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Guilty of not correctly predicting an earthquake

No, seriously. A group of scientists and a government official in Italy have been sentenced to 6 years for not predicting the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila. One has even said “I still don’t understand what I was convicted of”.

All I can say is “What the ACTUAL Fuck?” Earthquakes are inherently unpredictable. You might as well sue meteorologists for not accurately predicting every hurricane’s trajectory or strength! Even if they were predictable events, there would be nothing a human can do to stop it. And if they had predicted it, but it hadn’t happened, they’d be slammed for “spreading alarm”.

There IS an appeal in the works, but I still suspect this will just harm Italian scientists. Bel lavoro, Italia! You’ve just sent the wrong message entirely.

Apples’ logo is blasphemous

according to an ultra-Orthodox sect in Russia. Apparently, the bite out of an apple in their logo represents “original sin”. From the article:

Radical orthodox Christians from Russia remove Apple logotype from the company’s products and put a cross sign instead of them. The orthodox find the half-bitten apple logotype anti-Christian and insulting their belief, something that may potentially cause serious problems for Apple’s products in the country.

Interfax news-agency reports about “several” cases, where the radical orthodox, including priests, swapped the Apple logo for an image of the cross, the symbol of Jesus Christ. According to the ultra-radical orthodox activists, the bitten apple symbolizes the original sin of Adam and Eve and is generally anti-Christian. It is unknown whether the radical orthodox consider the logotype as insulting, but it looks like they do.

I don’t use Apple products, mainly because they’re a bit expensive, but this is bloody ridiculous. They’re getting worked up over a piece of fruit with a bite taken out of it and are demanding that the company change to a logo that fits their beliefs. Frankly, that’s a load of fermented leprechaun piss, especially since just about every religion’s tenents are, to some extent, blasphemy to each other. So, if the blasphemy law that the Duma are debating does become enshrined in law, would they bring charges against Apple? Would they sue anyone who doesn’t follow their beliefs exactly?

Cases like this are exactly why blasphemy legislation is such bullshite. Perhaps I should start a religion whose central claim is that vegetarianism is blasphemous and start bringing charges against veggies and vegans? Liek oMg It goes against my beliefs!!1!!!1!!!1!!!

Thunderf00t’s credibility has dried up

I’ve stayed out of the whole Thunderf00t affair until now. However, I am simply not going to after what he’s just done: he hacked into a private backchannel on Freethoughtblogs and stole confidential emails, before forwarding them on to other people.

One of the people on FTB who was affected is Natalie Reed. In her post here, she explains why this sort of thing isn’t acceptable:

Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.

It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safety from those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.

She is a very brave person to even bring herself to talk of such things. But this is just one reason that email list was confidential, and there are plenty more.

Jason Thibeault has the technical details and evidence. Basically, the server program they were using never expires an invitation ticket, and the original confirmation email still allows you to log back in without informing the admin. I’m not an IT expert, but that seems like a big flaw in the software they were using, and I’ll have to keep a note of that for future reference.

This seems like as good a place as any to reiterate my opinion on pseudonyms. I do this myself on other sites, so I have no problem with people using them, as long as they don’t involve bigotry or unless those people create a second one to support themselves – in short, I tend to apply the Golden Rule. However, even if you use a pseudonym, I believe people should be held accountable for what they say, which is why I ask people for an email address when commenting.

This sort of thing is just not acceptable, and by doing so, Thunderf00t has lost any credibility and support he may have had with me. It’s one thing to publish an email sent to you that contains threats if you explicitly state that you will, but private ones between other people who may be discussing technical issues, or simply be bouncing ideas off each other for an event or even a joke like a massive April Fool’s Day prank earlier this year, are off-limits. What Thunderf00t did here was utterly wrong, and in fact it leads me to suspect he has almost no empathy for other people, given that he was threatened with it himself a while ago. Jen McCreight’s finishing paragraph on her post is right on the money:

How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?

On blasphemy

Via Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels, the Archbishop of Bamberg has declared that religions deserve legal protection against scorn and derision – or laws against blasphemy.

I don’t generally blaspheme in daily life, simply because I can’t be bothered. However, I do not like the idea of somebody being arrested for insulting one particular god – I don’t see anyone being arrested or threatened for saying Thor doesn’t exist, nor the Greek deities. Blasphemy is an outmoded concept that doesn’t belong in the 21st Century – or other any time, for that matter. To go back to a previous post, why do the followers of any religion that involves the worship of an omnipotent god, that isn’t going to be hurt by a joking remark on the web or in meatspace, get so worked up when somebody makes said joke?

And of course, guess what happens if you give religion privileges like this? For starters, you get the Inquisition, or crusades and other “holy” wars. Or people trying to get society to use backward punishments like stoning for crimes such as adultery, or “exorcisms” that end up being lethal. And then there’s always counter-productive and ineffective policies like abstinence-only sex education – which would only work if the entire world suddenly became asexual. Why should it be a crime to point these out?

The Bamberg Archbishop doesn’t seem to realise that freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you like without fear of being criticised, especially if what you say makes no sense to somebody. Even more so if somebody is going to get hurt by what you’ve just said.

This. Is. Not. Acceptable!

I found this video via Lousy Canuck, and it is appalling. Amnesty International put together a video of what being hooded and tortured would be like. Just watch the video (unless you have undergone torture like this, in which case I am adding a trigger warning):

This. Is. NEVER. Acceptable!
If you think it is, like one shithead who commented by saying “America should do this to all foreign people”, then why don’t you volunteer as a test subject?

Social services considering an exorcism – in the name of child protection?

I found this via the blog of Maryam Namazie: the social services in Islington seriously considered sending a child back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for an exorcism. Yes, that’s right, for an exorcism.

Exorcisms are a load of shite. I don’t care if people believe them or not; what I do care about is people being harmed because they’re “possessed” by a supernatural entity for which the only evidence is a person who is behaving strangely, when said strange behaviour is far more likely to be be the result of an epileptic seizure, or being schizophrenic or autistic. Here’s a section from the article I linked:

The deliverance that the boy was to undergo would have involved starving him of food and fluids for three days.

At the end of the fasting period, he would be surrounded by the deliverance team who would pray over him and command the evil spirit to be cast out of the child. When deliverance takes place, the child vomits up the “sorcery bread” that has been infecting him.

Dr Hoskins also met the pastor from the Pentecostal church attended by the grandparents, who warned that if the evil spirits were not dealt with, they would cause “strife, illness, divorce, hardship, poverty and death”.

The pastor claimed that the boy would have sorcery tools to perform magic with, such as mirrors, brushes, sticks and string, and warned that these would have to be confiscated.

Dr Hoskins asked whether the boy would be beaten, and was assured that this was not part of the normal deliverance process. However, when he was presented with a boy who had recently undergone the ordeal, he found the child “scared and traumatised”.

Starving a child for three days sounds like child abuse to me. And it gets worse: in that article, the expert they sent mentioned that some children are beaten, shaken repeatedly, have chilli pepper rubbed into them or even being cut with razor blades. That is definitely abuse, and it should be called out as such, regardless of the religion: whether Pentecostal, as in this case, or Catholic or any other form of Christianity, or Judaism or Islam…I don’t care what it is. The right to freedom of belief or disbelief ends when it starts to hurt somebody else.

Bleach does NOT “cure” autism!!

I found this via Orac at Respectful Insolence: using “Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS) as a “cure” for autism. Which is, quite simply, industrial strength bleach, as covered by Rhys Morgan during Bleachgate.

Okay, stay calm…no.

WHAT. THE. FUCK. IS. WRONG. WITH. THESE. PEOPLE?!?!

What sort of arsehole do you have to be to feed a child bleach in order to “cure” them something that is not even a disease? Or even worse, giving them an enema from this shite? How does this not count as child abuse?

The impression I’ve developed of the “cure autism” crowd is that they think they’re broken, brain-dead and not entirely human – having Asperger’s, like I do, apparently doesn’t count – and therefore, harming them with industrial strength chemicals is justified, as far as they’re concerned.

Maybe I’m biased, but why should autism be “cured”? It is not a fucking disease, it is a fundamentally different wiring of the brain. Yes, it does have some negative side-effects, such as the lack of social skills, digestion and sensitivity problems, but they can be solved without actually harming the person – which is light-years better than the people who advocate this stuff.

There’s only one word for it: horrifying.