News From Around The Blogosphere 3.7.11

March 8, 2011

1. 40-million-year-old mites caught fucking – It’s not uncommon to find ancient animals preserved in amber. What’s far less common is finding ancient animals preserved in middle of doing it as in a recent find where two mites were found mating. Another interesting fact about these mites are that the traditional sex roles were reversed:

“In this species, it is the female who has partial or complete control of mating,” explained Klimov, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. “This is in contrast to the present-day reproductive behavior of many mite species where almost all aspects of copulation are controlled by males.”

I think that settles it for me. When I die, I insist that I’m preserved forever in amber during sex.

2. Nano vaccines in our future

MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Once again, science delivers the goods.

3. Lawsuit claims Scientology violated child labor and wage laws – If you haven’t yet read the recent 30-page New Yorker expose on Scientology, you owe it to yourself to take the time to do so. It is almost certainly the single most damning piece of literature compiled on the cult and every word of it is backed by a copious amount of evidence. I truly believe that nobody can read that article and still choose to join Scientology. According to that article, there is a federal investigation into possible human trafficking charges, relating to accusations of child labor and nearly non-existent wages for adult labor.

Now two lawsuits have been filed by former Scientologist Daniel Montalvo, who “contends his parents, who remain in the Sea Org, neglected him and breached their duty to protect him from harm by ceding his care to the church.” And like with every former member/critic, church Spokesmen Tommy Davis is retaliating with sudden criminal accusations against Montalvo that the church remarkably never mentioned to anyone until just now when he sued them first. What a coinkidink! Given all the former members that Davis and past spokesmen (who incidentally are now also harsh critics of the cult) have accused of serious and often violent crimes, I’m left to wonder if everyone in Scientology is a violent thug.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.11.11

February 11, 2011
Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Jerusalem UFO video exposed as fake – Okay, so the video looked pretty poor to begin with, giving us nothing but a tiny moving ball of light but it’s still fun to apply more analysis to it anyway. Steven Novella had already done a great critical analysis of the video here where he observed that the video largely consists of a still image with added effects to create the illusion of shaky-cam video footage, but now Phil Plait has found a video posted on YouTube that actually exposes the specific digital editing tricks used to create the illusion of a shaky camera. Unlike other alleged UFO videos, there’s no ambiguity here. This video is a deliberate fake and its been busted cold.

2. Creepy head-mask to punish ‘rude, clamorous” women – Okay, I just thought this story was really cool. This mask was used between 1550 and 1800 to punish women considered to be spending too much time gossiping or quarrelling. When wearing the mask, it’s impossible to speak. Some of these masks, like the one pictured, even had a bell on them to add to the wearer’s humiliation.

3. Robots to get their own internet – European scientists are working on a network that would allow robots to share and store what they discover about the world:

Called RoboEarth it will be a place that robots can upload data to when they master a task, and ask for help in carrying out new ones.

Researchers behind it hope it will allow robots to come into service more quickly, armed with a growing library of knowledge about their human masters.

4. Scientology continues to have a terrible week – I already briefly wrote about the incredible, super-long New Yorker piece by Lawrence Wright on Scientology apostate Paul Haggis, which mentioned that the cult is currently under an FBI investigation for human trafficking. But there are so many highlights to the piece. After finally managing to read the whole article, I got to where Wright talks about fact-checking L. Ron Hubbard’s claim that he was injured during military service and was miraculously healed by the methods now practiced as part of Scientology. After Scientology Spokesman Tommy Davis gave the New Yorker thousands of pages of documents and allegedly admitted that if this Hubbard story didn’t check out, it’d mean all of Scientology was a fraud, Wright and his New Yorker fact-checkers went through the pain-staking process of getting military archivists who are experts in such documents. Those experts concluded that the documents were false, that there was no record of Hubbard’s injuries or of the officer who allegedly signed some of the documents, and that the documents lied about his education and the metals he’d received. Now the New Yorker has even put up a copy of at least one of the documents to show readers precisely how we know it’s a forgery.  Wright has also been turning up on various radio shows to discuss his findings (here and here). It just keeps getting worse for Scientology and they can’t seem to catch a break.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.6.11

January 7, 2011

1. ‘ESP’ study utterly ridiculous – Just hearing ABC World News talking about this ‘ESP’ study made it clear to me that this study is a complete joke. The researcher literally gave people repeated 50/50 chance scenarios, found a ritual that he claimed increased the likelihood of correct answers to a whopping 53 percent, and is calling that proof of ESP. Considering I know how to predict coin tosses better than random guesswork by others almost every time through trickery alone, consider me unimpressed. But Ben Radford and Ray Hyman go far deeper by pointing out major flaws in the methodology.

2. New expose on $cientology coming – In 2009, director and writer Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) very publicly left $cientology, citing the cult’s homophobia and Spokesman Tommy Davis’ lies about the disconnection policies. Now, “Lawrence Wright is writing what his agent calls “the most profound reckoning to date” with Scientology, told through the eyes of director and apostate Paul Haggis.” Something tells me Tom Cruise will not be featured in any Paul Haggis movies any time soon.

3. Californial memorial cross deemed unconstitutional – This should have been a no-brainer, but now the legendary 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court decision that threw out a legal challenge to the hilltop cross brought on behalf of Jewish war veterans.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.23.10

February 24, 2010

1. Protein study shows Evolutionary link between plants and animals

Inserting a human protein important in cancer development was able to revive dying plants, showing an evolutionary link between plants and humans and possibly making it easier to study the protein’s function in cancer development, a Purdue University study has shown.

And yet millions of creationists are still unimpressed. Go figure.

2. Mouse with human liver aids research –

How do you study-and try to cure in the laboratory-an infection that only humans can get? A team led by Salk Institute researchers does it by generating a mouse with an almost completely human liver. This “humanized” mouse is susceptible to human liver infections and responds to human drug treatments, providing a new way to test novel therapies for debilitating human liver diseases and other diseases with liver involvement such as malaria.

Just in case you needed another reason to want to punch anti-animal-testing extremists in the face.

3. Steve Novella gives the 411 on the Bloom Box – After it being featured on this week’s 60 Minutes, I too was interested in finding out more about this Bloom Box and whether it really was as impressive a solution for clean energy as it seemed on the show.

4. $cientology hires reporters to investigate the St. Petersburg Times – For those who don’t know the St. Petersburg Times has over the past several months become one of $cientology’s worst enemies, doing the kind of in depth investigative reporting on the evil cult that every other news outlet should have been doing decades ago. Now the $cientology is out for blood and has gotten three veteran journalists to try and investigate the paper’s conduct:

While the journalists have promised an independent review, the Times has refused to cooperate, saying their work will be used to fuel the church’s ongoing campaign against the Florida paper.

“I ultimately couldn’t take this request very seriously because it’s a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology,” says Executive Editor Neil Brown. “Candidly,” he adds, “I was surprised and disappointed that journalists who I understand to have an extensive background in investigative reporting would think it’s appropriate to ask me or our news organization to talk about that reporting while (a) it’s ongoing, and (b) while they’re being paid to ask these questions by the very subjects of our reporting.”

. . .

Church spokesman Tommy Davis says that he recently received the approximately 20-page study and that it will not necessarily be made public. It was commissioned, he says, because “we wanted to get an outside view” of the situation. Davis, who would not disclose how much the reporters were paid, calls the report highly critical of the Times stories on the church.

Shocker!

The names of those journalists who sold their souls to $cientology are: Russell Carollo, Christopher Szechenyi, and Steve Weinberg.

5. Judge Judy vs. creationism, anti-choicers, anti-stem cell researchers, and “fundie” politicians –


Ex-Scientologists speak out in CFI press conference

February 14, 2010

Yesterday, the L.A. branch of the Center For Inquiry held a press conference in which multiple former members of $cientology spoke out about the cult’s abuses. And of course when asked to comment, Tommy Davis gave all the standard lines about how he doesn’t know what any of these people are talking about, that they’re making it all up to get attention, and that people should check $cientology out themselves to find out. Riiight. And you shouldn’t knock being shot in the head until you’ve tried it either. The one interesting thing about Davis’ response was that he admitted that employees are not paid and are “volunteers,” precisely what one former member at the press conference (as well as many others over the years) claimed was part of the manipulation that the cult uses to avoid paying its employees. But no one has the right to volunteer themselves into slavery.


Star of Scientology’s Orientation film gives a farewell performance

January 29, 2010

Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of the Cult of $cientology who starred in their orientation film has split. In the orientation film he said:

“If you leave this room after seeing this film and walk out and never mention Scientology again, you are perfectly free to do so.  It would be stupid, but you can do it.  You can also dive off a bridge or blow your brains out.  That is your choice.

“But, if you don’t walk out that way, if you continue with Scientology, we will be very happy with you, and you will be very happy with you.”

When the guy who welcomed you in and told you that leaving “would be stupid” leaves, that should tell you something. He spent an estimated $150,000 on $cientology but had additionally spent $119,711 for future services that he never collected on and which Tommy Davis promised to return to him. Eleven months later, Anderson is out and he still hasn’t gotten his money back. That should tell you where $cientology’s interests really lie.

You can hear excerpts from Larry’s conversation with Davis here.


Yet another bad week for Scientology

October 26, 2009

First, $cientology Spokesman Tommy Davis walks out on his ABC interview with Martin Bashir after being confronted with questions about the “church’s” beliefs. Then the French government fined “the church” 600,000 Euros ($902,200) for fraud.

But now comes news that Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has not only left $cientology, but has publicly denounced the cult too. In his open letter, he blasted $cientology on a number of things.

Haggis called them out on their involvement involvement in California’s Prop 8 that overturned gay marriage in the state, their refusal to denounce this anti-gay bigotry, and their lies to cover it up:

As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. […] I called and wrote and implored you, as the official spokesman of the church, to condemn their actions. I told you I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.

In that first conversation, back at the end of October of last year, you told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and “heads would roll.” You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming. The best you offered was a weak and carefully worded press release, which praised the church’s human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.

The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.

He also called them out on the cult’s disconnection policy as well as their dishonest denials of the policy:

I was shocked. We all know this policy exists. I didn’t have to search for verification – I didn’t have to look any further than my own home.

You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know – hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.

Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them. I refused to do so. I’ve never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible.

For a year and a half, despite her protestations, my wife did not speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time. […] To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?

Haggis then called $cientology out on the cult’s “Fair Game” policy in which the they viciously attack their critics:

How dare you use private information in order to label someone an “adulteress?” You took Amy Scobee’s most intimate admissions about her sexual life and passed them onto the press and then smeared them all over the pages your newsletter! I do not know the woman, but no matter what she said or did, this is the woman who joined the Sea Org at 16! She ran the entire celebrity center network, and was a loyal senior executive of the church for what, 20 years? You want to rebut her accusations, do it, and do it in the strongest terms possible – but that kind of character assassination is unconscionable.

So, I am now painfully aware that you might see this an attack and just as easily use things I have confessed over the years to smear my name. Well, luckily I have never held myself up to be anyone’s role model.

The great majority of Scientologists I know are good people who are genuinely interested in improving conditions on this planet and helping others. I have to believe that if they knew what I now know, they too would be horrified. But I know how easy it was for me to defend our organization and dismiss our critics, without ever truly looking at what was being said; I did it for thirty-five years. And so, after writing this letter, I am fully aware that some of my friends may choose to no longer associate with me, or in some cases work with me. I will always take their calls, as I always took yours. However, I have finally come to the conclusion that I can no longer be a part of this group. Frankly, I had to look no further than your refusal to denounce the church’s anti-gay stance, and the indefensible actions, and inactions, of those who condone this behavior within the organization. I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.

Haggis specifically cited a series of articles in the St. Petersburg Times, showing just how effective a tool the internet has become in combatting $cientology’s misinformation. The St. Petersburg Times went even further by chronicling $cientology’s official responses to their articles (in writing as well as audio) and a host of background information about the cult.


Scientologist Spokesmen embarrassed by his own beliefs

October 25, 2009

It gets really good starting at the at the 3:40 mark:

I knew this looked familiar:

You can find the rest of the ABC report beginning here.

And you can find Tommy Davis giving CNN and KESQ the same dog and pony show here.


More Scientology defectors report abuse

August 3, 2009

A little over a month ago, I blogged about the St. Petersburg Times’ investigation into $cientology. At that time, “the church’s” was pissed off that they had the audacity to report what the serious accusations of 3 former members and wrote the publication an angry letter telling them what evil Hitlers those former members were. And the St. Petersburg Times decided to publish that letter in all its hilarious glory.

Now the St. Petersburg Times has reported more accusations against $cientology by more former members.

Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her “crimes” in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.

Gary Morehead dredged up his recollection of Scientology leader David Miscavige punishing venerable church leaders by forcing them to live out of tents for days, wash with a garden hose and use an open latrine.

Steve Hall replayed his memory of a meeting when Miscavige grabbed the heads of two church executives and knocked them together. One came away with a bloody ear.

Mark Fisher remembered precisely what he told Miscavige after the punches stopped and Fisher touched his head, looked at his palm and saw blood.

And of course you can predict $cientology’s response:  denial, denial, denial. Spokesperson Tommy Davis is calling these guys all liars who are just pissed that they were thrown out of “the church.” Yeah right, Tommy! $cientology never met a dollar it wouldn’t happily add to its bank account. The only way one ever gets kicked out is when they’ve given all their money away and are unwilling to become a slave to “the church.” But given the miracles promised by $cientology, I find it kinda hard to believe anyone would rock the boat so much as to get kicked out and when be so evil as to discourage others from achieving all the amazing things $cientology claims it has to offer.

The church provided the Times two dozen written declarations from current and former church executives and staffers. Referring to those statements, Davis said: “You have been provided with volumes of evidence to show that your original sources are delusionary, bitter and dishonest; your new sources are more of the same.”

Pay attention everyone. This is how $cientology treats its members, with betrayal if you don’t play ball.

I can’t wait until Davis blows. On that day, I’ll just laugh and laugh. Then of course, I’ll support him as another victim of this cult.


KESQ-TV in Palm Springs reveals the true face of $cientology

March 12, 2009

Here is the first in their 5-part series on the cult. The rest can be found at their website or on YouTube.


And remember, this Saturday, March 14, is the monthly Anonymous global protest outside $cientology Centers in every major city in the world.

“We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.