News From Around The Blogosphere 6.29.10

June 29, 2010

I am so behind on news stories that I’m going to ignore my usual rule of keeping this News From Around The Blogosphere chunk to only a few stories in order to play catch-up over the next few days.

1. Australia elects atheist Prime Minister…who sadly turns out to be anti-gay – Early reports of Julia Gillard’s appointment were met with cheers from the atheist community but now some of our hopes may have been dashed as news comes out that she opposes marriage equality:

“We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples,” Ms Gillard said.

Seriously, how does that sentence come out of the mouth of an atheist?

2. Copenhagen atheists create declaration of principles – The principle focus on religion’s role in public life.

3. Chuck Norris vs. the Secular Student Alliance SSA – Chuck’s pissed that with all the crises happening in the world, Obama found time to honor the SSA but has neglected the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and feels its’ persecution or something. What is it with these Christians who think just being their wishes aren’t met, that makes it persecution? No Bill Donohue, the Empire State Building is not honoring Mother Teresa, so get over it. Anyway, for some reason Chuck feels the BSA should have been invited to a conference on “Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses.” Why I don’t know. I guess Chuck still harboring a grudge against atheists ever since Bruce Lee kicked his ass. Personally, I’m still waiting for Chuck to respond to the email I wrote him three years ago.

4. Robot fish is accepted by shoal as one of their own – Wow, it’s kind of like Avatar except instead of the dude from the last Terminator film transferring his consciousness into a biological shell, it’s a frakkin’ robot.

University of Leeds scientists have created the first convincing robotic fish that shoals will accept as one of their own. The innovation opens up new possibilities for studying fish behaviour and group dynamics, which provides useful information to support freshwater and marine environmental management, to predict fish migration routes and assess the likely impact of human intervention on fish populations.

Robots–is there any news story they can’t make awesome?

5. UK trying to ban homeopathy

Recently representatives of the British Medical Association (BMA) condemned homeopathy as “witchcraft.”Now the BMA is going one step further – calling for a ban on homeopathy in the UK. They do not want homeopathy to be illegal, but they want a ban on any National Health Service (NHS) support for homeopathy. The NHS currently spends about 20 million pounds a year on homeopathic remedies (about 0.01% of the NHS budget) and maintains four homeopathic hospitals. This is a small amount overall – but anything spent on homeopathy is a waste. More importantly, as the BMA notes, homeopathy has “‘no place in the modern health service.’

6. Nick Fury, Black Widow, and S.H.I.E.L.D. to investigate Phil Plait? – Apparently someone over at Marvel Comics is a fan of the Bad Astronomy blog because Phil Plaits’ name is in Black Widow’s phonebook.

7. Teenager turns into Spiderman – In other Marvel Comics-related news:

A Cambridge schoolboy has converted two budget vacuum cleaners into a Spiderman gadget which helps him scale walls.

Hibiki Kono, 13, a big fan of the superhero, made the incredible climbing machine using the suction from two Tesco Value vacuum cleaners.

The schoolboy then amazed his friends by using the giant suckerpads to climb the school wall during morning assembly.

“I used to dress up as Spiderman when I was younger and I love all the films so it’s great to be able to climb walls like him,” said Hibiki.

You sir, are awesome.

8. Stem Cells cure blindness

STEM cells have restored sight to 82 people with eyes blinded by chemical or heat burns.

Once again, as Carl Sagan once said, science delivers the goods.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.21.10

April 22, 2010

1. Russia bans $cientology material – Perhaps taking a cue from the Germans, Russia is cracking down on beliefs it considers detrimental to society and have now banned books and recordings by L. Ron Hubbard a court determined to be extremist. Russia has already banned some texts by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2. 60 Minutes applies hardcore skepticism to bring down bogus stem cell quack – Lawrence Stowe is a con man with no real medical credentials who has scammed ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease patients out of money with promises of bogus stem cell cures. I am very proud of 60 Minutes for setting up and airing this sting operation in all its uncomfortable glory.What’s really shameful is that every news organization isn’t doing this sort of thing all the time.

3. Oklahoma proposes new insane abortion bill – The bill would allow doctors to withhold test results showing fetal defects and require women to answer intrusive questions.


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.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.25.10

February 26, 2010

1. A new study suggests acupuncture is good for depression in pregnancy. . .or does it?

In other words, acupuncture specific for depression produced an effect that was not different from that of one of the controls. But by creating a group that combined non-specific acupuncture (ineffective) with massage (effective), they were able to create a composite that was ineffective, and then they compared the experimental group with the composite. But that doesn’t change the fact that acupuncture for depression was no better than massage.

Have the authors shown that acupuncture specific for depression is effective for treating depression in pregnant women? I don’t think so. If it offers no advantage over massage, we can forget about acupuncture and simply offer depressed pregnant women a day at the spa. It is no less effective and probably far more enjoyable.

2. Smile or Die:  How positive thinking fooled America and the world – In her new book, Barbara Ehrenreich presents the evidence of numerous studies demonstrating that positive thinking has no effect on survival rates. She also provides testimonies that suggest that possibly great harm comes from this false hope.

Pity, for example, the woman who wrote to the mind/body medical guru Deepak Chopra: “Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise and supplements, the cancer keeps coming back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps re-occurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it does get harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude.”

New Age mysticism may sound harmless enough but here is a great example of how dangerous such irrational beliefs are.

3. A gene mutation is linked to autistic symptoms in mice – Once again, this is research that would not exist if J.B. Handley, Jenny McCarthy, and their anti-vaccine cohorts were making the decisions because they have zero interest in exploring the genetic basis for autism.

4. Stem Cells restore sight to blind mice – I feel like this news story is a rerun. Anyway though, once again this is research that might not have existed if George Bush was president.

An international research team led by Columbia University Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. This strategy could potentially become a new treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a leading cause of blindness that affects approximately one in 3,000 to 4,000 people, or 1.5 million people worldwide.


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.6.10

January 7, 2010

1. Curing blindness – Science surpasses God again – Sorry God. Better luck next time:

Scientists and the University of New South Wales in Australia cultured corneal stem cells on extended wear contact lenses.  They then cleaned the corneas of three patients — two of whom were legally blind and one with limited vision (they could read the biggest row of the vision chart) — and had the patient start wearing the lens.

As Carl Sagan said, science delivers the goods.

2. Montana becomes third state to allow doctor-assisted suicide – It’s only three states? Jeez, no wonder we’re so overpopulated. It’s insane that people are being kept alive against their will if they have some debilitating terminal illness with little to no hope of recovery and want to just end it already. Only the religious could be so opposed to such a sensible, humane service.

3. Nigerian skeptic and humanist leader held on allegedly child rape charges – Now I don’t know the details of the case but my source on this seems to be convinced it’s a trumped up charge and I think they have good reason to suspect as much since the suspect, Leo Igwe, is accused of raping the very same ten-year-old girl he’s been campaigning for justice on behalf of. Again, I don’t know the details of the case so I can’t comment any further. Though I really hope these are bogus charges and if that’s the case, that he is freed.

4. Six arrested in Indonesia for ‘sexy dancing’

“We’re charging them for preparing the dance and performing it in public, which is against morality,” he added.

Against morality? See, this is what Hitchens means when he says religion poisons everything.

Achdiat did not give any details about the dance but said the dancers, who had performed at a live music cafe in Bandung, south of Jakarta, were in skimpy clothing.

Oh no, not skimpy clothing! Anything but skimpy clothing!!!

5. The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission’s list of top ten alleged anti-Christian acts of 2009 – Fortunately, someone has already fact-checked their list and illustrated how much BS it really containts. It’s just another epic fail by a group of people who despite being part of a majority with no concept of what real persecution is like pretending that they’re so oppressed. Give it up guys. You can’t have 44 consecutive U.S. presidents and still pretend you’re oppressed. Go cry to Jesus or something.

6. Two-headed calf in eastern Estonian city of Tartu – That’s one calf and two heads. I smell sitcom! I think the title should be “Intelligent Design.”

7. Cartoon trains teach autistic kids about emotions

The head of the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre, Simon Baron-Cohen, conducted a study using a series of 15 animated stories called The Transporters. Each episode focused on a different emotion – from simple ones such as happy, sad and angry to more complex emotions such as sorry, ashamed, tired and joking.

The findings, published in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders in November, showed children with autism spectrum conditions had improved emotion recognition after watching the 3D program for 15 minutes a day over a month.


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.14.09

September 15, 2009

1. $cientology tries to censor critics in Australia – The Australian branch of CoS submitted a proposal to the local Human Rights Commission to censor those who commit, as they call it, “Religious Vilification.” Essentially, they want to create their own blasphemy laws.

2. 2010 California Marriage Protection Act – Safeguarding marriage from the evils of divorce. As if you needed another reason to hate religion.

3. Proposed law in Indonesia calls for stoning adulterers to death

Muslims who commit adultery in Indonesia’s Aceh province may be stoned to death under a controversial new sharia law passed by the local parliament on Monday.

As if you needed yet another reason to hate religion.

4. Bill Gates intends to control the weather

Turns out Microsoft mogul Bill Gates and a team of scientists have filed a patent on technology that would seek to eliminate the danger of hurricanes. The idea is pretty simple: A fleet of barges would be dispatched to the waters ahead of a raging storm. There, they would use a system of conduits to both push warm surface water below the ocean surface while bringing deeper, colder water up. This would theoretically weaken the approaching hurricane, possibly saving lives and money and binding all those affected into a blood debt with Mr. Gates.

Gates may be onto something but some experts aren’t convinced for various reasons. For more info, click the link above.

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergency5. Science Daily explains how stem cells make skin

Stem cells have a unique ability: when they divide, they can either give rise to more stem cells, or to a variety of specialised cell types. In both mice and humans, a layer of cells at the base of the skin contains stem cells that can develop into the specialised cells in the layers above. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, in collaboration with colleagues at the Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnologicas (CIEMAT) in Madrid, have discovered two proteins that control when and how these stem cells switch to being skin cells.


Stem Cell research setting sights on blindness

July 27, 2009