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I Have Good News and I Have Bad News. Mostly the Latter.

May 15, 2019

Bad news, but tragically unsurprising: Alabama is about to ban just about all abortions. NYT:

The legislation bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors, who could be charged with felonies and face up to 99 years in prison. It includes an exception for cases when the mother’s life is at serious risk, but not for cases of rape or incest — a subject of fierce debate among lawmakers in recent days.

And yes, the bill’s supporters know it will be challenged in court:

…it was drafted with exactly that in mind. The ban’s architects, reflecting the rising confidence of abortion critics nationwide after the appointment of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, hope that the justices will use the case to reconsider the central holding in Roe and allow the Alabama measure to take effect.

Bad news: Carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached its highest levels in human history, passing 415 parts per million, as the temperature in the Arctic Ocean hit 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Where this measurement was taken, the average temperature for this time of year is supposed to be 54 degrees.

Bad news: Andrew Wakefield, founding father of the antivaxxer movement, was part of a symposium at one of the country’s many measles hotspots, Rockland County in New York, along with other awful fringe figures, for a “highly informative night of science and discussion addressing your concerns, fears, and doubts.” As you might have guessed, it was actually a night of lies.

If you live in California and want to lend a hand in fighting this awful antivaxxer garbage, go to our action alert and tell your state representatives to pass SB-276, a bill to stop doctors from offering up bogus medical exemptions to mandated vaccinations.

But Trump says that we shouldn’t use wind power. No, not because of all the cancer they cause from the noise, which is a thing he actually thinks, but from the massacre of bald eagles, which he also actually thinks:

You want to see a bird cemetery? Go under a windmill sometime. You will see the saddest, you got every type of bird. You know, in California you go to jail for five years if you kill a bald eagle. You go under a windmill, you see them all over the place. Not a good situation.

Bad news: The leaders of an extremist Islamist party in Pakistan who had been arrested for inciting terrorism over the blasphemy acquittal of Asia Bibi, shutting down cities and threatening the lives of judges, have been granted bail.

Bad news: Canada’s La Presse (a French-language outlet) exposes how pharmacies not only sell homeopathic crap, but recommend it to patients, with some even employing naturopaths.

Tara Isabella Burton at RNS looks at the pseudo-religious underpinnings of alt-right hate and violence:

Yes, today’s alt-right is fueled by a combination of backward-looking atavism and pure, unfocused nihilism. But those who have been radicalized on video-game platforms and 4Chan forums have also been lured by a sense of community and purpose in a world that seems increasingly meaningless.

Using tropes common in fascist ideology through history, alt-right groups offer to return the world to a vanished age of mythic warriors, gods and heroes. In doing so, they defeat meaninglessness by rejecting the very possibility of meaning itself. Everything is a joke — even murder.

The nihilism of today’s alt-right, in other words, is both a religion and a rejection of the transcendence that religion holds out as a balm.

Good news: The Maine State Senate gets its head out of its butt for a few precious moments, just long enough to go ahead and pass the bill that ends non-medical exemptions to vaccination requirements. (My painful history with this legislation is well documented.)

Good news: Twitter is issuing warnings about anti-vaccine propaganda and misinformation when users make vaccine-related searches, directing folks to a site run by the HHS.

Good news: The FDA has issued a warning to five companies that make homeopathic fake-medicine “for significant violations of current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) regulations”:

The warning letters issued to Kadesh Inc., U.S. Continental Marketing, Inc., Fill It Pack It, Inc., and Bershtel Enterprises LLC, doing business as WePackItAll, describe failures to conform to CGMP requirements due to improper methods, facilities or controls for manufacturing, processing and packing. These companies jointly manufacture and package Puriton Eye Relief Drops, which are labeled as homeopathic. The FDA tested multiple samples and found these eye drops were non-sterile, which could lead to an eye infection, and had a high pH level, which could lead to eye injury such as glaucoma, corneal scarring and loss of vision. …

… Another warning letter was issued to Newton Laboratories for human drug CGMP and misbranding violations, as well as unapproved new animal drug violations. Some of the company’s products labeled as homeopathic are indicated for treating conditions in infants and children, and they are manufactured from ingredients such as nux vomica, belladonna, aconitum napellus, and gelsemium sempervirents that pose potentially toxic effects.

Good news: Pakistani humanist Hamza bin Walayat, who had been denied asylum because, I kid you not, he didn’t know enough about Plato and Aristotle to legitimize his humanism in the eyes of the UK’s Home Office, has now been granted that asylum.

Good news: New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, signs into law an extension of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims. As you can imagine, “it faced fierce opposition from the Catholic Church.” Meanwhile, three brothers in Minnesota are suing the Vatican itself for how the church handled (or didn’t handle, or mishandled) their cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Good news: 5G wireless technology won’t kill you, most likely.

Nice to see: Point of Inquiry co-host Kavin Senapathy is a guest on France 24 English’s The Debate to bring her expertise to a panel discussion on the safety of glyphosate in farming.

Nice to see: Lee McIntyre, author of the new book The Scientific Attitude, writes in Newsweek about how he begins to chip away at anti-scientific mindsets:

It is going to be a long process to talk to science deniers. They won’t be convinced by evidence because their views are not based on a rational way of responding to evidence in the first place. Of course I didn’t convince the speaker, or anyone else over my 48 hours at FEIC 2018. But I did do one important thing that might have affected their belief. I showed up.

Nice to see: Tampa, Florida’s Fox affiliate does a positive little profile of a humanist celebrant, Virginia Lieberman.

Nice to see: Students at Stevens High School in South Dakota find a creative way for the school board to get around the stupid-ass requirement that public schools display a sign saying “In God We Trust.” See for yourself:

Quote of the Day

Den of Geek! interviews actor William B. Davis, best known as the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files, who is now playing Methuselah on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I only mention this because of this:

DEN OF GEEK: I know you speak at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. So I wanted to ask, do you believe in magic?


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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.