Romolo Tavani and Carlos Yudica / Adobe Stock

Fist Bumping Asteroids

March 6, 2019

Today in vaccines! The teenager who got himself vaccinated against his mother’s wishes told a Senate committee that his mom got her wacky ideas from—you’ll never guess—Facebook. For the mom’s part, she says, “I didn’t agree with anything [my son] said. They’ve made him the poster child for the pharmaceutical industry.” That’s gotta be a tense household.

Sen. Rand Paul says, in effect, hold my non-fluoridated beer:

It is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines. Even the government admits that children are sometimes injured by vaccines . . . I still don’t favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security.

Amazon, meanwhile, is pulling anti-vax propaganda films from Prime Video. Good.

Yay, New Zealand! You have finally repealed your blasphemy law! Take a bow.

Boo, New Zealand! The city council of Wellington, in an effort to locate buried water pipes, is paying—and I kid you not—a dowser. One resident told Newsroom:

There was this guy in a high-vis vest using dowsing rods. He was stepping out onto the road until they crossed over each other and then bent over and painted an X on the ground. … I was shocked to see dowsing rods being used. I actually asked him who was contracting this work that they were doing. He said it was the Wellington City Council.

Andrew Whalen at Newsweek dispels myths about the carnivore diets championed by figures like Jordan Peterson, reminding us that claims of its extraordinary health benefits are “unevidenced pseudoscience” and have more to do with “right-wing grievance politics” than actual health.

At The Guardian, Tom Hawking says he fell in love with science thanks not so much to teachers, but to YouTubers:

It remains very much open to question whether YouTube is, on balance, a force for good or not. But it’s really heartening to know that there are so many new and engaging resources out there for kids like me, who wanted desperately to understand science, but for whom the way it was taught at school never, for whatever reason, quite clicked.

12 percent of the practicing naturopaths in British Columbia, Canada are under investigation for advertising violations. Considering what they are selling, the number should probably be 100 percent, but we’ll take what we can get.

Gwyneth Paltrow gets the benefit of a puffy New York Times interview in which she briefly addresses the pseudoscience she hawks for profit:

When we were young and not even monetizing the business and just sort of creating content, we didn’t necessarily understand anything about claims. We just thought, “Oh, this is a cool alternative modality, let’s write about it.” Of course we’ve made some mistakes along the way, but we’ve never been prescriptive. We’ve never said, “You should try this,” or “This works.” We’re just saying, “Wow, this is interesting, let’s have a Q. and A. with this person who practices this.” And then that somehow gets translated into, “Gwyneth says you should do this.”

Yeah, I can’t imagine how people could leap to the conclusion that you endorse the products you promote.

As Rep. Ilhan Omar continues to be the source and target of controversy, Steven Waldman at The Atlantic looks at the ugly political phenomenon of dual-loyalty charges against religious minorities. He acknowledges that of course people feel cross-pressures from their religious beliefs…

But dual-allegiance charges go much further than offering a polite disagreement on policy. They imply not only that a group is un-American, but that its adherents have no agency. They cannot be patriotic, because they are thoroughly under the influence of a foreign power or code. And when the spell is being cast by a religion, it is deemed an especially powerful form of mind control. If you’re a good Catholic, you have no choice but to follow the pope. If you’re a good Muslim, you have no choice but to follow Sharia (and therefore support terrorists).

Rewire News rounds up some of the egregious anti-abortion bills churning through state legislatures, including one in Rhode Island(!) which is being championed by Democrats(!!), and another in the same state where Republicans are using secular humanism(!!!) as a reason to defund abortion services. What do you expect when the teeny-tiniest state insists on referring to itself as “The Ocean State” (really, guys?) and has the longest state name by far (officially “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”). Compensate much?

21 states are banding together to sue the federal government over its new anti-abortion “gag rule.”

Plus, 58 former generals, admirals, and national security officials are banding together to protest the administration’s efforts to discredit the government’s own climate science findings:

Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security. It is dangerous to have national security analysis conform to politics.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has confirmed Allison Rushing to the Fourth Circuit court, a woman who interned for the fiercely anti-gay hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Donald McNeil at the Times profiles an omushaho wekishaka—a “traditional healer”—in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Samuel Muriisa thinks he is ready for Ebola, but he is not,” writes McNeil. Also:

For seriously ill patients, [Muriisa] has two tests to predict whether he can cure them. One requires balancing a small horn on a vertical stick; the other involves boiling a soda bottle full of green liquid to see if it changes color. …

… the spiritual aspect of his power, Mr. Muriisa explained, comes from an ancient African god named Kazoba Nyamahanga (which means “little sun god” in Rukiga). Kazoba, he said, sends villagers dreams indicating who their next healer will be, and grants the chosen one the power occasionally to predict the future.

Yeah, they’re screwed.

Here’s something you don’t see every day: A doctor who had been on trial for sexual harassment is getting a whole new trial because a juror from the first trial expressed that they were bothered that he didn’t put his hand on the Bible when sworn in. The accused doctor, one Abbas Husain, is a Hindu.

I do not like Marc Thiessen, who in my opinion is almost a parody of a token hard-right op-ed columnist. Except that he works for the Washington Post. Anyway, all that said, I can’t disagree with him when he tells his fellow Catholics to use Lent as an opportunity to deny any donations to the bishops, and instead give to other charities:

Give them what you would normally give to the bishops. Give more. But until church leaders cleanse themselves of the stench of corruption, boycott the bishops.

Cardinal George Pell has, as you know, been convicted of sexually abusing kids. Gemma Bath at Australian outlet MamaMia rewinds back to 2014 when Pell was on a TV panel with our own Richard Dawkins, and things got AWKWARD:

Dawkins answers first, and then it’s Pell’s turn.

Pell starts; “I remember when I was in England we were preparing some young English boys…”

He is interrupted by hushed boos and awkward chuckles and claps from the crowd.

“Preparing them for..”

He is interrupted again by more booing. Almost like the audience is warning him… aren’t you going to stop, and correct yourself?

At Skeptical Inquirer, Sadri Hassani explains why “E-Cat,” another branding for cold fusion, is a load of hooey.

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop infamy agrees to a legal truce with the state of Colorado. The state’s civil rights commission said:

The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them. Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws.

Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 just kind of fist bumped the Ryugu asteroid.

Don’t worry, folks. Scientists are doing training exercises to prepare for world-ending asteroid collisions. To be clear, we’re not even close to being ready for anything like that.

Quote of the Day

Nico Lang at The Daily Dot takes Joe Biden to task for calling Mike Pence “decent,” as well as Pete (wait let me look up again how to spell this name) Buttigieg for calling Pence “a super nice guy”:

With all due respect to our maybe future gay president, that’s like saying Hitler was a great hugger. …

… Pence may seem genial enough if you’re both wealthy, white men forced to engage in polite chit-chat once a year when you both wind up on the guest list for a billionaire megadonor’s nephew’s bris. But to LGBTQ people singled out by his uniquely destructive policies, Pence is a square-jawed doomsday missile with a mommy complex and a cheap haircut.

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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.