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With an Effort of Thought

April 5, 2019

The uncontested top story of the day—nay, the decade—is that the Russian military now has super-soldiers with psychic powers. Oh, yes. The Russian Ministry of Defense’s journal, Army Collection, published a scientific(покашлять, покашлять) paper detailing this horrible new reality in which we all live under the thrall of our Russian Psychic Super-Soldier Overlords. Popular Mechanics reports:

[Paper author Colonel Nikolai] Poroskov claims the technology can also help Russian soldiers master foreign languages and locate ambushes, warehouses, and enemy weapons caches.

The paper itself claims:

With an effort of thought one can, for example, crash computer programs, burn crystals in generators, eavesdrop on a conversation, or interrupt television and radio transmissions.

Experiments like these were successful: reading a document lying in a safe, even if it was in a foreign language the person did not speak; identifying individuals belonging to a terrorist network; identification of potential candidates for terrorist groups.

And this is mostly based on the Russian military’s work in weaponizing dolphins. YES, REMEMBER THAT? I told you this was big. Meddling in our elections was nothing compared to the legions of armed-dolphin-riding psychic super-soldiers coming for us.

Meanwhile, Uri Gellar says he bent the pipes in the UK Parliament with his mind powers in order to stop Brexit. Which I think makes him a terrorist?

We’ve got a new action alert out, asking you to contact your congress-folk and tell them to support the Equality Act.

Kathie Obradovich, opinion editor for the Des Moines Register, unloads on the GOP/Christian right’s push to equate freedom of religion with the freedom to discriminate:

…too many GOP lawmakers equate religious liberty with freedom to exclude people from public venues who don’t conform to their religion. That’s why they keep trying, despite overwhelming opposition from the business community, to pass legislation to let business owners discriminate against potential customers who offend their religious sensibilities.

President Trump apparently thinks that the noise from wind turbines causes cancer. Yes, this not only came from the mouth of a sentient adult human, but one that other humans elected as their leader. GOP Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, who you could be forgiven for forgetting he was still alive and serving in the Senate, said Trump’s assertions “were, first of all, idiotic.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is running a new initiative to impose a political cost on President Trump and other climate change-denying (or ignoring) politicians. Kerry, if you recall, is the guy who signed the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement that Trump tore up.

Vice News Tonight on HBO reports on the celebrity psychic industry, and talks to skeptic mentalist Banachek about the schemes employed by fake psychics like Tyler Henry, noting that it’s the fraudster’s use of empathy that is their most powerful trick.

Newly published video from CSICon 2018 has James Alcock helping arm ourselves against misinformation and propaganda.

According to a new poll, 70 percent of Americans would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay president. I actually find that number still disappointingly low, and then you’re reminded that only 85 percent are okay with a woman president (the remaining 15 percent I assume are posting on r/theredpill), and you realize that we are a nation of disappointments.

Pete Buttigieg said, “It is hard to look at this president’s actions and believe that they’re the actions of somebody who believes in God,” and, when pressed, isn’t sorry for questioning the president’s faith. “I work very hard to make sure when we oppose this president we’re not emulating him, but we do need to call out hypocrisy when we see it.” This is not worth it, Pete.

The Mormon church says that the children of same-sex couples can now be baptized and that same-sex marriage itself is still a “transgression,” but not “apostasy.” Wow, how progressive!

Plus, the LDS church is also changing its official URL (like we did with Skeptical Inquirer!) to, which is making other Christian denominations pretty angry.

Susan Page, working on a biography of Barbara Bush, discovers a sort of diary entry in which the late former First Lady wrestles with the question of abortion:

“When does the soul enter the body is the #1 question,” she wrote. “Not when does life begin, as life begins in a flower or an animal with the first cell. So the question is does the life begin (soul entering the body) at conception or at the moment the first breath is taken? If the answer to that question is at conception, then abortion is murder. If the answer to that question is the moment the first breath is taken, then abortion is not murder.”

Nebraska’s climate science-denying governor Pete Ricketts urges Nebraskans to pray in order to mitigate the damage caused by flooding and blizzards. That should do it.

Guess what: homeopathic nosodes (the fake-medicine alternative to vaccines) don’t work. They checked.

CFI volunteer Nick Harding, tabling at the Centering the Margins conference put on by LGBTQ Humanists, “wins” the award for “most literature on one table.” We at CFI take our pamphlet game SERIOUSLY.

You may have heard that Trump wants to appoint former pizza magnate, accused sexual harasser, creepy smiler, and Pokémon plagiarist Herman Cain to the Fed board. Among his many other problems, Catherine Rampell reminds us of this feather in Cain’s cap:

…Cain spent the years following his failed presidential campaign spamming his email followers with snake-oil scams, promising “weird tricks” that would make his followers get rich quick or “naturally” cure their erectile dysfunction. Of course, such grifting might enhance Cain’s candidacy in Trump’s eyes, but it hardly bodes well for a man seeking to join an institution with consumer protection duties.

Quote of the Day

Elfy Scott at The Guardian, infuriated by anti-vaxxers and flat-Earthers, nonetheless urges empathy over smugness from skeptics:

It’s interesting that for a scientific community so perennially pleased with itself, we all seem to be making the same fundamental attribution error by ignoring the notion that belief in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories is propelled by external pressures of fear, confusion and disempowerment. Instead we seem too often satisfied with pinning the nonsense on some bizarrely flourishing individual idiocy. …

…we all understand what it means to be scared in 2019, and while we’re sure as hell not required to respect pseudoscience, we should at the very least be able to understand how the fear can make a person’s belief system so awry.

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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.