Tagged: anti-science

When do we get back to the Constitution affirming separation of church and state?

Cartoon-Shan-Durango-News

A federal judge Thursday granted a Minnesota auto dealer the right to exclude emergency contraceptives and I.U.D.’s from his company’s employee health plan.

U.S. District Judge Frank Magnuson issued an injunction against the federal government, enabling Hastings Automotive’s primary owner Doug Erickson to remove contraceptives from his company’s plan without facing penalties.

“It’s long been by conviction to run these businesses according to my faith, and I really believe I’m stewarding these businesses and operating them as God would have me operate them,” Erickson told KARE…

Birth control is treated as basic preventive care by the Affordable Care Act, meaning that it must be included without co-insurance in all health plans. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case carved out an exception for faith based organizations and private for-profit companies, accommodating the religious beliefs of company owners.

“The very bottom line here is that we believe that the decision to use birth control is between a woman and her doctor, not her boss,” Jennifer Aulwes of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, told KARE.

Birth control is basic health care for women and 99 percent of women have used it at some point in their lives, so today’s ruling is very troubling for us.”

Jeremy Dys – a lawyer who specializes in representing idjits – contends that emergency contraceptives prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to lining of the uterus, causing what he termed a “chemical abortion.”

The makers of the drugs, on the other had, cite research that shows the drugs prevent ovulation and fertilization, essentially keeping a pregnancy from starting…”if a pregnancy is already established emergency contraception will not affect that pregnancy”.

The idjit judge – relying on the conservative idjits in the Supreme Court – said he wasn’t interested in science or the medical findings on contraception. He was just worried about the religious rights of the car dealer.

About right for law and order in America, today. Any religion receiving any level of recognition can impose their precepts over the rights of their employees – according to the distorted views of law currently supreme over our constitution.

Christian sharia being the accepted standard, of course.

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George Shultz hasn’t gone anti-science with the rest of the Stupid Party


What a rational conservative like Shultz now drives, BTW

As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz faced off against Muammar Qaddafi, the Soviet Union and Chinese communists.

His latest cause, though, is one few fellow Republicans support: fighting climate change.

Two years ago, Shultz was alarmed when a retired Navy admiral showed him a video of vanishing Arctic sea ice and explained the implications for global stability. Now, the former Cold Warrior drives an electric car, sports solar panels on his California roof and argues for government action against global warming at clean-energy conferences.

Living a life powered “on sunshine,” Shultz, at 93, has a message for the doubters who dominate his own party: “The potential results are catastrophic,” he said in an interview. “So let’s take out an insurance policy…”

When Obama announced an agreement on carbon controls with Chinese President Xi Jinping three weeks ago, incoming Senate leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it as an “unrealistic plan” that would boost electric rates and kill jobs.

Shultz, now a distinguished fellow at Stanford University, said the reality was driven home for him during a visit to the California campus by Gary Roughead, the U.S. Navy’s retired chief of naval operations. Roughead shared a time-lapse video of the Arctic ice cap shrinking over the last quarter-century.

That certainly was an eye-opener,” Shultz said in an interview last week in San Francisco, where he spoke at an energy conference. The video showed what Shultz called “new oceans” being unlocked from the ice.

It’s a long article and not much from Bloomberg is going to choose policies considered overtly anti-business by the most reactionary elements in American capitalism. They aren’t dumb enough to tell folks to ignore science either – just say the jury is out and people should try to be open-minded.

Try that on the Flat-Earthers and Know-Nothings.

There is a fair amount of interesting anecdotal stuff from and about Shultz. He is an old-fashioned American conservative; so, he’s willing to examine facts and draw real conclusions – unlike the cloud-cuckoo-land tea party-types like Palin and Cruz.

Thanks, Mike

One more $1-billion-a-year right-wing conspiracy with God on their side


Elena Scotti/The Daily Beast

Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which started Thursday in Orlando, Florida?

Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.

The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest. They’re probably behind that, too…

To be sure, untangling webs of funders, organizations, and campaigns can often feel like conspiracy-mongering. Your brain begins to resemble one of those bulletin boards from A Beautiful Mind or Se7en, full of paranoid-seeming Post-Its and strings. Bruce Wilson has been untangling these webs for years, and sometimes it shows…

But often he’s dead on. And beneath the hyperbole, The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.

Let’s start with the basics. What is The Gathering?

The Gathering is an annual event at which many of the wealthiest conservative to hard-right evangelical philanthropists in America—representatives of the families DeVos, Coors, Prince, Green, Maclellan, Ahmanson, Friess, plus top leaders of the National Christian Foundation—meet with evangelical innovators with fresh ideas on how to evangelize the globe. The Gathering promotes “family values” agenda: opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, and also a global vision that involves the eventual eradication of all competing belief systems that might compete with The Gathering’s hard-right version of Christianity. Last year, for example, The Gathering 2013 brought together key funders, litigants, and plaintiffs of the Hobby Lobby case, including three generations of the Green family.

RTFA for a long, deliberate, detailed, fact-filled description of how religious bigots organize much of the funding for their assorted hatreds. For a religion which purports to be founded on loving your neighbor, the sects fighting for theocracy in America require lots of individual ghettoes to separate out all the people, cultures and freedoms they don’t believe in loving.

Then, hypocrisy ain’t exactly a weak suit among American fundamentalists.

Thanks, Mike

Anti-vaccination nutballs now refusing Vitamin K for their children, as well

Over a single 8-month period, seven infants were admitted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for treatment of either cranial or intestinal hemorrhaging due to vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)…

That report prompted researchers in Canada to investigate local vitamin K refusal rates and predictors.

Of the 214,061 children born in Alberta, Canada, from 2006 to 2011, 0.3% had parents who declined the vitamin K injection after birth, Shannon E. MacDonald, PhD…and colleagues wrote in Pediatrics.

In 2006, the vitamin K refusal rate was 0.21%, but by 2012, that rate increased to 0.39% (P<0.001) of live births.

The highest rates of vitamin K refusal occurred in parents who also refused recommended vaccines throughout the first 15 months of life…

The vitamin K refusal rate for parents who delivered in a hospital was very low, 0.2%, compared with parents who had planned home deliveries, 14.5%…and parents who delivered at a birthing center, 10.7%…

The study authors suggested parental decisions to refuse vitamin K were linked to lack of education and misinformation based on two studies from the 1990s (Golding et al.), which suggested vitamin K injections could increase the chances of developing childhood cancer. Those study results, the Canadians said, were since found to be inaccurate…

Refusal rates have increased in Texas, too. At Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Tiffany McKee-Garrett said that when parents refuse, they team up with the parents’ primary care provider to counsel the family extensively and provide the parents with written materials to educate them about vitamin K.

RTFA for details of other regional studies.

I know I get too cranky for some folks; but, what kind of parent is so dedicated to 14th Century dogma that they’re ready and willing to accept the prattle from long-discredited studies – generally from some 3rd or 4th-hand source – instead of taking the time to read a little science about disease prevention, proven health maintenance.

Rather, they risk the lives of their newborn in pursuit of purity of their soul. No sense or balance IMHO.

Hemp homecoming in Kentucky

Kentucky Hemp Field

Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.

Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.

The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.

Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.

The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department sued the federal government, but dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeds into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.

Since then, test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing – and a potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of traditional uses including clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.

“What we’ve learned is it will grow well in Kentucky,” Comer said. “It yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted.”

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to be grown. But commercial uses are also emerging.

Which goes to prove for the umpteenth time, our government is managed by cowards, fools and idjits.

RTFA for the measured sign of progress back from a half-century of stupid regulation. All based on fear and an absolute rejection of scientific knowledge.

Cripes, people wonder why I’m so “intolerant”. Why should anyone with a modicum of sense and education have to put up with the range of incompetence – from bigotry and racism to abusive laws regulating vegetables – embraced so thoroughly by the lawgivers of this supposed Land of Liberty.

Court rules parents haven’t a right to send their unvaccinated kids to school

In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.

New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.

When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”

All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.

The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Interests, ideology and climate


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.

But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism…

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost…

Think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.

While the general point of my personal blog is commentary upon well-done journalism, my reaction to issues and answers – there is little or no need for that following one of Paul Krugman’s excellent Op-Ed pieces.

Golden rice naysayers ignore nutrition as well as free tech

Recently Zac Goldsmith MP – a former editor of The Ecologist, no less – branded the views of Australian Environment Secretary Owen Patterson as “grotesque” after the minister called anti-GM campaigners “wicked”. Mr Goldsmith stated: GM has never been about feeding the world, or tackling environmental problems. It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations. It’s not wicked to question that process. It is wicked not to.

…Golden rice is a bio-fortified, genetically modified Oryza sativa rice crop that offers a nutritionally enriched staple for those who cannot afford or obtain a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Golden rice can be produced by subsistence farmers in developing countries using varieties adapted to local conditions. Access to the technology is free.

Lack of vitamin A causes blindness and death in over a million children under five that do not have access to a balanced diet, every year. For many their staple diet is rice, but rice does not produce vitamin A in the grain even though it has all the genes necessary to do so (and in fact does so in the leaves).

The inventors of golden rice, Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, worked out how to “turn on” the synthesis of vitamin A in the edible grain itself by inserting two genes, resulting in a rice variety with boosted vitamin A levels. Widespread adoption of golden rice could decrease deaths due to vitamin A deficiency by an estimated 25% or more. This is a result, and a crop, that could not be achieved using conventional breeding.

From the outset golden rice was a public good project governed by the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. Swiss biotech company Syngenta contributed to the project by developing improved varieties in their labs but arranged that any intellectual property associated with golden rice was licensed free of charge to allow the technology to be available to resource-poor farmers who are permitted to save seed.

Yet protestors continue to promote misinformation and destroy field trials. Many refuse to engage in a meaningful dialogue and discuss GM issues on a case-by-case, evidential basis. For the first time since the introduction of GM crops almost two decades ago, developing countries now grow more than industrialised countries, contributing to food security and alleviating poverty in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. The technology is not forced onto growers. Today over 17m farmers in 29 countries grow GM crops.

Virtually all the anti-GM crop opposition I have confronted are little different in substance from so-called climate skeptics. They don’t read a damned thing other than declarations from pundits fitting preconceived notions. Little or no examination of peer-reviewed scientific discussion enters the equation. In the rare instance of a publication accepting an article they can pull useful quotes from – they ignore responses, criticism and contrary proof from scientists.

The science utilized by independent university researchers to create most GM crops is not owned by corporations like Monsanto. It is often patented with provisos for free use or a requirement that any profits be returned to universities to further research. The anti-GM movement has become a religion as damned by know-nothing ideology as the conspiracy-laden crowd of Birthers and Tea Party mousies. Sad to say, that condemns their good intentions to the same cul-de-sac in history as Luddites.

Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong


Same myths stateside as in Oz – same silly anti-science culture

Recently released government figures show levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming re-ignition of “the vaccine debate”…

Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.

1. Vaccines cause autism

Thiomersal or ethyl-mercury was removed from all scheduled childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.

Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving several vaccinations and also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.

2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore

It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as smallpox have disappeared…

The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the current measles epidemic in Wales where there are now over 800 cases and one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR vaccination following the Wakefield scare.

In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success, leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget just how serious these diseases can be.

3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually true, but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work as anti-vaxers will conflate. Remember that no vaccine is 100% effective and vaccines are not a force field. So while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated against, disease severity and duration will be reduced…

So since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be vaccinated, but critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term effects than those who are completely unprotected.

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If you distrust vaccines, you probably believe NASA faked the moon landings

Do you believe that a covert group called the New World Order is planning to take over the planet and impose a single world government?

Do you think the moon landings were staged in a Hollywood studio?

What about 9/11—do you suspect the US government deliberately allowed the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to happen in order to concoct an excuse for war?

If you believe these sorts of things, you’re a conspiracy theorist. That much goes without saying. But according to new research, if you believe these sorts of things, you are also more likely to be skeptical of what scientists have to say on three separate issues: vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change.

The new study, by University of Bristol psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues in the journal PLOS ONE, finds links between conspiratorial thinking and all three of these science-skeptic stances. Notably, the relationship was by far the strongest on the vaccine issue. For geeks: the correlation was .52, an impressive relationship for social science. Another way of translating the finding? “People who tend toward conspiratorial thinking are three times more likely to reject vaccinations,” says Lewandowsky…

As if the new study won’t provoke enough ire by linking anti-vaccine views to conspiracy theories, Lewandowsky also finds links—albeit much weaker ones—between conspiracy theories and both anti-GMO beliefs and climate change denial. On GMOs, the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that “crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.” Accordingly, Lewandowsky’s survey respondents were asked to react to items like “I believe that because there are so many unknowns, that it is dangerous to manipulate the natural genetic material of plants” and “Genetic modification of food is a safe and reliable technology.”

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