A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

Volume 8 No. 4

April 1, 2009

"...on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom." -Michel de Montaigne

In this issue

What's new?
Depressing trends
Uplifting trends
Texas education massacre
Atheist-friendly Arkansas?
The need for a papal prophylactic
Heaven can wait
Some questions about God's plan
Science news
Scum of the minute
Quack ads try to keep my daily afloat
Australia's folly

Amazing Meetings: Las Vegas & London

What's New?

There is now an entry for young Earth creationists. I've also added a timeline for the vaccine/autism scare. Reader comments were posted on Wicca Atlantis, the shroud of Turin, and Child's Play: Pretending to be Psychic. In the latter, my response is an attempt to explain how cold reading and subjective validation can fool sincere and honest people.

Since the last newsletter, there have been several Skeptimedia posts: on children who pretend to be psychics, on fraud and bias in medical research, on the latest tool to be given the (not prestigious) Templeton prize for advancing knowledge of spiritual realties, and on the question of whether atheism is a religion (it isn't). (Note: the Junior Skeptic section of the latest issue of Skeptic magazine features a detailed account of how Ian Rowland uses cold reading techniques to appear to be psychic. This article could be useful to children who want to pretend to be psychic. It could also be useful to people who want to understand how cold reading works.)

What's the harm? has added an entry on a Brazilian Archbishop who excommunicated both the mother of a nine-year-old rape victim and also the doctors who participated in aborting the child's twin fetuses. Another entry reports on a 19-year-old deranged sex offender who claimed he was performing an exorcism to justify his bludgeoning, biting, and strangling to death a 13-month-old child.

I've revised the Andrew Wakefield entry to provide more details of this scoundrel's devious behavior.

Revisions were also made to the New Age energy page to include more details about quack healing devices that claim to do various things with "energy" to promote health. The atheism page was revised to include a paragraph about the attempt to frame atheism as "weak" and "negative."

Updates were made to the following:

NCCAM to add a link to an article about scientists who want Obama to end funding pseudoscience at the NCCAM; this link is directly above a link to Sen. Tom Harkin's website where he leaves no doubt that pseudoscience will not be eliminated on his watch;

complementary medicine to add a link to a report from the American Hospital Association that says more than 37% of hospitals now offer complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and massage therapy—up from 26.5% in 2005;

straw man fallacy to include an argument by Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

reincarnation to include a link to a claim by Dr K S Rawat that he has 500 proven cases of reincarnation;

pareidolia to include a hilarious YouTube video of news reports on Jesus sightings;

vampires to include a link to a story about an excavation in Italy;

atheist bus campaign to include developments around the world on that front;

Inset Fuel Stabilizer to include a link to a story about an Israeli teenager who has come up with an uncannily similar idea;

organic food and farming to include a link to a story that asserts organic farming will not be an answer to the looming global food crisis (I know; what crisis? And did you know that AIDS is caused by global warming?);

urine therapy to include a link to a story about the RSS's attempt to sell bottled cow urine to help in the return to "real India";

detoxification therapies to include a link to a story about Prince Charles's Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture quackery;

intelligent design to include a link to a story about another Discovery Institute proposal that failed (this time in New Mexico);

UFOs to include a link to a story about how the Brits keep records of every UFO report, no matter how silly;

crystal skulls to include a link to Dan Akyroyd's latest stunt (Crystal Skull Vodka; maybe the joke's on us and he's never really been joking about anything);

Skeptimedia on PBS to include a link to an article complaining about another infomercial being promoted as if it were an educational medical program;

anti-vaccination movement to include a link to a story about progress being made once again in Nigeria in the fight against polio;

climate skeptics to include a link to an article by Chris Mooney on responsible journalism and the duties of a critical reader;

criminal profiling to include a link to an article about the hunt for a serial killer in Germany based on the discovery of matching DNA at crime scenes over a 15-year period that turned out to be the DNA of a factory worker where the cotton swabs used in taking DNA samples were manufactured.

Depressing trends

By now you've all heard that psychics are doing a booming business during these hard financial times, but I'll bet none of you have read a journalist who's had the guts to say that psychics are no better than your broker or hairdresser when it comes to giving sound financial advice. The current economic downturn, recession, or depression is doing damage not only to common sense, but to language as well. One man's earmark is another's stimulus package. Or, an earmark is just a stimulus package that you don't like or doesn't benefit you. (Click here to read about a stimulus package in the UK for a pair of "psychics.") If the government gives money to individuals, it's called welfare; if it gives money to banks and corporations, it's called a bailout or an economic stimulus.

Some people are blaming corporate greed for our problems, but it seems apparent that our problems weren't caused by greed or Ponzi schemes or irresponsible risky behavior with other people's money. The current downsizing of the world economy is just making more visible and offensive all the ordinary, run-of-the-mill behaviors of some investors and corporations. We don't really get riled to the point of public protest about million-dollar bonuses or billion-dollar profits as long as we're getting what we want. Still, inquiring minds want to know: why would I borrow millions of dollars to grow my business in the current shrinking market? Why would I spend what money I have on goodies when I've just lost half my retirement nest egg to falling stock prices?

Anyway, those aren't the depressing trends I'm leading up to. Abortions, vasectomies, and suicides are rising as the economy is falling. I'm not going to link to the various stories about suicides, family murder/suicides, or suicide hotlines. You've probably read some of these horrific stories already. One story that captures a small speck of the dark side of the current Depression centers around two third-generation car dealers, Gregory and Randolph Graham. Their grandfather started a Buick dealership in the small western Pennsylvania town of Ligonier (population 1,700) during the 1960s. According to the AP:

Gregory, 61, went out to the dealership lot in the middle of the night last month, set fire to some of his vehicles and died of a heart attack next to the burning wreckage. Then, over the weekend, Randolph, 51, was found dead, slumped over the wheel of his car in what may have been a suicide.

Their once-prospering business now had more than $1 million in state and federal tax liens against it. Sales had plunged. Inventory was low and their credit was gone, not that those made much difference. Even with a full inventory and banks willing to lend them tons of money, there aren't that many customers waiting in line to buy a new Buick, Pontiac, or Jeep in western Pennsylvania these days.

The demise of the Graham brothers didn't happen overnight. The economy has been sinking for two years or more. Yes, and while it was happening MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and others in the media were singing a happy tune and advising us to invest in such things as Bear Sterns. (Hey, if the media isn't going to criticize people for going to psychics, don't expect them to speak badly of the marketplace until they have to. I know. You're wondering what the one has to do with the other. Don't expect the media to do your job for you. Certain politicians aren't likely to be helpful to most of us, either.)

The brothers were described as pillars of the community. One was a church leader. Both were married for more than 20 years, and they had five children between them. Still, they didn't even get a mention on CNBC by Jim Cramer.

Christians declining, non-religious rising in U.S.

The percentage of people who call themselves Christians has dropped more than 11 percent in a generation. Fifteen percent checked "no religion" on the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), conducted last year. The results were based on over 54,000 interviews. Since the last survey of its kind in 2001, the number of atheists has nearly doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 million.* Traditional Christian church membership is declining: non-denominational Christians jumped to over 8 million or 11.8 percent of the population, compared to 5 percent 18 years ago. But even generic Christians are down 0.6 percent from 1990. ARIS paints quite a different picture of religion in America from the pious fraud produced by Baylor University last year. The Baylor study is a paean to religiosity in America masking itself as a scientific survey. Baylor dismisses non-belief as minimal and unimportant.

Journalist Andrew Sullivan calls atheists "a new power in America." The nonreligious are now the third biggest grouping in the U.S., after Catholics and Baptists. We've got more "members" than Mormons or Jews, and look at all the political attention those groups get. Maybe the times are changing. Maybe.

Hey, Texas! Is your children learning?*

Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, has the first review listed on Amazon.com of Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences' Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They're Descended from Reptiles. Robert Bowie Johnson Jr. is the author of this anti-evolutionary tome, available for free in PDF form online. Here is what the leader of education in Texas has to say about Johnson's work:

In the current culture war over science education and the teaching of evolution, Bob Johnson's SOWING ATHEISM provides a unique and insightful perspective. In critiquing the National Academy of Science's (NAS) missionary evolutionary tract, SCIENCE, EVOLUTION AND CREATIONISM, 2008, he identifies their theft of true science by their intentional neglect of other valid scientific possibilities. Then, using NAS's own statements, he demonstrates that the so-called great process of evolution, natural selection, is nothing more than a figure of speech. These chapters alone are worth reading the book. Next, he shows how the NAS attempts to seduce the unwitting reader by providing scanty empirical evidence but presented with great intellectual bullying both secular and religious.

This ignoramus is the leader of education in Texas! McLeroy is recommending Johnson's work to other state board members and to the general public.* I guess he doesn't want them to be left behind when the rapture comes. I wonder if McLeroy is from Waco, where apparently some folks had their righteous dander provoked by Bill Nye's noting that the Moon reflects light from the Sun. Apparently, this contradicts some Texas pinhead's understanding of God's word.

Paul Fidalgo has the story.

update: "Texas science standards wrap up: Yup. Doomed" by Phil Plait ("....creationists are trying to destroy science in Texas. And they’re succeeding. They are imposing their narrow religious and ideological views on reality, and it’s the schoolchildren in the state who will suffer.

And they’re not alone. Think you’re safe from creationist nonsense because you live in Vermont, or Illinois, or Oregon? Think again. Texas is so big and has so many students in it that they have a huge amount of leverage on the textbook industry.")

A setback for science education in Texas (National Center for Science Education) ("At its March 25-27, 2009, meeting, the Texas state board of education voted to adopt a flawed set of state science standards, which will dictate what is taught in science classes in elementary and secondary schools, as well as provide the material for state tests and textbooks, for the next decade. Although creationists on the board were unsuccessful in inserting the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language from the old set of standards, they proposed a flurry of synonyms — such as "sufficiency or insufficiency" and "supportive and not supportive" — and eventually prevailed with a requirement that students examine "all sides of scientific evidence." Additionally, the board voted to add or amend various standards in a way that encourages the presentation of creationist claims about the complexity of the cell, the completeness of the fossil record, and the age of the universe.")

Evolutionary Semantics, Texas-Style (Editorial, New York Times) ("....this was a struggle to insert into the state science standards various phrases and code words that may seem innocuous or meaningless at first glance but could open the door to doubts about evolution....At the end of a tense, confusing three-day meeting, Darwin’s critics claimed that this and other compromise language amounted to a huge victory that would still allow their critiques into textbooks and classrooms.")

Support the National Center for Science Education and the integrity of science education by joining, renewing, or donating.

A very different view of the Texas board's decisions comes from Scientific American:

The Texas Board of Education voted today by a 13-to-2 margin to change controversial language in the state's curriculum, making it harder for creationism to creep into public classrooms. For the past 20 years, the state's curriculum has instructed teachers to present the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, opening the door to nonscientific, faith-based alternatives.

Today's vote strikes the old language and replaces it with instruction to "analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing," according to Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a pro-evolution non–profit based on Oakland, Calif. Other curriculum amendments proposed by social conservatives failed today, according to the Dallas Morning News, including two that called for biology classes to dissect the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of evidence for aspects of evolutionary theory.

The Dallas Morning News had this headline and story:

Texas education board cuts provisions questioning evolution from science curriculum

Social conservatives lost another skirmish over evolution Friday when the State Board of Education stripped two provisions from proposed science standards that would have raised questions about key principles of the theory of evolution.

In identical 8-7 votes, board members removed two sections written by Chairman Don McLeroy that would have required students in high school biology classes to study the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of common ancestry and natural selection of species....

Afterward, a disappointed McLeroy called the board's decisions a blow to science education in Texas....

Friday's votes came a day after social conservatives lost one of their key objectives in the debate over evolution – to require that science teachers and textbooks cover the "weaknesses" of Charles Darwin's theory as well as its strengths. That proposal failed on a 7-7 vote.

Progress in Arkansas?

Gary has informed us that Arkansas State Rep. Richard Carroll has introduced a bill this session to eliminate the constitutional ban on atheists holding office. Carroll is the lone member of the Green Party in the state legislature. He ran in a district where the incumbent Democrat was removed from the ballot when he was convicted of a crime, and no Republican filed to run. Should we pray that Carroll's bill gets the support it needs to pass?

Impeach the Roman Catholic Pope

Pope Benedict XVI's recent blast at condoms being used to prevent AIDS in Africa has led to a call for his impeachment by a Roman Catholic sinner. According to the sinner:

the cardinal sin of the Catholic Church -- a literally deadly sin, if ever there was one -- is its opposition to birth control. Far from being, as the Church contends, part of its moral doctrine, this policy is, plainly, the immoral doctrine of the Church. The use of condoms is a pro-life position.

Indeed it is. Benedict also claimed that condoms are ineffective in preventing AIDS when in fact they have been shown to be 90% effective.*

On the bright side: Benedict did condemn sorcery.

Heaven can wait

There are millions of religious folks who swear that life would be meaningless if they weren't put here for a purpose and couldn't live forever. Yet, when they are at death's door, instead of welcoming the invitation to the other side, these religious folks try to extend their stay in this vale of tears for as long as possible. Why aren't these folks dying to get out of here? According to a recent study, the more pious a person is the more likely he or she is to receive life-prolonging care. Furthermore, several studies have found that people who religiously attend services live longer than those who don't. Maybe their prayers aren't being answered.

I wonder if Catholics were included in the study. Or people who believe in nothing but faith healing? A study in Northern Ireland last year found that Catholics die at a higher rate than five other religious groups. And one study on faith healing concluded: "When faith healing is used to the exclusion of medical treatment, the number of preventable child fatalities and the associated suffering are substantial and warrant public concern." That study found 140 fatalities in children from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%.* A study of Christian Scientists found that they had a significantly higher death rate than a control population.

(The latest issue of Skeptic magazine has an article by Lawrence Krauss on faith healing and child abuse.)

Some questions about God's plan

When you stumble upon an admirable piece of writing that is powerful, brief, eloquent, and logical, you should share it.

In 1997, at the age of eighteen, I was sentenced to nineteen years in prison for murder. Immediately family, friends, chaplains, and fellow prisoners told me that God had put me here for a reason, that I was a part of His plan, and of course, that forgiveness could be found through Him. I was even convinced that God wanted me in prison, that I was meant to be here.

Then I started to ask questions. If I was meant to be here, that means my victim was meant to be murdered. How is that fair to him? Do religious authorities comfort his family by telling them that God had a plan for someone to murder their loved one? If God gave me free will to commit that crime, why did my free will trump my victim’s free will to live? Why do I deserve to be forgiven at all? Why should I regard the Bible as any kind of moral authority anyway?

....biblical morality is an oxymoron because biblical morality is coerced morality.*

Science News

President Obama has issued a statement on the need for scientific integrity to inform public policy. The Bush era is over. Obama has also lifted the ban on federal funding for research on new stem cell lines. Funding for health and science research has increased.

Kepler, a specially designed telescope, has been launched in our quest to get a closer view of habitable planets in nearby solar systems. This was all predicted by Nostradamus and is revealed somewhere in Deuteronomy, I'm sure.

The bad news is that it looks like the national debt will climb to over 9 trillion dollars over the next decade, but that's the price we must pay to keep free trade alive. If this debt were a stack of 1,000 dollar bills, it would extend over 600 miles. (A million dollars in $1,000 bills would be a stack four inches high. The biggest denomination bill you can get today is the $100 bill. So your million will stack 40 inches, while your 9 trillion will stack 6,000 miles high. Or, something like that.)

Finally, our neighbors to the north have a federal Science Minister named Gary Goodyear who is a chiropractor. That's not the problem, however. When asked if he believed in evolution (whatever that means) he said he wouldn't answer any religious questions. He was serious. He must have then consulted with some religious folks because later he said he does believe in evolution. After all, he said, everybody knows that we've evolved from going barefoot to wearing shoes. He was still serious. And we in the U.S. thought scientific integrity had it bad under the Bush administration!

Scum of the minute

Many votes were cast for Bernie Madoff, but I want you to meet Burt Goldman, a man who makes Kevin Trudeau look like an amateur huckster. Goldman says he's over 80 years old and for the past 30 years has been suppressing the secret to everything: quantum jumping. Learn how to slip into other universes to discover everything you want to know by following his easy multi-DVD plan. Here are just a few of the amazing things you can accomplish with Burt's program:

--Find out the quickest, easiest way to wealth…
 --Discover what really makes you happy…
 --Get the dream job you’ve always wanted… even if you don’t have the background.
 --Start your own business… even if you’ve been an employee all your life.
 --Make the best possible decisions in life… even if you’ve made some bad ones in the past.
 --Find the partner of your dreams… even if all this time you just haven’t been able to meet the right one.
 --Master a skill like painting, writing or dancing… even if you’ve never found the time or inclination to take it all the way.
 --Become a pro at any sport, from tennis to golf to bowling… even if you never thought it was your strong point.
 --Learn French, Spanish, German, or any new language… even if you’re still struggling with certain English words.
 --Play the guitar, piano, drums, or any musical instrument you want… even if you’ve never read a single musical note.
 --Say goodbye to health problems… even if you fall sick just a bit too often.

And that's just the beginning! If you hurry and buy now, you can get a 50% discount. After all, he's not really in it for the money. Even so, he can only sell 500 copies at the existing price "and they’ll be gone in a matter of days." Then, he'll have to raise the price in one of his parallel universes. He want to transform everyone into "universe-hopping utopian beings." Warning: his program is only for "the open-minded rationalist."

I guess I should add one more warning. When I tried to close the window on the free lesson that turned out to be just another sales pitch, here is what popped up on my screen:

Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?

You could be missing out on the biggest personal development breakthrough of the century.

Science has proven it - imagine the success, abundance, happiness and health you could be drawing from your alternate selves.

Don't let skepticism get in the way of a better you.

Get Quantum Jumping today, while it's still available at this special introductory price.

Press OK to continue, or Cancel to stay on the current page.

I wonder what the hard sell looks like. Actually, I found out. In the next few days I received several more e-mails asking me why I wasn't taking advantage of this stupendous offer. Alas, my free lessons turned out to be just more advertising and promotional garbage for the parallel universe-hopping program. One of the pleas from Burt and someone signing as Alexandra Williams began:

What would you say if I told you (in all seriousness) that the keys to everything you’ve ever wanted in life —success, talent, wealth, health, happiness, beach houses—lie hidden in alternate versions of the universe we live in?

Sorry, Burt, but I've never really wanted a beach house.

Another e-mail asked: "Let me guess... you are thinking I am a bit "out there" right?" More than a bit, Burt, but, as they say, there's a sucker born every minute and two standing in line to take their money.


Also deserving recognition as scum is the website Educate-Yourself.org, which has this to say about The Skeptic's Dictionary:

Skeptic [sic] Dictionary website was government created to hide truths regarding topics on their site.

I am not endorsing their [sic] site in any way. But it is definitely worth checking out. It is a wealth of information. Just remember when they say "YES" it really means "NO" and "NO" means "YES".*

So says DM Boggs. I know some of my readers find it hard to believe that there are many people out there who are much more skeptical than I am. They berate me quite often for being such a dupe as to fall for simplistic cover-ups of such things as the assassination of JFK, aliens landing at Roswell, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the Illuminati controlling the world. Here is a sample from one of my more eloquent detractors:

I’m trying to imagine a world of individuals or subscribers to your site who are all fence-sitting ‘doubting Thomases’’. Throngs of people with beliefs that are insipid and involve no commitment or social responsibility or integrity to expose what are obvious attempts to herd mankind by people you never hear or see but most definitely control the world and its financial mechanics.

Skeptics in my view are armchair non-philosophers who believe cowardly compliance is the answer.

Do you believe man-made events instigated as a ‘catastrophe’ were NOT organized to fit another hidden political agenda?

If the Skeptics' society thought it was a good idea to do nothing in the face of a threat to your own family, would you take their advice?

Skepticism is just a sad bunch of self-satisfied, principle-free impotents. You will never meet a believable skeptic.

Gut feelings are all we have. If there is threat, let instinct take over. There is not enough time in this scenario to be skeptical. He who hesitates is lost.

You take the wet out of people who run conspiracy websites.

I learn something new every day.

The demise of daily newspapers

One of the changes my local metropolitan daily (The Sacramento Bee) has made to keep afloat (besides getting rid of a large number of employees) is to accept large ads for questionable medical products. In a recent issue of the Bee I was irritated to see a quarter-page ad for a "brain oxygen-boosting miracle" that "energizes mind, mood and memory." The ad is for a pill developed by Joshua Reynolds, who is described as a "best-selling author." The pill allegedly "sharpens focus, clears away brain fog" and "erases 15 years of lost memory power."

Reynolds is the author of 20/20 Brain Power and the developer of ThinkFast. He regards himself as "the brain fitness guru of our time." He says he has many testimonials for his brain-training methods, but he has nothing to say about clinical trials. It might be nice to know that his techniques work better than, say, physical exercise and a heart-healthy diet (both of which are known to affect the flow of oxygen to the brain, which is what Reynolds claims his exercises do).

The pill touted in the newspaper ad is Procera AVH. "The secret to Procera's noticeably fast and powerful boost in mental energy is an ingredient called Vinpocetine that has been proven to energize the brain within an hour." Vinpocetine is derived from the periwinkle plant and is widely marketed as a memory-improving dietary supplement in the U.S. It is sold in Europe as a prescription drug to treat dementia.*  "Side effects of vinpocetine may include indigestion, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, facial flushing, insomnia, headache, drowsiness and dry mouth. Vinpocetine may also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure."*

In Reynolds's newspaper ad, he promises those who act fast and order now will get a free supply of his "powerful brain detox formula, Cereplex, scientifically designed to help enhance memory and focus even further." I don't know if Reynolds's Cereplex is related to Dr. Rahim's Cereplex 1 and Cereplex 2, a homeopathic brain medication that "Helps to prevent and improve Brain Disorders, Brain Injuries, MS, Parkinson's, Epilepsy, Depression, Anxiety, Strokes, etc.," according to BensHealth.com. Enough said.

My brain was in need of detox after reading through Reynolds's ad. I found some relief with an article about a chicken-sized dinosaur fossil found in Canada. But the relief was short-lived. Staring me in the face was a full-page ad for another age-related remedy: a pill to relieve joint pain. A smiling Brady Quinn, famous ex-Notre Dame quarterback, is pictured with his mother in an ad that claims this new pill "works 600% faster than Glucosamine alone." It doesn't mention that studies haven't found glucosamine all that effective compared to a placebo for relieving joint pain.*

The pill that Brady Quinn and his mother are promoting is Trigosamine®, which, like glucosamine, is sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. The new pill contains glucosamine and chondroitin12 and hyaluronate13. The additional ingredients are said to promote lubrication of the joints and flexibility. We're still waiting for the results of the clinical trials, but until then we have testimonials from famous football players and mothers.

I could go on....the next page featured another ad for an age-related product: hearing aids. The page after that advertised devices to help us stop snoring, get rid of the toothache in our leg (disc decompression therapy), and peripheral neuropathy (low level laser treatment).

Will ads from the quack and questionable medical arena save our newspapers? Maybe, but I'm skeptical.

I fear more dailies will go the way of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which recently published its last print edition and in the past went after scoundrels and purveyors of woo.

update: Rob informs us that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been a promoter of woo. For an example, see this SPI post on Bastyr, the naturopathic college near Seattle that got $50 million of our tax dollars to establish a new National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1999. (If you've forgotten, it was Bill Clinton who signed the appropriations bill.)

The demise of the WWW?

Is Australia odd or just the first of many to fine people for linking to banned websites? As weird as it sounds, the news is that the Australian government "has issued a stark warning that websites who link out to 'banned' hyperlinks are liable to fines of up to Aus $11,000 a day."*  Word is that web forum Whirlpool was threatened with the fine for posting a hyperlink to a blacklisted anti-abortion website. Also blacklisted is Wikileaks, the website that publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive info on everything from corporations, religion, and governments.

Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said: "The list itself should concern every Australian - although plenty of the material is unsavoury or even illegal, the presence of sites like YouTube, MySpace, gambling or even Christian sites on the list raises a lot of questions."*

It raises just one question in my mind: what the hell is the Australian government thinking?

update: The goal of the Australian government is apparently to block access to child pornography sites, but their method seems to be backfiring. By banning sites that list banned sites, they have called attention to where people can go to find lists of the banned sites. If you followed that, then you don't need to worry about being banned. See First rule of Internet censorship: Hide the block list for details.

The Amazing Meeting 7 & TAM London

Registration has begun for The James Randi Educational Foundation's Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas (July 9-12, 2009). Another Amazing Meeting will be held in London in October. Science-Based Medicine will host an all-day conference on July 9 as part of TAM7.

* AmeriCares *

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