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A Mistake and a Professional Embarrassment

May 24, 2019

Remember when CFI West and its Independent Investigations Group was on National Geographic and did a whole thing where it debunked Flat-Earthers right before their eyes? Well they turned that event into a pilot episode for their own original video series for the Center for Inquiry Investigations Group. It’s great!

Do you know how to CSICon? That doesn’t even make any sense. AND YET, Susan Gerbic has kindly prepared for you a little guide to what is only the most important and most-funnest skeptics’ event of the year, all to “help you get your CSICon 101 on.”

Ray Hartmann at the Riverfront Times says Missouri’s bill for an eight-week abortion ban is a violation of religious liberty, which is a novel way to look at it, but also interesting:

Determining the origin of life is a matter of religious, ethical or moral consideration. There’s nothing empirical about it. … Roman Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans and many other Christian denominations believe strongly that life begins at conception. … But a substantial number of other major religions dissent. Some regard life originating at a different point. … Not to mention the millions of Americans who don’t identify with any faith or who might be atheists or agnostics with their own set of ethics.

Meanwhile, more filmmakers are pulling productions out of Georgia over that state’s six-week abortion ban.

73 percent of Jewish voters say Jewish Americans are less safe than they were two years ago, due in large part to President Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism.

As if ISIS wasn’t bad enough, a influx of its fighters into parts of Congo is making it much harder for Christian churches and organizations to contain an Ebola outbreak.

The Maine bill to end non-medical exemptions to vaccines is finally, finally, finally headed for the governor’s desk. Gov. Janet Mills is expected to sign it.

Panthera, a nonprofit that seeks to protect wild cat species, slams the World Health Organization for legitimizing pseudoscientific Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Today, the tiger, pangolin, bear, rhino and other species are poached for their organs that are used in TCM to treat ailments from arthritis to epilepsy to erectile dysfunction. There is, however, no basis in science to support TCM’s claims regarding the efficacy of the vast majority of these remedies and, in any event, there can be no justification to eradicate entire species when other existing and well-proven methods can clearly treat these medical challenges. …

Panthera … urge the World Health Organization to condemn the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizing wild animal parts, including from captive bred specimens, sending an unequivocal message to the world that it will not legitimize this practice in TCM and the decline of wild animal populations around the globe.

Moving away from Chinese medicine to Chinese oppression, Nicholas Kristof writes, “China is accumulating a record of Orwellian savagery toward religious people“:

China is engaging in internment, monitoring or persecution of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists on a scale almost unparalleled by a major nation in three-quarters of a century.

Measles carriers in five states are being told they should not get on airplanes lest they get reported to the CDC and put on an official “do no board” list. The deterrent seems to be effective, as the individuals contacted have all canceled their flights.

Anti-vax “doctors” have taken to citing a 2008 scientific paper about a gene that was thought might be associated with “adverse events” from the smallpox vaccine, a paper which has since been disavowed by its own authors. Anyway, it has anti-vax types ordering 23andMe DNA tests to look for this gene, and it’s by total coincidence hilariously acronymed: MTHFR.

Oh, here’s something depressing to go into the weekend with: At Wired, Megan Molteni explains how the U.S. is about to lose its status as a country where measles has been eliminated, as the current strain is about to turn one year old:

If the US does lose its elimination status, it won’t be due to economic chaos or a lack of public health resources; it will be because viral misinformation proved harder to contain than the virus itself. [Former U.S. “vaccine czar” Walter] Orenstein thinks the time has come for a new presidential initiative designed to combat not structural barriers to vaccination, but philosophical ones. “I’m sad and frustrated to see people suffering unnecessarily because they just don’t understand the facts,” he says. With better behavioral research, maybe it will be possible to find messaging that works. Because the need to combat vaccine hesitancy is bigger than just the current outbreaks.

“Measles, because it’s so contagious, is an indicator disease,” says Orenstein. “It’s often the first one you see, but it means that other vaccine-preventable diseases are also on the rise.” Measles might be making headlines today, but tomorrow the story could be about something much worse.

“Presidential initiative”? Don’t hold your breath. Actually, do hold your breath. Some of these things are airborne.

The Pentagon admits that it investigates unidentified aircraft sightings, and the New York Post treats this like it’s a huge deal. Here’s what the Pentagon said:

The Department of Defense is always concerned about maintaining positive identification of all aircraft in our operating environment, as well as identifying any foreign capability that may be a threat to the homeland.

The department will continue to investigate, through normal procedures, reports of unidentified aircraft encountered by US military aviators in order to ensure defense of the homeland and protection against strategic surprise by our nation’s adversaries.

Shocking.

While you’re in Detroit for some reason, stop in at Luckenbooth where you can, um, well:

In addition to candles and oils, the occult shop sells items such as organic bulk herbs for drinking and medicinal use, teas, incense, jewelry, crystals and tarot cards — even the penis bones of raccoons, known as a baculum.

They also offer psychic readings.

…so maybe you suddenly realized you have other things you have to do.

Back when our ancestors were mere multicellular blobs during the Ediacaran Period, it seems that the fungus was already among us. Turns out that fungi may have beaten animals to the multicellular threshold by a mile.

Sheffield, Massachusetts has a park dedicated to an alleged encounter with aliens in 1969, UFO Monument Park, which the former director of the Great Barrington Historical Society called “mistake” and a “professional embarrassment.”

Quote of the Day

Hey, remember the Establishment Clause? It’s a thing in the Constitution that people other than us used to care about. Church, state, something-something. Writing about the tidal wave of anti-abortion laws, Linda Greenhouse at the New York Times reminds us it exists:

If the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause means anything, it has to mean that God’s will cannot be a constitutional justification for a law that erases an individual right. …

The Establishment Clause says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” But we don’t hear much about it these days. It has shrunk noticeably at the hands of the current Supreme Court, in contrast to the First Amendment’s other religion clause, the Free Exercise clause, much in favor with today’s majority. …

I’m a realist. There is no chance the Supreme Court will be receptive to Establishment Clause arguments. That’s all the more reason not to lose the Establishment Clause from our working civic vocabulary.

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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