obama picking one hell of a good science administration – Latest grabs are Jane Lubchenco for NOAA and Joe Holdren for Science Advisor after having already picked Steven Chu for Energy.

Of course many of us are still majorly pissed off at Obama’s inclusion of Profession Bigot Rick Warren to perform a magic spell at his inauguration. It’s one thing to be engage in open dialogue with people you disagree with and it’s something else entirely to give them a very public platform at your inauguration. The Secular Coalition for America has written this letter to Obama in response to the controversy. Here’s a highlight:

Your spokesperson has said that yours will be “the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history.” How is opening the program with one Protestant Christian and closing it with another inclusive?

Holy Debt Cancellation Stickers – Among Benny Hinn’s more despicable inventions. This is what Benny Hinn Ministries says to do with it:


Place a sticker on your mortgage, loan, and credit card bills, as you ask God to give you a financial breakthrough.

As you send in your seed-gifts and prayer requests, place a sticker on the reply form, which Pastor Benny and Dr. Oral Roberts will lay hands on, and believe that you will receive a mighty outpouring.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyEarth’s Original Ancestor Was ‘LUCA’ – “An evolutionary geneticist from the Université de Montréal, together with researchers from the French cities of Lyon and Montpellier, have published a ground-breaking study that characterizes the common ancestor of all life on earth, LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor).”

‘Hobbit’ Fossils Represent New Species? – “University of Minnesota anthropology professor Kieran McNulty (along with colleague Karen Baab of Stony Brook University in New York) has made an important contribution toward solving one of the greatest paleoanthropological mysteries in recent history — that fossilized skeletons resembling a mythical “hobbit” creature represent an entirely new species in humanity’s evolutionary chain.”

Polygamy In Birds Linked To Dinosaur Ancestors – “Sure, they’re polygamous, but male emus and several other ground-dwelling birds also are devoted dads, serving as the sole incubators and caregivers to oversized broods from multiple mothers. It is rare behavior, but research described in the Dec. 19 Science found that it runs in this avian family, all the way back to its dinosaur ancestors.”

Life On Mars? Elusive Mineral Bolsters Chances – “Over the last several years, scientists have built a very convincing case that Mars hosted water, at least early in its history. Recent observations from the Mars Phoenix lander and other spacecraft show that the planet still holds vast deposits of water as ice at its poles and in soil-covered glaciers in the mid-latitudes.”

Water Vapor Detected At Universe’s Edge – “A research group led by graduate student Violette Impellizzeri from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy has used the 100 m Effelsberg radio telescope to detect water at the greatest distance from Earth so far. The water vapour was discovered in the quasar MG J0414+0534 at redshift 2.64, which corresponds to a light travel time of 11.1 billion years, a time when the Universe was only a fifth of the age it is today.”


The War on Christmas

If Rick Warren and Barack Obama IM’d each other: