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Very Expensive, Deeply Researched, Top-Secret ­Baloney

April 9, 2019

There is a lot of weird today.

The number of U.S. measles cases has now reached 465, with 78 new cases in the first week of April alone. Can you guess why? Via the Post:

“More bad news,” Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said in a Twitter post about the new CDC numbers. “A totally unnecessary and self inflicted wound, and a direct consequence of an aggressive antivax misinformation campaign.”

As I noted in my report from an anti-vaxxer hellscape (aka a hearing on vaccines at the Maine State Legislature), many vaccine opponents have decided to go for the full Godwin by comparing vaccine laws to Naziism. This includes liberal use of the yellow Star of David, which the Anti-Defamation League is not happy about. Via AlterNet:

The ADL quoted its leader, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, as saying, “The Holocaust was a unique event in human history. European Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David by the Nazis as a kind of scarlet letter—a form of persecution and forced exclusion from society. It is simply wrong to compare the plight of Jews during the Holocaust to that of anti-vaxxers.”

Greenblatt added that “groups advancing a political or social agenda should be able to assert their ideas without trivializing the memory of the six million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust.”

Now, Nazis are relevant to a different topic; psychics and the paranormal. Say what? Ben Macintyre at The Australian explores “the Nazi obsession with the paranormal” (even just reading the first three paragraphs will floor you), which turned into a kind of woo-woo arms race, in which various powers attempted to possess, or at least claim to possess, militarized psychics and mediums. “All of this was very expensive, deeply researched, top-secret ­baloney.” It also tells me that the Red Skull and Hydra weren’t too far removed from reality.

Hey parents, the FDA wanted me to tell you, don’t give your babies teething necklaces made of amber. First, the amber releases this acid when heated by the baby’s mouth. Second, the pieces can come off and choke the kid. Third, WHO PUTS SOMETHING AROUND A BABY’S NECK??? Kids are literally being strangled by these things. Oh, and one more warning from the FDA (emphasis mine):

We recommend cold teething rings, or even cold fruits and vegetables, providing they’re the right – the appropriate size – for the child, but no frozen products, and to really steer clear of any homeopathic medications.

Really, people.

Federal agencies have been indicating to the White House that they don’t intend to take part in the Trump administration’s effort to put together a science-denier panel of pseudo-experts to refute climate change. As for the Pentagon? The Post quotes their spokesperson:

“What I can tell you is that the effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to [Defense Department] missions, operational plans and installations,” he said in an email. The Pentagon “will focus on ensuring it remains ready and able to adapt to a wide variety of threats — regardless of the source — to fulfill our mission to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.”

A woman in Indonesia was convicted of blasphemy when she complained that the prayers coming from a mosque’s loudspeaker were too loud. She appealed, and the country’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal without giving a reason. The woman, Meliana, is ethnic Chinese and a Buddhist. But I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.

In Brunei, laws were recently changed to be in line with Sharia, so that gay men can be stoned to death, lesbians can be flogged, and thieves can have their hands and feet cut off. Vacation spot! But at NYT, Mustafa Akyol says they have this all wrong, and cites the Ottoman Empire:

…in the mid-19th century the Ottomans initiated a major Reform (Tanzimat) era … designed to be valid for all Ottoman citizens, regardless of their religion… It replaced all remaining corporal punishments in Ottoman law with prison sentences or forced labor. It also decriminalized apostasy and penalized blasphemy, or “interference with religious privileges,” with only “imprisonment of from one week to three months” (Article 132). … What about homosexuality? The Ottoman penal code didn’t say anything about it. … “It will be observed that unless committed with force” or upon a minor, “sodomy is not a criminal offense under the Ottoman Penal Code.”

Jezebel runs an excerpt from Anna Merlan’s upcoming book Republic of Lies in which the author attends a rally over the conspiracy theory we’d all like to pretend never happened, Pizzagate. You know, the one where Hillary Clinton was running a child slavery ring in the basement of a DC pizzeria. Here she compares Pizzagate to the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s and 90s:

In the case of Pizzagate, the demonic aspect of the plot was enhanced by an additional thread discovered in John Podesta’s hacked emails: “spirit cooking.” Podesta and his brother, Tony, were purportedly attending Satanic rituals conducted by the artist Marina Abramović where guests dined on semen and blood consumed on “earthquake nights.”

Ted Cruz is aiming his smoldering smarm at Yale Law School to stop them from something-something-religious-liberty. He smarmed:

Public news reports indicate that Yale Law School has recently adopted a transparently discriminatory policy: namely, that Yale will no longer provide any stipends or loan repayments for students serving in organizations professing traditional Christian views or adhering to traditional sexual ethics.

Here’s the Yale policy that has Cruz’s cheeks in a flush:

If an employer refuses to hire students because they are Christian, black, veterans, or gay, we will not fund that position.

The speaker of the Cayman Islands’ parliament condemns the head of the country’s Human Rights Commission, James Austin-Smith, for advocating for same-sex marriage rights and for being an atheist:

“He has declared his stand against God, he has declared his stand against the church, against our laws, and now his disgust against members here,” [Speaker McKeeva] Bush said.

“From my standpoint, a declared atheist should never be a chair of such an important body,” he added, suggesting the role should instead go to a young lawyer or church minister.

Mark Horvit at the Missourian reports on the legislative efforts in the state to enact the religious-right Project Blitz playbook, and wow it all seems to be going down easy there.

At Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall reviews and reflects on Harriet Washington’s book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present:

Comprehensive and meticulously researched, it shows that the Tuskegee experiment was not an anomaly; researchers who exploit African Americans have been the norm throughout our nation’s history. Longstanding problems of racism, misguided thinking, and poor science continue to plague our society today.

The racial health divide is undeniable. African Americans don’t live as long. Their infant mortality is twice that of whites. Twice as many develop diabetes. They have the highest rate of cancer and cancer deaths. The reasons for these discrepancies are complex and are largely due to socioeconomic and historical factors rather than racial characteristics.

Quote of the Day

The flat-Earthers are taking a page from the religious right (and, okay, many of them are the religious right), declaring themselves exempt from laws. Only instead of being exempt from secular law, these folks are opting out of spherical-planet law, which really just means they don’t have to pay for train tickets. What? As reported by the Italian news outlet La Provenica Pavice and recounted by Paul Seaburn at Mysterious Universe:

The earth is flat, we are terrapiattisti [flat-Earthers], ambassadors out of every planetary jurisdiction and therefore we don’t pay for the train ticket.

It goes on:

Four adults – three men and a woman – were asked by the conductor at the Pavia stop to present their tickets and they instead gave a laminated sheet stating that they were participating in “self-determination” as “representatives of living countries composed of a single inhabitant” and as such the requirement to pay for public transportation was “an attack on a free State pursued by the International Criminal Court.”

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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.