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.

BUSTED!

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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Exploiting my newfound freedom

April 16, 2010

Now that Simon Singh’s bogus journey is over and he’s won the libel suit brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association, legal precedence now prevents cranks in the UK from suing bloggers who call their claims ‘bogus’. So I thought I’d take a moment to get a few things off my chest.

The claims of the Catholic Church are bogus.

The claims of all religions are bogus.

The treatments offered by the British Chiropractic Association as well as almost every other chiropractic organization are bogus.

The treatments offered by homeopaths, acupuncturists, faith healers, psychic surgeons, and virtually every practitioner of so-called “althernative” “medicine” are bogus.

The claims of psychics are bogus.

The claims of ghost hunters are bogus.

The claims of anti-vaccinationist organizations are bogus.


WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!

April 15, 2010

It seems like lately, the power of skepticism has proven far stronger than was to be expected and almost every big news story revolving around an issue skeptics take seriously, it’s been good news for us.

For instance, almost every time $cientology has been in the news for the past two years, it’s meant bad news for $cientology. And though seemingly unstoppable a few months ago, lately every news story surrounding the anti-vaccine movement has been bad news for them. Homeopathy’s been getting a lot of negative press lately. Modern dowsing rods received a snowstorm of bad publicity from mainstream media outlets over their use as bomb detectors in Iraq. The 9/11 denialist movement, though still lurking background, has been completely relegated to the fringes where they have virtually no chance of influencing public policy. Hell, even the UFO community, who have been virtually out of the news entirely for the last decade have suffered two pieces of bad publicity in just the last two weeks. And one of those stories, one of their own prominent leaders calling the entire movement “humans deceiving humans”, was a major blow.

The only major piece of pseudoscience that seems to have really grown in popularity in the past decade that isn’t on the decline is ghost hunting, which is more popular than ever thanks to The Sifi (Syfi? Syfy?Psi-phi? Zyphi? Sigh-Figh?) Channel and A&E. And that trend is likely to die off sooner or later due to the over-saturation of the market…and the fact that, you know, every episode is exactly the same, nothing happens, and their complete lack of ghosts that don’t look like the light from their own video equipment.

But now comes two biggies.

Simon Singh

Simon Singh has DEFEATED the British Chiropractic Association!! Singh had been barely hanging in their with the legal fees, which he paid himself. And yet it was the giant Goliath that is the British Chiropractic Association that threw in the towel.

The sudden end to the case will strengthen the campaign for reform of the libel laws, which Jack Straw, the justice secretary, is considering. It is also a specific pledge in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

The whole matter seemed to have backfired on them anyway as the more they tried to silence Singh’s criticisms, the more attention they drove to them.

The other big victory today is the Freedom From Religion Foundation won its court case in the U.S., making the National Day of Prayer has been declared unconstitutional. And once again, church/state separation has been protected.

Viva la resistance!


News From Around The Blogosphere 4.2.10

April 2, 2010

1. Researchers find aging gene in worm

Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at the University of Birmingham have discovered that a gene called DAF-16 is strongly involved in determining the rate of ageing and average lifespan of the laboratory worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) and its close evolutionary cousins. DAF-16 is found in many other animals, including humans. It is possible that this knowledge could open up new avenues for altering ageing, immunity and resistance to stresses in humans.

Of course it will be years before any practical application to humans comes out of this, if ever, but it’s cool none the less.

2. Exorcist discovers Satan behind media’s accurate coverage of Catholic sex scandal – We’ve already gotten one exorcist to claim that Satan was possessing the Church leaders into performing the rapes in the first place. Now another exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, has publicly stated that the media’s desire to inform the public of these crimes, particularly at the New York Times, was “prompted by the devil.” I could have told you that. I mean, really, when was the last time the media was sincerely interested in honest journalism?

And speaking of demonic journalists. . .

3. Simon Singh reports once more in The Guardian – After winning his appeal, Singh wants to remind people that the battle for libel reform in the UK is only just beginning.

4. Filipinos celebrate this Zombie Weekend by crucifying themselves – This is an annual tradition in the Philippines on Zombie Weekend where many Filipinos choose to re-enact Jesus’ zombie-fication by actually nailing themselves to wooden crosses.

The Catholic Church disapproves of the annual ritual of devotion but says it cannot stop people in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country from being voluntarily nailed to a cross or flagellating themselves, only educate them that it isn’t necessary.

Yes, the Catholic Church would much rather they celebrate in a more traditional fashion, by raping young boys and covering it up.

5. Scientists discover gene and part of the brain controlling gullibility, the WTF1 gene – And if you believed that then you have the WTF1 gene. April Fools!

Now speaking of April Fools. . .

6. Shroud of Turin is back in the news – Despite the fact that the face merely looks like the male model who happened to pose as Jesus in Renaissance paintings and despite its total debunking as a several hundred year old forgery, somehow someone has resurrected (hehe, see what I did there) the debate. And it couldn’t come at a more perfect time as it perfectly coincides with my April Fools piece in the Gotham Skeptic about the discovery of Jesus’ face in a Rorschach Test. Check it out.


Congratulations to Simon Singh and to UK libel reform!

April 2, 2010

Simon Singh just won the appeal in the libel suit brought by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) over his article, Beware the Spinal Trap. Because UK libel law is ass backwards, putting the burden of proof on the defendant, the court was not easy on Singh and the judge originally ruled against him based solely on his use of the word “bogus,” interpreting it as claiming deliberate deception on the part of the BCA even though no dictionary defines the word that way. So now the higher court has ruled that the first ruling was in error:

The new ruling, in essence, says that Simon’s statement were an expression of his opinion, not a fact of the state of belief of BCA chiropractors. Therefore Simon can use the “fair comment” defense. This puts him in a very good position to win the overall case.

Also, the full judgment is here (PDF).

The battle for UK libel reform isn’t over yet but this is definitely a major step in the right direction.


Simon Singh is now a folk hero

March 31, 2010

Ariane Sherine’s “The Simon Singh Song” promotrd libel reform in the UK while making a folk hero in the process:


Congrats to James Randi and Simon Singh

March 21, 2010

At the age of 81, James Randi has now publicly come out of the closet and announced on Swift and on the podcast For Good Reason podcast that he is gay.

“I wasn’t hiding in the closet. I just found the closet door.”

So that means that both the original president of the JREF and the current president of the JREF, two-thirds of the JREF presidents, are gay. Have anything you want to tell us, Phil Plait? Just kidding.

So what motivated the sudden public announcement?

This declaration of mine was prompted just last week by seeing an excellent film — starring Sean Penn — that told the story of politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

As a cinephile, I think that’s kinda awesome. What higher compliment can one give a film?

Now onto Simon Singh, the leader of the UK Libel Reform movement who just the other day published his final article in The Guardian. Singh just introduced a new future skeptic into the world, his son Hari. This led Rebecca Watson to get the kid’s astrological information from Alabe.com:

According to Alabe.com, the verdict is in: he’s going to be a bipolar psychic Libertarian asshole.

Isn’t most of that redundant? Anywho, congratulations you too. And keep up the great work.