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A Small Hiccup

November 13, 2019

Humanists International releases its latest Freedom of Thought Report, “a unique worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists and the non-religious.”

You want to support freedom of scientific thought here at home? Tell your congress-folks to back the Preserve Science in Policymaking Act, which is also a really good way to honor Carl Sagan, whose birthday was November 9.

Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten is a huge part of the mayor’s campaign, but as The Post reports, Chasten is dealing with anti-gay hostility from some in his own very religious family, just as Pete is trying to build bridges to religious voters.

The FBI releases its annual report on hate crimes, showing a tiny decline (1 percent) in total hate crimes committed in 2018 compared to 2017. Out of the 1500 or so offenses committed with a religious motivation, the majority were anti-Jewish.

Tomé Morrissy-Swan at The Guardian tries to get at whether there’s anything to chiropractics. It’s hard to believe that in 2019 we still need this explained to us, from Michael Marshall of the Good Thinking Society:

There is no reason to believe there’s any possible benefit from twisting vertebra. There is no connection between the spine and conditions such as deafness and measles.

And yet.

Mark Silk looks at the conservative backlash against Pope Francis within the Catholic Church, and recommends referring to this faction as “Fundamentalist Catholics” for sharing so many qualities with their evangelical counterparts.

Many California churches are looking to adapt church property for affordable housing, calling the initiative YIGBY, “Yes in God’s Backyard.”

In the UK, One Law for All and Southall Black Sisters will protest outside an appeals court for the case of Akhter v Khan, concerning a woman’s right to void a marriage within a religious community. The protest intends to “let the government and the public know that minority women will not tolerate being trapped in marital captivity and treated as subjects of their so called religious communities rather than as citizens with equal rights.” Their statement explains:

…if the appeal is successful, the consequences for minority, especially Muslim women, will be profoundly discriminatory. Christian women in a similar situation would be able to have their marriages declared ‘void’, and thus have access to financial remedies from the courts, but women who have married in another religious system, may not.

Popular Mechanics seems pretty interested in this whole 2004 Navy/UFO thing, running a piece with new, allegedly-eyewitness accounts:

“What really made this incident alarming was when a Blackhawk helicopter landed on our ship and took all our information from the top secret rooms,” the witness says. “We were all pretty shocked and it was an unspoken rule not to talk about it because we had secret clearances and didn’t want to jeopardize our careers.” …

… Nick Cook, the former aviation editor for Jane’s Defense Weekly, says there are a number of reasons why personnel might have boarded ships and seized electronic data. “It could mean it was sensitive information,” he says. “It could mean this was an exercise.”

Regarding the latter possibility—that this was a secret military test of some sort—Cook, a career defense journalist, says in his opinion it was unlikely this was a classified test. “It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t think it’s likely. It would be so against the norm of my experience with how the black world conducts testing.” … But when pushed, the career aviation journalist, soberly says, “In the balance of probabilities, I don’t think it’s ‘ours’.”

To Popular Mechanics‘ credit, the words “alien,” “extraterrestrial,” and “spaceship” are never used in this piece.

Trump State Department official Mina Chang literally promotes herself with fake news, in the form of a fake Time Magazine cover that she brings to interviews and shows off in public. And that’s not all:

In her State Department biography, which appears to include the same photograph used in the doctored Time cover, Chang claims that she is “an alumna of the Harvard Business School” who has “addressed the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.” A similar bio appears on the website of the think tank New America. She also used her Twitter account for self-promotion — but by Tuesday night, it was offline.

Chang did complete a program at Harvard, but one very different from the prestigious institution’s master of business administration degree. Chang attended an eight-week course known as the “Advanced Management Program,” Brian Kenny, Harvard Business School’s chief marketing and communications officer, told The Post. …

… Her claims about speaking to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions also seem to be false or misleading.

At Scientific American, John Horgan critiques claims by Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham that facial features can predict aggressiveness in men:

The wide-face hypothesis is morally as well as empirically dubious. Especially when combined with facial-recognition technology, this sort of pseudoscience could lead to systematic discrimination. I’m appalled that modern scientists–especially one as prominent as Wrangham–are promoting what is basically a slur about people with a certain physical appearance.

A Trump judicial nominee is likely to get thrown out by the Senate because the guy dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which of course means the judge is on the side of Satan.

The government of Greece decides against pursuing a law to criminalize blasphemy, an idea that was scrapped once before in 2016. The AP reports:

“Only fundamentalist countries in Asia and the Middle East have laws like that,” said Spyros Lappas, a left-wing lawmaker who is the lead representative of his party in the parliamentary debate. “God does not need protection from a public prosecutor.”

Benjamin Radford reviews the film The Lighthouse, which he says is “laden with symbolism—in fact perhaps a little too much of it—with folklore and legend helping give the script its power.”

If you hear a mysterious animal noise from an unidentified creature, it’s obviously evidence of Bigfoot.

I have a cold (because I’m a dad of two kids with a crappy constitution, so of course I do), so I’m thinking of eating a jarful of pennies to cure it. Wait, Steven Novella, you mean that’s not a good idea?

The basic claim that metallic copper kills viruses (and bacteria) on contact is actually true. There are now several studies indicating that copper is a “contact killer” of many microorganisms and potential pathogens. It seems that copper ions released from the surface create powerful oxygen free radicals will destroy cell membranes and DNA. Copper can bind proteins and inactivate them, and interfere with nutrients.

Well there you go! Why are you stopping me from eating these pennies?

My final assessment is that the copper zapper is another “snake oil” type product with unsupported clinical claims. The basic science is real, however, and the idea is not entirely unreasonable, but we would need to do clinical trials to answer all the practical questions I listed above.

Also – the $69.95 price tag, in my subjective opinion, is a rip-off. It’s a piece of copper. If you want to put copper up your nose in the hopes it will save you from a cold, then go onto Amazon or Etsy and buy a small copper rod for 2-3 dollars.

Okay, okay, so, don’t eat the pennies, but maybe keep some up my nose. Why are you looking at me like that?

Sen. Marsha Blackburn thinks she’s quoting Jesus when she misquotes Shakespeare. I find that offensive. [Exit, pursued by a senator.]

Two people in China have the Black Death—the plague. CNN says, “Having caused close to 50,000 human cases during the past 20 years, the plague is now categorized by WHO as a re-emerging disease.” Oh great.

But hey! Maybe scientists have figured out what’s up with hiccups! CNN again:

Although hiccups seem a nuisance, scientists have discovered they may play a crucial role in our development — by helping babies to regulate their breathing.

In a study led by University College London (UCL), researchers monitoring 13 newborn babies found that hiccupping triggered a large wave of brain signals which could aid their development. …

… Scientists found that contractions in the babies’ diaphragms produced three brainwaves, and believe that through the third brainwave babies may be able to link the ‘hic’ sound of the hiccup to the physical contraction they feel.

Kimberley Whitehead, the study’s lead author, told CNN: “The muscle contraction of a hiccup is quite big — it’s good for the developing brain because it suddenly gives a big boost of input, which helps the brain cells to all link together for representing that particular body part.”

So we have that going for us.


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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