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An Aggressive Yank

August 26, 2020

New York Times: Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, is still in custody for blasphemy and no one has seen him since his arrest. Plus, “Other nonbelievers are worried that these same lawyers are drawing up a list of other Nigerian atheists to be prosecuted and that more arrests may be coming.”

Rare good news: The Virginia House Committee on health (narrowly) rejected a ridiculous religious-exemption bill to let people off the hook for state-declared emergency vaccinations. Many thanks to all those who took part in our action alert about this.

This is unexpected: A federal judge is putting the breaks on the DeVos plan to favor private schools for pandemic relief funds.

Paul Waldman says the Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal won’t hurt Trump with evangelicals (I never thought it would): “Their support of Trump isn’t grudging; it couldn’t be more enthusiastic. They see Trump as their champion.”

Jerushah Duford, granddaughter of Billy Graham, describes an evangelical movement overtaken by Trump, causing a “spiritual tug” on the conscience. “The gentle tug became an aggressive yank.” Ouch.

Speaking of aggressive yanks, Trump ally Mary Ann Mendoza was pulled from her RNC speaking slot at the last minute when she promoted a QAnon tweet-thread about an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

PRRI’s Jenna Reinbold: Gorsuch thinks “the U.S. has not gone nearly far enough in its protection of religious Americans. … [He] pushed his colleagues to view the longtime practice of denying direct government funding to overtly religious activities as a betrayal of the free exercise clause.”

OK so remember how a guy had COVID-19 and then got infected again? It’s not as bad as it sounds, says Vox: “The man was not symptomatic during his second infection, which shows that his immune system did respond to the virus.”

While being investigated for fraud with fake COVID-19 cures, Jim Bakker’s ministry got as much as $1.7 million in PPP funds.

Folks who know better are apparently agog at the FDA’s Stephen M. Hahn claiming that blood plasma treatments reduced deaths by 35 percent. A guy who worked on the relevant study says this is a gross misrepresentation.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We’re not just battling the virus. We’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response.”

“Immunity boosting” against COVID-19 is not. a. thing.

Wendy Grossman at Skeptical Inquirer: Beware polygraphs and “algorithmic decision making systems” in criminal justice. “Both downplay the role of the human in the loop; both are effectively opaque in operation.”

Ugh. The Columbus Dispatch reports on how police are taking seriously psychics’ “dreams and visions” in a missing persons case.

Despite everything else going on, concern about climate change among Americans is going up rather significantly. NYT: “In 2015, the group [who feel it is most important] was 13 percent of the population. By 2020, it had nearly doubled to 25 percent.”

A UFO in the DRC turns out to be a Google internet balloon.

I wish I was kidding about this press release from Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter about a VR experience: “Ham, who appears as a hologram at the beginning and end of the program…” Stop right there.

Reminders! TONIGHT: CFI Insider looks at the role of freethought and secularism in the women’s suffrage movement.

TOMORROW: Carol Tavris talks about cognitive dissonance in the pandemic era on Skeptical Inquirer Presents.

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.

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.