News From Around The Blogosphere 10.22.09

October 23, 2009

1. Man ran down “too Westernized” daughter – An Iraqi man alleged ran down his daughter and her friend with a car because he believed she’d become “too Westernized.” The man, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, was last seen in a gray or silver Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I assume was the same car used to run down his daughter, so apparently it still drives. Now if that doesn’t raise sales, I don’t know what will. Too bad the Cash For Clunkers program ended.

2. Can a Japanese algorithm predict when you’re going to die? – I wouldn’t bet on it, but you gotta love the headline.

Does it work? Well, according to the team’s paper, published online here, the doomware has achieved “a moderate level of accuracy”.

3. Orac a shill for Suzanne Somers? – I guess this is the conclusion that Jake Crosby over at Age of Autism must accept since her book was advertised on Orac’s blog.

4. Whose side is Susan Hutchison? -According to her profile:

She is the executive director for the Charles Simonyi Fund for the arts and sciences which among other things, supports the work of atheist Richard Dawkins. She’s also served on the board of the Discovery Institute, which promotes the idea of intelligent design…

5. Atheists already donate 6% of Secular Student Alliance’s goal to raise $50,000 – It’s a great start but there’s still a long way to go. I urge anyone who can afford to donate to do so, even if it’s only a little bit.

6. Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson faces possible charges – I always hate when I have to defend the rights of Holocaust deniers, expecially ones who are also religious authorities, but sometimes protecting freedom of speech means having to defend horrible people. Even though not about his arrest, I highly recommend Chris Hitchens’ superb defense of David Irving’s work being published because of his passionate defense of even the worst kind of speech.


Oprah: bad liar or worst liar?

June 7, 2009

Last week, Newsweek published a cover story that ripped Oprah Winfrey a new one, criticizing her for her endless support of anti-scientific medical quackery, particularly turning her show into an unchallenged platform for celebrity propagandists like Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers.

Well now Oprah has responded to Newsweek’s  allegations, which isn’t surprising considering it’d be hard even for Oprah’s mostly brainwashed and braindead audience to miss Oprah’s image plastered on the cover of Newsweek, calling attention to a 6-page  indictment of the misinformation she regularly feeds them. And while Phil Plait hesitates to go as far as to call her response a lie, I have no such hesitation. Not only does Oprah lie through her teeth but her lies are so transparent that I almost applaud the audaciousness of them. Her lies are so blatantly false that it’s almost like Bush and Chaney back in the White House again:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

Ah yes, the old “obviously I don’t promote anti-scientific propaganda because I’ve been on TV for 23 years and have said many things that weren’t propaganda defense.” I guess by that logic Charles Manson couldn’t possibly have killed all those people because there were times in his life where he definitely killed no one at all. Riiiiight!

There’s so much silliness in this defense that it’s an insult to the intelligence of all who read it. Oprah has clearly devoted whole shows to the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers, where she’s allowed them to endlessly spout out their crap without even any token skepticism to challenge those beliefs and without even Oprah herself showing she’s done the slightest bit of research on the subject to challenge such fringe claims. Further, because Oprah never herself really plays the devil’s advocate on her show, she appears on each occasion to tacitly support what they’re selling. In fact, Oprah played a pivitol role in securing Jenny McCarthy her own show, which is only slightly less well known than the fact that pretty much every product or personality Oprah has publicly endorsed has instantly turned into an overnight success. If tomorrow Oprah called Kim Jong Il “The One”, I have little doubt he too would become a huge hit with Oprah’s audience.

For Oprah to downplay her svengali-like influence and claim that she trusts her audience to do the proper research on their own time, think critically about the program’s content, and to properly discern the truth on their own is at best horribly naive and at worst incredibly dishonest. As someone with a Masters Degree in Media Studies, I feel pretty confident saying that that would be a tall order for the audience of ANY television program, but for Oprah’s demographic, given her shows demonstrable power to rot the brain, to see that kind of critical thinking would be a damned miracle.

Fortunately, Forbes magazine just announced that Oprah’s lost her title of most powerful celebrity to Angelina Jolie. Who would have thought an atheist could unseat Oprah as the queen of celebrity influence? Suck it, Oprah!


Stephen Colbert rips on Oprah & Roald Dahl on vaccines

June 3, 2009

Stephen Colbert starts discussing the recent Newsweek cover story that criticized Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of pseudoscience, just past the 4 minute mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


The Newsweek article of course also spends several paragraphs slaming Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine ideology as well, which brings me to another related news item. An old essay promoting vaccines has been making the rounds on the science blogs today. The essay was written by Roald Dahl (Yes, that Roald Dahl). Twenty-four years after his daughter died suddenly from measles, Dahl wrote this essay urging parents to vaccinate.


Newsweek takes on Oprah

May 31, 2009

Newsweek has done the unthinkable; they’ve criticized Oprah. It’s about time the mainstream media took an interest in crititizing Oprah Winfrey’s dangerous pseudo-scientific nonsense.

Sadly however, the authors of this article aren’t very optimistic that Oprah’s devoted followers will abandon her and adopt reason instead:

At some point, it would seem, people will stop looking to Oprah for this kind of guidance. This will never happen. Oprah’s audience admires her as much for her failings as her successes. In real life, she has almost nothing in common with most of her viewers. She is an unapproachable billionaire with a private jet and homes around the country who hangs out with movie stars. She is not married and has no children. But television Oprah is a different person. She somehow manages to make herself believable as a down-to-earth everywoman. She is your girlfriend who struggles to control her weight and balance her work and personal life, just like you. When she recently related the story of how humiliated she felt when she arrived for a photo shoot to find that she couldn’t fit into the clothes she was supposed to wear, she knew she had every member of the audience in her hand. Oprah’s show is all about second and third and fourth chances to fix your life, and the promise that the next new thing to come along will be the one that finally works.

I’m kinda reminded of a character in the TV series “Nip/Tuck” named Kimber. Kimber is a character that has the determination to really go far but due to her own insecurities manages every season to some new self-destructive direction in her life in the guise of self-improvement, and gradually break free of it, only to fall victim to some new self-destructive behavior next season. That last paragraph quote above describes the Kimber character to a T.

The Newsweek article also takes some nice skeptical shots at Suzanne Somers, The Secret, HPV myths, and of course the queen of pseudo-scientific medical nonsense herself, Jenny McCarthy.


Oprah Winfrey & Suzanne Somers–a black hole of crazy

February 11, 2009

Oprah is bad enough, but you put Suzanne Somers and the Oprah show and prepare for pseudoscience overload:

When Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago, got a call from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” inviting her to discuss menopausal hormones with actress Suzanne Somers, she figured she’d better read Somers’s best-selling books on the subject. As Streicher worked her way through the first chapter, she started underlining every sentence she felt was inaccurate. “But pretty soon, I had to stop,” Streicher says, “because I was underlining almost everything.”The taping of the show, which aired Jan. 29, proved equally disconcerting. Somers, a self-styled hormone and anti-aging expert whose controversial books promise midlife women that they will feel young and sexy if they take unregulated hormone therapy (HT) in much higher doses and for much longer time periods than most experts recommend, was literally given center stage.

And apparently while Somers was given free reign to sell her magic nonsense as Oprah insisted everyone read her book, the actual medical experts were relegated to sitting with the audience to wait for Ms. Winfrey to call on them like they were in third grade before being allowed to speak.

But if you thought this was a mere oversight on Oprah’s part, you should know that some doctors had contacted Oprah’s production team to air their complaints about what they saw as misinformation propagated 2 weeks prior during a show she did on hormone therapy. So they knew they’d screwed up before and yet instead of making up for it, showed that they simply do not care if the information they present is true or not.

“I found the program to be quite shocking, and full of audacious claims, not substantiated by evidence,” says Dr. Wulf Utian, a gynecologist and consultant at the Cleveland Clinic and founder of the North American Menopause Society, who has also worked as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. “Oprah is the most influential woman in the world, and I don’t think she comprehends the amount of damage she has done to women’s health. I came away feeling like Oprah really didn’t understand the issue. Personally, I feel like she has set us back 100 years.”

So for those out there who have in the past questioned why I can’t stand Oprah Winfrey, here’s why. And Somers isn’t any better. That she has the arrogance to think she knows better than the entire medical establishment is absurd:

Many other doctors, Somers says, simply don’t understand bio-identical hormones as well as she does, because they “don’t learn about them in medical school” or go to the alternative-medicine conferences she attends.

She even uses a variation on the theme made popular by the anti-vaccination crowd when they chastize critics who aren’t “mommys” or who don’t have autistic children of their own, but Somers’ gambit is to chistize her male critics. . .all of them:

She is particularly annoyed with the criticism of male doctors, saying they’ve never experienced menopause.

Yeah, because a doctor who’s spent his entire adult life studying and practicing medicine doesn’t understand menopause. That’s like saying you have to have tried crack in order to have an informed opinion about it. That’s just absurd.


News From Around The Blogosphere 8.25.08

August 26, 2008

Crazy homophobic, bible-thumping principal in Florida gets ass handed to him in court -The ACLU saves the day once again.

Homophobic, Bible-thumpers trying to overturn California same-sex marriage law – With the war in Iraqi, the genocide in Darfur, the hostilities in Georgia, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, constant chaos throughout the Middle East, widespread poverty, and a host of other crises around the world, I for one applaud these guys for having their priorities straight [rolling eyes].

“An estimated 15,000 backers of the measure, most of them members of Mormon, Catholic and evangelical Christian churches, knocked on doors and distributed campaign literature to registered voters throughout the state this weekend and last, according to Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 8 campaign.”

Homophobic Bible-thumpers sending negative letters to Hallmark for making gay-friendly cards – Our old fascist friends at the poorly named American Family Association are at it again. Feel free to contact Hallmark and thank them for being non-discriminatory…if for no other reason than to stick it to the AFA.

Oh, and here’s the latest AFA newsletter:

Did you know that the four major television networks have declared war on decency by suing the FCC for the right to air profanity and nudity at any time of day? We do have a counter attack but the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act (S. 1780) is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate. The Act (S. 1780) would reaffirm Congress’ support for vigorous enforcement of the existing broadcast dece! ncy laws and the importance of protecting the public airwaves from indecent content.

In order to ensure the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ability to fine broadcasters over “fleeting” instances of profanity or nudity, S. 1780 needs to be voted on by the full Senate. If S. 1780 does not pass, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act passed two years ago will be rendered essentially meaningless.

Recently, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threw out a $550,000 indecency fine levied against CBS for the infamous 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.” CBS also allowed profanity during Big Brother 10, which airs during prime time.

We are in a pivotal time regarding the ownership of America’s broadcast airwaves. The law says these airwaves belong to the American people, but the networks are trying to take them over and turn them into a toxic sewer. Now is the time to fight back!

Thank you for caring enough to get involved. If you feel our efforts are worthy of support, would you consider making a small tax-deductible contribution to help us continue?

Sincerely,

Don

Donald E. Wildmon,
Founder and Chairman
American Family Association

Bible-thumpers handing out Gideon Bibles to 5th Graders – (Yeah, there’s a very, very subtle theme to tonight’s blog). Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the only party in the story who IS smarter than a 5th grader, is taking legal action.  PZ Myers offers an another approach for dealing with these guys.

Deist Thomas Paine–one of, if not the most important of our Founding Fathers and one of, if not the most anti-religious of our mostly anti-religious Founding Fathers returns to my neighboring town of Fort Lee, New Jersey in the form of a statue to be placed where the man himself once stood.

Why you should be skeptical of acupuncture

The only thing that bites is this journalist’s investigative reporting skills – Another article about a “pet psychic.” This one is from a New England paper and begins with the title, “City puts the bite on pet psychic,” With a title like that you’d think you were in for a triumph of common sense against a con artist. But sadly, no. It’s another thinly veiled advertisement for this “pet psychic’s” services. Someone should tell the “psychic,” Willow that she still has time to enter to win the JREF million dollar prize. I’m sure she’ll get right on that as it’s the obvious solution to her problems.

Today is the 399th anniversary of Galileo presenting his telescope to the Venetian Senate

The Amateur Scientist stops in at cool sci-fi site Pink Raygun to debunk palm reading.

10 people with unbelievable medical conditions.

If your child isn’t vaccinated, parents have a right to know – MSNBC nails it again with outstanding coverage regarding the vaccine non-issue. (Thanks again to Brian)

Anti-vaxxer moron actually laughs at measles epidemic – Why? Everything she knows about the measles she learned from Leave It To Beaver and other sitcoms…with plotlines about CHICKEN POX. I can see how Kim Stagliano, Managing Editor of Age of Autism, could mix those 2 up; they sound so similar. According to Wikipedia:

“Globally, measles deaths are down 60 percent, from an estimated 873,000 deaths in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005. Africa has seen the most success, with annual measles deaths falling by 75 percent in just 5 years, from an estimated 506,000 to 126,000.[13]

Oh, and Kim, there is no Thimerosal in MMR vaccines. Just thought you should know.

If only this happened in the real world:

Suzanne Somers joins other anti-medical vultures to pick at the flesh of the still very much alive Christina Applegate

Nina Fedoroff on why genetically modified food is good, why the Secretary of State needs a science adviser, and  science diplomacy.

Article on atheist billboard in Playboy Magazine – I was fortunate enough to see an almost identical billboard on my commute to work every day on the New Jersey Turnpike for a few months last year.

How large is Big Religion in America? – I’m not entirely in favor of the whole “framing” thing with regards to these issues but I’m personally just a big fan of the phrase “Big Religion” myself…though I only use it somewhat ironically, not so much as a “framing” technique or for propaganda purposes.

Creationist and “former atheist” Anthony Flew reviews “The God Delusion” – I think someone’s a little jealous of Dawkins’ vast, vast, vastly superior book sales:

“But what is much more remarkable than that economic achievement is that the contents – or rather lack of contents – of this book show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: namely, a secularist bigot. (Helpfully, my copy of The Oxford Dictionary defines a bigot as ‘an obstinate or intolerant adherent of a point of view’).”

Then I guess that makes Flew a Creationist bigot by the same definition and us all math bigots and history bigots too. I know I personally am intolerant of the belief that 2 + 2 = 5 and am completely intolerant of beliefs that are just plain: WRONG! I think Mr. Flew greatly undermines and diminishes the severity of what that word means. Maybe he should visit Afghanistan with some female friends or he should pretend to be an out of the closet gay man in the Bible Belt to learn what bigotry really means. If intellectual honesty is bigotry then call me a proud bigot!

Answers in Genesis’ poor responses to the 2 Evolution stories in the New York Times this weekend

And now for a moment of science:

Monkeys Enjoy Giving To Others – “Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have shown capuchin monkeys, just like humans, find giving to be a satisfying experience. This finding comes on the coattails of a recent imaging study in humans that documented activity in reward centers of the brain after humans gave to charity.”

Bizarre Qualities Can Drive Species Evolution – “The ostentatious, sometimes bizarre qualities that improve a creature’s chances of finding a mate may also drive the reproductive separation of populations and the evolution of new species, say two Indiana University Bloomington biologists.”

Researchers Study ‘Cocktail Party Effect’ – “Call it the cocktail party effect: how an individual can participate in a one-on-one conversation within a cluster of people, switch to another, pick up important comments while tuning out others, change topics and return to the first conversation.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 8.5.08

August 6, 2008

The greatest skeptical TV show ever is becoming another feature-length film -Before I knew what skepticism even was, as a kid, these guys inspired me to investigate the paranormal more than any other. In my opinion, they’re the best television role models for kids in the media. Suck it Scully!

More sad news in the skeptical world -Skeptic Robert Lancaster was hospitalized after suffering from a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed. Lancaster is perhaps best known for being arguably “psychic” Sylvia Browne’s arch enemy (other than Randi) and for his website exposing her fraud, Stop Sylvia Browne. And recently, he met Browne face to face, a hilarious account chronicled here. Here’s the thread on the JREF forum where his wife Susan has posted the news. My best wishes go out to Robert. Get well soon.

For the record, yes, there are still people who believe the Earth is flat -This is how far off the deep end belief in grand conspiracy theories can take you…or rather how far off the edge of the Earth it can take you. Flat-Earthers after all, are only challenging “the conspiracy” that the Earth is round. A quote from 25-year-old flat-Earther John Davis: “Many use the term ‘flat-earther’ as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism.” Hmm, can’t imagine why. Davis believes “the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite – it stretches horizontally forever”. Of course! It all makes sense now! Take that, Magellan!

Here’s another hilarious conspiracy theorist. For the record, Chemtrail people, this is what you look like to the rest of us.

Acupuncture for veterans -Acupucture now being marketed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. Is there anything it can’t do? Oh yeah! treat PTSD, treat medical conditions, treat addictions, act as a pain reliever, and do anything other than shrink the size of your wallet.

Knights Templar sue Pope-“They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights were appropriated by the church.”

More Pareidolia with Jesus– Some of my favorites:

Is that Jesus or a Cheeto?

This one I think looks the best:

I’ve been ripping into this cdesign proponentsist several times over the past few days but here’s PZ Myers is going to be go up against Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort. Ray appeared on a radio show today to make his case. PZ’s going on the same show tomorrow to give a rebuttal. But here’s PZ’s blog commentary on Ray’s performance on the show.

John Freshwater, the Ohio science teacher who uses his classroom to proselytize and promote creationism, is following a familiar tactic: Lie.

Even sterile water injections work better than acupuncture -More on the power of placebos.

New “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign angers Jenny McCarthy and other anti-vacciners – New “Vaccine Your Baby” campaign being promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Every Child By Two, Amanda Peet, and others has unleashed the wrath of the “Green Vaccine” Movement including Jenny McCarthy. But if as they claim, they’re not anti-vaccine, what seems to be the problem? Update: Here’s another blog on this that includes a link to a clip of Amanda Peet being interviewed on Good Morning America about this.

Suzanne Somers’ latest foray into quackery – Apparently, she’s now into something called”bioidentical” hormones, which are ascribed with mystical properties, none of which they actually have.

State Senator Ernie Chambers resumes lawsuit against God -I thought Pete Stark was the only openly atheist member of our government, though Lori Lipman Brown says that she knows of at least 20 other alleged atheists in our government who admitted to being non-believers but asked her not to disclose their identities out of fear of it damaging their career in politics. So I’m glad to hear about Ernie Chambers. I hope that when God doesn’t show for court that he’s held in contempt.

Ashley Paramore holds up a banner for the Omnipresent Atheists group in Columbus, Ohio:

Paris Hilton gets the last laugh – As much as I detest Paris Hilton, I have to admit that whoever wrote her lines for this satiric response to McCain’s attack ad did an awesome job. It actually made me forget how much I despise Hilton for 2 whole minutes.

And now a moment of science:

Breakthrough In Quantum Mechanics -“Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have recently reached what they are calling a milestone in experimental quantum mechanics.”

Schizophrenia: Price Of Human Brain Evolution? -“Metabolic changes responsible for the evolution of our unique cognitive abilities indicate that the brain may have been pushed to the limit of its capabilities. Research published today in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology adds weight to the theory that schizophrenia is a costly by-product of human brain evolution.”