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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.

Well, that didn’t take long

Most people will have heard that Felix Baumgarten performed his utterly awesome skydive yesterday, smashing several records along the way – highest balloon ride, highest skydive, and highest ever live streaming from Youtube. You rock, Felix!

Unfortunately, only one day has lapsed before the conspiracy theorists are crawling out of the woodwork and claiming it was faked. No, seriously. Here’s one. For starters, there was very little air at the height he dropped from, so there would be almost no air resistance, and the most it would have got would be roughly standard atmospheric pressure. Also, the speed of sound varies with air pressure and temperature, but more so with temperature. The result of this is that the speed of sound at approximately 23,000 metres, which is when the instruments suggest he broke the sound barrier, is 320 m/s instead of 340 m/s.

Of course, the FAI still has to officially confirm the new records, particularly the speed of sound. And it’s not going to lead to cures for the various types of cancers, or solve climate change or the world’s economy…but so what? He did a damn brave thing, and that alone deserves some respect.

Another lawsuit against Simon Singh…

…some people never learn.

Via Butterflies and Wheels, an “alternative” medicine magazine named What Doctors Don’t Tell You is suing Simon Singh for “libel”. That turned out to be an excellent decision for the British Chiropractic Association.

The Nightingale Collaboration, which basically challenges misleading health claims, has filed 26 complaints with the ASA. They think it’s a record, but when you look at the cover, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they’ve filed so many. Here’s two that stand out from the front cover.

Sunbathe your diabetes away

End your child’s wheezing [asthma] without drugs

And of course, by pointing out that this frankly makes no sense at all and is potentially misleading, Singh is now “the bully”, instead of the person suing him for libel. It’s just like the Burzynski clinic’s attempts to threaten Rhys Morgan, which was a massive backfire as well. When will the Streisand Effect actually start being taught on law courses?

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.

Bishops can’t stop interfering

Orphelia Benson is pretty worked up over something – it turns out that Catholic bishops in the States are conducting an official enquiry into the Girl Scouts.

What. The. Fuck? Why is it any of their soddin’ business?

The new inquiry will be conducted by the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts’ “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and various “problematic” program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops.

No prizes for guessing…these “problematic relationships” apparently include pro-life groups, which the Scouts themselves deny taking any position on, or groups like Medicens San Frontiers who are in favour of emergency contraception; and the “problematic” materials include information on contraception. And then there’s this: they dare to let girls lead!! Oh noes!

“I know we’re a big part of the culture wars,” said the Girl Scouts’ spokeswoman, Michelle Tompkins. “People use our good name to advance their own agenda.”

“For us, there’s an overarching sadness to it,” Tompkins added. “We’re just trying to further girls’ leadership.”

(Emphasis mine)

The thing is, it’s a secular organisation, so it’s not part of the Catholic church. Know what that means? It means that the bishops have no right to stick their bloody noses in and start another little Inquisition. Is it any wonder I’ve come to despise the church in the last few years, or that I’ve started seeing organised religion as being mainly about power? Yes, I’m cynical, but if the comments on the original Yahoo News article are anything to go by, more than a few Catholics are disgusted by this as well.

I found this cartoon here – I think it fits quite well!
St Peter's Basilica

SOPA Mk 3…here we go again!

Do they ever give up? Once again, some members of the US Congress are backing a reincarnation of SOPA. There’s a petition against it here, so go sign that.

Laws like this could politics even dirtier: all you’d need to do would be to leak information that your opponents were engaged in hacking, and they’d be finished! And because they’re worded so vaguely, they’re far too open to interpretation and can then be updated/tightened in increments. Finally, just consider the hypocrisy involved by Western governments in creating such laws: they create them, and then turn around and criticise governments such as China, Iran etc. for censoring the Internet.

You might as well try to shut down /b/ while you’re at it!