Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Wacky World—1/1/2012

There's been a running debate over this for centuries but it's now official–Europeans can thank Columbus for bringing home syphilis. Meanwhile, I've been waiting for a good take-down to turn up before mentioning the passing of this colossal charlatan:
'Sathya Sai Baba died in April 2011 after illness due to respiratory and kidney problems. He was a “living god” for nearly forty million people worldwide, and his believers have credited him with resurrecting the dead and healing the sick. To his Hindu followers, Baba was an avatar, or an incarnation, of a god who performed miracles, including materializing jewelry and vibuthi (holy ash) out of thin air. With schools in more than thirty-three countries and educational programs in 166 countries, Baba became a global figure despite having left India only once (to visit Uganda in 1968). His supporters, including high-profile Indian politicians and American businessmen, proudly celebrated his mystical feats and humanitarian efforts. But his critics denounced him as a fraud for decades, claiming his feats were common magic tricks. Later, former followers accused him of child molestation, after which the U.S. government issued travel warnings to its citizens about the allegations.'

Late-nite TV has lost one of its bigget assholes:
"Kevin Trudeau, the king of too-good-to-be-true late-night TV scams, must pay $37.6 million in fines and restitution after he ignored an FTC order to stop making infomercials."
Thus ends a 13 year legal saga. (Business Insider)

Meanwhile, there's serious trouble in James Randi's world:
"Mystery has shrouded Alvarez’s true identity since he was arrested under the name “John Doe” at Randi’s Plantation home on Sept. 8. The legal predicament swirling around Alvarez also raised questions in skeptic circles and beyond: How much is known by Randi, whose very reputation as a truth-seeker may now be jeopardized?"
Rather disturbing. I'll withhold judgement until all the facts come out, if ever. (Dispatches From The Culture Wars)

Remember the 2008 election? The one with the nig-, uh, black guy? Boy were we all mesmerized:
"Obama is not just using subliminal messages, but textbook covert hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming techniques on audiences that are intentionally designed to sideline rational judgment and implant subconscious commands to think he is wonderful and elect him President. ...The polls are misleading because some of Obama’s commands are designed to be triggered only in the voting booth on November 4th.
✂. . .
This document contains over 60 pages of evidence and analysis proving Barack Obama’s use of a little-known and highly deceptive and manipulative form of “hack” hypnosis on millions of unaware Americans, and reveals what only a few psychologists and hypnosis/NLP experts know."
Paranoid navel gazing with lots of NLP woo to boot. Reads like a 66 page sleeping pill. The host site is run by a bunch of religious nutters who sell food to survivalists. And they have links to Kent Hovind videos. (Internet Grocer)

"...when the pagan lay leader at the Academy was looking for a suitable site for a worship area, he realized that there already was one — the circle of boulders that had been moved to the top of the hill during the erosion control project. All that needed to be added to the already existing site to turn it into a worship area was some flagstone to make a floor and a small altar in the center of the circle. So, no, the Academy’s outdoor worship area didn’t cost anything even close to $80,000. The only other significant expense has been the installation of security cameras, made necessary when some nice Christians decided to send a message by placing a large wooden cross at the site. (Anyone seeing a need for that religious respect training?)"
This Week In Christian Nationalism

'The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot length of linen cloth that bears a stylized picture of a bearded man. Legend holds the Shroud to be a burial cloth wrapped around the Biblical Jesus following his execution. This linen was allegedly flash-imprinted with an image of Jesus during his miraculous resurrection, presumably by an intense burst of energy released under such circumstances. The case for fraud has been strong since the 14th century, but enthusiasts insist on rolling that wheel ‘round again. According to news reports this week, Italian scientists used an infrared CO2 laser to scorch images onto cloth and ”conducted dozens of hours of tests with X-rays and ultraviolet lights” in an effort to prove that the image could be created by a burst of electromagnetic energy'
I really like the third comment. (eSkeptic)

"New York Attorney Eliott Dear was pulled over for going 84 in a 55 mph zone and given a ticket. He tried to fight the ticket by claiming that the officer had called him a “Jew kike.” He didn’t know that the entire situation was recorded by the dashboard video camera in the car and by an audio recorder on the officer’s uniform."
Dispatches From The Culture Wars

'Well, members of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners wondered why the county needed a snow cone machine. They wanted to know the justification for its purchase. According to an article in The Daily News, “The Michigan Homeland Security Grant Program’s Allowable Cost Justification document, dated May 9, 2011, says the snow cone machines can make ice to prevent heat-related illnesses during emergencies, treat injuries and provide snow cones as an outreach at promotional events.”'
Turley's Blog

"Every evening I first pray for there to be power -- and then I pray that the grasshoppers will come." Stripped of their wings and fried with onions, grasshoppers are a delicacy in Uganda's central region -- gobbled up by the handful and washed down with beer in bars around Kampala. This time of year should be peak season for the insect catchers but Turyamugumya -- who uses bright lights to attract the flying insects before disorientating them with smoke and trapping them in disused oil drums -- says that business is tough. "The problem has been power, it is on and off. Like last night, the whole night it was off"
France 24

A Kentucky woman says special education teachers put her autistic 9-year-old son inside a net ball bag as punishment at his school. ...she was called to her son's elementary school on December 14, because he was being unruly. "I saw a big green bag with the drawstring pulled and the (teacher's) aide sitting next to him," Baker said. "As I approached the bag, I heard Christopher say, 'Who's out there?' "

Here's an example of a comment that's arguably better than the article itself:
"My observations are that most of these sprain and strain musculoskeletal pain patients seem to act as though they have won the lottery. They usually have an attorney by the time they get to my office, and often have begun a large series of chiropractic treatments with associated modalities in that office, like massage and electrical stimulation, etc. Since exceeding the 10,000 dollar threshold allows a lawsuit for big damages within the tort system, there seems an effort on behalf of the patient, chiropractor, and attorney to get past that threshold. The patient seems to get that permanent injury is more lucrative in settlements than temporary symptoms, and the distinct impression in most cases is that the patient is clinging tenaciously to their pain and refuses to let it go. Herein lies a fertile bed for 10,000 dollars of placebo treatments and a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. Some patients describe being referred to a high profile personal injury attorney by the towing service which hauled off their car, then the attorney refers them to one of several chiropractors who seem to work with the PI attorneys. 
After the 10,000 dollar PIP threshold is exceeded, the chiropractor seems often willing to opine serious permanent injury in legal proceedings, often bolstered by MRI studies, which are usually abnormal in some aspect, since a normal MRI of the spine or shoulder is unusual in most adults, and the persistence of subjective pain along with abnormal imaging is cited as evidence that permanent injury occurred due to the accident in question."
Science-based Medicine